Friday, February 19, 2010

Embracing my inner invertebrae

For some reason, the train station closest to my home has large plastic art of invertebrates all over the walls. Their latin name is listed under the huge oppressive pop art. Every time I take the train into the city, it makes me pause. What is this saying about our little town? For whatever reason, we have made animals without backbones into something beautiful and creepy. Nerd art.

There is some kind of larger message here.

I wish I could say that I am proud of the way I am handling all of this week. That I am facing adversity, sickness, hard work and selflessness effortlessly, but I simply cannot say that. When Beatrice refused to nap, and poked my face every time my eyes closed, I cried. I. Just. Want. To. Nap. That is all I could think. It reminded me of having a newborn all over again. That feeling of exhausted boredom. I love the newborn stage, don't get me wrong: unblocked and ceaseless kisses. No throwing toys at one's head. No child challenging my authority at every turn. But one of the things that surprised me the most about being a mother of a newborn was how exhausted I was, and how, well, bored I was. It was so easy to stay awake when she was kicking and being all cute, and making funny faces and stretching. That was easy. But it was like ten minutes here and there, surrounded by hours of breastfeeding combined with not really being able to sleep. It was like a kind of medieval torture. So exhausted. So mentally unstimulated. And yet here was this little person who needed mostly nothing but boob and for me to be awake. So everytime my eyes closed, it was like being proverbially poked in the cheek.

My father fought in Vietnam. He was a Navy radio man on the U.S.S. Warrington, which was sunk after being struck in the port of Danang in 1972. For two days straight, the crew fought against the flooding that two underwater explosions caused.  I remember my father telling me about those days. When I was a girl and asked him if he was ever scared, he told me that he was scared when he got knocked out of his bunk that afternoon. And that for two days, they stayed up putting bunk mattresses against doors. He remembers frantically coding here and there. I remember him saying that he fell asleep standing. Out of the entire story, being towed to the Philippines, and subsequent stories of opium dens, and running from taxi drivers, coming home looking more like a hippie than the hippies, that is what stayed with me. It is possible to be so tired that you sleep standing up.

Yesterday, I was that tired. Emotionally. Physically. Mentally.

I am so massively pregnant at this point, I lumber for everyone's whims and demands whilst muttering under my breath. Having a toddler, an almost three-year old, means that nothing is right. EVER.

"Do you want a bagel for breakfast?"
"Here is your bagel."
(Blood curdling scream.) "Not that bagel." Cue hysterics.

I don't even really know how to handle it, except how I do handle it, which is to say, "You get what you get, and you don't get upset." Unsurprisingly, that does not calm her. The crying continues louder and sadder than before. Ten minutes later, I end up having these floating images of my emaciated child and Child Protective Services coming. "She is so underfed." My only defense would be--she got what she got and she got upset.

I make a damn piece of toast with butter and cheese, which ends up uneaten because it is the wrong shape, or something.

My 32-week growth scan was yesterday, and Thor looks good. It was very strange. Do you ever have the feeling that you walk into a doctor's office and there is so much chaos going on behind the scenes that you are somehow a sad casualty of that drama? That is how I felt. Computers weren't working. One of the ultrasound techs didn't show up for work. The charts weren't updated.

I have learned some things in the past three pregnancies and being ultrasounded countless times for my boobs is that you shouldn't really ask the tech anything specific. If you are looking for reassurance, don't look for it in the person with the wand. For example, if you're tempted to ask, "Is that the brain? Does it look normal?" Just save it. Because they inevitably answer something like, "I can't really tell you anything, you have to ask the doctor." Which means you spend those next fifteen minutes convinced there is something wrong, and it is a feeling you sometimes cannot shake even when the doctor says it is okay. So, I just skip it. This time, though, I could see the little growth measurements as she checked the skull and the abdomen, and the femur. He is consistently two-three weeks ahead.

That seems good, right?

And so, the doctor came in, flustered and short. He said, "The baby is measuring big. Did you get your glucose test?" I did. It was normal. Is it bad to be big? No, he answers. Then he asked me if I had my glucose test three more times. But never does he say the baby looks good. At least, he didn't say it out of his own volition. He starts talking about how I am coming in every week from now on for NSTs. He says something highly confusing about kick counts. And I ask about inducing at 37 weeks, and he proceeds to tell me that babies born at 37 weeks die at a higher rate in the first year than babies who are carried to full-term.

Do you ever feel like someone is just missing the fucking point?

How? How do they die? What do you mean? Beatrice was born naturally at 37 weeks and she was seven pounds, two ounces. Tell me exactly what you are talking about, please. But I lay back on the ultrasound table, and keep thinking, "What the fuck is going on here?"

"But the baby is okay, right? The baby looks fine, right?"

"Yes, the baby looks fine."

He then proceeds to tell me that since I suffered a fetal demise at 38 weeks and we don't know why, doctors recommend inducing at 37 weeks, because most people who lose a baby would rather have them in NICU than not. And I am thinking, but 37 weeks IS full-term, right? Just basically a huge what the fuck? I have started this pregnancy, hell, about two months after Lucy died before I could even consider getting pregnant again with this plan in place: inducing this baby at 37 weeks. And now, I feel like I am in this impossible choice--inducing at 37 weeks and risking my baby possibly dying within the first year from some unknown lung compromise, or leaving him in there to possibly die at 38 weeks in utero. I remember being told before I saw this particular MFM that he has a brusque bedside manner, and honestly, I have never seen it before yesterday, when I desperately needed it to be gentle and kind.

I left knowing and seeing that my baby is healthy and fine. I saw him. His beautiful face. Yet, I couldn't help thinking that something is wrong. I feel sort of resentful right now of having to deal with all of this alone, without my nurse of a husband grilling doctors, calming me right there and then by arguing with the doctor. Of figuring out how to calm myself before going into an ultrasound, of thinking of all the tough questions on my feet when someone who is having a bad day doesn't realize that saying death to a dead baby mama is like cutting her heart out again. I resent not being able to put my feet up without someone asking me for something, or the dog whining, of people not realizing that when I am up, I am up and when I sit, you are shit outta luck. Because I cannot honestly leave my crippled husband and toddler child without.

I came home knowing I had to make lunch, go food shopping, return library books, empty the dishwasher, deal with a nap striker...I broke. Well, a little. I broke a little bit. And I thought of the paramecium on the wall of the train station--strange and soft, vulnerable and bright. I can only wear the vulnerability of these days.


  1. Crap I hate days like that, where the choices aren't -- for anyone. Also? Sometimes other people need spines, not you. Moving forward -- sans thumbs or spines or mammary glands -- is underrated.

    Hang tight.

  2. Oh Angie, I am willing you on,you are having such a shitty time right now, but this will pass.

  3. I'm so sorry that you are having it so rough right now. It doesn't seem fair. I feel like people like you and me, we should get a pass on crap like that doctor was dishing. Treat us with a little kindness, you know? And who the fuck uses the term "fetal demise" to a lostbabymama? Doc is lucky my husband wasn't there, he made an intern at the hospital cry for even suggesting that I give up my room to someone having "a live baby." I'm so sorry.

  4. I hope it gets better for you. That toddler thing is tough even on a good day and not pregnant. I'll send really long nap vibes to you, hopefully you can get some rest. As for the doctor, Ugh - our charts should have a special color and a large note that says "check your shit at the door, I don't need it"

  5. This is why we all need to buy a large field somewhere, build a bunch of houses on it, and all live together.

  6. That doctor of yours sounds like a quack!!! How dare he say those things to you! 37 weeks IS full term! ARGH! I hate dumb doctors! I am so sorry you have to see that guy!

  7. That doctor sounds like he needs a poke in the eye, or something.

    Hang on Angie.


  8. ugh what a hellish spot you are in right now. i have no words of wisdom. i have no secret strength to give to you. only i hear you. i understand. and i believe in your inner impossibly pliable strength.

  9. Ugh, Angie. So tough. Brings it all back for me. Angus was also measuring 3 weeks ahead the whole way along. I also got asked if I passed the GD testing. I did. He was just big.
    I'm thinking of you so much and hope Thor just decides to arrive on his own at 37 weeks. I know how tough these final weeks are and I'm here for you (now that the laptop is safely back in my hands!!)
    Much love to you.

  10. Oh, Angie. Dammit. I hate this week for you. Willing the universe to give you a better next one.

  11. Did you see Dr. H.S. today? I forget if you said it was him you were seeing or short Dr. M. I had many endless, frustrating conversations with Dr. S too. But you know what,in the end he agreed to deliver me at 36 weeks and 4 days. I don't know why some days they try to scare the bejesus out of us, and then others he seemed to have a clue of how hard it is to go through the next pregnancy. Of course he lectured me up and down but I am convinced that he wouldn't have agreed to the early delivery unless he was pretty sure things would turn out ok. I think they are just so afraid of being liable anymore that they don't want to take any chances. That said, I saw Dr. there too and he said the difference between PA Hosp and HUP is that PA Hosp like to take the whole person into consideration, including the mother's mental health whereas HUP is clinical and by the book. I think that if you don't like the plan the next time you see him then you should ask to see the head for his opinion. And tell if you are upset. She became my ally and talked to Dr. S for me a few times when I didn't have the courage.

  12. So much all at once, Angie. So tough.

    I love the invertebrate art. I'm a fish biologist, but invertebrates are cool too, especially aquatic ones. That guy in your picture looks like the kind of caddis fly larva that lives in streams and sticks sand grains together to make a tube, a house to protect the soft part of its body. These sand grain houses are actually quite beautiful and also a good metaphor, maybe? Sorry things are tough right now and you're feeling vulnerable. Wishing you comfort and peace.

  13. backing up CLC here to say i hope you can have more conversations with your doctor about the plan. with sickness and surgery and exhaustion i'm sure this wasn't the week for it, but i hope you guys will find the strength to regroup and push back. you deserve more compassion and more clarity than what you got. you deserve to feel at peace with and in control of the birth plan. meanwhile, wishing you lots of naps! xo

  14. Damn Angie, I can't believe the doc said that. It's true though, having made the decision myself to be delivered at 37 weeks, that there's no way you can truly wrap your mind around the risks until you are living it out. I think its a little different when a babe decides to arrive on her own at 37 weeks versus when the decision is made for them. With Micah, I was told the two main risks were breathing issues and feeding issues, but that I shouldn't worry too much about these. In the end, he did have feeding issues - he really couldn't latch initially. But there's no way I could wrap my mind around what that would be like until I had a hysterically screaming hungry babe at my boob who couldn't figure out how to get the milk out. But we got through and beyond it, and at the end of the day he arrived safely and that of course is all that matters. Many hugs.

  15. jeez, like thats what you need right now? sending you lots of love and hugs and all that stuff. xo

  16. Oh geesh. I don't know how you are managing with ALL of this happening at once. I'm laughing at Bea's toast being the wrong shape. But I have a horrible feeling I'll be laughing on the other side of my face about . . oooh 18 months from now. When J's toast is suddenly the wrong shape too!

    Wish I didn't live stupidly far away so that I could return library books and go food shopping on your behalf.

    And I'm SO the wrong person to be making a judgement on this but isn't 37 weeks quite close to term. When he says (brusquely) a higher rate, just how 'higher' does he mean exactly? And from what base line? But hey, I have a slightly twisted idea of 'term', basically something along the lines of anything that starts with a 3 is alright. But I know that I am probably way off with that. Hope that Sam is well enough to come with you next time. x

  17. First I have to say thats more than a brusque bedside manner. Thats no bedside manner at all.

    37 weeks IS FULL TERM. My OB decided to induce my first at 37 weeks (he was measuring large and I was very young) they didnt even test lung maturity. He was 8lb 9oz and healthy as a horse. The nurses commented that he looked "perfect" and that he didnt look "overcooked at all" thinking I was induced for being POSTdates.

    My second was stillborn at 37 weeks.

    My Monster Baby was induced at 36 +2 days. They tested lung maturity and gave me steroids to mature him up, knowing that I was beside myself and wanted. him. out. He was 8lb 3oz and also healthy as a horse.

    Now the OB that induced me at 36 weeks is the head of OB at our major hospital. He deals with the NICU, and delivers all the autopsy results.

    And in his opinion, all babies should be born at 38-39 weeks as the optimum. 37 is good too. He is of the opinion that if there is ANY reason to induce, do it. But he would NEVER suggest something that would compromise the baby's health - like I say, he is the one that has to deliver all the autopsy results when something goes wrong.

    There is nothing wrong with inducing at 37 weeks. If he doesnt agree, I'd find another doc! (but thats just me)

  18. So sorry Angie.. those comments from the doctor would have upset me so much.. he was all over the place, backing you into all kinds of corners eh?!

    I would be calling back for more reassurances.. and he shouldnt be surprised at the need for that. At all.

    Here with you..


What do you think?