Monday, June 13, 2011


Hello everyone. This blog has moved to wordpress. You will be automatically redirected to the new location in about five seconds. [ETA: Turned off the redirect so the (*^$# old links work....]

Thanks! Sorry to do this in the middle off a serial story . . .

ETA: Don't forget to change your reader feeds, now! Don't want to miss the part where only one person on the medical team can tell my heartrate from the Bean's. And will Madame Hairy Farmer be right about the contraction monitor failing to work? (Hint: Yes.)

Here's the new URL:

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Birth Story, Part Four

Oh my, oh my! Looks like those other two babies either have beaten me (I'm guessing, here) or are poised to do so! Squeeee!

Where were we? Ah, yes. Monday afternoon. We were on the subway. Of course. Where the hell else would we be, with me 4 cm dilated, completely effaced, having been contracting regularly for twelve hours or so? Surely not NEAR THE DAMN DOCTOR’S OFFICE WE HAD JUST LEFT, WHICH IS FOUR DAMN BLOCKS FROM THE MOTHERFUCKING HOSPITAL.

A to B
A to B: A Rational Person's Route

A to B
A to B: My Route

It’s possible I’m not entirely over how incredibly boneheaded that decision was. All I can say is that denial is a powerful thing. (For more on how I got into this mess, see parts 1, 2, and 3.)

To make sure you understand how stupid this was, please note that not only is it 45 minutes to an hour to get home from the doctor (actually a bit faster than driving, which was part of the attraction), but also: we don’t live on that train line. Or the train line we transfer to next. So that’s three trains home, and one of the transfers is up stairs. But I wanted to be at home. I didn’t feel good. I didn’t want to eat any of the food I could think of getting in Midtown, and I certainly didn’t want to walk around there in the cold drizzle. And cabs are expensive and nerve-wracking, and the subway is familiar and cheap. So off we went.

The story would be more exciting if my water had broken on the train, it’s true, but if that had happened even I might have had the sense to get off and hop a cab back uptown. In fact, the ride was okay. I had a few contractions; they didn’t really pick up until we were under the East River, leading me to believe that the Bean just wanted to be born in Brooklyn. And a little while later, I thought he might get his wish.

My sense of time gets pretty shaky from here on out. I think we must get home around 3:30. I am ravenous. I’d tried to eat the bland food they tell you to have in labor in the morning, but my bowl of grits was left to congeal. (Grits are my go-to bland comfort food, which I mentioned in our birthclass brainstorm only to have the teacher say that although oatmeal was a good labor food, grits might be okay in very early labor. Yankees! ) Bland food made me feel gross in the first trimester, and it seems gross now. So I eat the spicy beef leftovers. And they are awesome. And I am glad I was so shameless about asking for them.

Then everything starts to happen at once. Nature, as they say, calls. Insistently and for quite a while. I discover just how very, very, very much I hate having contractions on the toilet. I know some of you were into laboring there or in that position, and I am here to say that you are out of your tiny minds. Once my body has, erm, cleared the decks, the contractions go wild. Sixty to 90 seconds long, every three to four minutes. Instead of counting and groaning, I am counting and yelling and clawing the bed. I bend over the couch, I slow-dance with Sugar; nothing helps. At one point, I accidentally bite Sugar’s leg (which doesn't help that much either).

Even before the tooth marks can fade, Sugar calls the OB office to say we’d like to go to the hospital. (For me, not her leg. I didn’t even break the skin, okay?) While she’s talking to that dumb bitch of a nurse you remember from the Vasospasm Chronicles, I have a contraction. And Nurse Helpful says, “You have to get her to calm down.” Because you know, being quiet while in bone-crunching pain is really, really important. There goes my Good Girl Gold Star for Laboring Like A Lady, I guess. (Sugar, who is wise beyond comprehension, doesn’t tell me about that comment until much, much later. I PROBABLY wouldn’t have insisted we stop by the office on the way to the hospital and throttle her anyway.) However, the nurse agrees that if I want an epidural, we should head in. So we call a car again.

Only now it’s rush-hour.

While we’re waiting for the elevator, I feel a little excited. Mostly afraid I’ll have another contraction and fall down in the hall, but a little excited. I am in labor! This is happening! Who’d have thought it would happen today? (You know, besides anyone who’d thought rationally about the events of the previous 36 hours.) By the time we get to the stoop, I am back to petrified. I get walloped with more contractions; when the car arrives, Sugar has to run tell it to wait until I can walk again. I curse my decision to deliver at Kips Bay Mega Hospital rather than one in Brooklyn. Sure, I had my reasons, but LICH is so close.

In birth class, there was a lot of talk about how giving birth in real life isn’t at all like giving birth in the movies. In some respects I guess that’s true: my water didn’t burst out all over the stage while I gave a speech for my entire company and Dr. Baby Factory didn’t just happen to poke his head into the room during the pushing so that I could grab him by the neck and scream, YOU DID THIS TO ME!!!! But this part of the story, from when Sugar trundled me into the cab until the epidural was in? This part was exactly like the movies.

Cab driver, I wish I knew your name, because you deserve a medal for patience, fortitude, and grace under fire. You could give a seminar in how to treat a laboring woman, and several of the medical professionals we dealt with ought to be required to attend. You did your job without comment and you did it well. I cannot have been your favorite fare that day, but I trust you at least got a good story out of the deal.

What he didn’t get was much peace and quiet. For the whole ride in — at rush hour, remember — I am doing my level best to cope like they said at birth class. So Sugar and I are counting out my contractions, in eights, the whole way in. And I by God keep up the counting, even though my yelling progresses rapidly to screaming.

About five blocks into the trip, I begin to wonder if I could be in transition. I can’t make any other sense of what was happening. My autonomic nervous system has gone completely haywire; I am roasting to death and convulsed with chills. The contractions get longer and longer and closer and closer together; at times there are no breaks at all. The advantage to counting through contractions is that it gives me a sense of when one might end (at about 14-2-3-4-5-6-7-8); the disadvantage is how terrifying it is to be still counting in the twenties and thirties. (Sugar says she remembers being in the forties at one point, which I have blessedly forgotten.) I am out of my mind with pain. At one point, between contractions, somewhere still deep in Brooklyn, I look up at the brick tower alongside us and it occurs to me that there will be a time in my life when I no longer feel like this. The idea is so strange that it transfixes me for a moment, until I feel a gush and yell out that my water is breaking.

(What an unwelcome thing that must be to hear as a cab driver. Luckily, we have a towel.)

At around this time, I start to feel a strong urge to push. Oh, God, the baby is going to be born in this cab and I’m never going to get my epidural. I stick a hand in my pants, but I don’t feel a head, so I try not to push. Or at least not hard.

At some point, it occurs to me that this back labor thing really is happening. To me. I’ve long ago stopped feeling anything in my belly, nor do I feel anything there for the rest of the labor. What I feel in the car is that someone has decided to replace the bones in my back and my thighs with iron rods. The rods are set on the ends of my bones, and at each contraction, they are slammed into the bones over and over like jam-hammers, reducing me into rubble. Absolutely nothing about this feels “natural” or “productive” or any of those other reassuring things. At one point, alongside the ruined houses of Admiral’s Row, I wonder if I will die.

I know I am given to hyperbole in my writing, but in life, believe it or not, I don’t go in for hysterics. (My preference to be left alone and not bother anyone when I’m sick or in pain is what leads me to do dumb things like this.) Part of why it’s taken me so very long to write this story is that I spent a terrifically long time crippled by shame over how I behaved at the points of labor when the pain was at its worst. I didn’t hurt anyone or endanger the baby or say anything rude (that I regret), it’s just that I didn’t expect to be so out of control. After everything was over, I felt so embarrassed about it (no thanks to some of what was said at the hospital), and I felt that I hadn’t lived up to the example of your stories, that I hadn’t been strong or powerful or amazing but rather weak and overwhelmed and whiny and over-dramatic. When they said in birth class that being in labor meant letting go of your “social self” I thought that meant I would shut down the way I do during the GI/endo bouts, that I would not want to talk or be talked to and that I would do some moaning. I didn’t expect to be screaming — scream-counting, but still — or making these terrible dry-sobbing noises.

But there I am, making them. When I am able to think, I am beset by a series of fears:
  • What if the baby is born in this car?
  • Or, oh, God, what if the baby isn’t born in this car and I just have to keep doing this?
  • What if I get to the hospital and the baby isn’t born yet but they say it’s too late for an epidural (never mind that the “it’s never too early or too late” policy was part of the appeal of Kips Bay) and they make me just keep going even though I’ve made it in?
  • Oh, God. They’re going to make me be on an IV for an hour, like the books say, and I’ll have to be in the hospital knowing they could give me an epidural but that they won’t.
  • Oh, God! Before they’ll even do that, I’ll have to go to triage. Triage! I cannot handle triage! They’ll make me move from room to room and I will die. Or kill someone.

I interrupt my anxiety spiral to notice that we are SO not on the way to the hospital. Car service drivers tend to have their own opinions about how best to get to the bridges and it doesn’t do to tell them their business, but it has been forever and we are still in fucking Brooklyn. Traffic is heavy, and we really do hit every light. I am bent over sideways in the backseat, looking up at the world as I did on long car trips as a child stretched out across the backseat. At some point, I lift my head up and see that we are at the Navy Yards. Does this guy think we’re going to Queens? What if he’s taking us to the wrong hospital? WHY ARE WE STILL IN BROOKLYN?????

So calmly, so beautifully calmly, he answers, because it is rush hour and I am avoiding the traffic jam downtown approaching the bridge. Cab driver, I mentally send you flowers every time I think of your gentle tone and your impressive withholding of epithets at that moment. God bless you. Later, when I screamed at you that you were driving past the hospital, it was kind of you only to say that the hospital I was seeing was Bellvue and withhold any suggestion that perhaps I belonged there.

I had a few moments of clarity before arriving at the hospital. I remember thinking that because each of our cabs had chosen different bridges, we would be able to tell the baby about going over both the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridge while he was coming. That seemed really cool for some reason. Later, as we crawled up First Avenue (thank you, cabbie, for not taking the FDR), there was this strange break from everything and it seemed perfectly normal to remark to Sugar on the unexpected presence of a European restaurant in the heart of Chinatown. ( “Look, they sell Swedish food.” ) Sugar reports finding that a bit surreal.

Another thing I had imagined was at least kind of being able to walk when we arrives at the hospital. Instead, I only have eyes for the lone wheelchair mercifully abandoned by the entrance and scream until the driver backs up, switches lanes, and brings me to it. Sugar runs around trying to figure out how to push me and deal with the luggage. Some presumed neurologist (bow-tie) leans over and asks if my “erm, companion” has gotten help. This all seems to take forever, but then Sugar is back, rushing me to the elevator. Which is absolutely packed, naturally, so I try to scream quietly while the neurologist and others chat about their weekends.

Our arrival in L&D is also cinematic: I am sprawled across the careering wheelchair, wailing. I hope I wasn’t screaming “give me my damn epidural,” but the possibility exists. However, one fear is instantly assuaged: turns out that if you arrive at Kips Bay L&D having clearly lost your tiny mind, you do not have to go to triage.

In the room, off go my rather soggy corduroys and everything else. As the nurse starts my IV, I whine at her, “Am I going to have to wait a really long time for my epidural?” She says no. “Are you lying to me??”

I am sure she is lying to me. Hell, I would lie to me. But she isn’t. The anesthesiologist comes in right away. He is a short man with comically tall hair and a horrible, sing-song, chipper-camp-counselor voice. He introduces himself and commences cheerfully upbraiding me for yelling.

I know how this works. I know that I will need to sit up, bend over, hold still. I am trying to move between contractions, only there isn’t any “between” anymore, so it’s hard. And his stupid monologue about how I need to stop carrying on is not helping.

This is when Sugar and I learn something about what is and isn’t part of that social self that disappeared on the ride in. Apparently preferring silence while in pain, which I would have bet was pretty deeply part of me, is surface stuff. But the Teacher Voice is primal.

So here I am, screaming, moaning, trying to turn to sit, wishing there weren’t so many people touching me and talking all at once. And then Dr. Jerkwad comes out with his most enraging and unhelpful line thus far, a merrily hostile, “You’ve got to get some self-discipline.”

And, reports Sugar, I go suddenly silent, to everyone’s surprise. And out it comes, low and loud and firm and clear, the Teacher Voice. And it says, heedless of the fact that this is maybe not the brightest remark to make to someone poised to put a needle in my spine,


"Don’t be an asshole.”

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Birth Story, Part Three

Well, it’s happened. One of those overdue babies has gone and gotten herself born! Congratulations, Ms. Debbie G! And your lovely wusband, too! Biggest congratulations of all to that lucky, lucky baby girl, who is going to grow up in a super-awesome family.

In other news, while I was spacing out again, another due date I told myself I’d beat has gone and passed. I’d better get on this, eh?

(Parts 1 and 2, in case you’re just joining us.)

Sunday night: Home from dinner, cranky and crampy. Am starting to wonder just how normal it can be to still be bleeding so very, very much. And why hasn’t there been any mucous? All the books and websites say that bloody show is maybe “tinged” with blood. I start googling pictures and find nothing that looks like what I’m seeing. I figure better to call the doctor at 9:30 than wait until the middle of the night and wake her up. So I do.

The answering service takes my message and, as always, says to call back if I haven’t heard anything within 15 minutes. I wait 45, then try again. A while later, Dr. Skinny calls, sounding pissed. Which is weird, because hello, it’s not late by OB time, and anyway, I’m bleeding here. She couldn’t call sooner because she was delivering a baby (which I should have known via the Pregnant Lady Alert Network, I guess) and says she doesn’t understand why I’m calling. Um, because I’ve been bleeding like a stuck pig for nigh on 13 hours? (And must have been for quite a while before getting out of bed in the morning, to judge by the enormous clots. Which she had said weren’t big, but you know what? They were.) And all this “is it heavier than a period” business is confusing since A) I haven’t had a period in a while, actually; B) Heavier at any given moment? Or greater volume of blood overall? Because: no and yes; C) this blood is nothing like period blood; and D) WTF does that have to do with the price of milk? I’m not so much supposed to be having a period, right? And where’s that mucous I ordered?

For the record, I am not hysterical (bad pun; enjoy!) on the phone. [That came later, with the vasospasms. Apparently nipple pain trumps fear of bleeding to death.] I am calm and polite, express my hope that the birth went well, all that. Southern as all get.

Eventually, Dr. Skinny says — as if I should have known this — that I will be like this until I give birth. Pro tip: mentioning that in the morning would have saved you this phone call, Dr. Skinny. Also, how about you take a look some time at pregnancy books your patients are likely to have. You might be surprised how little information is in there. But they all say in no uncertain terms that heavy bleeding means time to pick up the phone.

She agrees with me that waiting until my next appointment on Thursday is not a good idea and says I should call in the morning for an appointment.

At nearly 38 weeks’ wide, I am a difficult party to share a bed with, so after a little while tossing and turning, Sugar goes to sleep on the chaise in the other room. I have no choice but to sleep with myself, which isn’t going well. I drift off but wake up every half an hour or so in bad pain. Still only in my back and legs. I start to wonder at all the advice I’ve heard about trying to sleep through early labor. How the hell do people do that? I try more alcohol, which just makes me feel gross.

Monday: By 4 a.m., even pretending to sleep is ridiculous. The contractions are coming about every ten minutes and lasting a minute or more each time. The pain is worst in my back but now seems to wrap around to my belly some of the time before shooting down my legs, right on the bone. I still don’t think it’s likely that I’ll be in real labor any time soon, but just in case, I decide not to wake up Sugar; I’ll want her rested for labor more than I need her help now. I spend some time in the tub until that starts to make things worse. I try to read a book. I bend over the couch, like they said in birth class. That is the only thing that feels even a little better, but I’m too tired to keep it up. Mostly, I lie on my side in bed and squeeze the cat, who is an absolute prince about the whole thing. I do some groaning and a whole lot of counting.

The pain is worse in the morning. Sugar gets up and complains about how lousy she feels, that she didn’t sleep well. I proceed to have a contraction, and she doesn’t complain anymore. Heh. We do some counting and breathing and all that jazz. The contractions hurt more, and I'm glad she's there to help me through them. Counter-pressure on my back helps some; the birth ball seems like the worst idea ever. I get an OB appointment for 1:15 that afternoon. We decide to pack a hospital bag, just in case, even though I don’t have half of the things I meant to get. Between contractions, we write — and I mean “write, on yellow lined paper;” remember that the printer has croaked — a very minimal birth plan. (“Epidural, yes. You get to come to the OR for a section. You wanna cut the cord? Put something in there about circumcision.”) At some point I write to the doulas.

Things go on in this vein until it is time to leave for the doctor. We really do take a cab this time. As is the way of these things, my contractions, which have been steady on all this time, all but stop on the drive in. I think I had three in the hour it took to get there. We feel a little foolish dragging our luggage into the waiting room, I tell you.

I pee in a cup (like you do) and some blood drips in; I’m still bleeding, though less than on Sunday. The nurse seems a bit horrified, all the same. I ask Dr. Russian whether she thinks they’ll manage to find protein in that sample. She laughs [See! This is why I liked her!], hooks me up to contraction and fetal heart rate monitors, and leaves for twenty minutes.

While she’s gone, I have only one contraction, but Lordy, it hurts. I’m sure people in the hall can hear me, as my counting is getting a little…emphatic. It’s over by the time Dr. Russian returns, though. She declares the Bean’s heart rate perfect and says there’s no evidence of a contraction on the tape. I about hit the ceiling. I had a contraction, dammit. I believe you, she says, it just didn’t show up here. As long as you’re here, let’s check your cervix.

This time, I do start to crabwalk off the back of the exam table. There has got to be a less painful way to do that. Dr. Russian is visibly shocked as she reports that I am 4 cm dilated and completely effaced.

What do you want to do, she asks.

What? Aren’t you supposed to tell me?

Well, she says, you can go to the hospital if you want, but you aren’t contracting, so they’re going to give you pitocin. I know you want to avoid that, so why don’t you go have lunch, walk around, and I’ll probably hear from you tonight.

I can’t tell you how happy I am to hear that Dr. Russian is on call. I don’t like the other OBs at all. [And even after everything that came later, I’m still glad it was her. I didn’t rate my chances of a vaginal birth with Dr. Skinny too highly, and Dr. Sympathetic Noises said when I first met her that I’d likely need a c-section. Only Dr. Russian ever seemed to think things might work on their own.]

For some reason, I interpret Dr. Russian’s words, which now seem to pretty obviously suggest that she thinks I am in labor, as, “Go home. Maybe you’ll have the baby later this week. Like Thursday, say.”

So here it is, the hands-down dumbest thing I did in the whole pregnancy. The one thing I can definitively look back on about labor and say, I sure as hell won’t do THAT again.

We go home.

On the subway.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Birth Story, Part Two

(For backstory, disclaimers, and jokes about the Crimean War, see Part One.)

In a comment on the last post, Bunny asked whether my granny cart broke because of the hundred-ish pounds of groceries I had piled in it in my attempt to keep the cats from eating us alive. The answer is no. A superficial analysis would suggest that it broke because I was lazy the last time I fixed it (the linchpins on the axle are just wire, crappy wire at that, so the wheels fly off from time to time when the wire wears through) and didn’t neaten up the ends of the new wire, which then got bent out of shape when the cart was repeatedly folded and unfolded over the course of a month or so and, thus weakened, sheared off at a bad moment.. (And by “new wire” I mean cheap key ring, which I am telling you because I still think my discovery that those were the right gauge of wire was brilliant, not least because it means I can keep a “repair kit” of several of them jingling from the cart at all times.) But that’s not the real reason it broke, any more than the washer broke because its belt stretched out. (And while we’re on the subject of my enormous pride over trivial mechanical competence, yes, I was pretty damn pleased with myself when I thought of that and therefore saved us hauling the sucker to a handyman, thank you very. Sure, Sugar actually fixed it, but I did the intellectual heavy-lifting, okay?)

No, the washer and the granny cart and also our printer and Sugar’s Wacom tablet and a half dozen other household mainstays broke that week because of a little-known fuse built into all mechanical and electric items, known as the Critical Detector. The Critical Detector, says my father, who imbued me with most of my obviously enormous understanding of the gadget world [No, I still can’t get the damn blog to import to Wordpress; why do you ask?], is that widget that, sensitive to the relative importance of a given device at a particular moment, chooses the optimal moment for said device to fail. It is the Critical Detector that causes catastrophic copier failure ten minutes before the FedEx deadline of a grant you’ve spent a year writing, that makes your car die on the way to your sister’s graduation, that killed the digital camera the day of our courthouse wedding. Naturally, with my due date approaching, every CD in the house was on alert. We’re lucky the place didn’t explode.

Back to our story, already in progress:

Saturday: You know those dreamy, drapey pregnancy photo shoots that people do? The ones that are sort of romantic and beautiful and sort of too reminiscent of douche ads? I have mixed feelings about them — who’s ever going to want to look at them anyway? And isn’t it all a bit self-indulgent? But what if I regret being too cool for them later, when it’s my stomach flesh that’s drapey and white and I realize that I Will Never Be Beautiful Again??? Better safe than sorry. Also, I always wanted to be pregnant in the summer so that I could go to the beach and for once in my life know for certain that no one was allowed to even think boo about what my stomach looks like in a two-piece, but here it is cold weather and yes, I was pregnant at the beach last year but only enough to look chunky except for the time I didn't know I was pregnant yet but I looked 5 months gone because of the OHSS, and so maybe we should just cover the bedroom in white cloth and get out the camera and give it a shot? Or is that cheesy and hypocritical?

Oddly, Sugar prefers draping the bedroom in white and spending a few hours with her camera to listening to me deliberate. Can’t imagine why.

While she digs the wedding tablecloths out of the depths of the “nursery” closet, my body does what our bodies do when we prepare to drape them in white cotton: start bleeding from the hooha.

It’s not a lot of blood, but it is blood, so I call in. Dr. Skinny is on call assures me that an abruption would hurt, that this is probably just the Return of The Irritable Cervices. She asks if I’m having contractions, and though I am plenty achey, I say no, because I’m not having any rhythmic belly business, and I’d know if I were having contractions, right?

The bleeding stops after a couple of hours, and the photo shoot goes on. I figure the light is too good to put it off and anyway, this way we’ll have time to reshoot if it doesn’t go well.

37 weeks 5 days

[Sugar only ever got around to fixing up one of those pictures, and it is sad but true that no one really cares how pregnant you looked once the baby is out. Someday, when I get Wordpress working, I will get her to spruce up some of the others for a password-protected post and I will g-d FORCE you all to look at them and say something nice. Because in fact, I am not 100% overjoyed with the current state of the ol’ bod, and while I’ll probably one day go back to aggressively wearing a two-piece bathing suit despite never having had a “bikini body,” it ain’t going to be this summer.]

We go to a friends’ house for dinner, and realizing that I’ve invited guests for brunch and accepted another dinner invitation for Sunday, I make some joke to Sugar about how typical it would be for me to use all my nesting energy on socializing, leaving the house a disaster when the baby comes. Ha.

Sunday: God, I felt good Sunday morning. I slept pretty well — I understand that may happen again in 18 or 20 years — and even in a bit. Then my BFF calls and Sugar brings me the phone in bed and I lie there and talk to her while Sugar runs around making quiche and getting the house ready for our brunch guests. BFF talks to me about her labor; the only thing I remember is how much she hated laboring on the ball, but the conversation leaves me feeling relaxed about the prospect of labor, since after all, I have a few weeks before anything is going to happen. [You may find all this foreshadowing heavy-handed, but the idea that I had another 3 weeks really was in my mind constantly.] Eventually, Sugar says it’s time to get going if I want to be wearing clothes when our guests arrive in 20 minutes — and that seems like a nice idea, since I’ve only met one of them and her only once — so I get off the phone and head towards the bathroom, thinking things feel a little mucous-ier even than usual in the pants department.

But I am wrong about that: there’s no mucous at all.

Just lots and lots and lots of blood.

I stay put on the toilet while I call the doctor again. Sugar ruins the pie crust, which I have never, ever seen her do. Dr. Skinny calls back and says again that I don’t have an abruption, that of course I’m worried by blood but it is really okay. Am I having any contractions?

Funny thing about that, I say. Last night in bed I was thinking about it, and the only thing that comes and goes in a wave-like pattern is my backache. Is that a contraction?

Turns out it is. Dr. Skinny suggests that rocking on my hands and knees and doing some walking might ward off back labor, but I’m not all that worried because that’s not going to happen to me.

We debate canceling brunch, but the thing about city life is that no one has cars. They’ll be on the subway already, and even if we can reach them (possible, since most of the line they’re on is above ground), turning around will be a giant pain. Plus, we don’t really know them and it’s rude to uninvite people. Exsanguination before awkwardness!

I clean myself up, Sugar makes a new crust, and we all have a nice time at brunch. In fact, those guests are the perfect ones to have, since not only are they charming but one of them had a severe postpartum hemorrhage and is hence able to assure me that bleeding too much in an obstetric context is not something I’m likely to be in doubt about: I will know for sure that something is not right. I spend a while gawping at their baby, who is objectively fantastic but at that moment seems huge and terrifying and given to unfathomable moods and sudden noises.

After brunch, Sugar and I go for a walk in the Botanic Garden. We both remark on how much farther I’m able to walk than last time we went, not up to my normal standard, certainly, but over a mile. In fact, I’d been very sad after our last trip, because I’d imagined spending early labor walking here, but it seemed like I wouldn’t be able to manage it. Wouldn’t it be funny if this were the famous burst of energy that precedes labor? It’s not, of course. This would be a ridiculous way to use that. Just let me sit here for a minute until my back stops hurting again.

By dinner time, it is hard to ignore that I’m having some contractions, maybe two or three an hour. Obviously these are Toni Braxtons because I’m not having this baby for weeks yet. We take a car to our dinner friends’ anyway, though. Wait, I just remembered that we actually took the subway and then walked! Hilarious! I thought we had taken a car because only an insane person would have been too cheap to do so. Ahem. It occurs to us that even though these friends are usually good for some very nice wine, there might not be any because the wife and I are both pregnant. We promise each other that if GOD FORBID that happens, we will BY GOD get some wine on the way home. And yes, we are feeling strongly enough to use that many GODs.

Decency prevails! There is wine! I have two honkin’ glasses of it and remark that while I find the idea one of the women in birth class had of waiting until the night she went into labor to have a glass of wine (to slow the contractions) very sweet, I need a drink, dammit. The Oscars are on. We eat some very spicy beef that seems like the best thing in the whole word; I all but demand to be sent home with leftovers. The contractions — which still just feel like wretched back pain — keep coming. I can talk through them, but I’d rather not. Still bleeding like crazy. We really do take a cab home.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Birth Story, Part One

This is hard to write. I still feel strange about parts of this story, and I can't seem to get it to coalesce into better writing. But I told myself I would get it done before the arrival of several specific babies, two of whom are now past their due dates. So here goes. The first of ...4, maybe? [Ed. -- who am I kidding? Maybe 8.] parts, which I'm going to post as soon as I have them written, since sitting around thinking about how to do it better isn't getting me anywhere.

Right after the Bean was born, people started asking whether it had been a long labor. I always said emphatically not, that it had been the shortest first-baby labor imaginable, barely a blink of an obstetrical eye. …Which is only true if you take in account that I was in deep, deep denial about what was happening until nearly the end. So while I want to include the week before, which now seems part of it, keep in mind that any sense of inevitability is strictly revisionist.

Since this is so long overdue, let's start with a little context, shall we? Y'all might have forgotten what brands of crazy I was.

Monday, 2/21: Week 37 begins. Sugar and I meet the pediatrician our friend has recommended, who holds information sessions for expectant parents on Monday nights. Sugar thinks she’ll be late because she’s coming from work; instead, she is on time and I am 20 minutes late because I’m too tired to walk there and the subway is all messed up. I use both hands to haul myself up the railings of the subway staircases.

Tuesday: Hahaha, Tuesday. That was a fun one. Crampy. Exhausted. I get told my insurance has been canceled. This is all my disastrously fragile mental state needs. (I’d forgotten how bad it was until I reread this post. Yikes.)

Wednesday: First cervix check. One cm dilated, 50% effaced. Or one of them is; Dr. Skinny claims only one is active, which she somehow knows without checking. I don’t argue, because ouch. Spotting afterwards and feelings of general emotional turmoil, such as always seem to accompany any cervix-poking. I trot out my fancy math skillz and figure I’ll be pregnant for another six and a half years.

I spent another hundred years on hold, trying to figure out what the hell is going on with my insurance, while I wander Target, looking for that dark-colored nightgown and robe they say you’re supposed to have for the hospital. I can’t find anything, which I figure doesn’t matter since I have another six and a half years to deal with it, and I can't bear the thought of taking off any clothes to try on nursing tank tops, so that will have to wait. I buy a pack of newborn onesies, since I’ve just found out that “newborn” isn’t the same as “0-3 months.”

I go to my last pre-term acupuncture appointment and plan to start the “preparing for labor” series in a few days. Oh, but supposedly my insurance is fine, no need to panic. (Aside: basically this same thing just happened to us again, only with Sugar’s insurance. And after the panic attacks and the insomnia and the endless waiting on hold, it turns out everything is okay, but I WANT EMOTIONAL REPARATIONS, DAMMIT. Or at least someone to really, thoroughly yell at.)

I am finally driven to drink.

Thursday: I visit Schroe and meet the illustrious Speedster, Speedy, and the whole marvelous menagerie. We eat cookies and drink tea while Speedy gives the dogs acupuncture treatments and exclaims over her new love of cooking dry beans. Speedy wins my heart by stating with absolute assurance that my didelphic tendencies aren’t going to be a problem in labor.

I spend 95% of the visit gawping at Schroe and internally (?) panicking. Look at the way she handles the Speedster! She knows what to do! She knows what he wants! She can nurse him and change diapers and everything. I have no idea whatsoever what to do with a baby, I realize. This is going to be a disaster. Also: they have a real washer and dryer! We just have a little washer that hooks to the sink, no dryer at all. We are so unprepared.

I spend the bus and subway ride home looking at the adorable newborn sized clothes Schroe has given us. At least the baby (Aaaahhh!! Baby! Aaaaahhhhh!!!!!) won’t have to be naked. There’s that.

I get home and the washing machine breaks.

Friday: We are having dinner guests! I drag myself to the hippie coop grocery — via subway and bus; the last time I tried to walk there and back, I couldn’t walk at all the next day — and undertake the first of what I plan to be two or three major stocking up trips. Two cases of cat food, that kind of thing. [Hindsight sez: Nesting. Check.] I assure my supervisor that I’ll be in for my next shift unless, haha, I go into labor. I look so pathetic when the cab arrives that the driver puts my bags in the trunk for me despite what I belatedly realize is a major hand wound. Blood is coming through the torn strips of cloth wrapped around his palm. Seriously: it’s like we’re in a movie about the Crimean War, shot in Park Slope. I tip well, at least. (I think. Car service tipping is confusing!)

On the way down the ramp of my building, my granny cart breaks.

In lieu of cleaning the house even a little bit, I collapse on the bed. Later, I stumble my way through a passable lamb tagine, and Sugar saves me from burning the couscous beyond recognition. I have to sit down a few times because of extreme, stabbing cervix pain, but that's been happening for at least a month. We show off our fancy stroller — the guests are the expectant parents of one of those aforementioned slightly overdue babies — and realize we don’t really know how it works. Suave. We show off the "nursery" and assure them there is a mattress in the crib, somewhere under all that junk. Good thing we have like 3 more weeks to clean up in there....

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Blogging for LGBT Families Day: A Thanksgiving

The Bean is three months old today. He is sweet and smiley and miraculous. There isn't a way to say he's the light of our lives that doesn't make me gag a bit, and yet it's true. He wiggles an eyebrow and I am transformed from the grumpy dragon of morning to a cooing fool; he makes Sugar smile even when she's barely slept, which let me tell you, is right up there with lead into gold. I could go on, but some of you might need to keep your lunches down.

Dreaming of Carrots and World Domination
Dreaming of Carrots and World Domination

In honor of Blogging for LGBT Families Day, I want to thank all of you who do blog about your LGBT families and your steps towards building them. We are happier, more confident, and, dare I say, better parents because of you.

It didn't take a lesbian mom to provide the key to solving our napping problems (though in fact, it was one who did so), and I don't mean to slight the many non-LGBT folks whose blogs I read. But there is something irreplaceable and maybe even healing about seeing the queer part of our lives (and of the lives we aspire to) reflected onscreen. Queer parents don't get talked about much in mainstream media, beyond an occasional "look at the talking goat" sort of piece at pains to point out how normal and non-threatening some pair is, never forgetting that part of being non-threatening is never showing any anger at the forces that threaten our families. (And lookie what happens if you run one of those on Mothers' Day.)

So quickly, before the Bean wakes up, thank you to those blogs I found when I first hit up Professor Google to figure out how this whole lesbo-mom thing could work (especially Lesbian Dad, One of His Moms, First Time, Second Time); to those whose authors were saddling up in the stirrups and shooting up sperm when we were; to those who came later, who let me feel like I know things worth sharing. Thank you for making your lives visible, so that ours feels less invisible.

The Bean thanks you, too.


Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

I still remember you, Roselle.

(So no, cheerful husband of sweet friend, please don't give my son a camouflage hat. You mean well and think it would be cute, but I can't stand it.)

Sunday, May 29, 2011


Thanks to Pom, the new site seems to be working.

Update your readers, y'all.

ETA: Dammit! Never mind. Working....

Oh neverthefuckmind.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Inside Baseball

Sorry for the relative lack of vagina news in this post, but:

Any wordpress experts out there? I'm trying to move the blog, for the same reasons everyone does plus righteous indignation at the late blogger unpleasantness. I set up the new one (even shelled out for the fancy, no-.wordpress address) and I've run the importer multiple times over several days in different browsers, but all that ever comes through is the post titles and the names of the people who commented, no actual content. I've written WP about it but haven't heard anything. (Grumble, grumble.)

Also: The Bean slept for 4.5 contiguous hours last night, during our normal sleeping hours. Whoo! Sadly, my brain decided that I should be awake to witness it. WTF, insomnia?

Ah, well. Maybe he'll do it again someday.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Easing Back In

Hello, internets. Miss me?

The radio silence you've been enjoying has been made possible by:
  • a Bean who is getting smilier and more fun every day
  • a Mama who is way less depressed now that she isn't in pain all the time*
  • more weather worth walking around in [Ha! Except then it rained all week and I still didn't get this post done!]

    *only...I seem to have injured myself with only a little pumping, and the weather got chillier, and...the vasospasms are back. I have stopped pumping and they seem to be fading. I figure I'll try pumping again when I'm healed up, but if that's how it's gonna be, then I guess it will be formula when there comes a time that I can't always be nursing him. 'Cause I ain't going down that road again.
But I miss you, and it's raining, and the Bean is asleep in the ergo, so I thought I'd tiptoe back by accepting these nice awards from Kaitake:

The rules:

1. Link back to the person who bestowed the awards on you (yup).

2. Tell us 7 things about yourself, for each of the awards (total 14 things):

Good heavens. Fourteen things. But I do so want to be both stylish and versatile.... I may have to draw from current events.

1. I'm from North Carolina. My accent was never terribly strong, and what I had of it was beaten out of me in college, where almost the only thing left to give someone trouble over was the region of the country she came from. I regret its loss very, very much. I get very pissed off when people say stupid things about the South, especially when it's that smarmy aren't-we-all-so-awesome-because-we're-liberal-Northeasterners B.S. that some folks will try on me because I don't have an accent and because all Southerners are bigoted and backward, right?

2. My first year out of college, I worked for City Year, part of Americorps. At our national conference that spring, I shook Bill Clinton's hand after he gave us the most generous and moving speech; was deeply disappointed by John McCain, who phoned in his appearance in a way I found very disrespectful; and went to hear a state senator give a surprisingly good talk to in a small classroom. Although I agreed with what he had to say and thought he'd said it well, I was bothered by a lazy rhetorical flourish that relied on the expectation that rural people are backward, and, as I try to when possible, I came up to him afterwards to tell him so. We had a good talk, I thought, and he seemed to see my point. ...which is why I was so disappointed when, years later, this happened. Barack, we talked about this!

[Whoa. It's days later; I have no idea what bee was in my bonnet when I started that. Someone must have crossed me, and now you bear the brunt of my irritation. I won't delete, as the tirade above certainly tells you more about me than whatever cutesy facts I'd come up with to replace it. Ahem.]

3. In case the above cast any doubt, I loved and continue to love my college. Sugar and I met there, when she was a sexy senior and I was a bright-eyed first-year with waist-length braids. (I shaved my head second semester. As you do.)

4. Lists apparently give me thinking-block. My preferred form of OCD is categorizing.

5. ...which is why my "favorite" household chore is laundry. Secretly, I even love that our wee-tiny, totally not-allowed-in-our-building, hooks-to-sink/drains-to-tub washing machine is so small that I have to subdivide my normal categories into smaller loads. (Hot pinks only! Lights/cold! Blue things with buttons!)

6. I am not a good housekeeper. At all. But I am a good cook. If you were coming to dinner for the first time, I'd probably make a lamb tagine and Lebanese couscous, unless I was in the mood for chicken and biscuit. If you are a vegetarian, we'd probably have pasta alla norma. If you are a vegan, well, you probably aren't friends with me, on the grounds of my terrible boorishness.

7. I have a degree in writing and even a little book-ella, with photographs by Sugar. (Please don't give away our secret spidey-identities.) I found pregnancy profoundly mentally debilitating but am now starting to feel like thinking again, which might turn into writing again. Last time the ol' noggin was functional, I was reading Illness as Metaphor and thinking about infertility in literature. I got as far as checking Hedda Gabbler out of the library and carting both around for months. Then I lost both of them. The library has now been paid and I'm ready to start again. If you think of other examples of infertility -- at least strongly implied -- in literature, especially canon-stuff, please tell me.

Okay, that took almost a week. On to current events.

8. Can I say again how much more fun I am having with the Bean these days? He smiles, he laughs, he shows a marked delight in Evita and Patti Lupone in general. I'm starting to figure out the napping situation, thanks to some good advice about putting him down earlier and some accidental discoveries about the wisdom of letting him fuss a little. It helps that he can see his mobiles now, so I don't feel quite as guilty putting him down when awake.



Not the world's greatest pictures, but I love this thing.

9. The Bean's room is still very much a work in progress, particularly when it comes to decoration. Why, yes, the man in that print is smoking a cigarette. Positively wholesome compared to most of what's on the walls in there. That room has been the repository for art that I like but either don't want our guests staring at during dinner or don't want to see when I'm trying to go to sleep. Which is to say, it's mostly me naked and/or work that is overtly about death. Cheerful!

10. We're having a lot more fun doing tummy time these days, thanks to the Bean's greater head control (which he developed despite having virtually no tummy time until recently, which makes me wonder just how necessary it is, but anyway) and my giving up on forcing him to face-plant on the floor, which seemed cruel, boring, and a guarantee of a crabby baby. Now I lie most of the way down and put him on my stomach. Cute! (And I don't have to lie on the floor, staring at the herd of dust buffalos under the furniture, which is kind of a drag -- see #6.)

tummy time

The mobile Sugar made, which hangs over his bassinet, is fuzzily visible in the upper right.

11. We have rain-sound white noise on so much of the time now that I've started dreaming of monsoons. Think Apocalypse Now. Also, I have to pee. All the time. The continual actual rain outside is more of a problem, not least because I suspect that the Bean has inherited my (and my mother's) air-pressure-related migraines. There have been at least two days when a blistering headache on my part has coincided with strangely pained, inconsolable wailing on his, much improved by a dose of infant Advil. Poor critter. I was so happy knowing he couldn't have endometriosis and so naggingly worried about the likelihood of asthma, but I never thought about this one. At least he's also got my ability to move his eyebrows individually. That's some compensation.

12. He also has my (and my father's) simian crease on his left hand. I get strange looks when I glow with pride over this point of resemblance, but I have always loved sharing this with my dad. It's like we're part of a secret club most people don't even know exists. My father, who is a geneticist, used to show his students pictures of our hands -- a good reminder that soft-markers are not diagnoses.

Left Hands

13. I keep meaning to write my birth story for y'all; I don't know if there's a statute of limitations on that sort of thing. Even though I basically got the story I wanted -- healthy baby, vaginal birth, an epidural that was nothing but wonderful -- I spent a long time feeling really messed up about parts of it. Ashamed is the closest word, I think. In a way, Dr. Russian's later display of bitchery was a relief in that it suggested that maybe her behavior during labor wasn't my fault, per se.

14. The one I've been keeping from you: I need to change the subtitle of this blog, as I'm now down to just the one vagina.

I nominate the following bloggers for these awards: You. You Over There. You There. And You, Ya Lurker.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Movie Night

Hey, y'all. Just a quickie to let you know that the Tribeca Film Festival is streaming a documentary about donor siblings for free today. You have to register, but there's no charge, and so far I'm finding it very interesting, well made, all that. If you catch it, let's compare notes, eh?

The trailer (which I haven't watched):

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Better Living Through Chemistry

(It's taken me two days to write this, so the time references are all off. I know you don't care, but For The Record.)

This morning, during the twenty minutes that the Bean deigned to sleep not on me (not that it isn't adorable, but pretty soon I'm going to form adhesions to the Boppy and the couch) I wrote my GP a thank you note.

Now, I am southern and everything, but I am not that devoted to the note-writing -- I'm not caught up with the baby gift thank-yous (or COUGH the wedding ones) -- but sometimes it is just Called For. And now, a few glorious days into my new life as a person who doesn't spend six or more hours a day gritting her teeth and feeling her eyes protrude from the pain of invisible vice-grips on her nipples, now is one of those times.

In short: Nifedipine is amazing stuff. My GP rules. I am ever-more angry at Dr. Russian's nurse, the practice as a whole, and, sadly, Dr. Russian herself.

(Ha! I just got back from several hours outside, where I walked around pain-free in only a tanktop! I nursed outside, even, without agony! Yes, it's beautiful and warm today, but it is usually hot as blazes in our apartment at night, thanks to a very enthusiastic heater over which we have no control, and that never stopped my nips from seizing up for hours on end.)

In long: I started having vasospasms over a month ago. Or at least, that's when I realized I was having them. It took me a little while to sort out that pain from the typical surface pains of early nursing and the pinching of Mr. Crocodile-Jaws's lazy latching (corrected by the Hippy But Not Dippy LC), but those things don't turn your nipples white even when you haven't nursed in hours or leave you cussing like a sailor while clutching your chest in an attempt to warm them up through two layers of cloth nursing pads, two shirts, a thick sweater, a wool shawl, and a coat when it isn't even properly winter any longer. Once I figured out that's what they were, I told myself to be patient, that it was all due to an injury from a bad latch that was fixed now, that I was exaggerating. I also managed to repress that my mother has Reynaud's and that we both have migraine, which is related.

After a week, I called my ob's office and asked about nifedipine. The nurse called back, all patronizing and unhelpful. "Oh, we wouldn't do that." Why not? No reason, just vague admonitions about taking medications while breastfeeding. Use warm compresses. I am, I said, and it's not helping. Use warm compresses. I lost it. Not pretty. Crying. Raised voice. Accusations that they didn't care about my health -- I'm going to stand by that one. The fact is that they did not care enough to, you know, do anything about the quarter or more of the day (and I mean out of 24 hours) that I was spending in pain. Only it wasn't pain, I guess, since the nurse kept referring to it as "discomfort." (This is the same woman who, when Sugar called in to ask if we should go to the hospital and I was having a terrible contraction in the background, told her that I "needed to calm down." Because back labor is so much less painful if you're quiet about it. Very helpful bitch, she is.) She called back later, probably because I was so obviously enraged, said she'd talked to the doctor (whoever was in that day), confirmed that they wouldn't prescribe for me but here was the number of the LC around here who is also an MD...who doesn't take insurance (reprehensible) and who charges you to read her website (seriously).

So I wrote to the HBND LC, and even though it was Friday afternoon and she takes Shabbat seriously, she wrote back immediately with a number of suggestions. I dutifully added more horse pills to the supplement brigade (calcium/magnesium and oatstraw in addition to prenatals, brewer's yeast, folic acid, and vitamin D) and tried to soak my nipples in hot salt water (which is awkward as hell and just left me with a damp, salty baby nursing the non-soaking side while the first side went bananas the minute the air hit it anyway). I heated nursing pads in the microwave -- they went from scalding to clammy in a nano-blink -- and tried unsuccessfully to position a heating pad over the first boob without letting it touch the baby as he nursed side two, electric boogaloo. Eventually, I gave up everything but the supplements, dressing like a wrestler trying to sweat down a weight class, and weeping. I made extra-warm flannel nursing pads and layered them until I looked like I was stuffing my already ginormous bra. I tried not to scream at the baby for crying, although every time he did so, the let-down reflex made my nipples crush themselves. My efforts to avoid cussing while nursing met with mixed success. (Mother of the YEAR, I'm telling you.) I refused to leave the house.

At six weeks postpartum, I had my ob check-up, at which my mention of vasospasms was ignored. When, at the end of the appointment, I mentioned that I thought it would be nice if they made a postpartum phone call to check in before then, Dr. Russian treated me to a strangely vehement tongue lashing, complete with raised voice and pointed use of my first name. I was accused of wanting them to do things "no one" does, of asking them to follow up with the baby (which would have been strange, considering how many times we went to the Bean's pediatrician for weight-checks). It was strongly implied that I had called the nurse too many times, despite the fact that every call I'd made had been for something on the hospital discharge paperwork, like a high fever, UTI symptoms, and a large and terrifyingly hamster-like clot. She kept returning to the idea that "this" was a job for family -- "We're not your family, Bionic, we're DOCTORS" -- as if I'd asked for emotional support rather than medical help. As it happens, many of my family members are doctors, and try as I may, I can't imagine any of them behaving that way to a patient, no matter how pushy and crazy the patient was. It was horrible, not least because it forced me to admit that her similar behavior during labor wasn't clever tough love intended to motivate me but just plain emotional instability. Farewell, Dr. Russian. I liked your shoes and your sass and your meat obsession, but if you aren't family, I don't have to put up with that shit.

As a confident, independent, properly-raised woman, it pains me to admit what a funk that visit left me in, but there you are. More weeping, more telling myself that this pain was something I just had to deal with, that it wouldn't even bother a good mother. I wondered how soon I could give up breastfeeding without hating myself for doing so.

Eventually, my pissed-off, entitled side beat the weepy bit into submission. I read up on nifedipine and discovered that the bitchy nurse was full of shit -- it's perfectly safe for breastfeeding and plenty common enough that problems would have turned up by now. Even the NIH thinks so, and they don't even think you should take aspirin because your baby might magically get Reyes Syndrome from the teensy bit that gets into your milk (not to mention that the Reyes/aspirin connection is not actually that convincing, says my father, whose field this is, after all). I trolled PubMed -- and yes, I will totally be using this as an example of why my students should PAY ATTENTION on the days we spend in the library, learning database searching -- and found several articles to the effect that Reynaud's of the nipple is real, is serious, and ought to be treated, if only because it hurts like hell and will keep people from breastfeeding. (I suppose it is too much to ask that it be treated just because it makes the mothers' fucking nipples fucking hurt, regardless of whether it might mean the babies get formula and therefore become dyslexic, asthmatic axe murders.)

I called my GP, whose receptionist told me to talk to my OB, but she agreed to see me anyway. (Meanwhile, Sugar went to see her ob/gyn, who asked after me. When Sugar mentioned the vasospasms, she said, "Why isn't she on nifedipine?" She assured Sugar it was very safe and said I should come see their practice if the GP didn't prescribe it. I had wanted to go to that practice in the first place, but they weren't accepting new ob patients when I got pregnant. Now that I'm a plain old gyn patient again, though, I am so there.) At the appointment, my GP listened to my description and the logic of my self-diagnosis and asked, "is there a treatment?" I trotted out my notes; she copied down my citations and wrote me a scrip for the dose I had found in the articles.

Sugar and I go to the same GP, and at times we have wondered whether her willingness to put us on or take us off of drugs we ask about means that we like her for the wrong reasons, because she does what we want rather than saying no. But really, why shouldn't she? We don't come to her with frivolous or dangerous requests, for one thing, but also, shouldn't we have some say in our own healthcare? If I want to try a drug that won't hurt and has a good chance of helping, maybe my desire (and pain) should be important enough that my doctor is willing to learn something new. My GP didn't do anything Dr. Russian couldn't have done. Even if Dr. Russian and her practice do not generally treat vasospasms (which, PS, they should -- 20% of women in childbearing years have some version of them), she could have listened to me, read the journal articles and/or consulted with colleagues, and done something to help, instead of turfing me to another doctor (on my own dime, too), and blaming me for needing help. As a child of doctors, I've spent a lot of my life arguing with people who claim that all doctors are arrogant. Besides my own family members, I grew up surrounded by doctors, and most of them were more like my GP than not. Most of them were like my father, who works insane hours seeing patients with tricky diseases, dictates notes late into the night, goes into the hospital every weekend (which requires sacrifices from families, too -- no camping trips or even full Christmas Days together), and still finds time to listen to his patients and their parents and think more about their needs than his ego. It pisses me off to no end (though I will end this post someday, promise) when a doctor acts like such a stereotype.

Enough ranting for the moment. The nifedipine is wonderful. The Bean is wonderful, too. He's smiling more and spending a higher proportion of his waking hours not screaming. We take baths together every night, which I love -- I haven't had a good bath buddy in 25 years. This morning, I think he really saw one of our cats for the first time. I'm so happy to be out of pain and able to focus on having a good time with him and bombarding my friends and family with pictures of his every move. Since you've been so good as to suffer through this interminable post, allow me to bombard you:


A Boy and His (Very Patient) Cat

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Quick Questions

Hello, internets. I owe you a post or ten -- or at least some pictures (I got one with a smile yesterday! A smile!) -- but as I am typing one-handed, marooned under a finally-sleeping Bean*, I must beg your continued patience. However. I am seeing my GP tomorrow -- one of the stories I owe you is "In Which I Realize I Must Break Up With Dr. Russian" -- and, being sick to death of being in pain and (horrors!) losing precious sleep over this vasospasm business, I intend to talk to her about trying a low dose of Nifedipine (see here). She isn't likely to know much about it (as this is more in the purview of obstetrics, but See Above), but I've poked around PubMed and, since I'm already taking a large handful of supplements from the hippy-but-noy-dippy LC and doing everything else suggested in the article**, I think it's time to try it. I'd like to come to the appointment as educated as possible.

Right. The afforementioned Questions:

Any of you spasm-y sorts ever look into Nifedipine? Your thoughts appreciated.

Less pressingly but also of interest: What did your ob/midwife/Very Surprised Cab Driver do in terms of post-partum care -- appointments, calls, what-have-you?

And while we're here: 13 nursing sessions a day? Is it possible The Bean thinks he's a marsupial (as, in fairness, my mother says I did)?

*oh. He woke up. But he is nursing the non-typing side first. Score!

**except giving up my one daily cup of coffee, which, dear God, is an unacceptable request to make of a new parent, particularly one who is losing sleep above and beyond the usual and whose offspring refuses to sleep in the day except on her body or in a rapidly moving stroller near heavy traffic, making her own napping a difficult not to say dangerous thing to attempt. Next person who tells me to sleep when the baby sleeps gets stabbed right in the eye.

Friday, April 1, 2011

One Month In

Oh, for fuck's sake. Blogger just ate a very long -- and, since it isn't here for you to read, let's assume terribly witty -- post, mostly about the myriad ways breast-feeding is driving me batty. Obviously, its deletion is a La Leche League plot.

I'd recreate it, but between nursing, "soothing" (read: trying everything I can think of followed by trying not to panic), and repeating, it took me 6 hours, and this nursing session I am spending typing one-handed will likely only be another 5.

The main points:

  • Breastfeeding is going much better.
  • It is still kind of a pain, and I wonder that people are reluctant to wean. I am squarely in Counting The Days territory.
  • I'm tired of sleeping in a nursing tank, but I hate waking up in a cold puddle.
  • Why is it cold even when it first drips on my belly/leg? At least peeing your pants is warm
  • I mean, that's what I've heard.
  • I would like the weather to warm up, so I can include outside benches in my emergency nursing station list.
  • Thank heavens boob nudity is allowed in New York state, because lordy, this is an awkward business. Especially outside in the wind.
  • Vasospasms really, really suck. Like pliers on the nips, and not in a sexy way, either.
  • My OB's nurse (and by extension their postpartum care) really sucks, too.
  • The non-dippy LC -- who keeps the sabbath and doesn't work Friday afternoons and who answered my emails today anyway and with concrete advice (more than I can say for certain nurses) -- continues to not suck.
  • My nipples hurt.
It was funny the first time. Really.

And now, pictures of The Bean, who is one month old today:


Still in newborn size -- this one is for you, Schroe

But he IS growing! Compare:

Three days old.

Four weeks old

Grey-blue eyes, for now. (Bluer than they look here.)

No Papparazzi
A healthy disdain for paparazzi

And a name:


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Happy Spring

...from a boy who has returned to his birthweight and a Mama who is beginning to have color in her cheeks again.

Now we are sprung from the pediatrician's until the Bean's two-month appointment, and we can concentrate on the more fun aspects of parenting, like the veritable poop fountain that erupted out of the bassinet yesterday. Bellagio's got nothin' on our place, I tell you what.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

40 Weeks: Pregnancy Roundup

Hey, can we pretend I posted this yesterday? When I started writing it? Thanks.

The Bean is doing better, by the way. He'd gained 4 ounces -- FOUR OUNCES! -- on Monday, and the LC was great and not dippy and gave us more things to do. We'll see the ped and her again tomorrow.

Happy Pi Day! I hope you're celebrating appropriately. Sugar has been doing so much work around here since the Bean was born (and before, but let's not get carried away with the past...) that I don't have the nerve to ask her to get out her rolling pin, but let it be known all across the Wide Interblags that she makes the best pie there is. (Which is not to be construed, Sugar, as an answer to that horrible trick question you posed some months back, "Do you think my pie is better or my mother's?" I still have enough sense to realize that either answer would violate one of my two central rules of conversation: 1. Never Denigrate The Cooking Of The Person Whose Food Is In Your Mouth; 2. Never Insult Somebody's Mama's Cooking.) Although I know that only -- what is it? 5%? -- of babies arrive on their due dates, I did like the idea that the Bean might have Pi Day as his birthday, with Sugar's pies in place of cake. Evidently he had other ideas. Already.

Even though he's been here for nearly two weeks, I'm still surprised that I'm not pregnant anymore. It all happened so quickly (rather unlike my writing of his birth story) -- no Toni Braxton contractions or other warnings, except for the Very Bloody Show -- and the whole business of having another person come flying out of one's nether regions I found so surreal. I can't say there's much I intended to do while pregnant that I didn't get to -- we did the photo shoot on what ended up being the last possible day, but it got done -- but I nevertheless don't feel...done. (On the other hand, I feel glad that I didn't have more time to obsess over the end of the era or to build my labor anxieties any higher.)

One of the things I didn't get to was ever doing the meme below. I never intended to do it regularly, as I am more than capable of boring you with petty complaints without a bulleted list (you're welcome, internet), but I thought I'd do a full-pregnancy version around my due date, as a means of distracting myself from obsessing over my fear of induction. And here it is my due date, so what the heck. Feel free to let your eyes glaze over and skip to the picture at the end.

How Far Along?
40 weeks "pregnant"; two weeks postpartum (in 7 hours).

Total Weight Gained/Loss?

At delivery day (well, 14 hours before, when I was last on a scale), +33 lbs over what I consider my normal weight; a bit more over my weight at my first OB visit.

Two weeks later, +22 lbs over normal. (I swear it was more like +18 earlier this week, but today I'm in my trusty maternity corduroys, so that's probably a more fair measurement, since I wore them to every OB appointment after the weather turned.)

Maternity Clothes:

Pretty much the same pair of Noppies corduroys since halfway through the second trimester or so. And ZOMG the Bella Band. The sine qua non (pants) of this whole experience. However: if they can make a band that holds my pants up, why, oh why can't the same company make tights that last more than 3 steps without cascading to the ground? And, for the millionth time, why doesn't anyone make a warm maternity coat? Thank heavens my tiny mother unaccountably had a (hideous) down coat that was big enough to squeeze around me, even at the end.


Sometimes, thanks to my best friend, the down body pillow. And, at the end, a sofa cushion behind my back, my dad's old down camping jacket under my hip, and a heating pad on top of the other hip. And a cat under one arm. How Sugar even fit in the bed is a mystery.

Postpartum, I haven't been having such exuberantly crazy dreams -- the weirdest one that didn't involve a hemorrhaging miscarriage (of which there were many; thanks, brain) had me taking George W. Bush to the pig races at the NC State fair and (I felt so dirty when I woke up!) accepting a plug of tobacco from him after giving him some betting tips. Instead, I am back to my childhood trick of night terrors, complete with hallucinations of the Bean in various poses of doom in the bed and plenty of incoherent yelling at poor Sugar. ("CAMERAS! I had TWO cameras!!! WHERE IS HE?????????")

Aches and Pains?

Yep. Back from early on; hips at the end were pretty brutal. Let's not talk about the part of labor before the epidural just right here except to say MORE OF THE SAME.

Postpartum, hips were a mess for a week -- I felt like I was made of two very different sized lego people, with a small top half and a hugely wide bottom. Lurching galore. Now they're pretty much back to normal. Pelvic floor still a little weird when I walk more than a block or so, but mostly I am okay now. Which is a good thing, because the ibuprofen was starting to make my stomach pretty unhappy.


Not so bad, as these things go. Terrible congestion the most consistent. Acupuncture was awesome for that. Bad acid reflux after 28 weeks or so, until Dr. Russian introduced me to Prevacid, with whom I will be having any future babies. Dizziness. Yucky heart palpitations and shortness of breath in the third trimester.

Medical Concerns:

A whole lot of freaking out about things that never caused any problems: that month of first trimester spotting, low PAPP-A at nuchal, fears of incompetent cervix related to mullerian anomalies, terror over prospect of birth with two cervices and vaginas. But everything was actually just fine, even the septum.


The first thing I was sure wasn't just gas came while we were at the beach in October. Sugar and I were lying in bed with her hand on my belly, and she felt it, too. It was weeks before she could feel it again, but I love that we felt the first one together.

By the third trimester, some of it was pretty uncomfortable -- rib kicks and especially the cervical head-butts.

It's strange now to feel something inside and know it has to be me.

Food Craving:

MILK. Some transient ones in the first trimester, most notably beer and, on one bizarre day, fish sticks. Lots and lots of protein, including one or two small meals in the middle of every night. I never thought getting up to eat could feel like a chore. Thank heavens for ricotta cheese on toast.

In general, I ate like a four-year-old. The Bean is 80% hotdogs and tatertots.

Food Aversions:

Coffee and tea both made me feel terrible, even after only a half-sip, in the case of coffee. Salmon seemed desperately gross. Later on, cereal and yogurt made me feel sick, but I think that was an acid thing.

Morning sickness?

Yes, but mild as these things go. No vomiting; only nausea. Worst around week 6. Best cures for me (besides getting out of the record heat) were raspberry candies, raspberry syrup in my water, sour drinks, spicy food (especially the salsa verde from our local taco place), and ZOMG coca-cola. Grandma was completely right about that. And since I wasn't using my caffeine allowance on coffee....


Opted not to find out the Bean's; glad we waited (although I would have put my money on boy if forced).

As for the other kind, yes.

What I miss:

Sleeping on my stomach once in a while. Beer (I sipped Sugar's wine sometimes and had my own a few times towards the end, but she doesn't drink much beer). Sitting in the hot tub at the beach.

My OBs gave a pretty short list of forbidden foods -- deli meat, soft eggs, sushi, factory- or store-prepared salads and dips (like packaged hummus), lox and the like...and maybe some other things? I can't remember, so it can't have been that bad. Except for the soft-cooked eggs. God Almighty, how I missed them. I've had at least a dozen already.

Baby preparedness:

HA HA HA. Ooops. Thank heavens for Schroedinger's newborn clothes stash and Shelli's pack and play, or we would have been SOL upon return from the hospital. I thought I had 3 more weeks.

Best Moments?

Tough to choose, but a few:

  • Driving in the car with Sugar after getting the "good first beta" call, when we were the only people (outside of the clinic) who knew.
  • Telling the friend who launched herself over the table to hug us.
  • Seeing our happy extended families when they were here for the wedding.
  • Feeling the Bean kick for the first time, with Sugar's hand on my belly.
  • Lying in the hospital bed (AFTER the epidural, thank you), listening to the Bean's heart on the monitor.

And one category I'm adding, Stupidest Decisions:

  • Forgetting about not eating prepared dips. One of the only times I threw up all 9 months.
  • Various over-estimations of my physical prowess, from the time I royally messed over my ribs getting out of a chair to the time I rendered myself unable to walk after getting carried away with walking to and from the food coop.
  • Going home from the OB's after she said I was 4 cm dilated and completely effaced.

One of these days, we will make the move to wordpress and post various belated pictures (as passworded posts; no intention of taking the blog as a whole private). For now, here's a face-less picture of me at 37 weeks, 5 days. I thought I still had 3 weeks to go, but this turned out to be as big as I got.

37 weeks 5 days

Friday, March 11, 2011

Well, Sort Of

Bunny asked to hear more about how breastfeeding was going well, but sadly, I guess it only sort of is.

From the perspective of my little world at home, it is going well. The Bean has gotten better at latching, my right nipple no longer feels (and looks) sandpapered, I have gotten well enough myself that I can nurse sitting up without passing out (the nurse at the hospital told me this was because the oxytocin -- which, paging Dr. Freud, I continually write as oxycontin -- was filling me with "feelings of well-being." I thought it was my crappy hematocrit and low blood pressure, but I do not have a medical degree.) and we've figured out a lying down method that works for all participants. The Bean nurses on a somewhat intense schedule but takes long-ish breaks at night, so we're even getting far more sleep than we have any right to. Now that my nips are no longer so scabby, I'm even enjoying it at times.

...and then we go to the pediatrician. The Bean, you see, is rather wee. Not compared to pre-termers, by any means, but still a bit small. He was born at 6 lbs 1.5 oz, having decided that he had met the terms of my "over 6, under 9" chanting and, at exactly 38 weeks, my full-term request. By the time we were at the pediatrician on day 3, his weight had dropped to 5 lbs 5 oz. Perfectly normal, which didn't stop me from bawling uncontrollably in the exam room. My milk wasn't in, and while colostrum is said to be just chock full of magical stuff, that stuff ain't calories. The pediatrician, for whom we will have to find a nickname shortly, mentioned something vague about supplementation and lactation consultants, but wasn't too worried, as long as we agreed to come into the office every day until he regained his birth weight. Stay in bed, she said, and nurse him every hour or two. He refused to eat that often, but my milk came booming in that afternoon, and the next day, he weighed 5lbs 7 oz. Success! Keep doing what you're doing, she said. The following day, 5 lbs 8 oz. Come in on Monday, she said. I bet he'll be back at birth weight already.

Or not. After a weekend of furious nursing, better latching, more diapers, and so forth, he had held steady at 5 lbs 8 oz. Come back Wednesday, she said, and why don't we time the appointment so you can go to the lactation consultant group session afterwards? Two more days of furious nursing; 5/8 again. I cried all over the LC, who was not at all dippy and who, despite her wig and frum dress, later laughed when I said that given my choice of partner, I wasn't worried about using breastfeeding as birth control. She evaluated his latch and showed Sugar exercises to improve it. I nearly passed out in the group session, in a combined assault of low blood pressure and what proved to be the violent chills of a fever that lasted the rest of the day. I also nearly died of my jealousy of the other woman there, so hale and hearty with her 8lb baby, especially once I found out she had given birth after me. Why was I shaking so hard I was afraid I'd drop the Bean while she was sitting there looking only a little tired?

Back home, we practiced those exercises and nursed even more. Surely, there was a little more of a double-chin, a bit more flesh under those arm creases. Nope: 5/8 again today. And so the Bean came to have his first mouthful of formula and I came to call the doctor's preferred LC and subsequently to break out the pump rather earlier than I had hoped. And I hate it already, for the record.

Part of what's so frustrating is that when we're all at home, everything seems fine. He eats what seems like a zillion times a day, he pees and poops enough to keep the diaper companies happy, and so on. And then, every two days, we go in for what feels a very aptly named exam and find that we still aren't passing. We go home, study some more, work still harder, and think this time we might pass, but we don't. And we don't even know we're not going to pass until we're there. (I know some of you are seeing the parallel to follicle checks, right? And conception in general -- only this time I'm responsible for two bodies that, between them, aren't doing it right.)

Speaking of my body, that's another thing that's well, sort of. I'm doing better than I was -- I'm sitting up to type this, for instance, and today's attempt to take the subway to the pediatrician was successful (Wednesday I had to take a car home) -- but walking up the ramp to our subway station still left me light-headed. The OB nurse says I just need to drink gatorade. I'm a little tired of the OB nurse, frankly. Luckily, Sugar has been feeding me plenty of beef, which is, I think, a bit more to the point.

The silver lining of my being so wiped out is that I haven't so far experienced any of the sense of possessiveness of the baby that other bio-moms have reported. I'm so glad when Sugar can take him from me, because I need the rest and he's with his mom. I was overwhelmed with jealousy the first time we took the subway together, I admit. He was strapped to her chest, and people kept gasping over how tiny and cute he is, while I limped along ten feet behind like some troll aunt. That was no fun. Likewise when we went to the taco place around the corner for lunch last weekend and, as they left to go on to the botanic gardens and I began to lurch homeward on my still-unhinged hips, the pair of cops who'd just cooed over the baby saw my swollen belly and said, "You're next!" It did sting to be still so wrecked from labor and be invisible. (This interaction occurred more than once that day, and when I'd say I'd given birth to him, the follow-up was always, "You had a c-section?" Apparently vaginal birth is supposed to leave a person nimble and sprightly. I'll note that if there's a next time.) But none of that has made me feel possessive, per se, just ready to be healthier, so we can all three walk together.

As your reward for reading this far, here is a picture of my favorite bit of the Bean's hair, the hurricane cowlick on his forehead. I imagine it will fall out, but I hope it will take its time: