Mario Batali? Huh. I guess I am a freak.

Orangecrocs According to highly respected think tank BabyCenter, it is not uncommon to begin experiencing strange dreams during pregnancy — like about wallowing in a pile of kittens, say, or taking a crowbar to the windshield of your beloved mate, that no-good cheating hound. Their article mentions “a sexy encounter with an old flame,” but, curiously, has no interpretation to offer of the smoking hot sex dream I had last night about none other than celebrity chef Mario Batali.

I doubt, as BabyCenter opines, that the dream had anything to do with “concerns about [my] changing figure,” or feeling “more sexually charged than ever.” I think it had to do with the lure of the forbidden: giant bowls of pasta, not the whole wheat kind, all I can eat, generously lubricated with extra-virgin olive oil. Accompanied, of course, by the relaxed inhibitions of a really good bottle of red.

I know. I know. Mario Batali. Too much information? Hey, you got off easy. I could have described his giant knobbly pepper mill.

JuliaKB over at I Won’t Fear Love has a beautiful post today about a feeling plenty of us can relate to, wondering if her reproductive experience has turned her into a freak. About an encounter with a pregnant woman — a normal — she writes:

She is a perfectly nice woman, she is. She just happens to live in this universe I don’t ever remember occupying. And when I get glimpses of that universe I can’t be sure who is the freak. Are we freaks? We who hold our breaths, individually and collectively, for every pregnant friend, be it online or IRL? Or are they? The unaffected? The ones who have either never been close enough to infertility, to miscarriages, to dead babies, or have been, but are still somehow sure they are not going to be touched by this? […] I feel that we are the realists, for we know that there is no rhyme or reason, and anyone can be hit, even the happy shiny pregnant women.

Go read it, you magnificent bunch of freaks, you.

Today Charlie and I are going south. I am trying to teach him the most important principles of organization, as I understand them:

The mother of organization is bone-deep laziness. (Coincidentally, so is the mother of Charlie.)
If you write things down, you never need to exert yourself to remember them again. You lazy slob.

So we made a list to simplify our packing. We went down the list, item by item, putting his shirts, pants, pajamas, and other needful items neatly into the suitcase. And then I went downstairs to do I don’t know what — daydream about getting it on with James Peterson, probably. Charlie stayed upstairs and industriously completed his packing.

Here is what Charlie thinks we need for a trip to Louisiana at the beginning of the month of March:

swimsuit
velour footed sleeper, size 12 months, “if we meet any babies. Just in case, Mama.”
knitted sweater vest bearing the jolly disembodied head of one S. Claus

He has also asked to take along his stuffed bear, Janet, and another, smaller stuffed bear, Janet’s baby, “because she would be so lonely if she didn’t have her baby.” (Damn skippy, kiddo.) Oh, and yet another manky-looking stuffed bear, whose identity is not entirely clear but whom I suspect of being Janet’s baby daddy.

We’ll be gone for ten days while the other half of my house is gutted and — they promised, y’all — restored. I certainly hope so, because I can’t see myself sleeping out in the car with a preschooler, a young mother, a baby, and a wild-eyed matted drifter with a wicked honey jones. To say nothing of that creepy-assed Mr. Claus.

Posted by Julie at 09:52 AM in Charles in charge, Jesus gay, I’m pregnant. | Comments (42) | TrackBack (0)
02/29/2008
Edge of 17

I hereby predict that the following things will happen at this afternoon’s OB visit:

I will be earnestly enjoined to eat, as if I’d been cramming all that raw-milk cheese, room temperature cold cuts, and inside-out heavy metalmaki just for the giddy pathogenic thrill of it. I have gained three pounds so far, and at every obstetrical visit I’ve been earnestly told that it is okay to eat, that my body needs food, that if I’d just have a bite, please, just a bite…they simply can’t stand to see me wasting away like this. Although I’m sure there are women who carefully control their caloric intake during pregnancy, I am not among them, so I always find this comical, given the ample maternal stores I carry around even when I’m not pregnant — you know, just in case I’m in a plane crash or something.
My insulin dose will be increased. About every other day, I flunk one of my four daily readings, sometimes by a measly point or two, and sometimes, after a ridiculously indulgent dinner, by 50 or more. (I like restaurants with long tablecloths. You can shoot up quite discreetly without even leaving the table. And then the waiter silently glides over and asks if you’d like to enjoy a flight of grappa with your insulin. I tip extravagantly for such impeccable service.)
The doctor will look at my bared abdomen with detached fascination and say, “I see you’ve been taking your Lovenox.” Roughly one out of five injections I strike it rich, sending up a gusher to the surface. (It was equal parts alarming and cool the first time I hit the mirror.) The bruising is impressive; I give even odds on whether she’ll point out the beatific visage of the Blessed Virgin depicted in impressionistic blue, green, and yellow splotches.

17w2d and there have been no surprises, unless you count the phone call I got the other day telling me my fetal echo had been scheduled. “My fetal what now?” I asked suavely, because I am the very essence of calm when anyone even breathes a suggestion that something might be wrong with the baby. But this is routine. When you’re diagnosed with gestational diabetes late in pregnancy — which is when most such diagnoses occur — you get to skip a lot of these steps, but when you have weeks and weeks and weeks to kill, you get to fill them with things like, yes, a fetal echocardiogram. An eye exam. A congenital anomalies scan. (I am petitioning that the name of this be changed to an I’m-sure-everything’s-just-fine-dear-but-we’ll-just-have-a-look-see, because, Jesus, are they trying to scare women?) Monitoring early and often. And, oh, what the hell, why not? A maternal EKG. (Despite my awareness that this is a lightning quick test, entirely free not only of pain but of any sensation at all, I could not help but feel uneasy as ten leads were stuck all over my body. It is only the certain knowledge that I have no testicles that kept me from worrying that they were about to be wired to a car battery.)

From a medical standpoint my pregnancy is classified high risk. From where I sit, at the moment it feels only slightly inconvenient. Of course, maybe that’s the grappa talking. Or possibly just the parasites.

Posted by Julie at 01:45 PM in Jesus gay, I’m pregnant. | Comments (27) | TrackBack (0)
02/25/2008
Winter, wiener, wonder

Last Sunday night Paul and I went out for sushi. The weather was lousy, rainy with a temperature hovering just above freezing, but we left Charlie at the mercy of the babysitter (or vice versa) and went anyway, desperate for a break in a relentless two-week stretch of limit-testing, tantrum-hurling, and classic asshole three-year-olding.

As I drove us home, I kept up a fretful monologue about my family — my worries about my aunt’s health, which may never improve a great deal. The increasing age of my grandmother, who’s currently sole caregiver for my aunt. The pressure my mother is facing, regardless of what happens next.

And as I talked, the temperature abruptly dropped, turning the surface of the highway into a sheet of ice. I wasn’t speeding and I wasn’t changing lanes, but the road was suddenly so fatally slick that the car fishtailed. Once, twice, a few more times, and then went into a spin. It went a little like this:
Weinermobile

(Alas, I do not actually drive a Wienermobile. I used that picture solely to reassure you. Tout est pour le mieux dans le meilleur des mondes possibles, goes the primary tenet of Optimism: Everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds. A corollary to this cheering principle holds that any post featuring a Wienermobile must have a happy ending. Go on, prove me wrong.)

We spun. I did not slam on the brakes. We did not hit the guard rail. We did not hurtle into the Jersey barrier. The car behind us had ample time and room to stop without then sliding into us. As I remembered something I’d heard once and turned the wheel into the direction of OH MY FUCKING CHRIST, I braced myself for the sound of wrenching metal and breaking glass, and it did not happen.

We just…stopped.

And everything was okay.

“Put on your flashers. Put on your flashers. Put on your flashers,” Paul chanted to me as I hyperventilated. I did, and then put the car into park and took a few seconds to collect myself. Because OH MY FUCKING CHRIST, that was almost really bad.

And then I slowly backed the car into the correct lane, facing forward, and put it into drive. Slowly. We crawled the remaining 20 miles. Even driving so slowly, the car fishtailed again, earning a terrified “Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck,” from a driver whose heart was still thudding. And then we fishtailed again; by that time it merited only an annoyed, “Oh, for fuck’s sake,” because how stupid was it going to be to survive the previous highway spin only to die half a mile from home?

We did not die. We weren’t hurt. Our car wasn’t damaged in the slightest. I didn’t even vomit in panic, largely because I was too scared to pull over. It was all improbably fine.

We got home, paid the babysitter, and begged her to be careful. I got undressed, cried a little, and went into Charlie’s room to see that he was comfortable. He was sleeping soundly but he’d pushed off his cover, so I pulled it up around him. He surprised me by saying, in a cheerful daytime tone, “Thanks,” and burrowing into the blanket, without ever waking up. And I cried a little more, thinking about how improbable everything was. What a jackass he’d been awake, and how sweet he was unconscious. How lucky we were to be unhurt, how much worse it could have been for my mother. How fragile we are, and how mysteriously resilient.

On the highway, once I’d composed myself and put the car back into drive, the words that bubbled up had been, “I have never been so scared in my life.” But I didn’t say them because I realized as soon as I thought them that they weren’t true. The most frightened I’ve been in my life was after Charlie’s birth, and the couple of nights when we thought he wouldn’t live. The spin was ten minutes of terror. The other has yet to stop scaring me.

I have been thinking about Alexa and Simone. After reading one of her posts I commented that she would worry for a long time to come, but that the worry would come with wonder. I wished that wonder for her. Consider the scariest experience you’ve ever had; that’s what they’ve been facing, plus. But also think of that “Thanks” in the night, the pinprick of tears of surprise, the surge of disbelieving gratitude. That is what’s in store, what still makes me weak in the knees three years later. Impossible world-shaking wonder.

Posted by Julie at 08:21 PM in I’ve learned a lot…but I’m not sure it’s worth it. | Comments (82) | TrackBack (0)
02/14/2008
Straight in at 37

Today is my birthday. I am 37 years old. I am chagrined to say so only because 36 sounded so much riper, so much more juicy-prime-of-womanhood than 37 does. But putting aesthetics aside, this is the first birthday I’ve faced since the start of my blog that I’m not longing for something that felt unattainable, and that seems well worth celebrating.

Please help me welcome 37 by telling me at least one of the following things:

What was the best or worst birthday gift you’ve ever received? (My worst was a shovel, given by my boyfriend the year I turned 20. Swear to God. I should have brained the bastard with it and then left his remains in an unmarked grave. In fact…maybe…I…did.)
How do I get Charlie to stop talking with quite so much gusto about the “little tiny hole a doctor cut in your belly with a very sharp knife when I was born”? It is certainly too late to change my story — when he asked me whether he grew inside me, and then followed up with questions about how he got out, I answered with perfect simplicity and candor, but at this point I’m sort of sorry I didn’t tell him he sauntered through the door instead of climbing out the window like a thief in the goddamned night. I honestly think I would rather hear him twitter about my wondrous, wondrous vagina in front of horrified strangers than treat them to his bloodthirsty version of the birds and the bees. You know, the hook-beaked birds of prey and the Africanized honeybees.
What don’t I get about Facebook? So far I have pusillanimously avoided playing Scrabble with a self-professed crossword fiend; swapped unpardonable limericks about a horrifying medical condition with a high-school friend; and repeatedly called Tertia an asshole in front of her friends, co-workers, and perhaps — who knows? — even her mother. All very nice, but I am not precisely sure how it is supposed to transform my life. Is there something I’m missing? Because I can call Tertia names anywhere. That’s why I invented the Internet.

Something else worth celebrating: I’ve hit the 15-week mark. Why, I’m halfway to beating my previous record for ongoing gestation! Go, Team Belly-Slashing Vulturebees!

Posted by Julie at 09:46 PM | Comments (183) | TrackBack (0)
02/12/2008
Here’s your hat

I don’t want to brag or anything but there is currently half a gallon of human urine cooling in my refrigerator.

Some people celebrate Valentine’s Day with chilled champagne. But I — no stodgy traditionalist, I! — keep the romance alive with a 24-hour urine collection. This involves commandeering a bathroom and barring all other entrants; peeing only into a plastic receptacle that the nurses, with unpardonable whimsy, insist on calling a hat; trudging to the refrigerator to retrieve a 2500 mL narrow-necked jug; carefully emptying my chapeau — I like that much better — into the jug, and occasionally elsewhere; returning the jug to the frosty confines of the fridge; and then compulsively sterilizing every surface in the bathroom. (Later comes the compulsive sterilization of everything in the refrigerator.)

All towards the goal of establishing a baseline in the event that I develop pre-eclampsia later in this pregnancy. In no way do I mean to suggest that pregnancy, at least the way I do it, lacks a certain glamour. But I do have to wonder whether, you know, Halle Berry or Julia Roberts has ever had the pleasure.

Posted by Julie at 03:33 PM in Jesus gay, I’m pregnant. | Comments (77) | TrackBack (0)
02/11/2008
Monday morning omnibus

Needles in the news

Short version: Acupuncture at embryo transfer seems to dramatically increase pregnancy and live birth rates among women undergoing IVF.

Longer, pointier version: This study contradicts a 2007 finding that women who had acupuncture were less likely to get pregnant. The researcher who presented that finding suggested that women undergoing IVF should not be advised to have acupuncture, but stopped short of saying the acupuncture itself had harmed the patients’ chances of conceiving; instead she “said she believed the stress of having to drive to and from the acupuncture sessions was more likely to have reduced pregnancy rates than the acupuncture itself.”

Yeah, I don’t know quite what to say about that, either.

The current study, appearing in the British Medical Journal, examines seven trials including 1,366 women undergoing IVF. In some of those trials, a group of patients received fake treatments so that they thought they were getting the real deal. In other trials the control groups received no treatment at all. Although the researchers say the placebo effect is unlikely to be in play here since the outcome measures are so objective — either you get pregnant and deliver a live baby or you don’t — other researchers disagree. “IVF may not seem to be ‘placebo-prone’ but it probably is,” says Edzard Ernst, a professor of complementary medicine. “If women expect it to be helpful, they are more relaxed which, in turn, would affect pregnancy rates.” (“GAAAAAAH,” says Julie.)

As reported in the Telegraph, the paper itself makes short work of that objection: “The research paper said if the results were largely down to a placebo effect then there would have been increased pregnancy rates among the women who thought they were receiving real acupuncture, but were actually receiving a sham therapy, where the needles were placed at random. However, this was not the case.”

The idea that acupuncture could increase your chances of pregnancy with IVF might not be new to you if you’re an infertility old-timer. A 2002 paper fondly known as “the German study” found an increased pregnancy rate among IVF patients who had acupunture before and after embryo transfer. That was what sent me to an acupuncturist during ill-starred IVF #2, chanting, “Can’t hurt, might help.” To date, that remains my most turbulent, heartbreaking cycle — dominant follicle, retrieval cancelled, Hail Mary IUI, pregnancy, miscarriage — and I’ll never know exactly what effect those needles had.

I never went back, but perhaps the only conclusion to be drawn from that is that I worried that the driving might stress me out.

Low, blood sugar

Diabetes is getting me down. I’m on insulin twice a day now, long-acting in the morning and regular right at dinner, and I am still occasionally failing my postprandial testing. Every time I get a high reading, I think, Birth defects. Was that the 2/3 cup of whole-wheat pasta that’ll do it?

I recognize this as a morbid imagining, and moreover a tardy one, since most malformations occur during the first trimester. I know the chances, even elevated by diabetes, are still small. But imagine I do, and certainly will, until at least 20 weeks, when my congenital anomalies scan takes place. Because unlike other complications, this one is at least partially, at least in some small way, under my control, and I am terrified I’m handling it badly.

Dispatch from Davy Jones’ cubby

I’m glad y’all enjoyed Charlie’s pillow. I heard nothing specific about it from his teachers, but there have been two intriguing little clues since the pillow’s maiden voyage:

First, Charlie’s rest period has been no more restful since the introduction of Cap’n Scurvy’s Rum-Soaked Sleepy-Time Sandbag.

Second, on Friday his teacher sent home a note that said, “Can you please send an additional comfort item for Charlie to help him settle down at nap time?”

I am not one to leap to conclusions, so I’ll stop short of blaming the pillow, but just to be safe I won’t be sending his favorite rusty cutlass, I can tell you that right now.