(Part of, and likely the conclusion to, the Ebola Mom series)
Guys. THE JOKE WAS ON US THE WHOLE TIME.
(Part of, and likely the conclusion to, the Ebola Mom series)
Guys. THE JOKE WAS ON US THE WHOLE TIME.
I met another new mom in the building.
Her: “Where’s Nora’s favorite food from?”
Me: “What do you mean?”
Her: “Like we order from Little Spoon, fresh delivery of organic foods. Or sometimes [my kid] likes the finger foods from Yumi, they’re also organic and they do all these different boxes of mixed foods, they’re great.”
Her: “So where does Nora like food from?”
She likes to eat food that she finds on the floor.
Nora had a second surgery on Monday to remove a cyst that had developed on one of the suture sites, and to remove one of the four silicone slings holding her eyelids up.
Surgeon (right before surgery): “[lengthy explanation of everything he will do, process and risks of anesthesia, post-op care, etc ]….and that’s it. It should be a quick surgery, about 20 minutes. Do you have any questions before we take her into the operating room?”
Me: “Only 20 minutes? So I won’t have time to get an ice cream downstairs?”
I had time.
Given the various issues we experienced during my last pregnancy and in the past year, Eric and I thought it would be wise and responsible to make a list of factors we need to very seriously consider before having a second child.
Here’s the final list:
So last I left you, Nora was doing great but sporting a somewhat funky-looking cyst on the corner of her left eyebrow, at one of the sling surgery incision sites (there are four such sites, two on each eyebrow. The other three sites are completely fine and healed, barely visible). Here’s a diagram of the situation on her left eye, for visual learners:
As mentioned previously, the cyst does not seem to bother her at all (except when we have to clean/medicate it), but the problem with leaving it be is that it is constantly opening and reforming, and every time that happens, it runs the risk of becoming infected. That would be crappy for many reasons. I don’t think I need to explain them.
Plus no one needs a cyst permanently sitting on their face. Life is hard enough.
In a last-ditch effort to get rid of the cyst (we’d already tried various topical steroids and antibiotics, to no avail), the surgeon prescribed an oral antibiotic. He hoped that this would do the trick– if not, it would mean that it’s the silicone sling itself causing the chronic irritation, and so it (the sling) would have to be removed.
So Nora took the oral antibiotic and the cyst went away and we all lived happily ever after because LIFE IS RAINBOWS AND BUTTERFLIES AND UNICORNS THE END!!!!!
Bwahahahahahahahahh jk guys. But you knew that.
You’re on MY blog, not [insert name of someone I’d hate]’s blog.
Life never gets tied up in a neat little bow, so here we are at the next boulder in the road. Get out your chisel. (Is that what one uses to break through a boulder? Listen I’m not outdoorsy nor have I ever used a tool).
The cyst remains. And while we’ve grown so used to it that we’ve considered giving it a name, starting a college fund and raising it as our own, the doctor feels it needs to go. And the only way to do that is to remove the sling (you know, the one holding her eyelid up).
So we have another surgery scheduled for Monday. Yes, this Monday. July 22nd. Because some people go to The Hamptons in the summer, but honestly we prefer the bright florescent lights of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Day Surgery Division.
Same doctor. Same hospital. Same general anesthesia. Same
crippling anxiety thought spirals of hell positive attitude leading up to it.
The doctor seems hopeful that because there are two slings in the eyelid (refer to professional diagram above), the inner sling will be sufficient in keeping the lid up. If the lid DOES droop, to the point where it could affect vision, he will be able to discern that mid-surgery, and we will then have the option of putting in a replacement sling in a slightly different location (all this can be done in that same surgery). The downside to this is that Nora will then have three incision sites in that one brow. And, of course, the chance of another cyst-like reaction at the new incision site.
The good news, again, is that the surgeon seems confident that the one remaining sling will suffice (especially since this was the better, less droopy eye to begin with), and that removing the troublesome sling is not going to affect the cosmetics, or her vision, at all (then why did he put it there in the first place? Standard procedure? Slightly better chance of symmetry with the other eye? IDK guys I guess I missed the day they taught that in the medical school that I didn’t go to). Furthermore, he feels that if he DID have to put in a replacement sling, the likelihood of a cyst forming again is small, especially since the other three incisions healed so nicely.
His confidence seems promising, and the odds do seem to be in our favor– however, this is only the THIRD time in his TWENTY YEAR career that he has had to remove a sling, so I’d say my faith in odds right now is akin to my faith in Eric’s hair-regrowth shampoo.
Thankfully, Eric remains positive and hopeful (regarding both the surgery and his hair), so I don’t have to. This is a marriage strategy and not an accident. It’s written in our ketubah: “In sickness, and in health, Emily will constantly assume the worst and Eric will keep the entire ship afloat by himself, so help him God. He’ll also get Emily iced coffee and egg salad and never comment on how much she’s sweating.” It’s all there in Hebrew.
So that’s where we are. One of the four silicone slings will be removed on Monday. The surgery is slated to take 120 minutes, from prep to finish. I will eat my feelings next to the hospital’s frozen yogurt machine, which likely still has my chicken-nugget-greased fingerprints on it from February. Eric will wander around introducing himself to various dogs.
Nora, I assume, will handle it better than both of us, because she’s still zero years old and life is just a series of eating, pooping, and maniacally swaying to Queen:
And I’m sure all this hardship will make Nora stronger, and it will all work out in the end, just like it did for Freddie Mercury.
No, I’m kidding. Obviously. I DO believe this will all be fine, I’m just sorry my sweet little tater tot has to go through this. AGAIN. I’m not necessarily confident that this is the last time we will deal with this issue, but I AM confident we’ll be able to look back one day and this will all seem like a distant memory and a minor roadblock. I know that day will come, because, no matter how hard life has been at any point, and no matter how hopeless things have seemed at any given moment, a good dose of distance and perspective has always made the value of the struggle seem crystal clear.
But right now it’s surgery-anticipation mode, so I’m sorry, I’m just not there yet. But I will be.
And until then, I’ll cope in same way any other loving, caring, fiercely devoted mother would.
(A continuation/update of Nora Left Eye Lopes )
Yesterday I received an email from a reader asking me about the progress of Nora’s ptosis, and it dawned on me that I never actually posted an update on the blog. I’ve kept friends informed through Facebook, but hearing from this woman (who also has a baby with congenital ptosis) made me realize that I owe an update to blog readers as well. I am always hopeful that my experiences can help and provide information/insight for others, so here’s the spiel (I tried my damndest to keep it short but, choice of husband aside, I’m pretty bad at keeping things short. Ba-dum ching! ):
Soon after my last (and also first) blog post about Nora’s ptosis, we had our next ophthalmologist appointment. The diagnosis up until that point was “mild” ptosis in her right eye that was (so far) not impacting her vision or development. We were told to patch her left eye in order to force her to use the right one, with the purpose of maintaining vision in that eye and preventing Amblyopia, aka “lazy eye.” This patching phase is when she earned her “Nora Left Eye Lopes” nickname. Because, I mean, just look at this photo and tell me she is not one badass bitch:
You can’t, right? I know.
So yeah. We left that first appointment thinking this was a relatively minor issue that we’d just have to watch, and if down the line we wanted to consider surgery for cosmetic purposes, that would be an option. Thankfully, the ptosis was not severe, and surgery was not something we needed to even have on our radar yet.
So imagine my surprise when I took Nora to the next appointment (Eric was traveling for work) and was told that, in fact, BOTH eyes had ptosis (I kind of already suspected this, but also kind of talked myself out of it and chalked it up to my BFF, Paranoia, rearing her ugly persistent head). The doctor classified the right eye as “severe” and the left as “moderate.” No “mildness” about it. While Nora’s vision was thus far intact, the extreme head-tilting she had to do in order to see would likely start to affect her physical development.
Surgery was recommended.
The good thing is that even though this was not at all what I expected to hear, I remained totally calm. I listened to the doctor’s words and stayed completely composed, because instinct kicked in and I knew I had to be strong for my baby girl.
I cried like a little bitch.
The recommended surgery was Bilateral Frontalis Sling, where an internal silicon sling is inserted to connect the lid muscles to the eyebrow muscle, so the brow muscle can lift the lids for her. Using silicon as the material for the sling is usually only a temporary solution– as a baby’s face grows, the silicon does not grow with it, and therefore the lids typically start to droop again after a period of time. An alternative material to silicon is a thigh tendon (aka “fascia lata”), taken from the child’s leg through a very small incision. This is typically a more permanent solution, as the tendon will grow with the child’s face. It also has the added benefit of not being a foreign object in the body, and therefore infection or rejection is unlikely. Unfortunately, the tendon can not be used until about 3-4 years of age, because it is not developed enough before then. So our only option at this point was silicon.
Luckily, through the amazingness of social media (Facebook gets a bad rap but I’ve already nominated Mark Zuckerberg for a Nobel Prize), we were able to locate and be connected with one of the top doctors in the country for this kind of surgery: Dr. William Katowitz at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). During our consultation with him, he agreed that Nora’s case was severe, and surgery was scheduled for February 21, just a few days shy of her 6-month birthday.
The nice thing about waiting for a surgery date to arrive is NOTHING.
THERE IS NO NICE THING.
I thought I was handling the anxiety of the approaching date well, but in hindsight I was just channeling my anxiety into other aspects of my life. It was anxiety just the same. I didn’t eat well, sleep well, or think well for months. Wine through a straw helped. Until it inevitably didn’t.
Finally, the date arrived. We drove to Philly the night before, stayed at a hotel, and arrived at CHOP around 8am the next day. Here’s a visual summary of surgery day:
Nora was a brave (re: oblivious) little saggy-cheeked champ, Eric befriended every dog he came across, I ate my feelings/smiled so I didn’t cry, and then I sang to Nora post-surgery and mentally transported myself to a place where I wasn’t staring at my bloodied, swollen, groggy, whimpering child.
Seeing her after surgery was terrible. It was a long car ride back to NYC. I sat in the back with her, but covered her car seat with a light blanket as she slept, because I couldn’t bear to see the evidence of what we had elected to do to her. Yes, it was medically advised and yes, it would probably be better for her in the long run, but in that moment all I could think was “I caused her this pain.”
Well, no worries, because as it turns out, my daughter is a fucking warrior.
We got home and she slept through most of the night, waking only once for a bottle because, due to the anesthesia, she hadn’t eaten in about 24 hours. After a 3am feed she went right back to bed and, I shit you not, woke up like this:
Happy as a goddamn clam.
For real, WHO MADE THIS CHILD?! It seems that somehow, despite the fact that I carried and birthed her, she inherited zero of my DNA. Because if it were me, I’d be handling the situation with exactly this much grace:
As you can somewhat see in the photos of Nora above, the surgeon tied the sling at four separate incision sites, two on each brow. He then put in a temporary stitch on the bottom of each eye, for the purpose of keeping her eyes cinched tight post-op, in order to prevent her from scratching a cornea.
Two days after surgery, we returned to CHOP and he removed the temporary stitch. The results took my breath away (it was at this point I realized I hadn’t, in fact, breathed in 2 months):
Nora instantly stopped tilting her head back, and we were able to see, for the first time, just how beautifully blue her eyes are. I praised Jesus. Yeah, I’m jewish, but still. This felt like a moment for Jesus to be involved. Allah, Buddha, whoever Wiccans worship– everyone was welcome at this prayer party.
Since then, Nora’s eyes have “settled” a bit, which is to be expected with this surgery:
As far as I’m concerned, her eyes now look typically-developing. Yes, sometimes her right eye still looks “droopier,” especially when she’s tired. And yes, there’s still a little bit of a “sleepiness” to them, but it’s so minor I’m pretty sure I’m the only one perceiving it. She sometimes sleeps with her eyes a bit open, which we were warned was a possible side effect, but it has not had any consequences other than to kinda creep us out.
So all in all, a huge success with virtually no complications!!!!!!
Not how my life works.
About 3 months after surgery, Nora woke up with a swollen eye, and one of the suture sites on her brow looked irritated. We went to the opthamologist and they gave us some cream and didn’t seem too concerned. Weeks later, the irritation had only gotten worse. We went back to the surgeon at CHOP.
It turns out that a small cyst has developed, a minor and fairly common healing complication. The cyst varies in its appearance, and every so often it pops, draining some pus and blood (I know, gross– but this is actually a good thing). Some days, it looks like nothing more than a small little scab on her brow. Other days, it takes on a life of its own.
Fortunately, much like the dude above, Nora is blissfully unaware of its presence and, in terms of cosmetics, gives a total of zero fucks. Ah, to be no years old.
It isn’t causing her any harm or discomfort, aside from when we have to put hot compresses on it, squeeze it a bit, and apply the cream. That, she does not care for (#grossunderstatement).
The doctors seem hopeful that the cyst will eventually resolve itself and fully drain on its own. I’m not so sure. It continues to fill, pop, scab, and then the process begins all over again. If it doesn’t improve soon, we will have to consider surgery as an option.
I know– another surgery?! Whhhhhhyyyyyyyyy? Especially for such a minor thing that only seems to be a cosmetic issue at this point?
Well the problem is, the more the cyst opens, the more likely it is to get infected– and if it DOES get infected, and THEN the surgeon goes in to remove it, there is a much higher chance that he might have to remove the sling, too. And if that were the case, we’d have to wait for the cyst surgery to heal, and then do ANOTHER sling surgery. Granted, this is a worst-case scenario, but the fact that it’s even in the realm of scenarios makes me want to ugly cry, Kardashian style.
So nothing’s perfect. Which falls under the category of “duh.”
But overall, we are so grateful for the surgery and the results, despite the non-perfection. Nora can see. People no longer look at her and wonder if something is “wrong” with her (you might think that’s me being cray, but I actually had a former student’s parent, pre-surgery, ask me exactly that– “Is she ok? Is something wrong with her?” It was the first time in my life that I considered murder as a viable conflict resolution tactic.)
Nora is now completely thriving in all areas of development, and she’s just the happiest little rope-a-dope. I mean look how thrilled she is about a banana that I bought on the street for 15 cents:
And yes she’s eating that banana naked because do you really expect me to feed AND clothe her? What am I, a wizard?
So that’s where we are in our ptosis journey. We have the possibility of cyst-removal surgery, as well as the eventual possibility of fascia lata sling surgery to replace the silicon sling a few years down the line. All that being said, Nora is happy, healthy, and thriving– we are thrilled with our decision to surgically treat her eyes, and have never looked back (
no pun intended).
A huge thank you to ALL those who have supported us along the way (and there have been so SO many of you). The brightest, most silverest (back off, spellcheck) lining of this whole experience has been a renewed faith in the human spirit. Anyone who thought they might be able to help, did. We were connected with the best doctors, given the most helpful advice, sent the sweetest gifts, notes and kind words. There is simply no way to accurately express my gratitude, so in lieu of the perfect words, please accept this photo of Nora making the world’s most absurd face:
(are YOU exhausted? I am)
To preface (because I love a good long-winded preface), the purpose of this post is two-fold.
1. To express and work through the emotions and anxiety I have as a new mom processing and managing her child’s medical issue. Even if you feel these emotions are insanely out of proportion to the issue, they are MY emotions AND I’M ALLOWED TO HAVE THEM, GOD DAMNIT. (Ching! That’s the sound of my therapist earning the $500000000000000000000000000+ my family has paid her over the past 12 years). Plus, writing about my anxiety always helps to relieve it. And sometimes, it even helps someone else going through something similar– bonus!
2. People have already noticed and asked about the issue, because it is physical and perceptible. It doesn’t bother me that people ask (meh, not totally accurate– depends who it is. Friend? Fine. Guy in elevator? Fuck off.), but I want to use this platform to educate, inform, and perhaps just not have to repeat myself and explain the situation to everyone I know in the future (because saying things in person is hard and I hate it). Generally though, I feel it’s always best just to put things out there rather than have people wonder about it or make assumptions.
I know, that was only the preface and you’re already exhausted. I’m sorry. Not all my posts fit on twitter.
Here we go.
In the first few days after Nora was born, she did not open her right eye. At all.
Eric and I thought this was a bit bizarre, but also recognized that she had just been through a trauma of epic proportions (ask Eric what it’s like to watch a C-section– his face goes pale and he makes multiple references to the movie Alien). So we tried not to obsess. But when the pediatrician checked her over in the hospital on Day 2, we made a point to ask about it.
Us: “So, is it weird that she hasn’t opened this eye at all?”
Pediatrician: “Nope. Totally normal. Don’t worry– she does have an eyeball under there. I checked.”
We all had a good chuckle and I tried not to interpret her remark as slightly condescending. The concern, clearly, was not about a missing eyeball (mainly because it didn’t occur to me that that was even a thing. IS that a thing?!) The concern was about her ability to open the eye. But we were assured that newborns often take days to open both eyes (which, to be fair, is true), and she was fine. So we joked that she was just giving us the stink eye for having so brutally evicted her from her cozy uterus-home, nicknamed her “One Eyed Willie,” and tried to call it a day.
But internally*, I obsessed.
(*in this context, “internally” means saying things out loud to Eric every 2-6 seconds for weeks on end.)
I knew something was off. I think they refer to this as “mother’s intuition,” and maybe there was a bit of that going on, but I believe it was really more just a product of my
textbook anxious-paranoid-obsessive-compulsive tortured existence personality.
At her 3-week pediatrician appointment I brought it up again. At this point, the right eye was opening, but not nearly as wide as the left. Unfortunately, the doctor could not really assess this, as Nora slept though the entire appointment, ignoring any and all attempts to wake her. She had no problem laying there, unclothed and comatose in a freezing cold room, snoozing soundly. Like this, but stark naked:
Clearly my kid.
So at her 8 week appointment, I brought it up once again. This time Nora decided to be awake, probably because we stupidly booked the appointment for 6pm, in the midst of her witching hour. Rookie new parent mistake. She was pissed and tired and hungry and glaring at me with “wtf Ma!?” face.
But the plus side was that the doctor was able to get a good look at her (murderous) eyes.
And she didn’t love what she saw.
“At this point, I’d expect to see both eyes opening to the same degree.”
I wanted to shout I KNEW FROM DAY 1 THAT SOMETHING WAS WRONG, DICK! But instead I smiled politely and said “Mmm hmm,” because society.
She referred us to a pediatric ophthalmologist, who confirmed a diagnosis of Congenital Ptosis (the p is silent, FYI. We learned that the hard way). Ptosis is a fancy way of saying “droopy eyelid.” Without getting too technical (I have warned you all repeatedly that this is NOT a medical blog, and most of my info comes from Wikipedia, what I’m able to decipher of my frantically-jotted doctor’s appointment notes, and what I heard from “someone I know who knows someone”)– in congenital ptosis, babies are born with a damaged levator muscle, the one that is in charge of lifting the eyelid. Unfortunately, since the muscle is damaged (not simply “underdeveloped”), there is not much that can be done to strengthen it and improve the droop– treatment is instead focused on maintaining vision in the affected eye. In severe ptosis, the eyelid covers the pupil and restricts a child’s vision, which can lead to all kinds of eye problems such as lazy eye, astigmatism, or amblyopia (google it. Or don’t. I don’t care, I just don’t want to get too medically complex here. I like to think this blog is a safe space where people don’t have to learn/think too much). When that is the case, surgery is recommended ASAP to prevent these conditions from developing.
Luckily, for now, Nora’s case seems to be fairly mild (fingers crossed– we’ll know more after her appointment next week). Her lid does not cover her pupil unless she is extremely tired, so thus far, her vision seems fine and is developing normally. We will have regular checkups with the ophthalmologist to ensure that this remains the case, and if anywhere down the line her vision becomes affected, we will do the (very routine, relatively simple, and not too invasive) surgery. Otherwise, surgery is a future option simply for cosmetic reasons. Yes, Forrest Whittaker (thank you, “celebrities with ptosis” google search) has rocked his droopy eye all the way to the bank, but the droop life isn’t necessarily for everyone. Depending on how it looks when she’s a toddler, we will consider the surgery just to even things out and not have to worry about the vision aspect anymore.
I know what you’re thinking (no I don’t, but I know what the critical voices inside my head are thinking, so I’ll go ahead and address those relentless bastards)– cosmetic surgery for a toddler?! But let’s call a fig a fig**, people– kids can be cruel. The world can be cruel. I’m totally cool with Nora’s eye looking a little wonky. Maybe even she’d be cool with it (likely, as at zero years old, she’s already showing signs of being a way cooler person than I am). But other kids, and society in general, might not be cool about it. There are going to be a million challenges in this world that Nora will have to overcome, and I will be unable to control most of them (*takes deep breath, pops Prozac*). But if this is one hardship that we as parents can help alleviate, and we can prevent a lifetime of her having to explain her face (that no, she’s not tired, or sick, or skeptical, or giving the stink eye), then damnit we’re probably going to step in and do something.
Plus, Nora comes from a long line of cosmetically-enhanced women (three generations of nose jobs, praise be 🙌 ). I wouldn’t want her to feel left out.
Let me also assure you that, droop or no droop, vision issue or 20/20, I think my daughter is the height of amazingness. She is adorable, beautiful, sweet and already showing all the signs of being extremely social, happy, smart, strong, and even funny (those first slew of adjectives are all Eric, but I’m claiming the sense of humor and taking it to my grave). Her endearing personality is emerging more and more each day, and it’s incredible to watch. She is my everything, and I couldn’t possibly love her more or be more unabashedly obsessed with her (my instagram deserves a rating of 5 vomit emojis. I wasted no time becoming that mom). To use a trite phrase that I can now appreciate, she truly is perfect in my eyes (but check with me again when she’s 13 and calling me a bitch).
So in the meantime, we are putting an eyepatch on her for 30 minutes a day to ensure she uses the affected eye, and that her vision remains intact.
Clearly, this is where the nickname “Nora Left Eye Lopes” comes in– and if you don’t get that TLC reference, then may god have mercy on your un-pop-cultured soul (or maybe you’re just too young to get, in which case, fuck you). We bought some cute, stylish patches to rock, attempted to find a Lisa Left Eye Lopes Halloween costume that wasn’t slutty (doesn’t exist) and for now, as the ophthalmologist instructed, we are just “keeping an eye on it– no pun intended!”
I’ve been asked if ptosis is something Nora will “outgrow.” The short answer is no. The muscle is damaged, and it will never work properly without surgery. However, some babies with congenital ptosis “grow into it,” in that the droop becomes less noticeable as they get older, their features grow, and they learn some compensation strategies (such as lifting their eyebrow to raise the lid– which Nora already does (below), and it’s amazing because it creates this “Are you fucking serious?” look on her face that makes me laugh every time):
Although the raised eyebrow in THIS photo is more specifically “Are you fucking serious with this headband, Ma?”. Ugh, I don’t know Nora, I was trying a thing.
Now I also just want to take a moment to acknowledge that I am extremely aware of the fact that Nora’s ptosis is, in the grand scheme of things, a minor issue to have. Please know that I know this. Please don’t remind me that things could be a million times worse. I am well aware, and my heart aches for parents having to deal with far more terrifying and complex medical issues. Ptosis is diagnosable, and there is a pretty straightforward protocol for treatment. It is not at all life-threatening (assuming it’s not the symptom of a more serious neurological issue, which it appears not to be), and, as long as we continue to monitor it, it likely won’t ever affect her growth and development (HARD knock on wood). We are very lucky. Beyond lucky.
But when any kind of issue arises with your kid– well, it’s scary. Really fucking scary. To pretend otherwise, and to say that I immediately recognized (or have even now fully recognized) this is not really a big deal in the grand scheme of things, would be, I think, disingenuous to the experience of parenting (and to the general experience of being human, I would venture to say). Plus, I’m new at this. Nora was barely in the world for an hour before I noticed something was off. There’s no handbook for this shit. There’s no way to stop your mind from going to the deepest depths of worst-case scenarios– what if it stunts her vision? What if it’s a symptom of a more serious, underlying illness? Or what if it IS just cosmetic, but causes kids to pick on her? Laugh at her? Call her horribly mean names? (This last one, I suppose, is not REALLY a concern, as Nora will wear a hidden camera at all times throughout her entire life, which I will monitor, and should any kid even LOOK at her funny, I will kill them.)
No no, relax guys, I’m kidding.
Eric will kill them.
So how did Nora develop congenital ptosis? Well, the doctors say it’s just something that happens sometimes. No real reason.
But I blame myself. Obviously. Because hi 👋 .
Slowly, I am starting to accept the medical (non)explanation, and my therapist’s insistence that nothing I did during pregnancy caused this, but I still can’t fully shake the crippling fear and guilt that this is somehow my fault. Here’s a list of questions I asked myself in the wake of Nora’s diagnosis:
As you can see, the guilt has become increasingly irrational.
My intellectual side (mostly) knows this is not my fault, but my heart aches at the nagging, persistent thought that my actions might have caused this. The mere idea of my daughter having to face any kind of hardship makes me want to just crawl up and die– to think I might have caused that hardship makes me want to die even faster and more violently.
But apparently, that’s motherhood. It’s incredible and beautiful, but it’s tortured. This is the first challenge Nora has faced, and it won’t be her last. This one may or may not be my fault, but I’m sure future ones will be. This time I might be able to step in and minimize the effects, but that will not continue to be the case as she grows older.
There will be a time when I look away for a second and she falls flat on her face. There will be a time when I can’t make it to her event, and she feels neglected. There will be a time when she discovers this blog and, mortified, hires a lawyer to request emancipation. There will be a time when she is a young adult, telling her therapist how I am the root of all her problems (and referencing printed-out excerpts of this blog as evidence). It’s the circle of Jewish life.
In the meantime, like all moms, I’m just doing the best I can not to fuck it all up. I’m accepting (gulp) that I can’t control it all. I’m managing my anxiety and working through my guilt. And in the meantime, I’m doing everything I can to ensure Nora knows that Mom will steadfastly love and support her throughout her life, through any and all challenges she might face.
Will it be enough?
(Get it? Ptosis? We’ll SEE? Ugh I hate myself.)
No I can’t end this on a bad pun. Here, this instead:
(** I recently learned that my go-to expression, “Let’s call a spade a spade” has racist undertones. I was clearly blissfully unaware of this, but am nevertheless horrified that I was walking around spewing this expression left and right. Unfortunately, I have yet to come up with a good replacement expression. “Let’s call a corgi a corgi,” is Eric-approved, but I’m not sure it has universal appeal. Some quick research led me to the discovery that the original expression was actually “Let’s call a fig a fig.” So that’s my temporary fill in. It’s not great, but it’s not racist, so priorities. Feel free to use it. #themoreyouknow)
(Note: This post was written while still pregnant, lest you think I just shot a kid out of my baby-cannon and now have any ability to construct a coherent sentence, much less a mini-memoir.)
Yes, a mouse.
But stay with me. We have a rational reason for doing so. Well, maybe not a rational reason (not sure how anyone can expect me to be rational right now, as I am currently in month 9 of having two vaginas), but a reason that will at least provide some context for my desire to name our child after an animal that most people try to kill with strategically placed snap-traps.
Ten years ago, I suffered a deep, terrifying, paralyzing depression. I’ve written about it and referenced it many times on this blog so I won’t re-hash the details in this post, but needles to say, it was my darkest hour. What I haven’t mentioned before is a somewhat interesting (and now extremely relevant) aspect of this terrible time in my life– my obsession with mouse-kid Noisy Nora.
Yes, I’ll explain (because who? And huh?).
In the months I spent depressed living in my parents’ home at age 26, I was unable to do virtually anything. One day, while robotically eating breakfast and staring blankly at the Honey Nut Cheerios box, my mother put a pencil in my hand and suggested I draw something. Not only did I think this was pointless, as EVERYTHING was pointless, but I thought it was extra ridiculous given that, a mild talent for photography aside, I had never at any point in my life shown any kind of visual-arts ability or interest.
But I had nothing to lose (and nothing to do), so I grabbed the pencil and started drawing what I saw on the cereal box in front of me.
Looking at it now, I think “Not a bad little Cheerios bee!” At the time, however, all I could manage was, “Well this drawing sucks.” Because, you know. Everything sucked. But what I did notice was that for the brief time I was immersed in the sketching process, I wasn’t, for once, writhing in despair and wondering how the minutes of life could possibly be ticking by so slowly. I was able to escape my agony for a short, precious time, and that alone was enough reason to keep drawing.
So I did. Basically, I stuck to sketching images that were on the boxes of the food I was eating:
As you can see, I was really into carbs.
Then one day, in a further desperate attempt to pass the interminable minutes, I began sorting through mountains of crap in my parents’ storage room. To my delight (delight is a strong word– I hated everything) I stumbled upon a box of my most beloved childhood books. They were all there: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Where the Wild Things Are, Doctor De Soto, The Snowy Day and, finally, at the very bottom of the box– Noisy Nora.
GOD how I loved that book as a kid. It’s about a very endearing yet insufferable little mouse-kid who is jealous of the time her parents spend with her siblings, and therefore seeks attention by being a destructive little pain in the ass. I adored her, because I was her. No one could yell, stomp, and slam a door (then open it and re-slam it) for NO GOOD REASON like kid-me (and, ok, teenager-me. Adult-me…).
And for reasons I could not articulate, I suddenly became OBSESSED with drawing Nora. So obsessed, in fact, that I purchased a separate sketch pad solely for Nora drawings, where I could practice sketching her over and over again until I had her every tiny little detail perfected. (Side note: This genius separate-notebook idea backfired, as somewhere in the five times I’ve moved residencies since then, it got misplaced, while my notebook full of meaningless cereal box characters has somehow stood the test of time ).
I sketched these Nora drawings in the privacy of my own bedroom, and kept the special Nora notepad under the bed where no one would find it. Unlike my Cheerios bee and Keebler elves, I was very protective of my Nora sketches and did not want to show them to anyone, even my mother, who was always so delighted and impressed by my cartoon drawings– so impressed, in fact, that she suggested I pursue a career in comic-strip writing (she was pretty desperate to give me purpose. She was also, understandably, drinking a LOT of wine during that time).
Nora was my little secret. I was never really able to articulate or explain to myself why I was so obsessed with her. Sure, I loved the book as a kid, but I loved lots of books and characters and wasn’t obsessing over any of THEM. At the time, the infatuation made no sense. But then again, nothing made sense, so I didn’t spend too much time or energy trying to figure it out.
Eventually, with copious medical interventions and the unwavering support of family and friends, I began to heal in early 2009, and life restarted again. I moved back to NYC, got a teaching job, found my marbles, and was functioning like the human I had forgotten I was capable of being.
And in the process, I let Nora go. Not completely and not forever– after all, she was there with me for those lonely, agonizing months and got me through a truly hopeless time– but now that I was able to participate in life again, the inexplicable obsession subsided and found a cozy spot in the back recesses of my mind, rather than in the fixated forefront.
Fast forward 9 years and I’m pregnant. As soon as we learned we were having a girl, out of (seemingly) nowhere, the name Nora came to my mind. I casually mentioned it to Eric as a name I liked, and he agreed it was nice, but suggested we keep thinking. He liked it but didn’t necessarily LOVE it, and maybe there was something out there we’d both LOVE. That was fine with me– I wasn’t even sure in that moment why I liked it so much, or why it came to me so suddenly, so I agreed to keep thinking. We looked through list after list and flirted with other names, many of which I did really like. But at the end of each day when I put my head to my pillow, I kept coming back to Nora.
And slowly, I began to realize why. Now, bear with me here– I’m not typically a hokey, whimsical or overly-spiritual person. But I am a big believer in things happening for a reason, and I do think “the universe,” however one might define that, plays a role in the direction our lives take. And in that time when I felt I truly had nothing to live for, I feel that maybe, just maybe, the Nora obsession was the universe’s way of saying “Do not give up, Emily. This darkness is temporary, and light awaits. There’s something big coming, and you’re going to want to be around to see it.”
Now I don’t want anyone to interpret this as me thinking that having a child is the only, or the ultimate, thing to live for. It has been 10 years since that depressive episode and my life has been beyond full of reasons to live– from big reasons (family, friends, major accomplishments both personal and professional, fabulous travel, discovery of new talents and interests) to all those little moments that make up a full, meaningful life (a burst of uncontrolled laughter, hearing Journey’s “Faithfully” and remembering every single lyric to your camp alma mater, a post-run nap in a shaded hammock, the satisfaction of finally killing the pesky fly that’s been occupying your apartment for a week– sorry, that last one just happened like 5 minutes ago and DAMN it felt good! Anyway, we all have our things.)
There are trillions of reasons to live, big and small, but when you’re severely depressed, you can’t access any of them. So I think this Nora obsession, for which I had no explanation at the time, only an intense and seemingly primal NEED to draw her, was the universe desperately trying to shove hope in my face– to tell me that if I could just hold on and get through this time, I would rediscover all the reasons to be here, and come to see that I still have so much important work left to do in this life, including (but certainly not limited to) becoming a mom.
So I kept coming back to the name Nora, and although Eric liked it, he still wasn’t totally sold. I wanted to disclose the reason I was so attached to it, but I also worried he might think I was nuts (not sure why I still occasionally fear this. The guy has witnessed some pretty emotionally ape-shit moments and he’s still here, inexplicably, with bells on). For months, I kept pressing the name on him, with no explanation other than, “I just really like it,” only to get a non-committal, “I like it too, but let’s keep thinking,” in response.
So eventually, on a particularly hormonal day, I explained my reasoning. With tears in my eyes, I cautiously relayed the story of my Noisy Nora fixation, and how in hindsight I think it might have been the universe giving me a reason to hold on.
“Oh,” Eric said. “Well then that’s it. That’s her name. Why didn’t you just tell me that? Of course that’s her name. And now I love it.”
And that is why I married him.
And why we named our daughter after a rodent.
Yesterday Eric and I went to the hospital for our 36-week growth scan (a thorough, more in-depth ultrasound to track baby’s growth/health, generally performed every 4-6 weeks in pregnancy). After the hell parade that was Sunday, we* were pretty anxious about what this scan might reveal.
*we = I . Eric doesn’t scare easily. See “marrying me” as evidence.
The first thing the technician said before performing the scan was “So, now that you’re 36 weeks and 3 days along, baby should definitely be in the head-down position, preparing for delivery.”
“Funny you should say that,” I countered. “Because we ended up in the hospital on Sunday due to contractions, nausea, and shortness of breath, only to learn through a quick ultrasound that baby flipped to breech, even though she’s been head down since week 30.”
“Ugh,” said the technician. “What a little stinker.”
I immediately liked her, and wondered if she’d be interested in nannying my child as a side-gig.
“Yes,” I agreed. “We’ve been using the term ‘bozo,’ but stinker works too.”
“Alright, well let’s see what Stinker’s up to today.”
She placed the ultrasound wand on my belly and immediately determined that baby had, somewhere in the past 36 hours, flipped back to head-down (the correct position).
“Oh, thank god,” I sighed, followed quickly by, “Fucking…seriously, though?”
My initial interpretation of this behavior was that this baby is exactly like Eric– an energetic bunny hellbent on filling her day with activities, despite the person sharing space with her being in NO MOOD.
A true Lerman baby, by contrast, would have found a cozy spot at week 6 and not moved a muscle until she was tugged out with forceps, suction, and a blowhorn at week 43. But this kid has been kicking, jabbing, and playing my ribs like a xylophone for months now. Activities!!!!!!!!!!
But upon further contemplation I realized this late-in-the-game-flip-trick was maybe less a display of restless hyperactivity and more indicative of chronic indecisiveness. A sudden, crippling fear that she was doing everything horribly wrong, and attempting to change course when it made absolutely no rational sense to do so. Or perhaps it was just straight-up bitchery performed for her own amusement. All clearly traits of her mother.
Terrifying realization that my daughter might be exactly like me aside, I was relieved that our little gremlin found her way back home because no breech = no automatic c-section, which, sure, might still happen anyway, but at least now it’s not a set inevitable. (Side note: after listening to several women in the throes of excruciating labor on Sunday, a c-section did actually start to sound appealing. But in general I have a rule about avoiding knives to my body if/when possible. Nose job at age 15 aside, of course. That was obviously necessary, according to my mother.)
Then, suddenly, something dawned on me, and I quickly formed a medical hypothesis about Sunday’s trauma that no doctor had offered up, because apparently in this pregnancy it is up to me, with my BA in Sociology, to accurately diagnose all health conditions with no help from the people who attended 7+ years of medical school (see: Hypothyroidism section of this post for further evidence of how I am
smarter than all doctors everywhere my own best advocate.)
So I presented my hypothesis to the technician: “Wait, so– on Sunday they chalked my nausea, contractions and difficulty breathing up to dehydration or something I ate. But is it possible I got sick because of her breech position? Because honestly everything felt different and so uncomfortable for that one day, even the way I was able to move and lay, and I think maybe it was because she flipped to breech so quickly?”
“Oh, that’s absolutely possible,” replied the technician/my future nanny/new best friend. “At this stage in pregnancy all of your organs have shifted up, and there’s not much space left in there. So when baby flipped and pressed her head against all those organs, it definitely could have made you sick.”
What exactly did I know? That this was ALL HER FAULT– NOT MINE! The doctors kept trying to tell me I’m not drinking enough water (literally impossible– I’m blogging this from the porcelain whiz palace, because I live here now) or that I “shouldn’t have eaten that chicken salad” when in reality I drink 20 vats of water a day (as something had to replace the wine) and Gracie Mews Diner would NEVER hurt me.
No, Sunday’s disaster was the result of baby’s choice, not mine, and to be honest I am slightly resentful that I had to take the heat for HER poor decision.
Although I suppose, in the end, this is exactly what parenthood is– begrudgingly accepting responsiblity for your kid’s bonehead choices.
And fine. I accept that. I guess I was just kind of hoping the boneheadedness would hold off until toddlerhood. Or, at the very least, birth.
Anyway, she heard all this so here she is trying to give me the finger.
I’m sure she’ll have that down by the time I meet her.
I went to my first prenatal yoga class this morning.
I hated it.
I’ve been having some back pain for the past 2 weeks so various sources, including my therapist, recommended a prenatal yoga class to “open up the body.” I’ve tried yoga twice in the past (over 10 years ago) and didn’t particularly enjoy it at all, but I will always follow my therapist’s advice in the same way Michael Scott followed his GPS into a lake, which is to say that even if my instincts tell me this is not going to be good, I have no choice but to obey the all-knowing robot.
So I nodded as if I knew what “open up the body” even meant, and signed up for a trial class.
The first thing I was instructed to do was put one hand on my heart, one hand on my belly, and send an “intention” to baby. In hindsight I realize that this intention was supposed to be something along the lines of “I intend to love you forever,” but mine was “I intend not to piss on this floor in front of all these people, so get off my bladder.”
After that was just a calling out of a series of poses I did not know, so I just kind of helplessly watched the person in front of me, which worked just fine until we all turned our bodies and I was the person in front .
That’s when I just sat down and pretended I needed water. Water was in fact the last thing I needed, given the aforementioned urge to piss myself. But I sat there sipping until I increased my odds of a public pants-wetting to about 98%.
The last 15 minutes of just lying back on an incline and breathing were fine, but I sort of felt like I could do that at home, alone, with a huge bowl of egg salad on my lap, like I did last week.
Not sure why I need to add a $35 fee and a bunch of far-more-in-shape-and-confident-than-I pregnant ladies to this scenario.
Bottom line, I spent most of the class feeling anxious and wondering if I was doing everything wrong (which, to be clear, I was). I hear anxiety is the exact opposite of what you’re supposed to feel during yoga. Well, I’ve always been pretty good at feeling the opposite of what one is SUPPOSED to feel, so I guess this falls right in line.
And this is all meant with no disrespect to yogis. I wholeheartedly respect your love and appreciation for yoga, and I hope you are not offended by my distaste for it, in the same way that I am not offended when people tell me that running is boring, horrible torture and they’d rather stab themselves in the face with Satan’s fiery pitchfork than run a marathon. I don’t agree, per se (and honestly, calm the fuck down, you’re being a little dramatic), but I totally get it. Not your thing.
So, Yoga, we’ll just have to leave it at that. You’re not for me. I gave you several tries, I wanted to like you, but deep down I just know there’s something better out there for me. I had that mentality while dating, and I managed to land this guy:
So let’s just say I trust my gut.