Monday, January 10, 2011

Tales from the Front

Hi, folks.

So much has been going on, and I haven't managed to tell you any of it. Mea culpa. Today's update post comes to you from the couch, where I am staring over the horizon of an empty ice cream container and into space (such as it is in an NYC apartment), worn out from a 12-hour weep-fest. (We'll get to that, but please don't worry -- everyone is healthy if not happy.)

Here are some updates and stories for you, in this so helpful style I have shamelessly plagiarized from our* May:

Item: Christmas, New Years, and the Great Middle Western Odyssey in general went fairly well. We met the famous TA, as sweet as they say, and her happy mother. I threw caution to the wind and ate my annual bratwurst at the Christkindlmarket. We went swimming at Sugar's mother's health club; after looking forward for months to the experience of grace and support I keep hearing about in re: gravid paddling, my attempts to avoid further rib injury lead to a kind of aquatic lumbering down the lane with a kickboard, a foam noodle under my ribs, and a foundering midsection intermittently covered by an old exercise top with shot elastic. Sadly, the ribs got angry anyway, possibly because of the indignity of being seen with me.

Swimming, 28 weeks
All the Grace of a Foundering Tugboat

I steered clear of Sugar's dumbest cousin on Christmas Day -- though I still managed to hear her dumb husband (whose last name is a synonym for "detumesces," which gives me great delight, even if detumesce isn't a real word, which it probably isn't) threaten to spank their child for...oh, I forget. Something dumb that all 10 (10!) kids in the house that day were doing, like being loud. So no stories for any of us there.

To celebrate arriving at my parents' house, I got a rip-roaring cold. After a day of utterly failing to breathe, accidentally overdosing on my inhaler, and subsequently freaking out about killing/brain-injuring the Bean, I was saved by Sugar's suggestion that codeine is a fine anti-tussive. My parents' house could easily be mistaken for a well-stocked pharmacy, and codeine not only stopped the coughing but also made me stop wheezing/turning blue. Mama made Dada listen to my lungs with the chimney of an oil lamp, since he had left his stethoscope at the office. I tried to teach Mama to cut and paste, so she'll stop sending me emails with instructions on how to google something she's found ("put X in. now go to the 4th result. in the corner, there's a drawing of a fish. under that, there are some words you can click on....") and instead caused a fight over dinner. We (98% Sugar) made a play-quilt. I was given (not "gifted," dammit) replacements for the water bottle and good gloves I've recently lost on my commute; I promptly lost my best wool shawl on the trip home.

Item: We returned home to a house empty of food and full of cats very pleased with the success of their efforts to drive away our vacationing guests (the Baking Dane's in-laws) by pooping all over their and our belongings. I walk the mile to the grocery store (over mostly-cleared sidewalks), discovering on the way that all that lying around in the midwest while steadily increasing in size has left me woefully out of shape for our car-less life. When I arrive at the hippie coop, I have a stupid exchange with the pregnant idiot working the front desk (this is the kind of coop where you work a shift to secure your right to Waldorf-educated kohlrabi) over her refusal to ask those working with her to rearrange the heavy carts (used to walk home shoppers who live closer than I do) so that those of us who schlep our own organic flax milk can hang our granny carts on the appointed hooks. Another woman sweetly takes my cart from me and says she'll fix it. While I am recovering myself (read: weeping in the corner by the signs about how evil Coca-cola is), Pregnant Idiot calls over to tell me it's done. I say thank you and think humiliated thoughts. On the way home, I get stuck in a pile of slush in the middle of a busy street at rush hour, oncoming traffic surging at me. Good times.

Item: We begin birth classes with the lesbian CNM and her somewhat dippy co-teacher, who keeps saying "dilatition." We are pleased at the first meeting to see that we know one of the 7 couples there: an extremely chipper lesbian and her partner, who has a very charming lack of filter between her brain and her facial expressions. I enjoy watching my own horror reflected on her gaping face all evening.

The class begins with introductions. We are all (partners/husbands/friends, too) to say our names, when the baby is due, etc., and tell a story about our birth knowledge/experience -- a birth we've been to, the story of our own, what have you. When the talking beanbag (not kidding) comes to us, Sugar goes first.

SUGAR: "Hi, I'm Sugar and this is my wife, Bionic. Our baby is due in March and we're delivering at Kips Bay Mega-Hospital. The story of my birth is that my mother gave birth in 45 minutes and is still mad that all she got for dinner was a ham sandwich."

DIPPY: "Wow! That's amazing! How lucky!"

SUGAR: "Yeah. Too bad I'm not related genetically to our child."

DIPPY: "But you're related to your mother!"

BIONIC: Yes, but not to our baby.

DIPPY: "But your hips! You'll have her genes! This is great!"


[Awkward pause, in which DIPPY flusters about how she couldn't really see us where we were sitting. Lesbian Teacher looks long-suffering.]

BIONIC: "Hi, I'm Bionic. My mother did not give birth in 45 minutes."

I then proceed to talk about my (not un-traumatic) birth, touching briefly on a few major anxieties. I do not cry, but I don't look calm either. Before I have collected myself, The door opens and the late couple walks in. If you've already guessed that the late couple was Pregnant Idiot and her identical twit of a husband, full marks.

Watch this space for further reports on the Happy Couple, who remind one nauseatingly of high school. Highlight of the first night came during one of the activity portions, when we were all draped on one another practicing slow-dancing to loosen back, etc. Sugar is admirably taller than I am, so my face was nicely snuggled against her chest, my eyes closed. I hear a *SMACK* on the Happy ass next to me, followed by "THAT'S a BOOTY!" Gorge rises.

Item: I begin to worry more seriously about this whole birth thing. I spend much of birth class freaking out (internally -- at least I think I didn't look as horrified as the Other Pregnant Lesbian, since the Lesbian Teacher never stopped what she was saying to ask me, "Do you have a question? Or is that just the face?"). It's all very well learning about what the cervix does, what the birth canal will do, and so on, but while I don't really wish to share the idiosyncrasies of my lady bits with the class as a whole -- Lesbian Teacher knows already -- it's frustrating that no one has a clue what my body might or might not decide to do when the moment arrives. I have found 3 anecdotal reports of cervices like mine: one reassuring, one cautionary, one horrifying. (There's much more out there on UD, but officially, single utes with double-doors do not exist, as we contravene the prevailing theories of fetal genital development.) I'm increasingly despairing that a vaginal birth will even be possible, which makes this all seem like something for other people. I know there are good reasons for us to take the class anyway, but it's still a bit hard to sit there and look like I believe this stuff will apply to me.

Item: Dr. Robot has quit the practice and returned to Canada, according to Dr. Sympathetic Noises (But No Answers To Your Questions), whom I saw last week. I was quite nauseated and asked Dr. Noises whether it could have to do with the Zantac I've been taking for reflux, given that it seemed to have coincided. No, she said sympathetically. Later, I asked Dr. Google, who reported nausea as the most common side effect. Back to pepcid, and it's a more acidic but less queasy life for me. Nice work, Dr. Noises. Thanks also for refusing to answer my questions about your practice's labor policies until week 36.

Item: We finally have our belated hospital tour, led by a horrible, scolding bitch. We chose this hospital largely because of how uncommonly NICE every staff member we've encountered, orderlies on up, have been over the course of several radiology jaunts, Sugar's surgery, and my BFF's terrifying 27-week bleeding incident while visiting us a few years ago. So we weren't expecting one of those bitter, angry people who loudly pretends to be cheerful while referring to all non-pregnant parties as "Dad," kvetching endlessly about why her department deserves more space than another, and generally yelling at anyone who asked a question. I also liked the part where -- apropos of nothing except a quiet moan from one of the rooms -- she snapped at us, "labor is PAINFUL!" Part of my reason for going on the tour at all was to see the space at a time when I wasn't feeling actively upset. FAIL. I was calmer when in the company of my bleeding friend.

The actual L&D facilities are nice, though it's a bit annoying that the much-vaunted TV/DVD/CD players are only allowed to be used with headphones -- bit of a reach from the bed. Post-partum, like everywhere in the city, is another matter. The rooms are clean and tiny. There are four, un-reservable private rooms that cost a fortune; the semi-private rooms are exactly big enough for bed-chair-crib, bed-chair-crib. There's no nursery anymore -- theoretically great; actually somewhat terrifying -- so they allow partners to sleep the hard chairs, which do not recline. It's not at all clear to me how I'll get through this (especially with no nursery to give me a break) if I send Sugar home to sleep, but it's plenty obvious that she won't get any sleep in that wretched chair. Mostly, that horrid woman made me afraid the PP nurses will be like her. As far as I can tell, she's a lactation consultant. So help me, if she comes near my nipples, I will not be responsible for my actions. And I do think it would be nice to wait until we're home before beginning the Bean's profanity lessons.

It all seems so trivial when I write it, but the aftermath of the tour has had me up weeping since 4:30 this morning. Okay, it's possible hormones are playing a role here. The basic issues, as I see them: terrible fear of being left alone; much greater comfort taking care of people than being taken care of (read: vulnerable); fear that I won't be able to take care of the Bean and Sugar and that no one will be taking care of me in that strange place.

Item: Sugar had to talk to the Stupid Cow at HR today, who deliberately refuses to understand that our relationship (our legally recognized, accorded benefits by the employer relationship) exists and tells Sugar she's single all the time. But that is Sugar's story to tell.

Item: I wish there were some useful guidelines on alcohol and pregnancy, short of ZOMG POISON. I know plenty of people drink in the third trimester; so far I haven't, beyond pilfered sips of Sugar's wine now and then. But boy, I could use a drink tonight.

*Brits: I have no idea if the "our ____" usage has some meaning that's inappropriate to this situation; I just love how it sounds. I am a dumb 'merican. Feel free to attempt to (gently) correct my heathen ways.


  1. Wow. What an update! Glad you survived the holiday travels mostly unscathed and glad to know I'm not missing anything by not being able to go swimming right now for exercise. It sounds good in theory, right?

    I've found tri. 3 hormones to be pretty intense, as well as thoughts and fears about birth and beyond. I recently learned that any c-section delivery, even a full term one, means baby (or in my case, babies) are separated from moms during the immediate recovery period usually for a couple of HOURS. No joke, I think it made me cry all day long. Hospitals and their sucky, sucky policies.

    I know the private rooms are un-reservable but if you could manage to score one, is there a generous relative (a rich uncle somewheres) that could get you guys that as a baby gift? Seems like money well spent, if it could be managed at all.

    Hang in there! How's the nesting going?

  2. ugh! i think this hospital doesn't do that, but i'm not sure, and i guess i should find out....

  3. Wow! Seems like a miracle any of us survive the holidays but what a shit load for you to deal with! For what it's worth, all my friends who have given birth at the Kips Bay Mega Hospital have had really good experiences. I really hope these next few months are calmer for you, and maybe a good time to practice letting other people take care of you :-)

  4. What a nerve-wracking bit of time! I'm so sorry for the idiots! Seriously. And yes, the hormones make you aa weeper, unavoidably. Try to breathe...


  5. I've missed your sketches and scathing humorous commentaries. I think one of the first posts of yours I read was about IVF orientation class. You had me falling out of my chair then and do again now.

    I'm really sorry you're scared and anxious and stressed. I think that shit's just a part of pregnancy, huh? Anyhow, I just realized what I'm about to say echoes what you recently posted on my blog. You may not believe this, but I do. You really can do it. The birth thing, the mom thing, all of it. You'll be awesome at it. And funny. :)

  6. I LOVE the run down of your birthing class..I think we had some of the same couples in ours!

    Cant wait to get the weekly installments..hang in there!

  7. So sorry you are being visited by the fear and are basically being assailed at every turn by Ignorant, Mean Twits. However I know Our (I like it too) Bionic Baby Mama will prevail - for you are mighty! And I am engaging all my cautious optimism for you - All Will Be Well.
    Keep on, Bionic.

    (Cool swimming drawing.)

  8. This is my new favorite post ever! :) Especially the sketch in the pool! We have an ongoing joke about 'that's just my face' so hearing that others are also faced with the same issue is lovely--I'm sure that watching the facial expressions will MORE than make up for whatever indignities go on in birthing class.
    Oh, and when my British coworker was pregnant she would just have half a pint of guiness--easy to justify with the iron and whatnot. I'd say a glass here and there is probably fine.

  9. Nice update!

    I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry during the L&D class items. Sounds crazy funny but also crazy weird and hard.

    My mantra for you: All is well, all is well, all is well. Hang in there, you are doing awesome. Zen zen zen zen. xoxo

  10. Well, for whatever it's worth, I read a WHOLE bunch of papers about alcohol and pregnancy, and concluded that a glass of wine every now and again (i.e., every few days) would not do anyone any harm. Although N=1 does not a study make, my Bug is fine. Some good German midwives still recommend a half-pint of stout every afternoon for nursing mothers, too.

    Also, I know that you may be despairing of a vaginal birth, and I truly hope it works out for you; I've not had a C-section recovery. But after Bug's birth, I walked out the door about 12 hours later, so IF you don't need a C-section, and if (deities willing) your baby is stable and all, perhaps you won't need to spend much time in the hospital.

  11. There are nurses/midwives/doctors/lactation consultants of Evil in the world. And then theere are the majority, which are pretty bloody nice. If all you have on your shift is Evil, then grit your teeth if you need them. If there's a choice, don't feel bad about booting them out and asking for someone else. The worst experiences I had, apart from the obvious premature-child-near-death thing, were people who I didn't gel with. I wish I'd had the forthrightness to say: This isn't working for me. Next!

    And baby will likely surprise you by quietly choosing an exit and appearing promptly at it without fuss. Fingers are crossed here for that, anyway!

  12. It was NOT my experience that my daughter was separated from me after my c-section. I was holding her within 5 minutes (while they put everything back together in my abdomen), then we were skin to skin nursing in the recovery room. When they took us to PP, they took her away for about 15 minutes, then she was all mine again.

    Re the reflux, once I hit 20 weeks, my OB prescribed nexium. I finally got some relief.

    And go ahead and have a glass of wine. It's really okay.

  13. Glad to read the update.

    Sorry the woman giving the tour was so horrid.

  14. Does it help that the way you share these awful events is a actually quite amusing? I think ever l&d has an evil biotch. One lady tried to make Joey and I both attend a "going home" class even though Joey had to have some medical thing done and see our son in the NICU. I went alone and she was mean to me.....but this is the job of the non-birthing partner. We take care of babies, sleep in hard chairs, fetch water and decent meals and basically make life good for the birthing mama. I am certain that Sugar will happily fulfill her hospital duties. And sweetie, have a good cry and a bath every time you need it. The 3rd trimester is rough!