Friday, January 28, 2011

A Confession, A Rant, and The Rest

I keep thinking that if I wait, all these things in my head will coalesce into a real post, but it isn't happening. So here comes a big mess. If you'd prefer not to see a bunch of mental clutter, here is an alternate post for you:

What should we be registering for that we've forgotten? Discuss.

Still here?

Okay then.

First, the confession part. It concerns birth stories. Yours and yours and yours and probably yours, too. Your amazing, beautiful, dramatic, powerful birth stories that you put so much care into and that I never comment on, even though I read them again and again and again. Even though I can see page after page of comments making it perfectly clear that all I have to do is say, "Amazing! Beautiful! Congratulations! Thank you!" and my work will be done, I don't write a thing and (if you think about it at all) you must assume I don't read them, since half the time I'm writing a novel in your comment box. I hope that doesn't hurt your feelings.

The truth is that I don't comment because your stories scare the ever-loving crap out of me. Half the time I have to have a little meltdown after reading them. The other half the time, I have the meltdown while reading them, to save time. I know enough to know that I shouldn't say *that* in your comment box -- I am hopelessly self-centered, but I am aware, in a conceptual way, of manners -- and for some reason I can't bring myself to say anything else.

So now you know. I read your story -- and yours and yours and yours -- probably more than once. And I was glad it was there to read, because I am an emotional over-packer, and I know that stories help me. So please accept my inadequate thanks for writing yours.

Two, the rant part.

Dr. Sears, please go fuck yourself sideways on something pointy.


Maybe I should start by talking about Wednesday's birth class instead. This week was "Interventions and Things that Can Go Wrong," and I have never been happier that we picked this class over the others we were considering. Although most of the class (at least the ones that talk about it) seem to be planning for unmedicated births -- at least half of them in the local birth center rather than a hospital -- and although the previous three classes have been all about non-medical ways to deal with contractions and so forth, both teachers were calm and even-handed when talking about monitors and epidurals and all that. One even went so far as to suggest that even though lots of people love The Business of Being Born, that possibly it had gone a tad far in its excoriation of pitocin. [Holy Moly -- I just went to youtube and watched that part, since I've never seen the movie. Heart now racing. Talk about your scare tactics! What the hell is up with that cartoon?] Our favorite teacher talked about a patient of hers who had apologized to her when requesting an epidural and told us in no uncertain terms that she did not disapprove of that decision. The only editorializing -- and it was announced as such -- was a plea to please not ask for an induction for a frivolous reason, which seems pretty sound.

When we were shopping around for birth classes, I wrote to various teachers and explained that, due to the double-cervix situation, I am at a higher-than-average risk of needing a c-section, and that it was important to me not to set myself up to think of a vaginal birth as successful and a c-section as a failure. One of the major reasons we chose this class is because I felt good about the teacher's response, and last night bore that out. The whole course has been about letting your body do its thing, asking doctors and midwives for all the options, etc. Our classmates are not the elective c-section type -- if they were, they wouldn't be in this particular class. But who can predict what will happen in labor? I loved that the screen of notes on c-sections began with "C-Section: An amazing, life-saving procedure" (or words to that effect).

None of that stopped me from weeping through the discussion of how emergency c-sections worked, of course. Possibly I have a little hangover from all the furious speed of egg retrieval day. We learned that, in the event of an emergency, the surgical team would work efficiently and fast, "just like NASCAR." I can only hope the OR isn't covered in logos for Laughing Clown Malt Liquor.

The whole evening, I was impressed with how calm and open the teachers were, talking about things that probably weren't on their ideal birth list when they decided to become midwives. I'm sure they knew that the Other Pregnant Lesbian and I have been comparing notes on epidural policies at the hospital we're both going to, because I have a nasty habit of being that person still shouting as the room goes quiet after break, but neither had anything especially bad to say about epidurals during that section of the class. They passed around an epidural catheter so we could see how slender it is and explained how to keep changing positions even with one in. It's almost as if they meant it when their response to my email said their goal was,
"to offer childbirth education that focuses on making your birth experience a satisfying and joyful entrance into parenthood, no matter what twists and turns and challenges you face, no matter what your personal desires and goals."
Go figure.

And then there's Dr. Sears.

An old friend sent us a box of baby-related hand-me-downs recently, including the Sears' Pregnancy and Birth books. I tend to agree with Dr. Sears on about 80-90% of things, and find the other 10-20% hopelessly nutso, but I decided to take a look. In a bookshop, early in the pregnancy, I'd been very impressed with how calmly and thoroughly he dealt with first trimester bleeding -- most books just say "well, it might not be a miscarriage, but PROBABLY IT IS" which is silly considering how common it is -- and rather turned off by his section on weight gain, which took the usual tack of assuming you are just itching for an excuse to become morbidly obese and added the nicely tuned guilt trip of "plus you are making your baby fat, you lazy cow." But free is free, so what the heck. I turned to the birth stories section.

The stories themselves are what they are. Only one of them makes me actively gaggy. It is an induction story, and the second paragraph begins, "Dad likes having a baby this way." (I'm all for having both partners involved and everything, but I've already told Sugar that any statements like that of the father Dr. Sears praises for saying "we had a vaginal exam" are...unwelcome. Unless she's up for hopping in the stirrups alongside me for moral support.) Okay, I also want to do a consciousness-raising session with the author of "I Witnessed Myself Become A Woman -- VBAC Water Birth," but whatever.

Dr. Sears is a proponent of "natural" childbirth, by which he means no drugs. (I hate that term, personally -- it's a bit of an emotionally loaded dichotomy for my taste -- but whatever.) I'm a proponent of letting women decide for themselves what they do and don't want to be part of their birth. This is where we diverge. I expected that, but I didn't expect quite the level of paternalistic bullshit found in the commentary on the birth story of the Woman Who Dared Ask For An Epidural.

"A Medically Managed Birth" is about a woman whose doctor tells her to go the hospital when her water breaks. Ten hours later, she gets some pitocin. Some time after that, things get intense and painful, and she starts to feel hopeless. She can't concentrate on the baby, only the next contraction. She requests and gets an epidural, feels confident again, promptly dilates to 10, pushes the baby out -- able to concentrate on it again, rather than pain -- and feels happy about it.

How dare she! Incredulous, Dr. Sears, et al., "interviewed her about whether or not this style of birth ["American"] left her "less fulfilled" as a woman." Rude much? She says no, on the contrary, she feels great about it. "
There was no doubt in her mind that she gave birth, and the fact that she didn't experience the intense sensation of a drug-free birth did not lessen her fulfillment."
Mother gives birth to healthy baby, isn't hung up about it; everybody wins, right? Wrong. Dr. Sears goes on to remind us that she didn't have the chance to have natural, gradual contractions -- okay, fair enough. Everyone says pitocin sucks like that. It's the closing that pisses me off:
"We wonder whether her Lamaze instructor mentioned the importance of taking the contractions one at a time [...] thinking of the baby, not the next contraction."

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess the instructor did mention that, since the mother mentions the loss of her ability to do that after...chronology is a little unclear, but at least 12 hours, probably quite a bit longer. Maybe, just maybe, she was trying to do that and it was too damn hard. So she should have what, tried harder? What is the big fucking problem with an adult making a decision to use a very safe drug to lessen pain? Labor pain may be "pain with a purpose" or whatever, but so is the pain of passing a kidney stone, and no one talks about how virtuous people enjoy that.

I in no way mean to denigrate women who choose to give birth without painkillers. I really, really don't. But I think that the important thing is that the laboring woman -- not some moralizing jackass judging her story later -- makes that decision. There's so much B.S. out there about epidurals -- most of which was either never true or hasn't been true in 25 years -- that the last thing I consider acceptable is telling a woman with no negative feelings about how her birth went down that she should feel bad.

You are all such clever people that you no doubt figured out 20,000 words ago what this post is really about: my fear that you'll think less of me if/when I get an epidural. Even that "if" was a pretty big lie -- birth is unpredictable, but the epi is in the plan, for sure. I've done my research, and I feel good about it from a scientific perspective: one reason I'm happy we're going to Kips Bay Mega Hospital is that their epi policies are excellent. (OB anesthesiologist on 24/7. Standard use is light-dose, patient-controlled, which all the studies agree is the way to go in terms of pain relief and side effects if you have the staff. The intent at least is to keep the dose light enough that patients can go to the bathroom themselves. No "window" -- you can have one whenever you want and the OB thinks is okay; Dr. Russian says I can have one now as far as she's concerned.) If the cervices don't behave and I need a c-section, I'd just as soon already have the epi in, and if not, I'd rather not be feeling every bit of my septum breaking, which it may well. Even without those special circumstances, useful as they are for shutting down any "your birth will be fine because mine was" stuff, I think I'd be leaning this way. I've experienced plenty of severe pain in my life, what with the migraines and the endo/GI situation, and I haven't noticed anyone giving me a medal for the times I've done so without painkillers. Other people have had worse pain than I have and make other decisions; that's okay. I'm okay with being a wimp on this one... long as y'all will still be friends with me.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Big Belly, Short Arms

I'm gonna need one of these in about a minute, y'all.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

What We're Up To

I keep trying to write a quick post today and it keeps coming out dull as dishwater, so here are some pictures instead. With any luck, I will convince Sugar to scan the latest Bean ones and write you a better post soon. (Bean is fine, by the way. 47th percentile for weight, head down, heart still beating nicely. I, meanwhile, have gained exactly 0 pounds since my last appointment. Believe me, there has been some reorganization. Other than the kind of petty complaints that go without saying at this stage in the game -- acid reflux, some back pain -- everything is fine. BP remains low, and Sweet Sonographer checked my cervix for me even though she wasn't supposed to because all the stabbing down there in the last couple of weeks was making me nervous.)

(On the subject of health -- and this is one of those things that really deserves its own post or at least a place in a better-written one -- please stop by my pregnancy buddy tbean's place and remind her what an amazing job she's doing for the little turtles, because it's getting really hard.)

First, the quilt, which I peeled the cats off of for these pictures. We made this to save Sugar from gouging her eyes out, which is roughly what she threatens to do every time she sees the ones available at regular stores. Not to say that I like the teal/fuchsia/screaming lime combinations so much myself, but they seem to cause her extreme pain. This quilt isn't as fancy as the one we made last year, but it is meant to be tough enough to survive an onslaught of bodily fluids and regular batterings in the washing machine. Since I utterly failed in my plan to make the top at home and mail it to my parents' house (My mother has a nice sewing machine with a quilting foot), it ended up incorporating fabric from our house (mostly bits from other projects -- I like quilts that remind you of other garments, etc.) and also from both of our mothers' stashes.

Side A:

Side A

Side B, which was tons less work and, following the rule of these things, we naturally like better:

Side B

I made Sugar take a break from the IKEA festival (crib: done! ginormous wardrobes: done! thanks to the help and electric screwdriver of a certain uffish friend of ours who really should start blogging again. Read this one and see if you don't agree (NSFW) ) and take a picture of me in the fabulously 70s dress my mother wore most days of my childhood. I used to think it was ridiculous, but holy moly is that thing comfortable. The fact that she has lent it to me indicates a high level of excitement re: Operation Grandbaby, I tell you what.

Related: should I worry that my belly is glowing?

32 weeks, 5 days with the 70s Preservation Society

Monday, January 17, 2011

In Fact...

In fact, I do not feel very guilty about the fish oil. Partly, I'm not especially convinced it does so very much good for teh bebe (see here), and partly, I think it's of some import to my delicate psyche not to get too far down the road of "perfection" in this whole parenting thing. I put perfection in quotation marks because I don't believe there is such a thing in this arena; I think that the sooner and more often I remind myself of that, the better. I don't think that not taking vitamins is bad parenting. I think this is bad parenting.

As for slippery slopes, it turns out that the one I should have been keeping an eye out for was lurking in my kitchen the whole time. After a slow, v.e.r.y careful trip home from the coop on Thursday, carrying just slightly more weight than was wise, I stepped into the apartment, pleased with myself for not falling on the snowy/icy broken pavement. One step onto the kitchen tiles and I went down like the proverbial ton of bricks, if said ton had gained 30 pounds and weighed itself down with organic produce. The good part is that I landed on my knees, so no belly worries. The bad part is I landed on my knees. Except for the parts of my legs that hit my clogs first. Related: is there anything so annoying as being badly beaten up and having the bruises barely show? Or is that tipping my drama-queen hand a bit far?

What with the bashed up knees and accompanying jarred back, I have been less than no help this long weekend, as Sugar has begun Project Nest, aka, Project Babies Don't Sleep On Bookshelves. Great masses of furniture and boxes have been moved around the house or into our Fibber-McGee-esque storage locker. IKEA has been braved; flat rate delivery fees have been efficiently taken advantage of. Flotillas of boxes have arrived, heavy with flat-packed Swedish design, and, emptied of their cargo, have sailed away to the garbage room. Today, Sugar set up a new bookcase (just because babies don't sleep on them doesn't mean we don't have need of another; this will replace two shorter ones) and a chaise (Operation Maximum Sleep -- the chaise means an adult can sleep in our bed while another dozes by the crib). Still to come: crib, massive wardrobe for our bedroom to make up for some of the lost storage space, and our knock-off of Shelli's genius changing table hack.

The end result in the Bean's room -- which, things being how they are, will still have to include several non-Bean pieces of furniture -- should be something like this:

the bean's room
Because Every Baby Needs A Piano And A Filing Cabinet

Progress so far has been monitored by Inspector Orson, who has given preliminary approval to the chaise (shown here with side A of the play-quilt "we" (mostly Sugar) made over Christmas.


He does not, however, extend his approval to the camera's autofocus light.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Slippery Slope of Bad Parenting

I gave my stomach a week off to recover from a rough Christmas, but the DHA gel caps are still giving me horrible fish burps. That is just it.

Bean, you are going to have to find a way to be smart without that particular supplement. One more thing to put on your list for therapy.

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.

Friday, January 7, 2011

our trip home: a radio play in 2 vignettes


So I just am going to get this soup on the stove and then I'll be ready to show you what presents need to be wrapped and maybe you could go to the store and buy milk in the meantime get skim this time and mom can fill out these present labels it should be in her handwriting do you know where those scissors went I can never find anything I wish you wouldn't move stuff we might leave presents here accidentally and I'll never know which ones---

SFX: Extremely loud BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP from a fire alarm.


Just testing . . .


SFX: SUGAR's sewing machine WHIRS. Baby's mom's FOOTSTEPS enter the room and walk to the closet. Closet door SQUEAKS.

So you may have heard that Baby was conceived on a camping trip just outside of Yorktown, Virginia.


SFX: FOOTSTEPS leaving the room again.

Elephant Snow Day

This must be how Hannibal's regiment felt.

Elephant Snow Day

Thank you to the Hot Mamas for the pachyderms! They are so much cuter than they look here -- the ears! the quilted, plaid ears! -- but I was afraid I'd never get this up if I didn't do it now.

And thank you to An Offering (can I call you Anoff?) for organizing this very fun swap.