Thursday, January 27, 2011

keeping up...

I am loving ICLW, but man, it's hard to keep up. There are so many fascinating blogs and I get caught up reading the backstory and I'm not always making my quota. It's so cool to hear the variety of voices in the IF/parenting/generally fabulous women blogosphere.

Okay...I'm off to catch up for today! But before I do: did anyone else have thundersnow last night? Here on the east coast, we got lightening, thunder, and snow, all at the same time. I was stupidly excited about thundersnow. Maybe it's just the term itself? Ah, thundersnow.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Welcome ICLWers!

I've never participated in ICLW before and am ridiculously excited to flex my commenting and reading muscles. I'm a relatively new blogger, so there isn't that much to read here yet. But I really appreciate the visit and will be posting more this week so that there is something a bit more exciting to read here than this.

Happy ICLW!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Tubes (not the band), or, meditations on the medical community from a mother's (and an IF person's) perspective

First, a quick update about my last post (relationships are hard). Things have improved since last week. He apologized for being difficult and we've both backed off on the sniping at each other. I don't think things are worked out for good, of course, but they're better. We're trying to respect each other's space and habits more than we were. Phew.
Now, on to today's exciting news: W probably will have to get ear tubes because of a stubborn ear infection that has only marginally responded to three courses of antibiotics. This post is not really about ear tubes, though. My sense, from Dr. Google, is that ear tubes are used often, are routine, and aren't anything serious to worry about. If you think I should feel otherwise, please let me know. Am I missing something?
Instead, this post is about negotiating the medical system, both as a woman and as a mother, because today's visit to the local children's hospital with W to see the specialist about the ear tubes brought back a flood of memories of the first full week of W's life (in which we spent 8 days in this very same hospital for apn.ea and fairly serious jaun.dice). I haven't written about those days in much detail, but they really haunt me. Still. Even pulling into the parking lot this morning made me shudder a bit because I vividly recall pulling into the lot in the dead of night to "visit" my newborn son in the ICU.

The short version of the story is that we rushed back to the hospital on W's second day home from the hospital (after a relatively normal birth). He had jau.ndice, and even though we had done the normal blood tests for the bili.rubin (sp?) and they seemed okay, I had an overwhelming feeling that something was wrong on Wednesday afternoon (we had been released to go home two days earlier, on a Monday). On that Wednesday afternoon, as I waited for the ped to call with the latest blood test results, I looked at W and knew that he was getting weaker. I picked him up, carried him to the very cold storm door, and when he didn't react to his bare foot on the window, I started to freak out. He didn't flinch. He didn't even wake up. Yes, he was breathing, but he just wasn't right. I knew that jau.ndice would make him sleepy, but unresponsive? We called the ped, got the latest test results that said his bili.rubin was now at 19 (which is apparently bordering on severe and in need of light therapy), and the ped suggested taking him in to the hospital right away.

I'll never forget the front desk person asking how old he was, and when she heard "four days," we got an immediate room and attention from the doctors. W clearly needed to be under lights. Unfortunately, he wouldn't really respond to the doctors attempts to get him to wake up and take some bottled breast.milk. And to make matters worse, he stopped breathing while they were examining him. It's called apn.ea and even though he started breathing again each time it happened, the doctors were alarmed enough to admit us for the next 8 days for testing, observation, and massive amounts of antibiotics delievered intravenously. Oh, his tiny little veins! I'm semi-crunchy about things like medication and antibiotics, so imagine my stress about antibiotics pumped directly into him for days on end. I tried to fight it, but they were afraid he had menin.gitis, and they argued persuasively that to not treat him for menin.gitis before we knew for certain he didn't have it would be unethical. I spent a lot of time in that ICU holding his little body and whispering into his ear: "if your body doesn't need those antibiotics, just flush them on through. Just let them go. And if you need them, little body, take them and use them well." The jaun.dice got better over the next few days, the menin.gitis test proved negative, and the apn.ea never returned, though we spent a month on a terrifying heart rate monitor after we left. I also want to say loudly and with emphasis that I never want to witness another series of painful spinal tap attempts on a newborn. Awful. I know he'll have no memory of that pain or that 8 days, but they're stuck with me forever.

My instincts were right on that Wednesday afternoon. Something was wrong--severe jaun.dice--and something more foreboding needed monitoring, too--apn.ea. My instincts were also right a few days later when I was suddently overtaken by a clear feeling that W would be okay. That he was fine and would be fine after we left the hospital. I don't know why I felt this (we hadn't even gotten the menin.gitis results yet), but it was as clear as day.
When I walked into the hospital lobby today, this all came flooding back. I saw the benches where I had cried through cups of tea, and I rode again in the elevators that used to take us up to the ICU where I was never quite sure what I'd see on the other side of the doors. Would he have taken a turn for the worse? Was he hungry and my tea break took too long? Would he catch the illness of the really sick baby in the bay next to him? Did I remember to bring the milk I had pumped in the middle of the night last night?

All my life, I didn't believe that I would have mothering instincts. And to be honest, I don't know if I really believe in those kind of instincts. I don't believe that women have some kind of access to knowledge about children, even children who came out of their bodies, that other people don't. And because I never thought I was particularly good with children, I didn't think I'd be as tuned in as other mothers might be. I still think this, even though in those newborn days, I had some kind of instinct that said "go to the hospital" and then later, "he's fine."

My instincts have failed me in the months since that hospital stay, in fact, and when I first found out that W had a bad ear infection, it was when the doctor found it at W's one-year old well-baby visit. I had absolutely no idea. I thought he was fine and I saw no signs of any problem. Whoops! I also have no sense when W wakes up in the middle of the night, no second sense about W's waking or sleeping cycles. My husband regularly hears him singing at 2 a.m. or whimpering a little at 5:30 a.m. because he's half-asleep. But me? Nothing. I'm usually sound asleep. In the very beginning, yes...I heard every noise W made. Now that he's over a year old and I'm not breas.tfeeding anymore, it's like I've tuned that sense out.

I also felt, today, that echo of medical discontent that comes from my time as a former (and possibly future) RE patient. Modern medicine is amazing. It saves lives and seems to perform miracles. Many men and women get the help they need from doctors to have families. And I've benefited from medical treatments, too. I take medication for an thyroid, I just went through therapy for my bad left knee, and I get a yearly physical, just like I'm supposed to. I got rho.gam shots for miscarriages and the pregnancy with W because of my negative blood type, and I imagine it was a good thing. But there is always a shadow, for me, to modern medicine. I don't trust doctors and nurses completely, and I know that modern medicine cannot treat everything and cannot prevent heartache. The echo of my miscarriages--getting that awful internal wand to show me that the sac had disappeared, or that my ute was, indeed, once again clear and ready for another try--reminds me of this fact. My RE could not prevent those miscarriages, and she could do nothing to ease the heartbreak. Modern medicine fails as often as it succeeds. How can we trust, given this record?

I'm also just not comfortable with doctors. I've never felt like they understand what's going on, and somehow, I often sense that they're suspicious of me, as if I'm making up symptoms or describing something incorrectly. Maybe I have just been unlucky. Maybe I don't know the way to phrase my questions or answers to be clear. Or maybe I'm not listening well to what they're saying, either; it is entirely possible that the problem is on my end and not on the medical professionals' end. I spent months second guessing that original hospital trip and the massive antibiotics that W got. I have worried endlessly about W's subsequent antibiotics. I have spent way too much time reading about the vacc.ine controversy and trying to figure out where I stand (and for the record, we've immunized on schedule and I mostly feel okay about it). And for myself, I think about whether baby aspirin or some other treatment would have improved my chances of not having a miscarriage. I mostly think the RE and everyone did the right things (which was essentially nothing--it was determined that there was nothing really wrong and that I was miscarrying in part because I was old and the embryos were probably not developing properly). But do I know this to be true? Always suspicious. Always worried.

I hope that these flashbacks to the early days in the hospital go away because I'm really sure we'll be back for ear tubes. Again, I don't really think I have any motherly instincts, but I have some sense that these tubes will be in our future. I don't know why, I just feel it. And I hope that as we start ttc #2 and as I continue vaccin.ating W on schedule, I can relax a bit and stop worrying so much. It's cliche to say it, but because of Dr. Google, there is so much information floating around and it's so hard to sort through it. It's so hard to know if one doctor's opinion is right and another's is wrong. In the end, mothering instincts or not, I think I'll just have to go with the flow and trust some people at least some of the time. But this is where I am--meditating on how to be myself, how to make good choices within a system that I fundamentally mistrust, rightly or wrongly so, and doing a lot of breathing in and out to relax. In. Out. In. Out.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Relationships are hard

My husband and I are in a rough patch these days. We're clashing over housework, mostly. I tolerate, even enjoy, a slightly messy house. I like piles of books I haven't read (or that I'm halfway through) in the living room, and I can handle a pile of folded clothes on the dresser. I dislike actual dirt, however, and tend to choose wiping down counters to putting away stuff. My idea of a clean house is one where I can eat off the floors or counters, but where it's clear that a happy family is living there.

M, my husband, is different. He likes things to be perfect. Everything in its place, no sign of actual people who read, eat, play, or enjoy their lives. He gets this vision from his mother. His mother's house is like a freakin' museum. I swear I wouldn't know that people live there. It always has that "model home" kind of look. It's cold, quiet, and uncomfortable.

The paradox about M's desire for a super-clean house is that he is incredibly messy. I mean scary messy. He takes socks off and they lay wherever he left them for weeks, usually one in the dining room and the other one in the upstairs hallway. He cannot keep track of a piece of paper to save his life. Just ask us about the current tax issue we could easily solve if he could find his 2009 W-2s but can't. Mine are in the file folder I created named "Taxes, 2009." He also doesn't seem to understand basic hygiene. For example, I have to routinely remind him to wash his hands after cleaning the catbox in the basement. If I didn't remind him, it's entirely possible that he would make dinner with dirty hands (I'm shivering just thinking about it). He defrosts meat on the counter and "forgets" to clean up the little puddle of ickiness that it leaves behind (oh, the germs!). I won't even get into the issues in the bathroom. If I could, I would gladly live in a house with separate bathrooms in the master suite so I didn't have to share with him. I'm just sayin'.

Every week or so, he goes through little rampages through the house where he "cleans." To him, cleaning means that he randomly puts things away in drawers, which means that we can't find anything for weeks because there is no logic to his drawer-stashing. And he can spend an hour in the kitchen cleaning, but you'd never guess it because the counters are dirty, the sink is half-full, and things are shoved randomly in the cabinets. I honestly cannot figure out what he does for an hour in the kitchen that makes it seem worse, not better.

During these rampages, which have been happening with increasing frequency, he sometimes asks for my help, but he doesn't ask in a way that feels good to me. He says, in an exasperated voice, "I can't live like this!" and then stomps around angrily until I stop whatever I'm doing to help him out. I don't mean to make him sound like an ogre--he's usually a sweetheart. But I really hate these habits of his, and his anger is getting more palpable.

His anger also pushes a series of my own buttons. I'm aware that I'm not very neat and organized, and I have some anxiety about this fact. When I was in middle and high school, my family was poor. I mean poor like we ate mac and cheese every night using water instead of milk because it was the cheapest and most filling thing my mom could afford. We (me, my mom, and my brother) lived in a tiny two bedroom apartment. And my mother is messy. Messier than I am, in fact, though that's probably debatable. That whole period of my life was embarassing. I hated that I couldn't invite friends over because I didn't want them to see where and how we lived. So I carry with me this anxiety about having a comfortable home, even though the way I'm living now is completely fine. If someone stopped by unexpectedly--right now--I'd be happy to invite them in for tea. I'd ask them to excuse the toys strewn about, but otherwise, c'mon in!

The dischord between me and M about this is big and it's getting bigger and more contentious. He's clearly worked himself up about it in recent weeks, and our discussions are less friendly and playful than they once were. They're also emotionally charged, and he doesn't do well when I make an emotional connection to something we're discussing. I'm a quick crier and can shed tears over the lamest of commercials; during serious relationship conversations when I'm feeling attacked and accused of being a "bad wife," it's a sure bet that I will cry. M was married once before me, and one of the stupid things that got stuck in my head about his former wife was that M's biggest praise of her was that she did a wonderful job keeping the house the way he wanted it. (She was also manipulative, cruel to him, and had no job, which might have allowed her the time to "keep the house" while she was plotting to take his money and leave him...I'm not bitter, though, right?)

I'm planning to talk to him tonight to remind him that I respond much better to these kind of conversations if I have some positive feedback about what is going right with us alongside what is going poorly. I know that sounds pathetic--it's like the compliment sandwich I sometimes use in commenting on students' papers (give some praise, talk about what isn't going well and needs improvement, end on a note of hope and encouragement). It works! I think it always helps me feel like M is not attacking me.

There's no resolution here--I'm not sure where to go or what to do. I think he's projecting some of his own shit onto me (for example, he knows he's terrible at picking up after himself so he's accusing me of being terrible at picking up after myself). And I think he's otherwise frustrated with things in his own life. He's not eating well, he's working a lot, etc.

Relationships are hard. Right now, my relationship feels like it's got a canker sore or a hangnail. Or maybe a broken limb. I'm sure we'll work it out, but I hope we're able to find a way to let these ongoing disagreements not consume us. I don't want to live in a house where I resent him or am uncomfortable. And last night, I barely slept because I kept running over his latest rant about it in my head.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

On being "old"

I've been reading the 25 pages of comments to the recent NYT article about the "twiblings," two babies conceived through ART and born around the same time (hence, they are siblings who are almost-twins, get it?). The article is fine and I'm happy to hear that it all worked out so well for the family. There are lots of crackpot comments in those pages, as we might expect, but the ones that sting the most are the ones aimed at "old" women who put off having babies until it's "too late." Obviously, I'm taking them a little too personally because I am one of those "old" women who apparently shouldn't be procreating because I didn't want or wasn't able to have babies in my 20s. I know, I know...I shouldn't get bothered by these random people's uninformed opinions.

If I could get those people in a room, I'd tell them the following:

- It is none of your business why a woman doesn't start trying to have a baby until their late 30s. Don't judge people without knowing their specific circumstances and lives. And even then, shut the fuck up. Being judgmental about other people's choices is a shitty way to interact with your fellow human beings.

- Women who want to have a career have just as much right to it as any man does, and this sometimes means that having a baby in one's 20s or early 30s is impossible. No one complains when men have babies in their 30s and 40s (and beyond) because they're busy with their careers, and there's no reason women shouldn't have the same privilege.

- Good parenting partners don't just fall out of the sky and present themselves in a timely manner. I honestly can only think of one of my former partners whom I might have been happy to parent with, and he's now parenting happily with someone else (good for him!). Parenting is not something to be taken lightly or done hastily. Neither is marrying or getting into a long term relationship. Maybe the commenters who complain that women should "settle down" earlier if they want children met their partners early in life (lucky them) and assume it works that way for everyone. It doesn't.

- Not all women know that they want children when they're 25. Or 30. Or even 35. I struggled with the decision long and hard before making it, and while I envied friends and fictional characters who always knew they wanted children, it just wasn't me. My path wasn't that straightforward. Many of the commenters seem to think that desiring children is something women (or men) never question. In fact, I think I'm a better parent because I struggled with the decision. I look at my son and know that I have no doubts about having him in my life.

Phew. I think that's it. I just had to get this off my chest. I find that there is rampant ageism around older mothers, and it's not only unwarranted, it's mean and nasty. I'll stop reading those comments, now.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Consolidating naps?

I think he's ready to go from two naps to one! I tried to put him down at 9:30 for his usual first nap, and it was a complete no go. He was standing, crying, and really annoyed to be in his crib. But he just went down at 11:00 for a nap very smoothly. We'll see. Seems like an important milestone somehow, even though it's probably less exciting for me (I'll miss having two uninterrupted periods of time during the day to shower or get some other chore completed!).

On another note, W seems to be teething again. Drool everywhere. Hands in his mouth. I thought we were back in reflux world (we just stopped his pre.vacid two weeks ago), but now I think I'm wrong and it's just teething. Someone I saw over the weekend seemed to think I was silly to expect it was over--teething goes on and on, doesn't it?

Parenting a one-year old is really just an elaborate guessing game. Do you want yogurt today or cheese? Are you tired or do you have an ear infection again? Do you want this toy or that one? It's kind of exhausting me these days. Perhaps I'll get better at guessing the right thing soon. Sigh. I'd really like a nap of my own.