Monday, November 28, 2011

Dr. Fuckhead's Tedious Carnival of Madness: An Unexpected Calm

Strategy, Batman. One must always utilize the best possible strategy when managing a tedious and frustrating situation, at least when one has any possibility to employ personal judgment. Today, I had scheduled an OB/GYN appointment for an hour and fifteen minutes before our ultrasound, leaving me enough time for a leisurely visit with doctors who respect my time as well as the opportunity to check out a Chinese/Japanese grocery store that I've been meaning to get to for years. It's thoroughly awesome, by the way, and even with city traffic and parking, it can't be more than ten minutes from home. Super sweet. I managed to get to the parking lot of the Building I Hate the Most (which I should probably get over, given that your excellent cardiologist is in the building and he will be part of our lives indefinitely) with almost twenty minutes to I sat in the car listening to NPR and eating an apple. No way am I spending any more of my time than I absolutely must in that waiting room.

I checked in with the receptionist at 4:26, starting the clock off much closer to my scheduled appointment than usual. Responsible patient, my ass; if I always wait for at least twenty minutes (usually way, WAY more) I'm not wasting my time. A definite upside to a later appointment is that the wait realistically can't be as absurdly long as it has been in the past. These people want to go home as much as I do once we cross the 5:00PM line, and they don't seem to over-schedule quite as hideously the later in the day you get. A downside? The waiting room denizens are far tamer...which is arguably a major upside as well.

Today there are slimmer pickings for your narrative enjoyment, Batman. There is a guy who can't be much older than seventeen or so who has been drawing - well - on a clipboard nonstop. He didn't look weirded out or uncomfortable, so I'm wondering if he's just a brother, son, cousin, or some other relative waiting for someone's appointment that is nothing outside of routine. There is also a couple who wandered in just towards the end of last week's ungodly wait, and I'm glad they're back if only so I remember to write about them. He looks like an exceptionally shaggy blonde Santa Claus, which makes it tricky to guess his age, but I would place her squarely in her very late forties, if not older. I must imagine she's in for weekly ultrasounds because of her age, but I just think it's so darn cool that she's waddling around with the same pregnant belly I have...and a head of graying hair, a fair amount of wrinkles, and thoroughly sensible, 40-something lady clothes. Despite wearing the same grimace of disgruntlement that any patient in this waiting room acquires after clocking their first hour in this waiting room, they were both obviously really, really happy, and that was a truly refreshing change from the normal.

I get called in to my appointment at 4:44 (shortest wait EVER!!!) by the same sonographer who told us your gender...and that something was wrong with your heart...which meant that she was not only super friendly, but definitely remembered both of us. We joked for a little bit about your stubbornness (which has been consistent from ultrasound #1), but as soon as she started looking at you, miracle of miracles! You quietly lay in place, let her get all the measurements and images she needed, and even spent a few good minutes practice breathing. We were both flabbergasted, me because you cooperated so darn well, and her because she had apparently had a pretty rough day of not having babies in the right positions, and so not really being able to do her job properly. Everything looked great, and you weighed in at four pounds, twelve ounces (53%!), so we trundled home after just twenty minutes.

Just as good as your currently clean bill of health were some directions from my OB/GYN. I got the all-clear today that - after getting results from the three hour-long, fasting-for-twelve-hours-in-advance blood test, which sucked - I do not have gestational diabetes. Woo! The upside? I don't need to panic about what I'm eating anymore. The downside? Having spent three weeks panicking about what I was eating actually caused me to lose some weight, so my doctor literally demanded that I go home and start eating high-fat dairy products as much as possible. I was prescribed ice cream. Practically with tears of joy in my eyes, I asked her "where were you when I was thirteen?" and called your Dad on my way out to add some mint brownie chip to the grocery list. It feels totally unnatural to be nomming down on sundaes and 2% milk all the time, but hey...if it's for your health, too, Batman, I think I can bite that bullet.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A fashionista I am not.

I've officially rounded (ha!) the corner from "aw, look at my cute belly!" to "crap, I don't own shirts that come down far enough in the front." One week ago, the tank top that I'm currently wearing actually covered you, and now...not so much. I had to do a frantic two-day run around local consignment and department stores to find anything that would fit so that I didn't have to wear one of my two still-fitting tank tops to school. Again.

I had a funny experience a few years back that has made me feel somewhat better about alternately wearing the exact same clothes for several days straight and dressing like a well-showered vagrant. It was only a few weeks after I moved to Maine, and I was at work at the ill-fated chain book store where I had managed to lock down a rare and precious part-time job. In college, I wouldn't dare say that I had a sense of style, but I did definitely put effort into what I wore. (Having friends who enjoyed shopping, making their own clothes, and dressing up for even concocted occasions certainly helped.) Right after college, I will openly admit that I was still trying to impress your Dad, so arguably, I might have even tried a little harder.

This day, I couldn't tell you what I was wearing, but it was definitely something I'd put any energy into picking out and putting on. My job didn't necessarily require any specific formality of dress, but I had quickly learned that as a "bookseller," my job was far more pleasant if I dressed with any intent and some modest but strategic exposed skin. Such attempts stood in stark contrast to the typical comportment of the average customer. This could be a nation-wide phenomenon, the genesis of which I somehow missed during college, but in Southern Maine, few people seem to actually get dressed before leaving their houses. That's not to say our shopping population wanders around nude (though that could conceivably be an improvement for some), rather that there seems to be little expectation for any change in hygiene or clothing choice between the couch and the mall. Some people are more or less visibly clean, but are wearing pajamas that look like they crawled, self-propelled, from a mud pit. Others are wearing ostensibly tidy clothes, but bear a tangible layer of grime over their entire person and could easily grease a marathon's worth of bike chains with their hair. Yet others demonstrate the worst of both possibilities, and while there are some who are simply clean and wearing pajamas, it is a little weird standing in line to pay for a pretzel behind a forty-something year old man in SpongeBob Squarepants flannel jammies and a "I support two teams: the Red Sox and whoever beats the Yankees" t-shirt.

While sorting books to be reshelved, I was approached by a woman whose hair looked about as familiar with a brush as I am with Finnish verb conjugation. I don't think I could ever forget her outfit; she wore a pastel pink sweatshirt that came down almost to her knees upon which was emblazoned a forlorn-looking Disney dwarf and the catch phrase "I'm only grumpy on days that end with Y." There were also stains. Many, awful stains. She was also wearing baggy gray sweatpants that terminated around her no-longer-even-close-to-white sneakers in a hefty ring of mud and (more) stains. What really caught me off-guard was the fact that she was not much older than me, seemed perfectly in-tune with the world, and was looking for a fairly obscure grammar text. This could have been me on another day. I helped her find her book, and she walked with me back towards the sorting desk. While on the way, she looked me up and down with an expression of relative confusion. "You're not from around here, are you?" she queried. I explained that no, I had only recently moved to the area, and she smiled knowingly. "I figured as much. Honey, I give it six months before dressing like THAT," - she eyed me up and down - "...goes out the window."

She was so completely right. Within a year, possibly within her predicted six month window, I caught a reflection of myself in the front doors of the grocery store. Not only was my hair a grungy pile of unwashed horror crammed half-assedly under a Red Sox hat, but I was wearing the same pajamas that I'd spent the last straight twenty-four hours in and it was brutally apparent that I had only just crawled off the couch. As a family composed only slightly more than I was elbowed past on one side, and an older gentleman in a discolored track suit approached me on the other, I came to a state of peace and acceptance. While I still get a slight twinge getting out of my car wearing conspicuously unwashed clothes, with conspicuously unwashed self and hair, I don't let it get to me. It's like driving: as long as I can see someone going faster and someone going slower, I know my speed is reasonable. As long as there is someone grungier than me, and there is always someone better put-together than me, I'm okay.

Being pregnant seems to have put me in a weird state of dual expectations. On the one hand, it's perfectly acceptable to wander around looking like a homeless person because no one expects me to have the energy to do more than cover my delicate bits. On the other hand, my being adorably dressed and groomed seems to give others a voyeuristic degree of pleasure. Students, coworkers, family, and friends alike seem to adore fawning over my appearance, especially when whatever I manage to pull on somehow emphasizes your presence. The upside? Wearing clean clothes that mostly fit seems to garner compliments galore, regardless of how frequently I've worn said clothes, or how appropriate they really are for whatever situation I'm in. All I can say is...thank goodness.

This public approval of my fashion choices (or lack thereof) is especially a relief because of how massive I've been feeling. More than a few people have told me how big I am, which actually really sucks to hear because of how much bigger I'll have to get. Nothing seems to fit properly, which especially sucks because of how tight money is getting. You've also made some kind of jump, growth-wise or something, since you're now not only kicking more often, but WAY harder...harder like I'm worried you're going to kick through my abdominal wall. I've definitely never noticed any pregnant woman's stomach visibly jumping around, but your activity has been majorly noticeable from the outside. Weirdly, you still clam up when anyone wants to feel you move, but I'm convinced that just ignoring you for a few minutes gets you going just fine.

For now, I'm sticking to a handful of oversized tank tops that, while fairly tight, still cover far enough below and above you to keep me decent. Yes, I'm basically wearing some variation on one of the same three outfits every day, but whatever. You're still growing plenty, and I'm still only really looking huge around the baby belly and not too much anywhere else. I'm kind of really regretting not doing the once-a-week belly pictures that so many women do, but given both how gross I felt for the first trimester (and then some) and how overwhelmed we were with medical stuff after then, I'll be sated with an absurd number of ultrasound pictures and a few holiday shots where someone else is gazing with near astonishment at you.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Dr. Fuckhead's Tedious Carnival of Madness: Thanksgiving Edition

I arrived for our weekly ultrasound today about ten minutes early (responsible patient that I am), and was immediately informed that they are running about half an hour behind. Given the minimal availability of seats in the waiting room, this sounded like an unreasonable estimate. We had plenty of the normal crowd: there was the cigarette smoke-reeking couple who were young enough to make me feel awful about the world, the massive family who were all loudly discussing their social plans, and the mother of a small child who was completely ignoring her current offspring in lieu of her cell phone. As usual, there were a few standouts. Given that this was two days before Thanksgiving, and every medical office in the area was closing down for a few days, I expected a full house.

I first sat opposite a woman who couldn't have been more pregnant than me, but who was complaining so consistently about the pain from her baby's kicking that I wanted to smack her mother who, sitting next to her and also reeking of cigarette smoke, just kept chowing down on the oversized bag of peanut M&M's in her lap. The daughter would cite some specific pain, then the mother would grunt at her and tell her to suck it up. I rapidly realized that the cigarette smell was actually coming off at least six other people in the same corner, so I felt like I had a completely legitimate excuse to move to another corner where their conversation would be less in my line of hearing.

I hate to stereotype, and I hate to judge based on appearances, but there are times when such things are entirely accurate. An entire third of the room was populated with men in baggy jeans and oversized hoodies advertising either death metal bands or tractor equipment, and women wearing men's sweatshirts and ill-fitting sweatpants. None of them looked particularly clean, most had fairly poor quality tattoos, and they were all wearing oversized, unlaced sneakers. Call me classist, segregationist, or whatever: these people were gross, and they all smelled so strongly of cigarettes and body odor that I didn't know what to do but hide behind the couple wearing North Face fleeces and expensive shoes and the thirty-something women in head-to-toe L.L. Bean.

This, sadly, was not escape enough. The cigarette smell had pervaded the entire room, to a point where even burying my face in magazines to try to make myself nauseous because of perfume rather than the stink of other people was futile. Moving also positioned me to see two additional horrors. Now, I am not perfect. Sometimes I judge people based on criteria that have nothing to do with who they actually are, and sometimes I respond to people based on assumptions that I have not confirmed, but I would argue that I am far more accepting, open-minded, and genuinely prone to equity than most people....but I just couldn't get over the family I saw on the other side of the room.

This was a mother and father with their young son, all dressed in Christmas card-perfect argyle, cashmere, and khaki. The mother was definitely more pregnant than me, but whereas I am starting to look a little frumpled and tired, she looked eerily composed. The father didn't have a hair or thread out of place, and might very well have shaved twenty minutes before walking in to the waiting room. Their child sat - and this was probably a two-year-old - almost perfectly still, like his parents, and just quietly surveyed the room. It was creepy. This family was sitting along the same wall as the loudest cluster of cigarette-reekers, and with every loud comment the latter made about either things they wanted to drink or people they wanted to "hook up with to do some shit later," the formers' eyebrows ascended another millimeter. By the time Christmas card mother's name was called, I don't think I could actually see any of of their eyebrows anymore, and even the little guy seemed to have a look of judgmental disgust on his face. I'm sorry, I leave my horror at the people I'm forced to share this confined space on the internet where I name no names: I would never sit five feet away from someone and make a face openly displaying my complete disapproval of them.

The other standout was really just a shock. A girl who I knew as a student at the high school where I first worked was sitting in the far opposite corner from me, aggressively pretending she hadn't seen me. She was with a guy wearing their high school's name splashed all over his sweatshirt and hat and parents who were clearly none too chuffed to be there. I never had her in my classes, but she was friends with many of my students, and I remember her as a very sweet girl with a great sense of humor. She was active in a lot of school activities, well-liked, and now here she sat looking ashamed and...something else...maybe disappointed, maybe angry. I felt horrible. I did my best to pretend I didn't see her either, however much I wanted to go over and tell her that it would be okay (however little grounds I had for saying so), because she was so clearly trying not to be seen. When her name was called, she lit up red and practically ran for the door.

The waiting room emptied out, leaving me with only one of the cigarette-fest couples (who had arrived mere seconds before me) and a couple who wandered in after 4:30. Waiting forty minutes here is pretty much status quo, but as we approached 5:00, I was left wondering if I'd even have an appointment. It was at this point that I made my regular check in with the front desk just to remind them that I was there, and I was informed that my appointment had not been at 4:00, but instead 4:30, and that they were still running at least half an hour late. The automated message call thingy had said 4:00. My schedule had said 4:00. When I checked in - comfortably before 4:00 - the receptionist had not even hinted that my appointment was not at 4:00. The handful of staff still remaining as the clock passed 5:00 were at least apologetic when I brought to their attention the fact that I had been waiting for an hour - again - but I was left feeling the loss of the at least forty-five minutes of my life I could never get back. Way to stay classy, Dr. Fuckhead's office. I was finally called in at about 5:20, over an hour and a half after I arrived.

That's when the real fun started. Clearly, I need to have a conversation with the next ultrasound tech I work with about what exactly they are looking for when they look at you, because I did not leave for another forty minutes. They needed to see you practice breathing - which basically means moving your diaphragm and some other internal muscles the same way you will when you actually breathe air - and you were being stubborn. By this point in the evening, every other patient was gone, so all the ultrasound techs decided to get in on the fun task of getting your muscles to spasm. We danced, we jumped, I adjusted and readjusted my position, I chugged ice water, and eventually one tech decided to zap you with some high-frequency sound wave thingy. You were moving around plenty (which was admittedly lots of fun to watch in real time), but it took close to forty minutes for you to breathe the specific way they wanted you to. The ultrasound techs kept mentioning "earning points" for different things, like growth and what gets points? What do I need to do to make sure we score as high as we need to?

When did this become some crappy sort of game?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Dante missed this one.

One could argue that we had quite a scare this week, Batman. Last Friday, we had a routine ultrasound (at which point I realized that I have literally no idea how many ultrasounds I've even had at this point) that revealed a pericardial effusion – fluid around your heart. Your Dad and I did our damndest not to panic despite the doctor (one of Dr. Fuckhead's colleagues, since his office knows now not to put him and I in the same room) telling us that we would likely need a cardiology appointment right at the beginning of the next week. I think we did any okay job, considering that I only really started to melt down Sunday night, and your Dad kept himself together about as well as he always does (which is admirably).

Now, I've railed against the internet as a source of medical information before, and doubtlessly will again, but this particular medical condition might have been the single worst thing I ever could have attempted to get information about on the internet. One website reported that 44% of babies have some kind of visible effusion at some point during pregnancy, most of which are benign. Another website basically condemned any child with an effusion to death: period. Yet another website claimed that an effusion could only be attributable to one of several specific conditions, none of which you have. I'm pretty sure I stood as much a chance of getting reliable information about this one medical anomaly as I did making a pony appear if I closed my eyes and wished for one.

I got a call Monday morning telling me that I have been scheduled for a noon appointment on Tuesday to get your heart looked at. I'm also told that this is the single available appointment for the week, and that the cardiologist wants to see me immediately. That was comforting. I spend Monday in a haze, stuck in a recursive loop of imagining hideous fates for both you and myself that just escalated in intensity and horror as the day wore on. Much like the weekend in between finding out that there was something wrong with your heart and finding out what the something wrong was, I was uselessly panicked and terrified. Every time you kicked was a stab to the heart; I couldn't settle myself in to the possibility of something going truly wrong, but I couldn't go on as if everything was hunky-dory. 

This morning – Tuesday – comes, and I make the hour drive to work, just to work three hours before rushing the hour back for this emergency appointment. While sitting in the waiting room (for about half an hour, by the way), I start to wonder if doctors just schedule appointments so that their nurses know whose charts to pull...or so that their investment in magazines and crappy chairs is worthwhile. There is clearly no effort to actually have the appointment on time, nor is there any consideration for the patient's schedule. I was nearly shitting myself with terror while watching the asshole black fish in the waiting room tank terrorize his tankmates when I was finally called in, and within about ten minutes, your cardiologist determines that he can't find anything wrong. This effusion, which really isn't as bad as it looked last week, is just sort of a thing that showed up. There is no specific cause, despite the potential causes (none of which were present) being kind of scary, and as long as it doesn't really change, there's not even any cause for additional concern.

For the first time in four days, I breathe. This cycle of panic and calm, tsunami and stillness is definitely wearing me out. We don't seem to be able to go more than a few weeks without some crisis presenting itself, but so far, even the biggest crises are capable of being resolved somehow, and some end up being entirely benign. Of course, even the smallest crises have required what feels like an outrageous amount of effort and energy on our end to muddle through. Today is, of course, no exception. I don't want to sound upset with your cardiologist because he is not only a super nice guy, but is someone I genuinely trust as a medical professional. Even though this morning has assuaged my panic and stopped me from feeling like a walking time bomb, I am absolutely furious that he immediately sent me down to Dr. Fuckhead's office for...something?

I spent close to an hour and a half alternately convincing this office that yes, I am supposed to have some kind of appointment and sitting and waiting with zero idea of when I might be seen. I was in waiting room purgatory, my companions including a horde of chatty women (one of whom I guess must have been pregnant) who were loudly debating the merits of going to Macaroni Grill as opposed to Burger King after an ultrasound, a mother who looked to be substantially younger than me who left her sixteen month old in my care for about ten minutes – without asking or even saying a word to acknowledge why she was leaving or where she was going, and the massively overweight, six month pregnant woman who vigorously complained about her doctor trying to get her to change her eating habits while tossing back a bag of cookies, an entire tin of honey roasted peanuts, and three – count them, three – extra-large Powerades. Oh, and there was a bible-thumping family of four girls under the age of ten with an almost scarily detached mother who all kept loudly commenting on the potential sinfulness of the other people in the waiting room...and a guy who tried to smuggle a lit cigarette in, poorly...and, of course, at least four or five other women who looked as weirded out by all of this as I was.

Yeah. I was finally called in for yet another routine ultrasound, and you were your normal stubborn self (not letting the technician get the images she wanted by picking an impossible position and kicking at her non-stop) and got out quickly enough after that, but I know my fate. I scheduled every ultrasound we'll need from now until you pop out; our fates are sealed.

Given that I will now have weekly appointments here to have you looked at, I'm pretty certain that I need to add a feature called “Dr. Fuckhead's Tedious Carnival of Madness.” This waiting room is filled with such an amazing kaleidoscope of insanity, weirdness, and...yeah, basically just madness. I'm pretty sure I'll feel better about the inevitably torturous waiting if I can write about the craziness I am forced to witness, so brace yourself!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Shall we dance?

Oy, Batman. You are kicking up a storm. It's definitely weird to be sitting in, say, a meeting or class at school and to suddenly yelp because a tiny foot has just whalloped my pelvic bone/intestines/spine/front of me, but it is really cool. I know that babies most often hang out on the right side of their mother, which I think feels right, but you have definitely been kicking (or punching, or reaching, or bonking, or whatever) more towards the bottom than the top. I have no idea if that's normal, or if even having a consistent "target" like that is normal, but I can almost always feel you doing something if I put my hands on the underside of my (now definitely and unavoidably baby-containing) bump. There are still definitely kicks upwards, but those are rare treats; they're hitting muscles that haven't already been tenderized. Even better than that is the fact that you react to things now; if I push my hand against wherever you were just kicking, you push back! I have the theory that you are going to have some sort of magically chill relationship with your Dad, because you always calm down and just roll around gently when he's talking and he can more or less just rest his hand somewhere near you to calm you into submission if you're going all Chuck Norris on me. Seriously: how cool is that shit?

Thankfully, most everyone around me finds my yelping, squirming, and belly-rubbing endearing and fascinating, but there is one particular Debbie Downer at work who looks at me with this almost disgusted glare, tries to smile to cover her discomfort, then rapidly informs me of how uncomfortable she would be in my position. This Debbie gets a uniquely "deer in headlights" expression any time anyone brings up anything even tangentially related to you, pregnancy, or even babies conceptually (no exaggeration: she gets woogly when people bring up any very young child, regardless of context). With eyes glazed open in weakly-deflected terror, she proceeds to share either a horror story of someone else's hideous pregnancy/birth/infant experience or some utterly irrelevant retelling of a traumatic event from her past.

While it is a little insulting to hear someone flip my excitement back onto itself with a comparison to some long-passed personal drama, Debbie's stories are pretty hilarious. (Sometimes you even kick when I'm trying to repress laughter.) A personal favorite of mine was when she described the experience of getting a "wicked huge" splinter on her leg sometime in college. Despite her roommate and other close friends all being nursing students, none of them could get the splinter out without Debbie flipping out and basically kicking them away. She was so traumatized by having something stuck under her skin that she now knows that having a baby inside her would just be too much to handle.

Let's review, shall we? Thigh + large splinter = uterus + baby. Okay then. That's not just an utterly callous comparison: that's HYSTERICAL!!!

I completely understand the reservations one might have about the physical sensation of pregnancy. I'm not going to sugar-coat; it's really effing weird. I wake up in the middle of the night because another human being is literally sucker-punching my internal organs, and I have to go buy special pants to accommodate the fact that someone has decided to take up residence in my midsection. Despite being a totally natural, normal human's really effing weird, right? Still, regardless of stinky-face-butt-head coworkers who try to outshine your awesomeness with their personal gripes, I'm still finding this so amazingly cool.