Bionic Mamas

you're not losing a vagina, you're gaining a son


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Notes from Week 36

Item: Thank you for the nice comments on Sugar’s painting. The likeness is a tad off, but the boobs are exactly accurate. Um, Sugar? My face is up here.

Item: We had our last growth scan on Monday, and all is well. As Sweet Sonographer covered my midriff (sounds too cute…mid-raft?) with icy glop, I said lightly that she ought to make them buy her a fancy glop-warmer, like they have over at the high-risk place down the block. “Oh, I do have one. It’s over on the counter.”

I still love Sweet Sonographer, and it was cute that she tried so hard to find something adorable for us to see at this scan (we settled for hiccups, since the Bean’s face/dragon snout was obscured by its low position in my pelvis), but I must admit that her halo is a bit tarnished by this revelation.

Item: According to the u/s, which I understand has a remarkably enormous margin of error, the Bean weighs in at a respectable 5lbs. 7oz. at 36 weeks, which means it’s been listening to my chanting “over 6, under 9” at it. Good Bean.

Item: It has recently come to my attention that “0-3 month” size clothes (of which we have a respectable number) are not the same as “newborn” size clothes (of which we have none). What the hell is 0 months if not newborn? Do we need newborn clothes? How in the hell is a person supposed to figure these things out, anyway? And what hope have I of managing the actual work of raising not killing a baby if my limited brain power is being wasted on stupid clothing sizes?

Item: Thanks to Schroedinger, there are at least some diapers in the house. Lord knows if they’re the right size, but diapers I know where to buy.

Item: Group B Strep test was also Monday. The GBS test involves a vaginal and anal “swab,” which caused me much worry on Sunday, as Sugar had celebrated Valentine’s Day early by giving me the GI bug she’d had on Saturday. (Sub-Item 1: despite what you may have assumed, bouts of diarrhea are emphatically not improved by having someone kick at your intestines throughout. Sub-Item 2: Nor by things-we-are-not-calling-hemorrhoids.) I needn’t have worried. I scarcely noticed the butt part, so distracting was the vaginal aspect. “Swab” might be better described as “vigorous scrubbing with what appears to be an old mascara brush.” “Just wait until the cervix checks,” said Dr. Russian, with an evil grin.

Item: Dr. Russian loves shoes. On Monday, she was wearing black patent leather platform stilettos with wide ankle straps. They did complement the mood, I must say.

Item: I will not be in pretty shoes any time soon, as it’s all I can do to waddle around in clogs. Speak to me not of stairs, either. I am even taking what elevators (not enough!) exist in subway stations, despite the aromas inherent in that process. Today, an old lady cut me in line for one, forcing me to wait for the next round. It was a blatant cut, too, no simple misunderstanding. Those hooligans think they can do whatever they please, all tricked out and speedy with their canes.

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A Quick Sono Update and Fret

Oooo, lordy, it’s been too long since we’ve written here. The cliff’s notes are that things are fine, my back/legs/hips are starting (already! crap!) to be a problem but I otherwise feel good, and that we got a big, sudden freelance job that is keeping us busy for a couple of weeks but will provide a few bucks for the “what in the hell will we do when Bionic isn’t working, and have you seen the cost of health insurance these days*?” fund. I’m supposed to be transcribing an interview right now, so this will be quick and sloppy:

We had the anatomy scan last week, at which Sweet Sonographer and Dr. Russian fussed that it was too early to see things well. (At least they didn’t blame me for getting the date wrong, since it was someone at their office who told me to come in that day.) Nevertheless, they eventually saw what they needed to. I am beyond relieved to report that the Bean’s heart has four chambers. A friend had to terminate after that scan because of a heart problem, and she is in our thoughts often. I am further thrilled that the Bean has a spine! My father was born with a slight spine problem that isn’t considered spina bifida but is close enough for my mother to have been fretting about that since the pee dried on the stick. Likewise cheering were the ghostly images of a two-hemisphere brain, a three-vessel cord, and the dark circle of a bladder.
As before, Sweet Sonographer could find only one cervix, but they were happy enough with it to take me off of incompetent-cervix-watch.
From an “Awwwww!” perspective, some parts of the scan were rather unsettling. We had a brief view of the baby’s face, and boy, do I hope my impression of “terrifying dragon creature” proves to be unfounded. Or at least that it’s a good Dragon-Bean, friendly with the cats and not constantly setting the furniture on fire.
The cutest part was when Sweet Sonographer found the feet. The Bean was wiggling up a storm in there, but keeping its feet neatly together, like so:
19 Weeks -- FEET!
I giggled as the picture was taken, which accounts for the extra toes. I think there are only ten, not multiple rows like shark’s teeth.
You’ve probably noticed the continuing use of “it.” Upon MUCH reflection, we decided not to find out the sex yet. We’re happy with that decision. We’re only just getting to know each other, after all, and Sugar and I don’t think of sex as an essential characteristic (gender, yes, but that’s not visible on ultrasound just yet).
Sweet Sonographer and Dr. Russian did see something they didn’t like the look of in the abdomen, which is the subject of today’s fret. Dr. Russian said she couldn’t tell if it was a dilated blood vessel or just a cyst, and has referred me to the high-risk clinic with the fancier u/s machine for a follow up today. She said not to worry over it, and mostly I haven’t. But as the hour approaches, anxieties creep in on little spider feet. The Bean keeps kicking and wiggling, though, which is reassuring, even though I know it doesn’t mean nothing is wrong. It is just so hard to believe that anything could be — and harder to believe that I think that, given that my feelings were the opposite for so long.
That was the second time I saw Dr. Russian, whom I quiet like, despite a bit of brusqueness. This time, after announcing my (substantial) weight gain and then taking something of a pause before saying it was okay (Good doctor; you’re learning), she asked after my diet. (Note to self: asking to be left alone about food made them think you are an anorexic and has led them to ask you about food constantly. Dumb move.) I said I thought we ate well and turned to Sugar for help. Sugar said that we cook all our own food, that we eat a variety of things, lots of vegetables. And then she said something I thought was a bit strange:
“We eat meat every day.”
We do eat meat every day, I thought, but what an odd thing to mention. But Sugar is wise. Dr. Russian immediately brightened and began heaping praise on us and meat. “Eating meat is so good! Lots of red meat, and chicken and fish….” She carried on in this vein for some time — it was certainly the longest topic of discussion at the appointment.
Later, I remarked to Sugar how cheering I find the fact that Russians love it when you eat meat. (My college roommate was a vegetarian Russian major, and the department never did take to her; her many wonderful qualities never quite compensated for that essential failing. On the other hand, when she’d take me to the Russian Department lunches, the professors would fall over themselves in praise, just because I’d eat the sausages and cured meats they’d brought in.)
Sugar replied, “I know. That’s why I told her that.”
Clever girl.
*Anyone have the Aetna POS 90 plan? It is by far the cheapest premium on the list. What’s the catch? And why is this confusing?


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What’ll It Be?

Over the past few weeks, we’ve taken a crucial step in practicing belief that the lump in my belly will one day be a Real Live Baby TM: we’ve told lots and lots of people. We’ve told the friends we hang out with but don’t make the “we’d want you to know about a miscarriage anyway” list (GULP). We’ve told my boss I can’t teach in the spring (financial GULP). We’ve even told Facebook (high-school-frenemy GULP).

By and large, this has been great. Most people have said something nice, and no one’s been rude — one of the great things about being loudly gay is that the suckier-type people don’t want to be friends with you anyway. Excitement has come from unexpected quarters: Sugar was suddenly hugged by a moderately nerdy male colleague running for the train yesterday, and the father of our favorite toddler, who was luke-warm at best on the topic of reproduction prior to the arrival of his daughter, checks in on my health nearly as solicitously as my mother does.

Nearly everyone we tell in person immediately asks, “Do you know what you’re having?” which sounds like something a diner waitress would say.

I have an impulse to answer, “BLT, fries, and a coke, please; no mayo on the BLT,” but that would be unhelpful. Instead, I tell them, “I’m hoping for a puppy, but it’s looking more and more like a baby.”*

Partly Mostly, I answer that way because I’m a congenital smart-ass, and I’d hate for my friends to think pregnancy has changed me (though apparently they expect it to — a shockingly large number of them have not laughed, but rather stared at me as if I’ve lost my mind). Partly, though, it troubles me that even now, at whatever fruit-metaphor size it is this week, the bean is already supposed to be defined primarily by its sex.

Now I know, I know. I know it’s just small talk, that no one is saying our baby can’t wear a tutu while operating a steam shovel or be the butchest kid on the synchronized swimming team. I get it. It’s meant to be nice, a way of thinking of the baby as a real person. But though I’m pretty darn gender-conforming in lots of ways, I’m still not nuts about the whole business of tying personhood to sex.

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Our anatomy scan is a week from today, and we haven’t decided yet whether to find out the sex. Sweet Sonographer has promised she will not let me find out if I don’t want to know, even through I’m on deck for lots of extra scans to look out for IUGR. So that means the decision really is up to us.

On the one hand, knowing would make it a little easier to buy/beg for clothes. It is remarkable how much is either pink or blue. I don’t hold with the whole pink/blue thing — both of those colors are a little blah — but it sure is a lot of what’s out there. And even though I grew up in the South, where pink is a normal color for men’s shirts and even though I know that pink was the baby boy color in the nineteenth century (apparently because of its association with powerful red) and even though my dad does look very smart in a pink oxford, I’m not so sure I want people to think we’re those lesbians, if you know what I mean.

And yet…. I have a strong feeling that once we know one way or the other, the follow-up to those diner-esque questions will be non-stop advice based on stereotypes or anecdotes of babies of whatever sex. Which sounds annoying. (Yes, we can use “Pregnant Women Are Smug”**-style evasion, but I don’t think I could really keep that up. Sugar could.) Whether to circumcise isn’t going to be a tough decision for us, and nothing else seems like something we really need to decide right away. We like the green IKEA crib. We can pick two names, as our parents did for us.

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Yesterday (when I started writing this, for what it’s worth), was National Coming Out Day. I don’t remember to think about it every year, but it is a day I hold fond. In college, it was the day of my favorite party, after which everyone would stream out all over campus armed with sidewalk chalk. In the morning (and, with lucky lack of rain, well through fall break, when prospective students and parents often tour, heh), every sidewalk and pathway would be covered in explosions of support and affection, everything from “I love my gay roommate” and “I love my parents (even though they’re straight)” to triumphant labia and, when Sugar was around at least, the sweetest love poems. It was late on the night of that party, my first year, that I first (tentatively, awkwardly) came out to a friend. These days, when it is so easy to forget how hard that was, it’s a good reminder that there are plenty of people, especially teens, who need us to be loudly, gladly out, who need the reassurance that full, happy lives are not only possible but actually easier when we tell the truth about ourselves.

But even though being out is important and often a pleasure (see note about lack of sucky friends, for instance, plus the fact that, in my case, it means being able to marry Sugar), coming out is mostly scary. It’s scary because it requires you to tell everyone in your life that you are not, in fact, the sum of the expectations and assumptions of your sex; you are yourself. It’s amazing how difficult it can be to remind people of something that shouldn’t be so hard to remember.

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As you may have gathered from my earlier post, the bean has gotten big and strong enough that we can feel it now. And I mean “we.” This has been so far an unusually physically non-mutual pregnancy — not only didn’t all those years of, erm, “trying on our own” work, not only didn’t we do this at home with the baster, but Sugar wasn’t even allowed in the room for the transfer. It’s therefore even more magical that the first time I felt something I couldn’t explain away as anything other than its beanship, Sugar was holding her hand on my belly and she felt it, too. The strongest movements don’t feel to me like “flutters” or whatever else the book says. They feel like throbbing, like very strong blood. Like another heart, held in my belly.

For now, I like just feeling the bean move on its own, reminding me that it is its own person, even inside me. I’m not sure I’m ready to cover it up with all my expectations and fears about boys or girls. When*** it’s out in the world, I will no doubt learn soon enough that it isn’t every boy or every girl or even primarily a boy or a girl, just itself. While it’s inside, not knowing seems to help.


*On balance, I’m glad it’s not a pony. Those hooves intimidate the hoohas rather a bit.

** You HAVE seen “Pregnant Women Are Smug,” right? On the off chance you haven’t, go watch it now. I command you.

***Knock wood, knock wood.


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Heavy Lifting

Hey there, internets. How are you?

Things are basically fine around here. We’ve gotten several chances lately to spy on the bean, who seems to have arms and legs and a steady heartbeat. It even *moved* while we were watching last Monday — a kind of quick sit-up, prompting my mother to observe that it obviously has genes not from our family.
The reason we’ve been getting so much screen time is more nerve-wracking. I keep bleeding. First was the two weeks of brown spotting leading up to the wedding. Once I’d gotten used to that, it turned pink, starting just before the sit-up look-see. A few days of pink, and I was feeling pretty proud of myself for learning not to panic at every trip to the bathroom, so my body upped the ante: bright red blood, and plenty of it, in the middle of the night.
PANIC.
After the long wait until the OB office opened the next morning — I didn’t see much point in waking up whoever was on call, since there isn’t much they could do about it if I was miscarrying and at least one of us ought to get some sleep — another scan. Less cute time looking at the bean, more v.e.r.y. slow examination of the ute, after which Sweet Sonographer said she didn’t think there was any blood flow from in there, so it is probably my sensitive-soul cervices. (Why no one has cranked open a speculum or two and taken a look, I don’t know.)
More brown spotting, plus a new, sandpapered sensation in my upper hoo-ha regions; a period of self-imposed, er, pelvic rest. Things seemed to be settling down. And then I cut the cheese.
Sugar and I belong to a hippie food coop (*the* hippie food coop, really) of the sort where all members work. (Well, almost all members — as the underemployed member of the household, I do both of our shifts.) When we toured the place and entered the food prep area, our guide said, “this is where we cut the cheese. If you join the coop your job might be cutting the cheese.” Naturally, I signed up at once.
It’s not all fun and games. Besides cutting the cheese, I wrap it, weigh and label it, and carry it upstairs in grocery baskets. Because of summer school and the wedding, I am behind several shifts, which jeopardizes our access to Waldorf-educated kohlrabi, so I made one up yesterday. I was careful not to fill the baskets the way I normally would, but instead to go up when I had ten pounds or so ready. I had them ready at waist-height, and carried them held against my body, for minimal strain, as my back has been unreasonably testy these past few weeks.
After my 3-hour shift, I found a huge streak of red in my underpants. Slightly more controlled panic. Hovered in the public but uncrowded hallway, left a message with the nurse, did some speedy, highly disorganized shopping (extra shallots? Yes. Trash bags? No.), took a cab home. Nice Nurse called back and said that since the bleeding stopped quickly, I should just rest and stop lifting “heavy” things.
Relief, of course. Followed by a nap. Followed by some feelings of pathetic worthlessness.
I like being pregnant. I like how it feels, for the most part. But while I am hardly a tower of physical might, I am used to thinking of myself as strong enough to manage things. I don’t like not carrying things, not being able to open the stubborn window. For that matter, I don’t like being so easily exhausted that I had to stop gardening after an hour the other day, when I had planned at least two.
I can live with being lazy, but I hate being weak.
Bah.