Friday, February 27, 2009

Stuck on the Couch During First Trimester of Pregnancy

Have taken pre-natal vitamins before and during the first month of pregnancy. Can't take them anymore because of my nausea but still take a folic acid pill before bed.

Darah says "hi there" when she holds my cell phone to her ear(more like "hi teh"). I love it.

Being so sick all the time is humbling and traumatic. I decided to just pee in the bathtub yesterday because I felt too sick to get out and sit on the toilet. Pathetic, I know.

I have a REALLY hard time getting food out of the kitchen for Darah and/or me (just being in the kitchen makes my nausea worse). I cannot imagine eating anything. Maybe a cheddar cracker.

I have only had the nausea for a week, but it feels like it's been eternity. Two or three months to go, gods help me.

I have managed to keep food down for this first week. It is torture. I hate puking. I am doing everything - mentally - in my power to eat and keep the food down.

I am trying to show Sandy that I am strong by eating certain foods more than once. I am really struggling with that. I have had cream of wheat three mornings in a row, but I feel myself growing weak.

It's Feb 27 - week four or five of pregnancy. I weigh 101.5lbs.

Pregnancy Nausea First Trimester Hell Begins

I probably won't be writing for a while. It was too good to be true. I got sick. At least as bad as last time, if not worse. The only time I am not nauseous is when I am sleeping (and sometimes even then...). I need help. This is hell. Well, it's not as bad as say-watching my whole family being massacred. It's not as bad as a lot of things. But it's still really bad. I wish the next two months would fly by...they will, instead, drag.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Pregnancy Journaling, Freaky Pregnancy Dreams

Well, since we returned from Chicago a week ago everyone has been sick but me. Sandy is just now getting over a bad case of bronchitis. Her coughs (especially in the night) are so loud and abrupt and violent that they wake me from sleep. She has coughing fits that are just awful when she gets a flare-up of bronchitis. Once she gets started, she can't stop. And her nose was stuffed up with snot - we went through almost all of the tissues in the house. And two days ago, Darah started coming down (why do we say "coming" down?) with a cold.

She has it bad now, the poor honeybananabunny. The snot is thin and just runs out of her nose constantly. And when she coughs, it sounds like she's a machine that has water trapped in its interior. I guess these are just the common things that parents go through - kids who have snotty noses and mucous-raspy coughs. Feeling sorry for her because she cannot breathe out of her nose and does not yet know how to blow her nose is probably a universal experience for all (especially new) parents. It's a common cold, but we took her in to see the doctor this morning anyway. The doctor cleaned a little chunk or orange wax out of her ear and inspected most of her baby orifices, but found nothing notable or worrisome. Her cheeks were red and flushed, but her temperature was actually below average (at 98.3). She had been terribly cranky last night and this morning when she woke up, but was in a very outgoing and active mood at the physician's office - go figure! As soon as I sat her down on the floor to fill out a form, she scooted over to the other end of the room to play with the toys and train table. She wasn't shy at all. The only sign that she was sick was that she had a stream of snot hanging from her little Cindy Loo Who nose.

Darah has been extremely irritable since she became sick. If something doesn't go her way - any little thing (for instance if I set her down on the floor) - she starts crying this really over-the-top whiny cry. It's too bad because she was being particularly fun and cute right before she got sick. She comes up to me several times a day to hug me. She hugs my neck and "kisses" (puts her mouth on) my cheek. It's the best feeling in the world (well, one of them). She has just figured out how to sign "help" to me. For a while, she would clap her hands when I asked her if she needed help. And now she holds two fists together and moves them up and town together - which is a lot like the actual sign (or the one I've been doing: a fist on top of a flat hand moving up and down). The other day, Sandy was dressing Darah and she tried to put her socks on for herself. She has mastered taking off her socks (as you would, with a bit more frustration and a bit less grace), but she has her own version of putting on her socks. She has a couple of versions of putting on her sock, actually. She'll either set a sock on her foot and pat the sock or she will stretch the socks (holding it with both hands) over the foot. We were very excited about it, so it's not wonder she has become very excited about it. Now, for fun, she takes off her socks and tries to put them back on. But she has to ask for help...and this is how she put "help" and socks together. She was frustrated with her sock, so she did the help sign. I was so happy. She's putting things together, and it's so exciting to see each small thing she figures out. She's quite proud of herself, too.

As for me, I've been feeling okay (nothing notable happening) until Saturday night, when we were at Tiramisu in Quincy with Dana and Colin. Actually, the problem started a bit earlier in the day when we were having a lunch-library date with Kim and Eli. I did not feel like eating much of anything on the menu at Chicks (most of it is fried...), but went with the portobello fries (fried portobello mushrooms). As I was eating them, I was feeling as though they were going to make me sick. They did, but not until we were having dinner at the restaurant in Quincy. Dana and Colin were taking us out to celebrate Sandy's imminent promotion to Associate Professor and my second pregnancy. We both ordered salmon and it was done beautifully, but I had trouble enjoying it because hormonal body. Darah didn't make things easier. She was in an awful mood (probably feeling sick) and wanted to be held by me the whole time. It was busy and cramped and hot in the restaurant, which just made me feel worse. I had terrible abdominal pains and cramps and a little bit of nausea. It lasted until I fell asleep that night. The following day, Sunday, I felt okay but did have a bit of nausea after dinner (after having a heath bar and marshmallows for desert, to be precise). And today I felt nauseous and weak after having lunch (tuna and avocado salad...I don't think it mattered what I was having, though). Sandy tucked Darah and I - the sickies - in bed for a nap before she returned to the office today. She's the best. We didn't sleep for long (Darah was up and ready to play the "sock game" in forty minutes), but it was nice to be able to lie down and leave the mess for later.

The Quote of the Week:

"I don't buy that whole Mr. Nice Jogging Wolf thing. He's big and he's bad"
- Ming-Ming, The Wonder Pets Save Little Red

Darah's words, 13 months:

Fis (for fish)
Fichy (for fishie)
Chee (for cheese)
Ma-ma or Mom (for either of us, but maybe Sandy)
Mum-mum (for MummyJ or Mum-Mum, maybe)
Eee (for "I want my milk" at the dinner table)
Ba (ball)
Doh-n (for don't)
Muah (for kiss...well, that's her actual kiss)

* She talks a lot, in sentences even, but we're not sure what she's saying

Darah's signs, 13 months:

More (fingers squished and tapping each other - yes, it's hard to describe verbally)
Help (clapping or fists together moving up and down)
Want (making fists with her hand)

* She copies others, we just don't use them frequently enough

Darah's Favorite Books, 13 months:

Skidemarink (book-song hybrid)
Five Little Ducks (book-song hybrid)
One Sneaky Sheep (a touch-and-feel fluffy tale)
Goodnight, Baby (a short, simple book...her favorite lines are "wriggly, giggly tickley toes" and "splashy water, boats in a storm")
Goodnight Moon

*She loves books with baby faces

My mother's advice for taking care of a sick babyD:

"You have to give her three baths a day"
(Much like the advice my father gave me when he discovered Darah does not yet know how to give a five yet: "Well, she doesn't know how to because you don't do it with her often enough. You have to do it with her like five times a day." Gee. Thank you Dad. If I do everything I want her to know five times a day, I'm sure we'll both be in tip top condition.)

Friday, February 20, 2009

First Trimester: Before The Pregnancy Nausea Trials

It's nearly been another week and I am not sick yet. Tired and bloated and cold and filled with urine (or at least with urine always at the edge), but not nauseous. It's so strange. I keep eating things and thinking that it will only be a matter of days until I won't be able to eat those things again (like the bagel with onion and chive cream cheese and glass of highly acidic grape juice that I had this morning).

Darah has been very entertaining this week. She started saying "ut oh" at the beginning of the week. At first she repeated it when I would say it and then, later in the day, she said it spontaneously. I love "ut oh." She said it all day long for one day, but then I didn't hear it very often after that (maybe once in a while, here and there). I guess it was new and fun on the first day. Maybe she just forgot about it because she hasn't heard me say it in a while. Today she has been saying "Oh" whenever she is surprised or sees something new and interesting. She brought me her plastic peach this morning, and when I opened it for her (pulling apart the two Velcro halves)she exclaimed "Ohhhhh" in amazement. I love her sweet high-pitched voice.

She's been getting a lot of baths lately. She likes to rub her dinner in her hair when she is finished and bored. Last night it was butter. I hope it conditioned it, because she has a nest in the back of her head that poofs and snarls and can never be tamed. Darah probably rubs food in her hair on purpose; she loves bath time THAT much. Especially now that I am letting her sit in the tub on her own (not in a bath seat). I bathe her in the tub downstairs because the one in our bedroom is a jacuzzi tub (and is too deep for me to lean over). It's a good tub for kids, but it's freezing downstairs so I usually don't like going down there for long (even with the space heater that I turn on). We've been using color tablets in the tub lately. I enjoy them - especially the turquoise shade. I don't know if she notices them anymore. I haven't figured out a good way to wash out shampoo from her hair. She arches her back and stands up when water gets in her eyes - so I usually end up holding her and getting soaked or putting her back in the bath seat for a rinse down.

Darah loves TV. A woman at Early Beginnings urged us not to allow her to watch a lot of television because she will not be able to stay attentive when things in real life (at school, for instance) move at a slower pace. She does ignore me sometimes when she is watching TV. I still let her watch a lot of TV (shows on PBS, mostly). It does make it easier on me. But I still make time for us (Darah and me) to play together and be together without it on. Darah loves music. She has been dancing for months. Once when we passed Hannah Montana on the Disney Channel, she heard the song HM was singing and started rocking and getting so excited. She loved that music. And then she also seemed to like the Jonas Brothers (which I was sad about because I find their voices nasal and annoying). On the up side, she likes Edith Piaf a lot. We all enjoy a special after-work/end-of-day dance to "La Vie L'Amour" together. LOVE Edith Piaf. We all do. It's great.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Taking a Pregnancy Test, Again - The First Pregnancy Symptoms

I took another pregnancy test yesterday, just to make sure I am still pregnant. It turns out that I am. I really am. The line is even darker than it was last week when I tested. I am having trouble believing it because I am not feeling like crap yet. During my first pregnancy, I was sick with 24-hour nausea by this time. I wonder how one pregnancy can vary so much to the next. Sandy thinks it may have to do, at least to a small degree, with stress levels. But I think I am almost as stressed as I was with the last one. I am just a chronically stressed person (which is why yoga is such a struggle and is so important).

I have been having moments of nausea. I had a little before bed the other night. And I had a little yesterday after I ate five or six pieces of chocolate. And I had a little tonight after we had eggs for dinner. Just the thought of eggs - fried eggs - makes me slightly queasy. I suppose it make be a remnant of the nausea I had with my first pregnancy (because I couldn't eat or smell fried eggs for the first three months). I told Sandy I might not be able to have eggs for a while.

My body aches during the night. Arms, legs, butt, lower back, shoulders. Just from sleeping on them. It doesn't make sense how pregnancy starts to take over your body right away. Hormones are so powerful. I've been hurting my fingers by biting. I guess it's my compulsion or the manifestation of some undiagnosed anxiety disorder.

So far it's just been twinges, periodic cramping, periodic dizziness and weakness, and periodic nausea. My breasts have not grown and are not sore. So far so good. And that calls for a nice, solid knock on wood for the superstitious dimension of myself (and yourself, too).

Sometimes going through tough times puts things into perspective.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Home again, home again...

Darah and I returned home by train from Chicago this morning. This was a significant, though short, trip because during it Darah took her first train rides - first on the Illinois Zephyr and then on the Carl Sandburg. Each way, she slept for about an hour and a half on my chest. I was hoping she would sleep for three and a half hours, but who can blame her for wanting to get moving (Darah's naps usually last forty-five minutes; she prefers to be awake at all times). She loved looking out the window, but that only occupied her for about ten minutes. I tried to distract her and to keep her occupied, but she just wanted to throw things and go to visit other people. Snazzle Kitty (a gift from Gramma Sue and Grampy Bill that they made for her at the Build a Bear at the Navy Pier) only occupied her for ten minutes. "The Feelings Book" occupied her for a total of approximately twenty minutes (in three sections). I took out her Garden Fresh grocery bag filled with plastic fruits and veggies that you can peel (pull off) and break (pull apart). All of the toys in my bags were made in, where else, China. I really do not understand how there can be so many factories in China - almost every piece of plastic that I encounter is made there. It's frightening.

Darah had nice dinners at Tamarind (an Asian-fusion, eclectic place near Columbia College) and Riva's (an upscale seafood restaurant at Navy Pier). She napped in the stroller I bought at Walgreen's (made in China, I'm sure). She strolled through the city and rode in taxi cabs. She made huge messes in every restaurant we dined in. She saw space jackets and robots and colorful lights at the Adler Planetarium. Although she was hot and sleepy, she managed to stay awake for the One World, One Sky show at the planetarium, which featured Big Bird, Elmo (her favorite), and a CHINESE Sesame Street character. Then, she slept through the Cosmic Collisions show, which was narrated by Robert Redford. I had a great time at the planetarium. I've always loved sitting in the dark room with stars surrounding me. What a great date idea - I'd say it would be creative and romantic. Sandy and I will have to go sometime, since we've never been to a planetarium together. I wonder how the planetarium in Buffalo compares - I was there once when I was a kid and I have always wanted to go back. Well, I got my wish. Darah's first trip to the planetarium at one year old and my second trip at twenty-four years old.

Darah's grandparents, Grampy Bill and Gramma Sue, took her swimming at the hotel (the Sheraton). I watched, very happily, from the side. Darah had a blast in the pool. She loves water. She seems to be in her element when she is in the water. She kicked and splashed and smiled. We always take her swimming at hotels because she enjoys it so much. If I feel up to it in the Spring, I'll take her swim lessons at the YMCA again. I wonder what was going on in her little brain when she stood in front of the giant window on the 27th floor of the hotel, staring out at the ever-more giant, well-lit buildings of central Chicago. I realized on this trip how glad I am that I do not live in a large city. I feel much more grounded living in a town and being on land.

The next day, we took a cab to the Shedd Aquarium. We were very excited, knowing that Darah loves her fishies and would probably think the "big fishies," as we called them, we're so cool. But when we pulled up, there was a line full of kids, parents and strollers about a mile long outside the Aquarium. I'm not sure why it was so crowded, but we decided to head over to the Navy Pier for the day instead. Darah had fun at the Navy Pier. Before we went, we (my father and Darah and I) ate a sixty dollar (!) breakfast at the restaurant in the hotel. Darah ate some of the fruit from my crepes and then had pancakes. She loved the strawberries until she had the blueberries...and then she just wanted the blueberries. Just as I said to my dad, "Oh Darah loves blueberries. She is shoveling them in," Darah pulled one out of her mouth and handed it to me. She tried another one and another one after that, and each time made a face and handed them to me. I don't know what happened and why she changed her mind. She went from LOVING them to HATING them in a matter of five minutes.

The highlight of the Navy Pier, for Darah and all of us, was the Children's Museum. I recommend it very highly. I can't wait to return with Darah. There was so much to do. I wish we had started earlier. When Darah found the Water Explorations area, she was, as Sandy likes to say, blissin' out. She spent about an hour standing at the side of the water tunnel. She played with three fountains of water almost the whole time. Other kids came and went, but she stayed there with the fountains. I was in heaven watching her. She wore a lilac raincoat. It was such a sweet moment in her life. How wonderful! And then, later, she got to go swimming AGAIN, on top of all the fun at the waterworks. Darah had a fabulous visit with her grandparents in Chicago. She had ice cream for the first time, too, which she enjoyed thoroughly. What a day, what a trip!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Darah's First Non-Boob Meals: First Foods During Weaning

Darah's first Non-boob meals:

Rice cereal - started at around five months, she prefers it with breast milk
Squash - started at six months, enjoyed it a lot
Peaches - started at six months but didn't want many
Sweet Peas - ate them but not all at one time (sometimes willing to eat, sometimes not), when she didn't want to eat them she would turn her head away and refused to look at me
Carrots - didn't like them at first but like them later
Sweet potatoes - just LOVED them
Sandy's pureed peas - didn't like the texture, not pureed enough
Jessica's pureed apples - didn't like the texture

Some notes: 9 Months old

- Darah was ticklish for the first time at 9 months (on her belly)
- Darah started clapping ALL the time at 9 months
- The first word Darah recognized was "Doggie" (looked for her doggie at 7 1/2 months)
- Stood up by herself on the couch for the first time at 9 months
- Darah loves to climb Mommy Mountain

Darah's first official word:

FISHY - "Hi fishies" "Hi fish"

(after we bought her goldfish for her first birthday)

(she did say Ma-ma sometimes, indiscriminantly)

Darah is Excommuncated from Playgroup for Not Being "at Risk"

Well, this morning I was sad because I was told that Darah can no longer attend playgroup at Early Beginnings. The programs are funded by grants, and are meant to serve families who are "at risk." What exactly is "at risk?" It's broadly defined and determined by at home and on location evaluations of parents and children. Darah lives in a two-parent home, has a mother with a B.A., is within the "average" range of gross motor-fine motor-communication-etc skills, and does not live with a family member for whom English is a second language. Apparently, because of the struggling economy, the program facilitators are no longer going to be inclusive and allow all families to participate. I would pay for Darah to go (she and I enjoy going THAT much), but I can't pay. It's a free service run through the government. So Darah can't go to playgroup anymore. I'm so sad. For us both. She really loves going. She plays with friends and with so many cool toys. I get to see the friendly, familiar faces of other moms. But not anymore.

It feels bad to not be allowed to come anymore. Darah deserves to play there just as much as anyone else. But she's not "at risk." I'm happy she's not "at risk." Very happy about that. I just want her to play with other little ones outside of her house (since she spends almost all her time at home with ME).

I am looking into other playgroups in town. Most of them are run through churches. I read a flier that I picked up at EB last week. My only concern is that, at the bottom, it says that it is for Christian women. I am not a Christian woman, so I feel sort of awkward about that.

Also, I know that it is not officially part of the paperwork for determining whether someone if "at risk" or not, but technically Darah could be just as "at risk" for social, emotional and cognitive developmental delays by virtue of being isolated - in a small town, having two moms who do not have familial support, having two moms who face hardships because of their status as a same-sex couple that other, heterosexual, couples may not face, having two moms who face hardships because they are not religiously affiliated. It's ironic because by Darah not being allowed to attend (and by me not being allowed to bring her nor to even pay for her to attend) playgroup, she is being put "at risk." So the grant, which is supposed to be helping "at risk" children, is, instead, making (some) children "at risk" by not being inclusive. Sandy and I have just been thinking about all of this lately. It's really about paperwork and fitting people into categories. So because we don't fit into the categories, our kid loses out on opportunities. Of course, in reality, I -as her mother- will do whatever I can to find her other opportunities. But, in theory, it is unfair. That's life for ya.

As far as pregnancy symptoms are concerned, I am burping quite a bit. I am queasy. I had trouble sleeping last night - cold and hot all night long (Darah's kicking body between us didn't help). I feel weak and dizzy.

Oh, and I am PREGNANT. Yes, yesterday afternoon I took a pregnancy test and found out that I am pregnant (a faint second pink line told me that). I am just under two weeks pregnant. I weigh 100.5 lbs. The baby will be due sometime around or between October 30 and November 1.

Ugh. Sandy and I had lunch at the Red Ox today. Yucky garlic taste that I burp up. I get that taste no matter what I order there. The waitress was very friendly, though, and we had a great time. I feel sick right now. Thank god I don't have to try to sleep yet.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Things written in my pregnancy notebook when I was pregnant with my first child, Darah Sage McFadden!

May 6 2007 - having just gotten a POSITIVE result on the P-test

"My breasts are swollen and I have acne on my forehead that seems more prominent than usual"

"Creamy, whitish discharge appeared. I can push it out of my v-hole"

"We made lime-thyme potato salad this afternoon and we'll eat it with BOCA chicken patties. We will also take a bath"

May 9 2007

"tired (not sleepy necessarily)"

"dizzy and heacache-y from time to time"

"Haven't pooped in awhile (at least a day)"

"Ate a bagel with cream cheese, orange juice, potato salad, sour cherry gummies, spinach lasagna, coffee ice cream, lemonade, diet coke all day"

"Boobs still sore"

"Mostly tired"

"Yesterday I ate pickled ginger and olives - Sandy thought it was worth noting"

May 10 2007

"Weight: 107 lbs w/out shoes"

"Hot, smelly gas...but Sandy disputes this claim and says she never smelled anything"

"Bloated, diarrhea"

"Boobs are really sore"

"Prominent zits on forehead"

"Some burping"

"Went to Margaret McHarry's mother's funeral visitation in Havana"

"Ate: cereal, olives, crackers with cashew butter, orange juice, lemonae, lasagna, Edy's Nestle Tollhouse Loaded Cookies Dough ice cream"

"Some dizziness"

May 12 2007

"Yesterday I was pretty uncomfortable and cranky all day - biting my nails and having occasional gas"

"This morning I weighed in at 105.0 lbs"

"Had trouble sleeping last night"

May 13 2007

"Worked at Sandy's office..."

"Went to K-Mart. Sandy painted pole and made lentil soup (fiber!) while I planted coleus, tomatoes, lavender, pineapple, sage, peppermint, spearmint...and watered after"

"Ate grapefruit and toast for breakfast, mango snack, lentil soup and corn bread for dinner"

"Watched part of Girl Interrupted on AMC - they changed the word, DYKE, to DOPE for TV"

May 18 2007

"Feeling sick after meals (not very nauseous...intermittent nausea)"

"Meals make me uncomfortable and give me gas"

"Gas, gas and more gas - unbelievable"

"Can't allow Sandy to put any pressure on my abdomen or bladder - very uncomfortable"

"I poop a lot more often"

"The gas is the worst it's been so far"

"We took NoraBasil and Cydney to Lake Argyle today"

May 20 2007

"Embryo baby went to movies with us, and watched Shrek the Third"

"Sick. Constantly. My wonderful partner is taking care of me and treating me like a queen - serving me meals and being so loving"

"A combination of feelings that alternate: nausea, cramping, abdominal pain, gastrointestinal discomfort, gnawing feeling, aching"

"Weak and somewhat dizzy"

"Allergies, especially triggered by outdoors - watering plants"

"Boob update: heavy, hard/solid, full, tender"

May 24 2007

"I feel terrible. I can hardly stand this feeling. I have been sick for a week. I feel nauseous and dizzy and weak all day long, every day. I cannot stand or move for very long but I feel terrible regardless of whether I am standing or not"

"Last night was the worst night yet - and worse than most in my life. The last time I felt that terrible was when I had that strange illness when we first moved here (we never figured out what it was, IBS?) least I could medicate then"

"I can hardly eat. Everything make me feel nauseous - everything except water. I ate some Cheerios in bed this morning. I need more than that but I'm not sure that I can handle anything"

"Eyes burning"

"Went to bed around 10PM and woke up at 11:30PM - nose running, sneezing, feeling like I'm burning up and then like I'm freezing and have the chills, feeling like I need to vomit and have diarrhea at the same time. Could not puke OR shit. Just sat on the floor, wrapped in a towel, burping up the grossest taste and dry heaving/spitting"

"Took a swig of Maalox, whimpered and cried a lot, drank orange juice and water"

"Went to sleep much later. Woke up again around 2:30AM feeling exactly the same way as before if not worse. Tried to shit - nothing. Tried to puke - nothing. Intense stomach pains and nausea worsened, nose still running and sneezing...and, finally, I PUKED. Just puked a little - clear and red stuff...and it didn't make me feel better"

June 13 2007 (Month 2 Pregnant)

"The other night, I was dreaming that a monkey was falling out of the ceiling just above my side of the bed. In REAL LIFE while I was still asleep: I jumped out of bed, ran to Sandy's side of the bed and told her to get out of the bed - 'Get out of the bed,' I said. She got out of the bed and stood beside me. I turned on the light, and when I looked at the ceiling to see the monkey, I woke up and realized I had been doing. I went to the bathroom and came back into bed, still half-dazed and saying (in a crazy tone) 'I'm so embarrassed'"

"I am very sick. All the time. This sucks. I hate being nauseous. I hate it"

"Poor Sandy. She has been putting up with and taking such good care of me - doing everything: cooking, cleaning, dishes, comforting, taking care of the yard -- everyday"

"What have I been eating? Cheerios, cupcakes, ginger ale, water, apple juice, orange juice, grape juice, fruit snacks, twinkies, pop tarts, fudge pops, bread, perrogies, raviolis, spaghettios, tuna sandwiches, boca burgers, Kix - Honeycombs - and Life cereals"

June 25 2007

"I have been very sick, most of the time. My eyes burn and water. I often feel like I have the chills. Stomach pains. Nausea is terrible and acts up a lot - in the morning and NOW also at night"

"On Saturday, I threw up at night for the first time. I was feeling nauseous (as I usually do before dinner). I went to take a Flinstone vitamin. As soon as I chewed and swallowed it, I puked it right up"

"I have trouble sleeping: abdominal discomfort, gas cramps (gas doesn't come out easily), bladder issues (feeling like I have to urinate constantly)"

"Last night I got up four or five times to go to the bathroom because the gas pains were so bad and I felt like I had to pee"

"Toward 5AM, I gave up on sleeping and just waited, lying awake, until 8:30. Then the pains worsened. I felt like I was getting my period. When I sat on the toilet, I felt like I was going to have diarrhea. I didn't have it"

"Then I suddenly felt like I was going to puke. So I puked. And then I shit. In the same toilet bowl, one after the other. And my nose was running. It was horrible. I am pathetic. Ah"

"This is what I ate the day before this episode: honeycombs, water, apple juice, pop tarts, fruit roll up, fruit gummies, tuna salad on crackers, cheese ravioli with Prego sauce, sherbet, a Centrum vitamin"

Mid July (Week 13)

"Sandy took Cydney and me (and Fartyce) to the park. My feet started to burn, and then I nearly passed out. I blacked out and had to fall to the ground. Our trip was cut short. Sandy left us at a picnic table so that she could go get the car for us"

"I puked a couple of times over the last two weeks (once I puked A HORRIBLE combination of watermelon, cream cheese and buttery crackers - very unpleasant)"

"Sandy and I went to K-Mart and bought a few baby outfits. We each got to pick out one toy for the infant. She picked out a soft, cloth Panda bear book and I picked our orange and yellow duck-shaped teethers"

"Sandy took care of Dana and Colin's cats - Dobie and Berkeley"

"I thought I was starting to feel better for a day or two, but I felt sick again for the fourth of July"

"We watched fireworks out of our dining room window. A very good seat, actually"

"House is messy and needs serious cleaning. I could use my mom's help"

"Started drinking milk - skim milk from cows"

"A little fly flew out of my hair when I got into the shower and stepped under the water. Am I that gross?"

"I hate having a sweet taste in my mouth. Yuck"

"Marilyn commented on the size of my breasts. She said, 'Your boobs look bigger. I didn't know people grow so fast'"

Name Ideas:
Nora Leigh
Basil Sefton
Lily Louise
Nova Blu
Lee Armand

What to tell the doctor at my 20 week appointment:

- allergies
- vaginal pain/pressure/ache
- what do I use for hemorrhoids?
- is soft poop a problem?
- pain under right rib cage
- anything for heartburn and indigestion?
- how long will i have to wait to get pregnant again?
- increased frequency of pooping
- lots of kicking/movement
- i get so dizzy and weak that i have to lie down - happens once a day

For Gyno Appt. September 26 07

- cold/flu help
- upset stomach
- throbbing ear
- aching body
- headache
- burning eyes
- congestion
- itchy throat
- cough

Top Names (in October)

Nova Blue
Nora Leigh
Lee Armand
London Sage
Ellis Gray
Autumn Lee
Lily Louise

10/08/07 Notes for gyno appt.

"Baby very active"

"Seem to be having a negative reaction to milk or cereal. When I eat it in the morning, I tend to feel weak and sick to my stomach"

"Burning, numbness and tingling on underside of breasts (often at night during or after dinner)"

"Dry patches all over skin"

"Is Vicks Vapo Rub okay?"

Revised Name List:

Nova Blu
Nasha Lee
Sage Armani
London Sage
Ellis Gray
Zanna Sage
Lee Armand
Nora Leigh
Dara Sage
Lennox J
Lyndon J
Winter J

11/09/07 November

"My left breast leaked for the first time in the night/early left a small, wet, hard spot on my shirt"

"I poop a lot"

"We went out to dinner with Rosemary to the Red Ox. She wore a gold sweater"

"The Psychology Department gave us a stroller/car seat combo for our baby shower yesterday...Kris Kelly had such a nice party and the cutest cake"

"Baby Darah is active in the middle of the night and calm during the day"

"There is a very dark line vertically across my big belly"

"Sandy loves to feel the baby move in the middle of the night while I'm asleep"

"I weigh 137 lbs (at 7 1/2 mos.)"

"Skin is very dry and blotchy with really hard pimples that cannot be popped. Skin around my lips is flaky"

"I am taking a prenatal vitamin and Prilosec for heartburn"

"Have started biting my nails again (haven't bitten in 7 mos)"


"I've been having period-like cramps for the past few days - one to three times a day"

"Crotch/pelvic bone pain, especially when I try to get up from sitting or lying down"

"Breasts leak in the middle of the night"

"Some lower back pain starting and a bit of pressure in lower region"

"Lots of pressure on my vaginal bone. Ow"

"I feel like I have to pee most all the time when I usually don't have to pee - I feel like I have to pee RIGHT after I've emptied my bladder"

"Feels like my vagina is aching, like it needs to open up and release pee"


Neh - hungry
Owh - sleepy
Heh - discomfort
E-air - lower gas (eerr grunt or ehh ayah)
Eh - burp

Early Pregnancy Horror Symptoms

Well, this is just a quick note to keep track of what possibly may be symptoms of pregnancy # 2.

- my skin had been breaking out, with lots of massive pimples (even one on my back, which typically does not happen)
- still feeling somewhat bloated
- have been peeing once in the night (which is also unusual for me). i wake up with a full bladder and have to relieve myself
- i feel sick today. i feel like i have a slight fever. my teeth and jaw and head ache. maybe i am coming down with something (something not related to pregnancy)

On another note, though: Darah walked last night. She stood herself up on her own (without using a table or stool) and walked a few steps toward me. She is hesitant and likes to crawl for comfort, but she's on her way. We were so happy. We chanted "go Darah go Darah do Darah..." What a great night. And we had pizza from Larry A's. It was okay. But the walking, that was great!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Our Semi-Traditional, Semi-Non-traditional Pregnancy and Birthing Story

I'm little over five feet tall. I have small hands, small fingers, small breasts, small feet, and a small vulva (relatively speaking). I always had a feeling that a baby, even a premature or shrunken baby, having to grow in my small body would be quite an interesting, unparalleled experience. And it was. I had not, however, fully considered the prospects of a baby's exit out of my body (the "inside world") and entrance into the earth body (the "outside world"). I had, very noncommittally, considered the experience from time to time. When I was in middle school, I announced to my mother during a car ride that I was going to become a nun because I never wanted to have babies (not because I was scared of being a lesbian...I had no clue at that time that I was lesbo-all-the-way-baby).

At that time, I must have had some clue as to the nature of giving birth. I was very ill-informed, actually, so who knows what I was thinking at the time. I am the girl who missed both sections of sex education (during two different years) because I was sick with an unknown illness (at the time we thought it was mono, but now I think it was anxiety-related...fear of school and teachers, especially a science teacher named Mrs. Kaplan). I am also the girl who, during her freshman year of high school, thought that "giving head" meant rubbing one's head --not face, head-- against a guy's crotch (penis, testicles, you get the picture!). My friends had a very long laugh over that one. So when I decided I had to be a nun to avoid having children, I didn't even know the half of it.

Until I met Sandy, in 2003, I did not even know that my cunt actually was called a vulva (and consisted of inner and outer lips, a urinary hole, a clitoris, and a vagina). I thought the whole thing was a vagina. Thanks to Sandy (and Betty Dodson), I learned a very important part of my anatomy. Before I met Sandy, I didn't know the wonders of clitoral stimulation OR the wonders of lubricant. I had only had a sexual relationship with one person before Sandy. I did spend some time masturbating, but mostly I was focusing on the vagina (it was all up in my head anyway. I could just as well have squeezed and massaged my thighs while thinking of an intricate scenario of how the person I was in love with would finally let her guard down and let me in). So thank god (with a lower case g) that I met Sandy, or I would be even more clueless about my body and what giving birth would do to it. I have always wanted to have a baby. Sandy decided she wanted to have one after meeting me. We were a couple for five years before having Darah.

Sandy and I tried getting (me) pregnant for over eight months in 2006-2007, with the help of our lovely friend and donor, Adam Chacksfield. We met Adam while we were having dinner at a friend's house. I walked into the kitchen and he was standing there. He was tall - that's what I remember noticing most vividly. He was leaving as we were coming in. Then, during the course of the evening, we got to talking about our desire to find a sperm donor and have children. Our friend thought that Adam might know someone who would be a good match for us. His name is Bob. I asked about Adam, but she thought that "Bob" would be a better match. We got caught up in the moment and she put me on the phone with Adam. I explained, very briefly and awkwardly, the situation. And, with knowing very little about him, I mustered up the courage to ask him if he, himself would consider donating. He was very sincere, and said that he would think about it during his trip to visit family in England and get back to me.

A couple of weeks later, Adam contacted us and asked if we could get together to discuss it. He decided he wanted to help us. We drew up a contract that would protect both parties and signed it (not in front of a lawyer). We started trying to conceive in October, 2006. Around the time of ovulation (when the test strips we purchased showed that I was having an LH surge - which occurs 24 - 48 hours before ovulation), Adam would come over for a few nights in a row each month. He would go into our bathroom and produce sperm. Like magic! Then he would carry the sperm in a cup to me and leave the house. I would carry it into the bedroom, where Sandy would be waiting with a needle-less syringe. And then, after being propped up on pillows, she would put the sperm inside me. I would try to stay in that position and sleep propped up, but it wasn't easy. We used a glass cup, after learning that the semen would be absorbed into a Dixie cup. We tried this method for seven or eight months. There were MANY times I was convinced I was pregnant. But it didn't work, and I got my period every time. I guess the force of the syringe just wasn't enough to get the sperm where they needed to go. Plus, there is only so much you can do with a syringe.

So I threw a new/old method out there that might be faster, easier and more efficient: S, E, X. Yeah, I wasn't sure what else to call it. Sex. A non-traditional sort of sex, but sex nonetheless. It started as a little idea that I had. Then it was a little idea that Sandy and I discussed and agreed upon. Sandy was supportive of me if I was willing to do it, but she did not want to be there or be a part of the process. It's not for everyone. I thought of it like a job. I've posed nude for art classes and done lots of other "uncomfortable" things in my life, this would just be something new to try. I started out thinking of it as a medical procedure. Having a medical procedure would be uncomfortable and awkward, so to me sex would be a similar endeavor.

A few more words on a lesbian having heterosexual sex -for the first time, mind you: I love Adam as a friend, but I do not have romantic feelings for him. I consider myself a lesbian. On the continuum of sexuality and attraction, I am probably midway between the bisexual center and homosexuality end . I am attracted to women, primarily. Not ALL women. And there may be a few men (David Bowie-ish men) that I am attracted to. But my psychological attraction or lack of attraction to Adam is almost irrelevant, because sex, for me, is most enjoyable when I am "in love" (or whatever that is - emotionally AND physically VERY, very attracted to a person). I also liked the sex idea because I thought it might be more pleasant and gratifying for Adam (it would be rude to assume he would LIKE having sex with me, especially knowing I am a lesbian who would not want to have sex with him under normal circumstances). I asked Adam to have tea with me, and then I asked him to have sex with me. He was surprised I asked. He said yes. So we had sex and got pregnant after two months of attempts. Adam was very kind to do this with me. I tried to offer him whatever kindness and love I could during the sex - kindred spirit sex, I'll call it. The first time we had sex, I felt a lot of guilt and discomfort (right after he left the house). I cried to Sandy, and she held and comforted me. Then it got easier. There were some difficulties with communication a couple of times, which is understandable given the unusual circumstances. But both Adam and I tried to go into it (the situation, the sex) with compassionate and generous attitudes. And it worked. Darah was born from love. Adam's love for us and for himself and for humankind. Our love for each other (Sandy and me) and our love for Adam and his generous spirit. And our love for the baby we were bringing into the world.

After deciding to use a more "hands-on" method, it only took two months (or two monthly attempts) before I was pregnant. The second method worked well and make it more enjoyable for Adam (who was being so generous and selfless by giving up so much time and effort in our bathroom before). The first major sign I had of pregnancy, aside from bloating, was that I had an abundant amount of mucous-like fluid on the edge of my vagina. I noticed it in the mirror of the hotel room we stayed at the May 2007 MPA conference in Chicago. It was definitely strange. I became a little obsessed with it...and I had to be careful not to remove it all because it served a purpose. The bloating was pretty obvious. Okay, let me put it more bluntly. I was a gas machine. That is how Darah earned her fetal name - Fartyce Rae (Kris Kelly helped us decide on the spelling).

Shortly after we returned home from the trip (it was also on this trip that we had to take our aging Sheltie, Cydney, out on the streets of Chicago at 2am to find a grassy area for her to go to the bathroom on...we were both wearing our pajamas), I took a pregnancy test while Sandy was at work. AND GOT A POSITIVE RESULT. I was screaming and jumping up and down when I called her. It was such a happy moment for both of us. For a week after we got the results, I felt GREAT. I felt healthy and happy. I did have one strange craving during that week - I ate a jar of green olives with pickled ginger. The thought of the combination still makes me sick to this day. That was the only craving I ever had, though. It was right after that snack (the day after or so) that I became very, very sick. Debilitatingly sick with nausea all day long, every day for over three months. I carried a black bucket around with me everywhere - even to the grocery store. I did not vomit very often, but I felt like I could constantly. (The major vomit that I remember involved six pieces of french toast, butter, syrup, and cranberry juice. It was traumatic.)I burped and spit all day long. I felt like I would puke when I brushed my teeth. I couldn't clean or read or do anything. I watched HGTV and TLC (baby shows!) I was lying on the couch or the bed all day long, whining and whimpering and complaining. "Oh Sandy, help me. Help me, help me, help me." "Sandy, I'm dying. I wanna die. I wanna die. I wanna die." "Kill me, just kill me." "Oh, this is horrible. Oh. Ohhhhhhhh." "Please, Sandy, make it stop. I can't do this. I can't get through this." "I'm dying. I'm dyyyyying." I was useless. Sandy served me meals and cleaned up after me for three months. And she had to hear me complain all day long, especially at meals - when I would say "Oh, I don't feel like anything. I can't eat anything. Noooooo." But I did manage to eat every meal, every day. I forced the food down. I made it hard on Sandy. I am normally VERY difficult to feed. I am very picky, and I only eat fish (no white or red meat). I was ten thousand times harder to feed. If I ate something once, I would not eat it again. So poor Sandy was trying to come up with things for me to eat, and it was very difficult. And for some reason, the foods that sounded the least sickening to me were hydrogenated, processed foods - pop tarts, Twinkies. You get the picture. But I would eat one or two from the pack of twelve, and leave the rest for Sandy to eat. It was NOT a fun time in our lives. Sandy fed me dry cheerios in bed every morning. She brought them to me and put one in my ear every day -my daily Eario- before leaving for work. But once we were past the first three months (which seemed to last FOREVER), we gradually started to have an easier time. I said then and still say - ANYTHING is better than nausea. I had terrible heartburn (and acid reflux) at night, but nothing tortures me more than nausea. While I was sick, I said I could "NEVER GO THROUGH THIS AGAIN. ONE BABY ONLY." And then, just an hour after having Darah's head and the doctor's thumb tear through my vagina, I changed my mind and said I was willing to have another. I just had this sense that it was over - and, therefore, worth it. It felt so good to know that I got through it and got her out safely.

After three months of hell (it was Hell!), we entered into what some call "the Golden Age" of pregnancy -- the second trimester. I was hoping this trimester would be all that they (the authors of the pregnancy books) said it might be - filled with desire, motivation, great sex, and energy. But, for me, it wasn't. It was definitely the best third of pregnancy, but it was still filled with strange bodily experiences. Whenever I tried to read aloud to Sandy at night, I had to stop after only a few minutes because I was out of breath. I often felt weak. The weakness and dizziness came at strange moments in public. It happened at the dentist office. I felt like I was losing consciousness on the chair and had to ask that they stop. Then, at the hair salon, it happened. I had to ask to me released from the chair to go to the bathroom in the middle of the cut. I went into the bathroom and just fell (well, more like sat and collapsed) onto the floor. Pretty gross to be lying on the bathroom floor of a hair salon, but when you are losing consciousness you don't seem to care about those things. And then it happened in September at the Amigone Funeral Home (at one of the wakes for my great grandmother). Luckily, I had a couch to lie on there. The hormonal changes during pregnancy are wacky enough to deal with, but then so many other things happen. It's hard to not become obsessed with your body. My beloved great grandmother died on Sandy's birthday, September 19 2007. She was almost 97 years old. She had a stroke, and went downhill from there. She could not swallow, so her kids had to decide whether to feed her through a tube or let her go with the help of heavy drugs. It's so hard to let someone go, especially someone as special and wonderful as Elizabeth Walsh. I was lucky enough to have spent a couple of days with her over the summer, when I was two months pregnant. She read aloud to me from a pregnancy book (about morning sickness). And she also showed me, on the computer, what kind of copper kettle she used when she was a young woman. Every morning when I came down to eat, she would look at me and say slowly, "how are you feeling?" And I would answer her the same way every time: "not good." Then she shook her head. She sincerely felt sorry for me. A woman who gave birth to nine children naturally, most of them at home with the help of her sisters, felt sorry for me and my nausea. When I came to Buffalo in September to say goodbye to her (we didn't know how aware she was, but she could open and blink her eyes and open her mouth), I had a pretty big belly. I whispered to her that we were having a girl (she was the only one in the family to know at that point...if she was conscious). I held her hand to my belly while the baby kicked. Life and death, touching each other.

As far as weight gain and stretching skin are concerned - I had my share of both. I gained a total of 46 pounds over the course of the pregnancy (I was 100lbs at conception and went to 146). Unlike most women, I was happy about SOME of the weight I gained (probably 25 lbs worth). I gained weight in my butt and thighs right away. Sandy noticed that first, too. More to love, of course. Then it was the breasts (I was truly shocked by the stretch marks - like lightening bolts - that plastered them). And then the belly. People asked me if I was pregnant with twins on many occasions, but it was just little (but long) 7 pound 13 ounce Darah in there. I think she spent a lot of her time in the womb practicing for Cirque du Soleil. I had trouble standing for long periods of time. I don't have much energy generally, but it was so much worse when I was pregnant. Having a human being living inside of you takes a lot of energy.

The third trimester was, despite the fact that I had to lug myself and Darah around, pretty pleasant. It was just exciting. I spent the Fall and Winter seasons volunteering at The Elms (a senior home with a high population of individuals with dementia). I spent an hour and a half twice a week with a group of people who had dementia. I acted like I knew them. Sometimes they acted like they knew me. But I think I was a new woman to them each time I visited. The pregnancy gave us something to talk about. They asked me the same questions over and over :"how far along are you" and "do you know if it's a boy or a girl?" We put cards in piles and sang some songs and talked about the weather and played the Wii (well, once). I think I would rather work with babies and toddlers than the elderly, if I had a choice. Just because I think I wouldn't feel as depressed afterward. Once, before I stopped volunteering, I performed in a "concert." I sang and Amy Carr played the piano. They really loved the Christmas and jazz standards. Singing with a GIANT belly is an interesting experience. Sandy and I had three showers thrown for us. Our friend and Sandy's colleague, Kris Kelly, had a lovely departmental baby shower for us. Our friend, Amy Carr, had a small gathering of friends for a baby shower at her house. And my sister and aunts had a big, spectacular family/friend party at my aunt's house in East Amherst, NY for us.

Sandy and I stayed home alone for Christmas because it was too close to my due date (which was about two days off from the date I gave birth). My mother sent us boxes and boxes of food and gifts. I managed to clean more thoroughly than usual some areas of the house (nesting, they call it) a couple of weeks before Darah arrived. For about a week before she arrived, I had cramping and contractions. But at 4am on January 13 2008, I was awake with REAL contractions. As soon as I awoke from sleep with the evenly patterned contractions, I went into the bathroom with a piece of paper and a watch to time the contractions. I showered and dried my hair and even used the flat iron on it (it didn't help, by the time Darah came out I was dirty and disheveled). Then I woke Sandy up a little before 5 to go to the hospital. I was scared and excited. McDonough District Hospital had recently renovated their birthing rooms and I was able to choose from three. They had me undress and put me in bed, and hooked me up to an IV. They had me rate my ability to handle pain. I definitely overestimated it.

Throughout the morning, the contractions were unpleasant but manageable. Sandy and I watched the Food Network (well, sort of). She typed a letter to Darah. We looked lovingly at each other. I took multiple trips to the bathroom hoping that I would get all the crap and pee out of me that I could so that it wouldn't end up on the bed during the "pushing" part of the delivery. The worst part, at that point, was finding out that my OBGyn, Dr. Robyn Alley-Hay, was out of town and would not be able to return in time. I was very frantic about this. First of all, I really loved her and wanted her to be the one to deliver the baby. She was very supportive of our same-sex pregnancy. Secondly, I knew it meant that SOMEONE ELSE was going to have to do it. The someone else was The (only) Other OBGyn in Macomb - the male one. He is a religious man who speaks (in the paper, I've heard but not seen) openly in against homosexuality. We were told by a friend, when we were first looking for an OBGyn, that he would ask us to leave his office if we tried to see him. So all I had in my mind at the time was a narrow view of this man and the anxiety that THIS was the person who was going to be handling what happened to my baby and my vagina. First off, I did not want a man to be in charge of my body and baby. I wanted a women-only experience. I was very anxious about the idea of having someone who would be "against" me and my partner being "in charge" of my body and my baby (knowing that it would make him uncomfortable that we were two women and that we had an obvious age difference). Ah. I was very distressed. I felt powerless. There was no other way. The baby ways coming and he was the only one available. It was far from my ideal. I was upset that my doctor had gone out of town when she knew we would be delivering soon, but then I found out she was visiting her mother (who has Alzheimer's). It was just bad timing. It sucks to have to feel uncomfortable when you are giving birth to a baby. I should not have had to feel uncomfortable. But then I also had some control in the matter - I could have decided NOT to let it bother me (but, come on, I think I was justified). So around noon, after I had a bath in the jacuzzi tub, the doctor came to check me out. He wasn't particularly unfriendly; he was decent. He broke my water and then went on his way (to church...he would return later).

The nurses really took care of me. I feel that they deserve MOST of the credit for having delivered our child. They were there with me 90% of the time; he was there 10% of the time. After my water broke, the contractions grew stronger and I entered into the "Oh HELL no, I can't possibly get through THIS" phase. By 2 or 3, the contractions were unbearable. It felt like the bottom half of my body was being amputated without anesthesia. Knives jabbing my guts over and over. I announced that I was ready for an epidural. And about two minutes later, I was moaning and begging for one. The nurse was very calm and helpful. She tried to get me to focus on my breathing. It didn't work, but it did help to have her there. I tried to grab and hold onto Sandy, but the pain was so bad that holding on wasn't really possible.

Even the act of screaming was torture. It seemed like forever before the anesthesiologist arrived; it was probably forty-five minutes at the most. I couldn't get that needle in fast enough. Instant relief. I was so happy. It made the pain stop. Thank GOD. Actually, thank SCIENCE. It was a little while before I went into another dimension of consciousness. I suppose it was like being at the top of a mountain, where the air supply is limited and the experience of breathing is...unique. It was somewhat euphoric and somewhat sickening. Oh, and I was itchy all over. I scratched my belly a lot. I was too out of it to be self-conscious. I wasn't capable of talking or thinking very much. It became scary for a little while, when the epidural directly or indirectly caused my blood pressure to drop drastically and fall to a dangerous level. I wasn't completely conscious, but I do recall that Sandy looked scared (which, under normal circumstances, would SCARE me A LOT). It was pretty serious for a time, but they got it back in the "acceptable range" (I don't recall if they slowed the flow of the drug, but that would make sense).

Then it was time to start pushing. I gave it my all, but it seemed like I was pushing for a LONG time before anything productive happened. It didn't hurt too bad to push until her head reached the surface. Sandy said it was kind of freaky to see this black, wet hair (which looked like a wet animal...well, it was a wet animal!) coming out of my vagina. She did not want to say anything that would scare me, though. The doctor came in after I had pushed for a while with the encouragement of Nurse Janet. He told me to push down against the table. I pushed, over and over. No head. So the nurse suggested we turn off the epidural. He gave her the okay and she turned it off. No, why didn't I say: NO! It was too late, it was off.

I pushed again. Then the pain came. Her head was at the surface (i.e. my skin, my vagina). That hurt so bad. But I had to push. At that point, my body was automatically wanting to push. Then the head was coming out. It hurt more than so bad. The large head was trying to rip through a small hole - my vagina. The hole wasn't big enough. I started screaming BLOODY MURDER. "ah, ah, ahhhhh, AHHHHH, AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH, AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH, GET IT OUT, GET IT OUT, GET IT OUT OF ME, AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH." The pain was the worst I've ever experienced but it was short lived. I think my scream was so loud and piercing that Dr. Troy Eckman just wanted to GET IT OUT. He took his thumb and pushed my hole open. His thumb tore me open to get the head out. The second degree tear of a man's thumb got the head out. Only, at that point, it wasn't A HEAD or THE HEAD anymore - it was HER head. Her precious, lovely, perfect head. They showed her to me (I wasn't really paying attention at that moment; I was lying back and breathing and crying with joy and relief...I didn't know that I had torn so badly). Sandy kissed me and went over to see Darah. She wasn't all covered in slime and blood; she was relatively clean (Darah, not Sandy). Red and rashy, but clean. But, as I said, I wasn't paying attention to her. It was time to be stitched up. I was paying attention to him. And the needle. He told me, over and over, to relax. But I could not relax. I said, "I can't relax, I'm scared of the needle." Maybe if the drugs were still flowing I could have relaxed and he could have been more careful with his work, but the epidural was turned off and the needle was ready. He stitched up the tear hastily (which still affects me today...they took a long time to heal...and I had pain and irritation in my vulva/vagina for months). But at least it was over. He was done.

Immediately after he finished, they brought Darah to me for her first breastfeeding. She attached right away and had a nice meal. Boy was she hungry. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. And she made the sweetest sounds as she was suckling. Then Sandy and the nurses held her while I ate a meal (turkey and mashed potatoes...for the vegetarian who just gave birth - I managed, though. I didn't really care about anything. She was here and out of me.) They wheeled me into another, less attractive, room for the night. Sandy and I slept for a while on my bed. Then she moved to the other bed. I made phone calls and sent text pictures of Darah to family and friends. And I slept. And I bled. I bled a lot. I cringed every time I had to urinate (with assistance from a nurse), and I seriously dreaded the idea of having to use my butt hole for anything after what had happened to my perineum. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be when it actually happened, which wasn't for a while. They brought Darah to me for a feeding every two hours. She made little baby alien creature sounds. I stared at her in utter amazement. I held her and kissed her head. I loved her and loved her and loved her.

By 6:30pm the next evening we were home with Darah, waiting for my parents to arrive. Sandy had to teach the next day and needed to sleep, so I put her in bed with Darah. For some reason, Darah was having excessive gas that smelled like nasty rotten eggs. I don't know why, but it didn't last longer than a day (thank goodness!). My vulva and vagina were basically massacred. They don't look anything like they did before. More like a bunch of flaps of skin (I know it's gross, but maybe some kind doctor will volunteer to fix it for free for me someday - ha ha). But it was all worth it. She arrived healthy and happy and incredibly precious. And the rest is Herstory.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Is an Opportunity an Opportunity? The Hell of High School Politics

While this is non-fiction, it is also fiction. Everything is fiction. Read with caution.

How much of where we end up and who we are has to do with ability and skill, and how much has to do with encouragement and opportunity? It sort of all, somehow, goes back to (and with a strange twist on) the age-old question nature v. nurture. I wonder whether it was a gift that I ended up growing up in a wealthy suburb like East Amherst or if it was just a mixed bag of privileges and hindrances. In one respect, receiving a lot of encouragement and praise (for talent or skill in any area)is healthy and beneficial. But, in another respect - perhaps if it goes too far, praise can lead to a distorted self-image. It's so hard to be balanced. You want to encourage kids to build their self-confidence, but you don't want them to become so confident that they think they are superior to others by virtue of their ability (or, goddesses forbid, that they think that their self-worth is tied up in their talents, looks, abilities). Praise is helpful. Better to err on the side of too much praise than not enough, I suppose. Consider, however, that hundreds of thousands of people show up to audition for American Idol thinking that they are talented singers. Many of the not-so-talented people who show up are seriously deluded into thinking that they are tremendously talented; it is not their fault, entirely, but rather the faults of those who either create or keep alive the delusions. Then, you can also run into the moderately (or even extremely) talented person who thinks they are God by virtue of their ability and status. That pisses me off so much more than the poor delusions held by the non-talented.

My poor mother was born with moderately talented and somewhat shy kids; luckily her praise of us (which was endless and over-arching) didn't go to our heads to the point of deluding us. She still insists I sound exactly like Judy Garland, even though any sane and non-related person would recognize that I do not sound, at all, like the Great Judy Garland. How can anyone stay sane growing up with all the messages that others put out there about what we are and what we should be. I become "Jessica, the singer" and my sister becomes "Melissa, the athlete." And with those identifications, we might have a hard time finding out that we are MORE than that.

I, for instance, had a hard time. I grew up being the one in the family who performed - singing, acting, dancing - and who wasn't very good in school (a c+/b- average student until my Junior year, when my sexual awakening was also my intellectual awakening). My sister was the one in the family who excelled in athletics and academics. As I grew older, I struggled with that identification. I liked some aspects of it, but then felt limited. If I wasn't the BEST (in the world, or in my school) at my assigned talent, then what? What was I good for? During my junior year of high school, I became seriously interested in reading and writing for the first time. The English teacher I had at the time did not know me or my "talents," and I had a blank slate to work with. I could "be" whoever or whatever I wanted. I wasn't the "best" at it, but I enjoyed it. She (the English teacher) noted that interest and encouraged me. So, with her encouragement, I was able to and was brave enough to take an AP level English course (it was an after school program, ending with the AP exam). Before then, I never thought I was smart enough to take an AP class. It was the start of my liberation to become whatever I wanted and it was also the start of my advanced learning process. It was a very tumultuous time in my life, because I was re-vamping and expanding my self-image. I wasn't confident and I wasn't prepared, but it was a starting point. I struggled with the material despite working hard, and I failed the AP exam at the end of the year. But it was still a monumental experience because it was the first time anyone ever saw something other than musical and theatrical talent in me. My sister passed through her AP classes with ease, not necessarily because she was smarter but because her learning process had begun so much earlier (mine had been stunted by a lack of self-confidence). I think I gave up on school from the start. When I didn't do well from the start (I had to go to special reading classes at Heritage Heights Elementary School in Amherst, NY), I interpreted it as a flaw in me that I would never be able to overcome. It was WHO I was. So I turned to areas where I felt more confident - singing and dancing (I was never totally confident with those either, but certainly more than with anything else). A love and talent with musical theatre was part of me, but not all of me. I think that's something my mother has had a hard time coming to terms with. I'm sure she has her roles that she struggles with, especially having had her mother, Mel, confine her to the familial roles of "the pretty one" and "the most loving one."

I grew up hearing, "you can become whatever you want to be" in school. That's nice to believe, but it isn't always true. It depends on opportunity and encouragement, as well as on other factors. When I moved to Williamsville in third grade, I gained opportunities that I wouldn't have had had we lived in Buffalo. The point is that money and prestige matter. If every student had the same opportunity to take private musical or athletic (or academic) lessons the playing field would be more -but not totally- equal. Whenever I think of the "most talented" kids in school, I also think about all of the opportunities to fine tune their skill that they likely had to earn that status. It's so important that teachers encourage all of their students, especially those who are showing a sincere interest in a given area. That is not to say that they will excel in their area of interest; it will just mean that they had a chance to do so.

I started thinking about this after talking to my mother on the phone today. She was fuming over some drama (life drama, not theater drama) that she is embroiled in at Williamsville East High School. My brother Joey is a drummer. He enjoys drumming. And my parents have been very happy to assign him the role as "drummer" and "musician." I think Joey does have a sincere interest in drumming, but I know that drumming is not all there is to Joey. He's said he enjoys playing the guitar better than playing the drums but that he is good at the drums. He is a sophomore at East and plays in the Concert Band. He was not asked to be in the infamous "Wind Ensemble," led by Stuart Shoo Win, and he felt bad about that (apparently fifty students are selected privately - based on Shoo Win's "expert" opinion - and receive the "whisper" in their ears if they are chosen). Joey has felt like Shoo Win doesn't like him from the start. I felt that way with Maura Hallen when I was a high school student (she's not Hallen anymore, but I'll just stick with that name - it's fake anyway). I was a very talented singer and performer but I had a difficult time reading music. In the end, the inability (which may have been due to a true disability?) to read music didn't hurt my performance...I learned it by ear and memorized it. I did the best I could with what I had and with my interests. I'm sure there are lots of people who can read music but whose voices and performances aren't on par with their reading abilities.

So, Joey wasn't invited to be in Wind Ensemble. He felt bad about it. He felt angry. He felt like Shoo Win just chose his favorites - the ones he values and the ones who fit in with his image. He didn't give Joey a chance to be in the Wind Ensemble. Joey not only felt bad, but also felt angry because he thinks he is talented enough to be in the band (even if he has not yet mastered reading music and does not compose jazz and classical pieces...he's a rocker and writes punk-rock songs when he plays with his friends in the basement). So, after talking to my parents, Joey decided to ask Shoo Win to allow him to audition. Shoo Win allowed him to audition. And then Joey did not make it. (I am still wondering why a general audition was not held and why the Wind Ensemble is privately selected - elitism, err.)

My parents are so mad. They are ready to have a meeting with Stuart Shoo Win and the principal of the school. They are ready to make tapes of Joey playing to present at the meeting - in order to say "you are telling me this kid is not talented enough to be in the Wind Ensemble???" - and they are ready to tear his face off. Oh, I hope they don't do that. They tend to get a bit (just a bit, a wee bit) over-protective and go overboard when an injustice is done to one of their children. Wayyyy overboard. My mother said, "I feel like telling Stuart that we all know he is gay and want him to come out." I said, "No, Mom. No, no, no. You are missing the point. Stick to the injustice at hand." Oh my mother. She's intense, what can I say. How funny that she wants to use homosexuality as a misplaced violent insult, and she tells her LESBIAN daughter this.

I got all worked up this afternoon, when my mother divulged something surprising to me. When I was a senior and about to graduate, she found out that some music students (Shoo Win's favorites) were chosen to perform at graduation. She got pissed and called Stuart to ask why I hadn't been invited to sing. I don't know the nature of their conversation, but she told me, today, that he said: "Well, Mrs. Mason, Jessica does not have the caliber of talent of someone like Dave DeCarlo." His name isn't Dave DeCarlo, but I changed it - like I changed the others - out of, err, sensitivity (coercion by my father, ahem). Dave was (and is) a tremendously talented saxophonist. He was in love with me during high school. I think he even confided in Shoo Win after I had come out of the closet as a lesbian (he was dealing with accepting that we wouldn't be together AND that I loved a woman). I don't think Shoo Win had very nice things to say about me then - and that was separate from his insult to my talent. So the message to my mother was that only the extraordinarily talented students (chosen by him) would be chosen to perform at graduation. Well, to my mother (and maybe others?), I was an extraordinary performer - for a high school kid, anyway. What is most disturbing, though, is that one person can have so much power over things. No division of power. Or, if there is a division, it is limited to people who are "alike."

I did get to sing with a group of other students. I'm glad we got to sing. But then what about the Science Olympiads and all the other sects at school--will they get to be represented at graduation? Maybe an audition should have been held for graduation "performances" in which a panel of randomly selected judges would serve. It's hard to be fair. Okay, it's impossible. But when you are made aware of how you have been a part of something unfair that has hurt someone else, I think it's important to (a.) acknowledge the unfairness and (b.) try to make it right, if possible (or at least try to change the situation so that in in the future it will be less unfair). Focus on what the other party is feeling, and try to connect with those feelings. Now forgive me, but I must go preachy for a moment: If you made someone feel rejected or overlooked, why not try to be sensitive to her or his feelings and try to see what the limits of your perception may have prevented you from seeing. If Joey is really not good enough for Wind Ensemble, then he will probably want to quit, anyway. Would giving him a chance be such a bad thing? If my high school English teacher hadn't given me a chance to take the AP course, maybe I wouldn't have been Departmental Scholar of the English Department at Western Illinois University four years later. Then again, maybe I would have found my way regardless of whether or not I received outside encouragement. Having some encouragement made it a heck of a lot easier, though.

Now Joey is going to quit Concert Band. He feels embarrassed and disenfranchised. After having the courage to ask Stuart Shoo Win for an audition, he was still rejected. I hope that, in the long run, what he takes away from the situation is not the rejection itself (people will love you or hate you - to hell with them if they don't see in you what you see in yourself) but rather the strength of character and courage to speak up and to move forward. Joey has lots of options. If he wants to be a punk rocker who occasionally plays jazz, then more power to him. If he wants to play in grungy bars in the city instead of in uptight jazz clubs and glorified high school auditoriums for the rich kids of suburbia, then more power to him.

I just hope that he can see that what makes him special is not what Shoo Win or my parents or anybody else thinks; what makes him special is that he is Joey. It's in his essence and his character. Joey is one of the most sincere, gentle and loving people I know (I am trying to describe him with adjectives). If he works in a garbage dump and he's happy, I'm still going to think he's amazing. Ultimately, it doesn't matter what the Shoo Wins of America think. We're all going to the same place, anyway - the ground. Although, based on the guy's lyrics, he believes he and a few other Chosen Ones will be floating up to see God in The Heavens. So, to Joey -and to you- I say: use your experiences for good, let them empower you, get mad if you have to, but - ultimately - focus on being you and appreciating you. Some of us can afford to buy opportunities, others of us can't. Some of us will succeed (in being happy) despite our lack of opportunities and others of us will fail (at being happy) despite our many opportunities. Some of us will be victims. And some of us will survive through our strength of character. Like my little brother.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Charting Pregnancy No. 2

Thursday, Feb 5 2009

The body (i.e. my body) might be pregnant again. I hope so. We tried to conceive a few days ago. Bloated, tummy pouching out, tired. Biting my nails. Maybe these are signs (sans the nail-biting, I always do that).

Took Darah to Shake, Rattle and Roll this morning. She played very nicely with her little friends - Atharva, Aspen, and others whose names I can't remember.
One of the "helpers" said that Darah seemed very "sophisticated." I was flattered and thought to myself, yes she is sophisticated. I guess she wasn't picking her nose and throwing sharp objects the whole time?

Darah is pointing and saying "mumumumumum." I thought she was coming over here, but she went to the fishies instead.

Saturday, Feb 7 2009

Yesterday we went to the store to pick up some bananas, but ended up spending over one hundred dollars on groceries. Darah had fun at playgroup that morning. She had to crawl right up front for story time. And she didn't seem to notice that one of the older girls, Trinity, wanted her to move her bum (and was pushing it over).

The body is bloated and funky, still. Hurray. I'm still bloated and with a protruding belly. It feels kind of tight and like strange things are happening in there. I feel tired, but I am usually tired. I have been a little irritable the past couple of days and it's a little early for PMS. This morning my right nipple was sore when I woke up. Kind of a sharp pain in it. I announced it and rejoiced. My lower back is somewhat sore (at least it was in the morning). I have been checking my vagina for a whitish discharge (because that is what I got before I found out I was pregnant with Darah). So far, nothing notable. Although there was some white creamy stuff today. If you are grossed out to hear that, you may want to reconsider getting pregnant. Pregnancy makes lots of unusual things happen to one's body.

Monday, February 9 2009

Darah has been having a terrible time sleeping. And so have we. She's always been one to kick in the night (she was kicking me incessantly in the womb) and hasn't stopped yet. Getting her to fall asleep has been SO trying these past few days. A few week ago, we took apart our bed so that we could all be on the floor together. We have her crib in our room, but we took the mattress out of it and put it next to our bed's mattress on the floor. She was doing well for awhile with falling asleep on her mattress for naps and bed, but not she gets up immediately - over and over - and crawls over to us (or stands up and tries to grab things off of the nightstand). So we've been trying, lately, to get her to fall asleep in our bed - between us, where she likes to be. But, even then, she just sits up over and over. She kicks us and scratches us. She doesn't mean to do it; she just seems to have so much energy that she can't be still. She's quite hyperactive in the night. Whew. We're tired. But we're still glad to have the beds on the floor. It makes it a little easier.

I have had some pain in my lower-back, and am still getting little twinges of pain and cramping in my abdomen. And also still bloated. I hope it's twins! I am just waiting to be sick (as a dog? why is a dog sick?) in about a week or so. I hope the nausea is a little milder and not 24/7 with this pregnancy.

Tuesday Feb 10 2007

I am very moody and sensitive (I have been since yesterday, officially). With my last pregnancy, I did not have any obvious mood swings. I was pretty stable throughout the whole thing, in terms of my emotions and sensitivities. Right now, I seem to be rather cranky and snappy. I hope this means I am pregnant. But, it if does, then I also wonder why I would be moody with this one yet not the last one. If I am not pregnant, then I am having really bad pms. And it seems to be pre-mature because my period is not due for another week. Sandy seems like she might be pre-menstrual as well. So, needless to say, we're a bunch of fun!

Darah hasn't been letting us sleep, so that's probably adding to the small bickerings and tensions in the McFadden household. My tummy has been pushed out for the past week. Either I am gaining weight because I am drinking those Boost drinks...or I am pregnant. Please be pregnancy!