Thursday, September 22, 2011


Now that we know you're a boy, Batman, I feel a little awkward writing to you about pregnancy-related, womanish stuff. Then again (and I should just come out and own this now before your father tells you and you get ticked off at me), I did post the ultrasound picture verifying the maleness of your junk on Facebook....also here:
Look at that adorable little set of boy-parts! Okay, now that you're probably ready to curl up in an angry little ball, I think I've proven my point that neither shame nor gender boundaries really mean a whole hell of a lot to me. Moving on...

Sometime in the last week, I rounded the corner from looking like I might possibly be kind of chubby to pretty much definitely looking pregnant. I still have had no strangers or even relative strangers go for the belly - I'm ready to scream if someone does - but now there is clearly something to go for. This caught me off-guard, I'm not going to lie, but it is pretty damn cool.

Your Dad and I needing something to do last night, seeing as we're finally starting to crawl out from under our "holy crap something is up with our baby and we're processing this shit out" rock, so we opted for dinner at Duckfat (massive pile of amazing fries and paninis...oh yes) and a leisurely wander around the mall. Now, we're definitely not mall people. We've both worked at the mall, your Dad for longer than I, and it is not exactly somewhere we go running when we want relaxation or entertainment. Hell, we tend to do our best to even avoid shopping there when we can. If and when we end up at the mall, it's typically for either a very specific purpose or because we just need somewhere to walk and it's crappy weather outside. 

Last night, it was mostly the latter, but we concocted the former: I need a new phone, so we poked around at phones (which affords your father greater pleasure than your average horny college boy gets at an all-nude nymphomaniacal NFL cheerleader store), then wandered over to Macy's with the intent of buying a meat grinder attachment for my KitchenAid stand mixer. Boy, we know how to have a good time, don't we? The grinder attachment ended up being too pricey, so this glorious perambulation ended with a lengthy ramble through the kitchen section where we made om-nom-nom monsters out of Martha Steward silicone mini-mitts, debated the relative merits of different styles of ice cream scoops, and openly taunted people who require the use of electric knives for anything other than short-range murders of deaf people. 

Right at the edge of the kitchen goods is the children's clothes section. While cautiously assessing some insulated travel mugs, the most marvelous thing caught the corner of my eye. It was a hat. It was a unicorn. It was a UNICORN HAT. I had to put it on my head. There were some other critter hats, too, so naturally your Dad wandered over to try one as well. We ran for the nearest mirrors, and after assessing that yeah, the hat really was just a little bit too silly for me to wear with any regularity, I noticed this obviously pregnant lady in a unicorn hat staring back at me. 

Seriously. That is not fat...that is you, Batman. I've seen plenty of women who are so tiny before they get pregnant that even a few months in, you can see a cute little bump that is clearly a baby. That was never going to be me. There are also those women who just don't really look pregnant at all, either because they're heavy to begin with or because their shapes just sort of make a baby fade in...or disappear. I knew that wouldn't be me, but I didn't expect to make it through a pregnancy without putting on some seriously unsightly weight. Maybe owing to how horrendously sick I was in the beginning, and maybe because I just haven't had THAT much of an appetite lately, but I haven't put on much weight since you came along. 

Suddenly, there you are: pop. Just a little Bat-bulge, clearly and obviously another human being and not too many duckfat-fried potatoes. You've been kicking around like nobody's business, and now you're on display for all to see.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The more you know...

It's pretty amazing how quickly one can come to terms with something hideous. I mean, what the hell recourse do we have? You have a congenital heart defect called tricuspid atresia, which means that one of the valves in your heart literally never formed, leaving almost half of your heart underformed and ultimately non-functional outside the Batcave. You're going to need surgery almost right away after you're born, which is pretty damn terrifying, but also really sucks because your Dad and I will hardly be able to see you for the first who-the-hell-knows-how-many days of your life.

All my dreams - nay, expectations - of a natural and nurtured, comfortable and casual birth have basically been tossed out the window. Here's where I really want to shit on all my previous judgments about the crappiness of medically-driven births and hope that all my theories about separation at birth being the root of all human evils were just hippie pipe dreams. All we can do is love the hell out of you from a distance when that's where we are, and give you every bit of our affection when we're allowed to be close. Breastfeeding might be a bitch, but it sounds like getting you to eat at all in the beginning might be tough, so I promise not to take it personally.

With an actual diagnosis to work with and at least a someone concrete prognosis (which is good!), we're kind of in limbo. I guess we're pretty crazy lucky to have found out about this before you were born so we know who to have on hand, what to expect, what kind of support system to have in place...all that important stuff. At the same time, now we've also got four and a half months of just bracing ourselves and waiting for impact. No, wait a second: we've got four and a half months to learn just how we need to kick ass and take names so you get exactly what you need, and we stay sane and happy in the process. I'm working on a five step plan to achieve maximum awesomeness, so here's my draft:

Step #1: Get Feet on Ground
I've had half a dozen people tell me how incredibly I'm handling this. Okay, sure, I might not have a reputation for being the most emotionally stoic human being on the planet, but this is the first time my child has been in the mix. I think your Dad is kind of in the same place: this is possibly the shittiest situation either of us has ever been in, but our reaction so far has been to just bunker down and deal with it. This might suck, but it will only NOT suck once the situation is resolved. Period. In any case, we get you out of it, so basically any crappiness that happens along the way is just some crap to wade through and leave behind. 

Step #2: Muster the Troops
Okay, I've ranted against Facebook before, and will do so again, but it's been pretty cool seeing people jump to offer their support and good wishes after we finally posted some news about you. I think my favorite comment so far was from a grad school friend: "I have heard it said many times that babies choose their parents based on things they need and things they need to learn in this life. I am sure that Batman has chosen you and Ryan cause he knows that you guys will give him what he needs. You two are the only ones that will be absolutely perfect for him." Fuckin' a right! Even if a lot of the people who've jumped forward with kind words will only continue to offer those, that's a huge help. We know we have a shitton of awesome people who will help us in a LOT of ways, and you are one lucky little Batman to come into a world filled with so many people who will almost definitely punch a medical professional for you, should a medical professional need punching.

Step #3: Eschew martyrdom and don't buy in to the "causes"
Apparently having a "special needs baby" opens this massive, greasy, foul can of worms containing colored ribbons, organizations "working towards the cure" that everyone thinks we should join or support, and inspirational jargon that basically reduces an entire life (yours) to a problem that we will bravely overcome. I absolutely understand the comfort that people get from plastering their cars and lives with inspirational slogans, bumper stickers, participation in charity walks and events, and generally surrounding oneself with acknowledgment that others are also suffering in the same way: I really do. I, on the other hand, would sooner chop off my own leg than spend the rest of my life campaigning for and covering my life with congenital heart defect awareness. This is some shit we need to get through, and while it won't ever really go away, I absolutely intend for our lives to be governed by who we are and what we do as a family, not some medical condition we are unlucky enough to need to deal with.

Step #4: Learn what's worth learning
I'm convinced that medical information on the internet is the modern-day equivalent of the pamphlets churches would pass out in olden times cautioning citizens away from the evils of, oh, say, reading anything but the bible, or consorting with gypsies, or...I dunno...keeping cats as pets. According to the internet, I have had countless brushes with death because I do such insanely dangerous things as eat french fries and own cats. I could have already contracted cytomegalovirus, passed it on to you, and soon poof! We're both dead! Everyone who I've shared your situation with has started to suggest online resources, and frankly, I just don't want to go there. The second I start trying to research medical stuff out on my own, I'll end up convinced that your feet are going to fall off as a complication of one of your surgeries. If I have questions, I'll ask doctors. If I still have questions, I'll ask other doctors. Period.

Step #5: Grow a pair
Something I imagine that every pregnant woman can agree on is that some people assume it is their place to flat-out tell you what to do, how to do it, and why doing anything else is wrong/stupid/deadly. I've ranted about this before, and will surely do so more in the future. When you add a significant medical condition to the mix, it just gets worse. Now, even the most previously considerate individuals are starting to demand that I talk with doctors in just such a fashion, make contact with these specialists they know, submit to (or fight back against) this particular medical plan...and we haven't even know about your condition for a full week! That's just the medical stuff: the same onslaught of commentary has started over all the lifestyle alterations we're supposed to make. My recourse? Take the polite smiling and nodding that I was doing before, and kick it up about a thousand notches. I'm a few days away from cultivating happy music to play in my head to drown out the imposing commentary. When it comes to conversations that your father and I actually need to have (with doctors, employers, specialists, etc...), I'm going to take advantage of the fact that you have a pair of gonads already to act like I've got a pair of my own. If we need something done, we will fight like hell to get it. If we disagree with something, someone had damn well better be prepared to explain it - thoroughly, and to our satisfaction. If something makes us uncomfortable, so help me I will gut someone to get it resolved.

Monday, September 12, 2011


We're going to see the pediatric cardiologist in a matter of minutes. Here's where I get all manner of superstitious. Am I wearing the right...whatever? Did I say whatever I was supposed to that will make this all magically okay? Did I pay enough attention to this whole situation, or should I have done more somehow? Is there ANYTHING I could do or could have done before right now to ensure that you are healthy, safe, and capable of starting your life as the wriggling, crying, perfect little bundle of human we've wanted you to be?

The waiting has been torture. I've been pretty much shut down all weekend, and today was basically a force of repression and adrenaline. We'll know within the next few hours at least some of what's up, most hopefully that we can just go ahead with everything planned as normal, but at least hopefully that everything will end up okay. A coworker told me something today that is going to be my new mantra from here on out: the universe will not give me anything I can't handle.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Oh, kiddo.

I don't even have words for what's going through my head right now. In the last three days, I've felt like I was going to implode - just collapse in on myself and disappear into nothing, like I am a time bomb just waiting for impending disaster, and like there is no hope in the universe for anything good to ever happen again. We went in for the ultrasound that was supposed to be a simple "yup, there's your kid's junk, everything looks great, have an awesome rest of your pregnancy" and then done...but you know it's a bad sign when the technician wants the doctor to come look at something because she has "some concerns." Some dude I'd never seen or heard of before comes in, looks at your little heart (which, by the way, was maintaining a perfect heartbeat and looked like it was doing its job just fine), and tells us after five or more minutes of staring and readjusting and staring again that he's found something.

It's a congenital heart defect. We don't know what kind, what we'll need to do to repair it, or even how serious it is. The fact that things like surgery (even many surgeries), birth not in a birthing center but at the kind of scary hospital-flavored hospital (within arm's reach of a NICU), and the possibility of additional problems (not least of which being the possibility of chromosomal abnormalities) even came up makes me wonder: do doctors who have to share bad news with parents HAVE to share the worst-case scenarios just so everyone is prepared? Is this a strategy to make those parents with kids who will ultimately be fine with minimal intervention that much happier when the diagnosis is not terrifying, and to make parents with kids who will be seriously messed up grateful that at least that first doctor was honest with them? Do they just tell everyone how bad it could, possibly, maybe be to scare them into enough testing to conclusively prove what's wrong? ...or is there really something seriously, SERIOUSLY wrong with you?

We did find out that you're a boy, which is (quite frankly, and for what I believe to be totally legit reasons) exactly what we'd hoped. I mean, of course we'd have been happy with a girl, but we were really excited to see that little set of junk between your legs. One of the most heartbreaking things about this whole situation is that we can't even be excited about that. We're both so completely caught up in fear, uncertainty, and the gut-wrenching horror that can only be the obsessive protectiveness that parents feel for their children. It's sort of amazing how quickly both your Dad and I shifted gears into parent mode. I mean, I'm having an amniocentesis on Monday. Seriously?!?! That might be the single most horrifying, awful thing I can think of having done to my body. I'm honestly more okay with the idea of having a c-section than just one poke with one (humongous) needle, but because it's for you, I'm just fucking doing it. I hesitated and I talked with our midwives about it, but I knew basically from the beginning that it would have to happen...and because it's for you, I will.

Speaking of your Dad, however, he has been a kind of amazing I never realized that another human being could be for another. I've seen my parents help (and sometimes drag) each other through some pretty horrendous times, but I'd never been part of a situation - or relationship - where that kind of shared endurance and support is so abundant and powerful. I know we're only a few days in to this situation, but he has put forth one hell of a start, and I know he's not backing off. I'm really worried that if this gets worse (if it is worse, and if it turns into anything bigger than a best-case scenario), I'll crumble...not for lack of support (and not just from your Dad), but for sheer lack of capacity for what something wrong with you will bring.

Nearly every single time I've felt you kick in the last three days has been agony: there you are, showing up nearly perfect on an ultrasound and meeting every growth and developmental marker there is, except for (hopefully just one) big one. (You also have a double vessel umbilical cord, which is presumably a far less substantial problem, given the fact that it wasn't even mentioned until we were literally walking out of the room.) It's like you're telling me that you're strong enough for whatever: you're practically kicking some of my organs out sometimes, and I'm surprised you haven't started tap-dancing on my bladder yet. You move all the time, and that heart rate...I can't stop myself coming back to the fact that your heart rate sounds and looks so perfect. Because your Dad technically has a heart problem, too (although he's supposedly outgrown it, and it was the kind of thing that almost didn't require attention or follow-up after he was pretty little), he was apparently scared from the beginning that he would have passed his on to you somehow. Hearing that heart beat - which has been progressing normally from the first time we heard it, incidentally - had pretty much assuaged his biggest fears.

Here's where we hope. It's Saturday, September 10th, 2011. I'm not posting this right away because it has just been too painful for either of us to talk about it to more than just a very scant handful of people, and some of them were purely out of obligation. I've told a few coworkers, mostly because I would have exploded at work without someone knowing how destroyed I've been, and of course we've both told our parents. I told your Aunts Anna, Erin, and Leah, and your Dad told your Uncle Cameron. He might talk to a few other friends, but at least until after Monday, no one else is getting into the loop. It just hurts too much to say out loud that something might be wrong with our Batman. I'm leaving school early on Monday for our appointments with the pediatric cardiologist and the lab for the amniocentesis, and I'm staying home on Tuesday regardless of the results. Your Dad and I have spent a lot of time since Wednesday sitting on the couch holding on to each other, so I'm really hoping that some radiant love and intention have soaked over to you, and we walk away Monday with everything feeling okay. I'm not looking for perfect at this point (though I sure as hell wouldn't complain), but I need us to at least be okay.

Monday, September 5, 2011

I don't wanna.

If you're anything like either of your parents, Batman, you will both dread and be irrationally excited about the first day of school. I'm pretty sure this is a normal way of approaching the beginning of a ten month long experience that is, on many levels, comparable to a Chuck-E-Cheese birthday party. You're justifiably scared to touch or be touched by most of the people and objects there, the food sucks (unless you bring your own, which you sometimes have to sneak in or face ridicule for bringing), there are threatening people everywhere, and you're more or less trapped until it's over with no one but the few other sane individuals there for company until the party is deemed over. Wow...that makes my job sound terrible. It's really not that bad, and school actually is fun! I swear! Perhaps what I really meant is that going to school is like being both the disgruntled parent at a Chuck-E-Cheese birthday party AND the hyperactively excited child who legitimately wants to be there. Yes. That makes me want to cry much less.

Many of the things NOT to be excited about are obvious. Suddenly, there is going to be work to do. All the time. There will be sixty-something little human beings dependent on me for not only vital literacy skill development (no pressure there), but also for advocacy, emotional support, and compassion for the fact that they are basically hormone grenades in assorted stages of peppering one another with psychological shrapnel. I have some coworkers who, to use the kindest terminology possible, are less than awesome, and they happen to be some of the people I need to deal with the most. The self-conscious questions of "do these people actually like me," "am I actually doing a good job," "how can I actually follow through on everything," and "how the hell am I going to keep myself sane through all of this?" have already been weighing on me for weeks, if not months.

One of my biggest worries is being focused on the "right things," whatever those may be. One of the truly beautiful aspects of this summer was being able to focus almost exclusively on you, Batman. Even when I was feeling totally crappy, I could spend basically all of a day plopped on the couch, hand over where I assumes you were floating, and just think positive thoughts at us both. It was absolutely fine to spend hours of a day reading pregnancy blogs and birth stories, or anal-retentively researching potential additions to your absurdly carefully composed registry. I've been feeling you wiggle around since about week fifteen (at least I'm almost positive it wasn't just gas in the beginning), so now as we approach week nineteen (holy crap), I'm pretty fixated on all those little kicks and pops. I'm bummed that your Dad can't feel them yet; they're so sporadic that I can't even get my own hand to the right spot by the time you've stopped, even less get him across the room and onto my tummy. I'm pretty positive I won't need to stop teaching at any point to say "Ooh! Kicks! Check it out!" even though there definitely will be girls who would LOVE to get their hands on you, but I am worried that I will be so distracted by your very existence that paying attention to the kids I get PAID to pay attention to will become a challenge.

So, what's so good about starting a new school year? Back to school shopping!!! New clothes are a major bonus...assuming you have a wonderfully loving grandparent or parent who is willing to take you clothes shopping. When you have to pay for these exciting new duds yourself, some of the thrill is sucked away from the experience. New school supplies are ALWAYS exciting, regardless of who is footing the bill. I'm not going to even attempt to downplay my irrational passion for school supplies, because doing so would be like trying to tell a giraffe that they are not tall. It would be irrational and a lie. Your father and I both get this glazed-over, hazy, small-child-on-Pixie-Sticks-style twinkle of excitement in our eyes when we enter an office supply store. We practically get a buzz off the smell of fresh paper and just-opened boxes of pens and pencils, and the tinkle of paperclips through our fingers is like the bells on Santa's sleigh. I don't exaggerate. Watch us sometime. You'll be charmingly embarrassed.

Of course, there are more intangible things to be excited about, too. Even though I was never any sort of popular kid, I loved coming back to school to see how the score would settle out this year. Who pulled their head out of their ass over the summer, and who stuck theirs up there? Who is coming back sobered and mature, and who had one of those awful hormone surges that will make them absolutely intolerable? Frankly, these dichotomous changes are EXACTLY the same from age five through Some coworkers are substantially awesomer than I remembered them to be (although my being pregnant may have something to do with their more cuddly natures), and some people might as well be threatening wedgies and writing nasty notes about other kids on the bathroom walls. Yay human nature.

I am more than a little excited about all the attention I'll get. Yeah, I know...for someone who embarrasses as easily as I do, and for someone who dislikes being the center of attention so much, I think I can easily shift the focus from myself to you. I'M not the one being praised for completing simple tasks competently despite being pregnant: YOU'RE the one being lauded for allowing me to retain some degree of competence. I'M not the one that random coworkers seem disposed to attempt to force-feed: YOU'RE the one to whom they want to give those extra baked goods and candy. Being pregnant in a school means the Nosy Nelly-style streams of critical advice, but (as I've been told, and can only hope is true) much more sedate students and an endless fountain of maternal/paternal words of encouragement. I'm working off previous experience and shared advice here, but I'm really keeping my fingers crosses that things are just generally easier enough that my total lack of focus (ooh, look, something shiny!) balances things out.

This may all be childlike optimism, but Batman, that optimism is just about all that gets human beings to walk back through the doors of a school come September.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Batman, it is SO on.

It has begun.

I knew it was just a matter of time (and a matter of being in a work environment filled with women who have gone through the whole baby-having process at some point in their pasts), but the baby-related, sometimes judgmental, and typically advice-laden comments have started spewing, geyser-like, from the face-holes of some of my beloved coworkers. This is a morosely beautiful and incredibly specific occurrence that I know plagues anyone going through some kind of specific life event (buying a house, getting married, buying a new vehicle, planning a major trip, dealing with illness, etc... ad nauseum), but the baby flavor of this phenomenon is exactly as annoying and amusing as I thought it would be.

Of course, a few women are being just lovely: some listen good-naturedly to my hormone-induced woes, offering sympathetic and encouraging words that are genuine and well-intentioned. Others share their personal stories with absolutely no implication of "this is how ANYONE with half a brain must do this thing;" they are simply sharing their experience with another woman going through a shared life experience. It's some serious red tent business, but I dig it, even if it is informing me of details I never needed to know about coworkers' bodily fluids and/or orifices.

On the other hand, there is one woman. Let's call her "Nellie," as in "don't be such a Nosy Nellie," or "that Nosy Nellie is making me want to sock her in her stupid nosy face if she doesn't stop nosing her nose into my damn business." Nellie has no children, but she seems convinced that her knowledge of pre-natal care far exceeds that of anyone who has had children, even less anyone who is preparing to do so. When I walked into school one day last week holding the last two inches of a Dunkin' Donuts pumpkin flavored iced coffee (so help me, I wait like a child for Christmas for the release of pumpkin flavored anything come this time of year), I didn't get a "good morning," or even a "hi," but instead she gave me a concerned look and eyed my cup suspiciously. "Not giving up coffee, I see?" she muttered, using a tone much like one would use when accepting the fact that a teenager is, in fact, going to get their whatever pierced. I smiled, and told her I was cutting back a bit. Her sigh of resignation was almost staggering.

As the day wore on, more tiny comments emerged. Thankfully, this is not someone I have terribly frequent interaction with, so outside of a day of training, I am unlikely to give her so much opportunity to share her advice. If I were, I would likely explode from restraining the snarky comments I would want to spew back at her. After eating three roughly two inch square chunks of brownie, she asked me if my doctors had talked to me at all about eating chocolate. I informed her that my MIDWIVES (not doctors) saw great benefit in eating any food that both made me happy and that I could keep down without getting nauseous. Besides, while some medical experts believe chocolate to be worth limiting, other extol chocolate's many benefits. Take that, Nelly. She wasn't convinced.

The next comment was a real laugh riot. I was in my classroom, clambering about on chairs while hanging posters, and she told me that it can be extremely dangerous for pregnant woman to climb anything because (wait for it...) BABIES SOMETIMES JUMP UNEXPECTEDLY TO THE OTHER SIDE OF YOUR BELLY, throwing a woman off-balance and probably leading to both their deaths. It was everything I could do not to pretend to fall down onto her, just to see if she would try to catch me, but - misinformed about the cause though she may be - this was the first legit warning she has given me, so I smiled politely and told her I was being very careful.

I could go rather than continue ranting about this one tedious woman's attempts to be helpful, I introduce a new mini-post feature that I will call "Nellie has a strong opinion about..." There, I will share stupid, uninvited, inappropriate, tedious, and otherwise meddlesome comments hurled in my direction by typically well-wishing individuals.

In the meantime, I made a sling for you! It was a suprisingly quick and fun project, and one that I very well might try again to give to one of your future friends (as soon as I meet her or his parents). You're bopping around more and more, especially when I eat a lot of fruit or drink a ton of cold liquid in one go. Guess what I've been eating and drinking lately?