Monday, April 30, 2012

Catching Up and Breaking Down

Catching Up:  Just a quick (and thankfully, boring) update to say that the Deuce's non-stress test went okay today.  He/she didn't have the accelerations they were looking for (again), but I was better prepared to handle that.  Plus, we came very close (the nurse thought the doctor might let us slide, but I appreciate that he was cautious).  Bio-physical profile took a while (again) but movement and tone were great, fluid was fine, and eventually Deuce got around to showing off his/her breathing skillz (right about the time I was asking the nurse if I'd have to come back tomorrow because I was sure we were looking at score of 6/10).  So we ended up scoring at 8 on the report card, and I left feeling reassured.

Breaking Down:  I got home tonight and heard some news that shattered any sense of complacency I might have had (we all know there wasn't much of that), and--more significantly--left me breathless, speechless, and brokenhearted.  Another bereaved mother, whose first baby died around the same time Eliza did, just lost her second child--a baby girl born at 36 weeks.

All that bullshit about lightning not striking twice...  All that bullshit about everything happening for a reason...  I swear I will punch anyone who dares utter those words out loud in my presence.

We who have journeyed to hell and back with the loss of a baby say that we could never survive another loss.  I think, there's no way I could handle it.  But you know what?  I thought that first time, too.

Now I know that the worst thing about it is that you do survive.  You do wake up the next morning and you find that eventually you have to brush your teeth and put on clothes and eat something and try to remember what it means to be alive when your baby is dead.  It takes months to find your way back to the point where you can stand to exist in your own skin again.  It staggers me to know that an ordinary couple who just wanted to have a baby is enduring that level of pain for the second time.

Profoundly fucking unfair doesn't even begin to cover it.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


I posted a long time ago about the jewelry that I put on everyday.  Reminders of my family and friends, symbols of my marriage and my baby, little sparkly chains and charms that made me feel like I could make it through the day.

A few months ago, I was at Target and I spotted this necklace.  The card it was attached to said, "Be Brave."  I think I took a closer look because it was in the early weeks of this pregnancy and I was feeling very not-brave.

As I held up the charm so I could read the inscription, my heart skipped a beat.

I am always with you.  Be brave, have courage, and love life.

I had seen this message on a larger necklace and charm that I admired elsewhere, but when it was suddenly staring me in the face at Target (for less than $20), I couldn't pass it by.

I have a few simple, sentimental necklaces that I wear in rotation--one has a silver disc with Eliza's name on one side and her birthdate on the other that some of my best friends gave me for Eliza's birthday last year.  One is a heart inscribed with "Have Hope" that my mom bought me in a little jewelry shop on Granville Island last summer--that trip to Canada was, I think, the first time I really took a deep breath after losing Eliza.  I have a little gold coin I bought as a souvenir in Italy that still reminds me of Tuscan sunshine and gelato and walking through the streets of Florence at night.

I still wear Eliza's bracelet every single day, while I switch out other jewelry depending on what I'm in the mood for or what goes with the clothes I'm wearing.  I remember being afraid to wear her bracelet in the early days of my loss because what if someone asked me about it?  I couldn't respond without crying.  Fortunately, no one ever did.  But that's something else I love about this necklace--I know exactly what it means, and how much it means to me, but it's also kind of a private message.  Just between me and Eliza.  It's exactly what I would have wanted her to know if it had been me who died instead.

My jewelry consists mostly of inexpensive costume jewelry, but I do have a few "nice" pieces I've received as gifts that still are most meaningful to me because of their sentimental value.  Most days, thought, I bypass everything in my jewelry box to wear this inexpensive necklace from Target.  I think I turn to this necklace more and more often because I want so desperately to believe what it says.  I'm trying to be brave.  I know that courage doesn't mean not be scared; it means moving forward in spite of fear.  I want to love life (and there are more and more days when I think that I do).  And, above all, I want to hold on to the thought that Eliza is always with me.  I carry her in my heart, of course, but I like to think that in my best moments, she sparkles on the outside, too.

P.S.  I'm not sure if it's still available in stores, but if you're interested, you can order it through the website here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Thoughts on Tickets and Tears

As the belly gets bigger, I'm noticing the way people are nice to me.  Waving me across the street when I'm walking, letting me go ahead of them in line at the pharmacy, telling me I look cute.  (You might wonder if these things happen to me when I'm NOT pregnant, but I assure you that I had to gain 25 pounds and have a beach ball belly in order to get unsolicited attention from strangers).  In light of Infertility Awareness Week, (and I think in response to a couple of essays that I've assigned my students--at least someone is getting something out of my class!), I've been analyzing this behavior instead of taking it for granted.  Rather than accepting it as common decency or a form of chivalry or basic politeness, I've been looking at it with jaded eyes, and seeing this extra-nice treatment as more evidence of our culture's obsession with fertility, of continuing to value women based on the children they produce rather than the work they do.  To tell you the truth, I've been feeling kind of self-righteous and scornful of the preferential treatment, continually telling myself that I am making a kind of feminist statement by NOT taking advantage of it.  I will not use my pregnancy as an excuse or a handicap or a reason to complain.

And then I got pulled over for speeding.

Oh, how the self-righteous will fall.

{I just want to interject that this is only the second time in my LIFE I have ever gotten pulled over.  I set my cruise control on my commute and I don't typically speed (well, more than 5-7 miles over the speed limit, which totally doesn't count, right?).  I was on my way home from work, so I was driving in Illinois, getting ready to cross the river into Missouri.  I got pulled over on a section of road coming into the city where the highway speed limit changes from 60 mph to 45 mph to 35 mph.  I had hit the brakes to cancel my cruise control of 65, but I was letting the car sort of coast to 45 mph, rather than continuing to apply pressure to brakes.  I was SLOWING DOWN, but I was on a downhill slope, so, technically, yes, I was going too fast.}

I sat in my car and watched the police officer in the review mirror as he radioed in my plates.  (Fortunately, I was not driving a stolen vehicle.)

I pulled out my driver's licence and waited for him to come up to my window.  He told me he'd pulled me over for speeding (60 in a 45, ugh) and asked for my license and proof of insurance.

I flipped open the glove compartment and pulled out the little folder that holds an outdated map of Missouri and our insurance cards.  The insurance card in that folder had expired in May of 2011.  Oops.  So then I pulled out all of the other folders, envelopes, and pamphlets in the glove compartment.  Also two tampons.  (I was a Girl Scout.  Our motto is Be Prepared.)

I flipped through all the paperwork.  The officer waited patiently.  No insurance card.  I started to feel panicky.  Here's the receipt from my last oil change!  Here's my parking permit from two years ago!  Here's my owner's manual!  Here's the paperwork from getting our windshield fixed!  OMG here's a pantyliner to go with that tampon!  (See previous paragraph for Girl Scout motto.)

But I had NO insurance card that was not expired.  I gave him the expired card and asked if he could look at that because I still have the same insurance and I don't know where the card could be because I'm supposed to have one in my glove compartment and one in my wallet but neither one are there.

He said, very sternly, in like a super mean voice, "It is Illinois state law that you provide current proof of insurance."

It dawned on me that I was going to get not one, but TWO tickets.  That David was going to sigh and lecture me on driving safely, precious cargo, blah blah blah.  That we were going to have to spend a considerable chunk of money to pay these two tickets, AND that it could affect my insurance rate.  I felt like an irresponsible driver and terrible mother, (and I was annoyed because EVERYONE speeds in that little section but of course I'm the one who gets a ticket).

Also, I realized I was going to be seriously late for my hair appointment.

And so I did what any strong, independent, self-respecting feminist would do in that situation.

I started crying.

I didn't want to cry, but there I was, my voice cracking and my eyes filling with tears as I apologized (and felt like an idiot).

You know when you're a kid and you really want your tears to have a dramatic effect on your parents?  You hope that your outpouring of emotion will make them totally relent and let you out of whatever punishment it was that they were about to inflict upon you?  Only it NEVER works (at least not with my parents)?

Well, my tears TOTALLY worked.  

Suddenly Officer Mean Voice was all, "Calm down, now, this isn't a life or death situation.  I'm not going to haul you off to jail or anything."  He seemed surprised that I was crying, and a little nervous about it.

I said, "I know, I just feel so disorganized and I don't know why that insurance card isn't there, and I'm sorry, I'm just such a mess."  *sniffle, sniffle, wipe tears*

The officer glances at my belly and says, "Don't get upset.  I see that you're pregnant, and I really don't want to deliver any babies today."

(And now let's all just take a moment to collectively pray that this baby--as well as any future baby ducks--is NOT delivered by a police officer on the side of the road in East St. Louis.)

That idea kind of made me laugh and he said, "OK, good.  So we're laughing now."  I wiped my eyes and apologized again.

Then he said that that he was feeling especially good-natured, and taller than usual (?), so he was going to let me go with a verbal warning instead of TWO citations.  I nodded my appreciation.  He handed back my license and expired insurance card.  I was in the midst of thanking him profusely when we were interrupted by his radio telling him there was debris on the highway that was causing people to swerve dangerously, so he patted my car door and said, "Just go."

And so I went.

I know I got out of that ticket because I was pregnant.  And crying.  And also, probably because I was a white girl in a part of the city that is predominantly African American and known for high crime rates, unemployment, drive-by shootings, and the sort of neighborhoods where there are no grocery stores but a dozen liquor stores.

I've been having my students read essays about people who transform public spaces--a black man writes about the way he whistles classical music to help put people at ease when he walks alone at night, a wheelchair bound teenager writes about how he takes advantage of people's sympathy as a way to "even-up" the score since he's paralyzed.  It was not lost on me that my physical appearance had very specific consequences in this case.  In fact, I felt guilty about the way my pregnancy had so obviously shaped that encounter.  I currently happen to occupy a privileged position--white, pregnant, female--a position that is unobtainable for many, and a position for which a great number of people are willing to make excuses and give free passes.

My tears were genuine--hormonal, perhaps, frustrated and embarrassed, for sure.  But his response to me was predicated on a cultural mythology about pregnant women being crazy and emotional.  And I totally took advantage of that.

I am uncomfortable with the way my gender, race, and pregnancy manipulated that situation to my favor.

I am also really freaking glad that I got out of that ticket.

I'm not saying that if I had to go back and do it again that I'd do anything differently.  But I am really (uncomfortably) aware of WHY things went down the way they did.  And now I continue over-analyze the situation because I'm an academic and and this is what we do.

Have you ever gotten out of a speeding ticket?  With tears?  Or a clever excuse?  Or failed to get out of a ticket, in spite of crying?  Have you ever used a pregnancy to avoid something unpleasant?  Or resented people who did so?  Do tell.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Non-Stress Test: Totally Stressful

Yesterday, I was so ready to rock the nonstress test.  Deuce had been moving like a champ all weekend long.  I was feeling confident.  All your blog comments assured me I would enjoy the NST!  I was going to hear the baby and watch the heartrate and just hang out doing nothing for thirty minute to an hour.  Sounds awesome!

The one bummer was that I had to have a blood draw done before the non-stress test (just to double check my iron levels) AND David couldn't be there for the blood draw part of it (but would be able to meet me for the NST).  Rather than reschedule the blood draw for another day, I decided to buck up and just get it done on my own (so brave, right?).

Blood draw went fine--no drama.  It was a painless stick and took about 2.2 seconds.  I was very impressed with her needle skillz.  (My OB later told me that this phlebotomist worked at his old office and she was the one he'd have do his own bloodwork because she's the best.)

High on the rush of my own success in not crying or passing out while having blood drawn, I headed downstairs to the maternal fetal medicine center to sign in for my nonstress test.  The Deuce and I were going to ROCK this!  They called me back ahead of schedule, but David showed up just in time.

I sat down in a blue hospital-style recliner and they pulled a curtain for privacy and took my blood pressure and then hooked me up.  I had two monitors put on my belly--one to track the baby's heartrate, and one to measure uterine contractions.

My tech was pleasant enough, although she did say, "And we're monitoring for..." (flips through file) "uh, do you know why you're being monitored?"

(annoyed pause on my end) "Uh, yeah.  Because my first baby DIED."

OK, really I gave her a few more details than that, and didn't shout the word "DIED" at her, but I was also thinking, "Could you fucking make a note of that in the front of my file?  Because I don't know why I have to hash this out with you people and explain to you WHY my doctor is sending me here every freaking time I show up."

Anyway, the tech was also pregnant which made me feel really awkward.  And also slightly resentful?  Not particularly nice or rational of me, but what can I say?  It is what it is.

So anyway, I told her I was nervous since this was my first NST and she nicely explained what they were looking for--they'd find the baseline heart rate and then watch to see that it accelerated by 15 beats twice in 15 minutes.  This indicates that the baby is moving and shaking in there, and that the heart is keeping up.  She said that they keep people on the monitor for 30 minutes or longer if necessary, and that since my baby is so young, it might take longer.  (I'm just at 30 weeks and these tests normally start at 32 weeks, but since my loss occurred at 34 weeks, my doctors want to start gathering data on the Deuce now.)  She said that she'd keep an eye on things from the nurse's station and she'd come back and have me move around if necessary.  Then she left.

It was just David and me and the sound of the Deuce's heartbeat, which David remarked sounds just like the bridge at Silver Dollar City where you hear the sounds of galloping hooves as you're walking across it.  I had  David take this picture of me.

Still having fun about 10 minutes in.
Time passed.  And kept passing.

The Deuce, however, did not pass.

No one used the words "pass" or "fail" with me at all today, but I was watching the monitor pretty closely, and I sure as hell wasn't seeing accelerations at the rate of 15 beats a minute.  Sure, it was going up and down and making a nice little zig-zaggy pattern on the print out.  But I knew that it wasn't meeting the NST requirements.

The rational part of my mind KNEW that this was somewhat typical for a 30-weeker.  My friend Angie had told me that young babies tend to fail the nonstress test.  She's smart and experienced and well-informed and I totally trust her opinion.  And YET, it was freaking me out.

I needed the tech to say something reassuring.  Instead, she came in, said something about this baby being "sleepy" and had me turn on my left side.  Sat for a while with us (saying NOTHING, just SILENT and all pregnant and judgy) and then had me turn on my right side.  Then she left again and said she'd be back.  I told David he had to ask her if we needed to be worried because I couldn't say it without crying.  Then I started crying anyway.

By this time, I'd already been on the monitors for an hour.

So she came back, David asked if there was any reason for us to be concerned.  She immediately said no, but TOO LATE.  I was already freaked out.

She left again, and then another tech came in, and that scared me because I thought she had to go and get a more experienced tech because something was wrong.  (I just make up these narratives in my head, but they SEEM true at the time.)

The second tech asked me how I was doing and I said "Fine" because I wasn't in any physical pain or anything (I mean, is that what she meant?  I have no idea.), but I was doing everything I could not to really start crying because I KNEW my baby was failing this test.  This second tech gave me some pillows to make me more comfortable, and told me to relax so that the baby had lots of room to move without my abdominal muscles being tense (you know because my ab muscles are so AMAZING that it must be my six pack that's preventing the baby from passing this test).  She was super nice, but I had been in that stupid recliner for over an hour and I was so over it.

She told me just five minutes more and then left and then I cried.

She came back and didn't say the baby has failed (but I KNEW that's what she was thinking).  She told me, very kindly, that I could go to the bathroom if I needed to and then she'd do a bio physical profile on the baby.  She still wasn't using the word "failed" and she said a lot of stuff about how 30-week baby sometimes just aren't ready to perform everything this test wants them to do, but by 32 weeks they're ready.  I understood what she was saying, but it didn't matter.

I went to the bathroom and cried.  I could feel the baby moving, and I'd been listening to the heartrate for over an hour, so I knew the Deuce was alive, but I was just so scared that things weren't ideal, that something was wrong, that there was an indication of a problem no one was telling me about yet, that in another month, we'd look back and see that this was the beginning of the end.

And of course, I kept thinking about  Eliza, wondering if she would have had the same lack of heart acceleration, wondering if this would have been the indication that something was going terribly wrong for her...

(My therapist tells me that making up my own disturbing narratives like this, based on zero facts or reliable information, is really not a great use of my brain power.  But my brain does not always listen to my therapist.)

David called my OB to tell him that we were going to be late for our 4:30 appointment because at this point it was almost 4:30 and we were just now starting the biophysical profile.  The second tech took us to the ultrasound room for the BPP.  She explained that for this test, the baby had thirty minutes to make three movements, demonstrate tone three times (like flexing muscles), and practice breathing twice for thirty seconds each time.  The test would also measure my fluid level.  My understanding is that each of those four elements contributes 2 points to the overall score, with the NST also being worth two points.  So a perfect score is 10.

The Deuce and I had already blown that with a 0/2 for the NST, so we were shooting for 8 out of 10 possible points.  It's a B-, but, I told myself, still a respectable score.

My heart started racing.  C'mon Deuce!  We don't have test anxiety!  We perform well under pressure!  We love standardized tests!  Show the nice lady how smart you are!

Sure enough, Deuce obediently squirmed around and the tech declared the movements "lovely," said my fluid level looked "excellent," and admired the Deuce's muscle tone.  I knew she was just trying to make me feel better, but it worked.  I eat up compliments for the Deuce.

Then there was the breathing practice.  She explained that that we'd see the chest rock or move in a particular way, and the three of us (David, myself, and the tech) stared at the screen.  I realized that I was clenching my fists as I was WILLING the Deuce to breathe with everything I had.

The Deuce did not give a shit.  There was no breathing.  Really, Deuce?  Totally uncooperative?  OMG do you not know how to BREATHE?

The tech helpfully explained that breathing is not necessary since the baby is getting oxygen from the placenta.  It's just a reflex that they want to see the baby performing.  (Which I sort of already knew since obviously I realize the baby is not exactly breathing in the womb, but it was still comforting to hear.)

Then ANOTHER tech came in the room and that freaked me out (calling in reinforcements!  because there is an emergency!  I'm just the last to know!).  Then the second tech explained that her shift was up but she'd wanted to get me started, and this tech was going to finish up.  We were halfway through the 30 minute limit at this point.  Nothing was wrong, but my imaginary emergency narrative had gotten me started crying again, though, so the second tech got me some kleenex before she left.  I was a hot mess.

Fortunately, third tech was as wonderful as second tech.  In five minutes, she talked us through everything, and explained that the Deuce had passed the tone and movement elements again in the short time she'd been there, so that was very encouraging.  She said that the baby was taking some breaths but she needed to see it happen for thirty seconds.  I was feeling a little calmer then since it wasn't that my baby was incapable of breathing, but just didn't feel like doing it for extended periods of time.  She also assured us that it made no difference if the baby passed the BPP in five minutes or thirty minutes.  Equally good score and no need to worry either way.

We all stared at the screen some more.  The Deuce kicked his/her feet.  Waved his/her arms.  Looked with an open eye at the camera.  But STILL no breathing practice.

And FINALLY--just when I was about to ask what happens if the Deuce fails this part of the test, too--the Deuce quit screwing around and breathed for us.

Then David and I felt like we could breathe again.  The tech was as happy as we were.  I wanted to hug her.

So the Deuce got an 8/10 on the purple report card.  The third tech explained that 8 and 10 are both considered very good scores.  She insisted that they take these tests very seriously and they would not let us leave if there was any reason to be concerned.

She said that the rules aren't set in stone, but the general protocol that the doctors follow is that a 8 or 10 is good.  6/10 is considered "equivocal" and that would mean we'd need to come back in less than 24 hours for another test.  A 4/10 would get me admitted to the hospital and a 2 or 0 would get that baby delivered right away.

I found this reassuring.  Just to know they had a plan and that they would deliver my baby at 30 weeks before they'd let me go home if something was really wonky and the baby could be in danger.  I mean, that's why we were there.  To have lots of eyes on the Deuce.

I also privately thought that a B- was pretty freaking good for a 30 week baby taking a test meant for a 32 weeker.  (Good job, Deucers.  You're totally advanced for your age.)

Then the sonographer doctor (NOT the asshole one--THAT note is definitely in my file because we have not seen him since the 20 week meltdown) came in and told us the same thing the tech had said--score looks good, 30 weeks is often too young to meet the heartrate accelerations they're looking for, biophysical profile is great, no reason to be worried about the test today.  I could have cried from relief, but I managed to hold it together.  I was so exhausted that I didn't have any questions for him.  I just wanted to see my doctor and then go home.  Truth be told, I REALLY wanted to go home and have a glass of wine, but obviously that's off the table.

(The Deuce both drives me to drink and prevents me from doing it.)

By this time it was 5:00pm.  I'd been in that department for for an hour and forty five minutes, and I was thirty minutes late for my OB appointment.  The tech called my OB to tell him I was on my way up.  She came back to tell us that his office was closed, so she had called his cell phone and he told her he was waiting for me.  She said, "That goes to show what a nice guy he is."  Which we already knew, but yes, he totally is.

We left the maternal fetal medicine center, feeling slightly dazed but mostly reassured, and headed up to my OB's office, who, nice guy that he is, made me feel much better.  He was glad we got the BPP and said that it's good to have this data, even though it's early to do the NST monitoring.  He was very pleased with the results overall.

Now we just have to make it through another week and we get to go back and do it all again!  Let's just hope next time the non-stress test is a little less stressful.  Otherwise they may need to hook ME up to the heart monitor.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Think Before You Speak

This week is Infertility Awareness Week.  I can't write about this topic with authority or experience, except what I've learned from listening to other people, reading blogs, and realizing that life isn't fair, babies don't go to the most deserving parents (SHOCKER), and modern medicine is as exasperating and expensive as it is miraculous.

Probably the most important lesson I've learned about infertility is that unless you have a medical degree in getting people pregnant or you've experienced it yourself, the best thing you can do is shut the hell up about it.  Or at least THINK before you open your mouth.

What I do know from personal experience is the way a innocent comment can hit like a grenade, and while that's true for those of us in the trenches of grief after an unimaginable loss, I know that people struggling with infertility frequently find themselves navigating minefields in everyday conversation.

Last night we went to dinner with some good friends (who just married a year ago and don't have kids).  We had plenty of non-pregnancy things to talk about during dinner (travel plans, recent dissertation defenses, an experiment with sausage-making) so the conversation had not gone in the direction of babies.  As we were signing the check, my friend asked me how things were going really.  I didn't want to get too deep into the emotional rollercoaster, so I just said that I'm looking forward to weekly monitoring, and I am so ready for this baby to be here.  The conversation wandered one direction and then another, and we were keeping it light and making each other laugh.  Then there was mention of tax credit and how expensive kids are, and then my friend said, "I mean, you better go ahead and open a 529 now."

I managed to smile through the rest of our conversation and our good byes.  I made it to the car before I burst into tears.

Because, yeah.  We have a 529 college savings account.  We opened it when I was six months pregnant with Eliza.  It was for her.  One more piece of evidence that we were prepared, dedicated, enthusiastic parents making the best choices possible for our baby.  We opened it with a small lump sum and a plan to make monthly deposits.  I felt so smug and secure and confident that day.

We made four monthly deposits before...  we canceled them.  The small sum has just been sitting there.  For sixteen months.

My friend meant no harm, but it was another unexpected grief trigger that caught me off guard and completely threw me for a loop.  It got me thinking about all the "harmless" comments that can slice and burn people who are struggling with loss, or grief, or struggling to get pregnant.

So here are a few things that might have / would have / could have / did come out of my mouth at some point in time, some things that people have said to me (or that I've heard them say to others), and other pregnancy-related comments that might seem completely harmless, but that I will NEVER say again, excepting unusual circumstances (like a lobotomy or a VERY close friendship with another person in which we already know each other's backstories).

"So, when do you guys want to have kids?"

"Is this your first baby?"

"Why aren't you knocked up yet?"

"I am so tired of being pregnant."

"You want kids?  Take mine."

"Have you considered adoption?"

"Everything happens for a reason."

"I'm eight weeks pregnant!"

"One boy and one girl?  You have the perfect family!"

"So do you think she looks like you or your husband?"

"Did you know So&So is pregnant AGAIN?  It was a total accident."

"Why did you wait so long to have kids?"

"It's better that he died and didn't have to suffer."

"At least she died before you really got to know her."

"Well, she lost one of the twins, but she's got the other one, so that's good!"

"Do you want it to be a boy or a girl?"

"Oh, that due date [of Christmas or the hottest point in the summer] sucks!"

"You are probably just really stressed out and need to relax.  It will happen when the time is right."

The best answer or response to any of these comments (as far as I'm concerned) is the title of a Cee Lo Green song that has the lyrics changed to "Forget You" when it gets radio play.

So anyway, while I can't write about infertility awareness from an experienced perspective, I certainly have experience with being the recipient of insensitive remarks and (I cringe) I'm sure I have probably been thoughtless and self-absorbed enough to say similar things to other people.

My suggestion (and personal goal) for Infertility Awareness Week is:  Think Before You Speak.  You never know what your listener has been through.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Deciding to Do the Doula Thing

When I was pregnant with Eliza, I knew I wanted to hire a doula to be a support system during labor and delivery.

Of course, when I was pregnant with Eliza, I knew lots of things.  I knew I wanted a non-medicated birth.  I knew that I wanted a husband-coached birth (with doula support).  I knew that if I ate enough protein (carefully tracked in a notebook, of course), and did all the right exercises (prenatal yoga, but also labor relaxation practice) and read all the right books (you name it, I read it), and got plenty of sleep, and listened to my hypno-babies CD every night before bed, that I would have the perfect birth and the perfect baby.  I would have earned that, right?

And then the bottom fell out of my world and I didn't know anything.  How did I go from being a low-risk pregnancy and a fully-informed advocate for myself and my baby to having my baby die?  What had I missed? What had I overlooked?  How could this possibly have happened to me?  I had no answers.  I knew nothing.

I didn't trust myself.  I didn't trust my body.  I didn't trust my research.  I felt like such a fool.  A heartbroken, ill-advised, know-nothing fool.

It's been hard for me to figure out how to balance all of the information I sought out and readily absorbed the first time around with my cautious approach to the "if's" and "hopefully's" of this pregnancy.  As I've mentioned before, I haven't done any reading about pregnancy this time around.  I'm not doing prenatal yoga on a nightly basis.  I'm not tracking how many grams of protein I consume (although I do think about it a lot).  I'm not visiting breastfeeding groups, I'm not taking classes, and I am not going on a hospital tour even if I decide to deliver at a different hospital.

I still find that I can't really see past 34 weeks.  And yet.  I have what is known as a Viable Baby in this belly, and one way or another, this baby will come out of me sometime in the next 11 weeks.  (I'm still not sure I've fully absorbed that).  My non-stress tests start Monday, so I'm officially Almost There.

I think that the most motivating factor, though, has been the number of people I've come to know who having babies after losing a child.  Many people in my "generation" of bereaved parents, who had a loss in 2010 or early 2011, are now holding their "rainbow" baby in their arms, or anticipating having that baby any day now.  It's made it seem so much more real and possible for David and me too.

We've talked only a little bit about what labor and delivery might be like.  Would we be happy?  Would be overwhelmed by post-traumatic stress?  Would we be scared out of our minds?  We haven't said much about this because everything is unknown.  I know my OB will absolutely be there to deliver this baby (bless his heart), but I don't know which hospital I'll choose, I don't know what my emotions will be (except, probably, all over the place), and, worst of all, I don't know that we'll end up with a baby to bring home.  I'm hopeful, but it still feels like a big fat maybe.

Anyway, back to the doula thing.  We'd hired a doula for Eliza's birth--a nice lady whose website I found online.  We met up with her at Bread Co. and chatted for about an hour.  She was fairly new to the practice, so her price was lower than some others I'd looked at, and she seemed friendly and reassuring and excited to work with us.  We planned to meet again a few weeks before my due date, but that never happened since I went into labor five and a half weeks early.

The night Eliza was born, of course, we didn't even call the doula until it was all over because neither one of us thought about it.  David and I were both in complete denial that my labor was progressing so quickly (remember, I was fully dilated by the time we got to the hospital after about two hours of tolerable contractions, and I had NO CLUE that first time labor could happen that way--I believed on the whole car ride over that they were going to give me medicine to stop my contractions.  So much for being aware and informed...).  David called her after and explained what had happened and she offered to come up, but he said that wasn't necessary.  She later mailed us a sympathy card and refunded our deposit.

I wasn't sure if we would want a doula this time around.  For one thing, I've done this before, under the worst of circumstances, and managed.  For another, I have superstitiously wanted to avoid replicating the things I did with Eliza.

But after our 20 week scan, I started thinking about it a little differently.  I have no expectations for an ideal birth this time around.  But as a friend said to me last night at dinner, there's no reason to think that I automatically won't have the birth that I want.  So, in an ideal situation, I would absolutely want to have a med-free birth with a happy ending.  I would love to have another experience of labor and delivery that ends happily.  I would love to prove to myself that I can do this again, that I can trust my body and myself to have a healthy baby.  I would love to get a chance to share that experience with David.  And I know from all the research I did last time that a doula can help make that process easier for us.

I also know how scared I am.  I know that if someone in a white coat with a stethoscope tells us to do something, I would do it without question, even if it was for that doctor's convenience rather than the health of my baby.  I'm more than willing to have a c-section if that's the best choice for the Deuce, but I don't want to make that choice out of fear without understanding why it needs to happen.  I don't imagine that I will be in much of a position to make rational and informed decisions once I'm in labor with the Deuce.  And I don't want to put David in a position where he doesn't know what to do and is scared for me and scared for the Deuce.

After talking it through, it just seemed to make sense for us to have someone else there, someone who would support us no matter what decisions we make (last time I swore I would avoid induction if at all possible--this time I would really prefer not to go past forty weeks...), and someone who would advocate for us, ask questions and get clarifications.  I also would like to have someone there whose perspective of birth is happier.  Someone who can remind us both that the vast majority of babies are born healthy.

I should add that I absolutely adore my OB.  He is not only kind and compassionate, but extremely smart.  He is soft spoken and has a calm and soothing demeanor.  He also has a sense of humor.  And, most remarkably (this is based on what his patients and colleagues say about him), he's one of those doctors who can perform a flawless c-section under pressure, but who can also sit back and respect a mother's wishes to have a natural, med-free delivery.  I know he will be fantastic, but I also know that he won't be there to hold my hand throughout my entire labor and delivery.  I also know there's no guarantee I'll get the amazing nurse I had when I delivered Eliza (bless her freaking heart).  If the Deuce arrives before 37 weeks, I'll choose to deliver at a different hospital, the one with a bigger, better NICU, which is also just a bigger hospital (they call it the Baby Factory) and less natural-birth friendly.  It's true that having a med-free birth is no longer the priority it once was, I don't want to lose that opportunity for no reason but my own fear.

So we got in touch with a doula--one whose card I'd picked up when I was pregnant with Eliza but who was more expensive than the doula we'd chosen before.  I knew that she was well known in the local area, offers lots of classes, is very experienced, is also a certified lactation consultant, and a real-life friend of mine had used her and liked her very much.  She called me back right away and was very kind and sympathetic about Eliza.  Most importantly, she assured me that while she absolutely supports and helps with strategies for a med-free birth, she will support us in whatever decisions we make (after all, that's what we're paying her for). She has attended over 650 births and has worked with a couple of other people who've had babies after a loss.  Her doula services include two home visits before the birth, unlimited e-mail and phone consultations, staying with us for the duration of labor (I don't plan to do much laboring at home, so she'll probably meet us at the hospital), sticking around for a couple of hours after the baby is born, assisting with breastfeeding, and visiting us at home within a week to talk through things.

We met with her back in February for an interview, and I know you're supposed to interview a few doulas and see who seems like the bet fit, but that idea was too daunting.  She was it.  There was no way I was meeting with other people and going through our story and explaining why I wanted to hire a doula but not really talk in detail about actually giving birth...  ugh.  One interview was hard enough.  So we signed a contract and sent in our deposit.

She came over to our house earlier in the week for one of our visits, and I was relieved to discover that I still liked her.  In fact, I liked her more than I did the first time (maybe because I wasn't quite as freaked out about the whole "jinxing" thing).  David asked her a lot questions that I didn't even realize he had, and I saw how anxious he was about being able to support me and advocate for the baby and make the right choices.  I know it will help us both to have someone else there who understands (as much as she can) what we've been through and where we're coming from, but who is also more objective than either of us could possibly be.

To be honest, I was surprised that this felt like something we wanted to do.  But after our meeting, I felt positive about how things might go down.  It really felt like a move in the right direction, an acknowledgement that good things are possible.  We are all too aware that we can't predict the future, but I'm also trying to remember that we don't have to live in constant dread of the worst case scenario.  Sometimes the right thing to do is to actively assume that the ideal IS possible, and to do what we can to make that happen.  We certainly can't control much, but  I can control this decision.  I know it's not the right choice for everyone, but I'm glad to say that I feel good about it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Terror and the Hope

I've been anxious pretty much throughout this pregnancy.  I've most definitely been worried.  Hell--I think I was past twenty weeks before I stopped looking for blood every time I went to the bathroom.  I've had sleepless nights before every ultrasound.  I still come to my doctor appointment with prepared lists of questions and concerns.  And yet, (besides the fact that my first baby unexpectedly died for unexplained reasons) I never had a reason to worry.  This pregnancy appeared to be totally textbook, and the Deuce (just like Eliza) appeared perfect at every appointment.

Sunday morning I woke up around 8am.  David was already out of bed and had turned on the TV in the living room.  I lay in bed for a few minutes, enjoying the luxury of no alarm clock and clean sheets and a snoring dog snuggled up next to me.  Then I realized that the Deuce wasn't moving.

I poked and prodded my stomach.  I rolled from my left side to my right.


I did some more poking and prodding and rolled onto my back.

Still nothing.  I started pushing on my stomach pretty hard.  I could feel the Deuce in there, but I wasn't getting a kick or even a wiggle in response.

There it was.  I had a reason to be scared.

I called David back in the room and he patted my tummy and talked to the Deuce.  I shifted to my side again.  No movement.

And then I started to cry.

This wasn't an abstract fear getting my heart racing, wondering what might happen if...  This was a cold, sinking fear that started in the middle of my chest and spread outward.  I knew what would happen if.  I could see it all playing out in horrific detail.  I imagined having to break the news to other people, to tell my parents and friends, having to say it out loud over and over again, having to put my worst nightmare into words and endure the pity and the shock from friends and acquaintances and strangers.

David told me not to cry because we needed to be able to feel the baby, not feel me shaking with sobs.  I told him to call the medical exchange to get a hold of my doctor.

Then I told him to wait because I knew my doctor would tell me to drink something and lie down.

So I forced myself to get out of bed and drink an orange juice and eat a small piece of banana bread and then I lay back down on my side.  And waited.

I look back and marvel that I wasn't hysterical, that I didn't completely lose my shit and start screaming, that I wasn't already on my way to the ER.  But I guess my response isn't that surprising.  I mean, what else could I do?  I managed to stay calm after I learned that Eliza didn't have a heartbeat.  After all, there was nothing left to be done.  I'll fuss and cry about furniture, about one negative comment out of fifty student evaluations, about feeling overwhelmed at work.  But big things that really matter?  Instead of getting me riled up, they make me feel frozen.  I remember lying on that hospital bed and feeling absolutely paralyzed with that cold realization of my worst fear--a fear that was so terrible I had never really believed for a second that it could happen to me.

And now here I was, lying on my couch at home, feeling that same cold fear and knowing that it could easily happen to me.  Again.

After about fifteen minutes of me lying down, the Deuce started moving.  I counted every kick for thirty minutes or so, until I was satisfied that it was not my imagination.  David was sitting on the floor in front of me, his hands on my belly.  He felt the kicks, too, and I watched the tension around his eyes soften, and saw the relief spread across his face.

I continued to be hyperaware (even more than usual) of movement all day long, and Deuce passed our nightly kick counts with flying colors and continued to thrash around after I'd gotten into bed, which perhaps just indicates that the baby is already preparing to sleep all day and be awake all night long.  But I never quite shook off the chill of that morning's scare.

I had a doctor's appointment already scheduled for Monday, as my OB wants to see me weekly from the start of the third trimester until this baby is born and I am happy to oblige him.  I told him about Sunday morning and he nodded and affirmed that I'd done exactly what he would have suggested.  Then he listened to the heartbeat for an extra long time.  He said the accelerations were good and everything sounded great.  Movement has been normal today, with the Deuce squirming through conferences with my students about their upcoming papers.  And so we continue to hope that this false alarm is as close as we get to tragedy this time around.


I think sometimes about what I wish I could do differently in this pregnancy--specifically how I could enjoy it more.  Should I be decorating a nursery so I could sit in there in the blue and white rocking chair and talk to the baby?  Should I be sorting and organizing baby clothes?  Should I be choosing a baby name now instead of putting it off?  Should we find out the gender so we can call the baby by name?  Should I be ordering diapers?  Am I somehow doing the Deuce a disservice by not reading a weekly pregnancy calendar?  If the baby lives, will I wish I had done it all differently?  And--sometimes more preoccupying--if the baby dies, will I regret not doing these things?

It's hard not to compare myself to other people--especially to those who haven't lost a child--and to wish that I could approach pregnancy the way that they do.  I want the Deuce to feel as loved and wanted as Eliza.  I don't want the Deuce to feel like a replacement child who's getting Eliza's sloppy seconds (ie. unused  clothes, toys, books, sheets, and us as parents).  I feel sad that this pregnancy has so little of the confident joy that had me beaming when Eliza was in my belly.  I don't spend my spare time looking forward and daydreaming about what it will be to have a baby at home, which is ALL I did when I was pregnant with Eliza.  I focus on daily stuff, on little tasks, on kick counts and Pinterest projects, and what's for dinner, on cleaning the inside of my washing machine and grading another stack of essays, because looking at the calendar past the month of May feels much too dangerous.

I know there's nothing wrong with living in the moment.  I know that I'm not taking an instant of this pregnancy for granted, and there is as much grateful appreciation for the Deuce as there is fear that he/she may never come home with us.

But still I feel guilty.  Like I'm selling the Deuce short.  Like I'm wasting a precious time in my life that I'll never get back. A year of my life lost to grief, another ten months lost to a pregnancy that feels like a twist of that story we read in eighth grade:  "The Lady or the Tiger."  "The Baby Or ..."  Could go either way.  Will I get a baby?  Or will that door swing open and reveal a ravenous grief that eats me from the inside out?  Is there any way to be sure that I make the right choices to get the outcome I want?  Or is it a total crapshoot in which we hope that the randomness of the universe skips over us this time and makes some other sucker its victim?

And then I have to turn off my brain.  Because I. am. doing. the. best. I. can.  I may be enduring instead of enjoying this pregnancy, but if not enjoying this pregnancy is my biggest regret about this time in my life, then I will consider myself infinitely lucky.  I'll make up for it by enjoying the Deuce once he or she is in my arms.  The Deuce will not know or care that there isn't a nursery set up on the day we get home from the hospital.  I have to remember that getting through this moment is enough, and if someday three months or three years from now, I look back and wish that small things had been different, who freaking cares?  What I would change most in my life can never be changed, and any other regrets hardly seem worth the energy.

But I've also promised myself that on these gorgeous spring days, when the sun is shining and the pollen is making everyone sneeze, when my desk is buried in student papers, when I have nothing to wear and the dogs are obnoxious and nothing sounds good for dinner and I am so, so scared that something will go wrong and we will lose everything all over again, when I feel this baby kicking, I will take a breath and whisper a thank you.  Because, at least for the moment, this broken and tragic and fallen world has something amazing happening in it.  I may not "enjoy" this pregnancy, but I am so grateful to have every moment of it.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Things I'm Loving in April

After blogging (twice.  because I'm so cool like that.)  about deodorant, I decided to give this Adidas Cotton + stuff a try since several commenters recommended it.

 I've used it for over a week and...  I love it.  I don't know if it's because I prefer a solid over a roll-on (although the Body Shop deodorant is available in solid) or if it's the super fresh scent or what, but I don't feel like I have to reapply half-way through my day.  However, it has been cooler lately (highs in the 60s) so that may have something to do with it as well.  I'll let you know how my armpits feel when we get our usual St. Louis hot and muggy summer.  (I know you're all marking your calendars to check back on that!).

I have about a 30 minute commute to work each day, and I HATE radio commercials and sometimes NPR stresses me out, so I like to listen to books on CD, which I check out from the library.  I stumbled across this one and decided to give it a try, as I'm a fan of historical fiction (make that well-researched historical fiction) and Marie Antoinette seemed especially appealing to me since David and I visited Versailles a couple of years ago (listening to this book totally makes me want to go back to Versailles and to Paris).

Anyway, this book was so fascinating that I found myself looking forward to my commute.  I kept thinking about Marie Antoinette even when I wasn't in the car.  I have read a couple of Phillippa Gregory's books (she wrote The Other Boleyn Girl), and this was along the same lines, but (in my opinion) better.  As I got toward the end of the book, I found myself hoping that well-researched historical fiction would suddenly take a sharp turn into imaginary possibilities, because even though I knew all about the French Revolution and how things were going to end for Marie Antoinette, I was invested enough in her story that I really wanted her to avoid that fate.  The author does a great job of making her seem human without downplaying all of the superficial and expensive niceties she indulged in while the people of France were starving.  It's a clever portrait of the way she was both sheltered and deeply involved in French politics, and an especially intriguing portrayal of her marriage to Louis XVI.

Our DVR did not cooperate with Season 2 of Downton Abbey.  I am SLIGHTLY suspicious of this, because it never screws up on anything David wants to record.  How is it possible that I missed HALF of Downton Abbey episodes, and yet we never miss a moment of Eastbound and Down (a show that I hate) or Baseball Tonight?  Riddle me that. 

 Anyway, problem solved when I discovered that Amazon had season 2 of DA for $14.99.  A friend had suggested I reward myself for the MASSIVE amount of grading I did over spring break, so I took her advice.  I can't wait to indulge in this treat!

I don't really want to discuss this in detail, but let's just say this product has been a lifesaver.

And now for my final verdict on Affresh...

Honestly, I am not sure that it was any more effective than it would have been to just do the bleach and vinegar cycles alone (with a good scrub down on the rubber ring).  However, I feel like patting myself on the back for my spring cleaning efforts, and all I had to do was drop a tab into the washing machine, so in that sense I declare it a winner.  It did make the metal inside of my washer look shiny!  The wipes were definitely useful for the rubber ring (although I needed more) but as Laura Jane mentioned, I probably could have used Lysol wipes to do the same thing.  The only difference is that one side of the Affresh wipes is rough, which might help grab the gunky build-up on the smooth rubber.  Anyway, I'm not sorry that I bought the kit, and so far I haven't had further laundry issues!  I would buy this again, if only because it makes me feel virtuous and requires minimal effort.

And my final April purchase that I'm enjoying...

This little chair from Target.  Since the pair of recliners did not fit in our living room, we needed to find another solution.  In an ideal world, we would have a matching set of vintage leather club chairs with nail head trim.  In the real world, I am freaking in love with our not-so-chic glider/recliner and this little guy is a suitable mate for that end of the room.  Comfy enough for TV watching, small enough to not overcrowd the space, and cheap enough to not break the bank.  A win-win-win.

Any material pleasures that you're especially enjoying this month?  Do share.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Ms. B's Advice on a Disappointing Friendship

Dear Ms. B,

I had a friend not talk to me for almost an entire year. Not only did she not attend parties and events, but she didn’t even RSVP “no” – just didn’t show up and no response. Randomly she started asking me to hang out recently, so I told her we needed to talk about our friendship. So last night she admitted to me that she wasn’t coming to our parties because her husband was uncomfortable. And, well, he was about to leave for basic training, and she didn’t want to spend their time together arguing. So she just went along with what he wanted. I asked her why her husband was uncomfortable, and she said that he feels our surviving daughter is living in her twin brother’s shadow. He feels I focus too much on my child who died, that I am too involved in the loss community, and that I’m not dealing appropriately. He feels awkward, apparently. 

Well I have no clue how he even makes this judgment of me (she claims he isn’t judging but is just ignorant). First off, he has never lost a child. Secondly, he doesn’t even have any children. Third, we don’t hang out at all (remember, almost an entire year without communication). Our loss happened 16 months ago, so how does he feel he can make an assessment of my coping skills or my way through grief when he hasn’t even been around?! I guess he is making his judgments based on Facebook posts, as I make remembrance images sometimes for my friends on their child’s remembrance date. Well, I refuse to feel ashamed of something that I feel honors my son’s memory (and the memory of other babies lost who deserve acknowledgment!). I feel my son would be proud to know that I try and help others through their grief. In a way it helps me to feel that he didn’t die in vain if I can do something to support others through this loss. For people to make me feel like I’m denied those very things that HELP me through my grief is just infuriating to me. 

When my friend told me this last night, I did not show her how angry I was. I just tried to explain where I was coming from with needing to do these things, and I wanted to see if she could help me understand her husband’s perspective. Now I am left feeling like a hypocrite, because I went along with suggestions to continue the friendship and keep in touch better. I didn’t know what to say or how to react without blowing up, so I played nice. Now I’m just angry. If you were in my situation, what would you do? Should I write her off for her husband’s actions? I don’t feel that is fair, but on the other hand, I don’t see how we can possibly continue a friendship. I will always feel judged. I will always feel hurt that she didn’t find our friendship important enough to stand up to her husband’s critical eye of me.

Angry and Hurt

Dear Angry and Hurt,

First of all, Ms. B is very sorry to hear about the loss of your son.  Secondly, she sincerely hopes that other readers will chime in with their perspectives on this issue--particularly if anyone has had a similar friendship experience.  Ms. B does not claim to be an expert, just an opinionated busy-body.  Multiple insights welcomed here!

Here is Ms. B's opinion on the issue:  Your friend's husband is wrong.  It is simply wrong to judge the way someone else copes with their grief, or to assume that they are doing it inappropriately simply because you don't think it's the way you would handle a similar situation.  Of course, as human beings we make these kind of judgments all the time, but we should not be surprised to learn that they sour relationships very quickly.

It appears that he is basing his assessment of the situation on very limited contact with you, and Ms. B is certain that he actually feels uncomfortable about the situation for a myriad of different reasons (baby death doesn't fit with the way he wants to believe the world works,he wants to differentiate himself from you--"I would handle it differently"--so as to protect himself from personal fears about loss, he has anxiety about his own mortality and upcoming military service).  Regardless, his opinion is misguided and incorrect, and your friend is also in the wrong for not defending you, and for burdening you with his judgments (Ms. B wonders to what extent your friend may agree with your husband but not want to come out directly and say so).

As for whether or not to try to salvage this friendship, that's a call that only you can make, although Ms. B certainly would not question your decision to cut ties except for superficially polite social encounters.  In order to move forward, though, and truly repair the relationship, it's clear that you are going to have to be completely honest with this friend. Ms. B thinks that you do need to separate your friend's opinion from her husband's (assuming those were his judgments, not hers), but that you should also express that you were hurt that she either didn't recognize or didn't try to correct her husband's misconceptions about the way you are grieving your son and parenting your daughter.

A conversation with your friend would probably be the best way to confront this issue, and even though you seem to regret having "played nice," Ms. B thinks it's a good thing that you didn't explode on your friend when she first explained what was going on.  You've demonstrated that you're calm and rational, and that you value her friendship.  But you must make it very clear that if she values your friendship, then she needs to TRY to understand your perspective.  You stated it beautifully in your e-mail:  I feel my son would be proud to know that I try and help others through their grief. In a way it helps me to feel that he didn’t die in vain if I can do something to support others through this loss. For people to make me feel like I’m denied those very things that HELP me through my grief is just infuriating to me.

Your friend needs to read and/or hear those words, and to try to understand where you're coming from.  You deserve to have friends who are not judging you, and friends who are not sitting idly by and allowing other people to do so.  So... a conversation with your friend might start with you explaining that you've been thinking about what she said and you realized that you're really disappointed and upset by the situation.  Then you can tell her that you want her to be a part of your life, and therefore you're going to try to work through your disappointment that her husband is a total douchebag judged you unfairly and that she didn't defend you.  BUT you can also express that in order to do so, you'll need her support as you continue to grieve your son and parent your daughter (in ways that you might emphasize are considered perfectly healthy and "normal" by psychologists, grief counselors, your minister/priest, and many other bereaved parents).  Anyone would bristle at having their parenting style criticized, and it seems perfectly fair to say, "I understand that we all cope with tragedy and loss in our own way, and you and your husband may handle things differently than my husband and I do.  However, I will never apologize for the things I do in memory of son, and I don't appreciate being told how you think I should be parenting my daughter."  You can tell her that you understand many people don't know what to do, but the one thing they SHOULDN'T do is make judgments about you without really trying to  understand where you're coming from.  And you can (kindly) let her know that you always welcome questions and conversations about how things are really going.

Above all, don't let the misconceptions of other people put any doubt in your mind.  You are aware that pretending that your son never existed would be unhealthy for you and your family.  What you're doing instead is demonstrating that you love both your daughter and your son, that your son's life is meaningful, and that it has gifted you with compassion and the desire to help other people.  That's a healthy and beautiful thing.  It's clear [from your blog, which Ms. B is keeping anonymous] that you are not neglecting your daughter as you cope with your grief, and there is no reason to fear that your daughter is growing up in her brother's shadow (although this is a common fear shared by many bereaved parents).  Yes, you will parent your daughter differently because her brother died.  To do otherwise would be impossible.  But as a result of your tragic loss, your daughter may grow up with parental role models of strength and fortitude, a sensitivity to the struggles of other people, and a greater appreciation for the all good things in life.  In that way, her brother's life will be not a shadow, but a light.

Ms. B

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Clean & Dirty

We have a front-load washing machine and dryer, stacked on top of each other, tucked away in a little corner of our kitchen.

It would actually be super convenient if that cabinet were a pantry, but in our weensy little bungalow, there's just not space for that.  I actually love the convenience of having the laundry in the kitchen, and now that I've gotten used to it, I don't think I would like having the washer and dryer located far from the central area of the house (like in an unfinished basement--although I guess I'd get used to that, too).  One thing about a house with few walls is that we can always hear the laundry buzz, and it's easy to get a load of laundry going before dinner or pause the TV to switch a load from the washer to the dryer.  No excuses for it to build up and yet...

(It is, however, a recipe for disaster if I try to fold a load of clean clothes while David is making dinner, with both dogs underfoot--so there are definitely some downsides to having a washer and dryer in a wee kitchen.)

Anyway, the only problem is that recently I noticed a couple of David's dress shirts came out of the laundry with strange spots on them--spots that were not there BEFORE they were washed.

Needless to say, this did not make me very happy.

I couldn't figure out exactly what the spot was (it looked like brownish dirt but appeared to stain--because of course I dried the shirts before I noticed the spots) and it was usually located on the collar or cuffs--the structured parts of the shirt.

After a bit of investigating, I decided that the washing machine itself might be dirty and therefore making my clothes dirty instead of cleaning them.  (Shocking!)  Since David was not receptive to my initial insistence that we HAD to buy a new washing machine IMMEDIATELY before all of our clothes were RUINED, I decided that before I went appliance shopping, I'd see if there was some kind of cleaning kit I could use on the washing machine.

For periodic maintenance, I've occasionally run a load of vinegar and hot water through the washing machine if I feel like it has that wet/musty smell--I've also learned to avoid that smell by not closing the washing machine door all the way when it's sitting between washes.  But this seemed to require MORE than my previous attempts.

So I ordered this little kit from Amazon for $8.99.

available at Amazon

(BTW I am not getting paid by Affresh OR Amazon, in case you thought either company was tracking down bereaved parents and asking them about cleaning their washing machines).  So I put a tablet through the hot cycle and then wiped down the rubber ring around the door with one of the wipes included in the kit.

And then I used another wipe.

Dudes, that rubber ring was DISGUSTING.

It looked fine from the outside, but when I pulled on it so I could clean inside the folded part, I discovered that it was coated with brown gunk, sitting inside the folded rubber ring, just being gross.  Eight years of laundry gunk, built up in there.  It was nasty.  I ended up using ALL the wipes from the kit (which came with three tabs and five wipes) and THEN an old wash cloth (wet it with hot water) to keep scrubbing.  Then I ran another tab through the washing machine (no clothes, hot water cycle again).

Then, of course, I turned to Pinterest for more advice.  So I ran a load of bleach water (which I HATE doing--we never use bleach because I loathe the smell and it's so environmentally unfriendly).  Then I ran through another empty load with vinegar instead of detergent.

I haven't tested it on a load of clothes yet, but I'm really hoping that this results in a clean and sparkling washing machine, and nice clean clothes with no random and mysterious stains on them.

Aside from this recent little weird-stain problem, I've been really happy with these machines (which came with the house when we bought it).  I'm hoping they will last at least as long as we plan to be in this house.

Anyone have any brilliant washing machine cleaning plans?  Anyone else used one of these "Affresh" kits?  Can you tell me it works wonders?  Anyone else clean their washing machine with vinegar?  Experience mysterious stains on clothing?  Prefer doing laundry to cooking dinner?  (I totally do).

Anyone else stunned by the mind-numbing banality of this post?  Just keeping it real here, folks.  Welcome to my thrilling life.  What else did I do last night?  Watched 30 Rock and read Mrs. Dalloway.  Oh, and I tried to take a bath but the damn bathtub drain wouldn't stay plugged so it all drained away on me and I totally felt (and looked) like a beached whale, which was not exactly the peaceful unwinding experience that I'd been hoping for before bed.  At least the lavender-scented bubbles still smelled nice.

Honestly, I think part of my obsession with cleaning the inside of appliances made for cleaning is that I'm redirecting my nesting instincts.  In keeping with our New Plan of Not Planning (which is why we're not finding out the Deuce's gender), we are not going to be putting together a nursery before the baby comes home from the hospital.  So instead of decorating a sweet baby room (the mere thought fills me with terror), I'm cleaning major appliances.  And blogging about it.  You're so welcome.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

New Release: The Deuce in 3D

28 week ultrasound yesterday was uneventful.  I mean, it was eventful in that our ultrasound tech was a student (seriously?  like I don't deal with enough students on a daily basis?) so it took her forever to take all the measurements (although she was super nice and really cute), and then the measurements had to be double-checked by a not-student tech (because nothing says fun like having ultrasound goop on your belly for forty-five minutes), and at one point they asked if I was doing okay and I wanted to scream "My God I am FINE just hurry the hell UP."  Instead I just said, "I'm fine."

Also the ultrasound goop got all over my pants.

But it was uneventful in that the Deuce is still growing on schedule and kicking around.  Fluid levels look good.  Everything still in line and baby measured in 47th percentile so let's just hope we stay nice and AVERAGE and NORMAL and the doctors keep SMILING when they walk into the room to talk to us.  (Not that one doctor.  The ultrasound student had no idea I'd lost my first baby until I told her--is this shit not written on my CHART?--but she knew that there was one doctor on staff that I would NOT be seeing.)

After the ultrasound, I insisted on getting the paper print out (because I want to LOOK at the measurements you've assured me are FINE and decide for myself) and then we trekked next door to meet with my OB and discuss the fact that the Deuce is currently breech (lots of time for that to change, though, so fingers crossed) and that my iron level is just a smidge low (11.6 when "normal" is 11.7).  I promised to eat iron-rich foods (although no liver for me--gag, gag) and my OB said I could wait on taking a supplement in order to avoid Serious Constipation Issues (ack!).  I felt better about waiting because he said the iron is to make sure that my levels are high enough to avoid any complications with blood loss during delivery--in other words, baby is getting what he/she needs without supplements.  So I'm eating lots of Total cereal and spinach and nuts and I get another blood draw in two weeks (Yay.  My favorite thing to do).  Hopefully I'll be back in the normal range.

Speaking of "normal" range...  My own weight gain looks like I should probably quit eating so many donuts (David totally sold out my donut cravings to my OB, who kindly suggested that I cut back to HALF a donut PER WEEK--seriously?  I mean, why even bother?).  I am getting Third Trimester Pregnancy Fat Face, so vanity will probably do more than medicinal advice to reduce donut consumption at this point.  (For the record, I NEVER eat/crave donuts when I am not pregnant.  Well, I mean, I would eat one if it were offered to me, but David and I do not go fetch them on Saturday mornings as we have been doing lately...)

I left the two appointments feeling totally drained, AND with my gmail calendar booked with WEEKLY appointments starting next Monday.

In spite of all the doctor talk, all the monitoring, the nightly kick counts, the *cough* twenty-nine *cough* extra pounds I'm lugging around, there is still a huge part of me that does not believe we are actually getting a baby at the end of this.

But at the end of my appointment, the ultrasound tech (probably to show off to the student tech) asked me if I wanted a 3D look at the baby.  I told her that we hadn't had one yet, so that would be great.  Unfortunately, the cord was floating in front of the baby's face, and the tech was like, "Do not freak out!  That is not your baby's face.  That is the cord."  So we got a little glimpse of the Deuce's face--really, just the nose and mouth--but it was enough to give me a little moment of "Holy shit, there is a person in there."


When I first got pregnant, I told David that I hoped Baby Duck had his nose.  I love David's nose.  It's so nice and streamlined and I just love it.

Later that night we were walking the dogs, and David turned to me out of the blue and smiled and said, "How 'bout the Deuce's nose?"

I started cracking up laughing.  I said, "That's a little button nose."

He said, "Well, that is not my nose."

No, sirree.  It is not.  The Deucers most definitely has MY nose.

Ignore the gross umbilical cord gunk floating 'round the face and blocking the eye.  Just look at the nose.
And then look at it on me, around the age of 1:

I mean SERIOUSLY.  That is one dominant nose-gene.
Oh--and if you think you've seen this SAME nose once before, you might be remembering this portrait:

Yes, here it is again.
David is totally hoping that his athletic genes are not as recessive as his nose genes apparently are.

As the Deuce's due date approaches, I feel myself longing for Eliza even more.  I love to think of this silly little connection between my two babies.  And I can't wait for the Deuce to get here so I can kiss the hell out of that nose.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Kountry Style Weekend Visit

My cousin and I went and got pedicures this weekend.  The first one I've had since I've been obviously pregnant.  The first thing the girl said to me when we walked in the door was, "You look so cute pregnant!"

I love a good compliment, but I can't ever decide if I'm annoyed or relieved when people can't see how sad and fearful and full of grief I still am.  I'm thankful, really, that I haven't outwardly become the monstrous Miss Havisham I thought I'd have to be, but it also doesn't seem right that the intensity with which I miss Eliza is somehow invisible.

We hadn't planned to go to my parents' for Easter, but after my previous visit got canceled due to Excessive Vomiting, we made a kind of last-minute decision to drive down.  Four and a half hour car trips get increasingly less comfortable when you're carrying a baby on your bladder, so we figured that now was as good a time as any.  We rolled into town for a quick weekend visit and hit all the local hot spots.

Local hot spots include the Thai Cabin 'n Grill, which is a restaurant that a guy opened in his garage in a subdivision just outside of town, that serves (you guessed it) Thai food and also other stuff.  For example, the appetizer menu offers both spring rolls and chicken livers.  The place was busy and our food was good, but the beer snobs (my dad and David) were disappointed in the selection (variations on Bud Light, and one Thai beer that my dad and David tried that David said reminded him of the beers we had in Korea--pale and watery).

Next hot spot:  one of several hair and nail salons in town.  My cousin and I got our pedicures at Kountry Style Salon.  I did a double take at the decor when we first walked in.

Maybe I should host a caption contest for this photo?  Because I have no words.
It was a good pedicure, audience of dead mammals notwithstanding.  I'd go back and ask for Amy again.  I chose purple sparkle nail polish because why not?  And then my mom and I went to Wal-Mart, because what's a visit to Nevada without a trip to Wal-Mart?  Incomplete, that's what.

I saw my second grade teacher there (you never go to Wal-Mart without seeing at least one person you know).  She gave me a big hug and congratulated me on the Deuce.  Later, my mom told me that this teacher still substitutes at the building where my mom works (she retired a few years ago) and she asks about me a lot.  I knew that this teacher was no stranger to grief, as her youngest son was killed by a drunk driver when he was a teenager.  What I didn't know (until my mom mentioned it after we saw her at Wal-Mart) was that she had also lost a baby girl.  She went on to have four boys, and then survived the death of another child.

I hear stories like that--or sometimes even think about the other bereaved parents I know and their stories--and I just wonder how anyone gets through it.  I think that I can't imagine how you'd go on.

And even though I haven't ever forgotten about Eliza for a second, it's like it takes a minute to hit me all over again that this is MY story, too.  That I'm living through it.  That the sympathy and pain I feel for other people is what other people feel about me.  And then my brain and heart feel like they are going to have some kind of simultaneous implosion and I need to just stop thinking and see what's in the DVR.

Easter was...  meh.  I missed Eliza, I wanted to be filling her Easter basket, I wanted to be taking countless pictures of her, I wanted to be taking her to church and showing her off in a darling Easter dress, I wanted everything to be different.  I read on Keleen's blog that she's working with Plan B because that's the only one available, and even though I know that's true for us as well, I am still not entirely satisfied with Plan B.  I can't exactly tell Plan B to suck it, though, and I know that will get increasingly complicated when the Deuce arrives because the Deuce IS Plan B, and that is super weird thing to say and the sort of thing that I would imagine no child would really want to hear from his or her parent (although, realistically speaking, I bet it's true for a lot of kids, one way or another).  So anyway.  We dealt with Plan B.  We went to church, we walked the dogs.  I even had my mom take a picture of David and me together outside in the front yard (although it was only because one of my aunts requested it).  Cooper made me laugh with his antics when we let him off his leash at the park, and we realized just how blind Little Mac is as she walked through unfamiliar territory.  Bless her little heart.  Her birthday was Friday--she turned 12!.

My parents donated an Easter lily at church in memory of Eliza, and it filled up my heart to see her name in the program and I loved and hated it at the same time.  I was so glad that they did that, but OBVIOUSLY I would so much have preferred that we had her there with us.

My grandparents came over for dinner on Saturday night, and my mom and I helped my Nana order some clothes online.  Nana hates shopping, so she loved the idea but isn't quite computer savvy enough to do it on her own (she does check e-mail and play a mean game of solitaire on her computer, though).  My youngest cousin is getting married and Nana has decided to get something new for Bekah's wedding, so I really hope that one of the outfits we chose will work.  Nana is also going to make a quilt for the Deuce (she made two for Eliza... sigh) and I caved at a recent fabric store sale and bought material for it.  We talked quilt patterns.  The evening ended on a bit of a rough note when Nana and Little Mac got into a spat.  They have what can only be described as a personality conflict, and there was some mutual antagonizing followed by aggressive barking and shouting.  Meanwhile, Cooper snuggled up to my Papa and considers him a friend for life.

All in all, it was a good visit home.  We always wish the drive was shorter, and I know that won't change when we're figuring out how to make the trip with two dogs and a baby (hopefully).

I took this pic mid-way through last week at 27 and 1/2 weeks.  I love the way the dogs are both watching me. 

Once again in the horizontal stripes.  Why, maternity designers?  Why?  Note the ceramic deer head on the wall--my version of Kountry Style.
Another ultrasound tomorrow, which I know explains why I feel teary and emotional tonight.  Time to snuggle up with Cooper and catch up on Game of Thrones.

P.S.  Isn't there some kind of app that automatically takes pictures from your phone and syncs them to your computer?  Interwebz, do tell!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Emotional Outbursts and Other (Not Really) News

Spring break is over.  I'm back to teaching today--Dante's Inferno, which I thoroughly enjoy.  The high today is 90 degrees and yesterday's search for my one pair of maternity shorts I had from being pregnant with Eliza was fruitless, so it looks like I will most certainly need to buy some summer clothes, stat.  I'm annoyed about that because I had so many nice wintery things that I should have been able to wear well into March, but what can you do.

To recap:  I spent spring break barfing, grading papers, defeated by sciatic nerve pain, grading papers, and watching documentaries on the Amish.  It could have been better.  It could have been worse.


I'm officially entering my third trimester, but won't be posting a belly shot today as I am wearing a dress that makes me look like a whale.  The second trimester definitely seemed to move more quickly than the first, but my anxiety is building as we draw closer to the time that Something Went Mysteriously Wrong for Eliza.  Fortunately, I start weekly monitoring very soon, but I can't help but worry.  Already I think sometimes that the Deuce's movements have slowed down, but I can never tell if it's my imagination or not (according to my phone app's kick counts, it is my imagination).

I know David worries, too, even though he doesn't talk about it much. When he calls on his way home from work, he always asks how I'm doing and if the Deuce is moving around for me, and when his alarm goes off in the morning, he snuggles up with his arm around me and puts his hand on my belly so he can feel some kicks before he gets up to shower.  The Deuce has been cooperative for him, so I like our unspoken morning ritual.


I have had two emotional outbursts that I really believe were pregnancy-hormone-related (and therefore rather embarrassing in retrospect).  The first one occurred when I was doing laundry after David returned from Dallas.  He'd emptied his suitcase in our clothes hamper, so I was sorting through everything when I came across a white lacy bra that did NOT belong to me.


It was like my worst nightmare.  Six months pregnant, sorting laundry, feeling huge and unattractive, wearing an old t-shirt over a gianormous and practical flesh-toned bra, and suddenly here is a lacy little number intermixed with David's golf clothes.  I seriously felt light-headed.

I yelled for David and he came in the room with a strange look on his face.  My voice must have sounded weird--not exactly panicked, but ominous.  I held the bra behind my back and said in a weirdly frozen tone, "Is there anything that happened in Dallas that you need to tell me about?  Because now is the time to tell me."

He looked totally bewildered and said, "No..." but in what I thought was a WEIRD tone (perhaps because I was acting weird?  Whatever.).

So then I dramatically flung my arm in front of me with the bra hanging down and said icily, "Then what is THIS?"

David said, "Uh, I have no idea.  Could that be Grandma's?"

(David's grandma spent a couple of days with us at the beginning of his spring break.)

I stared at the bra.  Frankly, I thought it looked kind of sexy for a grandma-bra, but on closer inspection, it really wasn't that sexy.  I looked in the hamper and saw that lying right on top (under the bra) was, in fact, a shirt that she had worn while she was at our house.  AND a pair of granny-panties (literally).

So evidently it was his grandma's bra.  Crisis averted, but I still felt like crying because OMG what IF I had actually found some stranger's bra in David's suitcase and what the hell would I do with myself?  I looked at David and said, "Do NOT make me break up with you."

David's response was somewhere between amused, offended, and relieved.


In other emotional outbursts, we got new a new sofa for the living room and ordered a new recliner as well.  The plan was to get one recliner and one small chair (as it's a small room) but then David wanted matching chairs (he loves all things to be symmetrical; it's sort of cute but also sort of tiresome) and the chairs were so comfortable that I said I'd think about it and we did a lot of measuring and furniture shifting and decided that it would work to get TWO recliners, even though (as mentioned previously) I was opposed to them for aesthetic reasons and also because it makes me think of my great-grandparents and their matching recliners.

So after much anticipation, the two recliners were finally delivered!  And... NO.  They do not fit.  Too big.  House is too small.  It looks... odd.  At best.

This is not the end of the world.  My original plan was only to get ONE recliner anyway.  I know rationally this is a total first-world problem.  OMG!  I have too much nice, big, brand new furniture to fit in my very comfortable little house!  How sad is my life!  I would think that what we've been through has given us a little perspective on such problems.

But we really wanted to make it work.  So we moved around everything.  Television stand, book shelf, bobble-head case (yes, we have an entire display case full of baseball bobbleheads in our living room; no I don't really want to talk about it), sofa, two recliners, end tables.  It was like musical chairs except (1) there was no music and (2) every configuration was miserable instead of amusing.

And even though I swore I was NOT going to cry because THIS was NOT a big deal, I was hot and cranky and David and I ended up talking to each other in voices that made Cooper run and hide in his bed, which hasn't happened in AGES and I found myself on the verge of tears.  (I just don't know what to say when he thinks something looks good/bad and I disagree.  It's not a matter of opinion; he is simply WRONG and I should have complete veto power because I look at Pinterest and also home decor magazines and therefore I have a level of expertise regarding furniture arrangement that overrules his ideas, and I don't know how to explain this in a nice way but NOT EVERYTHING HAS TO BE SYMMETRICAL AND YOU ARE PSYCHOTIC.)

Finally I said we had to get out of the house and walk the dogs and then I sniffled a little bit on our walk because it really was disappointing that the furniture we'd so looked forward to wasn't working the way we'd hoped.  So David was really sweet to make up for his mean tone of voice earlier and we held hands and it was very sweet and romantical until a big black dog ran up to us and we were afraid it might eat our little dogs.  Fortunately, that dog (who looked just like my parents' dog, Blackjack) was very friendly so we just had the awkward problem of an uninvited THIRD dog on our walk, who did not obey my suggestion to "Go home!"  Then a nice neighbor spotted our predicament and came to our aid.  We realized where the dog lives and saw that the gate to his backyard was standing wide open, so she helped me corral that dog back in his yard and we continued on our way.

The walk helped immensely, but David was still a bit out of sorts even when we got home because the house is kind of mess, what with an extra ENORMOUS recliner sitting about, waiting to get picked up later this week (David has a really hard time when things are out of order...  see my accusation of him being "PSYCHOTIC" above), so while he made dinner, I surprised and delighted him by organizing the linen closet and I even printed cute labels from Pinterest to label the wicker baskets in it because I am a Pinterest CHAMPION (labels include:  "first aid supplies," "bug spray and sunscreen," and "doggy care").  Also it was a useful exercise because I found a heating pad and some nail polish that I had been missing for a long time.