Monday, October 25, 2010


I spent half of yesterday in the Labor & Delivery ward again. I couldn't feel the baby moving during the morning, and by 1:15 was a basket case. Pat had me call the doctor and ask what to do, and he wanted me to go in and be monitored. Of course, by the time we arrived at the L&D ward, the baby was squirming. By the time they had me hooked to the monitors, the baby was squirming so hard and persistently that they could not get a baseline for his heartrate, and we had to spend extra time there until he finally calmed down enough for them to do so.

My own blood pressure was bad. The systolic and diastolic seem to be headed in opposite directions... the higher the top number climbs, the lower the bottom number dives. The nurse, who has 20+ years' experience in this department, called it "weird." That's never a great sign.

I can not WAIT to get this show on the road. I have a doctor's appointment today and will see if we can do this sooner than later; with my blood pressure as spotty as it has been, every additional symptom freaks me out so badly that I am afraid the wait will damage MY health.

So. Now I'm ruefully concerned that I might not be able to vote in the upcoming election, because timing is such that it might become an issue. This baby has been to vote twice, and I thought it would be three times... but maybe, maybe not.

Thus I feel the need to do a good, political deed -- not muckraking, not mud-slinging, not ranting for once -- but just providing a few key facts.

Are you American, or do you have American friends? If so, read this -- or give them this link to read -- before the big day rolls around.

Friday, October 22, 2010


For those of you already connected to me by Facebook, I apologize for the overlap.

But. OMG.

Three days ago, the baby dropped. I had contractions all day, like 20+ of them, and was a little freaked out. They were short and irregular ones, but clearly things were moving somehow. And then -- all of a sudden, I could breathe, because he stopped kicking me directly in the lungs, and I could eat, because I had a little more tummy room. Hooray! I can see that he's lower by looking at my profile... where before, my torso looked like a capital D, now it kind of looks like a lowercase b. Yes. But of course, now I waddle like a Weeble (yes, it was bad before but now only a duck would consider it normal) and my taint aches and all that stuff that happens when you have a baby's head bonking on your cervix (not quite, but close). I can feel my pelvic bones stretching apart... too creepy, but also too, too awesome.

Also contributing to the feeling of OMG ZOOOOM! I am showing much more definite signs of pre-eclampsia now: my blood pressure is remaining high with very high spikes (150/110 is the prizewinner so far), and I seem to be spilling protein into my urine. Pre-eclampsia is the leading cause of maternal and infant death in the U.S. (and much of the world), so my doctor is treating it seriously. We are monitoring carefully, and...

...labor is going to be induced early. As early as a couple days, or as late as a couple weeks, but I am going to have my baby before his due date.

This is not TOO scary. At 36 weeks gestation, the baby is almost full term (37 weeks is considered term.) He is making breathing movements with his lungs, which is a terrific sign. He is big, heavy, and vigorous, and at his weekly (now twice-weekly) non-stress tests, he is performing like a champ.

I didn't really favor induction, because in fat women (and I am indisputably a fat woman) it tends to start a spiral of interventions ending in unnecessary C-sections; however, my doctor is totally on-board with trying to avoid unnecessary surgery for me. My concern is the hideous scarring to which I tend to be prone... not for vanity's sake, but because my insurance cuts out 6 weeks after the baby arrives and I can't afford infections or complications. But I find I am at peace with, even excited about, this change in plans.

For one thing, my doctor is on board with my birth plan and even made changes to it to help me reduce the chances of needing episiotomy/experiencing bad tearing. Thank you, best doctor ever! For another thing... well, I am REALLY uncomfortable now and my shoulders dislocate every night when I sleep (I did not really need all the extra relaxin in my system) and I am tired of my hands being asleep when I wake up, and all that. And much more excitingly, I cannot wait to hold my son.

Cannot. Wait.

My doctor put me on bed-rest, which means I am mostly confined to sitting (with my feet up as much as possible) and queening it about, telling my poor husband (who is beginning to panic) what to do and to do it NOW and what I want for dinner. This is hard for me: I am a born DIY'er and although a lot of the time "it" doesn't get done if I don't feel like it, I've always been happy with that. It's horribly unjust that the nesting impulse, the necessity to nest, and bed-rest have coincided. Everyone let's feel sorry for poor Pat... and I am serious. That, plus my whining and bitching, would have put me over the edge by now if I were him. He's up for sainthood in my book.

Also up for sainthood? My buddy, coach and doula April. She's offering to help with nesting, and has already told her bosses that she WILL leave work at the drop of a hat to go listen to me snarl.

Have I mentioned I'm ... um.... charming, when I'm in pain? I try, but I am kind of nasty and I know it. I'm the one who responds, "of COURSE I'm not all-fucking-right, would I be screeching if I were all right?" after I stub a toe and someone asks me if I'm okay. So again, pity Pat. And April.

But not me. Because having a baby to play with earlier will be peachy keen by me. :)

And I MAY even have him before I'm over 40, which I swore I would do and was amused/chagrined when he was conceived such that he was due when I was 41.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cranberry soup

In rainy fall weather, when I crave some violently bright color to offset all the gray, and when I am pining for wintertime smells and flavors, this stuff is a standby of our household. I also used to make it when we'd get headcolds and it seemed to help. Okay, so it's not exactly health food (especially if you are watching sugar) -- it will still warm you up and pack you full of antioxidants and bioflavenoids and pectin and fiber and good stuff.

Back in the day, I used to top a bowlful with a dollop of plain yogurt. Today I didn't have any, and I think I liked it better without. Sometimes I'm not in the mood for dairy.

If you don't love this as a hot soup, keep it around and use it to top desserts or as the soupy portion of a cobbler, or something.

This is almost too simple to be a recipe. You can add a knob of butter if you want, and top it with plain yogurt if you so desire... but it's pleasing as is.

Cranberry soup

2 apples, cored and sliced
1 1/2 cups cranberries
water to cover, or a mix of water and apple juice
about 1/3 cup of sugar (I used vanilla sugar today because ALL of my sugar is in that container) -- or you could use alternative sweeteners, but artificial sweeteners are nasty with cranberries. You've been warned.
1 teaspoon spice of choice (I used pumpkin pie spice today because I was feeling lazy, but cinnamon and allspice work wonderfully ... and so does black pepper if you're feeling naughty)
tiny pinch of salt

Simmer fruit until cranberries have burst and broken down considerably, and apples are very soft. Puree with immersion blender (or in batches in pitcher blender). Spice and sweeten to taste -- it will require a considerable amount of sugar to be palatable but should remain on the tart side. You may strain this mixture if you prefer not to have curly, linear bits of cranberry and apple peel in your thick, velvety puree: I didn't today because we're tough that way. It depends on how ferocious your blender is, too... if you've got a Vita-Mix, gosh, why bother straining it?


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Rooster sauce and baby food

Seriously, if you can lay your hands to some ripe red Fresno chiles, make this homemade sriracha sauce. Even if you can't, try substituting other chiles: red would be more authentic for flavor, but we made a batch with green jalapenos and serranos too, and it was delicious-if-not-the-same.

If you are using nuclear-hot chiles or have a tender mouth, shake out the seeds before the soaking-in-vinegar stage, and/or leave them to soak in the vinegar for a day or two extra to allow them to mellow.

Double the garlic. Yes, really.

Feel free to substitute in whatever sugar you like: we used piloncillos because I have always found them to resemble palm sugar.

My baby shower was yesterday, which was fun: it's a sweet little women's ritual I've never been through before, as I've never attended one. We had delicious lunch and beautiful cake and I have SO many gifts for the baby and I need to write thank you letters and we played silly games like sniffing melted candy bars in disposable diapers (I won! My perfumers' nose and pregnancy super-senses are verified), tasting commercial baby food (oh GOD! Baby food is awful. Just awful, health-damagingly horrible. I am going to mash up whatever in lieu of feeding him this stuff as often as possible) and unscrambling baby-related word ciphers -- which my natural-cryptanalyst mom, predictably, won. (She got in trouble as a tween for sitting down with her dad's Masons handbook and reading it as if it were any ol' unencoded book... she's really gifted at word scrambles.)

Pat had begged off the baby-shower thing out of purest terror of the "hen party" factor, so we sort of re-capped by having him go through all the bags of tiny-baby clothes and loot after dinner. He was adorable, playing with the little toys, welling up at the bitsy sizes of the clothes, generally charmed. He woke up in full-scale panic; all of this is suddenly frightfully real and he is feeling the weight of responsibility.

Doesn't help that Taxes Were Done this weekend and we owe a ton, I'm sure. :)

Anyway, if you're expecting or know someone who is: try to talk them down out of the trees if they're flipping out. We are all messed up and will all mess up our kids. The goal is to be able to explain that you did it out of love, because you're still talking to each other by the time they figure out how messed up they think they are, right? I think there's no perfect way, but lots of right ways. I hope I still think so in a year, in five years, in twenty-five years. Wish me luck.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Long post: pregnancy loss and difficult days

I strongly believe that one is never given more than one can handle in life... but that we are tested, strongly tested. This thought is the candlelight I plod toward through the deepest darkness that comes into my life. Today (well, technically yesterday), while certainly not one of my darkest days, is surely a trial.

It's Pregnancy Loss and Infant Remembrance Day today (well, technically yesterday). I didn't know this when I was getting up and going about my morning. Now that I know, I can't resist saying a few words you've probably heard before from me, again.

We came late to the game of trying to conceive: we were 37 and it was our 19th wedding anniversary when we discussed the issue after years and years of thinking we didn't want children, or were "not ready" for them. Pat was suddenly, passionately in favor of the idea. It took me only a day or two to get over my cold feet; I had been the enthusiastic one years before, but had so long set aside the notion that I was totally diffident. I made an appointment for a check-up with my ob/gyn to see what he thought. While he was "under the hood" doing all the annual exam stuff, he offered to remove my IUD... and, although I had thought I'd have to make an appointment for a surgical removal later, simply yoinked it, showed it to me (I saluted it -- after all, it did yeoman service), and told me to go get pregnant.

Get pregnant we did, as easily as some people catch cold. But stay pregnant, we could not. Six times, over the last few years, we experienced the roller-coaster of emotions that goes with early pregnancy loss, most times from thrombophilia, and a couple times from low progesterone. We went to a fertility specialist, who took one look at (fat ol') me and decided not even to test my husband; after lots of tests on me for fatness-related causes, he found only thrombophilia -- and refused to test for the low progesterone even though I had my short luteal phases well documented. He resolved to put me on heparin once a pregnancy had hung on long enough to be vigorous.

But after two more miscarriages --one horrible, with me waiting for six days to pass the dead tissue I knew was not viable-- while under his care, both due to low progesterone (and his callous scoffing at me when I told him I was sure it was low), I asked him in exasperation what the next step was. His solution was intra-uterine insemination -- an expensive way to inseminate a human ovum.

I was smart enough to realize that this did nothing to correct the progesterone problem, and get the baby far enough along to benefit from blood thinners. So I fired this doctor and went to a nurse practitioner with my charts. She confirmed immediately that I had low progesterone and prescribed it every month from ovulation until menstruation.

Progesterone wasn't good for my state of mind, and cost a ton. It disrupted my sleep patterns and made my body tender and leaky in unpleasant ways that interfered with my sex life (already suffering from a surfeit of scheduling and pressure). If I missed a dose and was late on the next, I would be dooming any zygote that was trying to nuzzle into the uterine lining. My stress levels soared.

During the three years described above, I couldn't take really any over the counter medication for colds, virii, headaches, muscle aches, sleeplessness, stress, my rosacea or other allergies, etc. I logged a lot of sick days. My boss wasn't happy. I wasn't happy.

We miscarried again, very early, while taking progesterone. We quit trying to conceive and decided to adopt. I took a moral stand on an issue at work that eventually caused me to quit my job. Then I got into an ugly battle over unemployment insurance. I was interviewed many times by people who liked my resume, but some found me overqualified, others found me overpriced for the depressed job market, and the most promising found me toxic, once they asked the terrible question of why I'd quit my last job and got an honest but heavily redacted answer.

All of a sudden I was 40. I had promised myself that if I couldn't deliver a baby before I was 41, I was too damn old to keep trying. And I had quit trying to conceive even before that.

And it helped. My stress level started receding, slowly. Sex was fun again.

In February, I got tipsy. I took cold medicine. I drank so much caffeine (by accident!) that I had heart palpitations. I ate some really unsafe, marvelous food: raw seafood, rare beef, lunchmeats, bleu cheeses.

One day I was driving to the grocery store and was feeling emotional. I knew that as I was unemployed and we were broke, adoption would be hard. But that was okay! I'd buck up, hitch myself up by my bootstraps, and we'd knock their socks off. Yes. We just had to commit to waiting a year or two to prove our financial worth. And if they never approved us, because of our looming student loan debt, well, then, we'd been all right together for 21 years of married life and almost five years dating before that. We were partners. We were a team. We were complete.

At the grocery store, I had a dizzy spell. I fell against the car, and when I did, my breasts felt horribly sore.

I knew I was pregnant, with bitter certainty. And I would be damned if I would put one more cent or one more bit of effort into this dreadful lost cause. I didn't even want to tell Pat. I wasn't even going to buy a pregnancy test. Screw it!

And driving home, I had waves of nausea. I decided to use an ovulation predictor strip as a makeshift pregnancy test (it can be done!) because I still had a bunch of them laying around and God knew I wasn't going to use them for their stated purpose.

The little fucker was all aglow with two pink lines before I could set it on the counter.

So I agonized for a while, 'til Pat got home and the doctor's office had closed for the weekend, and then reluctantly told him we had to buy pregnancy tests. He was stoic but unhappy. We went out and bought the least sensitive brand available. We didn't want any false hopes.

This test, too, was positive before it could be set down. I burst into tears.

We cried all weekend. Neither one of us wanted to go through it again.

On Monday, I still tested positive with the remaining test. I called my doctor's office and he sent me to the lab. I tested positive there, too. Immediately, they put me on progesterone and heparin. Slowly, during the slowest, most treacherous feeling first trimester, we began to feel hope. Then delight. Then awe, as the baby's growth and vigor dwarfed all of our prior expectations.

And now, I live in mixed faith and fear, a weird mixture of wary joy. I am 35 weeks pregnant now, with our little boy baby. And every day I try to banish my concerns and live mindfully and blissfully. But it is hard.

The doctor is worried about my blood pressure and monitoring me for pre-eclampsia. His suspicions are reinforced by my age, weight, the fact that I'm a first-time mom, etc., but also by the tendency of one of his nurses to get erroneously high blood pressure readings from me. Every. Time. Even though nobody else does.

So. Today.

We went in for our non-stress test (where they monitor the baby's heartbeat and how it rises and falls after s/he moves -- more active/reactive is better!) We are having these once a week. I have the nurse wait to take my blood pressure until we have done the test, as sometimes it's up when I first get there.

Only while I am sitting for the test, I get uncomfortable. My blood pressure soars. The nurse gets a reading of 150/110 and lets me wait another 10 minutes before retesting.

Then the improbable: the doctor, too, gets a reading off the scales. He doesn't like it and sends me across the street to the hospital where we will deliver.

They monitor the baby, even using the Baby Bothering Device to make sure he's awake (it looks like a cheap black plastic pepper shaker, but it vibrates/buzzes and it scared the bejeezus out of the kid, who went rigid from head to toe and then squirmed for all he was worth). They take my blood pressure every 15 minutes. When I am uncomfortable, it is up. When I lie down, it falls to very normal. They take some blood to check for bile and stuff from distressed organs (a sign of pre-eclampsia). They take a urine sample to test for protein leaks (same thing). They lose the urine and waste 1/2 hour looking for it before they finally ask (let!) me to pee again and just test that.

Four hours. Tax day, do or die, since we filed for extension in April and things have inevitably come up to make us procrastinate this month. I'm fine, but they tell me that this will probably be a weekly occurrence. When I am being released, they tell me that my doctor wants to see me twice a week and that this might be a TWICE weekly occurrence. Call my doctor to find out what time Tuesday they've scheduled me for. And can I do this 24-hour urine collection, please? Starting right now?

No, I cannot. I have my shower tomorrow. Can't leave the shower to ferry urine to the hospital, sorry, NO.

So we come home, irate, thirsty, starving, and grab a burger on the way in. We eat like ravenous antisocial dire wolves, while assembling tax receipts and things. I get about 20 phone calls, most of them stupid.

One of the calls is Mom. Can I call the exterminator to see if he'll come check the traps he put in the attic day before yesterday, because he doesn't want us to have dead things upstairs over the weekend? (He FINALLY showed up to plug the hole we knew they were coming in through... his employee refused, but offered to set snap-traps at $125/visit. No, thank you. We can set snap traps. Great guy, too -- except that he pushed aside food being prepared by a pregnant woman to spread out used, bloody, dirty rat traps on my kitchen counters like a direly grim Tarot spread, and risked having his head bitten off by me... which I didn't because he is Mom's friend.) I didn't want to call him, because I wanted a bath and he has shown disconcertingly inconvenient timing in the past... so I had Pat climb up the attic and check.

Of five snap traps, four had dead rat residents. Eew! So much for closing the hole... either they are still getting in, or there is a whole condo of them up there hiding in the rafters. Two were little juvenile rats. We hate killing them because we like them: shiny, healthy mammals with whiskers like plastic filament and inquisitive faces. But they need to get the fuck out of my house, because a baby is on his way. Pat took them away, but he doesn't want to do it anymore. I don't blame him. Between rat traps and volunteer wildlife rescue, we end up handling a lot of animals with rigor mortis, who have assumed the shape of the letter "L" -- and now that I'm pregnant, he is doing ALL of the corpse-wrangling for us both. Poor man. Anyway, I'm convinced that the answer may be NOT putting peanut-buttered traps up there where they like the aroma -- can't we bait traps with something they hate? Is that illogical? Sure, but ... aaaaaiiiiiieeeeeee!!!

Then we couldn't find our W-2s. Eventually we did. And we had to go through our medical bills again (which is just cruel today) and my business receipts (which is just cruel anytime, but that's my innate brilliant bookkeeping speaking.) Taxes are ridiculously frustrating, and I am sure verrry good for my blood pressure. Wheee!

But eventually we took a dinner & movie break with Robert, and saw Red, which was rather good (how could it not be? It's a Warren Ellis adaptation.) This is probably the last movie I'll try to see before baby gets here: I can't sit comfortably in any position, and now that I know it rockets the blood pressure, I'm going to excuse myself. I even took in a pillow to render the seat-back tolerable. Nonetheless, I feel much better, although uncomfortably full-tummied and heartburny, with major pain from pubic symphysis disorder, and still quite aware that I need to start a 24-hour urine collection, and still a little freaked out about taxes and rats and pre-eclampsia and stuff like our shitty, shitty Senate. You know. Stuff.

It's never more than we can handle, right? Right? Just please give me one more month (-ish) and let this child enter the world healthy, so I can stop feeling like my body is a perilous habitat. Just this once, let me be a haven, not a hazard.