Sick While Female

Pelvicdouche

So to get the above image I typed “women illness” into Google, clicked images, and then filtered for “labeled for reuse.” This resulting image is the picture from the Wikipedia entry for Female Hysteria.

If you’re unacquainted with the term, it’s worth a search. Spoiler alter: hysteria is derived from the Greek for uterus, so.

Why am I talking about hysteria? Well! Thanks for asking, first of all. I’m happy you’re interested in my perspective. Secondly, it relates to the fact that I’ve recently been treated like a hysterical woman. Excuse me, I’ve been treated like a Hysterical Woman. Do  you know what that’s like? If you haven’t had the experience, I’ll briefly describe. If you have had the experience, please feel free to add to my thoughts in the comments. I’m kind of pissed the fuck off (and sad and nervous and and and and), so I don’t expect to be able to capture this exactly. Anyway! To be treated like a Hysterical Woman is to not be believed re: pain, discomfort, physical ailment, and to be instead told you are being emotional, that there are perhaps unresolved issues in your past that counseling could address (which I’m sure is true for, like, everyone. But when you are a woman in a medical establishment, this is something flung at you often), that you are simply suffering from anxiety.

Okay, yes. Perhaps these are at play. I am certainly an anxious person, if you hadn’t gathered. However, it is deeply disturbing and insulting to be told that the way you are feeling is all in your head. Have you read “The Pain Scale,” by Eula Biss? Have you seen this disturbing article (“How Doctors Take Women’s Pain Less Seriously”) from the Atlantic on this issue? And here’s another on the topic from The Telegraph. But, whatever. Go! Google for yourself. It’s a thing. If you need help convincing (and god help us if you do), talk to your friends about it. We don’t always bring up medical stuff in conversation – it’s awkward, right? But perhaps we should.

So. You may recall I have thyroid issues. I was diagnosed with Graves Disease with an RAI (Radioactive Iodine) test back in March of 2013. Diagnosed with Hashimotos as well in January 2014. These are both autoimmune disorders wherein the immune system attacks the thyroid. They cause both hyperthyroidism (heart palpitations, anxiety, insomnia, fast metabolism) and hypothyroidism (heart disease, anxiety, depression, exhaustion, slow metabolism). Other relevant context is that endocrinologists are pretty notoriously awful (at least in the thyroid world. Wow. Worst theme park ever, eh?) treating thyroid issues. Well, in 2014 I got pregnant (my Graves had been in remission since November 2013). The endo who tracked my pregnancy was really only concerned with the Graves staying in remission, and I was happy to be ignorant about my thyroid levels (something that freaks me out now, but we can’t go back and change the past. Le sigh).

Can I just take a second to address the fact that every. Single. Article on the thyroid mentions how it’s a fucking butterfly shaped organ at the base of your neck? Why the poetry? Why. It just makes me imagine this shitty, evil butterfly that my body has mistaken for some fiendish marauder. Okay, sorry. Moving on.

Fast forward to about six months postpartum. I felt myself going hyper. Heart palpitations, increased anxiety, trouble sleeping. There was in me a desperate desire to just ignore it, but I couldn’t. Went to my primary care doc (it’s tough to get an appointment with an endo, plus it’s not worth seeing them without blood work plus the endo I was seeing at the time has an office that is terrible at returning calls. No, seriously. I didn’t get ultrasound results until nearly two months after). My blood work came back hyper as I had suspected.

The endocrinologist couldn’t see me for over a month. Decided to go with a new endo – he couldn’t see me for a month and a half. However, I’d started feeling better, so was thinking perhaps this was mainly a postpartum issue (postpartum thyroiditis is pretty common) until a few weeks ago when I started feeling like shit. Worse. Like when you drink a cup of coffee and then don’t clean it out for a week or two or seven? The hardened, mildewed stain in the bottom of the cup. That’s how I felt. Just so anxious, so depressed – I hadn’t dealt with depression like that since I was a teenager, nearly. I knew something was wrong, but I was wrong about what that was.

Had labs done and the new endo called me the next day to move my appointment up a week. They wouldn’t give me the lab results over the phone, so naturally I spent the next two days completely panicking over them. When I finally got to the doctor, I was a mess. So emotional, so entirely freaked out from waiting and waiting and waiting, barely able to peel my sluggish, half dead self up from the couch.

It turns out I’m severely hypothyroid. A normal TSH is less than, oh, 3 or so (less than 2 is better). Mine was 55.66. The endo started me on Synthroid immediately, and though I don’t feel normal by any stretch, I did start feeling better pretty quickly. And by “better” I mean more like a functioning human being and less like a despondent singular celled organism.

So, anyway. The point of this post? The endocrinologist treated me like a hysterical woman. “Yes,” he said, “hypothyroidism can cause depression. But this seems more deep seated.” Mind you, I couldn’t keep myself from bursting into tears several times during our conversation, so I understand his frustration. I also very much value counseling. However, I know my body. I can feel when emotions are predicated on hormones (or in this case, lack thereof). It is demeaning to be told that seeking counseling is the answer, as opposed to say, fixing the fucking biological problems at a goddamn physical level.

I think the reason so many endocrinologists suck so very much is that thyroid issues are mainly women’s issues. This might seem off topic, but bear with me: have you heard the stories of women feeling pain during their c-sections, only to be ignored by their doctors? Yeah, same fucking thing. It is the same. We (and by we I mean society, and please read that with a grimace of immense power) treat women like children trying to get away with something. As though the pain women experience cannot be real. Because women are hysterical. Not to be trusted. Eve and the goddamn apple or pomegranate or what the fuck have you.

We seem to say: let women suffer. They deserve to be punished.

 

How To Eat What


Food is something I think about a lot, maybe too much. In the past I’ve struggled with disordered thoughts about eating and my body. Now I’m much healthier, but is there such a thing as too healthy? 

Possibly. I laughed when I first heard about orthorexia; it sounded ridiculous, an excuse to succumb to the siren song that is the standard American diet (read: too much processed food, sugar, and carbohydrates. They call it SAD, guys, for real). Looking back at my reaction, I think it was defensiveness.

Are you familiar with the term? If not, check here and here. Or talk to your friendly neighborhood search engine.

But, yeah. Part of being healthy for me was becoming a vegetarian. It was half health consciousness, half animal welfare consciousness. I was vegetarian for about seven years.

And then I started becoming ill. In March 2013, I was diagnosed with Graves Disease. Hyperthyroidism. In January 2014, I tried an elimination diet to aid in conception and to support my thyroid. Part of the diet was eating meat. The restrictions were tough. No: sugar of any kind, peanuts, dairy, soy, caffeine, alcohol, non-organic chicken, beef, pork, white rice, pasta, I feel like I’m forgetting some. Maybe it’s easier to say what I could eat: bison, organic chicken, above ground veggies…

I got pregnant. Not sure if it was the diet, the acupuncture I was getting at the same time, my thyroid calming down, or what. Needless to say perhaps, I didn’t care why or how it worked, just that it did.

From that point on, I ate meat. Still do. I try to only buy humane meat, but I recognize the cognitive dissonance in that statement. Also, what to do when out to eat? One can try to only frequent “good” places, but they’re few and far between (and pricey). It’s been a real struggle for me to figure out my best diet, especially after having gestational diabetes and learning how to eat like a diabetic. 

Because that’s the thing- our bodies have different needs. It does me no good to get jealous over Westley’s ability to eat cake without spiking his blood sugar. I have to eat to my own body. This body that has given me baby man, that’s kept me alive, that is so much stronger than I realize. 

There are times I feel guilty about eating animals. Like I’ve given up on something important to me. And I guess I have, but for me the concept of “do no harm” (or at least as little harm as possible) must also apply to myself. If I’m hurting myself through my diet, I’m causing harm.

I know about factory farming. I’ve seen the PETA videos, watched the documentaries; it’s a devastating industry that must be changed. It helps me to know that at least by supporting more humane vendors, I’m having a negative impact on factory farming (however slight).

Some days I want to become vegan, but then I wonder how to keep my blood sugar stable when truly innocuous shit like beans and sweet potatoes spike me. Some days I’m happy with my choices. What’s most important is that I try to live well in order to care for baby man. After restricting carbs for a few months, my A1C is down from 5.6 to 5.4. This shit is working.

But my thyroid is acting up again. Unlike 2013, I’m not afraid. This could be due in part to my change in diet. In 2013, I had a b12 deficiency and was always anxious (about pretty much everything). Since I’ve changed my diet, I still get anxious, but it’s nowhere near as powerful.

Plus now I have the ability to look down at baby man’s sweet face- instant relief.

Anyway. I was raised eating healthy foods- whole grains, vegetables with almost every meal- but this way of eating, at least the “whole grains” part, doesn’t work for me. 

I can become so fixated on “healthy” food that I hurt myself. Indeed, I believe this is what happened when I was vegetarian. So, I’m ambivalent, sometimes tortured, and always very much aware of what I’m eating. 

A very dear friend of mine is a new vegetarian. With the purpose and gusto of the freshly committed she posts PETA videoes and the like. I have been her, you know? Reading passages from “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer aloud at parties.

Well, that might be just a smidge of hyperbole, but not by much. Difficult to reconcile that way of thinking with this bowl of chicken soup I’m trying to eat (soup was maybe not the best choice for a writing snack).

How do you feel about your food choices? Do you think about food too much, too little? How do we make good choices when our options are less than ideal? How to afford to eat “right?” What does that even mean?

I’m not sure, but I’m doing my best. And if, in the future, I start posting PETA videos to my Facebook page, try to understand.

Hydra VS Hydrocele


Not really, but that battle would be epic/awkward, eh? Come on, admit it! You’d love to watch a many-headed serpent monster battle a pair of fluid-filled scrotum.

Who wouldn’t?

So, as a new parent, I’m discovering new things to worry about on the daily. On lucky days, a worry might be diminished. Yesterday was such a day.

We loaded baby man into the car to see a pediatric urologist at the behest of his pediatrician. She told us he’d likely need surgery, but that I needn’t worry (ha! Doctor, you know not my powers of anxiety!) as it’s a routine surgery. 

Routine or not, I’d prefer my baby man not be put under. 

The nurse practitioner and urologist were very nice. They compared baby’s balls to these wooden ball beads on a kind of fucked up rosary. His were big, but fine: okay, within the realm of what’s considered normal, not an emergency. And! The doc is giving baby man six months to reabsorb the fluid. Yay!

Is it shitty that I can’t wait to tell our pediatrician? Not because I think she’ll be happy (she will!), but because when I asked if he had to have the surgery, she snapped back: well, do you want him to be able to have kids? Do you want to have to take him to the ER? 

And I get it. I’m sure she deals with reluctant parents all the damn time. But she didn’t need to correct so far over to disaster. I like her as a doctor- she seems to truly care about our baby- but I’m considering finding a new one. It’s probable I’m over-reacting, plus lazy, so it’s unlikely I’ll actually follow through with this. Sigh.

Somehow I thought I’d be a cool mom. Resistant to fear. 

I try, I really do. But it’s so easy to tell myself everything is okay, and so fucking difficult to truly feel that. On days I do, I feel accomplished. On days I don’t, I try not to beat myself up (another super power [the beating, not the abstaining]). Right now I feel silly admitting this- there are so many struggling with so much more, and here I am, typing this up on my iPhone (far inferior to an android, imo, but that’s neither here nor there), feeling sorry for myself when baby man is beautiful. Is healthy. Is happy.

You know what it is? It’s that present moment shit. It really, really is. When I’m here, I know he’s fine. When I’m not, the world is vibrant white; white on white on white; spirals of hells too bright to look into or look away from; caught, suspended in white fear: its cold fingers, it’s sharpend teeth.

In the Blood


As you may recall, when I was pregnant, I had a pretty rough case of gestational diabetes (GD). I was on insulin (Humulin N and  R [N = long acting, R = short acting]) twice a day. Once I had the baby, everyone told me to stop testing my blood sugar. In fact, a nurse got mad at me when I paged her for it; I’d checked and my meter said 180 (this was after labor but before they even gave me a liquid diet- I was on ice chips and IV fluids). She rolled her eyes at me and rechecked. She got 140. See? Everything’s fine.

But it wasn’t, really. And isn’t now, either.

Diabetics use glucose meters to check blood sugar after meals and first thing in the morning. A normal reading two hours after eating is less than 120. Fasting should be less than 100 (although less than 90 [or even less than 80] is better). Some sources give higher levels; for example, some say there’s nothing wrong with a post-meal reading if it’s less than 180. However, from what I’ve read, you realllllly want to be less than 120.

Okay! Any questions about blood sugar levels? It’s not that complicated, but it is something most of us don’t have to think about. I never did until I had GD. It’s advised that women with GD have a glucose tolerance test (GTT) a few weeks or months after giving birth.

No one mentioned it to me.

So at first after giving birth I mostly ate whatever I wanted. I wonder now if this contributed to my high blood pressure. I can’t over-state how divine it was to have a piece of cake after months of carefully restricting and pairing carbs and sugar with protein and fat. But I knew that eventually I’d have to begin testing my blood sugar again.

In December (two months postpartum), my primary care physician checked my A1C (this test measure blood sugar levels over the past three months and gives an average). It was 5.6, which is “normal.” Prediabetic is 5.7 though (above 6.5 is considered diabetic). My doctor basically patted my head and said “Okay! No problems here! But your cholesterol is crazy high, girl? WTF. Lolz!”

Okay, so that’s not at all how he talks? But that’s basically the sentiment. I’m going for feel, you know? Not accuracy. Anyway, so he was concerned about my high cholesterol and I am not. Why? Because high blood sugar has been much more seriously linked with heart disease than high cholesterol. Also, high cholesterol is normal while breastfeeding (I’m helping build baby man’s brain, you know?). It was strange to me that my doctor completely dismissed my obvious blood sugar issues, but, if I hadn’t been breastfeeding, would’ve started me on statins.

After that appointment I started using my glucose meter. The results I got were upsetting. After two pieces of pizza I got a 214 – a diabetic response. After what I would’ve considered to be a healthy vegetarian Indian lunch I got a 185 – prediabetic.

I realized I needed to make pretty drastic changes to my eating habits. Since then I always make sure to pair carbs with protein, but more than that, I’ve been very much restricting carb intake. I aim for less than 100 grams a day. Some days I’m much less than that. At first it was hard. Carbs often make up the larger portion of a meal. And as I mentioned, I’m breastfeeding, so I’m basically never not hungry. Like ever.

I gave up my vegetarian diet when I was pregnant. It was much too hard to eat a diabetic diet sans animal protein. I’m still eating meat, and I have days when that bothers me, but in order to be healthy, this is the choice I have to make. I’ve read some good results from people who switched to a vegan diet, but at this point, that just isn’t going to work for me. I’m one of the 1/5 of people with insulin resistance who are an average weight. More on eating animals in a later post.

Oh, right, insulin resistance. This is what I have. My endocrinologist (I see her because of my thyroid issues) told me I self-diagnosed as such when I informed her about my post-pizza 214 reading. Being insulin-resistant means my body doesn’t use insulin well; the sugar levels in my blood rise because the sugar is not processed efficiently. It’s possible I have PCOS as well – this can cause insulin resistance and Type II Diabetes. I’m not sure about the PCOS, but I have had an ovarian cyst, my cycles have always been unpredictable, and my testosterone levels are higher than they should be. But! Who needs a diagnosis, right? The fact that I was able to get pregnant and now breastfeed means that if I do have PCOS, it’s mild.

Fun fact. I got pregnant after going on an elimination diet recommended by my acupuncturist. I know. In my dotage, I have become a true hippie. But anyway, this speaks to my blood sugar issues. I wasn’t testing then, but going on that diet would have to have had a positive effect.

Why am I telling you all of this? Who even cares? Diets and diseases are boring, yeah? Honestly, I’m not entirely sure. It’s just I’m fascinated. Concerned. I want to encourage you to ask your doctor to check both your fasting and A1C during physicals. 

And, really? The best thing to do, if you can stomach it, is to check your levels after eating. This is especially important if you have family history. It’s no fun, true, but it could save your life.

I’m worried because baby man has an elevated risk of Type II due to my GD. Also, I don’t, you know, want to die before he goes to college. So! Making these dietary changes now will hopefully help that. On Wednesday I’m asking my doctor to check my A1C again. I’m curious to see if it’s gone down after a few months of diet change.

Maybe you can tell this stuff scares me. Most days I try not to obsess about it, but I’ve taken my blood sugar three, four, even five times when I get a high reading. The other day I tried two meters at once, because maybe my regular one has just been defective. Nope. Regular meter gave me 150. New meter 163. (I have two because my perinatologist gave me two- the meters are cheap, but test strips are expensive.)

The tips of my fingers are covered in little red dots from my fantasicism. I’m trying to be okay with it. Maybe that’s also what this blog is about.

Do you have any questions? Corrections?Feel free to comment. 

In Defense of Daddy

I like to play baby man French children’s music (like this, and this, and, oh, this), and it’s watching those that first introduced me to this Tide commercial. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a view. There are quite a few articles on it (here’s one, and here’s another), but it also works for the purpose of this blog: a daddy, parenting, and not a single wink in sight! He’s treated like a real parent – not glamorized or made fun of. Shit’s fucking radical and that’s sad.

This post focuses on heterosexual relationships, but any relationship where one partner takes on the masculine, daddy role is subject to this shit.

I knew the world of parenting was, ahem, mommy skewed, but I had no idea how intense that bias actually is. It’s the first time in my life that, although I’m standing next to a man (hi, Westley!), people mostly direct their questions to me. “Is he sleeping through the night?” “Are you still breastfeeding?” “How many times a week does he poop?” “Has he started crawling?” “Are you sending him to daycare?” “What instruments does he play?” “How many languages does he speak?” “Which colleges are you looking at?”

And so I kind of love it and hate it: the both. It’s nice to be noticed, to be (at least in theory) respected as an authority (even if only on infant poop, par exemple), but! Well, this focus on mom does bring with it more than a few negatives.

Do you like lists?

Too bad, you have no say. I just thought you might like the illusion that this is interactive. I mean, I loved those Choose Your Own Adventure books as a kid, didn’t you?

A Short (and Far from Complete) List of Ways in which Our Culture’s Mommy-Focus is Bad and Shitty and also Totally Fucked

1)  The most obvious and enduring negative is that the father’s role in his child’s life is diminished.

2)  Because society diminishes a father’s role, he may internalize that; this can lead to less involvement in his child’s life.

3)  A less involved father will not form as close a bond with his child. This puts stress on both dad and mom as dad isn’t as close to his kids, and so mom has to pick up the slack, doing everything/being everything for the kids. However, dad is arguably the bigger loser here: he misses out on the potential for growth, vulnerability, and love. Sticking with stereotypes, he trades all that for a six pack and a ball game or whatever.

4)  Fathers are expected to be strong (i.e. without emotion), and so inadvertently (ugh, and purposefully sometimes) teach that men are emotionally stunted, unavailable.

5)  This teaches little boys to shut down anything emotional (i.e. feminine) within  themselves, and teaches little girls that boys are cold, mean, indifferent. May the circle be unbroken.

And the list could go on (and on and on and on and on and), but let’s pause here. Because many fathers betray these social expectations. Many men are strong and gentle. When I had my c-section, Westley changed every. Single. Diaper. I didn’t ask him to. He didn’t have to be told. He didn’t expect a gold star or accolades from the nurses (although he sure as hell received them – what were the other fathers up to?). He did it because baby man is his baby too (and, you know, I’d only very recently been sawed in half, but yeah). Good dads do this shit and much more all the time, and it should not be a big deal. We (parents!) are expected to keep our spawn alive. What do genitals or secondary sex characteristics (outside of breastfeeding, I suppose*) have to do with this?

Good dads are the equivalent of good moms. That shouldn’t be a radical thing- that should be fucking obvious to all of us. But you know what we do instead? When it comes to kids and family and responsibility we infantilize men. You can see this in every other domestic sphere commercial where men are treated like buffoons or big babies while “Dr. Mom” looks on ruefully. Stuff like this other Tide commercial where moms are the true experts and dads are just filling in for the superior parent for whatever reason.

It’s dumb.

Worse than that, it’s insidious. That kind of diminishment, of infantilization, is the fermenting heart of misogyny (oh, that fizzy, bloody mess. That rusted over, tired ass bullshit). Misogyny is ugly, worse, its razor edge cuts both ways (unsurprisingly – bad reaps bad, you know). The horn o’ plenty ways women are hurt by it are obvious, but men are on the receiving end of that wicked shit as well. When half the population is told they cannot cry, cannot be passive (always instead active), cannot be tender, quiet, soft- they are denied humanity. Because it’s human, animal even, to love your fucking baby. To hold your baby and completely lose yourself to tears because goddamn it, that’s your baby. 

Our kids deserve good dads, and our kids’ dads deserve to be active participants. Maybe if we recognized them as such, fewer moms would suffer from postpartum anxiety and depression. Maybe family leave would be more generous (read: supportive). Maybe our kids would grow up more accepting of themselves, less self-loathing than us. Less split in two.

More whole.

But as long as we view women and men as separate species, we will continue to pose asinine fucking questions like:”So, is daddy babysitting tonight?”

No. No, he’s not fucking babysitting his own baby. He’s being a parent. He’s fucking parenting.

 

*Okay, so breastfeeding is the one thing that only moms  do (although it’s biologically possible for men to as well). Doesn’t mean dad has to be any less involved in child-rearing. Keeping a baby alive involves much more than feeding.

For the Love of Baby Man


The picture above is from baby man’s first swim. Be still my heart. Gah! Those sunglasses… Okay. The topic today is love, kids- more specifically, what it is to love one’s child (as promised in my last post).

For most of my life I’ve wanted to have children. However, there were definitely some anti-kid, angst ridden threats I made as a teenager.

So, when I was a teenager, in classic teenager style, I didn’t get along with my mom. I was a sad kid, a goth because I’d been called a goody goody in middle school. A person who chose to identify herself in negatives. In what I was not. Probably it shouldn’t have been a big surprise that my mom and I butted heads.

“You’ll understand when you have kids,” my mom said. It’s likely this was said with a heavy sigh, a pained expression on her face. It’s likely she called it out to me as I made my way out the front door. I was always leaving.

I probably laughed in response. Then something like: “no, because I’m never having kids.” A slammed door my emphasis.

At the time I felt unfit. Well, I suppose I still do sometimes, but it’s nothing like that great yawning maw of self hatred. Its constancy. The overwhelming depression that could open secret sewers within me; dark places to fall and fall and never quite land. The suicudal thinking. I was shit- why would I bring innocent babies into the mess that was me.

In my twenties I still felt a mess, but I also began experiencing a deep desire to procreate. It was intense, physical- I’d see a baby and my stomach would ache with longing. To say my friends at the time, well, and my ex husband, were not into kids would be a laughable understatement. We had such derision for babies, for settling down (at least in public, at least for each other, in my heart I pined and pined and became irresponsible with my birth control [luckily this never resulted in pregnancy. I have to be trying in order to get pregnant, apparently]).

And I saw those feelings reflected back in popular culture, in articles on mothers’ regret (see here, here, and here). I also taught an essay in English Composition by Daniel Gilbert that gets at the same idea. It’s a chapter (“Reporting Live from Tomorrow”) from his book Stumbling on Happiness that talks about how parents are the unhappiest people in the land. It’s great though, you can read it here.

These things led me to believe that my desire for children was a biological/evolutionary hangover kind of thing. That if I ever did have kids, I’d surely regret it. I’d feel stupid and duped.

So, in my thirties, when that baby pining got ever stronger, ever more intense, I thought: Fuck it. Perhaps I’ll deeply regret this, but I can’t not try.

Happily, Westley was on board. This was no small thing as the man had envisioned his life sans kids. To do that kind of 180 requires guts, tenacity, spontaneity. And maybe most importantly, trust: in each other, in our relationship, in love.

But! The point of this post? It’s this: that thing about a baby being your heart living and breathing and walking around outside your body? Accurate. That shit about how having a baby is more work than you can even imagine? Accurate. There are moments when just looking at baby man brings me to tears. Because I love him so fucking much. Because that love is absolutely beyond language. There are moments when my back throbs from holding him, my neck strained and aching, when trying to do even one more thing, say, the dishes, makes me want to just give up. Lie down. Cry. Sleep for days. But then his face, his face, his sweet little smile. His eyes that make me love drunk.

Do I regret this?

You probably already know my answer, but I’m going to risk redundancy and tell you anyway. No. Hell to the fuck to the no I do not regret it. I the-opposite-of-regret it. I cannot imagine my life without this tiny human. I’m not saying that he is what makes my life meaningful or worthwhile, I think I was doing okay pre-baby man, but at the same time the love I feel for him in some very real ways defines who I am. That love is in everything I do and everything I am. It’s something people can tell you about, but doesn’t make sense until you’re in it- neck deep, nose a little beak gasping for breath- I’m drowning in this kid in the best way.

Drowning sounds negative, but I don’t mean it that way. Drowning in love love love love. Everything entwined in this creature.

Someone said to me something like “don’t you regret those years without a baby? Haven’t you finally become who you were meant to be? Wasn’t life before baby totally unfulfilling in comparison?” This person had the opposite thinking of the articles I’ve read, ha. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, eh?

(Am I flying too close to the sun by admitting I love my son more than life and I am not only his mother? Can we be feminist parents? I think so, but maybe we can explore that more fully another day.)

But anyway, no. As much as I love this child (hint: he is my solar system), I don’t regret the years I had to grow up. The shows I played with my bands. The mistakes I made. I’m a mother, but that isn’t all I am. And I’m a much better mother for the time I spent figuring out that I am not a piece of shit.

I’m actually much more complicated than that.

Part the Second


That’s baby man. He is the cutest, squishiest little baby bunny I’ve ever seen.

Okay! I think I got that out of my system. Now, where were we? Ah yes. I had just gotten the epidural and life was, as they say, good.

Westley had indeed brought his guitar. He played and we sang together and the nurses laughed at us. Except for the misery, it was actually a pretty great time. I was hooked up to fetal monitors, so we had constant reassurance that baby man was okay. That’s something I’m truly grateful for- the baby was never in distress. His blood sugar was a bit low when he was born, but that’s the extent of his issues. Me, on the other hand… Ugh.

The OB practice I go to has several doctors. They take turns at the hospital for deliveries. So far I hadn’t seen my actual OB. As luck would have it, she’s the one who ended up delivering baby man. She’s the best.

So, it was finally time for my doctor’s turn on duty. She checked on me and I was only something like four centimeters dialated- this after nearly 12 hours on Pitocin and my water breaking on its own. She told me I might end up with a c-section. It was 8:00pmish.

After that, pain began returning to me, but only on my left side. The anesthesiologist came back and gave me a bolus of whatever-the-hell is in an epidural. Heaven heaven heaven heaven.

Then it started wearing off again. The doctor came to check me- I was progressing! She thought maybe I’d get to have the baby vaginally after all. I was excited, tired, scared, queasy, delirious, hungry, and in pain, but mostly excited, ha. The anesthesiologist came back for another bolus. The relief was like plunging into warmest water. It was immediate, immense.

And short lived. Around midnight I was eight centimeters dialated and in so much pain. Weird dreams kept taking over me and I’d succumb just to be out of that room, away.

We talk about pain, but what is it, really? At the time it was an altered state. A fantastic world of whorling sensation. My left thigh on fire. Belly clenched. Aching. Everything in me compressed, reconfigured. Made into a Picasso painting.

Actually? I can barely remember except that it hurt. Pain cut everything down to the smallest denominator. There was only the sound of baby man’s heartbeat on the monitor and my enduring agony. 

Around 2:00am my OB came back to check on me. No progression. I was stalled at eight. At this point I’d been strapped to my bed for, oh, 40 hours or so. She decided I needed a c-section. That we’d waited long enough. That even if, after however long, I finally fully dialated, I’d be too exhausted to push.

I joked with my (absolutely incredible) nurse that this felt like a zombie movie (you know, the whole being ripped apart thing) and she laughed, but said I shouldn’t talk about my sweet OB that way. Sweet or not, she was about to tear into me. I was petrified. This was not what I’d planned. Oh, yes, mice and men and all that, but I was somehow truly shocked this was happening to me. It had been in my mind that I was supposed to be some natural, healthy, earth mother type, but there I was, the opposite: the sliced open fruit. The passive vessel.

The anesthesiologist came back again. Because the epidural had worn off, I needed a spinal tap. My OB told me to slouch forward, hugging her, as the needle was (carefully, carefully) inserted into my spine. Again. I may have been crying. At least this time I wasn’t admonished. 

The c-section itself was surreal. I could feel the doctor tugging at me, but had no pain. Westley was very good at trying to keep me distracted with silly stories and jokes, but when the spinal made me vomit nothing (no food for a million hours, remember?) into a tiny stupid pink plastic bowl thing, I felt maybe the lowest I’ve ever been because I was so scared, so trapped, so numb, so very awake in a nightmare.

It was very difficult to not get to see my baby right away, but I did hear him cry and the doctor saying he was a nine on the Apgar. Westley got to see the baby first, he got to cut the cord. He also saw all my organs and I still don’t know how to feel about that.

Except grateful that we were both okay. Yes, there’s that for sure. Westley said that when I called out something like “is he okay?” Baby man turned his ridiculous newborn head toward the sound of my voice. 

The one birth plan thing I had was to do skin to skin if at all possible. Thirty years  (or, um, probably more like three minutes, but it felt like an eternity) after he was plucked from me, baby man was placed on my chest and my little rock star army crawled his way to my breast and began nursing.

He’s a champion.

After that I don’t remember much. I had to stay on the Magnesium for another 24 hours. That was hell. I definitely started hallucinating the hospital room was a hellscape complete with fire and demons and walls of dark red blood. Everything shimmered like a void. My nurse insisted I take the pain pills and send the baby to the nursery to sleep. Hell was gone when I awoke, replaced with a disturbingly normal hospital room. How had so much happened in such a place?

Over the next few days my blood pressure rose again to dangerous levels. I ended up on blood pressure meds for several weeks. And although I don’t truly believe this, I felt like a failure. Like I should’ve held out just a bit longer for a vaginal birth. Then Westley reminds me I did all I could. That what matters is that we both survived.

More on how the love I feel for baby man is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before on a later post. I just want to leave you with this: baby man’s birth was awful. It was painful and scary and shattering. Yet I’m wishing on each and every single burning sun in far flung galaxies to do it again. Hopefully with less theatrics, but I don’t even care, really. 

Like I said in the first half of this, I’m addicted.