Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Four Years Later: Reflections on 40 Weeks of Feeling Like a Failure

38 weeks pregnant with the baby then known as Pie.

This is the story of much of my first pregnancy.  A pregnancy that was high-risk and subsequently highly-medicalized.  This is the story of how I became Bean's mom.  Some is also a story of how our maternity care system is flawed - especially for those of us who do not have the safe option of avoiding the medical model altogether, and who need some medical intervention.  I'm sure my readers who are particularly knowledgeable about birth will shake their heads at least a few times.  Some might say "Ah well.  He arrived.  You are safe."  And that is true, and I am grateful - every day - that the end result is what it is.  It didn't always need to be the way it was, though - so frightening, so detached.

And I went on to have a calmer second pregnancy, and a very normal, beautiful, wonderful birth of my second son.  And we are healed now - The Beast, and I.  (He was there, too.  And he, too, was scared.)

Four years ago today, I was exactly 39 weeks pregnant with a baby we called Pie.  I had been on strict, side-lying bedrest for 9 weeks.  I was in excruciating pain and often had trouble walking, getting up from sitting or laying down, rolling over, and even getting my pants on. 

I had by that time spent two nights in the hospital with fears I was in preterm labor - once at 24 weeks, and again at 34 weeks.  The 24-week hospital admission was only slightly terrifying.  Our baby was barely considered viable, and there I was having small contractions every 10 minutes like clockwork after heading to the hospital because I kept doubling over with abdominal pain.  But I somehow knew that these contractions weren't "the real deal."  My cervix was found to be closed up tight, the fetal fibronectin test negative (a good indicator that labor is a ways off), and eventually - with the help of a Coca Cola of all things - my contractions petered out and I slept for a few hours - with the help of an Ambien.  Hospitals are not great places for rest or relaxation, and definitely not for sleep!

I was sent home feeling like I'd run a marathon on my uterus.  Diagnosis:  "irritable uterus."  And maybe some round ligament pain.

Sometime around this point, I had told my OB about pain I was having in my pelvis.  "That can happen," was his response.

::Fast forward through my blood pressure creeping up, finally going completely haywire, and landing on bedrest at 30 weeks::
At my 34-week appointment, I had a non-stress test (NST) to check on Pie's well-being.  I had these at every appointment after 30 weeks, when my blood pressure went haywire.  The night before this 34-week appointment, I had lost my mucus plug.  I didn't think much of it.  When the nurse asked how I was doing, I told her I'd lost my mucus plug, felt pretty good aside from the nagging pain in my pelvis, blood pressure was controlled on bedrest, etc.  She definitely perked up at word I'd possibly seen my mucus plug, because it indicates the cervix is changing in preparation for birth.  I was aware that I could have some changes but still go beyond my due date, 6 weeks away.

The nurse got me hooked up to on a contraction monitor and a fetal heartrate monitor, gave me a button to press when Pie moved, and had me relax in a recliner.  I had some tightening in my belly and chest - a common occurrence that I chalked up to Braxton-Hicks contractions, which I had with some frequency throughout that first pregnancy.

I had this tightening four or five times during the 20-minute NST, and the arcs of the contractions on the monitor looked large.

A nurse practitioner was summoned to do a cervical exam.  A really. uncomfortable. cervical exam.  Wow.  After some tears - from both fear and pain - the nurse practitioner told me I was "50% effaced and a fingertip dilated.  Baby is at 0 station"

I bawled.  But I took comfort in saying to The Beast "they can stop it.  If it's labor, they can stop it."

My OB came in and told me that, as I was 34 weeks even, they would not stop it if it was labor - there was no benefit to stopping it at this point.

Eventually I was wheeled over to the OBICU's triage area, where I was kept for a few hours.  Despite sipping copious amounts of water and juice, I contracted regularly - about every 3-5 minutes at the most frequent.  Exams still showed I was "50% effaced and a fingertip dilated.  Baby is at 0 station."  The contractions weren't causing my cervix to change.  But I still would be staying until either the contractions stopped or I had my baby (so, I guess until the contractions stopped, one way or another).

After the contractions petered out in the night, they were again attributed to "irritable uterus," but this time paired with another prescription of bedrest, as well as "pelvic rest" - which is essentially a euphemism for "no sex." 

From that ordeal, I did more reading (not much else to do when you're on bedrest!) and found out that the contractions likely looked "strong" because I am thin.  Those external contraction monitors don't account for how much fat is between the uterus and the outside world.

Understandably, The Beast and I were showing some wear at my next appointment.  After some discussion with my doctor (including the fact that amniocentesis to confirm the baby's lungs were mature-enough for birth was a poor option because of the location of Pie's placenta), we scheduled an induction for 37 weeks, 4 days.  I was not feeling like I could mentally handle the ups and downs and sometimes-terror of the pregnancy anymore...

Eventually, after much soul-searching, discussion with my obstetrician, and research, The Beast and I decided to forego the induction.  A day or so after the induction had originally been scheduled, my pelvic pain worsened.  (For anyone keeping track at home, this was right around the time I called BABS because I couldn't move, and a doula named Molly came and helped me take a bath.)  I went to see my OB, hoping he could do something about this debilitating pain. 

Another NST was administered.  To this day, I don't know why this was done, since the pain I was having was musculoskeletal.  I suppose because it was an obstetrics practice and they didn't know how to deal with a mother's musculoskeletal pain, but they did know how to get a listen to a fetal heartrate?  In the end, I would feel that this entire appointment was torturous and at least a little humiliating.

They couldn't get a solid trace on the baby's heartrate on my left side, so The Beast picked me up (as I screamed in pain) and turned me to my other side.  Still not a good trace.  He picked me up (as I again screamed in pain) and laid me on my back.  Perhaps a minute or three passed with tears welling up before I felt a different sensation and said, "I'm hot.  I'm so hot."  There was no ventilation to be had.  A damp washcloth was placed on my forehead and the nurses assured me we were "almost done."  I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable and agitated.  And then I was panicking.  "I'm going to throw up or pass out.  What is happening?  I'm going to pass out!  I'M GOING TO PASS OUT!"  All while stuck on my back.


I couldn't even sit myself up because of the pain for which I had come to the office.  It turned out that laying on my back was the culprit for the nausea and light-headedness.  There is a reason pregnant women are advised not to sleep on their backs (and why they don't feel comfortable sleeping that way anyway)!  My uterus and its contents were putting pressure on my inferior vena cava

The obstetrician came in and essentially gave me another "that can happen."  He then looked at my chart, measured my belly, and said, "well, this baby is big.  You weren't induced, and you're going to get to 40 weeks and this baby is going to be too big to deliver vaginally." 

Jerk.

Then, finally, I said, "and what about this pain?  Can I do anything for this pain?"

I left with a prescription for Vicodin and the feeling that my doctor didn't give a sh...hoot.

The Beast and I returned home to finish out my house arrest pregnancy.

The pictures of me at this point all look, well, young is my first impression.  But I also look a bit wary.  I am scared.  I am tired.  I am self-doubting.  Have I made the right decisions for this baby?  For myself?  For my family? 

And always, since I had sat alone in my car with a hand on my still-flat stomach and asked my newly-discovered occupant to please not kill me, there was that nagging, horrible question:  Am I going to die?  Are we going to die?

At my 39-week appointment I saw a different doctor, as mine was out of town.  She was a brusque woman and I was annoyed that she didn't know my history.  My regular OB was clinical and cynical and not particularly warm, but at least he was familiar.

I told her I had been admitted at 34 weeks, on bedrest since 30 weeks, and the cervical exams I'd had to this point had all concluded that I was "50% effaced and a fingertip dilated.  Baby at 0 station."  I was really hoping for progress since I would be induced in about a week (going much beyond my due date has never felt like a good idea in my pregnancies - I feel like a ticking time bomb by the end, wherein my body is counting down to devastating illness and/or the birth of my baby).

Completing the exam, she had a disapproving tone as she said, "50% is generous.  Maybe 25%.  Still just a fingertip.  I'll give you 0 station.  Barely."

And so I left the office feeling like I had failed.  Had my body gone backwards?  Had I really been admitted to the hospital for potential preterm labor - twice - only to have my body decide never to give birth?  I knew the baby would be forced out of me one way or another...but it felt like my body was flipping me the bird.  It also felt like the doctor I saw disapproved...or at least didn't give a sh...hoot.

I still recall, vividly, walking with The Beast from the clinic to the parking garage and starting to cry.  "I'm so sorry," I sobbed.  "I'm so sorry that I am so bad at this.  I'm sorry I'm a wreck.  I'm sorry you have to take care of me.  I'm sorry my body doesn't work.  I'm so sorry."

He held me in the breezeway while I cried.  36 hours later I woke up in labor.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Dinosaur Kale

There happened to be a triceratops on the table.  I couldn't resist!


Last summer I grew a lot of kale.  I am still a gardening novice.  I grew kale because I could, not because I loved it.  Actually, at the beginning of the summer I had no idea what to do with it!  I had only had baby kale in salad mixes!

A couple of friends recommended the same way of cooking it - sauteed in olive oil with garlic and red pepper.  One of them called it "dinosaur kale."  So I'm stealing her cute name!  (Thanks, L)
This is quick and easy.  Over the summer, I would go cut some for a quick snack!

Ingredients:
-olive oil
-1 bunch of kale
-3 cloves of garlic
- crushed red pepper

Instructions:
1. Using a chef's knife, trim the ends off the stems of the kale (you can lay the whole bunch on a cutting board and do this in a single cut).
2. Wash the kale.  I usually use a salad spinner to get out the excess moisture afterwards.
3. Separate the leaves and the stems.  This is the most labor-intensive step, and it just take a minute or two.  Put the stems back onto the cutting board, the leaves in a bowl or back in the salad spinner.
Stems!
4. Chop the stems into 1-2" sections.
5. Pour a good glug of olive oil into a pan (I prefer to use our cast iron skillet because it's nice and deep, but it wasn't available for use when I took these pictures!), heat it on medium-high, and then add the stems.
6.  While that's heating up, mince the garlic.
7.  Saute the stems until they darken and start to soften (a few minutes).
8.  Add the minced garlic and saute just long enough for the garlic to sizzle in the olive oil


Leaves!
9.  Add the leaves and some red pepper flakes. Cook until wilted.  I actually like my kale to get just a little browned.
10.  Enjoy!



Spaghetti with sauce, lentils, and a side of dinosaur kale.

I think I'm funny.


Thank you.


Thank you to everyone who told me (here, via email, and in a few places around the Facebook universe) to stop biting my nails and that you support my family!

I have got the PayPal "donation" button up, but intend to change the look of it soon - it's not exactly tax deductible, so the word "donation" seems wrong to me (or even possibly illegal?).  As such, I want to change it, but that is all that PayPal had to offer me!

The button is over to the right.  And, by the way, if I ever hit it big with disposable income, that stuff is getting a makeover!  Big time.

Whew.  This feels huge!

And of course, as a real thank you, I'm about to update my spaghetti sauce post with some pictures of the final product, and add a post with a quick kale recipe.  Enjoy!

Photo Credit

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Making it work.


I'm known to be resourceful.  I enjoy creative problem-solving, and I've become accustomed to working with whatever I've got. At this point it's kind of fun and MacGyver-esque.

In my lifetime I have never wanted for love, I have never felt overwhelmingly unsafe (unstable, yes;  completely unsafe, no.), and I have never gone hungry.  I feel incredibly blessed.

I also have a long-standing problem asking for money (I have tried my hand at sales.  Wow am I ever bad at that...).  So this is an extremely humble and uncomfortable post.

Right now my family is a bit strapped for cash.  We are making it work.  We are not going hungry.  We will never be homeless.  I am very much looking forward to getting to work as a postpartum doula this spring and will contribute to our household income that way.  At times right now it seems like The Beast and I are making money appear out of thin air (in reality, some hard work of his, and some de-cluttering and resourcefulness of mine are paying off).  We are on steady footing, as long as nothing unexpected comes up ::knock on wood::

But I'm going to add a couple of items to the blog to generate a little extra money for my family.  And I do anticipate it being very little, but I view a few dollars as a cup of coffee with a friends, $20 is a trip to the farmer's market or a couple hours for a sitter so I can get a break.  $30 is a date with my husband.

The first thing, which I've already added, is an Amazon search box in the right-hand column.  If you're doing some shopping on Amazon anyway, please consider starting from that search box!  If you add something to your cart during that visit and buy it within 89 days, I get a percentage.  So this is a way for you to support me by buying stuff you'd buy anyway!

The second thing I am contemplating is a PayPal button where you can "buy me coffee" or otherwise contribute however much you'd like.  I'd ask for beer, but I don't like beer.  Maybe I'll ask for a night out with my husband that includes dinner, drinks, a hotel, and an all-night babysitter. 

As some of you know, I have been contemplating monetizing my blog for months.  I can't bring myself to do Google Adsense - no matter whether that would be more lucrative or not.  I want more control than that, and I would be so angry if something were advertised to my readers - implicitly giving my seal of approval - if I didn't actually approve of it.

The bottom line is that, at this point, it seems smart of me to utilize my blog as a potential resource.  If you're reading my blog, you hopefully find some value in it that might be worth a couple of bucks (or making a purchase that you'd have made anyway?).   As such, it seems silly for me to "leave money on the table," as it were, simply because I have a problem asking for money or trying to sell stuff to people. 

I'm nervously pressing "publish" and heading off to bite my nails now!

Friday, March 23, 2012

This is motherhood. And it is disgusting.



So I go into Bean's room to put something on his dresser as I'm cleaning up the rest of the house.  I generally just try to keep my eyes directly in front of me in there so I can avoid Duplo-related injuries to the soles of my feet.  It is a mess of Duplos, random papers, toy airplanes, knight and Viking figurines, etc.  And it's not my job to clean it up.  That is a responsibility I have delegated to Bean himself, and to The Beast.  Supposedly they do it nightly or close to it.  I now have my doubts.

I got to the dresser and noticed some sort of brown staining in a round shape.  Something was obscuring it, so I picked that something up.  I still had no idea what had left the brown ring.  Too large to be a coffee mug...too small to be one of our bowls...

I was looking around at everything on the dresser when I finally looked down at what was in my hand.

A plastic container from our co-op's deli.  With residue of who-knows-what and many dead larvae-of-some-sort inside.  (They were smaller than maggots.  Fruit flies, perhaps?)

Dearest Smart, Thoughtful, Wonderful, Clean-But-Not-Tidy Husband,
     Barf.
   Please change something about the way you are cleaning up that room.  My recommendation:  not just the floor.
Love,
Brea

P.S. I showed it to Bean and explained where it had come from.  I showed him the dresser.  His response was "can I go back to playing now?"  I said, "have you learned anything?"  He went through the motions of a "yes can I go back and play now?"  So I said, "sure.  After you clean your room." 

"I'm going back to bed," he said as he heaved a sigh.

"Ok.  Take a nap.  Then clean your room.  Then you can play."

P.P.S.  He is really angry now. I just went in and asked why, exactly, he was screaming and crying (he started off silent and sullen) and he wiped his eyes, took deep breaths, collected himself and said venomously, "leave me alone!"  Toddlerhood/preschoolerdom as the first adolescence, indeed.

photo credit

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Chicken Parmesan

Someday...someday I will make my food photos look as good as the food tastes!

I love chicken parmesan!  And this is super easy.  It isn't extremely quick, but it is do-able with children under foot, and you can easily scale it up or down to make more or less.  It's not, however, one that I can involve the kids in very well.

This is another of those "recipes" of mine that is very approximate. 

A quick note about the bread crumbs - you can make your own from stale bread.  The Beast only did this because we ended up with some stale bread anyway, but it had the fortunate consequence of giving us some low sodium bread crumbs!  Otherwise, I usually end up with unseasoned bread crumbs because they are lower-sodium than seasoned.  Then I add whatever I feel like to it.  I had an "Italian blend" from a friend that I used tonight, but usually I'd add a little crushed red pepper, some basil, oregano, and parsley.

If you have some stale bread to make your own, The Beast says to pulverize it (we use a high-powered blender), then bake it at 275-ish for 10 minutes or so, stirring frequently so it doesn't burn.  You want the bread crumbs completely dry so it can't grow mold. 

And on to the chicken parmesan recipe!!!

Ingredients
-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs (I think I actually prefer the thighs because they are don't tend to dry out!)
-Bread crumbs (about 3/4 cup?)
-seasonings of choice for the bread crumbs
-Grated Parmesan (...I always forget this, so I suppose I'm not making chicken parmesan most of the time...)
-lemon juice (I juiced two lemons for four thighs)
-tomato sauce (a cup or so?)
-half a pound of mozzarella cheese


Instructions
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2.  Season your bread crumbs and mix with the parmesan.  Set up an assembly line - bowl of lemon juice, bowl of bread crumb mixture, baking dish.

3.  Wash and trim the fat from the thighs/breasts (if you haven't tried kitchen shears for this task, you should!  So much easier than a knife!), then wet by dipping in the lemon juice, coat with bread crumb mixture, and arrange in the baking dish.  Bake breasts for 45 minutes, thighs for 35-40 minutes.

4.  When the chicken is done, remove from oven.  Turn the oven to broil and let it heat up while you put a generous dollop of sauce on each piece and top with a slice of mozzarella.

5.  Broil for a few minutes, checking to make sure the cheese doesn't burn.  We like it beyond melted and starting to bubble and brown.

6.  I serve with spaghetti and sauce, and a salad or some peas and carrots (frozen vegetable ftw!).  Enjoy!

Ready to go under the broiler


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Dear Drivers (feminist thoughts from a 6-mile run)


Dear Drivers,

So we're clear:  I do not enjoy cat calls, whistles, or shouts of "nice ass."

I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt.  I am hoping that you believe these actions to be some sort of service to me, some sort of buttress for my self-esteem. 

They aren't.

When you shout or whistle out of your car window, I do not feel sexy.  On the contrary, I am startled and feel threatened.  I wonder for a block or two whether you are still there, watching me.  Or whether someone else is watching.

It is also possible that you are making fun of me, as I still wear my headlamp and reflective suspenders after the sun has come up.  Or perhaps it is the pack around my waist that sends my sexiness over the edge for you and you just cannot contain yourself.

Again, to be clear:  I do not run for you.  I do not care to be looked at.

That you are looking at women while they exercise - and perhaps actually believe so deeply that they do it for your gaze or your approval - is a problem.  This is a barrier for women to exercise.  We should not be concerned about what we look like while we exercise.  We should not need to worry that you think we are there for your benefit.  And we should not be there for your benefit, but for our own!

And I don't want to look good three miles in.  If I look "pretty" by mile 6, I have done something wrong.

To be clear:  I run for me.

And further, I no longer care what you think of my body.  I know the hard-won sag of my breasts and the wonderment of my stretchmarks.  I know the things this body has endured and what it has conquered.

I am out there testing my limits and sometimes that isn't pretty.  But it is awesome.

Stop undermining my accomplishments.  I'm so much more than sexiness.  I am so much more than an object to be looked at.

And, while we're at it, next time you are speeding through a residential area, stop on a crosswalk, and see a runner stepping off the curb because there was no way to know you were coming?  At least acknowledge her.  Don't just look past her and take off.  At least make it clear you know you screwed up and will try to do better.

Friday, March 9, 2012

I can (and do) have it all.

A perfect balance.  But it's temporary.
It's true, and when I look at my life I wonder how I got so lucky.  I have it all. 

But not all at the same time.

Something is always out of balance.  It is cyclical and, as I draw one thing back into the balance, it inevitably pushes another over the edge.  For me, this concept of balance must. go.  If there is a balance to be had, it's teetering on a tightrope with no safety net and just waiting to fall apart.   So instead, I have been trying to replace it with acceptance of this cycle.

When something is out of whack - the house is a mess, I'm in-my-head obsessive (my current out-of-balance element), my kids are bouncing off the walls, I can't remember the last time I snuggled my husband, I can't remember the last time I took a shower, etc. - I have to stop, identify the problem, remind myself of all the things that are in balance, and then decide which of those is about to go and what needs to come back into the balance.

For example, after a week of snuggling a sick toddler day and night,  I usually feel my "mothering" job is going well, but the house is a wreck and my self-care is non-existent.  It doesn't help that I am then often sick!

Right now, the freezer is filled to the gills with food, I've been keeping us stocked up with granola bars and fruit bars, I'm enjoying the kids, the house is relatively clean and tidy (even the kitchen, despite all the baking and cooking!), I'm exercising regularly and getting a decent amount of time to myself, and I've been going to bed early to make up for frequent wakings by A-Train (whose full recovery from a stomach bug has been lengthy, and I think he is now teething painfully)

....but I haven't had a date or uninterrupted conversation with my husband in over a month, and I haven't gone and done anything fun with friends (and no kids) since...well....I don't remember...Christmastime? 

Oh, and of course I'm not writing on the blog as often as I was last month.  NaBloPoMo was great for satisfying my writing bug...not so great for doing anything else during naptime!

And so the cycle goes.  The Beast and I will have a date on Saturday, I'm making plans to get together for playdates with friends next week and hoping to make plans for dinner or coffee or something else sans children.  I'm also lining up some Skype-while-folding-laundry dates with friends who live out of town.

Probably the house will deteriorate into cluttered oblivion, we'll eat all the food in the freezer (hey, that's what it's there for!), and I'll end up sleep-deprived again.  And the cycle continues...and soon I will add another job - one outside of the home and paying in money - to the mix!


Photo Credit

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The word of the day is "anthropomorphize."



A couple of weeks ago I pissed off my hip flexors.  I'm pretty sure it is specifically my psoas (pronounced "SO-azz"), which keeps popping.  It had been grumbling for awhile (probably years), but it went from kind of a "this again?"  to "BREA YOU ARE CRAZY WHAT ARE YOU THINKING OMG STOP IT I AM DONE."  And then it just up and walked away hurt so bad I limped for three days. 

I have been slowly (SO. SLOWLY.) trying to get my mileage back again, as I'm still hoping/planning to run my first half marathon on the 31st.  I did six miles this morning and had a conversation with my psoas almost the entire time.  (Maybe "psoas" should be the word of the day?)  It went like this:

Me:  Dude.  3-and-a-half weeks until I'm running a half marathon.  You realize I'm running whether you continue to revolt or not, right?

Psoas (entire body tense, eyes closed, chanting):  No hills no hills no hills no hills.

Me:  Suck it up!  I'll avoid the big, huge, long one and I'll go easy on the rest.  Chill out!

Psoas (curling up in a tight little ball and pulling on every neighboring muscle and bone):  Noooooooo we're on a hillllllll!

Me:  OMG please let go of my piriformis.  Please please please let go of my piriformis.  No need to involve her or anything else back there!  Just chill out.

Psoas:
......is it over?  It's over?  Oh that wasn't so bad.  Flat surface.  We're good!  It's all good!  This is nice.  NOOOOOO! ANOTHER HILL!

::Sigh::Of course I am running a course that is notoriously hilly.  The hills are infamous for their number, their length, and their...steepness?  Steeptitude?  Change in elevation?  In any case, there are a couple of steep doozies - one that is so steep, the sidewalk next to it is actually stairs.

I will be finishing this half marathon.  It's possible I will limp across the finish line and spend the next week in a bathtub full of ice, but I will be getting my finisher's medal and able to say I finished the darn thing.  It's paid for.  It's a long-time goal.  Done.

I might be a stubborn ass.
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