Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Break Time

I'm on spring break this week. I spent yesterday sorting through little girl clothes in the basement. I need to organize (and cull) dress up clothes and Coco is asking me to pull out Easter/spring decorations, so that's on the agenda for today.

My anxiety levels are much lower than they were last time I posted. I've had no bleeding or any other troubling issues, and the baby has been quite active. I'm also glad to be at home where I can lie on my side and do a kick count any time I want to (I really need my university to get me a full length sofa for my office). I'm still eager to see my doctor and I'm definitely going to request that we start monitoring with nonstress tests earlier than we had originally discussed. Nothing like a hospital visit to amp up the urgency of that kind of thing!

I was looking back at my New Years Resolutions and feeling a bit meh about them, considering that we're coming up on being a quarter of a way through the year! I haven't done nearly as much reading as I wanted to. I've read a few books, but I haven't made much headway on my Modern Mrs. Darcy reading challenge--mostly because reading books for class interferes. I did read a thriller for book club and I finally finished White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, which was great. The best book I've read so far this year is The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. I'm still not quite finished... probably 2/3 or 3/4 of the way through. I expect to finish it this week. It has been eye-opening.

There is a section about migrants and studies that show the farther someone has to travel, the more motivated they are to work extremely hard at any job they can get in order to achieve success and economic/personal security (relative to their previous conditions) once they arrive. It made me think of the terrible things Trump has said about the people migrating to the United States from terrifying situations in Central America and how determined and frightened they must be, and how I wish they could be given a chance. But the book also talks about the anti-migrant sentiment that has always existed--a fear of scarcity and economic anxiety that prevents us from being welcoming to newcomers. We just see these same patterns over and over again and it seems that we don't learn anything from them. Anyway, on top of all that it's remarkable stories and it's so well written. I'm already certain it will be one of my best reads all year.

Maybe my biggest personal growth stretch goal on the list was to do more anti-racism work/learning, and I signed up for a 12-week workshop that started in January. We just completed week seven, and I'm relieved to say that it's been a really good experience. It was not an easy start--leaving my cozy house just when we'd be getting settled in for the evening, driving across town in the cold and the dark to sit in a school with a bunch of strangers and talk awkwardly about whiteness and anti-racism... but I'm glad I stuck it out! The numbers have dropped off slightly, but that means I feel like I'm getting to know (and like!) the people who are there and it's definitely introducing me to people outside my normal circles of colleagues-from-work and moms-from-school. Plus, thanks to daylight saving time, it was light out when I drove there last night!

My biggest goal flop has been yoga. I found that I couldn't keep up with Adriene's 30 day challenges in my second trimester and the prenatal yoga videos were too boring (and like 40 minutes long! and you do nothing!). Don't get me wrong--I found a few that are okay, but not enough variety to keep it interesting. Plus, the usual excuses: busy, exhausted. After my scare last week and everyone telling me to take it easy, I almost felt like I shouldn't move at all! I need to get back into at least some gentle stretching, so that's something I'll do this afternoon (after I finish sorting dress up clothes and washing the few outfits that smell mysteriously like pee...).

It's never interesting to hear someone talk about being tired, but I have been trying to remember if I was always this tired in the third trimester. I am not someone who generally takes naps, but I could seriously take a nap almost every day. And I'm getting 8 hours of sleep a night! Maybe this is why they call it a geriatric pregnancy when you're over 35? Because I could nod off and sleep at any given moment, much like my octogenarian Papa? I do think that some consistent sunshine and warmer temperatures would make a huge difference in my energy levels. 

I have been so reluctant to buy anything for the baby. Monica gave me a huge bin of baby things, which I've left at my mom and dad's. Coco asked me on Sunday when we were at Target if we could get diapers for the baby. She frequently tells me that the baby needs a bed, a car seat, and a diapers. And she's not wrong! But no... we haven't bought any diapers yet. I'm also trying to decide whether the baby needs this monitor... the reviews have me wondering if it will relieve or increase worry... Anybody used one of these? Would you recommend? We used an Angel Care monitor with Zuzu and with Coco, although for a much shorter time with Coco. We had a couple false alarms, but I always felt good seeing that blinking light. I also used the Snuza with Zuzu, and some with Coco too, so maybe I should stick with what I know? (Not to mention it's considerably less expensive.)

I did discover a huge bag of newborn and 0-3 month clothes in the basement and I had no idea where it came from. It turns out that a mom at David's school passed them along to us, and he hid them in the basement because he knew I wouldn't want them yet! I did sort through the bag and fold everything into a storage bin. I am so appreciative, and I need to write the mom a note! I just am not quite ready to wash and fold and put things in dresser drawers.

I also need to figure out where baby's clothes are going to go... our master bedroom is absurdly large, so we're going to keep baby in there in a bassinet for the first several months (which is also what we did with the girls). But I will need to rearrange dressers. I may put baby clothes in the guest room, which also means moving things around in that closet... I don't want to lose the guest room, so I would imagine we'll move Coco into Zuzu's room and give the baby her own room, which isn't a big deal since they sleep together almost every night anyway. But they have way too many clothes, so that's the part I will need to figure out!

Anyway, these are the things occupying my mind these days (you know, when I'm not worrying about catastrophic climate change and my own contributions to it and how we can consume less plastic, possibly starting by banning these idiotic LOL dolls my kids are obsessed with--listen, folks, I am a BARREL OF FUN RIGHT NOW). (I did find that this podcast helped make me feel a little less despairing.)

Thank you so much for your kind words and good thoughts and good vibes following my last post. I'm at 29 weeks now and while the end does not yet feel like it is in sight, I know that we are getting close.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

"A Rainbow Does Not Negate the Ravages of the Storm"

Warning: This one is scary.

My new doula sent me that quotation last night. She had heard it on NPR, I think, and it made her think of me.

The ravages of the storm got to me last night when I had an unexpected complication with this pregnancy.

First, let me remind you that so far everything has been normal skewed toward good. My numbers were strong from the start. My genetic testing came back with no additional risks detected at 11 weeks. My anatomy scan looked good at 20 weeks. My glucose test came back normal at 25 weeks. On Monday, I hit 28 weeks--the official start of the third trimester.

Last night (Tuesday night) I was finishing up a normal day. David was late because of interviews and I had just put the girls to bed when he got home. I lay with them for a little while, idly scrolling through my phone, and then decided to go take a shower and lie down in my bed to do a kick count.

The one hiccup with with this pregnancy has been that my anterior placenta has made movement really hard to feel. It's driving me bonkers, honestly. Kick counts take much longer than they ever did with Zuzu or Coco, and she tends to be most active just before bedtime (9-10pm). I usually have to be lying on my side to really feel movement, and I can basically tell the size and shape and location of the placenta because I mostly feel her around the periphery.

I was feeling okay last night, mostly because I'd had a doctor appointment yesterday morning. My regular (beloved) OB is out of the country on a vacation in India, so I saw his nurse practitioner. I was a little anxious about this (unlike other patients, I don't rotate through every doctor in the practice. I only see Dr. W. I am very much a Special Needs Patient in this regard.) But anyway, I'd rather see someone random than miss an appointment, and I couldn't really ask Dr. Wasserman to schedule his international vacations around my doctor appointments (I mean, I wanted to but some part of me remains rational). As it turns out, the nurse practitioner was great. She was familiar with my history even though I'd only seen her one time before--during my pregnancy with Eliza. She was kind and reassuring and answered all my questions and validated my anxiety and made me feel better.

I've been fixated on a worry about placental abruption. I've recently met a baby loss mama who lost her baby to a sudden placental abruption with no known cause at 36 weeks, and that's probably why it's at the forefront of my mind. But I also think the anterior placenta has made me more anxious--if I bump into something, or one of my kids uses my stomach to push off of and launch themselves off the couch, I get freaked out that I've just broken my placenta. Anyway, she told me that there is no evidence that the position of the placenta has any bearing on the likelihood of an abruption, which I found comforting.

But last night when I got out of the shower, I realized I was bleeding. I wasn't in any pain. I wasn't having contractions. But there was bright red blood trickling down my leg. I was 28 weeks (and 1 day) pregnant. I was panicking. The truth is, I've been looking for blood ever since I got a positive pregnancy test. It felt like a fulfillment of my greatest dread. (The shittiest thing about anticipating disaster and then having that disaster actually occur is that it doesn't even feel like a victory when you end up being right--it still just feels like a living nightmare.)

I yelled (quietly because the girls were sleeping) for David and told him we needed to go to the hospital. David called a neighbor to come stay at the house with the girls (who were asleep and had no idea we we even left). We drove to the hospital. It took maybe 15 minutes and I didn't feel any movement the entire time. I sobbed my story to the nurse at the desk and she took me back immediately and starting asking for my information and trying to take my blood pressure and pulse.

I was shaking uncontrollably at this point and could hardly catch my breath. I kept saying, "Oh my God. What if there's no heartbeat?" She wanted to see how much I was bleeding and she FINALLY (it really was only a few minutes but it felt like forever) took me back and hooked up the Doppler monitor. I was still shaking so hard it took a second before the machine could pick anything up, but then the baby's heartbeat blipped on the screen and I was able to calm down enough that they got a good read on it. It was totally normal. Which of course made me start crying all over again.

By this time the bleeding had already let up a lot. Another nurse came in and asked me a bunch of the same questions, and then a nurse practitioner came in. Everyone was very kind. I was totally wrecked--my hair was still soaking wet from the shower, I was crying off and on. But I got an ultrasound (baby looked perfect), a cervical exam (totally closed), and the baby was monitored for about two and a half hours (no decels, heart rate normal).

I finally started to relax after the ultrasound when they put the Doppler back on. I had stopped bleeding by then and I could just listen to the galloping rhythm of the baby's heartbeat as I lay on my side and sipped cranberry juice.

The nurse practitioner did a swab when she did my cervical exam and she determined that there was a pH imbalance. This minor infection can apparently irritate the cervix and cause a blood vessel to break or rupture. It is unusual, but slightly more likely to happen when taking blood thinners like a daily baby aspirin. That seems to be what happened to me, as there was no other source of bleeding they could find and the bleed had totally resolved within an hour.

They let us go home around midnight, with lots of reassurances and invitations to come back anytime I feel worried or concerned. Once I got home, I collapsed into that exhausted but jittery kind of sleep and then had one of my recurring nightmares about driving a car off the edge of a cliff because my psyche likes to work through SUPER OBVIOUS METAPHORS when I am stressed out.

Today I'm not having any bleeding (checking obsessively) and I have a prescription to fix my imbalanced pH situation. I'm feeling some movement as I sit on the exercise ball at my desk and I have an appointment to see my doctor as soon as he's back in town (not soon enough, but I'll take it).

I still feel so shaky and vulnerable, though. As we drove to the hospital, the night that we went in unexpectedly early with Eliza because I was having contractions was vivid in my mind. The major difference wasn't fear--I was scared both times. But with Eliza, I thought it was going to be okay. I thought they were going to fix it. I went in innocently assuming that whatever was wrong could be made okay again and maybe I was looking at a c-section and a premie.

This time I went in knowing what it felt like to get the very worst news. This time an emergency c-section and a super early premie felt like my best option, and I didn't think it was possible. I expected them to say there was no heartbeat because I'd heard those words before. I was not a naive mom, pregnant for the first time and confident the doctors could fix anything. I was feeling every bit of that previous trauma. Having had two successful pregnancies since then did nothing to negate the ravages of my grief. I know too well that there is nothing to prevent that tragedy from revisiting me. Statistics don't keep me safe. Lightening could strike again just as it did in the first storm of grief. We could go home from the hospital empty handed.

I really didn't need that brutal reminder--I'm already well aware that the odds being in my favor is no guarantee. But I'm so grateful that this time we got a different answer. This time, that teensy little four chamber heart was beating away in there. This time we get to hold onto hope.

I texted my doula an update on everything and she responded and then sent me the quote about rainbows and storms. It was exactly right. Even coming out safely twice doesn't make me feel like the storm never happened. It just makes me feel like somehow I got away with something, and I'll have to get really lucky (and be really vigilant) if that's going to happen again.

Now if you're looking for me, I'll be spending virtually all my free time between now and the end of May lying on my left side doing kick counts.

Friday, March 1, 2019


I've started listening to a podcast by Laura Tremaine called "10 Things I Want to Tell You." The most recent episode was about teachers who made a significant difference in your life--good or bad. The premise is that she sort of starts the conversation and then you should share your own Things to Tell in a journal or with friends or on social media. So here goes!

I have vivid memories of teachers starting with first grade...

My first grade teacher scared me. I wanted her to like me, and I think she did like me (I was a good student!) but she was intimidating. Now that I look back, I think that she probably wasn't a great fit for first grade, personality-wise. She was never mean to me, but I definitely was scared of her after watching other kids get in trouble. There was a little boy in my class who got paddled nearly every day. Yes--capital punishment, wooden paddle, hit by the teacher in the hallway. Almost every day. (I reminisced about at my high school reunion this with another guy who was in my first grade class and we were both traumatized by being witnesses to this.) This kid got in trouble all the time for acting up. I'm sure now he would be diagnosed with something and given support and special services and counseling, but in the late '80s, he just got the crap beat out of him on the daily. I actually peed my pants in her class one day because I was too scared to ask her if I could go to the bathroom because she got really mad when kids asked to go to the bathroom on their own instead of when we all went as a group. She saw the puddle near her desk and yelled and asked who did it and she MUST have known it was me? I mean, I was back at my desk this time and I tried to put on a wide-eyed innocent face, but I had to be the only one who smelled like fresh pee. I had on a dress, but my shoes were soaked in urine. I think it was the end of the day, though. She must have known it was me, but she never called me out on it, I remember my dad picked up that day because I ran up to him and hugged him and I didn't want to let go because I didn't want him to see my pee shoes. I wonder if he talked to the teacher about it? Because I do remember him telling me it was okay to ask her if I needed to go. Anyway, she ended up switching from first grade to fourth grade and that was probably a good move for everyone (though hopefully that poor kid who got paddled every day didn't get assigned to her classroom again).

My second grade teacher was the opposite. Mrs. Brandt was so kind and smelled really good and was very huggable. She would tell stories about her boys and it made me want to grow up and have a bunch of boys (LOL not so much now). I got to take home our class pet, a small turtle named Tiny Tim who was a good sport and never gave me salmonella. Once I got to school earlier and went to the classroom instead of the cafeteria because I never got to school early so I didn't know we were supposed to go to the cafeteria. Anyway, Mrs. Brandt let me stay in the room and help her set up, which I loved. I remember watching her use Lysol spray all over the desk and cubby of a little boy in my class and wondering why it was just his desk that got treated. I assumed maybe it was because he smelled strongly of wood smoke. I can't remember what she said to me about it, but I remember her basically telling me not to mention to any of my classmates that she did that.

My third grade teacher was also wonderful. I had Miss Tinsley maybe her second or third year of teaching? She was young and cute and she told me that I reminded her of Ramona Quimby, which I took as an enormous compliment. I felt comfortable enough in her class that I got a little chatty with my friend Mandy and sometimes we'd have to put our names on the board, which we sort of relished even though it was supposed to be a reprimand (if you got two checkmarks next to your name there were consequences, but I don't remember what they were because I would behave myself after that). Miss Tinsley also encouraged my reading. And she let us vote on the slogan for our class bulletin board when we made butterflies by tracing the outlines of our feet. The top two slogans were mine and this kid name Kevin. Kevin's slogan was "From Feet to Butterflies." (Kevin was apparently a literal kind of guy. He spiked his hair (or his mom did?) with a lot of gel and I thought he was very cute but I thought his slogan was super lame.) My slogan was "Butter Up Your Wings for Spring!" and my slogan won and I was very proud and I thought that Miss Tinsley was proud too because she always made me feel like she was rooting for me.

My fourth grade teacher was also lovely. Her name was Mrs. Copeland and she read aloud to us every day (James and the Giant Peach was particularly memorable). She also wore visible eye shadow, which I thought was very glamorous. One day, though, she hurt my feelings SO much. She wasn't even there--we had a substitute--and she had left a note for the sub with lesson plans and also listing students who were good helpers. I must have been up near her desk talking to the sub or just nosing around (who knows?!) but I could easily read her perfect penmanship and she had written, "Amie, Mandy, and Leslie are all good helpers." I could not believe my name was not on that list. Like I wanted to put my head on my desk and cry. I didn't do that, but my heart was broken a little bit. After that year, Mrs. Copeland quit teaching and opened a little gift shop on the square and in middle school I'd often walk down there and buy cinnamon gummy bears from her, so there were no hard feelings. I think she quit teaching because our class was challenging. There was one kid who wrote sentences for his spelling words and put the word "fart" in every sentence. The laughter was riotous and I'm sure he got sent to the office, but I will always remember how awed I was by his nerve and how funny it was to hear him read a sentence about a fart out loud.

After fourth grade we went to middle school. I had some great and memorable teachers, but we switched classes so it was a different relationship only seeing them for an hour or so per subject. My favorite teacher was Mrs. Snyder, my fifth grade reading teacher. She told me once that if you cut my veins, words would come out. And I took that as another huge compliment. I read like crazy in her class. I could get all my work done and she'd let me sit and read whatever I wanted. My friend Monica likes to remind me of the time I basically read the entirety of Wait Till Helen Comes during our class period. I did love Mary Downing Hahn. Fifth grade was when I really decided I wanted to be a writer, and Mrs. Snyder totally encouraged that.

I can't list my best and most impactful teachers without talking about the other Mrs. Copeland, who was even more influential--in part because she taught me from second grade through sixth grade. She was the gifted teacher and we'd go to her "Action Class" one day a week. Mrs. Copeland put up with and encouraged all of our quirks and weird interests. She is honestly the teacher that I probably would want to emulate the most with my own classroom persona as a professor. She was always kind, but she did not put up with nonsense. She was always encouraging and patient, but we knew we were being held to high standards. She was not exactly warm and fuzzy, but she made us feel loved and made us want to impress her, too. I often felt like I wasn't as smart or talented as my classmates with their ACT-word vocabularies or super quick math-minds. But she encouraged my creative writing and my love of logic puzzles ("mind-benders" we called them) and I always felt seen, known, understood, and appreciated in her classroom.

In high school, I had a drama coach named Mr. Grooms who was legendary. He left after my freshman or sophomore year, but he made me feel like I had talent for drama and he also gave me a pep talk before a drama competition event that Monica and I still reference for each other to this day ("Even if you don't go to finals, you can still graduate from high school, you can still go to prom..." I had a little trouble with perspective.)

I had some memorable college professors. There was the huge, bearded history professor who taught a class about the Holocaust and sobbed on the day we discussed Holocaust deniers. There was the uber crunchy environmental science professor who drove me to the hospital the day I sprained my ankle on the way to her class (first I had to sit through her lecture with my foot iced and elevated--but she did send one of my classmates to get the ice for me). But it was a young English professor, Dr. Kelemen, who really served as my mentor and made me believe I had to chops to do graduate school or law school. I'm actually embarrassed when I think about my behavior in his Shakespeare class... I should have been a better student and talked more... I now appreciate student participation so much! I didn't do a good job of it as a student myself. Dr. Kelemen really talked to me like an adult and a peer. I remember going to get coffee with him and his wife to talk about my GRE scores and my options and feeling that I wanted to be just like the both of them. He gave me such great feedback on my writing--stuff that I still think about today. He invited the English majors to a holiday party that he and his wife hosted with friends and professors and someone was handing out stickers that said "Martin Sheen is my president" and I was like "These people are amazing. How do I hang out with people like this all the time?" Years later, when David and I were in London, Dr. Kelemen happened to be there at the same time. We met up with him a couple of his friends and went out to dinner and it was so intimidating and so cool. He has since left academia, but I am so grateful that I got to be his student. I do not have a stellar academic career--I don't say that out of false modesty--it's just true. I haven't focused on academic publishing or anything like that. But I do love teaching college students and I'm not terrible at it. And I can truly say that there is no way I would be here in this job if it weren't for him!

So those were my most memorable teachers... the ones who really made a difference in my life. I'm so grateful for them, and I'm grateful that Zuzu's first grade teacher is wonderful--so much so that Zuzu is convinced I know nothing and Ms. Williams knows everything and I don't even really mind.

(I know blog comments are nearly dead... but I'm so curious about good teachers and scary teachers and whether you went to school when kids still got paddled and whether you remember things in vivid detail from grade school the way I do--I've been told by some friends that my memory is kind of freaky. So if you have a story--tell me in the comments or on IG or share it on FB or something!)