Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Stress. Test.

I figured it was about time to call Children's and let them know It's Alive (still) and what plan of action they'd suggest, if any. They mused on it for a few days, and my point-guy called me back. I wish I could remember the exact phrasing because it was priceless, but in a nutshell he said they'd conferred, and I should deliver at the hospital next door without the teams of Children's specialists standing around because they'd like me to have as normal a birth experience as possible. At which point I burst out laughing.

"C," I said, because we're on a first-name basis by this point, my genetics guy and I, "You know this whole experience is going to be so fuc . . . er, messed up that another 10-20 people milling about really won't throw me."

"I know, " he said sheepishly, and I could see the grin on his face. "I know."

So there it is, the birth plan: I will give birth next door. The NICU is staffed with people from Children's anyhoo, and they will be informed that if something looks off do not spend precious time trying to figure it out yourself because trust me, you won't be able to. Put the kid on oxygen, dial the numbers we're going to provide you, and get him next door.

Oh, and the OB said they are not, repeat NOT, letting me go beyond my due date. I will have a baby by some day in Mid May.


Today was my supposed to be my 32w ultrasound, but due to me walking out of the MFM's office after being kept there for over two hours at my 28w appointment, and then having my rescheduled appointment cancelled and again rescheduled due to snow, it sorta turned into my 33w ultrasound.

And I was a nervous wreck.

My last ultrasound with Maddy was around 32 weeks. They checked her growth (by now it had slowed down, she was falling into the previous week and people were double checking my LMP wondering if I had that right and making those blow-off-ish comments about "well, you're small, your babies are small"), her heartrate (within normal limits, but on the low end), they noted that the bright spots on her bowel were gone, and sent me on my way. It was the last I saw Maddy until birth. Between this ultrasound and birth, I notified my OB on at least two occasions that she was moving very slowly. I actually had to do kick counts, and she was making them, but barely. No one seemed concerned. I don't blame them.

I'm now at 33w and am fully expecting to be greeted by horrible news at these growth scans: the baby's heart looks big, his legs are crossed (a sign of neurological damage, it turns out), his growth has stopped. After having umpteen ultrasounds this pregnancy during which I kept my fingers lightly on my rip cord, today my fist was clenched around the ring and the wind was rushing through my ears. All "looked fine" to the doctor and the baby is just about out of breach (where he's been camped out for about three weeks, spinning around, standing up, but always head up) in a funny c-shape. (Does the shape signify something?) His growth is still measuring consistently ahead about a week, his heart-rate is normal in the mid-high range, where Bella's was.

And then I had my first Non-Stress Test.

And the baby, who moves constantly, spinning, twisting, kicking, punching -- he only just moved out of breach last week -- keeping me up at night, making kick counts a moot point because he's seemingly in constant motion -- fell asleep.

I gamely tried to paste on a smile when the nurses poked and said "This always happens, cheeky things!" and so forth with the light "Nothing Bad Ever Happens!" banter, but all I could think as I tried not to cry was, This was it. This is the beginning of the end, the start of the bad news, the first sign. Maybe this is the first day where I think, huh, he's slowed down. Maybe he'll still be slow next week, and the week after.

And what happens when you have Epic Fail on the NST is they take you to a room for yet another ultrasound to check movement and heartrate. And the second the ultrasound probe hit my stomach for the second time that morning, he moved. Not just moved, twisted. Kicked, punched his hands, Yawned. He was fine.

I was a fucking basket case.

By the time I hit the parking lot, he had shifted a bit out of his C so his ass was more in the middle of my stomach, and by the time I sat down for lunch he was doing a circus routine. My fingernails are still cutting into my hand where my fist is still in a tight ball around the ring, and my opposite thumb is desperately trying to feel out the outline of the Eject button. I can't believe I have to do this twice weekly. Has anyone ever stroked out because of an NST? Isn't this what they're supposed to prevent?

I have, believe it or not, still refused to let myself think about what might happen some day in Mid May, either good or bad. I figure that thinking about either outcome is a waste of time. I don't do this to spare me then -- there is no way that not thinking about it will make it hurt less -- but to spare me now. Do I want this? I think that goes without saying. But I'm not succumbing to hope or gut feelings or depression.

We'll all know, soon enough.

Friday, March 19, 2010

You Know Your Face is All Covered with Your Birthday Cake

Bella's class has rotating weekly jobs -- you know, line leader, bell ringer, conflict resolution manager (remind me to tell you about that one some time, bless these Quaker schools!) -- and this week she's on calendar/date detail. Which means, oh, right about now, she's informing her class of 20-something kids and two teachers that today is her mom's birthday and she's turning 41. This after a somewhat serious conversation where I told her that not all adults like to talk about how old they are, so it's not always polite to ask them or announce it if she knows. But in Bella's world, birthdays are for cake! and celebrating and presents! and cake! and seriously Mom, what's the big deal?


I've always been fairly low key about my birthday, save maybe for grad school where for some reason everybody loved birthdays and really got into them. There were big elaborate dinner parties and cake and shitloads of presents (how on earth did we afford all that stuff? I mean, they weren't big things, but somewhere out there is a picture of me a few sheets away wearing a brand new raquetball glove and holding a Sting CD) and maybe we just needed the excuse -- especially in winter, and March in Wisconsin was still winter, don't be fooled -- to drink and eat and have an evening off. I've always requested a locale where I can watch basketball because I'm riveted to the tournament, and in fact I'm now remembering that six years ago, pregnant with Bella, at my direction, I met a bunch of people at a sports bar for my birthday dinner.

My brithday fell almost a month to the day after Maddy's death and did nothing but remind me of time passing and how I had experienced massive fail at building a family in my thirties. I remember I made a cake, but requested no presents, and I'm pretty sure I ate said cake at the counter, like the song says. I also had this memory of telling my therapist that I made a cake and her eyebrows shooting up, as if to say, "Well hey now, that's impressive! Not bad, you grieving mom, you!" The following year was more or less the same, staring the big one in the eye and wondering if I'd ever get my life back.

Last year was bad. I spent the day -- a chilly, damp one -- moving my grandmother into a home. (She died five months later.) I think I passed on the presents again, but there was chocolate stout cake (or as Bella calls it, "Beer Cake"). I then sunk into a few weeks of 40-Funk. I remember going to New York shortly after my birthday and having our friend ask me at dinner how I was doing, and replying -- with a big nasty grin -- "Horrible!" And then having to explain to myself. Nothing like feeling an entire decade has slipped out from under your feet with very little to show for it. And my husband chimes in, wait a fucking minute, how about that little PhD thing? Or the, you know, getting married thing? Or buying a house thing? (And buying another?) Or having Bella thing? And I nod, but it all seems to get swallowed by the big ugly on the eve of 38. I guess I thought if that turned out ok, I'd have two years to get a great job and visit the pyramids and make up for it all. Or something.

Sometimes you need to hit bottom to give your feet something firm to rest on while you bend your knees and push upwards.

It's almost as if once 40 was in the rear-view mirror, and the mourning period was over, I felt like the monkey was off my back, without the big date looming over me. And a month or two later, I had this crazy idea that maybe we should try this project one more time. I think just the trying was good enough for me, because now I could use 40 as an excuse if it didn't work. I could try everything, but if it all failed and they came back and shrugged their shoulders and sadly mouthed, "Forty," I could shrug mine and say, "Well that's ok, I expected it." And go home knowing I tried but it was just too late. In retrospect, I really may have expected that to happen. Because I was a bit shocked and caught off guard when it didn't.

Today, in a departure from years past, my husband and daughter are taking me out to dinner at a very lovely restaurant (where we will all pray that my daughter behaves and finds something on the menu that she will eat). Again, I am making my own cake, but I love to bake and birthdays are great excuses so no pity there. And I know because I've seen the amazon boxes arrive that there are two gifts -- an electronic gizmo that you set on your counter and throw meat and vegetables in and by the next evening it has made your dinner and mopped your floors and weeded your garden; and a game for the Wii that starts with FIFA and ends with 2010 and makes me all giggly. There will be craploads of basketball in the interim. And it's absolutely beautiful outside, with an expected high of 72.


A few years ago Niobe introduced me to Bishop Allen's The News From Your Bed. It became my song. It still is my song, especially today. In fact, back when you could make your own ringtones, I spliced this song so that my ringtone started with the verse "When Your Family Calls, You Make Nice to them all/Assure them you're fine and you're great." And then because every mac product melts into a pile of worthless dung when I touch it, I synced my phone and lost my ringtone along with a ton of notes and other stuff, and I can't recreate it. Just writing about it now makes my blood pressure skyrocket and my eyes brim, I get so angry. (My ringtone is now the tornado music from the "Wizard of Oz," which when you think about it is appropriate for just about any call I could possibly receive on my cell phone.) But it's still in my music mix, and I still cling to it like a security blanket. I may not have a lot of friends anymore to go crazy with, and I can pour my own cakes (and drinks) but I've got a few people still looking out after me, and that? Will do.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


I know I have less to say these days, and I'm not sure if it's because I don't have much to say about what's happening (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) or because I don't have much to say about grief. I'm not sure it's either, frankly, but some kind of realignment of mindspace and priorities and wordsmithery.

I have a post up on Glow In The Woods about being online -- and why I'm still here, though not as frequently as I once was. Hopefully it makes a bit of sense.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Wishes and Worries

Bella: Mom, what happens if Baby B[rother] comes home from the hospital?

Me: Then we'll be very happy.

Bella: What if he doesn't?

Me: Then we'll be very sad.

Bella: (after a pause) Is there another thing that can happen? Or is that it?

Me: Great question. At this point it's one or the other, I'm afraid. He could stay in the hospital for a bit, I suppose, but eventually even then he'd have to come home or not.

Bella: Oh.


At some point since returning to school from Christmas break (I need to label it as such because we've had a plethora of mini holidays -- one consisting of a whole damn week -- since due to snow and previously scheduled days off) Bella's class made "wish clouds." I'm not sure what the impetus was here, but up they went hanging on a clothesline -- puffy clouds bearing the children's names and from each dangling a few smaller clouds with wishes, handprinted and designed by the students. I finally had a moment to check hers out last week, and found it illuminating. One stated, "I wish I could meet you" and had a picture of the big dipper on it. Huh. From what I gather, this is quite literal -- she would like to travel to space (she really doesn't know about constructs of heaven so I'm not alarmed. Yet). Another said, "I wish my campus was more beautiful," which I found a wee bit disturbing because for an urban campus, I do find hers quite beautiful. We had a longer discussion about this where I explained right now, sans leaves and green which only exposes trash and blocks of dirt-colored unmelted snow, her 19th century enclave replete with two graveyards isn't horribly attractive. But that I'm sure come spring, the same space will be exploding in bulbs and flowering trees and green and will look like a small oasis. I'm not sure I sold her on this point.

The third cloud said, "I hope my brother doesn't pinch me." Which is part of a long, long story that involves our collective family's initial disappointment with the sex of the current fetus in residence. Which I should probably expand upon some time. Which I also should -- at the very least -- note we've all gotten over and are fully on board with team baby brother. But -- cute I suppose. And a bit forward looking, even for her.

And dangling there was a fourth cloud, without a wish at all. It said, "I miss my baby sister." And it damn near brought me to my knees in the middle of a screaming, crazed bunch of five and six year olds.


Bella's class is currently in the midst of learning about the world wherein parents come in and explain some fun things about a certain country, and then they make the flag and locate the country on a map and partake in said "fun things" -- food, dances, more food, crafts, and food. Nothing says globalization like food. Last week she came tripping home excited to show me a very small box. "They're Worry Dolls, from Guatemala," she said lining up the matchstick figures on the counter from small to big. In her best lecture voice, she explained that you tell the doll a worry before going to bed, put the doll under your pillow, and in the morning your worry will be gone.

Where on earth have these been for the last three years of my life? I could use a whole fucking city of these things!

"Do you want one mom?"
"YES!" I practically shouted while (almost) grabbing one off the counter.
"What worry do you have?" asked Bella curiously, to which I stupidly responded, "Hahaha, I have so many! What will I choose?"

And then I noticed the slight look of alarm on her face. Maybe that wasn't a great thing to tell your five-year-old, that mom is worried about Haiti and Chile and global warming and whether her brother will live beyond May. "I mean, I worry that the alarm won't go off in the morning!" She seemed to relax at that.

That night she whispered her worry to her doll, and I missed it (slightly intentionally) only catching the last word: "Florida." Where, it turns out, she is headed for a mini-vacation over spring break with Mr. ABF and MIL while I bask in the glory of an empty house with loads of sleep-in and movie time for moi punctuated by ungodly early mandatory parents' meetings for things like spring t-ball. I digress: I wonder what on earth she's worried about? That Disney will inexplicably shut down?

I walked in this morning and cheerily said, "So! Did the worry doll work?"

"NO! I'm still thinking about it," she said rather pissed-off-edly, while pulling the doll unceremoniously from under her pillow. "Did yours go away?"

"Yes!" I said. (I didn't really play along. Way too tempting.) "I'm using your doll tonight," she decided.

Oh, if only there were enough dolls for all the worries. I think I'd resemble the Princess and the Pea, with a pillow stacked high on wee matchsticks.

But she's growing up, my little girl: some things you can't wish for, and some worries linger 'til morning.


If there were enough dolls: I have somehow ticked up to the eve of "30w." I'm amazingly still balancing on that tightrope with the shark-infested "fear" tank on the one side, and the molten-hot acidic pot of "hope" on the other, my toes dipping in neither.

I've come to realize that a lot of people use the term "expecting," as in "Oh! Are you expecting?" (Which superficially is quite hilarious, seeing as I look as though I'm due next week. To hell, people.) And which I internalize as, "No. We're actually not expecting much of anything. I am pregnant, though." And usually leads to some awkward conversation that I try and shut down fairly quickly. I think a lot of parents from Bella's class either know the whole story or are really picking up on the vibe, because they've been remarkably and blessedly silent and free from dumb chit-chat and stupid questions . . . so far. Phew. But I'm wondering, when exactly did this turn of phrase come to enter the pregnancy lexicon? For some reason I find it hard to imagine that centuries ago they were using a similar turn of phrase when infant and maternal mortality was more norm than I'd care to consider, but they were big on euphemism. Maybe they were all expecting the other very bad scenario, so it was a pleasant surprise when it didn't happen.

The appointments are now going by in a blur, and I'm already up to every-other-week at the OB, and am on the cusp of my bi-weekly visits to the MFM. The theme of the last month has been "Spatial Movement," and while some days I don't feel kicking per se, I do feel as though someone is sitting on a desk chair and swiveling around in my midsection, occasionally tipping feet up or stretching up hands or falling out of the chair completely (not realizing that copy machine he thinks he's putting his ass on is really my bladder).

I have yet to purchase anything, nor will I. I learned from Bella that one really needs nothing, and from Maddy that one really doesn't want much to clean up should things go south. Diapers and a car seat do come in handy with live infants, and there's a big box store between our house and the hospital. If Baby comes home, Mr. ABF can stop on the way and pick them up. Sadly, I'm not very long for the name-game either -- it usually disintegrates fairly rapidly into "Haha, let's name him [fill in the blank name that sounds like something from Hobbit/Star Wars/generic WWII film/bad contemporary teen drama program]!" or finding alternative ethnic-sounding names for the dogs. After swearing up and down on a stack that I would not consider the boy names from either Bella or (especially) Maddy, they're back on the list because, well, we really don't have a list. I'm sure like the girls he'll be "Baby Boy" for 48 hours and then we'll land on something and hopefully it won't be too crazy. Like Angie said, it's very hard to imagine this guy. I can't see him, I can't fathom that he'll ever come home and be anything other than a pipe dream.

And I'm not so far gone that I'm going to wish for anything.


Because February usually sucks in toto: We had a million snow days. February was an educational loss, unless there's something to be learned from Mario and please tell me what that might be. Max had ACL surgery. He's going great and his recovery is ahead of schedule. I had to do the Heimlich on Mr. ABF. For real. Please refresh yourself on this -- we were both calm as cucumbers and it worked like a charm (even with me very pregnant, and him quite a bit taller to begin with) and neither of us freaked out . . . until the next day. When we went through all the stupid things that could've happened, but didn't. Anyway, go look it up and remember. You never know. And finally, after experiencing some bizarro drops in heartrate and blood pressure (for someone with historically low HR/BP) my father is getting a pacemaker next week. I'll take whatever wishes/prayers you have to give, but really our main concern is hospital-induced infection because that seems to be going around and is likely what could go wrong with a minor, more-or-less "outpatient" procedure.

Hope you're well.