July 12, 2004

Photographic Evidence That I'm Still Alive

OK, so I've been REALLY quiet for the past 3 months or so, posting only very rarely. I'm breaking the silence now with a few photos that show what I've been up to:

tooth decay
Tooth Decay, Hunter, NY ~ In April I went to visit my grandmother in the Catskills. One of the benefits of not working (and of living on the east coast again) is that I finally have time to visit relatives who usually see me only rarely. I originally photographed this sign on a visit to Hunter with my dad in 1997, back when it was new and cute. If I ever find that original photo, I'll post "before" and "after" shots for comparison. It's not clear if the dentist is still in residence; most doctors don't stay long on the mountain.

fatherly love
Al and His Dad on the Penn Campus, Philadelphia, PA ~ Al's dad got a degree or two from the University of Pennsylvania, so we took his parents there for a trip down memory lane when they came for their first visit to our new house in April. We got to see the church where they were married in addition to other personal landmarks.

tooth decay
Desk, Philadelphia, PA ~ In May I got a a call from a former colleague at my old company in San Francisco, asking if I wanted to help out on a project for a couple months. I said yes, so since mid-May I've been knee deep in code. I'm doing more C++ work than when I was working for the company full time, and I'm having a ball. I don't have any ambition to get a regular job at this point, but I'd love to do this kind of thing for a few weeks now and then.

tooth decay
Henry, New York, NY ~ Al and I took the train up to NYC in May to visit his brother's family. Al and his brother played golf on Saturday while I hung out with my sister-in-law and her son in Central Park. (Although I missed out on golfing on this trip, I *have* been playing—and getting a lot better. "You're playing a whole 'nother game now," says Al. "A game called golf!" I can suddenly hit my driver and the rest of my woods, which means that I can hit a driver or a 5-wood off the tee, followed by a 7-wood second shot, and be on or near the green on most par 4s and 5s. It's amazing. I can testify that there's nothing like playing good golf to make you want to play more... which in turn makes you better.) But back to NYC... After golf we got to stock up on biscuits and tea at Tea & Sympathy in the West Village, eat our first Magnolia Bakery cupcakes (quite an experience for a frosting nut like me—one was almost too much!), and try out the sorbets at Cones. We also ate Korean BBQ at Kang Suh, where Henry amazed the waitresses by putting away more gimbap than someone 10x his age.

tooth decay
Memorial Volunteer, Washington, DC ~ Another trip where I missed out on golf, sadly. While Al and his dad were teeing off with a couple of his dad's friends, I got to show my mother-in-law how to ride Metro, which turned out to be pretty fun, actually. We went from Dunn Loring to Smithsonian, mainly because Mom wanted to buy some placemats with art on them (I figured the National Gallery was a good place to look). As it turned out, the area around the Smithsonian was even more mobbed than it usually is in summer because the WWII Memorial was being dedicated that day. However, the weather was suprisingly cool and dry, the crowds weren't as large as anticipated, and we didn't have any trouble getting around the mall. Bottled water was free to anyone who wanted it, some excellent singers were crooning 40s ballads from on the big screens placed about every 50 yards along the mall, and people were being polite instead of pushy. Mom got her placemats, and she bought us a set too (they look great in our dining room).

[I'm realizing I have no photos from Mother's Day or Father's Day, both of which we spent with my parents, PLAYING GOLF. Note to self: Photograph parents next time you see them!]

nj, Miranda, and Morrisa
Mirandaboops with Mom and Dad, Oakland, CA ~ In late June Al & I went to San Francisco (he for JavaOne, I to work in the office for a few days and see friends). Our first stop after renting a car at the airport was for Mexican food (something we miss here in Philadelphia, though we've heard rumors of Mexican restaurants starting to spring up in the area), followed by a haircut for Al in Palo Alto and a visit with nj, Morrisa, and Miranda in Oakland. Miranda is SO CUTE! She's about twice the size she was when I first met her (not surprising, given that she was only a week old then), and very engaging.

tooth decay
nj Folds Ten, Alameda, CA ~ nj had to cut out early to get ready for a gig, and after visiting with Morrisa and Miranda a while longer, we followed. The music was great, and since the gig was at a Vietnamese restaurant, we got to satisfy our craving for shrimp cold rolls while we listened. Yum!

the chairs in Beth's lab kept disappearing, so her students labeled them
Pruitt's Lab, Palo Alto, CA ~ At the end of our Bay Area trip we went back down to Palo Alto to have lunch with Beth & Matt. (Beth took care of Annie and Elmo for us while we were on our honeymoon, and she and Al went to grad school together.) Beth is now a professor at Stanford, so we ate at the Faculty Club and then took a tour of her lab spaces. It was really cool to hear about all the microsystems research her students are working on, and it was just plain pleasant to be on the Stanford campus on a dry, sunny day. <sigh> That quote from Microserfs about how Stanford is like a country club with research grants flying out the windows really is pretty accurate.

my tomatoes
Sweet 100s, Philadelphia, PA ~ Back in March I started growing tomatoes, peppers, and swiss chard from seeds in a little tray of peat disks inside the house. In April I transplanted them into pots and put them out on the back deck. The swiss chard was edible within a couple weeks, but the peppers and tomatoes didn't start coming in until June. When we returned from San Francisco early this month, the first of the tomatoes—the Sweet 100s—had started turning red. I've also got Brandywines, Husky Golds, and Napolis out there (all with fruit on them), and the first (and largest) of the Brandywines is now orange. I can't wait to make a tomato sandwich!

tooth decay
Working on Al's Christmas Present, Philadelphia, PA ~ Tomatoes aren't the only thing I'm growing. After much discussion and many leaps of faith, I decided that I felt physically capable of carrying and giving birth to a child, and almost capable of raising one (I'm trusting that Al will be able to fill in the gaps in my mothering skills). We're due during the holidays.

Posted by Lori at 12:43 PM
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July 19, 2004

Dressing the Belly

Gah, why are maternity clothes so goddamned DORKY? I'm at the stage Gap Maternity calls "barely showing", but I had to abandon all but my yoga pants last month. I've still been wearing my pre-pregnancy shirts, but those are starting to look just plain weird on me. They're not short enough to show bare belly; they're only short enough to make me look fat. Ditto all of my dresses, which, because I have a thing for stretchy fabric, still fit—though I look like I'm harboring an extra 12-pack of Bud rather than a gestating child.

Normally this wouldn't matter much; I have a couple pairs of Gap and Old Navy maternity jeans and pants, and those, along with the yoga pants, can be worn with various t-shirts that show anywhere from 0 to 40% belly. The problem is that we're going on our first-ever cruise in two weeks as a Last Hurrah (see Wall Street Journal article from a couple weeks ago, which describes the phenomenon). We specifically picked one that had no mandatory Formal Nights, but the dress code for most public spaces (including restaurants) is still "resort casual." Read: Maternity jeans and belly-baring cropped Ts won't cut it.

I've been trying to find a sundress or two that will fit the belly and be easy to move around in, but so far I've had no luck. Everything at Gap Maternity and Old Navy has frills and flounces and—gak—paisley on it, and all of the styles seem to be built only for the "truly showing" figure. Meanwhile, at Motherhood Maternity, the dresses seem to be constructed for Junior Leaguers with no taste for luxury fabrics (I swear, all the "stretch" cotton feels like a stiff K-Mart polyester blend). Is there *anything* out there without satin ribbons, floral prints, ill-placed chest darts that look like nipples, or bows? I refuse to change my Gap Girl style to fit someone else's idea of what a pregnant woman should look like.

Posted by Lori at 4:43 PM
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July 20, 2004


So Sally's suggestion that I try Lane Bryant as an alternative to maternity shops was totally brilliant. It's probably not a strategy that would work for everyone, but given that I'm 5'9" and already a size 12 at my normal, non-pregnant weight, moving up to a size 14/16 while pregnant was not a giant leap for me. The clothes aren't cheap, but they're far more stylish and come in better fabrics than anything I've found in maternity shops so far.

I was able to buy three tops in various flattering shades of pink, ranging from pale to almost magenta (that's the other cool thing about Lane Bryant—better color selection, not limited to pastels!). My only complaint is that they didn't have more dresses, but that's a small one. I tried on a skirt that fit fairly well, but it wasn't quite stretchy enough in the waist. (As soon as I buckled the belt, the baby kicked to let me know that he'd like a little more give, please.) Still, I bet if I'd looked further, I could have found one that suited me—there were several professional-looking skirts (more professional than I needed, actually) with wide, stretchy waistbands rather than buttons and zippers.

Overall, the best part was the lack of frou-frou-ness. The only bows I found were at the shoulders of a sleeveless top, and those were functional rather than decorative (they created the rouching effect). Not my style, but they didn't offend me as the satin bows around empire waist maternity dresses do. Everything in the store was hip, sasssy, professional, and stylish. And to their credit, the saleswomen were very polite and didn't ask what I was doing there. They seemed to assume I knew my size better than they did, and let me go about my business. For this reason and all of the ones above, I'll be going back to Lane Bryant when I need some warmer clothes this fall.

Thanks for the suggestion, Sally!

Posted by Lori at 1:55 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
July 21, 2004

What I Do All Day

I am nearing the end of my contract with my former company, and I find I am a bit torn about it. On the one hand, I've had a total ball fixing bugs and learning more C++ and noodling around in a funky and familiar codebase again—and those are just the technical highs. It's also been great working with people I really like again. On the other hand, I'm looking forward to our Last Hurrah cruise, and to getting back to doing all the things around the house that need to be done—and that have been put on hold while I've been working.

In addition to my regular cleaning, organizing, bill-paying, laundry, and financial planning duties, I of course need to start preparing for the baby that will be joining us sometime in December. I need to convert my office into a nursery; buy gear ranging from cribs to carseats; clear out/rearrange closets that are currently storing videos, boxes from my house in Truckee, and stuff we need to sell on eBay or Craig's List to make room for diapers and baby clothes and the filing cabinet from my office; figure out where the mold smell is coming from and vanquish it; sign up for a pre-natal class; and probably a dozen other things I haven't thought of yet.

Which reminds me, I'm often asked by former colleagues and others who are still working full time what I do all day. That is, how do I fill my time without work? I usually mention the things I didn't have enough time for when I was working, activities that you'd call "recreational" or associate with being on a sabbatical, such as photography, framing, scrapbooking, and reading. What I often neglect to mention are all the things I listed above as my "regular duties": namely, cleaning, organizing, bill-paying, laundry, and financial planning. I'm not on vacation; I'm just not working "outside the home."

I think what most people fail to recognize is that choosing/being forced not to work is not like winning the lottery and suddenly having tons of money and endless free time. I don't spend my time wondering how to fill it. I chose not to work, yes, so that I'd have time to work on some personal projects, but also as an alternative to hiring a housekeeper and a financial planner, sending out the laundry, and, once we have the kid, paying for daycare. And this choice is paying off.

Bills are now paid on time and according to budget. I pay attention to which phone plan we have and whether it suits our needs, what our credit card spending patterns are, how much money we have in each of our accounts, how much interest we earn, and how many bank fees we pay. I read the supermarket circulars instead of throwing them out, and I have a good sense of whether a sale price is really a bargain, or whether it's still more expensive than the regular price at another store. I plan my shopping lists so that I'm stocking up on often-used items when they're on sale, and not just buying them at full price when we run out. I research travel, appliance, healthcare, and savings options thoroughly before making purchases. I take the time to walk to the library instead of buying books on Amazon.

In short, when I'm not working, I'm a housewife, doing all the things that such a moniker implies. I'm lucky in that (until the kid arrives), I have time to scrapbook and read and go for long walks and frame photos that I've taken and generally just have time to myself, but those activities don't fill the majority of my time. They're just the things that sound nice. So to all the people who've asked me what I do all day, and to all the people who were wondering but hadn't asked yet, what I mostly do are chores and errands. And you would, too, if you gave up your job but had a spouse or significant other who was still out there earning for the both of you. Some of you would go batty almost immediately, call a housekeeper and a babysitter and a financial planner and a drycleaner, and jump back into the job market. And some of you would be giddy with excitement knowing that you could almost make up for your salary by performing those services yourself rather than hiring them out (and still have a little time to yourself most days).

Right now I am having fun working, and if another contracting opportunity comes along in the future, I'll consider it—but I probably won't seek one out. I'm looking forward to getting back to my housewifing. As my friend Morrisa says, "laundry is a small price to pay for freedom." Amen to that.

Posted by Lori at 3:40 PM
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July 23, 2004

Photo Friday: Mother

self portrait, 5th month of pregnancy

Posted by Lori at 12:42 PM
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July 28, 2004

Give Me a Ping Vasily, One Ping Only

Today we go for our count-the-body-parts ultrasound. (For those of you attempting to determine my due date from this information, it may be (un)helpful to know that we're not getting the ultrasound at the traditional milestone.) I am nervous, for some reason—perhaps because the last time I was in that ultrasound room was for an amnio, which was fairly stressful. Intellectually I know that this procedure's going to be painless, but I can't get over the jitters. Maybe it's just excitement.

We already know the gender of our child-to-be, but I'm still absolutely on-the-edge-of-my-seat excited about seeing him again. I went through total baby withdrawal after the amnio; I wished I could have watched a tape of that session over and over again, just to see the giant head, the rounded belly, the little legs crossed at the ankles. It was captivating... mesmerizing... overwhelming. We're bringing a videotape this time just in case.

In addition to just seeing the baby and all his wonderful body parts, I'm also curious to see how he's positioned, because I've been feeling him kicking for quite a while. (I felt the first flutters of movement really early for a first-time pregnancy, and within a week or two of that, I was feeling actual jabs.) What I won't see (unless some weird miracle occurs) is *two* babies. My mom keeps asking if I'm certain I'm not carrying twins, because I'm already as big as she ever got with her two pregnancies. Having seen the initial date-the-pregnancy ultrasound, and having specifically asked the technician at the amnio whether there was one baby or two and gotten a definitive answer of one, I'm pretty sure I can say with confidence that I just have a big belly, not two babies in there.

Posted by Lori at 2:38 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
July 29, 2004

Toe-Touching and Twisted Logic

So unfortunately we were not able to tape the ultrasound yesterday, either by recording it through the ultrasound machine or by videotaping the procedure with a camera. Something about medical privacy (perhaps the same medical privacy law that went into effect last year, and that required patients everywhere to fill out consent forms at doctors' offices that they've been visiting for years?). Anyway, the whole procedure lasted about an hour, and there was so much to see that I think I can live without a videotape. The images are burned on my brain (and I also have some printouts to look at, should I forget).

My favorite moment was when the technician, Allison, tried to get a shot of his feet (after all, this was the ultrasound where they count and measure all the body parts to make sure everything's OK), and she couldn't get a clear shot of them because he was playing with his toes. SO PRECIOUS. Allison had to jiggle the probe against my belly to get him to let go. When he finally did, we could clearly see that he had ten toes. Good sign!

We also got to see our future child rub his eyes, bop himself in the head, bat the umbilical cord around, stretch his legs over his head in a pike position, and wave. And we got a good enough view of his butt area to confirm that we are, indeed having a boy. It was so neat.

self-portrait in my 15 year-old I Hate the Grateful Dead t-shirt I was a bit worried, given my mom's exclamations over the size of my belly, that I might be carrying the next Yao Ming, but when the whole procedure was over, Allison informed us that the baby's weight was in the 55th percentile (i.e., normal/average/not huge). She (and the doctor who came in a few minutes later) said it's too early to tell how big the baby will be at delivery; it all depends on how well he's fed through the placenta during the third trimester. The doctor also noted that he hasn't really started packing on the fat yet.

Another thing Allison told us when she was done was her estimate of the due date based on the bone and organ measurements. Since only I, Al, my sister, and the doctors know my actual due date, and the rest of the family has already started registering guesses and premonitions, I thought it might be fun to offer my own version of a logic puzzle for your Internet enjoyment (albeit one that I won't have the solution for myself until Our Boy arrives). Here's the setup:

Due Date Debate

  • By all estimates, Lori is scheduled to give birth sometime in December, 2004.
  • Lori's estimate of the due date, which is based on when she thinks she conceived, is 3 days later than the doctors' estimate, which is based on LNMP (last normal menstrual period).
  • The ultrasound technician's estimated due date is two days earlier than the doctor's estimate.
  • There have been two guesses so far as to the actual date of delivery, neither of which matches the due date estimated by Lori, the doctors, or the ultrasound technician.
  • Lori's estimate is between the first day of Hannukah and the last day of Christmas Week.
  • The baby currently weighs 1 lb., according to the ultrasound.
  • It's possible that the baby will be born in November, but very unlikely that it will be born in January.
  • Norwegian Cruise Lines will not accept passengers who will have entered their 24th week of pregnancy as of the last day of the itinerary.
  • A typical pregnancy lasts 40 weeks; babies delivered between the 37th and the 42nd week are considered "at term".
  • Lori's grandmother has guessed December 12, 2004 at 6:05pm.

When will Lori deliver the baby?

Posted by Lori at 3:38 PM
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July 31, 2004

No Comment

I'm going to be away from the computer for a couple days and therefore will be unable to monitor and delete comments from purveyors of Viagra, teen sex, and online gambling, so I'm going to temporarily close comments on the posts. If you have a guess for the Due Date Debate puzzle, you can either e-mail me (if you know my e-mail address) or jot it down and wait to share 'til I get back and re-open comments. I'll eventually post an update with everyone's guesses so far (and maybe a few more clues).

P.S. I'll also update to MT 3.0 when I get back, which should keep comment spammers at bay.

Posted by Lori at 4:47 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
August 9, 2004

Back With a Due Date Debate Update

We're back from our Last Hurrah cruise and still adjusting to walking on dry land. It's harder than you might think—the sidewalks keep tilting. Although I didn't bring my laptop with me, and I didn't pay the exorbiant Internet access fees on the ship, I did keep a hand-written journal of our exploits, and I'll be posting to our lori-and-al site with the details in the next day or two. (Or as soon as I re-construct that blog and its trashed database; I hosed all the blogs at lori-and-al.com last month when our server ran out of space. I'm adding them back one at a time under MT3.0.)

In the meantime, here's an update on the Due Date Debate logic puzzle. Remember, even I won't know the solution until I actually deliver; all I know is the due date according to my calculations, the doctors' calculations, and the ultrasound technician's measurements. The original clues, given on July 29, were as follows:

  • By all estimates, Lori is scheduled to give birth sometime in December, 2004.
  • Lori's estimate of the due date, which is based on when she thinks she conceived, is 3 days later than the doctors' estimate, which is based on LNMP (last normal menstrual period).
  • The ultrasound technician's estimated due date is two days earlier than the doctor's estimate.
  • There have been two guesses so far as to the actual date of delivery, neither of which matches the due date estimated by Lori, the doctors, or the ultrasound technician.
  • Lori's estimate is between the first day of Hannukah and the last day of Christmas Week.
  • The baby currently weighs 1 lb., according to the ultrasound.
  • It's possible that the baby will be born in November, but very unlikely that it will be born in January.
  • Norwegian Cruise Lines will not accept passengers who will have entered their 24th week of pregnancy as of the last day of the itinerary.
  • A typical pregnancy lasts 40 weeks; babies delivered between the 37th and the 42nd week are considered "at term".
  • Lori's grandmother has guessed December 12, 2004 at 6:05pm.

The guesses so far, in addition to my grandmother's as given above, are as follows:

  • Mom: December 17 (one of the original two guesses)
  • Jimmy: December 21 at 10pm
  • Josie: December 5—wait, cancel! cancel!—December 15 between 2am and 4am
  • M, my 9 year-old niece: December 13 (or Christmas Day, or maybe November 25—she can't decide)
  • J, my 11 year-old nephew: November 24

Additional clues:

  • One of Josie's guesses matches the estimate of either the doctors or the ultrasound technician. This is the only guess to match any of the estimates.
  • I'm now in my sixth month of pregnancy.
  • I've gained 19 pounds.
  • As of last Thursday, my belly looked like this.
Posted by Lori at 1:26 PM
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August 15, 2004

I Guess I Don't Know the Secret Handshake

Ever since I got pregnant—and especially since I started showing—I've been smiling at every other pregnant woman I pass as if to say, "Hi! I'm in the club, too! Isn't it neat?" To date, I've never gotten a smile back. Well, except from the mirror alongside the escalator at Macy's yesterday, but that doesn't count.

I've felt a bit saddened by this; I expected to experience some solidarity with my fellow pregnant sisters. Is it that they recognize me as someone who came to impending parenthood only reluctantly? Is it obvious that I'm a traitor to my original plan, an imposter? Or is it because, although I'm in my sixth month and no longer have a clear view of my feet, I don't look pregnant enough to warrant acknowledgement by women who've reached the waddle stage? ("Face it, honey," says Al. "You're mini-pregnant.")

I've gotten some acknowledgement in the form of wonder-filled questions about pregnancy from non-pregnant people; I'm beginning to think that I have more in common with these folks than I do with other pregnant women. I feel just as much awe as they do that anyone would take this on. Could it really be that the pregnant women I've encountered aren't feeling the same sense of wonder, the same incredulity, the same oh-my-god-I'm-not-sure-I-can-do-this anxiety that I am feeling? Is pregnancy really such a non-event for the women of Philadelphia?

Posted by Lori at 5:39 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
August 22, 2004

In Which I Employ One of Carson Kressley's Fashion Tips to Keep My Pants Up (And Probably Ruin My Favorite Tie in the Process)

This tie is actually from the 90s

Posted by Lori at 7:34 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
August 26, 2004

9/11 Revisited

I have a bunch of things I wanted to write about (and probably will at some point over the next couple days), but the thing that's jumped to the top of the list with a bullet (or a boxcutter, as the case may be), is the 9/11 Commission Report.

I finished a rather innocuous Jane Austen mystery the night before last, so I picked up the next book in my pile, which happened to be the 9/11 report. I was riveted from the first page; it's the little details about the hijackers, the hijackings, and the various responses at all levels, from airport ticket counter personnel to security screeners to air traffic control, the FAA, and NORAD, that completely and utterly fascinated me.

I started reading huge passages out loud to Al, but after about five or six of these, he asked me to stop. He found it too unnerving and sad, and he was afraid he wouldn't be able to sleep. For me, sadness didn't really come into play. There were things I found a bit shocking, but for the most part I was riveted in a forensic sense (in the same way I can look at the truly gruesome photos in Practical Homicide Investigation and say to myself, "ah, so that's what a .45 caliber handgun does to a skull when fired at close range").

I read a bit more after Al's request that I stop reading aloud, but as I was tired (and a little concerned that Al might be right about the details disturbing my sleep—at this point, just about everything else, from a sore belly to leg cramps to hellacious heartburn to a hungry cat, is making it impossible to sleep well, and adding another reason for sleeplessness didn't seem like a good idea), I turned out the light in the middle of the section on NORAD and the FAA.

As it happened, I fell asleep right away and slept better than I have in days (except for one incident in the middle of the night where Al apparently tried to comfort me—I must have been whimpering—and accidentally woke me up instead). I didn't dream about hijackers or desperate passengers trying to break down the door to the cockpit on Flight 93 or the NORAD chain of command. Instead I dreamed about joining Al on a 160-mile walk in Montana that was somehow related to his fantasy football draft (which is tonight), about forgetting to pack my thyroid medication for the trip, and about Jonah sharing our accommodations there (and taking too long in the shower). I slept straight through until 8:30am without having to get up to pee or walk around to relieve the pressure on my sore hips, without Annie waking me up by trying to pry open her food bowl down in the living room, and without stomach acids trying to burn a hole in my esophagus. I can't wait to read more of this amazing report tonight.

Posted by Lori at 10:34 AM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
August 26, 2004

Practice Run

annie investigates my new camera phoneI think Annie is trying to warm us up for parenthood. Actually, she's been doing this to me ever since I moved in with Al three years ago. It was a giant step for me to become a pet owner, to know that I was responsible for feeding and watering and caring for another creature. As I bonded with Annie and got up to feed her in the morning and took her to the vet for checkups and shots, I became a little more confident that I could care for a child. I still occasionally forget to put fresh water out for her (food I can remember, but for some reason water not so much), but she loves me anyway.

Lately, however, Annie seems to have implemented Operation Crash Course in Parenting. She's taken to waking up in the middle of the night and walking around the bed crying. She gets up at 3:30am and attacks her (timed) bowl in the living room, trying (noisily) to pry it open. She follows me around all day, begging for food in the most pathetic squeak possible. She suddenly wants to sit on my lap all the time. She won't listen when I tell her it's time to stop crying, that dinner isn't for another 2 hours.

It was during one of these "Annie, stop crying. You've already had your turkey" speeches that I realized I was talking to her as I'll probably end up talking to my child: Calmly, reasonably... and expecting her to care. I try to remember when I get so exasperated that I practically start pleading, "ANNNNIEEEEEEE, STOP CRYING!" that it's not going to work with a baby any more than it works with Annie. I can try petting, soothing, or feeding the baby, but reason isn't going to work until the kid is at least three or four years old (if I'm lucky). Pleading probably won't either, for that matter.

The good news is that when Annie's not on a crying jag, or begging for food, or otherwise being ornery, she's utterly charming. She's taken to flopping on the floor next to the bed, or in the middle of the kitchen, or at my feed in the living room... in short, wherever I happen to be. She just chills out and enjoys keeping me company. Now, if I can get that from our baby, I'll be one happy momma.

Addendum: It occurred to me that Annie probably thinks I'm talking to her when I talk to the belly, since I use the same tone of voice. She's going to be *really* confused when the baby comes...

Posted by Lori at 10:13 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
August 27, 2004

August Pregnancy Update

you can tell by the backwards writing that this is a self-portraitAside from random references over the past few posts, I haven't really given out much information about my pregnancy since the Due Date Debate puzzle. I thought I'd say a few words now, for anyone who might be interested (i.e., my far-flung friends and relatives). For those of you who don't care, feel free to move along.

I caved and colored my hair. I've been bleaching (and sometimes coloring) my hair since 1991, and I'd been putting drugstore-variety peroxide in it since long before that. Before about two weeks ago, I hadn't seen my natural hair color since I was 14. I'd read that you shouldn't dye your hair while pregnant, but the advisories always mentioned dark colors, so I figured bleaching was OK. Turns out that obstetrical care personnel also worry about the massive doses of peroxide and ammonia in hair bleach, and I was advised (after already bleaching once in blissful ignorance during the first trimester) not to bleach or color my hair. After feeling like a granny with frosted tips the whole time I was on the cruise, however, I couldn't take it any longer, and I bought some (semi-permanent) Clairol Natural Instincts in a dark blond shade that seemed fairly close to my root color and subjected myself to 10 minutes of chemicals. It feels weird to have hair this dark, but oh, so much better than having two-toned tips.

The heartburn is killing me. Everything I've read says that heartburn can be a problem in the first trimester (because of hormones) and the third trimester (because the baby pushes your stomach up into your throat), but that the second trimester is basically heartburn-free. THAT IS SO WRONG, at least for me. The only time I've been heartburn-free was during the two weeks I was on Prilosec OTC in late June, and those two weeks were absolute heaven. Unfortunately, I can't take another round of Prilosec until late October. Until then, I'm barely getting by on massive quantities of TUMS, and I eat after 8pm at my own peril.

The baby is an active little booger. His kicks are now strong enough that they sometimes keep me awake at night, and if you put your hand on my belly, I can guarantee you'd get booted. (I wouldn't advise putting your hand on my belly without asking, though. I've had two t-shirts printed up to warn off potential belly rubbers; the first, shown in the photo at right, says "Hands Off the Belly", and the second, which is in the wash because I spilled milk on it while trying to drink out of the carton, says "Touch the Belly, Lose an Arm".) The baby seems to move more after I empty my bladder, as if he's like, "finally, more room to stretch out!" He also periodically does this thing that feels like a somersault; it's borderline painful, and usually stops me in my tracks.

My belly button is still an innie, although the innards are gradually working their way outward. The area all around the belly button is very tender; if for some reason you are given permission to touch the belly, STAY AWAY FROM THE BUTTON.

We're trying out a name. I don't plan to announce the name of the baby until after he's born (partly because we don't want people voting on names, and partly because we might change our minds when we see him), but when it's just the two of us, we refer to the baby by name to see how it sounds. So far we're going with my choice for a first name and Al's choice for a middle name (since it's a boy its middle name will be Korean and follow a generational pattern specific to the Cho family, and I don't think Al trusted me to come up with a name that didn't mean something awful in Korean).

December looks awfully far away. I know my belly isn't *that* big (although I was bigger than my mom ever got with either of her pregnancies weeks ago), but I'm starting to get nervous about how much bigger it's going to get. Other signs that I should be closer to the end than I am: I've gained about 24 lbs., my hips ache at night, my lower back has started to hurt, and I've got a few painful varicose veins in my legs. I promised myself I wouldn't talk about the hemorrhoids, so let's move on, shall we? At least I don't have any stretch marks yet. (I'm applying Palmer's daily and praying.)

Things are getting dire in the bra department. So those of you who've been pregnant before already know this, but for those of you who haven't (for whatever reason, including gender), one of the first signs of pregnancy is that your boobs get sore. And then they get big. Chances are you'll outgrow your bra before you outgrow your pants. That's what happened to me—twice (and let me tell you, bras ain't cheap). I read that underwire isn't good if you plan to breastfeed, but I can say from experience that I could find no alternatives to underwire in my size that provided enough support (aside from two sports bras worn simultaneously, which are too squishy to be worn for long). So in the end, I got an underwire bra or two. Now that my belly's getting bigger, though (and my boobs are continuing to expand), I'm finding that the wire is digging into me, and I can see how this would be a bad thing for milk ducts. I have no idea how to solve this problem without sagging (and believe me, I'm not worried so much about aesthetics—sagging *hurts*). I may have to go check out the maternity/nursing bra options, unless anyone has a better suggestion.

Gap Body is still my favorite store. I'm telling you, that store was made for pregnant women. They have the most comfortable "lounge pants", workout shorts, t-shirts, and stretchy bras (for sleeping in). Most bottoms have wide, flexible waistbands designed for freedom of movement in a yoga class, I assume, but they're also ideal for giving an expanding belly room to breathe. At least half of my maternity clothing budget has been spent there, and I'm guessing that I'll be able to wear these items in the months after the kid arrives, as well. Yay, Gap Body!

We now have another guess in the Due Date Debate that matches one of the official estimates (mine, the doctors', or the ultrasound technician's). My friend Eric T., after studying all the clues closely, has hit upon December 7, 2004 at 7:30am as the moment baby Hylan-Cho will arrive. Do with that information what you will.

Posted by Lori at 12:12 AM
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September 1, 2004

Looking for Support

I'm going to turn away from politics for the moment and return to pregnancy. It turns out I have more semi-regular readers of this site than I realized, and many of you have been super helpful in recommending maternity wear options from bras to evening wear. I need your help again, especially if you are tall.

As you probably know, varicose veins are one of the sorry side effects of pregnancy, and I've got a couple painful blue bulges just above the knee on my right leg. The midwife at my obstetrician's office said that support hose would help, "but who wants to wear support hose in the summer?" Instead, she suggested wrapping an ACE bandage around the sore spot at night.

Unfortunately, this hasn't been very effective. Support hose really do seem to help, especially if I'll be standing all day. Here's the problem: I'm tall (a little over 5'9"), which means I'm already at the top end of most of the pantyhose sizing charts even when I'm at my normal weight. Trying to find support hose that fit has been a total nightmare. First of all, most of the hose in drug and department stores are of the "ultra sheer" or "regular sheer" variety (i.e., non-support, or, at best, "light support"). I've tried L'Eggs Active Support in size Q, but I had to cut the waistband to be able to breathe, and even then they're not very comfortable.

Yesterday afternoon I went to Strawbridge's (a department store here) and discovered that Hanes made a full support line called "Alive"... which only went up to 5'9" and 155 lbs. (my pre-pregnancy weight). I asked for help from the saleswoman ("do you have any support hose in plus sizes?") and was led to a single row of light support options from Hanes. The only option in my size was a pair with control top, but I bought them anyway. I was shocked to find that they just barely fit—despite the fact that I had 35 lbs. of leeway until the next size.

I checked online at drugstore.com to see if they carried any support hose. They do; namely, the Futuro line. It sounded wonderful: Full support, yadda yadda yadda. $28 seemed pretty steep for one pair, but if that was my only option...well, I guess I could swallow it. Unfortunately, it turned out to be not an option at all. Size XL (the biggest drugstore.com carries) doesn't even begin to cover the weight I'm at now.

When we went out for our walk last night, Al & I stopped at Rite Aid, and I again perused the hosiery options. I settled on a pair of L'Eggs Body Shapers capri pants in size XL (which, again, left more than 30 lbs. of leeway within the size range). I wore them today, and if I wasn't jaded about the weight ranges on hosiery packaging before, I am now. I could swear that these things were really a size S that had been mislabeled. Once I got them on (after a mighty struggle), I'm happy to report that the firm fabric was a total godsend for my veins. I never could have stayed standing as long as I did without them. The "tummy shaper" top was less kind to the belly, however, and it made sitting down nearly impossible. I also ended up waiting as long as possible to pee, because I knew that I'd have to get the damn things down—and worse, back up again.

So here's my question: Does anyone know of a support hose solution for tall, pregnant women? If you have any firsthand knowledge of the following brands, discovered during a Google search, I'd be interested in that as well:

  • Jobst Maternity Moderate Support Pantyhose ~ These seem incredibly expensive, and the sizing chart is the weirdest I've ever seen. I'm an XL at the thigh and hip (low end of the ranges), and an S at the ankle. I found a cheaper price for the mild support version of these hose on Amazon.com, but those have a different sizing chart—which I'm also having trouble figuring out—and it would mean ordering from Healthy Legs, a company that spams me regularly. No thanks.
  • Gabrialla compression support hose ~ According to the size chart I'm currently a Q, but as I've learned, if you're within 30 lbs. of a size border, you should get the next larger size. These don't seem to come in Q+.
  • Mediven Elegance ~ I think I'm a Medium in these, but since this sizing chart is so at odds with every other, I'm skeptical. Also quite pricey.
  • Delilah Maternity Pantyhose Moderate Compression ~ The sizing chart is pretty clear here, thank god, but again, it would mean ordering from Healthy Legs.
Posted by Lori at 11:12 PM
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September 7, 2004

Dirty Rotten Belly

First, let me say I am eating a NEW! Amy's Brown Rice Black-Eyed Peas & Veggies Bowl, and it is SO YUMMY. Hooray! I actually think it's helping my nausea, which returned this morning (it's been showing up now and again over the past couple weeks, usually if I overdo it the day before—and the definition of "overdoing it" is getting narrower and narrower, such that several trips up and down the three flights of stairs in our house now seem to qualify).

I am finding that as I near the third trimester, I'm much more focused on the baby than the belly—that is, the pregnancy is less interesting in and of itself. It's become a means to an end: namely, producing a new little addition to our family. I know that this is where many women start, but it's taken a while for me to get here. I think seeing the baby clothes (we now have two! outfits) helped.

This is not to say that the belly is not still very much in my thoughts, however. I may not be as fascinated by it anymore, but I *am* occasionally irritated by it. For one thing, I can't seem to keep it clean. I keep smearing, dripping, and dropping things on it. There seems to be an ever-present smattering of crumbs under my breasts, and often I'll walk around with a grease or dirt stain at or below belly-button level without realizing it. The other day I stopped to pet a dog, and he attempted to suck the baby out through my belly button with the Hoover-like action of his sweaty, dirt-covered nose. I had no choice but to spend the next two hours out in public with a large streak of mud across my mid-section, as it hadn't occurred to me to leave the house with an extra shirt in my purse.

Another irritation I have with the belly is that it is ALWAYS IN THE WAY. This is especially true when I make clumsy attempts to seduce my husband. Last night I finally broke down and cried for about an hour because I feel so dorky and dumb in this department. I don't want to go into further details, but suffice it to say that if I could just remove the belly from time to time like an undergarment, I'd feel a lot closer (heck, I'd *be* a lot closer) to my husband, physically speaking. (Emotionally, we're doing great, thanks—despite my superdork self-image, he thinks I look great, and the love he feels for me is so palpable it brings tears to my eyes.)

The other problem I have with the belly is that it weighs a lot. It's getting increasingly difficult to find a comfortable sleeping position because of its bulk; I actually had to get up at 6:30 this morning because my hips and belly ached so badly that I couldn't even stay in bed any longer, much less sleep. (Thank god for the super-comfy leather chair Al bought me last week; I was able to go sit in that for an hour and read until Al got up. I'm sure I'll be sleeping in it before long, and I hope to be nursing in it come December.)

And of course, just when I'm losing interest in the belly or attempting to ignore the nuisance it presents, everyone else is finally acknowledging it. I get asked my due date all the time now, and today at Whole Foods a woman asked me if it was me or the baby who was considering buying the aged Gouda. (At first I didn't understand the question, and just stared at her blankly. I keep forgetting that people now know that I'm pregnant without me telling them.) I'm still not getting smiles from other pregnant women, but I'm getting them from everyone else—and new moms in particular have been very friendly. At least the belly is getting a little affection from the outside world; I guess it helps to balance the resentment it sometimes gets from me.

Posted by Lori at 4:39 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
September 10, 2004

Yay, Dr. Wu! Boo, Hemotechnologist!

When Al and I moved to Philadelphia, one of the draws was that it was close to our families—meaning we'd have a built-in support system if we decided to take the plunge and have children (or, I should say, a child). I, for one, couldn't imagine having kids without having help, and the fact that my sister is in Baltimore and Al's brother is in New York means that any kid we had would have cousins nearby (key if we only had one, which is all I could agree to up front). The other bonus was that my gynecologist, a fabulous woman whom I've been seeing for 12 years—despite moves from Virginia to Connecticut and California—would be a 2 1/2 hour drive away rather than a 5 hour flight. What I didn't consider was that (a) my gynecologist is not also an obstetrician (she's a surgeon), and (b) in any case, 2 1/2 hours is too far away for regular obstetrical care.

the belly on september 9, 2004Unfortunately, my doctor didn't have any recommendations for obstetricians in Philadelphia, but one of her nurses had an idea: She suggested I pick the hospital at which I'd like to deliver, and then call the labor and delivery floor at the hospital and ask the nurses on duty which doctors they liked. I looked at a bunch of local hospital websites before making a choice based mostly on the availability of whirlpool baths in every room, the lack of emphasis on frilly decor, and a description of the hospital and obstetrical services that was informative without being patronizing. I then called the labor and delivery nurses and was told that the practice associated with the hospital was very good. Me: "But do you have a favorite doctor, one that you particularly like working with?" Nurse: "That would be all of them." So I called the practice and scheduled an appointment.

After my first visit, with a doctor who seemed nice enough but only scored a 4 on my puts-me-at-ease-and-makes-me-want-him/her-in-the-delivery-room scale (of 1 to 10), I started to worry. I reminded myself that I'd have at least 9 more visits at which to bond with someone (and then to hope that that person was on call—or willing to come in—when I went into labor). The next two visits were with a nurse practitioner who rated a 6.5, which made us hopeful—until we learned that she doesn't do deliveries. Next we saw the midwife, whom we'd heard good things about—and who seemed very nice and down-to-earth—but since our visit only lasted about 5 minutes, neither of us formed a firm impression. For that reason, she rates a 5, though if at some point we get to know her better, we reserve the right to revise our rating.

At this point, I did start to panic a little. Four visits down, and still no strong bond with anyone. The front desk staff (which, I must say, do nothing to make me feel good about the practice; a little professionalism, maturity, and diction would go a long way) tried to set up my next appointment with the nurse practitioner again, but I asked to see someone new, since the NP didn't do deliveries. Luckily, I only had to move the appointment date out one day to get Dr. Wu.

AND THANK GOD FOR DR. WU. I now have hope! She rated an 8 at least, which was a huge relief. She gave me her full attention as I went through my issues and questions (now that I think of it, she never even approached the computer); she was the first to confirm my suspicions that my weight gain was a little on the high side (everyone else kept telling me it was "fine"); she had recommendations for the heartburn (it's OK to take Prilosec again, no need to wait until October) and hemorrhoids (try a cream with cortisone); and she put my mind at ease about the spate of Braxton-Hicks contractions I've been having.

She told me that my uterus is measuring about 1cm larger than normal for my date (not a huge deal, but nevertheless, larger—to which Al responded when I told him, "well, you've been about a week or two ahead in symptoms all along, and the baby measured about a week ahead of schedule on the ultrasound"), and she suspects, as I do, that the baby's currently in transverse position. (This was my guess based on where the kicks and hiccups are centered.) She said he's still got plenty of time to get into birthing position before we'd need to "discuss options." I'm sure the visit wasn't significantly longer than most of my others, but it *felt* longer because I had enough time to bond. The eye contact was key, I now realize; everyone else had her attention focused on the computer, her notes (the day the computer was down), or a resident. Dr. Wu focused on *me*. She looked at me, she talked to me—by god, she even shook my hand when she walked in. Yay, Dr. Wu! Now, how do you feel about episiotomies and a "no shouting" rule in the delivery room?

This was also the visit where I had to do the glucose screening, which turned out to be both not as bad and worse than I imagined it would be. The not as bad part had to do with the Glucola I had to drink; it wasn't cola flavored, as the name implied (and as I'd feared—I'm so un-American as to strongly dislike Coke), but rather more like extra-sweet Sprite. It took about six gulps, but I got it down. I could feel my teeth rotting within seconds, but I wasn't allowed to eat, drink, smoke, or chew *anything* until I had my blood drawn exactly one hour later. That's where the "worse" part comes in: the blood draw. Instead of going for the vein on the outside of my arm, as most nurses and lab technicians do, this technician steadfastly focused on the more traditional inside vein, despite the fact that it didn't pop up when she smacked it to attention. Consequently, she wasn't able to pierce it on the first try... or the second, or the third. And after the first miss, I was in SERIOUS pain. I could see (and feel) her fishing around with the needle, trying to stick that sucker with all her might. I was wincing and gasping by the time she finally hit the vein, and I glanced over at the collection tube long enough to see the blood dribbling in at a snail's pace. Yep, definitely should have mentioned the outside vein—and possibly choosing a butterfly setup over a straight needle. I'm now (still) sore, and my poor arm is a bit black & blue. "Next time, just tell us about the other vein, hon," my technician said after fetching me some water. Don't worry, I will.

Posted by Lori at 8:41 PM
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September 13, 2004

Bra Breakdown

I actually broke down and cried OVER A BRA today. The tears started streaming down my face as I was paying for some maternity hose in a Motherhood Maternity store, and I only barely managed to hold it together until I crossed over the threshold into the mall. At that point, I started sobbing. I stood there, next to a trash can, fishing in my backpack for a tissue with which to stem the tide (and hopefully prevent my mascara from running all over the place). If all nursing bras are as awful as the ones I tried on today—they were ridiculously thin and ugly, and they made me feel like a trussed-up milk cow—I'm going to have to find some other solution for nursing (like maybe never leaving the house until the kid can go several hours without a meal).

Posted by Lori at 8:41 PM
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September 15, 2004

Yet Another Reason Not to Shop at Motherhood Maternity

Remember how I said I was buying hose at Motherhood Maternity when I had the bra breakdown? NEVER AGAIN. I bought a size L based on my height (5'9") and my current weight, at the advice of the "sales consultant," despite the fact that the packaging clearly stated "For best fit, select your size according to your pre-pregnancy weight." Seeing as how everyone's weight gain during pregnancy is different, selecting a hose size based on pre-pregnancy weight seemed dumb, and given that I'm near the top end of the height range, selecting a size that covered my height while putting me at the bottom end of the weight range seemed judicious. (Generally when non-pregnancy tights or hose say 5'4" - 5'10" / 110-165 lbs., they don't mean the hose will fit if you're 5'9" and 165 lbs., which is a very likely scenario. They mean that the hose will fit if you're 5'4" and 165 lbs. or 5' 10" and 110 lbs. You can't be at the top end of both the height and weight ranges if you want to get the damn things past your knees.)

Now that I've managed to get these stupid Motherhood Maternity "Firm Support" pantyhose on, I have several complaints:

  1. They're ORANGE. I bought a color called "Pale Nude" because I'm extremely pale, and I have to say that these things are neither pale nor nude. They're a good 10 shades darker than my skin, and a shade I've never seen on any living human, nude or otherwise.
  2. They're not supportive, they're just tight. The package says "with Lycra® Spandex" (27% in the leg, in fact), but unlike every other support stocking I've tried, these feel scratchy and tight rather than stretchy and smooth.
  3. They're poorly constructed. The effort of trying to pull them up resulted in one of the seams in the panty giving way. I now have a hole at the "gusset" and a runner reaching halfway up my belly. Well, at least it ran up rather than down.

I think I'm going to give up on the whole maternity/support hose idea and just put my feet up as much as possible. I'm not thrilled at the prospect of giving way to the varicose veins, but the trauma and expense of trying to find hose that fit are now worse than painful varicosities.

Posted by Lori at 10:44 AM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
September 19, 2004

I Feel Like a Real Person

I've had a run of good luck on the self-esteem-while-pregnant front lately. It started with a random visit to the H&M store at Cherry Hill Mall last week (I don't know why I went in, really—I guess just to see what was trendy at the moment), where I came upon a small maternity section. I ended up finding three pairs of adjustable-waist pants that look great on me, as well as two cool tops. The best thing about the pants is that I look and feel like a real person in them, not a pregnant person. The second best thing is that everything was reasonably priced. Who knew self-esteem could come so cheap?

Al took this from the passenger seat with my Samsung camera phoneA day or two after getting the great clothes, I had an opportunity to visit a day spa for a pedicure and a pre-natal massage (my first), followed by access to a heated indoor pool where I got to swim for 30 minutes. Ohhhhhhhhhh yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhh. And as if that weren't enough, the next morning I visited my favorite hair stylist ever (Toni at HUGO Salon in Maryland) for a cut. Her first comment when I plopped into the chair: "Oh my god, look at your boobs!" Yes, it's true: I now have actual boobs rather a top half that falls a few inches short of balancing my hips.

Anyway, since hair basically doesn't fall out when you're pregnant, and mine is very thick to start with, I'd managed to grow a helmet that would have protected my noggin quite well in an NFL game. I wasn't sure exactly which way to go with it—should I cut it wicked short again, or let it grow out?—so I didn't give Toni much guidance except "please make it funky and flattering." She proposed keeping the length ("too short would look funny with the rest of you," she said, I assume meaning that since I look more like a pear than a curvy pencil now, I need bigger hair to avoid looking like an eraserhead) while still removing about half my hair. (She called this "giving it some ventilation").

I was totally thrilled with the result, which was exactly as advertised: I had all of the length, none of the bulk, and bonus spikes (which I love). How did I get so lucky? I've got cool 80s hair, pants that fit, and a totally relaxed and happy body. (Incidentally, the massage therapist remarked that I must not have gained much weight, and when I said that I'd actually gained 25 lbs. already, he said, "it must all be in the belly." So in addition to being trained in pre-natal body massage, he must also have been trained in pre-natal ego massage. I prefer to think that he just really knows what he's talking about. :)

Posted by Lori at 2:43 PM
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September 21, 2004

No Laughing!

Yesterday I went for a checkup at the asthma & allergy practice, and the doctor (the one who pontificates on every subject under the sun, I assume to make himself feel like an authority) said to me while actually starting to write it in my chart, "no asthma symptoms, right?" I said, "well, sometimes..." He crossed out "No asthma symptoms" and amended it to "Occasional wheezing that responds to Maxair." I started to say that most of my asthma attacks were brought on by laughing, but Dr. Pontificator was already on to his next subject.

Obviously other things trigger asthma attacks for me—too-vigorous exercise (sprinting, a double shift on the ice); too much snuggling with our cat, Annie; very cold, dry air; very humid air of any temperature—but since I got pregnant, laughter has been the main asthma attack inducer. Unfortunately, as I discovered last night, my uterus has now gotten so big that really deep breaths are impossible—a Very Bad Thing when you often suffer laughter induced asthma attacks. I discovered this while attempting to relate dooce's story about a kindred spirit in constipation to my husband. I was only about one sentence in when I started laughing, then coughing, then gasping, gurgling, coughing, wheezing, and gasping some more. It was actually pretty frightening.

I couldn't find my Maxair inhaler, so I grabbed a slightly-less-safe-during-pregnancy albuterol inhaler and used that... a total of four times. The regular two puffs just didn't do it. I ended up having to sit up in bed for over an hour (I finally fell asleep in that position), coughing and clearing my throat. Yuck. So the takeaway here is: There will be no more relating funny stories to my husband. I may also have to give up reading some of my favorite blogs (gah, just thinking about some of the posts from defective yeti can send me into fits of hysteria), and the newly-minuted Daily Giggle feature in the sidebar will likely gather dust until after I give birth. There Will Be No Laughing Here.

Posted by Lori at 11:08 AM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
September 22, 2004

Photo Walk

I'm starting to feel sluggish and slug-like these days, kinda like I did during the first trimester—I want to exercise so I don't feel like such a blob, but my energy level is pretty low.

Yesterday I resolved to go out for a long walk first thing in the morning, before my energy dropped off to the point where I could barely get up the stairs or lace up my shoes. Since I haven't been on a photography trek in a long time, I brought my Canon 10-D with me to get some about town snaps. (I also figured that this would force me to rebuild the about town II blog, which has been languishing in limbo ever since the database got corrupted a few months ago.) I got a few nice photos, which I'm in the process of posting over at about town II as we speak.

It was nice to get out in the fresh, fall-tinged air, though I ended up walking so far afield (and at times at such a brisk pace) that I kind of overtaxed myself. By the time I got within about six blocks of home, I was shaking. I'm fine now, despite almost being run over at 21st and Market by an idiot on a bicycle who (a) WAS GOING THE WRONG WAY, (b) RAN A RED LIGHT, and (c) MADE NO ATTEMPT TO LOOK OUT FOR PEDESTRIANS. Hello?!? You're riding RIGHT AT a pregnant woman, you fucking moron! I screamed "JESUS! YOU'RE GOING THE **WRONG WAY**!!" at him when I recovered my wits, and incredibly, he turned and shrugged.

I'm getting really fucking sick of bicycle owners (decidedly *not* cylcists) who can't seem to observe the simplest of traffic laws (i.e., stopping at red lights, going the right way down one-way streets or riding on the proper side of the road on two-way streets, riding in the road instead of on the sidewalk) much less common courtesy. Do the cops in Philly really think that these people aren't worth ticketing?

Posted by Lori at 12:25 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
September 23, 2004

September Pregnancy Update

Al took this from the passenger seat with my Samsung camera phone I'm thinking I'll make this a regular monthly feature for the remainder of my pregnancy (which means there will be at most three more entries—and possibly only two—depending on when I actually deliver).

I've given up on support hose. Even though I said I was giving up on hose about a week ago, I tried one more suggestion (again from Sally) to try Lane Bryant. They didn't have anything in a support hose, unfortunately (everything was "day sheer" or "ultra sheer"), but the saleswoman, who was also tall, suggested JC Penney. I bought some "sheer support" thigh-highs (something I'd yet to try) and some sheer, low-rise, lace shorts-like pantyhose (figuring that they wouldn't squeeze the belly, and if they didn't provide enough support, at least I could wear them after I'm done with pregnancy). The thigh-highs actually turned out to be too big (I should have gotten Long instead of Queen; I learned that when the belly isn't a factor, I can get my pre-pregnancy size) and not supportive in the least, and I didn't bother trying the low-rise hose. I'll just save them for next year.

I've found a good bra. I finally heeded the advice of several commenters and tried on a Bravado! nursing bra at that cool boutique called Belly at 16th and Pine. The salesgirl was really helpful (she even adjusted the straps for me), and she provided some good advice on sizing. I ended up buying two bras (one in a "blush" color, the other white with black polka dots, which make me smile) in a size M+. It was a great experience all around; I was glad not to have to order the bras off the web, sight unseen, and I have to give Bravado! two snaps up (no pun intended) for a creative, practical sizing system.

Prilosec has been a godsend. A couple weeks ago, at the pre-natal visit with Dr. Wu, I was told that I could take another course of Prilosec if I needed to—no 4-month wait necessary. In an attempt to extend the effects, I've been taking it two or three days in a row followed by one day off, rather than the usual 14 days in a row. I sometimes have to eat a couple TUMS Ultras to augment the Prilosec, but so far the strategy is working great.

I'm surprisingly normal. At today's pre-natal visit (again with the nurse practitioner, whose cool demeanor and slightly wry sense of humor I appreciate), I was told that my glucose test came back normal, and so did my blood results. The former was no surprise to me (I tend toward hypoglycemia rather than diabetes), though the latter was somewhat surprising to the NP. "Anemia often creeps in at this stage, and we usually have to increase iron supplementation," she explained. My iron levels are great, however, so I can just continue with the prenatal vitamins. Incidentally, my thyroid levels (taken at a visit to the endocrinologist last week) are also normal, my belly is only measuring a fraction of a centimeter larger than normal, and the NP didn't mention my weight at all (even though I've gained about 28 lbs. so far). The baby is also doing well; his heart rate was 140 for the second visit in a row, and he's lying slightly diagonal, with his head down. So far, so good.

What I thought were somersaults are really contractions. Remember how I reported that the baby "periodically does this thing that feels like a somersault; it's borderline painful, and usually stops me in my tracks" last month? It turns out that it's not the baby stopping me in my tracks—it's my uterus. Those are Braxton-Hicks contractions I've been feeling, and they're coming on more frequently these days. I'm virtually guaranteed to get one if I run up the stairs from the basement, and I sometimes get as many as three or four an hour when I'm out walking. Once in a while I even get one while sitting on the couch or in bed. Fascinating, really.

My belly button is still an innie. Yes, still! A black-and-blue ring appeared around it a couple weeks ago, and while it's fainter now, it's still there. So is the indentation.

We've switched sides. Al and I (and our nightstands) have moved to opposite sides of the bed. I'm now on the side that's easier to get out of from a left-lying position (my usual); it also happens to be the side that's closer to the bathroom. This is key, as I have to get up at least twice a night to pee, and I no longer trust my stiff legs and aching hips to get me around the bed. So far it's working out well.

I waddle once in a while. I'm not in full-on waddle mode yet, but it definitely creeps into my walk when I've been sitting for a while or when I'm really tired. Incidentally, it's difficult to get up from a seated or lying position now, and it's getting *really* hard to bend over and pick things up. (Putting on socks is also a chore.)

Sleeping is an exercise in frustration (and sometimes, it's just plain exercise). My hips now ache so badly at night—and my belly is so big and heavy—that rolling over is downright painful. Trying to get comfortable often results in whimpering and grunting (and occasionally screaming, shrieking, and throwing things), as well as minutes or hours of lying awake. I slept on my back for no less than three lengthy stretches last night and felt no remorse. I figure the baby's doing fine (he's still kicking, punching, and hiccuping up a storm), and whatever position lets me get some sleep is good for both of us (not to mention my hips).

I'm getting tired. In many ways, entering the third trimester is like returning to the first. I haven't been *forced* to nap daily as in the early months, but I definitely wear out faster now, and I do go to bed earlier and nap on the weekends. Going up and down the stairs is wearing me out again, and I've even had some bouts of extreme nausea. Luckily, those aren't daily affairs; they usually only happen when I overexert myself.

H&M is my new favorite store. I seem to have outgrown all the stuff at Gap Body, so finding a maternity section at H&M was a very welcome surprise. Even better: the clothes seem to be *made* for tall people. Nothing I've tried has been too small or too short. Al keeps telling me how great I look now, and even the nurse practioner commented "wow, maternity clothes are getting better and better" at my visit this morning. It's kind of amazing that I've been able to find so many great items in the relatively small H&M Mama line; with any luck, they'll carry me through the end of the pregnancy.

Posted by Lori at 6:30 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
October 7, 2004

The Belly Continues to Expand

the belly is taking overI went for another office visit with the obstetricians today. My impression of the front desk staff did not improve with our first afternoon visit, partly because the waiting room was mobbed and there was complete chaos up front, and partly because one of the desk chairs was being filled by a temp. He seriously got a deer-in-the-headlights look when I told him I needed to leave a urine sample. At first he said, "pardon?" as if he hadn't heard me right, or perhaps in lieu of saying, "why are you telling me?" I repeated myself, and explained that it's standard procedure with every visit. He then jumped out of his chair and started looking through the supply cabinet behind the desk, which contained reams of paper, pens, pencils, paperclips, and other standard office stuff. When I realized he was looking for specimen cups, I said, "I just need the sticker with my name and birthdate on it—there are cups in the bathroom." That's when the other, regular receptionist stepped in to help him; she pointed to the folder in his hand and told him to peel off one of the stickers inside for me.

Of course, by this time someone had gone into the waiting room bathroom, and I was denied the opportunity to empty my extremely full bladder. Before I could set down my bag (and 10 minutes before my scheduled appointment), I was called for my weigh-in—which kind of pissed me off, since I knew I'd end up weighing about a pound more than I should on account of the aforementioned full bladder. I was then led back to the super-tiny exam room, where the medical assistant prepared to take my blood pressure. At this point I must admit I was starting to lose it; I'd walked to my appointment at an overly-brisk pace in warmer-than-expected weather to find that they'd turned off the air conditioning in the office for the winter, and I hadn't had time to sit down, cool off, or empty my bladder. I had no doubt that my blood pressure would be higher just from the annoyance. I begged to be allowed to pee before being cuffed and squeezed.

My blood pressure was indeed elevated (though only slightly—110/68 instead of the usual 100/60), but I got a chance to cool my body and my temper a bit in the 30-minute wait before Dr. Wu came in. I liked her as much as last time, and Al liked her too (this was his first time meeting her). Although I've gained a significant amount of weight (basically the top of the recommended range), she didn't bug me about it—probably because my glucose levels, blood count, and blood pressure are all excellent, as are the baby's growth and heart rates.

I had a bunch of other things I was going to say about the questions we asked and the answers we got, but in reading over what I wrote in my (private) pregnancy journal, I realize that posting that info on the Internet probably isn't the wisest thing to do. I don't want to start a debate on whether certain things are dangerous or bad, or to invite horror stories about pre-term labor or other complications. Everything so far is fine with me, and my pregnancy has been described on numerous occasions as "going really well."

I will say that Dr. Wu clarified whether we have any choice in who delivers the baby. She said it's basically whoever's on call when I go into labor; the only time you really get any say is when you're overdue and have to schedule an induction. This doesn't really bother us... except that we still haven't met most of the doctors in the practice. Usually when we try to make an appointment, we get the nurse practitioner—whom we really like, but who doesn't do deliveries. Our next appointment is with the midwife; we've already seen her once, but we didn't really get a strong feeling about her because the visit lasted only about five minutes. I'm hoping that there are enough visits left for us to meet the remaining doctors, so we don't get a crazy stranger yelling "PUSH!" in December.

Posted by Lori at 7:14 PM
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October 14, 2004

Ugh, I Feel Awful

As I write this, the baby is hiccuping madly in my lower abdomen. These strong, regular thumps last for 10-20 minutes, three to four times a day. They're cute when I'm walking around, but when I'm trying to sleep, sit quietly, read, write, or otherwise concentrate, they're kinda annoying.

it's huge!The belly is now officially huge (as are my thighs and butt, to my horror), and I am now officially sick. Al was home sick for one full day and two partial days last week, and I either caught what he had, or I picked something up from the local Department of Recreation swimming pool. (Gotta remember to put alcohol in my ears before and after swimming!) Wherever I got it, it seems to be something in the standard cold family, so hopefully it's not too serious—and hopefully it'll clear up soon, so I can start begging for a flu shot. (I figure I'm a high priority, given that I'm pregnant and asthmatic, and that my asthma and allergy doctors will have been given a supply of vaccine.)

I know I haven't turned the corner yet, illness-wise, given that I woke up feeling worse today than yesterday. I hope I'm not making things worse still by refusing to shower and spending the day in my jammies. (I tried the optimistic route yesterday, getting showered, made up, dressed, and out of the house, but I just ended up exhausted and miserable by the end of the day.)

I don't know whether my head and sinuses are aching in sympathy with the belly or vice versa, but the belly is definitely aching these days. It actually woke me up a couple times last night, and it was particularly painful trying to heave myself out of bed to pee. My belly button still hasn't popped out, and I've yet to discover any stretch marks, so I'm guessing that it still has a little growing to do—which seems inconceivable, given its already-enormous dimensions.

Meanwhile, everywhere I look there's news about the dangers of delivering prematurely. Not just in pregnancy magazines, either—TIME even has an article about it this week. With all the cramps and Braxton-Hicks contractions I've been having, not to mention the belly pains of last night, I'm now slightly paranoid about going into labor early. Never have I been so eager to rush through October, which is usually my favorite month on account of the crisper weather, the changing leaves, my birthday, and Halloween. I figure if we can just get to November, we'll be in the birthing ballpark; the baby will be more equipped to deal with the outside world, and with a couple weeks of childbirth education classes under our belts, we'll be more equipped to deal with the baby.

Posted by Lori at 3:49 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
October 21, 2004

20 Weeks Separate These Photos

Twenty weeks, several pairs of pants, three bra sizes, two haircuts, six bottles of TUMS, two rounds of Prilosec, one hair color, and 26 pounds (6 of them See's chocolates).

8th month 4th month

Posted by Lori at 11:46 AM
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October 22, 2004

Ode to Annie

Yesterday afternoon I took our cat, Annie, to the vet. She's been coughing for about a week (like cats do when they're trying to eject a hairball, but no hairballs ever came out), and she started eating about half as much food as she normally does (very strange for Annie, who is not a self-regulator when it comes to food). I figured she might have bronchitis or even pneumonia, since she was acting like I do when I get pneumonia.

So the vet's office is only 8 blocks away, and it's tough to get a cab without walking at least halfway there, so I figured I'd just walk the whole way with the cat carrier. How hard could it be? As it turns out, much harder than I'd hoped—probably because I was lugging around extra pregnancy weight in addition to the 10-12 lbs. of cat and carrier.

The most comfortable position to haul the carrier, for both of us, turned out to be held out in front of me, like a tray. The only problem with this position was that I couldn't see where I was going—a dangerous thing when you're pregnant. (I already fell off a curb on our last visit to San Francisco, and my vision wasn't even obstructed then.) I shifted the carrier from one side to the other so I could see, which wasn't quite as efficient weight-distribution-wise, but it was better than any other position I tried.

I'd made it about four blocks when a businessman who looked like a thinner Dick Cheney passed me, smiled, and uttered what would have been the caption for the photo had he taken one just then: "Precious cargo." It was obvious from his glance that he meant both the cat and the belly, and I smiled back at him. A few steps later I had to stop and rest. I was beginning to regret having stashed a library book in my backpack in case there was a long wait; the hardback, combined with my water bottle (never leave home without one when you're pregnant), were adding another few pounds to my load. I ended up having to stop for rest three more times before I made it to the vet—good thing I'd left early. I resolved to take a cab home.

As I finished filling out the paperwork for a new patient at the vet's office, Annie popped her head out of the top of the carrier (which I'd unzipped a bit upon arrival, so she could see me if she wanted to) and began to cough—this time with her tongue hanging out, which I'd never seen before. "Uh oh," I said. "Uh oh." The receptionist was on the phone immediately, and I heard her say, "Dr. Vine, your 4:20 is here, and she's not doing too well." Annie and I were ushered back into an exam room asap.

Dr. Vine was about my age, and really nice. She asked questions about Annie's symptoms, and she listened to all the answers intently. She then listened to Annie's heart and lungs (she said her heart sounds were muffled, possibly due to fluid around the heart) and felt her abdomen. "I can feel something in her belly," she said. "It might just be a poop, or a bit of undigested food, but it might also be a mass of some kind. Do you mind if I take some x-rays?" I said no problem, I'd brought a book, so I could wait the 20 minutes it would take to develop the film.

After reading for a bit, Dr. Vine came out to tell me she had Annie's x-rays ready. She showed me what she'd felt in Annie's belly—a huge mass that was squishing her intestines down (which explains why Annie's been crying when she poops lately—it wasn't hemorrhoids)—and said it could be related to any number of organs in the area, including the liver or pancreas. Then she pointed to the x-ray of Annie's lungs. "All of this should be black," she said, outlining an area that was almost completely white, except for a small, oval-shaped space in the middle.

I'm not sure when I realized that this was Very Bad and started to cry, but it was probably right after Dr. Vine started outlining my options. She got me a tissue, and then took one for herself. I think perhaps the fact that I'd been so calm up until that moment and then broke down got to her. The tumor was so massive, and the fact that it seemed to be spreading to her lungs, made surgery and chemo the pipe dream option (one that I probably wouldn't have considered anyway, since it would have made Annie's life miserable). That left two options: tap her lungs so that she could come home with us for a couple days, or euthanize her right then.

I opted for the tap, since I was so shocked and saddened that I didn't think I could cope if I didn't have time to say goodbye. I know that she only has a couple days—a week at best—but in the last 24 hours I've had a chance to tell her how much she's meant to me, and that has meant all the world. Annie has been an amazing companion; Al and I were just saying the other day how she's "so my cat," even though Al got her long before he met me. She follows me everywhere, seems sad when I'm not around, has gone from a don't-touch-me cat to one who actually *wants* to sit on my lap, and gives me someone to talk and sing to when I'm in the house all day alone. And perhaps most importantly, Annie helped me prepare for parenthood. Before I met her, I was afraid of taking on a houseplant, much less a pet or a child. She showed me that along with responsibilities come rewards. Thank you Annie, for everything.

Annie and I hang out on the stairs

[Incidentally, I didn't have to take a cab home. I called Al from the vet's office in tears, and he came to meet me right away. He carried Annie home tray-style, while I watched for potholes.]

Posted by Lori at 7:39 PM
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October 26, 2004


A few random items:

  • dj blurb opened up comments on his endorsement post, and I loved reading all most of the different points of view. (Most—but not all—commenters support Kerry, but whom each person supports not as interesting as why.)
  • Al and I start childbirth classes tonight. This week's pregnancy newsletter from ParentsPlace.com seemed to suggest that I'd be nervous about the birth by now, but for some reason I'm not.
  • I am loving The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill. Fascinating book that is helping me make the distinction between Bush and his inner circle and other, honest Republicans whose views simply differ from mine (or don't, actually). I've been reading huge sections of it out loud to Al, a sure sign that it's a life-changing read (similar to And the Band Played On and Nickel and Dimed).
  • I am not a designer. So sue me.
  • As promised, I converted the all hallows eve blog (and its archives) to Movable Type last night. I can't wait until Sunday!
  • I'm making headway (literally) on my Patrick costume; I got his eyes, eyebrows, and mouth done last night, and I'm looking less like a klansman. This afternoon's project: painting purple flowers on his bermuda shorts (actually a pair of green Gap Body sweatpants, pinned up a few inches).
  • Warning: There will be another post about Annie later today. With photographs.
  • Today is my 36th birthday. And I feel fine.
Posted by Lori at 3:31 PM
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October 28, 2004

October Pregnancy Update

Me in my 8th month It's funny how a bad coffee can ruin your morning. Actually, I think the problem was that I didn't get coffee at all—I suspect what the barista at the Starbucks in the Wynnewood Genuardi's gave me was a hot chocolate (instead of the decaf grande nonfat 2-pump mocha with whip that I asked for, or the decaf 2-shot mocha that he wrote on the cup). In any case, it was so sweet it made my teeth hurt, and I couldn't drink more than a couple sips. I should have let him "try again" when he offered; I just couldn't imagine it would come out any better the second time, given that he swore up and down that he'd only put two squirts of chocolate syrup in the first time, and the fact that he was literally shaking with nerves as he flipped through the drink recipe book after each order.

My reason for mentioning this is that it accounts for the look on my face in the photo at left. That, and the fact that I had to get up at 7:15am to take our car in for its yearly inspection after only five hours of fitful sleep; that I forgot my cell phone and was berated for it by the guy at the service station (Me: "yes, it would have been nice if I'd remembered to put my phone in my purse, but I didn't, and there's nothing I can do about it now."); that I carefully avoided the pet supply aisle in the Genuardi's only to cry anyway when I passed the baby food (which Annie loved, and which we fed her before she died to make her happy); that I got snapped at again when I went to pay for the inspection for not handing in my $20 off coupon when I dropped the car off; and that I was honked at and flipped off and forced to run a red light during the course of the 40-minute round trip to Wynnewood by a bunch of crazy morning commuters who obviously also got super-sweet hot chocolate instead of the coffee they'd wanted.

ANYWAY...here's the pregnancy scoop at the end of October:

I can't find anything to eat. It's shocking, I know, but I'm tired of eating cookies and cake and Luna bars and other random snacks. I don't even want BK Veggies from Burger King (which I was craving constantly earlier this month), bean burritos from Taco Bell, sandwiches from Subway, or Vegan Pad Thai bowls from Trader Joe's. I want real food, and I can't seem to find any in the house (or find the energy to make anything myself). All the TV dinners in the freezer seem to have meat in them (I guess we exhausted all the vegetarian entrees), but I'm not sure a Lean Cuisine or Smart Ones pasta dish would do the trick for me anyway. Thank god for the prepared foods and soup bar at Whole Foods, or I would have keeled over from hunger yesterday.

I don't run errands anymore, I shuffle them. I'm good for about one regular-paced activity per day (a walk to meet Al for lunch, for example, or three or four trips up and down the stairs in the house), and then I slow to a crawl. For two days in a row, I've walked an extra six or seven blocks (one way) to do just one more errand—rather than giving in to the exhaustion and going home—because going home would mean starting the journey from scratch the next day. Al finds this "starting from scratch" concept somewhat hilarious. (To me it's just the principle of sunk costs in action.) He's also finding that he has to slow down to match my pace now; he used to be the one who was always asking me to slow down.

I haven't been able to get a flu shot. Philadelphia apparently exhausted its supply a couple weeks ago; I guess I should have called my allergist as soon as I heard of the shortage. I'm not sure whether it's worth it to drive the two hours and fifteen minutes to Annapolis, MD (and back, of course) on Saturday morning to get one at the clinic being offered at Annapolis High School. [Update: I called about the Annapolis clinic, and it's limited to Anne Arundel County, Maryland residents. I'm out of luck again.]

The heartburn has gone nuclear. I'm a little reluctant to take another course of Prilosec just now, given that the relief only lasts while I'm taking it, and the recent reports that heartburn medications of this type lessen your resistence to pneumonia (especially worrisome since I haven't gotten a flu shot). Luckily, I finally discovered Smooth Dissolve TUMS, which are a zillion times better than TUMS Ultra or TUMS EX. They taste like Willy Wonka fruit tablets, and they don't make me nauseous as the other varieties do. (Good thing, because I often find myself chewing 8-10 of them in a five minute period in the middle of the night.)

Bellybutton Watch has finally begun; we expect it to pop out any time now. Although there's still a definite indentation at the site of my umbilicus, we've noticed that the skin around the belly button has become taught and smooth. We suspect that this is skin that used to be inside the indentation but that is now stretched out around it.

This belly is HEAVY. In my first trimester (and some weeks into my second), I would often go to bed at night with what looked to me like a prominent belly, only to wake up to a relatively flat stomach again. My mom thought this was totally weird; I figured it was just gravity (specifically, my stomach muscles not being able to keep up with gravity) and the constant eating that was required to keep the nausea at bay that caused my stomach to pook out at the end of the day. Well, the phenomenon is happening again. While my belly is never flat anymore, it's definitely bigger at the end of the day than it is in the morning. I think most of this increase can be attributed to the baby attempting to push his bum out my belly button (that's certainly what it feels like he's doing—pushing outward with all his might), and again, to eating. Either way, the further the belly sticks out, the harder it is to carry around.

I'm sick of buying maternity clothes. I had this idea that the clothes I bought in August would last me until I delivered—and they probably would have, if the weather hadn't changed. I totally forgot that it would get colder starting in October, and that I'd need more than the one sweater I bought back in spring at a Lord & Taylor men's department sale. I finally caved and bought three maternity turtleneck sweaters (I figure I'll be able to wear them for a couple months after the birth, too), but after that I put my foot down and stocked up only on Old Navy Perfect-Fit T-shirts in size XL (I'm wearing a brown one in the photo above). The saleswoman at Old Navy seemed to think XXL was necessary, but I'm convinced that XL is sufficient (and likely to be wearable post-pregnancy, provided the belly hasn't permanently stretched out the middles).

I don't find the relaxation exercises at the childbirth class very relaxing. We've only had one childbirth class (we have the earliest due date of anyone in there, fwiw), but so far I'm finding the part where we get down on the floor and try out different "relaxing" positions extremely annoying. I'm actually able to relax pretty easily by my own methods, and I've already tried out several positions that I think would be useful for laboring; however, practicing them (and others) in class is so irritating that I'm afraid that it will ruin whatever solace I might otherwise have gained from them. I think next week I might have to leave the room when we get to that part, just so I can retain my inner calm.

I'm still not nervous. Aside from the annoyance at being forced to relax, I still don't feel any real anxiety about the impending birth. I have two (competing) theories about why this might be. Theory A is that I've become so accustomed to being pregnant that I think of this as the New State of Things. In other words, my mind is convinced that I'll be pregnant forever. Theory B is that I've accepted that labor and birth are inevitable, so why worry? I've been dealing with the pain of heartburn and hemorrhoids EVERY DAY for quite a while now, and the birth will only be one day of pain. (Granted, it's likely to be far more intense, but I think for one day I can probably take it.)

I think that about sums up the current state of things; now I need a nap.

Posted by Lori at 11:26 AM | Permalink
November 4, 2004

I'm Officially Blobby

it wasn't my imagination

Posted by Lori at 8:45 PM
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November 10, 2004

Things I've Been Doing Over the Past Week Instead of Blogging

  1. Cleaning up the house and changing sheets on the guest bed in preparation for a brief visit from the baby's godmother (my friend Sandra).
  2. Buying a video camera (it's required when you have kids).
  3. Attending (with godmother in tow) the baby shower my sister threw for Al and me at her house in Maryland. (My sister really outdid herself, I must say. Fabulous gig.)
  4. Picking up essential items that we didn't receive as gifts at the shower (we specifically asked that the shower not be about getting gifts, but people got us some awesome —and much-needed—stuff anyway). What we still needed, and bought on Sunday with the Babies 'R Us gift card Sandra gave us: A changing pad, a diaper bag, some more receiving blankets, layette gowns, and a couple other random things.
  5. Washing zillions of onesies and baby socks, crib sheets, receiving blankets, burp cloths, no-scratch mittens, and layette gowns.
  6. Buying diapers.
  7. Stocking the freezer with Smart Ones, the frozen grilled chicken sandwiches Al likes, and the Alvarado St. Bakery multigrain bread we both love; the pantry with casserole fixins (pasta, condensed soup, canned salmon) and canned fruit; and the closet with cleaning supplies for my mom.
  8. Peeing every five minutes.
  9. Framing and hanging the final photos, subway maps, and Paddington Bear drawings for the baby's room. (It's a travel-themed nursery.)
  10. Mulling over the proposed platform for my new political party.
  11. Addressing Christmas cards (which will double as birth announcements this year).
  12. Writing thank-you notes.
  13. Watching football. (I have Ben Roethlisberger, Jerome Bettis, and my personal favorite, Hines Ward, on my fantasy football roster, so I was thrilled to see the Steelers whup the Eagles this weekend. Sorry, Philadelphia.)
  14. Staring at the Pack 'N Play at the foot of our bed (and the baby swing and bouncy seat in the living room, the stroller frame in the dining room, and the car seat in—where else?—the car) and feeling a mix of excitement, fear, and horror. OH MY GOD, WE'VE BECOME TWO OF THOSE PEOPLE. WE HAVE BECOME BREEDERS.
  15. Getting outside as much as possible during the day to combat the depression that's descending on me as the days get shorter and the belly gets bigger.
  16. Planning all my trips up and down the stairs so I never have to go from the basement to the third floor in a single shot.
  17. Trying to find a nightgown I can stand. (I've been advised to bring my own to the hospital, since the hospital gowns are awful, but I find that I'm not really a nightgown person.)
  18. Thinking about packing my bag for the hospital, but not actually packing it.
Posted by Lori at 12:36 PM
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November 11, 2004

Date With Destiny (or: Window of Opportunity)

exposed belly, 11.09.04Al and I have been purposely vague about the due date of our baby, mainly because well-meaning people are liable to drive you nuts with calendar watching if they know for sure when you're due. I've had a couple friends deliver early recently, but if I happen to go long (as another friend did—by about two weeks—last February), the last thing I want is zillions of "did you have the baby yet???" phone calls and e-mails. Thus, we've alternately told people that the baby was due "in mid-December," "around Christmas," and "during the holidays." God help us if the magi reach the baby Jesus before our baby reaches us.

Anyway, I posted a Due Date Debate logic puzzle back in July, after we had our mid-pregnancy ultrasound and before we left on our Last Hurrah Cruise. At the time, there had only been two guesses as to the delivery date—my grandmother's and my mom's—and both were based solely on our "around Christmas" assertion. When we returned from the cruise, I posted additional clues based on the guesses that had come in via comments and e-mail while I was gone, and that update post got two more guesses via the comments. This weekend at the baby shower my sister had the guests record their guesses as to the date and time the baby would be born, as well as the baby's weight, length, hair color, and eye color at birth and his hair and eye color at one year. I can think of at least six people who were present at the shower who did not register guesses, but the guesses we did receive in the box set aside for the purpose, from earliest to latest, are as follows:

  • November 24 at 9:52am
  • November 27 at 8:28am
  • December 1 at 1:30pm
  • December 10 at 4:30am
  • December 12 at 3:45am
  • December 13 or 12 at 11:47am or pm
  • December 15 at 2:00pm
  • December 17 at 4:20am
  • December 22 at 6:05am

covered belly, 11.10.04Note that one of the guesses is my mom's, and one is my niece's (they've pretty much stuck to their original July/August estimates); I won't say to whom the others belong. Figuring from the date I think I conceived, all of the guesses above (as well as the ones from Jimmy, Josie, Lori, and Eric) are within the 37- to 42-week range of a "normal" or "full-term" pregnancy. It should be obvious now why we didn't give an exact due date; babies come when they want to, and only rarely when they're expected.

Keeping people guessing has also helped us be flexible in our thinking; it's partly how we've been able to get our act together so far in advance instead of always thinking, "oh, we've got time." We don't see a due date so much as an arrival window that pretty much spans the entire holiday season. It's why we are politely rejecting all offers to visit relatives in other states for Thanksgiving, and why our Christmas cards might not go out until January this year. It's why we voted heartily to do the tour of the labor and delivery floor at last night's childbirth class rather than waiting until the class with the pediatrician three weeks from now. It's why I'm determined to have my hospital bag packed by the end of the week.

In short, while there's probably no need to worry at this point if I go offline for a few days, there's probably cause to wonder... although I might be more sporadic about posting as I continue cleaning up around the house, start the search for a pediatrician (I'm behind on that front), and get caught up on some things I'd like to do before the baby arrives (like finish the book I'm reading, or do some Christmas shopping, or stock the cupboards and refrigerator with all the foods my mom thinks of as "very simple and plain" but that we'd never think to buy—things like squirt butter, iceberg lettuce that doesn't come in a bag, and Turkey Hill Peanut Butter Ripple ice cream—in preparation for her after-birth visit). I was serious about mulling over a proposed platform for a new political party, but I'm not sure I'll have anything to post on that front for a while (unless the baby goes long and I continue to wake up at 3am on a regular basis, in which case I'll use the time between 3 and 5am for the next month to outline where I think the party should stand on trade, foreign policy, the economy, reproductive rights, and a host of other issues).

One more point on the due date before I crawl back into bed and hope that I can fall back to sleep: I think part of the reason for the wide range of guesses, aside form any vagueness on our part, is that different people have different notions about what a woman in her 8th or 9th month of pregnancy should look like. Believe it or not, there are still people who don't notice I'm pregnant unless I tell them, and they seem utterly shocked when I say I'm due in December. My father-in-law, on the other hand, asked if I had "two in there" when he saw me on Saturday. (If he saw the woman in my childbirth class who *is* carrying twins—and who isn't due until February—he'd know better.) My aunt postulated that I wouldn't deliver anytime soon because I "look too comfortable," but she obviously hasn't seen me rolling out of bed at 3am when my belly hurts too much to sleep. A woman in front of me at the spa last month decided that I was "awfully small to be due in December" and asked if I was carrying all in back. (I responded, "um, would you like to walk around me and see?") Just as one woman who's 50% effaced and 1cm dilated may not deliver for another four weeks while another woman who's "completely closed" may go into labor the next day, some women look three months pregnant when they go into labor, and some look twelve. I won't say which of the first two women I resemble most, but the three-months-pregnant-looking woman I had in mind was my mom—and I was 8lbs., 13oz.

Posted by Lori at 4:46 AM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
November 16, 2004

November Pregnancy Update

Approaching blastoff By the time I finish writing this, adding a photo, looking around for something to eat, pausing to do random Google searches, making notes about what I want to do today, and pasting the text of this entry from Dreamweaver into Movable Type, it'll probably be after 8am, but I want to say for the record that right now it's 5:53am. I'm exhausted, but sleeping apparently isn't on my body's agenda this morning. I'd say it wasn't on the baby's, either, but that was only while I was lying in bed—as soon as I got up and started moving around, of course, he stopped kicking me and fell asleep.

I know I usually do these updates during the last week of the month, but it feels like things are happening much more rapidly now. Al suggested last week that I start taking twice-weekly belly shots (instead of my usual once-weekly shots on Thursdays) because it seemed to be growing—or at least changing—every couple days. Doing the update now also gives me a chance to blog a bit, which as you may have noticed, I haven't been too good about lately.

I finally got a flu shot. My sister came through for me: She begged her doctor's office to let me have one on the morning of our baby shower, and they gave in. Many thanks to my sister and to Carroll Family Medicine in Hampstead, MD for taking pity on a pregnant asthmatic from out of state.

I've dropped (or rather, the baby has). At a recent office visit my belly measured a bit smaller than usual (well, the fundal height—the distance from the pubic bone to the top of the uterus—was shorter than expected), which led the doctor to surmise that the baby had dropped. She confirmed this by poking down low and hitting his head. The now-crowded space between my hipbones means that I often end up walking like a cowboy whenever I have to pee.

I'm craving peppermint. I know you're supposed to avoid peppermint when you're pregnant (and also when you have heartburn, incidentally) because it can stimulate contractions, but lately I've been wanting peppermint mochas, peppermint patties, peppermint brownies, peppermint tea... you name it, if it has mint (especially in combination with chocolate) in it, I want it. I also recently stocked up on Aveda peppermint rosemary shampoo and Organic Botanicals mint thyme body wash (my favorites), and I bought a mint-scented shampoo, body wash, conditioner, scrub, etc. travel set from H2O for my hospital bag. Mint, mint, MINT! Gimme the MINT!

I'm alternating between productive bursts of energy and supreme laziness. As the baby books predicted I would, I've been having the urge to tackle major household projects as the due date approaches. Usually I end up paying for these spurts of activity by not being able to get off the couch the next day, though sometimes I go two days in a row bustling about before I crash. Last week's project was to Swiffer, vaccum, and wash all the wood floors in the house (basically every room except the basement and the bathrooms) and then finish setting up the baby's room; yesterday's was to remodel our downstairs bathroom. (I've always hated that scummy little bathroom and had planned to paint it eventually; when Annie died, we were able to remove the cat box and litter supplies, which provided the impetus to finally fix it up. Between 11:30am and 6:30pm yesterday, I removed the stupid medicine-chest mirror, painted all the walls the same blue as the kitchen, showered, went to Lowe's and purchased a new mirror, toilet seat, shelves, and towel ring, ate lunch in the car, returned to the house, scrubbed the sink and toilet, removed the old toilet seat and installed the new one, hung the shelves and mirror, and washed the floor. I still kinda can't believe it.) Today's project is to walk to the laundromat at 21st and Walnut and do three loads of laundry (our washing machine broke as I was doing the final load of baby clothes last week, and it won't be repaired until next Monday).

The Nexium is working. Within one day of my asthma doctor putting me on Nexium (yes, my asthma doctor; the nuclear heartburn was causing asthma attacks), I was virtually heartburn-free. I've only had one night where I had to wake up to take some TUMS, and that bout was sub-nuclear. Yay, Nexium!

My belly button may never pop out. This is one of the things we learned in our childbirth class, which is turning out to be most useful for asking all the questions we're dying to have answered but that we either feel too silly or don't have time to ask the obstetrician. According to the labor and delivery nurse who's teaching the class, her belly button popped out with her first kid, but not with the next two. Mine has gone from very deep to very shallow, but it's still an innie.

This belly HURTS. Over the course of the pregnancy I've often thought of Heather's comment that "Sources close to the belly confirm that it does indeed hurt very much," but never more so than now. By the time I get into bed at night, my belly is positively aching—and then the punchfest starts. I get feet in my ribs, punches and headbutts to the groin, and lots of flipping around in every direction. I love this baby, but he really needs to learn how to SETTLE DOWN.

I'm not hot. Everything I've read (and every woman I've talked to who's ever been pregnant) has said that I'd spend the third trimester (and especially the 9th month) sweating profusely and walking around in shorts even if it was really cold outside. I have not found this to be the case. In fact, I'm freezing. During the first trimester I overheated a lot, especially at night, but lately I've been more concerned with staying warm than with cooling off. This is somewhat problematic when I go outside (where daytime highs are now in the 40s and 50s) because none of my coats fit anymore. I ran into a woman who's due three days before me who, like me, didn't want to spend $200 on a maternity coat, and her solution was to buy a plus-size one at Burlington Coat Factory. Al & I explored this option on Sunday, but as I am a different shape than the woman who gave me the tip, I wasn't able to find anything that fit. (It appears that I really am "all belly," as people keep describing; I'm pretty normal-sized everywhere else.)

I don't seem to be swelling (except in the belly, of course). I don't know if this is related to the cold-bloodedness, but aside from a few varicose veins, I haven't experienced any swelling with this pregnancy. I can still get my rings on and off, and my shoes still fit. I feel pretty lucky on this front.

I think we're ready. The baby's room is all set up, I've got my bag mostly packed, and there's a list by the door of last-minute things to throw in the car or the suitcase (iPod + charger, birthing ball, pillows, etc.). I've got most of my mom's favorite foods in the house (although I haven't been able to find squirt butter or Turkey Hill Peanut Butter Ripple ice cream yet), and pretty much everything else on my To Do list (except finding a pediatrician) can be put on hold indefinitely if necessary. I won't run out of things to do over the next three to four weeks, but I think we're mostly prepared if the baby were to show up, say, tomorrow. This is not to say that we're completely ready to be parents—just that we've done all we can to make room for baby.

Posted by Lori at 8:25 AM | Permalink
November 17, 2004

Ouch, Frog Legs

I don't know why it didn't occur to me that slowly lowering myself into a squat to paint along the baseboards in the bathroom on Monday—and then slowly raising myself back up, repeatedly—would be like doing squats at the gym while holding a 35 lb. medicine ball, but it didn't. Since midday yesterday I have been paying for that oversight.

If only I had known that I was straining the very muscles I'd need later to lower myself onto a couch or toilet seat, to climb stairs, and—god forbid I should need to anytime soon—push the baby out, I would have painted only the top half of the bathroom walls and installed a chair rail or something.

Posted by Lori at 8:43 AM
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November 17, 2004

When You're Smiling

Remember how I said, months ago, that I couldn't get any other pregnant women to smile back at me? Well, now I'm getting smiled at all the time—by new moms. It seems like every woman I pass with a child under a year old flashes me with a knowing smile, like they can't wait to welcome me to the club. Meanwhile, I haven't noticed too many other pregnant women outside of my childbirth class; could it be that there are zillions of women in their second trimester who are busily smiling at me, and I'm not noticing them? Could they be writing in their blogs about how the very pregnant woman they passed on Market Street yesterday didn't smile back, and how it hurt their feelings?

Posted by Lori at 12:56 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
November 17, 2004

Touch Me and You Die

I'd been reading (and laughing over) Julie's Put. That. Back. post yesterday, and I must say I was intrigued by the role-playing exercise at the childbirth class. I wasn't sure if Julie was kidding about that or not... and then last night at my class, the instructor said, "at the end, we're going to do a mock labor!" I poked Al and said, "oh! I just read about this on the 'a little pregnant' woman's site!"

So I'm all excited about this... until the "mock labor" starts. Turns out it's not the role-playing thing at all. It's the standard "relaxation" exercises, only this time longer, with extra huffing and puffing that made me feel like I couldn't breathe (which in turn made the asthmatic in me panic). I mentioned before that I don't find the relaxation exercises relaxing at all—in fact, I find them downright irritating—and as this "labor" progressed, I felt myself getting more and more ANGRY. And uncomfortable. And needing to pee.

I got up to relieve my bladder, and when I returned, instead of getting back down on the floor, I sat in the chair behind Al, up against the wall. I was doing my best not to seethe at being duped into sticking around for this huff-and-puff session when our instructor said, "OH! I forgot about the thigh squeezing! Coaches: Remember how last time I had you squeeze your partners' thighs to simulate contractions? You should do that now. Al, you can turn around and face Lori in the chair and squeeze from where you're sitting." Al had barely turned his head toward me when I said, without moving any part of my body except my lips, "DON'T. TOUCH. ME."

Luckily, Al knows me well enough that this response was not only not surprising, but fully expected. He kept his hands to himself and well away from my thighs. He confessed later that he'd wondered whether I'd left the class entirely when I stepped out to use the loo, and whether he should follow. I'm sure he would have if I'd been gone for more than 5 minutes.

On a more positive (and somewhat related) note, the midwife mentioned to us at our last office visit that the hospital has a free doula service. We had wanted to use a doula, but I was a bit overwhelmed at the prospect of trying to find someone I trusted. (It's hard enough trying to find a pediatrician.) I'm excited to know that I might still be able to have one, especially since we're really going to need someone who can tell the hospital staff to SHUT UP AND LEAVE HER ALONE. I know Al could do it, but I don't want both of us getting uptight during the labor; one of us at least needs to stay calm and focused. I'm fully expecting that one to be Al.

Posted by Lori at 3:31 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
November 24, 2004

All Quiet

Barring a strong urge to write about politics or the media or something goofy I saw on the streets of Philadelphia, I'm going to go quiet for a while. I'll be back when there's baby news.

Posted by Lori at 5:12 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
November 28, 2004

I'm Still Pregnant, the Washing Machine is Still Broken, and the Closets are Still Being Repaired

I'm breaking my vow of radio silence to provide a quick update for anyone who was wondering if I'd rushed off to the hospital. I haven't; I'm still here, and still pregnant. And the washing machine is still broken. I put one load in after the repair guy left last Monday and then proceeded to start vacuuming the basement. When I got into the laundry room, I could hear the washing machine making a loud clicking noise over the sound of the vaccum, so I turned off the vacuum cleaner to investigate. That's when I noticed the motor sounded like a toy whose battery was running out.

I immediately dialed the number for Sears and stood in the laundry room, listening to the washer, while I waited on hold. By the time they got through to the local repair center and ascertained that the technician would not be able to return that day, I'd begun to smell the faint burning odor that had hearalded the demise of the motor two weeks previously. The operator told me the technican could return on December 1.

About five minutes later the technician called and said he'd gotten a message to call me, but without any details. I explained about the noises and the burning smell, and he said, "that's the motor overheating. You need to go stop the cycle, let the motor cool for about 30 minutes, and then run the Drain and Spin cycle to get the water out. I can't get back there today..." "I know," I said, "they scheduled me for the first." Him: "The first of what?" Me: "December." Him: "WHAT? When is THAT?" Me: "Um, a week from Wednesday." Him: "No, no, no. We're working tomorrow, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday this week. Call them back and tell them to put you on the schedule for tomorrow or Wednesday."

Long story short, after several phone calls between me and Sears, they finally agreed to schedule us for Friday the 26th. A different technician came out that day, and surprisingly, he had absolutely NO information on what had happened so far. "All I got was a message that 'technician said he wanted to come out tomorrow.'" Useful. I told him the story, he poked around for about an hour, and then—that's right!—declared that he'd have to order a part, and he'd be back next Friday.


I wasn't feeling well that day, so Al helped me take the four loads of laundry that had piled up over the past week down to the laundromat (we drove, thank god—I don't think I could have pushed my little old lady cart down there). It only took about half an hour to get everything washed, but of course it took the remainder of the afternoon to get everything dried (we did that at home). All I can say is that that damn washer better be fixed by the time I have the baby.

Speaking of things that need to be done by the time I have the baby: I can't remember if I mentioned here that we were having some work done on the closets in the master and guest bedrooms as well as having the front door replaced. We actually talked to the contractor about doing the work back in September, I believe, but scheduling and supply problems on his end meant that the work didn't start until November, when I explained the whole deal about the due date being more like a window of opportunity, and that the window of opportunity to get the work done would be closing as soon as I brought the baby home from the hospital.

So the work on the closets is continuing this week, the front door will hopefully go in this week or next, the washing machine will be repaired—cross your fingers—on Friday, and I'll be back with a birth announcement and a follow-up post with all the gory details as soon as I can after junior arrives.

We now return to radio silence.

Posted by Lori at 8:57 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
December 4, 2004

Birth Announcement


November 30, 2004
7 lb. 2 oz. ~ 20 inches

Mom: Swollen, sore, covered in bruises from failed attempts to place an IV, and completely ecstatic.
Dad: Already a stunningly good diaper changer and swaddler, and quite possibly even happier than mom.

Gory details to follow when everyone's had more sleep.

Posted by Lori at 10:37 PM
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December 5, 2004

The Gory Details, Part 1: The World Turns Upside Down

Before I get started on this story, I want to make a couple points up front:

  • This isn't intended to be a horror story; it's just what happened to us. (I realized that what I thought of as a fairly straightforward birth experience might sound somewhat horrific when I related the story to my mom.) If you're pregnant and reading this, please don't let any of the details worry you. Overall my experience was pretty darn good, and it really does make a difference that you get a beautiful, healthy baby at the end. Pain and trauma fade the longer you stare at your baby's face.
  • I was cagey about the due date, but I wasn't being as devious by saying "around Christmas" or "during the holidays" as the actual birthdate would suggest. The three estimates I alluded to in previous posts—mine, the doctors', and the ultrasound technician's—were December 10, December 7, and December 5, respectively. As you'll see from the details below, however, there came a point when I knew for sure that Austen would be born in November, not December, and I withheld that information from the blog.

The story really begins on the day that I declared radio silence for a while. What happened at our 38-week OB visit that day is what made me not want to talk about the pregnancy on the site anymore: namely, that we found out Austen was breech. Dr. Beshara, whom we met for the first time that day, did a pelvic exam and declared me 3cm dilated... but then said that something didn't feel quite right. He wanted to do an ultrasound, "just to make sure the baby really is head down." We were a bit surprised, because I'd been under the impression that the baby's head had been engaged since week 35. "It's just a precaution," Dr. Beshara assured us. "It's probably fine, but usually when I do an exam at this stage, I can feel a nose. I couldn't feel a nose on your baby." I'm not sure whether it occurred to us then, but a noseless, head-down baby probably would have been worse than a breech baby whose nose was just pointed the wrong way.

Anyway, we moved on to the ultrasound room, where Dr. Beshara coated me with blue gel, stuck the wand on my belly, and said, "let's see. There's the spine, and there's...a femur. Your baby's breech." It turns out that what had been engaged since week 35 was Austen's butt, not his head. His feet, hands, and head were all over on the right side, under my ribs (which explains a lot, actually). I said, rather matter-of-factly, "we have to schedule a C-section then, right?" The answer was "generally, yes, unless an external version is successful." Unfortunately, an external version requires a certain amount of amniotic fluid, and fluid levels usually start to decrease after 36 or 37 weeks. We didn't have enough.

Since Austen couldn't be turned manually, and at this stage he was unlikely to turn on his own, a C-section would be scheduled for us at 39 weeks. Using the doctors' due date of December 7, 39 weeks was November 30—six days later. Dr. Beshara went to check who was on call that day, in case it was someone we absolutely hated. It turned out to be Dr. Chen, with whom we already had an appointment scheduled (our first with him) on November 29, and whom we'd just seen deliver a baby by Cesarean on an episode of Birth Day. We accepted this slot and agreed to arrive at the hospital by 7:30am on Tuesday.

I think it wasn't until we were walking back down the hall to the front desk that I started to cry. All of a sudden it hit me: Everything I'd been preparing for, with my reading and childbirth classes and breathing exercises, I was going to miss. I wasn't going to need the birth ball or my bag of "labor-saving devices," which was already packed. I wasn't going to be able to labor in water (either in my own tub or in one of the whirlpool baths that had made me choose HUP as my delivery hospital in the first place). I wasn't going to have a C-section at the end of a difficult labor in which I couldn't get the baby out, making surgery something of a relief (and the epidural injection relatively painless compared to the contractions). Every bullet point in my (to my mind) amazingly flexible birth plan was now moot.

I hoped to wake up on Thanksgiving day having gotten over the sadness and shock of missing out on labor; I mean, really, when had I started to look forward to labor? It was probably going to be painful and messy and could quite possibly ruin part of my life. But I hadn't gotten over it: I was still a wreck on Thursday morning, still sad, still angry, still in mourning. I ended up writing an e-mail to our childbirth educator to tell her that we'd be missing the last class, and why. I suggested that in future class series she spend some time talking about scheduled C-sections, and how to prepare for them. I also explained what I'd been having trouble explaining to anyone else I'd talked to.

My friend Stacy said to me, "you know how people say that the way to get through the stress of your wedding day is to think to yourself, 'whatever happens—if the flowers don't come, or the bridesmaids' dresses don't match, or Uncle Fred falls in the cake—at the end of the day we'll be married'? That's the way you need to think about this birth: It may not be the way you expected, but at the end of the day, you'll have a baby." I thought it was a fine analogy... except that what this feels like to me is the officiant coming to our door on the morning of the wedding to say, "the ceremony's cancelled. I now pronounce you man and wife." Yep, we'd be married, but we'd have missed out on something special.

Writing that e-mail made me feel better, and I think it helped me turn the corner. By the end of the day, I was ready to accept and plan for the birth experience I was going to get rather than mourn the loss of the one I'd expected. The only possible wrench in the "start preparing for a Cesarean delivery on Tuesday" plan was that at 10:30 that night, my mucus plug fell out. I was obviously continuing to dilate at a steady pace.

Posted by Lori at 10:49 PM | Permalink
December 10, 2004

The Gory Details, Part 2: Til Tuesday

On the Monday preceeding my appointment with Dr. Beshara (that would be November 22), I'd had about two hours of consistent contractions, and I started to wonder whether I was in labor. Since my strategy was to labor as long as possible at home before heading to the hospital, it didn't much matter; I figured if the contractions got more intense and closer together as the day went on, or if my water broke, I'd call Al at work and the doctor. Eventually the contractions subsided, and I went about the rest of my day as usual.

When we got the news that the baby was breech and that we were headed for a C-section, Dr. Beshara asked about whether I'd been having any strong contractions. I mentioned the Monday session, and the fact that I was more likely to wait too long to go to the hospital than show up with false labor. Dr. Beshara's response: "Don't wait. If you see any signs that you might be in labor, go to the hospital."

All of a sudden, all the signs of labor beginning—signs that I'd been looking forward to with great excitement—became things I wanted to avoid at all costs. My belly, which I'd been looking at as a birthday cake someone might jump out of and yell "surprise!", was now a ticking time bomb.

So when my mucus plug fell out on Thursday night, I didn't know whether to be excited or afraid. I resolved to call the nurse at my OB practice the next day and ask. The problem was that, like most offices around the country, the OB's was closed on the day after Thanksgiving. I felt silly having to page the doctor on call for something that might be nothing, but the guy manning the answering service switchboard assured me that it was better to be safe than sorry. When he said that it was my least favorite doctor who was on call, however, I almost called the whole thing off.

The doctor returned my page about 35 minutes later and said that my mucus plug falling out was no big deal, and not to call unless I was in active labor or my water broke. Since these are the guidelines for when to call if you're heading for a vaginal delivery, and they seemed to contradict Dr. Beshara's "don't wait" advice, I didn't know what to think. I decided to just go about my day as planned and see what happened. The plan was to go to BJ's, ACME (aka Albertson's), and Home Depot to stock up for the recovery from surgery, buy some parts for a few home repairs, and pick out a Christmas tree. If we had time, we'd go to the Han Ah Reum in New Jersey to buy a case of Korean pears.

Meanwhile, I was now peeing at least once an hour if not more, and about every third time I went, more of the mucus plug fell out. Who knew there was so much brownish glop in there? My sister called mid-morning to see how I was doing, and I reported on the mucus plug and the advice from the doctor. "You do realize," she said, "that if you'd gotten a different doctor, you might have gotten different advice, right?" Thinking of Dr. Beshara, I responded in the affirmative. "If I were you," she continued, "I'd spend the day on the couch and act as if the doctor had ordered bed rest. It certainly couldn't do any harm." I conceded her point.

Al went out to BJ's, ACME, and Home Depot without me, though he opted not to shop for a Christmas tree. I wouldn't let him go to New Jersey because I was nervous that labor would start, and he'd be too far away. I spent most of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday on the couch, alternately watching the original Star Wars movies with Al and the first season of '24' on DVD. The rest of the time I spent sitting on the birth ball or clutching the stand-up mirror in the living room, attempting to breathe through increasingly intense contractions that sometimes lasted upwards of 10 minutes. "Where... the... hell.... is... the... peak???" I panted. There are still index cards and receipts littered about the house with contraction counts on them; some only list a single, 5-minute-long contraction, while others list 10 or more with intervals ranging from 1 minute to 12 minutes.

Despite this, labor never did seem to progress, and my water never broke. On Monday morning I was going a bit stir crazy, and I had a library book that was due that day, so Al and I walked, very slowly, to the library, the Whole Foods, and back before returning to the couch.

At around 1:30 we left for our appointment with Dr. Chen, who turned out to be just as nice and just as calm as he'd appeared on the episode of Birth Day. We were surprised, however, when he brought up the subject of attempting an external version. He said Dr. Beshara had talked to him about the amniotic fluid levels being on the low side of normal, but he said if we wanted, they could measure the fluid again on Tuesday morning and see if an external version were possible. We wanted to know what would happen if we went that route. Dr. Chen explained that if the procedure were successful and did not cause fetal distress, we'd be sent home to await the onset of labor; if was not successful and did not cause fetal distress, we'd proceed with the C-section that day (although probably later in the afternoon rather than at our scheduled time of 9am); and if it caused fetal distress, regardless of whether it succeeded or not, I'd be rushed to the OR for an emergency C-section under general anesthesia. We said we'd have to think about it. In any case, Dr. Chen said I should stay off my feet until it was time to leave for the hospital in the morning. (I guess my sister was right; the morning walk was probably not such a good idea, but the weekend spent watching '24' had been.)

We discussed our options later that night, and as appealing as being able to have the vaginal birth we'd originally planned for would be, there were several downsides to attempting external version: (1) the procedure is usually extremely painful, and Dr. Chen preferred to do it without the use of an epidural so that he could gauge whether he was hurting me too much; (2) the baby might be breech for a reason, and by attempting to turn him by force, we might cause fetal distress by entangling him in the umbilical cord or by some other means; (3) we'd finally come to terms with the inevitable C-section, and having to change mindsets back to awaiting the onset of labor was a U-turn I'm not sure either of us could handle; and (4) we'd already told our parents that the baby would be born on November 30. All the "have you had the baby yet???" phone calls we'd hoped to avoid now might happen anyway if the version were successful. I think we were both hoping that the fluid levels would be low enough to take the decision out of our hands, since it was obvious that Dr. Chen had a bias toward attempting the version.

We set our alarms for 5:30am (me) and 6am (Al) and went to bed at around 8:30 or 9 that night, wondering if we'd actually meet our baby the next day, and if so, under what circumstances.

Posted by Lori at 2:47 PM | Permalink
December 16, 2004

The Gory Details, Part 3: Pin Cushion

One of the things we asked Dr. Chen at Monday's office visit was whether there was a certain point at which I should stop eating and/or drinking. I knew that HUP had a policy of preparing for a C-section under general anesthesia, even if general anesthesia was a slim possibility. In our case, if we went ahead with the external version, the possibility wouldn't be quite so slim, so respecting any restrictions on eating and drinking could be very important. Dr. Chen said I needed to stop eating 6 hours prior to surgery, and to stop drinking 3 hours prior. Surgery was set for 9am, provided there were no emergency C-sections that took precedence. Technically this meant that I could eat up until 3am.

As I mentioned in the previous installment, we went to bed at about 9pm on Monday night. Since my thyroid medication had to be taken on an empty stomach, I'd last eaten at 6pm. Between 5:30am and 6am on Tuesday morning, I drank as much water as I could suck down and then cut myself off. We left for the hospital around 7am, parked the car at Penn Tower, and headed up to Labor & Delivery. After signing a bunch of insurance and consent forms upon check in, we waited for a little over an hour for someone to come get us or to tell us what to do next. While we waited, Al snacked on turkey jerky while I tested posting to the blog from his blackberry, chatted with a woman we'd met at childbirth class who was in for some tests, and started making lists of food I would eat when I was finally allowed to eat again.

At 8:30 a nurse came to show us to the room we would wait in until the surgery. She gave me a gown to change into and said that someone would be in to talk to us shortly; they were fairly busy that morning, and both ORs were currently in use. Dr. Chen came in and asked us what we'd decided about the version. We said we were leaning against it, but we wanted to see the results of the ultrasound and get some odds on whether the procedure was likely to be successful. He said OK.

We sat around waiting for a while longer, and then I finally got into the hospital bed and went to sleep. I think it was close to 10am when a nurse came in to hook me up to the monitors and to try to place an IV. Well, she got out all the supplies to place an IV, anyway, and then we never saw her again. Another nurse came in a while later and said that she'd be with us through the surgery. (She was, and she was great.) She searched my arms for a suitable vein, but since my veins aren't exactly "available" under the best of conditions, and I was now completely dehydrated, she had some difficultly. Apparently my veins are also very "valve-y", which means that while a few would have been suitable for drawing blood, almost none were good for placing an IV.

Consequently, this nurse (Erika) blew the first vein she tried. Rather than turn me "into a pin cushion," she called another nurse to come in and give it a try. Boom, another vein blown. This nurse decided to try a second time, using the same vein Erika had tried, but from several inches further up. Boom. (Sixteen days later, the bruise from that double stick has yet to fully dissipate.) They then called in a nurse with 42 (yes, *42*) years of experience, and she was able to get a line in near my thumb on the first try. (It did jam up later, but Erika was able to flush it.)

Meanwhile, the monitors showed that the baby was fine, and I was having fairly strong contractions on a regular basis.

I can't remember what time the obstetrical resident came in to perform the ultrasound and measure the amniotic fluid, but it was probably around noon. She confirmed that the baby was frank breech (butt down, in pike position), and she reported that the amniotic fluid index was 55. I have no idea what the scale is or where 55 falls, but from her tone and expression, we surmised that she agreed with Dr. Beshara that there wasn't enough fluid to attempt a version. She said she'd report the index to Dr. Chen.

While we waited for Dr. Chen to come back, the anesthesia resident came in to talk to me and take my history. I mentioned that I was one of those people who needed three shots of novocain (or whatever cain it is that dentists use) to get numb... and then I'd be numb all day. My numbness threshold just seemed to be higher than the average person's. I also mentioned that it always puzzled the dentist that my lip wouldn't get numb on the first or second try. I gave my height and weight, answered a bunch more questions about my medical history, and signed more consent forms.

Dr. Chen finally came in and asked us if we wanted to attempt the version. We were surprised that it was still an option in his mind. We said that we didn't think we wanted to bother, since we didn't have any faith that it would actually work. Al again mentioned odds, and since Dr. Chen didn't seem to have any good ones to offer, we decided that we'd skip the version for sure. We'd be going for the C-section in about an hour, as soon as the OR opened up.

At this point it was about 1:30 or 2pm, and Al, despite the turkey jerky, was starving. (So was I, but I couldn't eat any of the foods on my now quite lengthy list of cravings.) I asked somebody (I can't remember whom) if he had time to go get something to eat, and whoever it was said yes. He ran out to the lunch carts outside... and within about 10 minutes, Erika came back to take me to the OR "so they can place your spinal." I said I thought I was getting an epidural. She said she could swear the anesthesiologists had said something about a spinal, but she might be wrong. I called Al on his cell and told him that I was going to the OR but not to worry; he should come back to the room, eat his lunch, and change into the outfit they were leaving for him, and that somebody would come get him when I was all prepped.

When I got to the OR, it was FREEZING. Yikes freezing. Erika got me a blanket straight from the warming oven, which took the chill off for about five minutes before I started shivering again. Meanwhile, I found that Erika had been right about the spinal: the attending anesthesiologist had decided that since this was my first pregnancy and the surgery was likely to go quickly, a spinal made more sense. So I assumed the position (hunched over, hands in lap) while they placed the local. For some reason it made me light-headed, so I asked if I could put my head on Erika's shoulder. She said sure. Next the spinal needle went in, and then they laid me back on the table and waited for it to take effect.

It did, but strangely—just like the 'cain at the dentist. One leg—but not the other—went completely numb. The attending tilted the table. Finally the other leg started to get numb. Meanwhile, Erika shaved my abdomen. "Can you feel this?" she asked. Me: "Yep." The attending kept testing me with alcohol-soaked cotton balls swabbed along my ribs, chest, and arms: "Does this feel cold? Does this? Does this?" The answer was always yes. After about 10 minutes, he finally admitted defeat and decided to place an epidural. "You've got a great block for rectal surgery, but abdominal surgery would probably be pretty painful at this point." The resident leaned over and said, "you told me this would happen." Me: "Yes, I did."

So anyway, they propped me up, slumped me into the position, and placed the epidural (again, with two shots). By this time, my teeth were chattering. Once again I was laid back on the table, tilted this way and that, and swabbed with alcohol. Finally, I got numb enough for the surgery to start. The resident injected some painkillers into my IV bag, noticed that I was shaking and chattering, and got me a plastic drape that was hooked up to something like a hair dryer to warm my shoulders. Al came in, and all systems were go.

Posted by Lori at 8:14 PM
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December 28, 2004

The Gory Details, Part 4: Austen and Aftermath

From the point when Al entered the operating room until I finally got to hold Austen is kind of a blur. I remember specific things, but there are huge gaps as well. Al has helped me figure out the timeline and flesh out some of the details; here's what we've pieced together (most times approximate):

3:20pm ~ Al arrives in the OR. My arms are spread out on tables or boards on either side of me, kind of like I'm being crucified. I am shivering really badly now; I have a choice between my teeth chattering or my arms shaking—I'm unable to control both at once. I remember chatting with Al for a few minutes between the chattering teeth, but I don't remember what we talked about. The resident anesthesiologist hangs the drape in front of my face and says, "don't worry, we'll tell you what's going on." Me: "Please don't." Attending anesthesiologist: "See? That's normal. It's the people who DO want to know who aren't normal."

3:25pm ~ The surgery begins. I'm still shaking like a madwoman, despite the plastic bag + hairdryer contraption. I think I'm also still talking to Al occasionally; I make him promise not to look over the drape. I hear someone say, "you might want to put some Epi in that bag."

3:36pm ~ I hear Austen cry for the first time, and I remember seeing him. (Al tells me that they held him up; I only remember magically being able to see him, not how.) My only coherent thought before I break down in hysterical tears: "That's the pinkest baby I've ever seen."

3:40pm ~ I continue crying, and so does Austen. Al holds back the drape a bit so I can see the huddle of pediatricians rubbing and suctioning our son.

3:45pm ~ I hear someone announce Austen's weight: 7 lbs. 2 oz., exactly as I predicted. I ask about his length, and someone (I think Al) tells me that they'll measure him in the nursery. The gaggle of pediatricians is taking Austen to the NICU because he's breathing funny even after all the suctioning. I think, "he must be fine, or he wouldn't be so pink."

3:50pm ~ Al brings a swaddled Austen over so I can see him before handing him back to one of the pediatricians. I overhear her say, in response to a query from Al, that he'll probably be kept in the NICU for 5-6 hours... or as long as two days. TWO DAYS??? When am I going to be able to feed him?

Al's dilemma of whether to go with the baby to the nursery (as friends and baby books suggested) or to stay with me (as he wanted to do) is resolved when Austen is whisked off to the NICU: he has to stay with me.

4:10pm ~ The surgery, which had continued through all the crying, is now complete. The drape is removed, and near my feet I see a stand on which hangs what looks like one of those clear plastic shoe organizers you'd hang on your closet door. Instead of shoes, however, each compartment holds several blood-soaked rags. I'd be horrified at the quantity of blood if I weren't so cold, tired, and overwhelmed by recent events.

The resident OB, Dr. Lee (who's about half my size), stands on my left side, and Erika and another nurse stand on my right. I'm told to cross my shaking arms over my chest so they can move me from the operating table to a gurney. I'm tipped sideways, and I reflexively flail and grab the nearest pole (the one that was holding up the drape, I think). Dr. Lee pries my fingers off the pole and says, "Don't worry, I haven't dropped anyone yet." I look at her dubiously.

4:15pm ~ We arrive back in our labor and delivery room. The resident anesthesiologist slides a thermometer under my tongue, checks the reading, and says, "it has to go UNDER your tongue." I mumble, "ih ith" around the thermometer. He pulls it out, reinserts it, waits a second, and checks the reading again. "Is it broken?" says a female voice to my right. "I don't know," says the anesthesiologist. "It says 95.4." Female voice: "Well, she is shivering..." Just then someone else announces my blood pressure: 85 over 49. I think vaguely, "and that's with the Epi in the bag." Erika and Jen (the nurse who taught the Wednesday childbirth class) cover me with about 10 blankets.

5:20pm ~ Al calls his parents to tell them about the birth. Erika tells me that I won't be going to the post-partum unit on Silverstein 8; instead, I'll be going to Silverstein 9, to be with the other moms whose babies are in the NICU.

5:50pm ~ My pain level, which had been at a manageable 5, starts spiking to 7, then 8, then 9. I ask Al to ring for the nurse, who calls in a doctor.

6:00pm ~ The doctor arrives. The pain is at 11, and I'm sobbing and shrieking. Even though I know the crying makes the pain worse, I can't stop. The doctor starts asking questions, like "where do you live?" and "what's your last name?" I point to Al, who answers for me. The doctor says, "no, I need you to answer me yourself. What day is is it?" "Tuesday," I gasp. "Where are you?" "Ha..ha..HOSPITAL," I manage. The doctor orders Dilotted (sp?) to be administered through my IV.

6:30pm ~ I'm asked to wiggle my toes. I send the command very clearly from my brain to my toes, but nothing happens. The epidural is obviously wearing off, but the spinal isn't. (Again, just like I told the resident.) Al calls the NICU to see if he's allowed to visit Austen. He's told that Austen has been moved to the Well Baby Nursery.

7:00pm ~ I feel the pain start to spike again. 7...8... I ask Al to go flag the doctor down himself. 9...10... There's some discussion about whether to give me Dilotted or Torredol. The concern is that Torredol can aggravate bleeding. Another dose of Dilotted is administered.

7:10pm ~ The Dilotted is working, and the nurses ask me to wiggle my toes again. Nothing doing. I feel hot now, so I ask Al to remove most of the blankets.

7:30pm ~ Here we go again. 7...8...9... Torredol it is.

7:45pm ~ I think I can feel my left knee. I can't actually move it, but I feel like if my lower leg weren't a giant block of cement, I would be able to wiggle the knee. Al goes to visit Austen in the nursery.

8:00pm ~ I can feel the toes on my left foot, and I can lift my left knee. I think I can also feel my right knee. The Torredol is still working.

8:20pm ~ I can now wiggle the toes of both feet, and the Torredol is still working. Yay! Erika tells me that they're going to move me to Silverstein 8 after all. I call Al's cell phone to tell him that I'm going to be moved in a few minutes, so he needs to come down and collect our backpacks and my clothes from the labor and delivery room. He's holding Austen and doesn't want to give him up.

8:30pm ~ I arrive in room 813 of the post-partum unit. The IV that was placed hours ago is clogged, and the line can't be cleared. The nurse tries to place another one, and we do the blown vein dance again. I now have bruises on both arms, at the base of my right thumb, and on the back of my right hand. A line is finally opened just below my right wristbone.

8:45pm ~ Austen is wheeled in, and I'm allowed to breastfeed him, finally. I'm told that he was cup-fed some formula in the nursery "or else he would have brought the walls down with his screaming," according to the nurse. This makes me a little sad, but I'd rather have him be fed formula than starve. Anyway, I've got him now, and all is right with the world.


Here ends The Gory Details; at some point in the future I might blog about the four days Al, Austen, and I spent in the hospital recovering from the C-section and getting to know each other, but I'd rather not dwell on them now. Instead I'll just thank the nurses who cared for us during our stay, especially Sara, who taught me how to breastfeed and got me out of bed without hurting me too much; Trish, who made me a little bundled blanket (henceforce known as the egg roll) to hold against my incision so I could get to the bathroom and back without crying, and who sat with us for about an hour answering all our questions about baby care; Karen, the traveling nurse who spent her last day at HUP with us, helping me manage my pain and just generally being really cool; and Patty, who entertained Austen in the nursery for a few hours each night so we could get some sleep. All four listened as well as they handed out advice, comfort, and medicine, which set them apart from all the rest. Thanks, guys!

Posted by Lori at 2:15 PM
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