Tag Archives: medical

Your Business

I go to pick up a couple medications at CVS, and a male pharmacist is ringing me up…

Pharmacist (to Nora): “Hi cutie!” (then, to me) “Are you breastfeeding?”

Me (taken aback): “Excuse me? Um, NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS?!?”

Pharmacist: “Oh, I….”

Me: “JESUS. Why do men– or anyone for that matter– think it’s ok to ask a woman that? I really don’t understand. It’s completely inappropriate. Honestly, shame on you. And I say that on behalf of all women.”

Pharmacist: “I’m required by law to ask you that before handing you this medication.”

Me: “Oh.”

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(10 second awkward silence)

Me: “Please still give me the drugs.”

Nora Left Eye Lopes, Part 3

(Continuation of Nora Left Eye Lopes and Nora Left Eye Lopes, Part 2)

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:

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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!!!!!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Nora Left Eye Lopes, Part 2

(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! url):

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:

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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.

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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.

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I cried like a little bitch.

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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:

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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):

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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:

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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.

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So all in all, a huge success with virtually no complications!!!!!!

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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.

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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.

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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:

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The end.

(are YOU exhausted? I am)

 

 

The Birth, Part 2

(Continuation of The Birth, Part 1)

So there I was, doing nothing.

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Eric was trying to stay upbeat and positive for my sake, but every once in a while I’d glimpse over and see this:

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My cervix continued to be poked and prodded but, like my 4-year-old nephew at the seder table, remained completely disinterested.

Then the doctor had a theory– perhaps my water broke not because I was about to go into labor, but because there was some kind of threat to the baby, such as a virus or infection. So she took my temperature, but it was perfectly normal. “Phew,” I thought, “a fever right now would be bad.”

But you know what’d be worse? Having a thermometer stuck up your butthole. Which is exactly what they had to do in order to get a more accurate reading. Luckily for all involved (besides, I suppose, Eric), at this point in pregnancy I had zero percent shame left, and so had virtually no reaction when they rolled me over (a team effort) and prodded me in my 3rd-trimester-inflated tush.

“Yup! Fever!” determined the nurse excitedly, I guess because that finally offered an explanation for the nothingness that was occurring, but given that I was crouched there with my ass blowing in the breeze, I resented his merriment.

So it turns out I had some kind of minor infection, which triggered my amniotic sac to say “We gotta get this baby out!” and burst, but in its hysteria forgot to relay the message to the rest of my body, including the second body living inside my body, who remained so high up I swear to god I could feel her in my throat. Nora had no interest in coming out, and I can’t say I blame her because as far as she knew, the outside world consisted only of sitting on toilets, vomiting, and the Kardashians.

But now we were on a clock. The longer you sit around with your water broken, the greater the risk of infection for the baby. It was already determined that I had a fever, and although they gave me antibiotics to protect Nora, it still made things slightly more urgent– and as everyone knows, a ticking time bomb is exactly what an anxious person who has been instructed to stay as calm as possible needs.

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The doctor presented us with a choice:

“We can do a c-section now, or we can give it some more time and see if anything starts happening. If we do give more time, it seems unlikely that anything will happen without the (induction drug) Pitocin, which we have to stop giving you because it’s lowering the baby’s heart rate. But it’s your choice.”

“Ok, well. Let us talk it over,” Eric said, as my catheter bag filled with nervous-pee.

She left the room and we discussed the pros and cons, deciding that it probably couldn’t hurt to wait a few hours. Perhaps we’d get lucky and things would suddenly kick into gear, and I could avoid a c-section. Plus it would give my mom, already on her flight to NYC, more time to get to the hospital and be there for the birth.

So when the doctor came back we told her, “We’ve decided to wait a few hours and see if anything happens.”

Doctor: “Ok, but nothing is going to happen. Your body is not in labor at all, and is showing no signs of starting. There’s really no point in waiting.”

Us: “Well, we just figured something MIGHT happen on its own…”

Doctor: “It won’t.”

Us: “So you’d recommend not waiting?”

Doctor: “There’s no reason to wait. Waiting will just increase risk.”

Us: “Oh. So when you said we had a choice…”

Doctor:url

What the actual fuck?

Thanks for letting us spend half an hour in this hospital room discussing a choice that was not a choice, and having us select an option that was not an option. Cool use of tax dollars!

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I was then told I was getting a c-section.

Now.

They were going to have a 5-minute team huddle, then come wheel me into surgery, and the baby would be out in 15 minutes.

So 9 hours of 200w-2.gif morphed into giphy-3.gif in a matter of 4 seconds and I gotta say, it was a little jarring.

In what seemed like no time, a medical team of six wheeled me into the operating room and whisked Eric away to outfit him in his surgery gear (side note: nothing made Eric happier than when they gave him a hairnet– “See, they think I have hair!” Then moments later he saw that the literally hairless anesthesiologist was also wearing one. Apparently it’s just protocol. They would’ve put Britney Spears circa 2007 in a hairnet.)

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So Eric entered the OR expecting, naturally, that there’d be a sheet blocking the scary parts. Instead, he walked smack into my naked body on a metal slab, spread eagle and covered in orange goo. The doctor was literally already cutting into me when Eric opened the door. His demeanor remained calm but his eyes said “I’m am screaming on the inside.”

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Fortunately for him, even though a nightmare of epic proportions was taking place below the curtain, above the curtain was nothing short of glam-squad allure:

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The nurse asked if I’d like any music playing.

Me: “Ummm…I guess Adele would be soothing?”

So he whipped out his iPhone and Spotify-ed that shit, as any professional would do mid-surgery. But then he continued to look at his phone for another 2-3 minutes, on what I can only assume was Tinder. Which of course is completely fine but if you’re going to be online dating during my c-section at least have the decency to let me see who you’re swiping right on. I mean have some fucking respect.

As Adele played, I closed my eyes and tried to take in the hugeness of this moment, but found the only thing I could think about was my post-surgery snack. I silently prayed that Eric had already picked up one of my favorites, and it’d be waiting for me in post-op. Most people pray for their life before undergoing surgery– or, if nothing else, their child’s life.

I prayed for a muffin.

After a few minutes of tugging and digging through organs, the team began compressions right below my ribcage. Nora was already in the correct position (head-down) so the standard method is to then compress from the top, by her feet, which would force her head to emerge from the bikini-line incision and her body would eventually be entirely force-squeezed out of me. You know, like a sausage.

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But damn was this one uncooperative little chorizo. Right before her head was about to emerge, Nora decided “Nope- fuck this noise!” and TURNED AROUND.

Like her mom on a  Monday  work day  day, she caught a glimpse of the outside world and decided

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She managed to somehow contort her body 45 degrees so that she was now laying across my stomach in transverse position (aka horizontal instead of vertical, aka nowhere near an exit hole). Not sure where this little bozo thought she was going. Clearly someone forgot to read the fine print of her 9-month lease agreement, but eviction day was upon us and, if resistant, tenant would be removed by force. 

The team continued compressing from my ribcage, but with her new positioning, instead of moving down, Nora just swished from side to side. The compressions became more forceful and I could hear and see my body flopping around like a beached jellyfish. I have to trust there was a method to the madness, but eventually the medical strategy simply devolved into this:

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She would not come out.

I heard the doctor call for an attending, and then for a vacuum. I looked up pleadingly at Eric. He lovingly stroked my hair and, in the most reassuring of tones, whispered, “I have no fucking idea what’s happening.”

I then turned to the anesthesiologist, and he assured me that everything was just fine. You know, like a liar.

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A few more minutes of flopping, a couple rounds of suction, and a few buckets of sweat pouring from Eric’s pointless hairnet later, Nora emerged to the song “When We Were Young.”  And it was beautiful.

The song, not Nora.

Nora looked like this:Nora birth.jpg

Which some people might argue is beautiful, because everything about pregnancy, birth and motherhood is beautiful, and to those people I say GET OFF MY BLOG.

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Thankfully, they cleaned her up before handing her to me, because, for christ’s sake, I’d been through enough.

And then, she was beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, that I simply could not believe she was mine.

“By the way,” said the doctor, “the second I took her out of you, she shit all over me.”

Ok yup she’s mine. woman-raising-hand-medium-light-skin-tone.png

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The Birth, Part 1

(I started writing this 8 months ago. I got one paragraph in and then forgot about it, because #mombrain. “The Birth, Part 2” will come at some point, but this was getting too long and I’m tired and someone should probably check on Nora. Where IS she….)

The evening of August 24th, 2018 was like any other evening in my third trimester of pregnancy: I was rip-roaringly uncomfortable, sweaty, and crippled with impatience. Eric was bored out of his goddamn mind. This general state of misery (misery being a relative term, I’m aware that this all falls under the umbrella of #champagneproblems) had been on repeat every day for the entire summer, and with my due date two days away, I had lost all hope that this baby would be arriving early.

One of Eric’s best friends was having a birthday party that night, and even though I could have technically gone into labor at any minute, I assumed I was going to be pregnant for another 3-7 years, and therefore urged Eric to go. I would’ve gone myself, but alas, breathing while standing was a luxury I could no longer enjoy.

“Have fun,” I told him, while yearning to be in a body that didn’t contain a whole other body.

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He swore he was only going to have one drink, just in case. “No, whatever,” I replied. “Get drunk. Enjoy yourself. This baby is never being born and I will forever be two people and I’ll never poop alone again and I’ll have two vaginas forever and that’s just a fate I’ve now accepted.”

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So obviously after this diatribe he slowly backed out of the apartment, sprinted down the hall, fled to the west side and had himself a few hearty drinks.

And obviously, my water broke.

He got home from the party around 10:00pm, which is when people in their mid-thirties get home from parties. At 3am, I woke up thinking I had to pee, but when I stood up, I found I had no control over it, and bolted penguin-shimmied to the bathroom, luckily making it to the toilet before the major “break.”

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“How do you know the difference between your water breaking and just peeing?” many people have asked me. “Doesn’t it feel the same?” Yes, it feels the same in the way a light ocean ripple feels the same as a category 5 tsunami.

NO IT DOESN’T FUCKING FEEL THE SAME.

One thing is normal and the other thing is giphy-2.gif.

If your water breaks and you think it’s just pee, you’ve been peeing wrong.

I flipped on the bathroom lights and screamed, “Eric! It’s happening!” Though questionably drunk, he was out of bed in .5 seconds and ready to call an Uber when I casually removed my torpedoed granny panties and got into the shower.

A strange calm took over. I knew this was it, but I also didn’t feel panicked. I knew I wanted to feel clean going into the hospital, and that I had time. In a voice I didn’t recognize, because calm is a distant stranger I’ve never met, I told Eric to call the doctor while I enjoyed my last shower as a non-mom (had I known what I know now– that Nora would insist on watching me shower every day, curtain open, like a complete tater-tot-sized creeper, I would have cherished that last lone shower even more).

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(actual pic of her outside the bathroom door watching me shower and, I suspect, body-shaming me.)

The doctor said I’d probably start going into labor soon, but it was my choice if I wanted to go to the hospital now and induce, or wait at home for things to get moving. Asking an anxious person to sit around and wait is like asking my sister to emote– technically it can be done, but it will be painful for all involved so why torture ourselves.

We hopped (well, Eric hopped. I groan-waddled) into an Uber where I immediately called my Mom to let her know my water broke, and then immediately learned that you shouldn’t let your Uber driver know your water broke. They definitely surcharge that shit. I assured him that I wouldn’t leak in his ride, because “Don’t worry, Sir, I’m wearing a pad the size of Atlanta,” which definitely smoothed things over and made everyone feel more comfortable and less disgusted.

My mom, who was in the Outer Banks, where my entire family was vacationing without us, picked up the phone. She was 99% excited but I definitely caught that 1% of disappointment that I couldn’t kegel-squeeze this baby inside of me for another week so that her vacation could continue uninterrupted.

“I guess I’ll book a plane ticket!” she said, and I assured her, one last time, that she didn’t HAVE to fly in for this, but Cha Cha is no dummy and knew there would be social media evidence of her absence.

So she flew in for the optics.

When we got to the hospital I was asked by the nurse if I was SURE my water broke. I explained that I’m no medic, but if this isn’t my water breaking then either my body forgot how to pee right, or it turns out I’m a mermaid. For reasons I cannot place, she remained skeptical, and so took me into the bathroom to “test” the liquid.

“Alright, your funeral,” I shrugged, and as predicted, pulling down my underwear triggered another gush, which went all over her shoes. I’d assume labor nurses are used to and cool with this kind of thing, but she didn’t seem the least bit amused when I suggested she grab a boogie board so I don’t know maybe it was her first day?

“Ok, let’s check you in,” she said, now convinced that I was not in fact a mermaid and was maybe just having a human baby.

Another, more chill nurse thankfully then took over, and as she got me settled in my bed I caught a glimpse of my shitty-looking nails and said, “God damnit, I KNEW I should’ve gotten a manicure yesterday,” because that’s something that someone who is ready to be a mother says.

The nurse laughed and told me you wouldn’t believe how many women have glam squads come to the hospital to fix them up for the instagram birth series. That’s cool. I looked like this:

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I was then asked if I wanted drugs, to which I replied YES PLEASE THANK YOU AND ALSO NOWWWWWWWW before the nurse could finish saying the word “epidural.” Please note that I was in absolutely zero pain at this point. I just wanted the zero pain to stay that way for as long as possible because, I don’t know, I guess I don’t hate myself?

But seriously, to the women who choose to suffer through the contractions or go all natural all the way, I gotta say damn you are brave. But also why? WHY?!

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So they started the epidural and then the Pitocin, a drug to induce labor. And then I sat back and relaxed while nothing happened.

NOTHING.

Literally nothing.

When the doctor went to check my cervix, she saw this:

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Apparently my amniotic sac had decided it was go-time, but forgot to inform my cervix, which remained as closed as Donald Trump’s mind. (Relatedly, if Trump really wants an impenetrable border wall, he should build it out of my cervix).

No man, woman or baby was breaking through that barrier any time soon. I was 0 centimeters dilated. I know this because no less than four arms went up my hooha to check.

You know what’s a bad sign? When your doctor removes her fist from your vagina and says “Hmmmm, that’s odd.”

So we continued to wait while nothing happened. NOTHING.

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So much nothing, in fact, that when the nurse came in to check on me, he just walked in, grabbed a seat and joined our binge session of The Sinner (great show, btw), which we were watching on Eric’s laptop. He didn’t even ask how I was feeling or if I needed anything– it was clear from the zero things happening that I was feeling nothing and needed nada. So he watched tv with us. Because Netflix n’ birth.

Clearly, it was going to be a long day.

Or so we thought.

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*I’m totally kidding about the optics joke, Ma! I know you love me. Probably not as much as you love the Outer Banks, though, which is fair because the Outer Banks never called you a bitch when it was 16.

13?!

My endocrinologist, who I now see for my newly acquired thyroid problem (thank you, pregnancy) is VERY old and the NICEST man, but also quite possibly the weirdest, and he never lets the appointment end without giving me parenting advice that I did not ask for.

Doctor: “The books are going to tell you all kinds of things, and everyone is going to have their opinion, but let me tell you right now, the best thing you can do is have your baby sleep in the bed with you.”

Me: “Oh, yeah I mean I have no judgement about that. I’m not sure it’s the route we’re going to take, but–”

Doctor: “I’m telling you, do it. It’s just the most wonderful thing to have your kid in your bed with you. And don’t let anyone tell you it’s dangerous, or it’s not healthy. That’s nonsense. Don’t listen to the critics– you can have them sleeping in your bed with you ’til they’re 13!”

Me: (laughing) “13!? Alright well THAT’S a little extreme.”

Doctor: “That’s what my wife and I did with our son.”

Me: img_6189-3

Doctor: “Yeah and I’ll tell you what, he grew up to be a very nice Jewish man. Very successful, very smart, very well-known. Went into politics. ”

Oh. Is this him?

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Mental Illness and Pregnancy: To Medicate or Not to Medicate? That is the Question. (…that I do not have the answer to. I’m not a doctor. But here’s my experience.)

**Disclaimer (in case the title wasn’t disclaim-y enough for you): Like literally everything else on this CLEARLY non-medical blog, the following is based on MY personal experience. It is not intended to serve as definitive medical advice for my fellow mental health sufferers. I am not telling you to go off your meds, and I’m not telling you to stay on them. I am suggesting that you thoroughly consider your options, under the close care of a doctor who knows you well, and that you advocate for yourself before making a rash, fear-based decision. Mostly I am just letting you know that no matter what you decide or what you are going through, try to go easy on yourself. You’re doing the best you can. You are not alone. And you got this.**

——————————————————————-

A lot of people have asked me if I’m still on my depression/anxiety meds while pregnant. This is a totally fair and welcomed question, mainly because most of you have asked in a matter-of-fact, non-judgmental, just-curious way, like, “Oh, hey, what’d you end up deciding about that?” But some of you have asked in more of an accusatory “You’re not still on your meds, are you!?” way that implies some sort of moral wrongness should I be on them– and even though I know (most of) you people come from a well-meaning place, it still makes me want to light your face on fire.

So allow me to try to explain a few things. Knowdlege is power and faces are generally better not aflame.

The answer is no, I am not on my meds. But let me be VERY clear about this– I am not off them because I have some kind of holier-than-thou judgement about staying on meds while pregnant. I have absolutely NO judgement about that, and in fact encourage women to stay on them if that’s what works best for their health and situation. Obviously. I am the queen of mental health triage– you do what you gotta fucking do to keep your marbles, sista! #sanityfirst

The drug I was on, Prozac (an SSRI), is actually known to be safe for pregnancy, and I know plenty of women who have been on this drug or others like it and have given birth to perfectly healthy children. And in fact, countless medical studies show that having a depressive episode or being acutely anxious while pregnant is far more harmful to a fetus than taking medication that will effectively treat these conditions (these MEDICAL conditions, in case you needed a reminder that this shit isn’t made up hocus pocus, they are legitimate illnesses). But yes, it is true that some mental health meds are unsafe for pregnancy. As long as you are discussing family planning with your therapist ahead of time, though, he/she should be steering you clear of those particular meds while pregnant.

Soooo after reading the above regurgitation of all the fun medical facts I’ve learned during my family planning journey,  you’re probably wondering, “Ok, so if all of that is true, why DID you stop taking your meds?”

Well, in a shocking turn of events, it was for no good reason at all, really. Basically, my therapist presented it to me like this: “The optimal, ideal situation is that you are off all medications and feeling fine, aka not depressed or anxious. Should you go off them and feel anxious or depressed, then the next best situation is for you to go back on them and stay on them for pregnancy. The least optimal scenario is that you have an acute depressive episode or debilitating anxiety while pregnant.”

Ok, so obviously all I heard there was, “The optimal, most ideal situation is that you are off meds….” and then I sort of stopped listening and everything else just became giphy. After all, it was my first time getting pregnant, I had no fucking clue what to expect or what the process TRULY entailed, so yeah, I wanted to do the thing I was told is “optimal.” No-brainer here. Do the “optimal, ideal” thing, because those are strong words that sound good. And I’m gonna be a good mom, damnit!

I’m not saying that line of thinking made sense, I’m just saying it’s the line of thinking I had when I quickly declared, “Ok, off the meds we go!” with far more confidence than any medication-dependent person with a lifelong mood disorder should have. lets-do-this

This decision was made back in July, and we weren’t planning to try to get pregnant until December, so I still had some time to wean off and be completely med-free for a bit before inviting a fetus into this  shitshow of an experiment delicate situation.

A few things to note.

  1. For the previous year before going off it, I had been on a very low dose of Prozac. That was part of why I felt I could probably be ok stopping it. Had I been on a high dose, it would have been a much more difficult and lengthy weaning process and likely wouldn’t have been worth it in my mind. Going off a low dose seemed easy and low risk.
  2. That being said, the last time I was med-free (age 26), I lost my goddamn mind. Like, completely incapacitated, lost 25 pounds, moved back in with my parents, played lots of senior-living type board games and took copious lukewarm baths just to pass the interminable minutes. I was extremely sick, and it was terrifying.
  3. THAT being said, I was younger then, far more naive, and had no idea what was happening to me. I had no reliable therapist, coping skills, or treatment plan for dealing with my illness. I didn’t even remotely UNDERSTAND it as an illness, so I certainly had no way of managing it (and no faith that it would ever end). Since then, I’ve done a ton of work on myself and have learned how to manage things (to the extent that I’m able) when life gets dark.
  4. THAAAAAAT being said, I’ve always had the medication to help me.

The conclusion I made based on these four somewhat unhelpful and conflicting points? If I go off the meds and things get bad, they probably won’t get as bad as that really bad time, because things are different now, and I’m more prepared.

But let’s be real, given I’ve had the consistent help of meds for 9 years, there’s just no possible fucking way to know that.

So I took the gamble, because gambling is fun when you’re drunk in Vegas so it’ll probably also be fun when you’re sober and housing a fetus, thought no one logical ever.

And at first it was fine. The weaning went smoothly. By the time I was completely off the meds, it was late October, aka my non-optimal time of year thanks to colder, darker weather setting in, and a general life-long refusal to understand why summer ends. So I didn’t feel GREAT* (*not really my M.O. regardless) but I certainly wasn’t depressed. Plus we had the 2-week, warm-weather honeymoon to look forward to, so that kept me going.

But the second I got pregnant in early December, shit hit the fan. I alluded to a lot of this in my post In a Shocking Turn of Events, I Am No Glowing Goddess, but shied away from some of the grimmer details because a) it was my first post about the pregnancy so I didn’t want to come out Depression guns a blazin’ and b) I was genuinely excited to finally share the news. But I do now feel the responsiblity, as a mental health advocate and general blogger of honesty, to let it be known that I was NOT ok that first trimester. I was hesitant to use the word “depressed” while I was in it, because I really didn’t want to admit to needing meds, and I felt like I should “stick it out” until the second trimester. Plus, recognizing you’re depressed WHILE you’re depressed isn’t always easy– it’s part of the mind-fuck of the illness. The very symptoms of depression (self loathing, worthlessness, hopelessness) prevent you from assessing the situation as “This is medical. I am ill,” and instead twist it to “I am the worst, I am being a little bitch, and I need to grow a pair.” (but alas, you cannot grow a pair– and the harder you try, the more you hate yourself for failing. Tricky little devils, these mood disorders).

I convinced myself it was all normal first trimester stuff. And some of it definitely was. Constant nausea and exhaustion will make anyone feel like shit. But some of it was really fucking dark, and I’m not so certain that’s normal.

I cried every single day. I stared blankly a lot. I couldn’t write, and could barely read. I felt absolutely no attachment to the pregnancy, and had no ability to see how anything was going to get better, or how I was supposed to love or care for a child. I was stuck in a thought loop of “You’re going to be a terrible mom, what were you thinking? This was a huge mistake.” I could barely get out of bed and I felt horribly, utterly lonely– the kind of lonely that can’t be cured by another person comforting you, because that ironically just makes you feel all the more alone (on that note, God bless Eric. No, literally, God, PLEASE bless him with a bevy of Corgi puppies upon his eventual arrival in heaven). That self-hating loneliness was the only feeling I had– about anything else, I felt absolutely nothing at all. It was 3 long months of toggling between complete isolated self-loathing and absolute, utter detachment. I’m not sure which I prefered. Both were pretty fucking non-optimal.

But it got better, eventually. Very recently. Do I feel great now? No. But I’m not depressed, and I’m able to feel excited at times. I have some energy back. I feel more motivation to get up and go. I open the blinds. I listen to music. I’m doing my job, not just suffering through it. I walk on the treadmill. Food tastes like food again.

But please note, the second after this baby is born: tenor-1 (<— definitely what post-labor looks like, no?) I will be right back on that Prozac. That was always the plan– my risk for postpartum depression is high, and we’re not taking any chances. And when it comes to the next pregnancy, should I be lucky enough to have that happen, I will likely stay on the meds. Those 3 months were horrible, and I see no reason to make an experience that is so hard on even the average, emotionally stable woman even harder. 

So, this is just to say, if you are one of those pregnancy newbies out there, and you are presented with your options in the same way I was, please know that it’s ok to not choose the “optimal, ideal” scenario if it’s not going to work for you. It’s not optimal or ideal if you feel like a self-loathing garbage truck for three months. It doesn’t make you selfish– it makes you reasonable and responsible. There is no wrong moral choice here, and you shouldn’t feel bullied* into making a decision that might not make sense for you (*to be fair, I really wasn’t bullied by my doctor. I still completely trust her. While I wish she had worded it slightly differently, what she said was perfectly reasonable– but I heard what I chose to hear and then I proceeded to bully myself, because that’s what we depressives do best).

But how should I respond when told it’s best to try to go off the meds, even if I don’t feel that’s the best option for me, you ask?

Well, next time, I’m probably going to say this, so feel free to borrow it: “Nope nope nope! No thanks, Doctor Person Who Isn’t Me, but I am me and because of that, I know myself farily well by now, and I sure do enjoy being sane! Seems the risks of the meds are pretty low, and the risks of me losing my shit are pretty high, so I’m going to keep doing that thing where I’m lucid and functional and seeing the point in showering, because, even though I don’t know much about babies yet, I DO know it’s easier to care for them when your mind is firmly planted in reality and you don’t wake up wondering why you have to exist. Right? Babies like moms who care about living and eating and clothing themselves? I feel like I read that somewhere and it sounded accurate.”

Or something similar. There’s probably a less condescending way, I don’t know.

Bottom line, do what works for YOU. I am not advocating for either option– every mental health situation, and every person, is different. I am simply advocating for you to advocate for yourself (under the care of a doctor you trust, of course. I really hope that goes without saying), and to really think through what will work best– again, for YOU.

Did going off meds work for ME? Meh. Hard to say at this point, because now that I’m out of the darkest darkness (I hope), it’s like “Ok, I survived that and no one died or anything, so that’s good.” But should that be the standard? No one died? Probably not. I feel like it was a lot of unnecessary suffering and potential risk, and I can’t imagine ever willingly going through that again. Plus, I can only hope and pray that my struggle didn’t harm the baby. So far everything looks good in there, the heartbeat is rapid and strong (doc says “Sounds great!,” I say “Sounds like anxiety!”), and I have no tangible reason to think she’s not thriving. But who really knows. And whether on or off meds, I’d have that “who really knows” feeling regardless. So next pregnancy, pretty sure it’s gonna be tenor.

And if you’re not ok with that? That’s cool. Just express your judgement to someone else, not me. I can’t go lighting faces on fire once I’m a mom, but I can definitely teach my kid to spit in your eye and claim it’s an accident.

My Uterus is Wearing a Catcher’s Mitt and Now We Can’t Go to the Beach

This post is intended to serve as both a PSA to those of you who do NOT want to get pregnant and perhaps a reassuring bit of news for those of you 35-and-ups who hope to have kids (or MORE kids) at some point and have underlying anxiety about the non-stop, aggressive warnings from the medical community that it is much harder to conceive after age 34.

Now, I’m not here to argue with science. Clearly, there is medically researched backing to the idea that conception becomes more difficult as you get older. I’m just here to make you aware of the less-talked-about phenomenon that occurs in your mid-30s, but is just as real* (*have no scientific backing for this claim, based solely on personal experience and, you know, “what I’ve heard”)– it’s called Catcher’s Mitt Syndrome** (**not a real syndrome. Don’t quote this to people without a sense of humor– they won’t get it, and then they’ll research it, find out it’s fake and report me to Snopes).

Catcher’s Mitt Syndrome is when your geriatric*** uterus (***not my term– actual medical term for when you are 35+ and trying to have a child) overperforms. See, thanks to your 17+ years of popping birth control pills like tic tacs and/or using other means to impede its life work, your uterus hasn’t been given any opportunity to fulfill what it believes to be its life’s purpose (I am not saying this IS its life’s purpose, I’m just saying that’s what your UTERUS thinks. I fully support a woman’s choice to never have kids, and in fact encourage that choice. Trust me, I’m a teacher– I’ve met far too many parents who probably shouldn’t be parents.)

And so when your Guterus (celebrity couple name for geriatric + uterus) DOES get that one opportunity to shine, it gets so fucking excited that it dusts off the cobwebs, sprouts 27 limbs, and slips a catcher’s mitt on each of them. Then it does everything in its power to catch one of those incoming suckers because it knows this might be its only opportunity. This “last chance” mentality also causes your Yogi Berra uterus to text-alert your ovaries, encouraging them to release every available egg from their dark, abandoned storage room, which is why twins are more likely**** as you get older, even without the assistance of IVF (****statistic based on what my 35-year-old friend who just had twins told me. But she claims her doctor told her that, and I believe her because it sounds legit, and also this friend is a general knower of stuff and we used to share custody of a bunny when we were teenagers, so let’s just say I trust her. Yes, we ended up giving that bunny away because it was too much work and not as much fun as we thought it’d be, but that’s a story for another time and hopefully not at all reflective of our parenting abilities).

Needless to say, Eric and I did not know about Catcher’s Mitt Syndrome when we headed off to our 2-week South Africa/Seychelles honeymoon in late November. Like most people with a Guterus, I assumed that making a baby would take about 6 months if we were lucky, a few years with medical assistance if we were less lucky, or just wouldn’t happen at all. In fact, as proof of the absolute and utter uselessness of anxiety (my therapist would be so proud right now), I have spent the past 8 years worrying that when the time came for me to start a family, I would be unable to. This fear was based on absolutely nothing other than the knowledge that I would probably not get married until my mid-30s (because when you’re having a mental breakdown, living at home, and sleeping in your parents’ bed at age 27, you can safely assume marriage isn’t happening for a while).

Eight years of worrying I’d miss my chance, only to conceive on the first try. Anxiety, you deceptive bitch! Don’t get me wrong, I am EXTREMELY grateful that it turns out you’re nothing but a lying whore– I’d just like those 8 years of wasted energy back. It was exhausting.

So before we left for the honeymoon, I looked at my handy dandy ovulation app and noted that my “fertile days” would begin and last right through our 5 days in the Seychelles, at the end of our trip. Smack in the middle of paradise seemed like as good a time as any to get started!

Well, in true-to-me fashion I managed to contract a stomach bug of death during our last day in South Africa, which had me projectile vomiting through 2 countries, 3 airports, and 2 aircrafts (one of them a 20-seater so again, fellow passengers and unamused flight attendant who aggressively tried to block my path to the toilet during taxi, I’M SORRY.)

We finally arrived in the Seychelles, where I threw myself dramatically onto the sweet salvation of the bed and, with this exact level of energy and enthusiasm r7qewnm.gif , turned to Eric and said “Sooo….I’m ovulating…”

I still had dried throw up on my chin.

“Alright, well….maybe not tonight,” he replied gently, from the furthest corner of the room he could find. Because even Eric has his limits.

While I did stop puking that night, I never fully recovered from my illness in the time we were there, but we still put in some minimal baby-making effort because it just felt irresponsible not to.

It was only on our last day in the Seychelles that we decided to actually consult a calendar and calculate when this baby would actually be born, should we conceive. To our horror, we realized that it would be during our annual 2-week trip to the Outer Banks, the family vacation to end all family vacations– and, more importantly, the one that is fully financed by Big Steve. My siblings and I literally spend the year counting the days until this trip, and it’s pretty much what gets us through life. Eric has grown to love the Outer Banks as much as I do, so the idea of not going was unacceptable to us both.

Me: “Alright, well, we only tried once. Luckily the chances of getting pregnant on the first try when you’re 35 are zero*****.” (*****Again, all quoted statistics are based on NOTHING.)

Well, you know how this story ends– I never felt fully recovered from that stomach bug and by our second week back in the US, I decided that I definitely contracted an African parasite. Shortly thereafter, we confirmed (via 4 separate home pregnancy tests, because reading lines is hard), I DID have a parasite, but technically it was of Seychellian (Seychellese? Seychellite?) origin, and that parasite was going to turn into a human.

So, of course, we’d like to thank Catcher’s Mitt Syndrome for this blessing that is our daughter-to-be, but we also wish we had known about this phenomenon ahead of time, as we would have scheduled accordingly.

“Yeah, but your parents will just switch the vacation dates, right?” many of you have queried.

Oh, you sweet, naive people from normal families.

Here’s how the conversation with my mother went:

Me (right after taking pregnancy test): “So…we’re pregnant! The only issue here is that the due date is August 26, literally smack in the middle of the Outer Banks vacation…”
Mom: “Well, we don’t know that’s the due date.”
Me: “Ok. We do, though.”
Mom: “Let’s see what the doctor says.”
Me: “The doctor is going to say that’s the due date, because I used the exact same calculation method a doctor uses.”
Mom: “Em, let’s just see what he says, ok?”
(after going to doctor)
Me: “The doctor says the due date is August 26.”
Mom: “Ok, well let’s just see what happens.”

So no. No one is switching anything.

The takeaway from all this? It’s six-fold:

  1. Ignore research-based science and listen to my unfounded generalization that is based on one thing that happened to me once– conception at age 35+ can actually occur very fast, because your uterus has now become Hamilton and it is not throwing away its shot.
  2. Be grateful for this phenomenon, but schedule life plans accordingly. All-expense-paid vacations are precious. Yes, so are babies, but I’m just saying– shifting things a month never hurt anyone.
  3. Everything I’ve presented in this post is based on stuff I heard/experienced. I don’t know if it has any general merit so do not quote me, unless you’re doing it in a light-hearted, jokey way. Like, don’t tweet this at NIH.
  4. If you think these theories DO have some merit, google them and see if you find anything to back them up. I’d love to know what you find! “But why didn’t YOU google them to see if they have merit, Emily?” Because that’s not my job here. I write a blog, not a medical journal.
  5. No, this post is not an ungrateful, whining complaint about missing a vacation to have a baby. We are of course thrilled that this happened so easily for us, know that we are extremely lucky, and this post is all in jest. It annoys me that I even have to include these disclaimers, but there is always that person who takes offense, and while I don’t understand then why you continue to read this blog, I still feel the need to address your complete misunderstanding of how humor works.
  6. For this entire post, I am sorry, Eric.

I Failed the Intake Process

When you meet with a hematologist re: a blood disorder, the first thing they do is take your medical history to determine if you’ve ever had bleeding problems in the past.

Hematologist: “Ok, this is probably the most important question that will help me determine your blood clotting status– have you ever had any surgeries?”

Me: “No.”

Hematologist: “Lucky you! Have you ever broken a bone?”

Me: “I broke my foot about 9 years ago. Fractured my wrist when I was a kid. And, well, my nose was broken when I had a nose job, obviously, if that counts.”

Hematologist: “You had a nose job? But you just said you never had surgery!”

Me: “Oh, well, that’s like, not really a surgery.”

Hematologist: “A rhinoplasty is definitely a surgery.”

Me: “Ok, well, you say surgery, I say birthday present. Or family rite of passage. Or my mother’s suggestion. Or–”

Hematologist: “Ok just tell me if you had a bleeding problem during or after surgery.”

Me: “No.”

Hematologist: “Ok, any other surgeries I should know about?

Me: “No.”

Hematologist: “Have you ever had problems with your gums, or had gum grafting?”

Me: “No. But when I had my chin done they did cut through my gums in order to–”

Hematologist: “You had a genioplasty?! That’s ALSO surgery.”

Me: “Ok, well, that’s a very fancy word for it. And again, it wasn’t so much a surgery as just an add-on or a necessary complement to the nose–”

Hematologist: giphy.gif

 

I need a Jewish doctor.