Greener Pastures

Sometimes, during one of many nightly nursing sessions, I will grab my phone and peruse the ol’ Facebook. I know it’s not a great idea to use electronic devices when I should otherwise be focused on getting much-needed rest at 1 am or 3am or 5am. But…I suppose I like knowing that, perhaps, there is someone else updating or viewing the masses at a shameful hour when I would much rather be sleeping.

Social media has, sadly, become my primary mode of communication with loved ones from afar, and lately I have been impressed and excited at the accomplishments of so many of my comrades. My respect has grown for friends earning advanced degrees, opening clinics, and starting firms. I am amazed by friends getting published, running marathons, traveling the globe, and even climbing Everest. I am silently fist-bumping friends performing groundbreaking research, earning promotions and achieving other impressive feats. And yet, one very early morning while skimming through these awe-inducing updates, you know what I did?  I’ll tell you. I checked my elbow…for poop. Turning away from the glowing screen of my phone, I interrupted another slideshow of the sights of Europe and inspected the crook of my arm while wondering, “…is that…is that baby shit?” (apologies for cussing…)

Fortunately, it was not the mustardy product of my baby’s alimentary tract, but some other mystery substance (dried food? A booger bequeathed by our thoughtful toddler?). And in that moment of checking myself for filth, in that moment of exhaustion, I felt….ENVY.

Now, I’m not proud to admit this. I have many flaws, but I’ve never considered myself a jealous person. That is not to say I don’t GET jealous – I am a human and a female who has mastered the art of self-deprecation, after all. But I am fortunate to have been raised to appreciate the simple and important things in life. I fancy myself a happy, grateful realist with sensible expectations. There aren’t a lot of “things” I pine after, because I know I have everything I NEED, and am incredibly fortunate to be in this position. I am not one to rush to get the newest phone or the hottest brand because I am generally indifferent about such things and also woefully and incredibly out-of-touch at my ripe age of 30. I take pride – and solace – in knowing I am not somebody with a “keeping up with the Jones’” mentality.

And yet, during Olaver’s 3am feeding, with the somber, artificial glow of the phone screen illuminating my mismatched pajamas, while physically FEELING the bags under my eyes becoming more pronounced every passing second, and after contemplating the origins of my unknown elbow crud – I caught a virulent strain of the Grass-Is-Always-Greener bug.

Why isn’t my name headlining the newest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine? When was the last time I ran – or even worked out for that matter? Why can’t I be on a beach somewhere?
Suddenly, and wholly inappropriately, I felt deprived. Disappointed. Sure I have two, beautiful, healthy kids….sure, I have a great husband…sure I have a roof over my head and food in the fridge and a great job and a loving, supportive family and a nice, reliable vehicle and all of my limbs and my eyesight and most of my sanity and I don’t have Ebola, but….but…

You get the idea. I’m going to give myself way too much credit and blame it on the sleep deprivation – and the elbow residue – but the reality is, in that moment, I was begrudgingly and unnecessarily envious. Fortunately, I quickly got over my jealousy. The two tiny people we created are a regular, refreshing reminder I am a lucky duck. To ensure I avoid such envy-induced pity parties in the future, however, I have created a pithy list of three often overlooked reasons why OUR lawn is greener than everybody else’s:

(1) No more lonely bathroom breaks
When you are voiding your bladder, do you ever think to yourself, “Gosh, I wish someone was here to keep me company!” Well, here I am getting all braggy, but I NEVER have that problem anymore.
The children can be playing quietly, peacefully, without any indications of upcoming disturbance, but as soon as nature calls for their mother, all heck breaks loose. I don’t make it a habit of providing details of my potty breaks, but the general synopsis goes something like this:

[Hazel is reading book, while Olaver plays peacefully in center of living room rug with no dangerous,pointy, or choke-hazardous materials within a 60 foot radius]
“Hazel, I have to pee, I’ll be right back, okay? Keep an eye on Olaver.”
“Okay, Mommy.”
[Eight seconds go by as I walk 18 feet away into bathroom]
“Mommy, I need you!!!”
“Just a second, please.”
“Mom, where ARRREE YOU???” (sprints into bathroom) “Oh, are you going pee?”
“I was going to, yes.”
[Olaver starts crying and I hear the familiar plodding of baby hands and dragging baby knees across the wood floor as he furiously crawls down hall and into bathroom]
“Hi, Olaver, give me 5 seconds, I just have to pee, and…”
[Olaver crawls over – pulls himself up onto my knees while Hazel tries to flush toilet while I’m still peeing]
“Mommy, can I see what color underwear you’re wearing today?”
“Not right now, please, just….Olaver, please get down…Hazel, I need you to back up so I can…”
“Do you need to wipe your butt, Mommy?”
“Yes, just…Olaver, I just need to set you down for a second, okay?”
[Baby starts screaming and crying as I try to pry him off my knee so I can take advantage of the modern miracle of toilet paper]
“Mommy, Olaver is crying REALLY loud!”
“Yes, I know, I’m done now I’m just going to wash my hands, okay?”
“Can I flush the toilet?”
“Sure, just…OLAVER!! Stay away from the toilet, please!”
“Olaver is trying to put his hand in the toilet, Mom! HA! That is so funny, Olaver!”
[42 seconds have lapsed, there is now a toddler I have to coax out of the bathroom and an infant whose hands need sanitized]

END SCENE

(2) 24 hour ambiance
I have had to sleep with a fan on for as long as I can remember. I have the same white, plastic, oscillating fan from when I was in elementary school and for some weird reason I hope it lasts at least another 20 years. How cool would it be if I could pass it along to one of our children? Upon moving dear Olaver into his freshman dorm, crying and hugging would ensue. After saying lots of sentimental and inspiring things, I would exclaim, “Wait! We can’t leave until I give you this!” and I would pass over the beloved fan that, at this point would be an antique, and he would wipe his eye and say, “You have no idea how much this means to me, Mom,” and all of his roommates would be SO jealous.

Future showstopper of Antiques Roadshow

Future showstopper of Antiques Roadshow

People spend all sorts of dollars on noise machines – but we have two INCREDIBLE noise machines that you cannot find at Brookstone. The noise settings include, but are not limited to:
Crying, screaming, laughing, coughing, farting, gagging, squealing, robot noises, babbling, hiccupping, yelling, arguing, gibberish, clapping, stomping, running, crawling, multiple animal noises, and slamming of unknown objects, among other options. These machines are unpredictable, you can’t choose what sound you want, there is no adjustment for volume, and they generally turn on at their loudest setting at inopportune moments, BUT – they work 24 hours a day and are undeniably cute.

Note: Photo does not accurately capture the earbleed-inducing squeals from the daily 'headlock or snuggle?' session.

Note: Photo does not accurately capture the earbleed-inducing squeals from the daily ‘headlock or snuggle?’ session.

(3) Classy Home Décor
There is a house a half mile or so down our road I call the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” house. It’s creepy for so many reasons, and it doesn’t help that on the rare instances we see the residents outdoors, they don’t wave or smile or make eye contact because, obviously, they have to get back to work hiding the bodies of trespassers. Anyway, they always have a lot of crap in their yard. I find it curious why people keep so much crap in their yard, but while driving past a few days ago I noticed a mirror that looked JUST like a fancy-pants mirror I saw in a Pottery Barn catalogue priced at $600. I mean, if mirrors had doppelgangers, this was IT. I thought about asking the homeowners if the mirror was for sale or a freebie since it has been sitting in their yard since the Cold War (kidding! I think…I haven’t been alive that long to attest to its lawn life), but, obviously, I don’t want to get murdered.
Where am I going with this? Oh yeah. Our house is the classiest on the block. I am allowed to be sassy and judgmental of the “Texas Chainsaw massacre house” because our sweet children adorn our home in their own creative and stylish ways. Admittedly, I would prefer they left things clean and tidy, but how can I repress their décor skills?

Contemporary chic table top items, creatively called, "Truck pulling my boot and stuff."

Contemporary chic table top items, creatively titled, “Truck pulling my boot and stuff.”

Betcha won't see a Little Tikes hall barricade in West Elm!

Betcha won’t see a Little Tikes hall barricade in West Elm!

In lieu of turndown service, our babies provide us with a nightly obstacle course in order earn our slumber.

In lieu of turndown service, our babies provide us with a nightly obstacle course in order to earn our slumber.

Trying to make up for earlier messes.  It's about time he starts contributing around here...

Trying to make up for earlier messes. It’s about time he starts contributing around here…

Three examples? I could probably do better, but…I’m sleep deprived and there’s this flaky spot on my elbow…

Outside of some obnoxious movie classics, I have very few quotes memorized. But one of my favorites would have to be Mark Twain’s: “Comparison is the death of joy.” I don’t foresee Samuel Clemens’ quip needlepointed on many hipster pillows, but this quote has resonated with me since my early morning pity party of late.

I have come to appreciate that solitude and silence are overrated, and that the appearance of my home’s interior these days is about as important as a lawn ornament mirror (not important, to be clear). I don’t believe I have impressed anybody for quite a while, but every day when my kids wake me up by 6 am (thanks Daylight Savings!), I am utterly, incomparably in awe. The landscaping might need weeded, and the grass might need irrigated, but I have the prettiest garden on the block:
I mean, how many people get to hang out with a two year old capable of sarcasm and an 8-month-old lumberjack?

 

Baby lumberjack included.

 

The Muumuu Threshold

There were several moments yesterday when I was convinced I was hearing things.  Reminiscent of ‘Horton Hears a Who,’ I swore I heard a faint cry of distress. Carefully sitting still, closing my eyes, and holding my breath, I was able to discern the mysterious sound.  Turns out, if you are just quiet enough, you’ll hear my pants whimpering, “Uncleeeeee!!”

There comes a point in every pregnancy – errr, at least in mine – I have begrudgingly designated the Muumuu threshold.  This dreaded juncture marks a moment in which even the coziest of elasticized, forgiving maternity clothing begins to feel constrictive, uncomfortable and even indecent.  The burgeoning belly I don grows at an unprecedented, uncontrollable and remarkable rate.   It is at this time when a muumuu – the glamorous, loose-fitting, underappreciated gown – would be held in the highest esteem.  Although I have made the mistake of not purchasing this enviable garment for myself not once, but TWICE, I find myself daydreaming of a Polynesian-themed drapery that wouldn’t cling to all the wrong places of my pregnant physique.

Image

Now THIS is a party I wouldn’t wanna miss!!

Because there is, thankfully, only a short time left until baby boy’s arrival, I refuse to purchase any larger maternity wear.  The thought has crossed my mind of simply cutting holes in XL garbage bags or seeking out a gently used circus tent to dress me for the remaining days of this pregnancy.  While the countdown is shortening, it is still plenty of time during which I am expected to display some reasonable garb.  Given the extremely cold weather and conventional societal standards, it would be in my – and everybody’s – best interest to stay clothed, regardless of the selected attire.

My husband graciously offered, and has likely since regretted the gesture, to share his clothing.  I fear the watermelon that overtaketh my waist has stretched out his already limited wardrobe.  Even now, his extra-long t-shirts that hang loosely on his much taller frame seemingly cut off the circulation at my midriff.  The normally ginormous tee seems to have turned into a preteen halter-top overnight.  Despite the generous  “extra long” description, I recently noticed a draft on my underbelly anytime I lift my arms above…well…my sides.

Despite the name, clothing is actually the least of my concerns upon reaching the Muumuu threshold.  After all, I hardly leave the house these days, and even if I did, I wouldn’t feel obligated to dazzle the masses while pumping gas or running last-minute, pre-baby, mostly mundane errands. The name provides more of a general term for the challenges that us preggos endure at the 9 month-ish mark of being a human incubator (or maybe it’s just me, but just nod and agree empathetically because I’m huge and hormonal and I will eat all your food if you refute my complaints…ok?).   Here are a few obstacles that accompany the grand finale of pregnancy:

*The inability to touch your toes.

Or see them, for that matter.

At the end of my pregnancy with Hazel, I asked Nathan to paint my toenails for me.  He refused.  He said or implied something along the lines of, “What’s the point?”  I (sort of) jokingly threatened annulment, because that’s how any loving, sensible wife would appropriately reply.  But I thought about it further and decided to let his blasé attitude toward my piggies go (mostly) unscathed.  After all, I am pregnant and delivering both babies in the middle of winter.  There are no flip-flops adorning these Flintstone feet.  With a belly that deserves its own zip code, even if I were wearing sandals, who would defer their eyes from my shapely figure and notice my feet?  They are covered 90% of the time with wool socks and winter boots anyway, and so, what IS the point of taking the effort to throw on some unnecessary color?  Well, I’ll tell you what the point is.  The point is I want something going for me in this charade.  I mean…when my pasty, puffy, blotchy, preggo self is splayed across a surgical table – naked – in front of several health professionals as they are prepping me for my c-section, I want them to notice my toes and think to themselves maybe I don’t resemble livestock, and have it together after all!

Image

Like “Nessie” or a yeti, I’m beginning to question the existence of these things.

*Cannot fit comfortably at the dining room table.

OR within a car seat belt.  OR inside a telephone booth.  OR beneath a roller coaster lap band. (I’ll let you figure out which ones I have actually tried)

The belly isn’t all inconvenience, of course.  Serving as a built-in shelf is pretty awesome.  My growing baby boy creates an excellent, well-positioned ledge upon which to catch meal crumbs, rest tired hands, or even place my laptop.  I should point out Baby boy is not a fan of this.  The placing of any object on or against my belly inevitably leads to a charade of kicks and flip-flops that would make Chuck Norris weep.  But it’s worth the internal battle because I don’t have to roll over to grab the remote when it’s already resting perfectly, horizontally, across my gut.

Image

Gosh. I was JUST looking for the perfect spot to display these baby shoes. Problem solved!

At the Muumuu threshold, however, my abdomen no longer qualifies as a “shelf” or even a “belly.”  At this time it is more of a mountainous barrier to normal human movement.  It resembles more of a torpedo than a basketball.  Therefore, it’s all my T-rex arms can do to reach my protruding belly button, let alone use my atypical shape to any advantage.

*Picking up objects.

I suppose this is pretty much identical to #1 as both entail seeing and reaching beneath one’s own waist.  However, it seems necessary objects are dropped, broken and lost 340% more frequently when it is physically impossible for me to deal with the consequences.  I am frustratingly clumsy when NOT creating a human life, but the comedy karma gods enhance my awkwardness to a record level while pregnant.   Picking up objects while knocked up feels as though it requires the balance, coordination and agility of a contortionist cat.  Bending over is the primary form of exercise I get these days – which is regular and often, given my uncoordinated state – but every time I do so I get short of breath, see spots and inevitably become even MORE unbalanced upon returning to an upright position.  Nothing makes you feel more like a superhero than asking your 2 year old to pick up the mail you dropped on the floor for the third time in 5 minutes.

Image

Gift one of these to every pregnant person you know that you care about. DO IT.

Am I whining? Of course I am.  And if you want to endure more torture insight into how awesome I am at pregnancy (and complaining of its woes), check out my favored pregnancy post here or this gem – if you haven’t already.  But, as always, I am oh so grateful, fortunate and relieved to have made it this far in the pregnancy and ecstatic knowing we will get to meet our adorable bundle of joy within just a few short weeks.

And now – inspired by my own post – I am off to take my life in my own hands and will attempt to make my hooves presentable.  If I botch the job and anybody asks, I let my toddler paint my toes.  I’m fun and spontaneous like that!

Cabin Fever

There have been many, many instances in my life when I have craved complete and utter laziness.  While busy working, studying or partaking in domestic responsibilities, I have often caught myself daydreaming of 24 hours in which I never change out of my pajamas.  No work, no responsibilities, no human interaction. Too many times to count, I have expressed my desire of a day not leaving bed, watching crappy daytime television programming or infomercials, reading trashy books, sitting at a table doing nothing but crossword puzzles and donning my favorite sweatpants.  Life gets busy and we get tired and I think it’s acceptable to pine for a whole lotta nothing from time to time.  But now…I take it back. I take it ALLLLLL back.

I’m sure it’s hardly original to write about “cabin fever” at this time. After all, it is mid-January…in Michigan…amidst a winter for the record books.  Just last week we all had the pleasure of enjoying a Snowmageddon/Polar Vortex/ Don’t-go-outside-unless-you-want-your-buttcheeks-to-freeze-together stretch that had everyone treating bona fide winter weather like the zombie apocalypse.  I know I am far from alone in my longing for sunshine, fresh air and any activity that doesn’t have to take place indoors.  Given my additional burden of bed rest, however, I feel I am a little more justified in my rant.  Several days of being “snowed in” with the masses made bed rest SLIGHTLY easier knowing that I was not alone in my inability to leave the house (misery loves company!), but now that the weather is back to its normal, almost-tolerable level of gloom, I find myself aching to get out of this mandated indolence.

Image

Keep it together…you’ve got this…I’m totally keeping it together…

Bed rest has been pretty wretched.  It could be much worse, of course.  For one, it’s working.  The fact baby boy hasn’t fallen out yet is the most important feat.  Furthermore, I am incredibly blessed to have had the support and patience of Nathan.  We are fortunate beyond words to have family relatively close by to care for Hazel while I am not allowed to stand or bend or lift or chase her down the hall.  Hazel quickly grew accustomed to, “No, honey, I can’t pick you up,” and will (most of the time) sweetly bring a book or toy or puzzle to me so we can read or play or snuggle upon the confines of whatever bed or couch I am currently occupying.  The time has gone slower than I would like, but we’re down to less than a week.  ONE WEEK.  Several more days of utter worthlessness and then I can finally, gratefully, return to as much of a normal life as a 9-month pregnant, sleep-deprived, equilibrium-challenged and weakened by slothlessness (I think I just made that word up…feel free to borrow it) woman is capable of having.  That is, until whenever baby boy makes his appearance via C-section and then I’ll be back to some similar dreaded restrictions, but at least we’ll have a cute new addition to the family outside my pelvis to remind us why it was all worthwhile.

I was offered many kind and creative suggests for how to fill my time while on bed rest.  One of my greatest frustrations is when I try to be optimistic and think, “Ooh I can get to that one thing I haven’t had the time to do for years,” but realize shortly after it requires standing or walking or lifting or general movement and therefore will remain on my “to do” list for another decade. Several people recommended knitting or crocheting. I loved the idea.  This should keep my hands busy, fill time, and still be able to lay down or sit to my uterus’ content.  Nathan agreed to get me the supplies and I would turn to YouTube or a creative individual to teach me the basics.  But…here I am…sans yarn and no successful pot holders or scarves or baby blankets to show for it.  Seeing as how I am incapable of sewing a button back on my pants (but can suture human flesh…figure that one out), maybe it’s better I didn’t even attempt to get crafty.

Image

If I’d known I would be missing out on this opportunity, I would have DEMANDED a crochet hook.

Several friends and family members kindly suggested, “You could blog more!  You could write a book!”  This was true.  I would have ample time to spend quality hours with the MacBook and plenty of time for my brain to wander and get inspired.  But since I am otherwise a waste of space, I didn’t want to spend my time at home (bedridden or not) with Hazel staring at a computer screen instead of making an attempt to converse or play or snuggle or read or whatever else is possible from a primarily horizontal or sitting position.  I’m trying to make the most of this added bonus time with her – especially before the baby comes – and don’t want my face glued to a computer screen or social media.  I think she is young enough, fortunately, she won’t remember this period of her life, but if she does I don’t want her to think back on “remember when Mom was super lazy and wouldn’t play with me for weeks and then all she did was sit around looking at her phone and laptop?”  So I have drastically limited my technology to when she is in bed and hence the few blog posts when I would otherwise have all the time in the world to write my gibberish.

Given my restrictions, housebound status and depressingly limited contact with the outside world, we have had to get a bit creative to maintain sanity.  Luckily, Hazel is free entertainment, incredibly imaginative and – most of the time – hilarious.  Thanks to these fancy cellular phone camera contraptions, I am still able to take obnoxious quantities of digital pics to document our daily activities.  I hope nobody has to be put on bed rest, with a toddler, in winter, but if you DO, here are some perfectly acceptable and amusing ways to fill the hours:

Make a paper chain to count down the days of imprisonment bed rest:

photo 2-1

Super productive use of time and makes for a great “tail” to run around the house with.

Put together a train track:

photo 2

A derailment is inevitable.

Dress up like a “princess”:

photo 4

I assume real-life princesses can afford shoes made with materials other than plastic.

Dress up like a crazy person:

Indiana Jones meets Mad Max meets Rainbow Bright.

Indiana Jones meets Mad Max meets Rainbow Bright.

Adorn yourself with stickers (see “crazy person” above):

Accessorizing on a budget.

Accessorizing on a budget.

Build a snowman with daddy (I watched from the window in a non-creepy way):

photo 3

It finally got above -88 degrees so they were able to enjoy the snow and didn’t even lose a limb to frostbite….bonus!

photo 5

Create your own interpretation of what a “train” should be:

photo 2

Not sure how functional it is, but at least she looks comfortable?

Completely give up on your afternoon naps, but be sure to put all 46 stuffed animals to bed while telling them to “lay down, closer your eyes, and GO TO SLEEP!”:

photo 3-1

Miss Bossypants needs to heed her own advice.

SO…if you’re wondering what I’ve been up to the past several weeks, you can admire from the preceding pictures JUST how much I have accomplished.  Be inspired.  To everyone who generously and encouragingly says, “Oh, but hasn’t it gone by fast?!” No.  No it hasn’t.  But we are on the home stretch and I’ve had some fun, recumbent times with the kiddo and my pregnancy has been going more smoothly and lasted longer than we feared weeks ago.  And in the upcoming week, when my independence is restored, look out world!!  I might just waddle myself into some amazing and productive adventures. images-4 Or….not.

My Irritable Uterus

Whoa, whoa, whoa…I can hear the stampedes now!  A post about a finicky female organ?  OH MY GOSH…I CAN’T READ IT FAST ENOUGH!!  I mean, with all the demand for more reading material of women complaining about their lady woes, I am sure a book deal is inevitable.  How will I handle the fame? The money?

Why am I writing about my girl parts?  Well, for one, I’ve had several people ask why I am so lame at being knocked up.  For those martyrs who are interested in good ol’ pregnancy and delivery stories, then I hope to keep your attention.  Also, I know for a lot of women, myself included, it helps to read about other less-than-perfect pregnancies to know that I am not alone in this struggle, not a complete physical freak, and to share a kinship of preggo misery that makes the challenges perhaps a bit easier.   If, on the other hand, you’re wondering, ‘why the flip is this girl talking about her uterus?’ then get in line and stop reading right now.  If you’re not interested in my gestational challenges, I completely understand.  Go read about something more captivating…like…colonoscopies.

Because I should have earned an honorary spot in Whiners Anonymous by now, I would like to point out that my complaints are for therapeutic and entertaining value and not because I am a complete pessimist and Debbie downer.   As I have hopefully highlighted in other posts, I am well aware – every day – just how fortunate I am.  Despite the pregnancy woes of which I will write, I am more than grateful to be pregnant.  I am eternally grateful Nathan and I were able to conceive without difficulty or complication.  I am grateful I survived pregnancy #1, knowing how much more serious my conditions could have been.  I am grateful for a beautiful, healthy daughter and for the growing baby boy hanging out in my belly right now who, by all evidence up to this point, seems perfectly healthy.  I don’t like to think about such things, but before anyone gets offended, I know how blessed we are and I know I could have it much worse in the past, present and future.   So if I ever seem ungrateful or insensitive, please, please forgive me and know – despite whatever paltry words spill out on this blog or out of my mouth – I am not.

Now, where were we?

I’ll tell Hazel’s story since she was the first to wreak havoc on my body (but what baby doesn’t?).   As I have mentioned before, I am not a pretty pregnant woman.   I had morning sickness, fatigue and horrendous pregnancy acne with Hazel, but otherwise everything seemed to be going well.  I took my vitamins, I ate all the right foods and eliminated the bad ones, I rested when I could, I cut back on my running and did everything the lame-o pregnancy books told me to do.  I did feel quite “crampy” throughout the pregnancy, but as the doctor and my own medical knowledge reassured me, it was nothing to worry about if I wasn’t spotting or bleeding or if the cramps didn’t become extremely painful.  Everything was stretching, after all.  Ligaments stretch, organs move, and a human takes your innards hostage, so it’s not surprising that we get a pain or cramp from time to time, no?  I dealt with the “cramping” for weeks and didn’t think much of it.  I kept working, kept exercising and when things became difficult, didn’t push it and cut back as my body and schedule allowed.  I occasionally noticed the cramping would be worse than at other times – when taking the dogs for a walk, for example, sometimes the cramps were so strong I could hardly stand up straight by the time we were home.  But they were never painful, and I didn’t have any other warning signs, so I told myself to suck it up and reminded myself that pregnancy wasn’t meant to be comfortable and I should remember I’m creating a human life, not spending 40 weeks at the spa.

Things changed right around the 32 week mark.  Nathan was driving us to my favorite Mexican restaurant a half hour or so away – a weekly gathering for this happy preggo – and the drive was…uncomfortable. The “cramps” always seemed to get worse on car rides, but clearly this one was worse than other trips as Nathan kept glancing at me asking, “Are you okay?”  Without realizing it, I was shifting, fidgeting, unable to sit comfortably as the cramps were stronger than normal and I had pain across my lower back.  “Yeah, I think I just have to pee really bad or something.”  But by the time we arrived at the restaurant, I didn’t feel like myself.

“Maybe you should call someone.”

“No, I don’t want to seem like a whiner. Or an idiot.”

But I did feel something was awry.  After we sat in the parking lot, both staring longingly at the colorful banners and neon lights of our Mexican oasis, Nathan finally convinced me to at least talk to the doctor on call.  She asked me the routine questions, “Are you spotting? Are you bleeding?  Are you leaking fluid?”  Blah blah blah.  Already knowing what she was going to say, however, she recommended I come into the OB unit to get checked out, “just to be safe.”  I relayed the advice to Nathan and after a short discussion consisting of, ‘we should at least try enchiladas first…maybe it will help!,’ we decided it would be smart to forego our delicious meal and get checked out sooner than later.

Upon arriving in the OB unit I felt awkward and embarrassed.  The staff was ever friendly and professional as they got my information, checked my vitals and placed me in an observation room.   Yet I imagined them rolling their eyes and snickering outside the door, “This girl is complaining about “cramps”…what a sissy!  Doesn’t she know she’s pregnant?  I mean, just wait until she’s in labor…let’s grab straws so I don’t’ get stuck with this dummy! “  As soon as we arrived, I wanted to leave.

As the friendly nurse hooked my vast belly up to monitors, she smiled empathetically and said, “Let’s just see what’s going on before we worry too much, okay?”  Now, as part of my PA education, we are required to complete a 4 week OB/GYN rotation. I loved it, I learned a lot, and have many fond memories.  But it had been years since I had so much as set foot in an OB unit and would hardly consider myself the most knowledgeable of obstetrics.  When the nurse hooked me up to the tocometer (the belly belt that measures contractions), however, I immediately recognized the tall, regular spikes, turned to Nathan and said something along the lines of, “Oh shit.”

Not only were these “cramps” legitimate contractions, but they were occurring ever 1 ½ – 2 minutes.   Nurse friendly played it cool, smiled and said, “Let’s start an IV and I’m going to make a phone call.”  Here’s where the real poking and prodding commenced.  Labs, cervical checks (or as I like to call them, ‘really super fun invasion of nether region’), IV fluids, IV meds, position changes and a handful of pills later, the contractions were unchanged. No better, no worse, and still every 2-ish minutes.  Fortunately, as the doctor soon relayed to me, I wasn’t progressing.  In other words, my uterus was going bananas, but my cervix wasn’t thinning or dilating, so I wasn’t in true labor.  I was sent home on restrictions, medications and bequeathed the enviable diagnosis: “Irritable Uterus.”

Image

Don’t…make…me….angryyyy!!!

I couldn’t help but snicker at the name. I pictured an ill-tempered, smooth muscle organ with a frowny face and the demeanor of a grumpy old man.  “Arggh…I’m yer uterus.  This weather sucks. (contraction) What’s this country coming to? (contraction)  Can you believe the punk kids these days?” (contraction)

But alas, this was the title for my ongoing discomfort.  Somewhere between Braxton Hicks and full-blown ohmygoshhurryupandgettothehospital true labor, I continued to contract every two minutes for the remainder of my pregnancy.  No joke.  The irritable uterus title, as ridiculous as it sounded, was incredibly accurate.  Virtually everything caused my contractions to worsen.  Bumpy roads? Ouch.  Physically tired?  Contraction.  Emotionally exhausted? Stressed?  Scary movie?  Have to pee?  Ate too much?  Didn’t eat enough?  Contraction, contraction.

Fortunately, despite my cantankerous womb, I made it to 37 ½ weeks with our baby girl.  I then faced a slew of other challenges including pre-eclampsia, an urgent C-section (after 3 hours of pushing), and a rare and life-threatening complication of pre-eclampsia called HELLP syndrome which scared the bajeezus out of Nathan and nearly led to Hazel being an only child.  (Looking for happy stories? TMI? I’m your gal!) But, all complications aside, Hazel came out perfect and healthy and beautiful and has been a life-changing sleep deprivation machine blessing for which we are thankful every day.

Image

Worth every moment of prenatal misery. Right, Mom? Mom?

Because the telling of Hazel’s pregnancy saga has quickly turned into a marathon, I’ll cut to the chase and say my uterus has been just as irritable with baby #2.  After seeing 2 obstetricians and an additional high-risk specialist over an hour away, I was reassured that, although virtually impossible to prevent, I am low risk to develop HELLP again (fingers crossed!) and that IU (I’m using fancy acronyms now…check it out!) is a benign condition that you also can’t prevent and can’t do a whole lot for other than accept that it makes my pregnancy a little more difficult than the average mama bear.   With baby boy it started much earlier.  I remember the “cramps” starting in the middle of the second trimester.  I tried to avoid the things that made the contractions worse, but eventually it progressed to the point where breathing and blinking seemed to unsettle my uterus.  Like Hazel, I’ve done everything in my power to stay healthy and do as I’m told, but as is the case with parenthood and life and our general well-being, some things are just completely out of our control.

Unlike Hazel, however, my IU in this pregnancy has turned for the worse.  A few weeks ago at a routine OB check, I vented that my contractions seemed much stronger this time around.  As a precaution, the doc recommended an ultrasound to ensure the contractions weren’t causing any problems.  Turns out, these contractions are wreaking more havoc than the ones I had with Hazel and, unfortunately, my cervix was found to be significantly thinned.  In other words, the contractions aren’t as benign as they previously were and are advancing things along too fast and too early.  To (hopefully) prevent preterm labor and keep baby boy from falling out of me, it was recommended I take my meds routinely (I was only taking them on an “as needed” basis before) and go on full bed rest.  And here I lay, 2 weeks into bed rest with 3+ weeks to go until I can rejoin the world of the vertical.  I fear by the time I get the green light to return to mobility, I’ll have developed muscle atrophy, bed sores, lost my sanity and gained 50 pounds, but I remind myself how important it is to keep baby boy cooking and that before we know it he will be here and this will be a terrifying funny story to share with the kids.  Or guilt them into obedience.

Image

Before bed rest…

Image

…after bed rest.

I know, I know…the black dress in the first pic was a little overkill to go to Chick-Fil-A, but sometimes you just have to make yourself feel pretty, ya know?

So there you have it.  Apologies for the lengthy tale.  It seems I am incapable of keeping things short…with the exception of my memory.  I’ve spared some ugly details, and hopefully I won’t have any more ugly details to share for the remainder of this pregnancy.  Irritable uterus and complications aside, I have more blessings than I can count and than I deserve, and I’m going to try and maintain a Pollyanna attitude (or as close as I can get to it) until however many more weeks we have until baby boy makes his grand -but hopefully less dramatic- entrance.

In the meantime, I’ll be kickin’ it in bed.  Or on the couch.  Hide your jealousy!

The Perks of Being a Preggo

I had a somewhat physically and emotionally trying week.  By trying, I mean really not that bad.  I was a little more achy, tired and bloated than normal, was coping with the physical and anxiety-riddling effects of an “irritable uterus” (I’ll post more about this glorious diagnosis another day – don’t lose sleep!), and had to tolerate some asinine comments from a few rock stars about my pregnant – and apparently sizeable – status.  Was it really so terrible?  Of course not.  But due to the detrimental effects of pregnancy duration on tolerance for other humans, I had to fight the urge to do and say some things that otherwise would have landed my expanding darier in the clink.

Just as I was prepared to sit down, rant and share a grumbling post about pregnancy woes, I remembered Thanksgiving is around the corner.  I made a silent vow to attempt to be more appreciative and optimistic and not fuss about trivial things when I know I have it really, really great in the grand rollercoaster of life.  Pregnancy is a blessing and a miracle and I am grateful every day I have the health and hips to withstand such an endeavor.  However, I would like to touch on the underappreciated and less obvious perks of creating a life.  I’m sure some of my cynicism –a quality I’m incapable of completely repressing – will inevitably bleed through the lines of positivity, but here’s a solid attempt at being a rosy, graceful woman with child instead of my usual beastly, griping, knocked-up self.

#1: FOOD.

I love food and I love to eat. This is nothing new.  I have been told at multiple points in my life that I can consume impressive amounts of food, and while I’m sure it wasn’t intended to be such, I take it as a compliment.  Nathan and I used to half-joke, half-daydream of being a competitive eating couple/team.  In reality, he would carry the team because while I might do okay with the quantity, I just don’t have the speed.  Also, why do competitive eating competitions always have such crappy food choices to eat in bulk?  Hot dogs? Oysters?  Gross.  If they smarten up and choose pancakes or mu shu pork or enchiladas, sign me up!

00430863-967396_600

That guacamole isn’t going to eat itself!!

The glorious thing about pregnancy is you are expected and encouraged to eat more.  Sometimes while out to eat, I picture myself confidently telling the waiter, “No sir, just one entrée for me today,” and the whole restaurant stares at me with awe and admiration and a slow clap commences.  “Just look at that pregnant lady – so dainty! Such self control!  She’s amazing!”

Surprisingly, I eat healthier than my normal self when I’m pregnant.   This is primarily a result of near-constant maternal guilt that if I don’t eat more fruit and veggies and less junky, processed foods, our baby might come out with a third eye or a dozen nipples.

I wish my mom had given broccoli a chance.

I wish my mom had given broccoli a chance.

Also, in the long haul I know that after the tiny person escapes my womb, it will require certain effort on my part to shed the extra poundage, and my overall lack of energy and willpower might pose a challenge.  Therefore, although I hardly obsess or pay too much attention to the devil bathroom scale, I make a conscious effort to limit my pregnancy weight gain to double digits.

When it’s obvious you’re eating for two, family, friends, and coworkers generally try and throw more food at your face – which makes me very happy.  Old ladies are especially guilty, and praiseworthy, of this.  Older women – particularly strangers in public settings – are the same individuals that ask inappropriate questions like, “Did you get pregnant on purpose, dear?” and “Are you leaking any fluids? Make sure you tell the doctor if you do!” They also enjoy telling cringe-worthy, unwelcome stories like, “Oh my friend Delores almost DIED in childbirth…let me tell you all about it!”  Fortunately, they are quickly forgiven by standing in as your biggest cheerleader in the eating department.  “Are you SURE you’re eating enough?”  “Keep eating, it’s good for the baby!”  Then, like pregnancy angels, they hand you more pie.

You can't see your ankles? This will cheer you up!

You can’t see your ankles? This will cheer you up!

#2: People are kind.

Something about a burgeoning belly brings out the best in people.  Seeing a preggo, strangers are more likely to spontaneously smile, strike up conversation, open the door for you, or even let you cut in line at the grocery store.   I vividly remember an occurrence in Hazel’s young baby days when I was loading up the car to head home from I-don’t-remember-where.  While Hazel was crying in her car seat and it was pouring rain, I fumbled with the stroller which refused to fold up like it was supposed to (nothing to do with the operator, of course) and I was clearly struggling to load something heavier than my noodle arms could comfortably manage into the trunk.  Amidst the awkward and frustrating debacle, some butthole waited in his vehicle to pull into my parking spot.  He waited, blinker obnoxiously reminding me I was wasting his precious time, and at one point when we made eye contact through the rain, he put his arms in the air as if to say, “What’s the hold up, dummy??” This was one of those rare instances where I felt such hatred and rage, I wanted nothing more than to throw the stroller through his window.  (I didn’t).

Where am I going with this?  Pregnancy usually changes the way people act.  Although this guy would probably have been a jerk no matter what, most people seem to bend over backward to aid a damsel in distress – or, just a waddling lady with a melon stuck in her torso.  In contrast to the story above, I left a store the other day – in sunshine – with one lonely bag of oreos peanut butter carrots in hand, and not one, but TWO people offered to carry my bag for me.  Their offers were generous, genuine, and thoroughly appreciated.  While offering me assistance, their faces appeared in such a way that they clearly worried the 1 ½ lbs of groceries would tear my arms from their sockets.

When pregnant, people seem sincerely concerned about your happiness and well-being.  Like the old ladies discussed above, they also feel it is time to ask wayyy too much about your personal biz-ness, but at least they are asking, and sometimes they’re even sympathetic when you drone on about how visually and physically challenging it has become to paint your toenails.

#3: Excuse, excuses.

I remember someone telling me shortly after we found out we were pregnant with Hazel to “…milk it for all it’s worth.”  I was appalled.  Were they insinuating I would use this miracle baby to take advantage of others?  I am better than that!

Except…I’m not.  Between morning sickness and fatigue, leg cramps and backaches, I have found I often don’t have the will or energy to get sucked into doing things I otherwise wouldn’t want to.  Pregnancy provides ample excuses for lots of things:

*Crying at every Hallmark and ASPCA commercial you see?

It’s the baby’s fault.  And Sarah McLachlan’s.

*Don’t feel like tackling that chore?

Lie down and rest!  There’s an adorable little human zapping all your strength.

*Is your filter broken and you said something you shouldn’t?

Those pesky hormones are obviously to blame.

*Forgot to do something?  Cursed pregnancy brain!

*Don’t wanna do that thing that somebody asked you to do and you would normally be guilted into doing even though you don’t want to?

Just point to the belly and say, “Well, I’m pregnant, so….” And they’ll get off your case.

Gosh, I'd love to come visit, but I just showered AND brushed my teeth, so I've already maxed out my energy quota for today.

Gosh, I’d love to come visit, but I just showered AND brushed my teeth, so I’ve already maxed out my energy quota for today.

The great thing about these excuses is that nobody really likes to question them.  Without a baby on board you might be pressured or nagged for failing to accomplish or participate in certain things.  But when you’re pregnant?  No inquisitions.  It seems individuals – especially men – don’t want to push any buttons or ask any questions for fear you will collapse or cry or the baby will fall out right in front of them.

As you can see, in addition to procreating and bringing another life into the world, pregnancy has its advantages.  There are many more benefits, of course, than those listed above, but I wanted to highlight a few of my favorites.   That way, when the final weeks approach and I am especially prone to spontaneous pity parties, I’ll recall this list and aim my focus on the perks instead of the pains.  Or, at least, I’ll REALLY try.  Or…more likely… I’ll seek out an elderly female and let the pie wash away my tears.

Patience for Patients

There’s an overused, knee-slapper of a joke tossed around in the health care field that “medicine would be great if not for the patients.”  It’s a little cheesy and generally evokes an eyeroll or a sympathetic laugh, but its roots in reality are undeniable and its candor is something to which most people in the medical field can relate at some point or another.

One of the first things I learned when I started working as a PA is that despite your best efforts and preparations, there is a lot that can’t be taught in school.  You can’t be taught to give a patient bad news.  You can’t be taught time management.  Although it would be helpful, you can’t learn from a textbook or powerpoint the art of arguing with insurance companies or coping with endless paperwork so patients can get the prescriptions/tests/referrals they need.  I could continue this list ad nauseam.  But often the most common and challenging aspects of medicine – that have little to do with medicine itself – are the personalities of everyday patients.

I hope I don’t appear ungrateful, grumpy or disgruntled in this post (although at times I am probably a little of all these things).  I love patient care. I have a good job. I love feeling I’m doing some small good in the world by helping others, and I truly enjoy the broad spectrum of ages, races, health conditions, income levels, demeanors and quirks that comes with family care.  But when it comes right down to it, sometimes patients can be real A-holes.  To someone outside of the medical field, I hope you don’t judge me a burnt out jerk.  I am not.  And for the record, even to the buttholes I am nice.  Having been a patient myself, I know it is a scary and vulnerable position; I know first-hand it can be emotional, frustrating and expensive.  This encourages me to be empathetic and sympathetic.  But because at the time of this particular post I am overtired and hormonal and more easily exasperated than usual, I feel inclined to offer insight on the most common offenders that make our jobs much more difficult than need be.  Perhaps by sharing you might get a laugh, or even nod in agreement.  And if you ARE one of these people, then perhaps you will make changes to get off this list or at least be kind to your provider while being a pain in our backside.

#1: The Noncompliant Victim.

I have allergies and 14 cats.    WHYYYYY am I so SICK????

I have allergies and 14 cats. WHYYYYY am I so SICK????

Even people with the healthiest of lifestyles get sick.  Sometimes it’s bad genes, bad luck, or a nasty accident.  Sometimes there’s no real reason at all.  But a lot of patients cause– or fail to improve – the diagnoses themselves.  People make poor decisions all of the time.  My drug of choice, for example, is an oversized jar of Nutella and a spoon.  I’m not proud.  But those who fail to acknowledge or change their ways, knowing they are sick, are among the most frustrating to treat.  The man with the chronic cough who continues to smoke two packs a day curses his inhalers for “not doing their job.”  The diabetic with the 20 oz. Mountain Dew peeking out from her purse blames me  – and those “worthless medications” that her sugar isn’t under better control.  Or the patient who didn’t show up for their previous 3 appointments, shows up a year later for a previous condition that “DIDN’T GO AWAY!”  Despite extensive conversations, education, attempted treatment and every bit of energy I can muster to be understanding, supportive and thorough, the noncompliant leave me feeling I would be more successful beating my head into a wall then spending another second explaining why they need to make their medications.

#2: The Googler.

I might just start selling shirts for The Googler’s that say, “I use WebMD, therefore, I have cancer.”  You know ‘em.  You’ve probably done it (raise your hand if you’re guilty…my arm is getting tired).  I remember early in my college years I got sick and when a large lymph node popped out on my neck, the urgent care doctor said “if it’s not gone in a couple of weeks we’ll send you for biopsy.”  Not having any legitimate medical education at this point, I turned to the internet for the questions I was too embarrassed to ask and saw the words: CANCER. Obviously, it was lymphoma.  Time to drop out, use my measly triple-digit savings account balance to create and fulfill the world’s most pathetic bucket list, and wallow in self pity. Why did the doctor want to wait two weeks? I WOULD PROBABLY BE DEAD BY THEN.

948198-frightened-woman-looking-at-the-computer-screen-in-the-dark-with-the-light-coming-from-the-computer

I thought it was just bad take-out, but now I have diverticulitis, hepatitis, cholera AND lactose intolerance!! What would we do without technology??

But – plot twist! – I didn’t die. I didn’t have lymphoma.  And I never went back (even though it took well over 2 weeks to go away).  I am still here to share the tale that not every symptom indicates a serious, life-threatening, disabling illness.  For the reason I just described, I am not angered by these patients, but they can be…tiresome.  It is essential to educate and explain things to patients – I do and I should.  But it seems these people require all but me promising to give them my next born to reassure that the eye twitch they had last week isn’t a brain tumor.  We are taught to look for and acknowledge the “zebras” (a term for the rare, unusual and serious conditions that you might only see once in a career – if ever – but need to be aware of nonetheless).  But The Googler seems to think they ARE a zebra and as soon as a sniffle or rash or sore throat appears, they jump to the world wide web and are in our office that day for confirmation they have Ebola (they don’t).  To be clear, I am not suggesting people ignore illnesses or concerning symptoms.  But stay away from the internet, give it a day, cut back on the Red Bulls and RELAX and that eye twitch will go away without the charge of an office visit.  And if it doesn’t – or if you start bleeding out the eyeballs – then, well, you should probably get it checked.  With haste.

#3: The manipulator.

Sooooo many manipulators.  Right out of school, bright-eyed and bushy tailed, I was naïve to these individuals.  Diligent and freshly educated, it hadn’t crossed my mind I couldn’t trust a patient.  I needed them to trust ME, after all!  I took every complaint and demand seriously (as I still do, bear with me…) and took in every patient’s sob story with deep concern.  But guess what? People are liars.  Sadly, the majority of these patients fall into the oh-so-familiar category of “drug seekers,” because they will travel far and wide – tell stories big and small – and feign or even create injuries, illnesses and obvious trauma to get their hands on a handful of pills or an injection.  Because my first job was working in an emergency department, I was – fortunately and unfortunately – exposed to the manipulators quickly and frequently.  Since they often burn bridges with “regular” providers, the ER becomes their dealer of choice and they will do and say anything – and I mean ANYTHING – to get what they so desperately need.  Unfortunately the manipulators have ruined things for the general population.  It makes providers less trustful, more reluctant using or prescribing pain medications (not that this is an entirely bad thing), but it also presents the ol’ “boy who cried wolf” concern.  Initially, these patients will likely get unnecessary tests, prescriptions, or referrals because we don’t want to undertreat or misdiagnose their pain or complaints.  After being seen in offices or ERs every 6 minutes, however, their intentions become apparent and when they do have a legitimate injury or illness, they are much more likely to get blown off or ignored.  There starts a whole new barrage of problems I won’t get started on…

Image

I’m allergic to every medication that has ever existed except for Percocet. And…ummm…Dilaudid.

[Did I just import a photo of Nick Nolte?  Yikes.]

I could list at least a dozen more: The “We just met, but I definitely know more than you” king,  Mr. “My life is miserable but I don’t do anything to change it and I want you to be my therapist and fix everything,” and Miss “I regularly show up 14 minutes late for every appointment just enough so you can’t turn me away but I muck up your schedule for the rest of the morning” were close runner-ups among my favorites.  But I’ll spare you any more novellas as you probably want to stab your eyeballs from taking in all this whine.  I’m sure anyone else with experience in the medical field could contribute – and I would love to hear them because misery loves company and I fancy me a communal bitch session from time to time.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s a bucket of chocolate-y hazelnut spread calling my name.

Happy Hump Day!