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The post that took a month to write because I cannot type with one hand

July 30, 2011

Fizz, whee! Pop! Shwooo!

In the early hours of the Fourth of July, I’m sitting in bed in my house, listening to the usual ritual sounds of the neighborhood, and accompanied by the least independent person in town on this Independence Day, a 48-hour-old girl who so far thinks that sucking six drops of milk every 30 minutes is an appropriate means of celebration.

Friday, July 1, I went out for lunch with a pregnant friend, where our young waiter generously suggested withholding the raw fish eggs from my salmon skin sushi. That night, intent on developing some musculature for a delivery I now felt would come after my July 9 due date, I went for a one-mile walk in the cool evening. I was still stuffed from lunch, so dinner wisely consisted of a bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream. Twenty-four hours later, I’d be regretting my insubstantial nourishment.

My delivery anxiety insomnia led to falling asleep at 2 a.m. after watching the movie “In Bruges.” Three hours later, I awoke to a leak, the kind I so often got these days from a sneeze. I headed quickly into the bathroom, where the leak turned into a whoosh. My water, as they say, had broken. I stood in the hallway, paralyzed by indecision: Should I go tell My Young Man? Grab the bag for the hospital? Call the doctor? What comes first?

So much for laboring at home as the contractions slowly increased. Instead, we were on the way to the hospital, driven by a heroic friend who had offered to drive us, but ended up spending 7 hours coaching me through the first part of labor. Soon I was sitting at a desk in Labor and Delivery, being asked things like my work address, as if I had any concept of that at the moment. At the last second, I asked, “Oh! Could we get a room with a tub?” Of all the parts of the birth plan, I was most enthused by the idea of the tub. Forgetting, of course, that when your water breaks, baths have been thrown out with the bathwater.

In fact, having my water break threw most of the birth plan out with the bathwater. Suddenly, the cynic who had spent months saying that my birth plan would be, “Get us out of here alive,” was in tears as I watched my labor and delivery speeding out of my hands. Everything that I had read or heard about medicalization and interventions seemed to be coming true. With a risk of infection, a leisurely progression was no longer an option. My doctor, after some insistence on my part, gave me an hour to walk around the hospital and try to kick-start contractions before he started Pitocin.

Off we went: My Young Man in a wheelchair to save his strength, E and I walking, through the corridors of the fifth floor. As we walked, we mocked. Specifically, we mocked the artwork hanging in the halls. There, on display, were portraits of babies so kitsch, so inappropriate, that they were what Robert Mapplethorpe would have created were he trying to elbow in on Anne Geddes’ concession. Toddlers kissing on the lips? Check. Two elementary-aged boys shirtless, in overalls, staring directly at the viewer in an erotic take on Huck Finn? Uncomfortably check.

On our return, my contractions were thoroughly mild and irregular, and I was dilated less than a low-flow bottle nipple. Pitocin was the soup du jour.

“You’re really anxious,” said Perky Nurse.

Really? Is anxiety a unusual characteristic for first-time mothers in labor and delivery? Because it seems to me that anxiety is exactly the called-for response in such a situation. As Adam said to Eve, “I don’t know how big this thing’s gonna get.”

Along with the Pitocin, of course, came the fetal monitor, the IV, and assorted other bondage regalia that kept me within a two-foot radius of the bed. I didn’t know how lucky I was. The contractions started, and I had my own cheering squad as E rubbed my back and My Young Man looked on from the wheelchair, offering encouragement or holding my hand. By moving the IV stand about, I was able to sit on a rubber ball or get on my hands and knees to weather the contraction. They hurt, and I was psyched: I was doing this. I could do this.

Another, older, nurse was unimpressed. “You keep moving the fetal monitor and we can’t get the baby’s vitals,” Nurse Scoldy said.

Oh, I’m sorry. Am I doing this wrong? I had no idea I would be graded for my performance. How about if the people getting paid worry about the equipment and the person whose internal organs are being gripped by the hand of Lucifer focuses on staying alive?

Not only was I doing it wrong, but I wasn’t doing it fast enough. As the contractions became increasingly painful — funny thing, the way Pitocin works like contraction methamphetamine — nurses and doctor began the chant: “Epidural! Epidural!”

Now, I already knew I was probably going to have an epidural. While I had danced on the curb of natural childbirth for a few weeks, that plan vanished around Month 9 when E pointed out, “I don’t know, I figured, when I have a headache, I take an aspirin.”

At the thought of an epidural, I reacted in my normal, rational manner: I burst into tears. This was too soon, wasn’t it? I’d seen the movie. I was headed straight to C-town.

Everyone had told me not to worry about the epidural, that having an enormous needle jabbed into my spinal cavity would come as a relief from the pain of contractions. I will never speak to everyone again. The epidural was terrifying, both in the sharp jab and the terror that I had to hold absolutely still during said jab. (Note to anesthesiologists, even sweet Irish ones: If you don’t want me to jerk my body about during the epidural, you might want to give a heads up as the needle is nearing terra firma.)

Also: The epidural didn’t really work. Sure, there was about an hour of sweet relief from agony, and then the creeping sensation that my left side was feeling every contraction once again. Only now, thanks to the epidural, I wasn’t allowed to do so much as sit upright or roll over. The next four hours were a cycle of the following:

Contraction pain
Increased medication
Minor relief
Dilation check
Concern that dilation had not progressed
Threats of C-section

Don’t rinse; repeat.

By 9:30 p.m., I’d been in labor for about 15 hours (only 12 with contractions), I was dilated to five centimeters, and my OB was officially Done With This Shit. Either I was going to spread ‘em or he was going to cut ‘em. When I didn’t spread ‘em, he took his hand, jabbed it inside, and manually dilated me another two centimeters. Sounds brutal? To me, it was cruel to be kind. Miraculously, as the C-section room was prepared (something a nurse later told me she did as a kind of superstitious hedge to give me the delivery I wanted), my cervix opened up and greeted the world with an open-mouthed smile. It was time to push.

Now, I’m not the kind of person with enormous confidence in my physical abilities. Maybe it began when the boys in third grade made fun of me for running with “chicken wings.” Maybe it is a result of my complete lack of interest in physical exertion. Either way, the last two months of pregnancy were consumed with the idea that I would be physically unable to push this baby out. I imagined a room full of medical practitioners shaking their heads in disgust and saying, “Forget it. We’ll do it.”

In fact, pushing was the most pleasurable, thrilling part of labor for me. I know plenty of women who have had C-sections, and they are to a person stronger and more determined than me. Their deliveries were heroic. But for me, getting through a vaginal delivery was rewriting the narrative I had constructed for myself as a wimp. With each push, I could hear my Czech nurse saying, “Yes! Another one just like that!” I felt like Abby Wambach head-butting a soccer ball. I was all-powerful, and I could get free drinks in any lesbian bar in the country. Or maybe I just had good kegel muscles.

Either way, 45 minutes of pushing felt like seconds, as I experienced the sensation of extreme challenge followed immediately by extraordinary relief, followed by a tiny little creature with a mop of black hair and dark eyes looking up at me as if I had something for her. Apparently, I did. But nowhere near as much as she had for me.

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“9 1/2 Weeks”: Way better than 39 weeks

June 30, 2011

Well, we’re ready. I’m ready. There’s the hand-painted changing table, dressed up after rescuing it from Craigslist, and the purple rug bought at Saks’s going-out-of-business sale, and the little bookcase painted with the faces of Eloise.

We’re registered at the hospital. Drivers have been lined up. Yep, I’m ready in every way to have this baby — except emotionally.

When you’ve carefully donor shopped, spent a small fortune on installing this fetus, jabbed needles into — well, ambivalence seems the one luxury you can’t afford. And yet, I insist. I will have my pregnancy and my ambivalence, too.

There’s the minor ambivalence, or as I like to think of it, the opportunity cost of parenting. I imagine it as, yes, the birth of a life I’ve dreamed of, but also the disappearance of a self that I knew and loved, even if I didn’t always like her. Now the truth is, I’ve had plenty of friends who had children and were not transformed into completely different beings. They retained their humor, their irreverence, their blistering vocabularies. I hope that I will, too. But from this side of the chasm, I imagine my current self disappearing in a hospital room, with some new, unknown self emerging. I’m sure I’ll like the new self, but I may miss the old one.

The bigger ambivalence, however, revolves around the actual, corporeal emergence of this life into this world. I want to meet my daughter. It’s so bizarre to me that we have spent so much time together, that I have willingly surrendered stomach, kidney and diaphragm space to her comfort, yet I have no idea what she looks like or if she will share my appreciation for the “My Dinner with Andre” episode of “Community.” What if she insists that “Dancing in the Dark” is Springsteen’s masterpiece? Can I allow her to develop her own terrible opinions?

The thing is, in order to meet her, I apparently have to birth her. And this has me stone-cold terrified. Not just nervously anticipating the process, but in a state where I haven’t fallen asleep before 3 a.m. in weeks. Fearing every last aspect of it: How bad will this pain be? What is my actual tolerance for pain? Am I strong enough to push? Will I have a massive stroke? Will I hear the doctor’s exasperated sigh as he says, “She clearly can’t do it. Get me the scalpel.” Lots of women get epidurals, get Pitocin, get Caesareans. Yet somehow I have absorbed all the judgment that is proclaimed from every corner of the Internet, usually preceded by the phrase, “I would never judge any woman’s choices, but …” I can recognize all that self-satisfied, smug female competitiveness, but I can’t expel it.

Last week, My Young Man pointed out my swollen feet to the OB, who was concerned it could be a sign of pre-eclampsia (as opposed to, say, carrying around an extra 35 pounds in 95-degree heat). He proposed inducing labor, and I felt my skin go cold, my ears distancing his words as if they were coming from down the hall. I went to have blood tests, urine tests, etc. The resultant diagnosis: I have swollen feet. This week, I expressed my anxiety about the baby’s slowed kicking to my doctor, and again he offered to induce me. I set him straight.

“I am a neurotic person. I will continue to be a neurotic person. If you are concerned about my health or the baby’s health, let’s talk induction. Otherwise, you’re going to have to let me live with my anxiety and let the pregnancy take its natural course.”

I felt very bold. And then, of course, I questioned my statement for the next several hours, trying to parse his facial expressions to make sure that neither I nor the baby was in any danger. I’m pretty sure blowing a gasket is not a fatal condition.

So for now, I wait. And stew. And marvel at the idea that things could be perfectly normal one minute, and everything could change the next.

Red face, orange fingers

April 10, 2011

Look, I made it six and a half months without a full-on freakout. That has to count for something. What do you people want from me? Please stop looking at me like that.

It all started 10 days ago. We had been frantically trying to pull the house together to put it on the market so that we could put an offer in on what may be my dream house: a mid-century modern so cool I will have to start wearing foundation garments and drinking in order to impress it. But that Wednesday, my realtor pal called: They had an offer on the house. We were disappointed and a little relieved. We were only selling our house because of this sexy, sexy house with the big … backyard. Now we could relax. I could paint Eloise on the wall in our home. We wouldn’t be moving at 8 months pregnant.

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I buried the lede

March 27, 2011

Reasons why I suck, #942:

I forgot to mention that we found out the gender. And, oh yeah, it’s a girl.

Which would have been such a delightful post and now is probably thoroughly anticlimactic.

ANYway, let’s pretend this never happened, shall we? Here is the post that we will all pretend I posted at the moment of discovery:

“See those two white lines?” the ultrasound goddess asks me, as My Young Man and I watch a 3-D movie that TOTALLY would have beaten “Avatar” had it not been woefully overlooked by the Oscars.

“Are those the testicles?” I ask, having the perfect boy name in mind if not any idea of how one actually raises a boy (I can barely date one).

“No, those are labia,” she says, and I am simultaneously overjoyed and wondering if perhaps I should have taken Advanced Biology senior year after all.

It’s a girl! Farewell to our perfect boy name (Simon — come on, it’s got cool British Jewish rocker dude written all over it) and hello to fun clothes shopping!

The truth is — and yes, I know exactly how ignorant I am in predicting anything at all about this unknown human swimming where my bladder once roamed freely — I did want a girl, and everyone who knows me knew it. But they might not have known why.

I have a new appreciation for boys, since I teach about 18 of them on a daily basis and find them much more direct and less crisis-prone than the girls in my class. Their interpersonal dealings are more straightforward, and once you can get them to stop hitting each other, you can have real conversations.

But I don’t have the foggiest notion of how to make a boy, particularly of how to make a boy who respects girls, who doesn’t see them as other, or lesser, or even special.

I do, however, know the pitfalls that can befall my own gender, and I dream of enacting my own kind of social experimentation with a little girl. I imagine doing with her what I am currently doing with my female students, as I deftly steer them away from the cheerleader/in-crowd books (there is actually a series called “The Clique,” and I want to hit like a boy) and toward the classics. I’m sneaky with my manipulation, giving them books with a little romance, but books in which the girl ultimately makes decisions independent of whatever boy is in the picture.

Also, as previously mentioned, I really love the book “Eloise” and want to paint the title character on a wall. That may be just a little too much gender fluidity with a male child.

So, if all things go smoothly, I’ll bring home a girl child and install her in a turquoise room, with the perfect purple snowsuit that has been handed down to me, and raise that liberated child until she hits the age of four and starts demanding tutus and tiaras. Which I will be happy to buy her, as long as they come in camouflage. Or with zippers. Maybe a little anarchy symbol?

World, I can’t wait until you meet Guillermo, er, Guillerma.

Normative camouflage

March 27, 2011

It’s unsettling. Not the part where you have a baby inside you when you know you’re infertile, but how quickly your brain can adjust from being infertile to thinking of yourself as fertile. Sometimes I have to catch myself when looking at friends’ babies and thinking, “Oh, yeah, mine will be a steady sleeper, because I was.” Not only is prediction a rather faulty exercise, but, oh yeah, I forgot — we don’t share any genetic material, other than what she may be scraping off my uterus with the heel of her tiny, tiny foot.

I also forget how old I am. I see other pregnant women and I think, “Oho! I’m pregnant, they’re pregnant, we’re all going through the same thing.” And then I catch myself, and imagine their thoughts: “Jesus, that wrinkly woman is so fat she looks pregnant.”

So it’s a weird, floaty place to live, going to the doctor for your six-month checkup, hearing everything is copacetic, and later remembering just what it took to get to this state. Last week I threw out my remaining estrogen patches. They had sat next to my toilet for the past six months, not enough to donate to anyone but still of some value, particularly of the superstitious variety. If I didn’t throw them out, after all, I wouldn’t need them again, right?

Apparently these are the stages of going from total infertility to childbirth. 1) Stress, fear and exhaustion over getting pregnant; 2) Stress, fear and exhaustion over not losing said pregnancy; 3) Stress, fear and exhaustion over keeping said pregnancy safe inside until medical science has come up with a pain-free method of infant extraction.

It’s also unsettling to me how much I enjoy feeling like a “normie.” Not unusual, not alternative, but going through the same thing so many do and thinking the same cliched thoughts — and enjoying their very banality.

Among my newly beloved tropes:

The suckitude of maternity clothes. Thus far I have bought one pair of pants, a sweater and a skirt. The skirt was a particularly practical yet unfortunate choice. It’s denim — I never owned a denim skirt before, it seemed kind of granola and useful — and below the knees. And now I like to play a game with strangers: Am I pregnant or Modern Orthodox? The game works better with the visual, in which I pull my top up and down to expose my belly — something you seldom see Yeshiva University alumnae doing.

Heartburn. There is nothing like waking from a sound sleep because an eruption of carbolic acid has hit the back of your tongue. Except for falling back asleep and waking up 10 minutes later to the same sensation.

Making my boyfriend rub my feet, and reminding him it truly is the least he could do.

Fitting in: No wonder most of the world does it.

On the other hand, there are some clear signs that I am not yet a fully blended Frappucino. For one, I cannot bring myself to muster any interest in strollers, breast bumps and baby cages (think your swings, your pack-and-plays, your cribs — every one a cage of some sort). It requires some level of graduate study to parse out what one should buy, and yet, it is singularly intellectually unstimulating. This is why there are friends who have gone first, who will ever so kindly point to what I need to buy and I will fork over the credit card, grateful to put my brain power back to important things, like the perfect way to paint Eloise on a bedroom wall — and whether or not a cupcake today will trigger gestational diabetes at next month’s exam.

High pressure front

February 28, 2011

This is a tale of two forms of pressure.

The first came from my lovely, kind cousin Ronna, who sent an e-mail with the following information: “Want to let you know, if you don’t write something today, you will have skipped the month of February.”

Obviously, that is not true, as I have written several blog entries in February that never made it from my cerebral cortex to my keyboard. But it was the call to action I needed.

The other high pressure apparently came from my heart, or the blood rushing through it. It was around the first of February that my doctor informed me that my blood pressure was up, for the second visit in a row.

And because my ego is just that porous, I was embarrassed. I teared up. This had to be my fault. After all, I’m overweight. Who did I think I was, to assume that once I conceived, I could actually carry this little child-in-the-making? Now I was going to kill my kid, and kill myself on top of it.

I might have overreacted a wee bit.

I looked it up on a blood pressure chart. My BP was on the road to high blood pressure, not there yet. Moreover, my OB informed me that he had 105-pound women with blood pressures that spiked once they were pregnant, and that returned to normal immediately after delivery. He also told me that there was not a connection between such early blood pressure issues and pre-eclampsia, one of the two terrors I had picked to accompany me through pregnancy.

So he stuck me on Labetalol, twice a day. More meds. My house looks like two 85-year-olds live in it. On my last visit to the OB, my blood pressure was completely back to normal. So I asked if I could stop taking the pills.

They laughed at me.

Fuckers.

Something has invaded my body and it shows no signs of leaving

January 15, 2011

As follows are my assorted thoughts for the day, along with the fervent hope that I will update more regularly.

Pregnancy for morons:

Today I am 15 weeks pregnant. I received my weekly congratulatory e-mail from the scientific powerhouse of BabyCenter.com, which offered the following helpful question: “What do you do if you’re waking up hungry?”

Me, I like to eat breakfast. What’s your solution?

Caftan, Party of One and a Half:

The latest in maternity fashion

The latest in maternity fashion

Since I was “well-rounded” to start off, I don’t have a precious little baby bump. Rather, I have an odd growth in my upper torso, which I can only assume is perma-bloating, since I don’t generally gain weight there. My breasts can now open doors for me.

As of Wednesday morning, I had three remaining pairs of pants that fit. As of Wednesday afternoon, I had two. Blame it on the waste-of-time job training I went to, where tables were crammed so closely to the wall that a chalkboard reached out and grabbed my pants with its chalk tray, ripping a hole right across the ass on the one day I chose to go commando (what, your laundry is always done on schedule?). I yanked my tightening coat down over my bare, pasty and growing ass and slunk home.

The fact that I had to fight to keep from bursting into tears in the middle of the conference? I blame it on hormones. Or maybe the fact that I now had two pairs of pants left to wear.

Still in there, little fetus?

After a month flying solo, I have a doctor’s appointment Tuesday to find out what damage I have done to the kidlet. I’m pretty sure Guillermo’s still kicking, though, as evidenced by the fact that I not only can no longer eat onions (ingredient in every food I have ever loved), but cannot enter a room where an onion resides. In fact, I’m pretty sure the states of California and Georgia are now off-limits.

In theory, we can find out the sex soon. So far, we vote no. That decision is subject to change.

Feeding the gossip monster:

Everyone at work now knows I’m engaged. I’m dreading the moment when the pregnancy becomes known as well, and have no idea how to make that information public. They can’t think it’s a shotgun wedding at age 43, can they?

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