Monthly Archives: February 2012

“guys, get out of the water!” and other words of toddler wisdom

Josh and Samuel were sleeping peacefully at about 4am this morning while I was a bit restless. That’s not at all ordinary. The prednisone is making me a bit hyper. As I was laying there, I heard Samuel rustling in bed in the other room, and then suddenly he shouted out, clear as day, “Guys, hey! Get out of the water!” Josh woke up, very confused, but being already fully awake I realized Samuel was talking/yelling in his sleep. Josh wandered confusedly into the hall, but I told him to go back to bed, nothing was wrong. I went in and looked at Samuel, and he was just laying there, sleeping as soundly and quietly as if nothing had happened. Neither of them remembered when they got up two hours later. I am still laughing a bit and smiling. The scene made my day, possibly my week.

It continually blows my mind how absolutely infatuated I am with Samuel. Of course he misbehaves sometimes. I recognize he’s very sensitive, perhaps a bit coddled. He cries more easily than some of his friends over small insults. He has a temper. Parenting is not easy, but it’s not nearly as hard as I’d imagined and it’s not the hardest thing I’ve ever done, by far. Even when I think back to periods when Samuel was younger when he didn’t sleep through the night, or was clingy, or sick–I always conclude that it is easier than I thought it would be.

I have a great spouse, who has always been an equal partner with childcare, and since my health adventures began in earnest in September, he’s been shouldering far more than half the burden of household and childcare responsibilities. I miss doing more. I hope more than anything that June will come without much drama and I can transition to being a mom to two healthy boys.

I feel like I might be bragging with this post, but I don’t mean to come across that way. It’s just that I see a lot of posts come across my Facebook page with parents complaining incessantly about their kids. (Don’t worry, if you know about my blog, you’re not one of those parents. Everyone complains a little during hard days and weeks.) One woman I know, an old friend who has said for as long as I’ve known her that she wanted nothing more than to be a stay-at-home mom, is now one. Her Facebook page is a litany of complaints about her little one. Sometimes I really just want to post, “Shut up and have some gratitude.” Other sources of complaints from other parents: lack of sleep, potty training, picky eating. I just cannot deal with the woes of the parents of healthy toddlers. Sure, I smile and offer my experience, but mostly I find it mind boggling. (I’ll feel really differently during the teenage years, I’m sure, when it gets genuinely scary).

Part of this might be a pathology in me. When I made the decision that doctors should try to save Natan’s life if I delivered a micro-preemie, I heard a litany of statistics, read a lot of distressing information. When I went forward with my pregnancy with Samuel, I worked to wrap my head around accepting our fate with ever-improving outcome predictions. Two months before he was born, a friend delivered a 31-week preemie via an emergency c-section. Old readers know our relationship was fraught with pain and tension, but in comparing our experiences of our children’s first year, I always thought, “Holy shit, this is easy and fun,” when considering mine. He was in a level-3 NICU for quite awhile, was on oxygen and/or daily breathing treatments until he was one, and continues to struggle with eye and breathing problems. I was beside myself and terrified when Samuel had RSV, and pneumonia, but all of that felt easy in comparison to her year. My nephew had multiple major surgeries on his spine before he was one–one of them left him permanently paralyzed below the waist and involved major malpractice. Again, I looked at Samuel and thought, “Holy shit, this is easy.” My nephew is incredible, but his life looks harder to me than mine on a daily basis. So does my sister’s. So does my old friend’s. They also include some incredible triumphs and joys that trump our mundane milestones.

The difficulty I deal with in my daily life comes from lack. I’ve had two pregnancies where I delivered a child–one is dead. What’s hard for me is missing him, missing the experiences we should have had, and looking back on the pain, hard work and challenges of the past. I feel stressed about work, but I feel like I struggle more over what I don’t have to do, than over what I do have to do. I don’t have to do anything for Natan, but I want to. I’m excluded from the parents of multiple-children club so far, but I’m floored at getting advice from people about second pregnancies–because this is my third. Daily concerns often feel absolutely petty, and yet I’m still just a mortal person, for whom those can often feel paramount.

It’s easy for me to feel like asking, “What the hell is the point of all this?” Why suffer and struggle? The answer, for me, is Samuel. His waking me up with shouting is an absolute gift. His tears over having to sleep in his own bed at night are tough–but wonderful. I am so lucky to have a little boy who thinks being separated from his parents at night is torture. I am so lucky to have a little boy who has a living spirit–who throws tantrums and cries and even sometimes hits. I’m not saying I don’t worry about whether I’m a good parent, or whether I’m doing the best I can for Samuel. I actually do, every day. I just cannot imagine ever having a complaint about having to be a mom and to be there for him that would last longer than a moment, that would linger long enough for me to tell anyone else about it. I’m so lucky to only have to wake up every morning to his face, or to glance at a picture during my workday, to remember what’s great in life.

We chose his name to remind us of that. They’re very religious names that reflect my most hopeful and happy visions of life. Not because I think God intervened, but because I believe in a higher power, and the divine wisdom of Torah. I also think the wheel of fortune dealt kindly with me, and I should feel lucky and eternally grateful.

Samuel — God has heard, or the Name of God
Nadav — Generous

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a better day

My cervix was 3.4cm today, and my uterus has been very calm for the past week. I think the rest was necessary, but am oh so relieved that I don’t have to quit teaching. At the same time, I cannot wait for this semester to be over. A little dynamism in the cervix is “normal” for me, but at least so far we’ve not seen it below 3cm. The ultrasound tech, who is a very sweet woman, wasn’t entirely sure why I was such an anxious mess this morning.

“We don’t worry until it’s under 3cm.” Well, 3.1 cm is awfully close to three, and an attentive doctor will actually consider gestational age, not just a number. Don’t worry–I have an attentive doctor. We talked about how this is good news, but I should still be conservative with my activity, just keep doing what I’ve done this week.

Last week’s 3.1 isn’t a great number for 23-24 weeks. This weeks 3.4 is just below the mean of 3.5. It puts me just below the 50th percentile. I prefer to always be above 95 in all things, but I must consider reality.

It’s thankfully not where I was with Natan (thank you 17P), when I’d been kind suspecting but told to ignore contractions for quite a few weeks. I think about that, without malice and anger, fairly regularly. When I went off the 17P, and had my cerclage removed with Samuel, everyone but Dr. K. suspected I’d immediately go into labor. I was seeing her partners more often in those weeks, in case I delivered with them. Dr. K said, “I think if we get you past 32, you’re going to term. That’s just my anecdotal experience with cases like yours.” But “cases like mine” get wrapped up in the overall story of unexplained pre-term delivery, as well as with those with explanations. I hope hope hope this is still true, that I’ll still fit her experience. The next 7.5 weeks will be scary, and then I’ll be headed toward an easy term delivery.

I think about things with no clear explanation, just “anecdotes.” After my cerclage came out and my shots stopped, I went through more than 3 weeks of prodromal labor, and very, very slow shortening and dilation of my cervix. I kinda just think that’s how my uterus and reproductive system behave without intervention. Slow almost unnoticeable progress towards full on labor. I know women with clear PTL, and women with clear IC. I wish I knew about more women like me.

This morning, though, at the doctor’s office, the release from the cervical fear was FUN. I went from the u/s room to the examination room, and I did not bury the baby magazines or turn them upside down. I actually looked at baby products. I looked at new breast pump descriptions. I wondered if this baby will sleep for months in his rocker rather than his crib. I coveted one of these: http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=12469223. I thought about how maybe I want a sit and stand stroller to go with our old Bob. I felt so silly….so almost normal.

students with no sense of self-preservation

To begin this story, let me tell you that my platelets haven’t been cooperating so I’m on prednisone. I’ll find out in a few weeks whether it’s doing anything to help. The doctor’s now pretty sure that it’s idiopathic thrombocytopenia purpura, and that it will stick around after I deliver, as it clearly started earlier. Hopefully my platelets will stabilize at the very least over 100,000 once we can get them back up. This is hardly the worst thing in the world, yet these lines from Wikipedia do freak me out a little, if I’m honest: “The mortality rate due to chronic ITP varies but tends to be higher relative to the general population for any age range. In a study conducted in Great Britain, it was noted that ITP causes an approximately 60 percent higher rate of mortality compared to gender- and age-matched subjects without ITP.” I shall have to ask the hematologist about that at our next appointment.

Such a diagnosis sucks as well because we were considering reducing our medical costs by putting me on a private insurance plan. It will cost $9000/year to put me on Josh’s rather crappy health insurance through the university. I’m not sure if the health reform act can help with that. I really miss Michigan and Ohio, where insurance was reasonably priced.

Anyway, to get to the interesting part. When the doctor said I needed to take steroids, I asked if the dose was high enough to make me temperamental. He joked, “If you beat up your husband, I’ll give you a note.” I responded that the real problem was likely to be a student. Who knew I wasn’t kidding?

So today, I returned an assignment to students–an assignment I collected 1 week ago, handed out 3 weeks ago, marked clearly on the syllabus, and mentioned many times in class. A student came to the front and said, “What’s that? I didn’t get that.” He turned to his friend, who shrugged, and said, “I didn’t get it.” I said a little shortly, “Well, it was passed out in class, and it was on the syllabus, and….” And they WALKED away from me to go appeal to my T.A. They tried to appeal a professor’s decision to a teaching assistant.

I have 175 students. 168 of them turned in this assignment. I already have less-than-positive feelings towards this student, because he and his friend sat in the back row of class again today even though I’ve asked no one to sit that far back, and they talked even though I’ve told them I can hear them clearly from the front, and have told them to be quiet multiple times in 5 weeks of class. The auditorium could fit more than 100 more students than I have in the class, and they sit in an isolated area with no one within three rows of them. They regularly show up late or leave early. So after telling them again to be quiet, I’d already decided I was going to have to have a talk with both of them.

I know perfectly well why they didn’t have the assignment. They weren’t there when it was distributed, or it didn’t get passed to them because they sit so far away from other students. Then, they pay no attention to what’s happening in class, so they missed every mention of it. Excuse my T.A. and I for not personally handing them a piece of paper it’s their responsibility to have.

I was annoyed when they walked away from me, but I had other students waiting to talk to me. When I realized they were arguing with her, I called out to them, and began to walk slowly over. They turned away from me again and left. I swear to you, if I weren’t supposed to be resting as much as possible, I would have stormed after them. I was so, so, so angry. But I thought about my cervix and just steamed.

So what do you think, stressful pregnancy rage or ‘roid rage? I’d like to think it was the latter, but I doubt one dose of 60mg can do that. Instead, I think that encountering bratty young assholes in a high-stress pregnancy might be a recipe for disaster.

sick day at home

Few things are worse than having a cold when pregnant. That’s not really true, but in the minor scheme of life, few things are worse. Stuffy head, sneezing, coughing, and you can do nothing for it but go to bed. So that’s what I’ve done today. I am dreading when Samuel comes home in 1.75 hours because he’s confused and sad about me being confined to lying down while home. I hate to add sick and cranky to the mix. It’s so much easier to be alone when sick. Plus coughing and sneezing only add tremendously to my anxiety as I consider each one as putting pounds of pressure on my cervix. Argh.

I am holding strong, however. If I’m honest, I have to admit there have been times I’ve thought that perhaps it was a mistake to get pregnant again. Not because a living child would be a mistake, but because the process of getting to that is so laden with risk, expense, and is taking months off of time I could spend being an involved, healthy, and happy mom. And the end result could be grief, misery, pain, and loss for Samuel. Not to mention that it’s becoming increasingly apparent to me that pregnancy, pregnancy loss, and baby death have done a lot to determine my personality. A lot more than I’ve grasped in the past. Some people probably think it’s saddened me, possibly at times making me border on depression. I think those people are living with blinders on, that they’re unwilling to go beyond the bare surface of how I’m different. They don’t see the person they once knew, but they’re also not willing to look for the person I am now. In part, that’s my fault. I like to make people around me comfortable.

The realities of preterm birth, pregnancy complications, stillbirth, infant death, and maternal death aren’t happy topics. Most people see them as something from the past. Thankfully, they so are so much more less common now than in the past. It’s much more fashionable and exciting to talk about reclaiming birth and women’s bodies from the medical establishment. And babies babies babies! Who doesn’t love to talk about fat, healthy babies? I was really upset with a relative when she announced my pregnancy on Facebook in a very enthusiastic way, and then told someone who asked that it was our second. That was a hard kick in the chest. She was supportive when Natan died, so I don’t think she forgot. I don’t know if she really thinks of this baby as our second, which no matter how you look at it, he’s not. He’s either our third, or our potential second. Possibly our potential fourth, but I don’t think of the miscarried embryo that way. S/he had no chance of ever coming home with us. This baby does; Natan did. What I think is most likely is that she saw no reason to share that private information with her friends on Facebook. I feel, if you want to share in our happy news, you should have to share in our sad. I make myself very vulnerable, however, in being willing to talk about it. I think I am judged for it, frequently.

It is, quite frankly, humiliating to be vulnerable in front of people in the way that this pregnancy makes me. In a world where people congratulate women for their achievements in pregnancy and childbirth, it’s humiliating to fail at that. It is deeply painful to hear people credit their healthy children and their easy births to yoga and good eating. Of course, these things are important, but they’re rarely definitive. It would be antisocial for me to call bullshit on people as often as I’d like to for the boasting about their birth plans and birth stories. Yet I do often wish they had the discretion that I strive for in conversation.

I’m hoping that I’m moving towards being able to be more open, less awkward in discussing my past. I do not actually like talking about my grief for Natan in public. Not at all. But I do feel like I should have a louder voice when it comes to what his death meant for my future health, my future pregnancies, and my vision of myself as a woman and a parent. I am fiercely passionate about protecting women’s access to medical care. I try hard to balance the reality that many women can have uncomplicated pregnancies with what I consider to be much more important–many cannot.

My biggest fear right now, however, is that this country is moving away from the progress that’s been made in the past century towards making pregnancy and birth healthier. My biggest fear is that we’re moving towards making all pregnancy, but especially a complicated pregnancy a moral failure for which a woman must pay with her health, her well-being, her financial stability or her life.

flat on my back

So it has arrived–partial bed rest. My cervix at my last appointment measured 3.1 cm. That’s not dire news at 23 weeks and 3 days, but it’s not great news. My doctor’s a cautious one, so there’s no reason to panic. She’s probably recommending this earlier than many would. Of course it’s upsetting though. I am hoping very much it either doesn’t change or is longer at my next appointment on Friday. I do not want to have to quit teaching. We’ve agreed that I will essentially just go to campus to teach, then come home. I’m well aware that my students will be fine without me, less confident about our checking accounts without my paycheck. We’ll figure it out, though, if it comes to that.

Of course more than that, I don’t want this baby to die. I’m plagued with anxiety about whether we’re doing enough, and with frustration that this pregnancy isn’t going nearly as smoothly as my pregnancy with Samuel. With Samuel, we had scares, of course. Yet they always turned into nothing. Seeing the 3.1 makes me worried this one won’t be the same. I resisted telling Samuel I was pregnant until he began to know something was up. Other people would make a different choice, but I just did not want him to know if we lost this baby before it was even obvious that I was pregnant. I do not want him to experience that grief, unless absolutely unavoidable.

22 weeks, 1 day

This morning Josh asked if I was 23 weeks along. I said, “I don’t think so. I think I’m just 22 weeks.” Then I counted it out. I’m right. So I can’t say exactly that I haven’t been counting, but I can tell you that last time, with Samuel, I could’ve at any given moment told you his exact gestation. I had also been planted on the couch for pretty much 17 straight weeks by this point. I didn’t need to be on reduced activity until 14 weeks, but I was paralyzed by fear and anxiety for most of the pregnancy. My life then let me be on full bed rest without any problems. Inconvenience, obviously, but since we were both still writing our dissertations and weren’t teaching that fall semester, well, it was fine.

This time, it’s so different. I worked out until 14 weeks, and I’m working full time. Because I’m an academic (for the moment), I can work usually from home 3 days a week, so that’s comforting. But on Tuesday and Thursday I am up and about, teaching 3 courses, holding office hours, traipsing around the hallways. If this baby makes it, I’ll say it was my easiest pregnancy yet. Because really, it has been a whole lot easier. Yes, I’m exhausted. Yes, I had the epidural headache. Yes, I have this platelet thing going on. But my mind is occupied by so many other things. And, low platelets aside because they aren’t pregnancy related, my body is undergoing far less abuse. Believe me, laying on the couch for 6 months or more is BAD FOR YOU. My hip was dislocated, my tailbone broken, during delivery. I believe that bed rest likely contributed to that.

In my pregnancy with Natan, I had a really hard time, a hard time that I was told to accept as pregnancy, until we realized, that actually it wasn’t normal. If *this* is what relatively normal actually feels like, then my doctor from my pregnancy with Natan can really go to hell. Physically, I feel so okay (other than tired) that I sometimes worry something’s wrong because really, why aren’t I in more pain? Why do my hips and back only hurt sometimes after a long day? Why does my uterus only clench up a couple of times a day, and when I’m especially tired? Of course I may be kicking myself after my appointment this afternoon. I’m afraid I’ve been pushing myself too much, and that we’ll find out my cervix really is shortening.

Someone did say to me the other day, “Ah, so you’re in the midst of the honeymoon period now.” No, there’s no such thing for me. Nothing about pregnancy is that pleasurable. Even while teaching probably keeps me distracted and away from obsessing about every sensation in my body, being out and about is very hard for me. It’s natural for people to want to talk about my pregnancy with excitement. I can’t really do that. One of the staff members in the office had a baby last semester. While she was pregnant, we talked a lot about pregnancy and babies. I enjoyed relating with her about it. It was fun to talk about the fun aspects of pregnancy for the normal woman. I wasn’t even jealous. It’s torturous now, because she naturally wants to do that with me now. That’s perfectly understandable, but I can’t stand it. Someone else asked me if we knew whether we were having a girl or a boy. I answered, “a boy.” She interpreted my fairly standard reticence when it comes to talking about things during these weeks as a sign that I was disappointed not to be having a girl.

I just can’t be enthusiastic. I am excited and hopeful, believe me. But I can’t make huge public displays of enthusiasm, until/unless this kid is safely born and safely home.