Monday, March 31, 2008

Theology lessons from the back of the car

Heard from the backseat of my car, as we are pulling up to a friend's house for a playdate: "Mama, you know, sometimes I think my brother is everywhere." This from a kid who not so long ago (also from a backseat) declared that she thinks people made up God, since people say that God is in the sky and we know there is nothing in the sky but clouds, and planets, and stars, and comets.

What could I do but hug and kiss her after we got out of the car? She seems happy for the validation, and if I know her, she has been working on this thought for a while before deciding to voice it today. She talked a bit more about it on the way home, and then at home to JD. She is planning to tell her teachers tomorrow. The last bit is probably because after we mentioned her budding atheism to her teachers at the parent-teacher conference (in the context of asking how and what she is interested in doing during their class religious activities), the teachers encouraged us to encourage her to bring stuff like that up in school so they could start a discussion.*

*Before you ask, no, it's not so they can indoctrinate her. The school is Jewish, but intentionally pluralistic, and they take that seriously. When Monkey asked her teacher early in the year what God was, the teacher told her it was an important question that she couldn't answer for her. The school respects families and family beliefs and practices very much, something that was extremely important to us when deciding to send Monkey there. Inside Kindergarten they have created this inherently respectful atmosphere where kids feel safe and genuinely care for each other. So we trust them to have a classroom discussion of a weighty subject like that that won't put anyone down and can only lead to kids thinking in new and deeper ways. Yes, I am talking about six year olds. Some of them are still five, actually.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The spring that isn't

Or at least not yet. Oh, it almost was, for a few days here and there. But in the latest go round, Friday we had cold rain that was snow in some parts of the state. Yesterday the plan was to walk circles around the pond, but once we emerged from the coffee shop, there were flakes. Honest to goodness flakes. So we wandered around the neighborhood instead. The effects of the just kidding approach to changing of the seasons were hard to miss.




These guys, though, seem to be doing alright.

We spotted this dude across the street from the flowers. While we were taking pictures of him, a lady walked by, said she was the manager of the store, and invited us inside to look at him sans the fuzzy window.

He was weird-looking anyway.

It was a paper goods store, so I had some fun with my new camera.

This is my camera, btw. We got a package with two lenses-- 18-55mm and 55-200mmVR. They just released a D60, so the package we got doesn't seem to be available anymore, at least not all in one place. I shot the pictures above with the 18-55mm lens. I did the moon pictures with the 55-200mmVR one. I swear, this is the best toy I got in years.

Friday, March 28, 2008

An eventful day

Did anybody else's blogger go AWOL for a while? Together with gmail? How bloody inconsiderate of them! They really should know better than to cut off a woman's blog oxygen AND her email access. Anyway...

The ultrasound
Size. We caught up. In fact we are a few days ahead of the due date estimate now. So maybe it isn't my cells going all the very hungry caterpillar on my blood glucose. Apparently the little bugger has been getting in on the act a lot more than I thought. So new plan is to worry a little more about the content of my meals. I was rather lax on the carbs before thinking that I needed to make it easy for the occupant to get some. Now we have to worry about too big, so it's back to careful meal planning. The big scan is in three weeks, so we will get a good idea of the rate of growth by then.

Sex. Male. My reaction was to tell Dr. Best "Neurotic patient, round two." But really, I am not freaking out. I didn't get the terrible sinking feeling I got with A, so that's a good thing. The last little bit I have started to prepare myself to assume the fuck the universe posture if the news was thus. It seems to have helped. As, I think, did the starting to let myself love this baby part. See? I just called him "baby." I was all euphemisms and "fetus" before.

We are buckling in for what we expect will be a very bumpy ride. JD seems to be more freaked out than I am, actually. But we talked about one day at a time, and he observed that we are in for a lot of days. Hopefully we are. We are also in for Name That Baby, round three. Wish us luck.

News of the heartbreakingly beautiful
Monkey was having an acute grief reaction tonight. She asked to light a candle. She wanted to touch me to touch A. Then she sat on the floor directing herself downward, underground. She finally said that she will never get to see him alive. I think what she actually meant was she never got to see him in her real life, but also the whole certainty of never getting it in the future either.

She brought her fancy birthday candles to put on the table next to the candle we were lighting. She rummaged for the booklet containing the mourner's kaddish. After we lit the candle, she did more sitting, laying on the floor, more of this honest deep grief. JD came over and pulled her into his lap. She wanted me. So I moved close to them too. We sat that way for a while, and then Monkey touched my belly in a deliberately different way and said "No, nobody living there yet." I asked her what and how was she trying to ascertain, and upon receiving the expected answer explained that babies don't kick in a way that can be felt from the outside for a while. That made her sad, because clearly, she has thought about figuring things out this way, possibly for a little while.

We encouraged her to ask what she actually wanted to ask, and we answered that question. The first thing she says? The very first thing, before asking us about the sex, the first thing was "I hope this one doesn't die." Yes, we all very much do. So we talked about the sex ("Again?"-- amused and clearly somewhat surprised. She had been drawing our next baby as a girl for a while. Ahem...), about the time frame (she is no fool, and wanted the live baby ASAP. April sounded good to her. Luckily she is not yet aware of all the ways this goes to shit and prematurity isn't something she knows to fear), and about names (unsurprisingly, some silliness ensued, listing Boots of the Dora fame and a number of inanimate objects, followed by pretty much every boy name in her class. She finally singled out one name that actually isn't out of the realm of possibilities. Go figure).

I am, however, blown away by the emotional maturity on this kid. She never for a second considered conflating this baby with A, and it wasn't too long until she was talking about the two different brothers. She is trying to figure out how to relate to them. For tonight, she settled on saying goodnight to everyone-- papa, mama, A, and the new little brother.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

wherein I come clean, come out, fess up, and spill my guts

"Do you think you know more than other people?"

I just finished telling her why I was freaked out following our perfect anatomical scan ultrasound with A, and this was Nurse Kind's question in response. I hesitated for a second. At that particular moment I really didn't want it to be true. Not to mention that it would probably get me a this one is coo-coo label on my chart. So I said "No. But I will probably be the most neurotic patient you have ever had from now on." "Neurotic is ok. We can handle neurotic" answered she.

I didn't want it to be true. I wanted to be just another neurotic pregnant woman. Since A's death, though, I have thought back to that conversation with a bit of regret. It didn't change anything, so I should've just said it, owned it. The thing is, I do. I do know more than other people. Or I did.

There, I said it. I won't bore you with the stories of the other times I knew things, or the things I can do. Not relevant. Let me just tell you about the childbearing related stuff.


My mother was the older of two daughters. So am I. For some reason, from very early on, I have thought that I would have two daughters too. At some point in my early adulthood I realized I wanted three children. JD is an only child, and at the time he was fine with one (I feel it would be relevant to note that this lasted exactly until Monkey was born), but was not opposed to more. What I told JD I saw when I thought about us as a family was that the older two would be girls, and that I had no information on the younger one. That was almost what I saw. There was in fact haziness in what I saw, and I chose to interpret it as above. But to be perfectly honest what I did see was the two girls and some haze around them. I chose to believe that the haze hid the identity of my youngest child. I can't discount the possibility now that it also hid my second-born.


The start of Monkey's pregnancy was rocky. The miscarriage was only two months before, and we had no idea whether the progesterone falling in the miscarried pregnancy was due to the pregnancy being doomed (hCG wasn't doubling properly either, although we did make it to the heartbeat ultrasound, only to miscarry the next day) or due to my progesterone defect. Early blood tests in the new pregnancy showed nicely rising and doubling hCG, but progesterone started falling again. I needed suppositories. It was the 4th of July weekend. I didn't know it when I raced out of my apartment to try to fill the script, but because of who the script was written by, I could only fill it at the campus health center pharmacy. Which, say it with me, was closed for the long weekend. Driving back from the regular city pharmacy where they explained to me that they can't fill the script, traffic was miserable, people were doing stupid things in front of me on the four way Stop sign intersection, and I was on edge. Suddenly, I heard her. Clear as a bell in my head. "I will be ok. And, by the way, I am a girl."

I made it through the next couple of days to when the pharmacy opened, and the next blood test showed us catching the progesterone levels before they hit the floor entirely. There were scary parts to that pregnancy afterwards too. There was a cramping episode that reminded me of the feeling the day before I miscarried. There was brown spotting at 14+ weeks. And then there was red, bright red flow. In the mall restroom, the day after my thesis defence. Placenta previa, partial, as it turned out later. At 31 weeks 1 day. By which point we already knew she was a girl. That first ride to the hospital was very scary, but the bleeding stopped quickly, and from then on I was fairly sure she would be ok.


Finding a name for Monkey was very hard going. We had a set of conditions that were very hard to satisfy, and for a long time we worried that we wouldn't find the name that fit all of them. At some point, JD suggested a name that shared the first letter with his grandmother's name, and thus would honor her, as a middle name. I liked it too much. I said let's not. That will be our second daughter's first name. We had a middle name to go with it too, but we changed it after the first ultrasound with A, when we still thought he was her.


I think I have actually admitted before to knowing we would conceive A right after we did. I then spent the next seventeen weeks convincing myself it was a girl. Because see, if it was a girl, I could believe she would make it. But something wasn't exactly right. As I recently told my sister, in response I stuck my fingers in my ears and went la-la-la-la. I needed that baby to be a girl. A girl would live.

We took Monkey to the anatomical scan. She wanted to see the baby, but she really wanted to know whether it was a sister or a brother. She wanted a sister, and was honest about it. Before that day we talked about what if it's a boy? Well, then he will be our baby, your brother.

They needed to measure the vital organs first. Perfect, perfect, perfect. Are you ready to find out the sex? Yes, yes we are. It took her a bit to find the anatomy, and in that gap I knew. I desperately needed her to say it was a girl, and I knew she wasn't going to. And she didn't.

Monkey was all about honesty. "I wanted them to say 'girl.'" I know, honey, I know. That lasted all of twenty seconds, I think. "That's my brother!" said the proud big sister pointing at the screen, obviously working hard to pick the right English words and put them in the correct order. Her mother, however, was not so easy to sooth. Holding JD's hand, with my stomach many feet below me, I said "I don't see this ending well."


And this brings us back to Nurse Kind and her question. I told her about the ultrasound, and I told her I was afraid. And she asked me that question. I will be your most neurotic patient ever, I promised. I just don't have the belief, the surety that this will work out. She also asked what my biggest fear was, and I said preeclampsia. I was at the edge of the age difference between the pregnancies that increases the odds for it, and for some reason that was what I thought would do us in. A failure of the imagination, clearly.

A few of my IRL friends knew of my premonition, and to them I talked about my new fears. One of them, Irene, the friend who was four weeks behind me in her pregnancy, said look, you will have your second daughter, she will just be your youngest child. Irene knew I wanted three. She also later confessed to thinking this was all hormones. I am grateful for that line, though. This is what I eventually used to calm myself down, to talk myself into thinking it was going to be ok.

Not that I was serene and assured or anything. In the next month my blood pressure jumped, not dramatically, but noticeably. I felt like shit. Here it comes, thought I. JD bought me a monitor, and I watched the blood pressure like a hawk. I worried so much, Dr.Best ordered a 24 hour urine collection on me even though he didn't think I was going preeclamtic. I still worried. But by 34 weeks even I had to admit it didn't look that scary anymore. If he came then, we would be looking at a couple of weeks in the NICU, but the chance that he wouldn't make it was minuscule. Like I said, failure of imagination.


We had a great deal of trouble finding a name for A as well. The night of the day A died, I was sitting on the couch trying to do my kick counts, which never came. But while I was at it, we talked about names and some other stuff. JD started to suggest a middle name in honor of his grandfather, the same grandfather our next girl's middle name is supposed to honor. He said after the way this pregnancy was going, he wasn't sure we would be up for another one ever. So I spilled it. Look, I said. I know that girl. In fact in this pregnancy she has been more real to me than the boy we are having. We can't not do this again.

Later that night, in the hospital room, I told JD that maybe that is why I knew that girl so well-- to know that we have to survive this, to know that one day she will come.


I tried to not get attached to A. For a long time there I didn't think we were going to get to keep him. And if that was the case, I needed to protect myself. Fat lot of good it did me. Not until after he died did I know how much I loved him, really. I had glimpses before. But the full knowledge only came with grief, was only illuminated by it.

Thinking about that I decided that "next time" I would give my heart without apprehension. Not right away, of course, for I told myself I was no fool. My biggest fear in the early days was one of those not really early miscarriages, the 10-13 week one. The mindfuck of oh, I am sorry, were you starting to believe things would work out this time?, the feeling of so much wasted time.

When I did get pregnant this time, I found myself doing the denial thing much more than I anticipated. And yet, it is cracking, my ice queen facade. I am starting to live up to the name of my blog. And it is a scary, scary thing to let myself do. And yet, since experience shows that for me the other option is futile, I am letting myself do it. Not necessarily hope, but love. Anyway. Either way.


I went into this pregnancy not wanting to know more than other people know. So I did my best to shut it down-- I can do that too to some extent. Not knowing has been hard. I think I heard her once. But I don't know whether it was from within this time, or from without, like with A. I don't know whether it's finally her.

Tomorrow we may find out the sex. It's no guarantee, of course. A girl may not make it either. A boy might make it anyway, and prove me wrong. But I do think I would feel better if it was a girl. Ok, understatement of the year. I may freak out if it is a boy. And that is exactly why I am finally telling you this-- so that I don't look like a complete ungrateful bitch if I do freak out about the sex. I hope if it's a girl, I will feel more secure. And even if I don't, at the very least the name thing will be in the bag, and in this household that is noting to sneeze at.


Two things left to say. One, early on when I thought back to that question from Nurse Kind, and I answered it in my mind with evermore firm "Yes, yes I do," I tended to add "I wish I didn't." I don't think I think that anymore. I watch so many bereaved parents struggle with guilt, and it makes me so very sad for them. I have none of it, and this is still so freaking hard that I can't help thinking they must have it so much worse. To be fair, there are probably multiple reasons for my lack of guilt (like the autopsy results, for example, or the fact that I was that paranoid in that pregnancy). But I can't discount this one too-- I couldn't make him stay. He wasn't staying, and I know it now.

This takes me nicely to the philosophical point two. Nothing I said here makes what happened meant to be, part of the plan, for the better, for a reason, or something I needed. Seeing something coming doesn't make it a good thing, a necessary thing, or even a pre-planned thing. What I know now is that A wasn't staying. But observing a phenomena doesn't make it happen, and seeing it before others do doesn't prove its origins. Oh, and by the way, knowing it didn't cause it either. I promise.


I am going to go to sleep now, and hope that I didn't just become "that weirdo" for you. I know what I say sounds crazy. Why do you think I put off writing this for almost a year? I have a PhD in hard science for crying out loud, so what business do I have writing this at all? The thing is, though, I still know what I know. And tomorrow we may know a little more.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

If little knowledge is a dangerous thing...

...then what can we conclude about the relative danger level of medium amount of knowledge? I know I am completely showing my geekiness here, but I actually spent some amount of time north of five minutes trying to figure this one out. I decided that since we have no closed form for the danger as f(knowledge), I have to give up on trying to solve this theoretically and await empirical resolution of the particular instance at hand.

See, I haven't gained any weight. Since I was rather seriously overweight due to losing almost none of the weight from A's pregnancy (thank you, thyroiditis, thank you PCOS), I would be happy to be happy with this. If I knew this is ok. I have failed a few glucose readings in the past couple of weeks. Only a few, here and there. But the times I am not failing, I am on the low side. Too low, I think.

It's not helping that the last couple of weeks at work I have been writing problems for the midterm and answer keys for same. Yes, I have been staring at the various aspects of glucose metabolism for work. And somehow, while I was sleeping working, a hypothesis has formed in my addled brain. I am worried that I am not playing well with others, that I am not sharing enough of my calories, that I am burning up energy paying for converting what I eat from glucose to glycogen and fat and back to glucose.

[Brief diversion for hand-wavy explanation. All the food we can absorb can be described as fat, protein, or carbohydrates. We like to send the protein we consume straight to be chopped into amino acids and incorporated into our own proteins, and we build different proteins in our cells all the time. If we have enough carbs, we can send fat straight to storage. If not, we'll burn it for energy. We break complex carbs down into simple sugars. And the preferred, easy to use fuel for the cells in our bodies is glucose. Fuel for dummies, so to speak. So we break our carbs down, and we dump glucose into the blood, for easy distribution to all cell types in need. Now, all cells have glucose transporters on their surface, and they take glucose from blood as needed. Neurons have greedy transporters, for example, so they get first dibs even if we haven't eaten in a while.

But after a meal, our blood glucose spikes. Our pancreas is watching this, and the beta cells therein have this special type of glucose transporter on them that only trips when there is a lot of glucose to deal with. So beta cells make and dump insulin, and insulin goes in the blood stream to all these needy cell types, namely muscle and fat, and trips the insulin receptor on the cells, and that trips a somewhat long cascade reaction inside the cells that results in the cells putting more glucose transporters on the surface. Now the party can start-- the cells can take in more glucose than they need to use for basic metabolic functions, i.e. just for survival. High times.

So you know how there could be too much of the good thing? Yeah. So if these cells take up more glucose from the blood, and they pay a certain energy premium to convert it into storage form for later use-- muscle as glycogen, and fat cells as well, fat. The storage form is so that when we haven't eaten in a while, but decide to say take a walk, our muscle cells don't have to go begging to blood for that glucose they need to work, but can instead again pay a premium to get it back out of glycogen. Our liver also stores glycogen, a lot of it. This is so that when other cell types need glucose, and suck it out of the blood, liver can replenish that supply by breaking down glycogen. Again, for a fee.

If your insulin regulation is screwed up, like mine is, it may take too long to shut off production of insulin, resulting in too much glucose being cleared out of the blood stream after a meal, resulting in those reactive lows that I blabbered about a little while ago. Eventually the cells demand glucose, and if you don't react to that by feeding the beast, your liver has to give up the goods.

Um... not so brief with the explanation, I guess.]

So this hypothetical energy waste on paying storing and un-storing/usage fees would all be fine and good, of course, if not for the concern I have developed about whether these reactive lows mean that I am stiffing the creature behind the placenta of the glucose it needs to, you know, grow. If my cells are doing this last call run on the bar thing every time I eat, what gets to the other side? Adding in that at our early risk assessment ultrasound, the measurement was four days behind the due date, and that is the due date they have, which is two days behind the date I know to be correct, well... paranoia is my middle name these days.

Dr.Best is not convinced. Looking at my glucose measurement numbers he said that they look great, except he thinks I may need to up my intake. Ha! How is he to know that I am certainly not skimping? If anything, I stuff myself. Well, I told him, so now he knows. And of course, in my pregnancy with A, I started gaining weight and fast after I stopped taking the insulin-sensitizing meds. This time, I stopped those almost two weeks ago now. And still reactive lows galore, with a few failed readings in spots. Those usually have some inauspicious balance of carbs/fats/protein, although I can't always predict what is likely to bump me over. A cupcake might not, for example. By its lonesome, it is actually more likely to send me to a reactive low.

So Dr.Best is not convinced, but since he knows that I calm the hell down on any particular issue in the face of actual observable data, he is willing to employ modern medical technology to resolve this one. Thus, we have a previously unplanned ultrasound scheduled for Friday morning. Not the big anatomy scan-- that will be another three weeks later, provided things keep going well. This is a quick peak to assess growth. But I am also planning to ask for a check on the placenta, position of said placenta (low-lying I am willing to bet, as I had a little brown spotting episode about ten days ago), and cervix length (because of the selfsame spotting thing).

I will also ask to see whether sex of the occupant can be determined. That last one is not for vanity, I assure you. So tomorrow: the post that explains it, one I have been putting off writing since almost the start of this blog.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Point of view

Still playing around with the moon shots.
This is what the camera captured:

The lines on the surface are from tree brunches in my side yard and neighbors' yards. With the naked eye I could see trees and see where the branches were coming from. But the built-in flash was not strong enough to get the trees with the exposure it was set to, so all we get are the lines on the surface. Kinda cool, I think.

If I crop it, though...


A bit creepy, no?

Friday, March 21, 2008


I didn't get what you would call a formal Jewish education. In fact very little beyond screw the antisemites before I got to the US, and only elective stuff since then. Frankly, it shows. I filled in many holes, but many remain. Customs, for example, or some synagogue practices. One other glaring one is the calendar. I just never cared too much for it. I alway just checked online for when the holidays fall, and moved on.

I left the synagogue a little before the end of Purim reading to make sure that the chicken noodle soup was warm by the time JD and one overtired Monkey made it home. A magnificent full moon hung in the sky. Bright, shining. I was surprised but glad to see it. If you, unlike me, have half a clue about the Jewish calendar, you must be slapping your knee right about now. A full moon on Purim, imagine that!

I pondered the moon as I drove. I was wondering whether I would get a chance to sneak outside to try to get a few shots of it. That is when it occurred to me that I had recently gone outside trying to take a picture of a full moon. On A's yahrtzeit. The wheels, they started turning. His yahrtzeit, I remembered, falls on the 13th day of a month the name of which I would recognize but can't replicate (see-- I could've used some education). Purim, as we were just reminded a few many times whence I was coming from, happens on the 14th and 15th of Adar. You see, Jewish calendar is lunar, so how surprising is it, really, that the full moon would fall somewhere on the 13th or 14th of any given month? Don't answer-- I feel plenty slow already. One more thought found me almost turning onto our little street. If we get full moon for A's yahrtzeit then so do Natan's parents, since exactly four weeks separate the two dates. This little detail somehow strung another thread of recognition, of I stood where you stood. Where many stood. Too many.

After I got home and started up heating the soup, I googled the Jewish calendar thing, and found this helpful page. Yes-- full moon in the middle of the lunar month. Who would've think it?

How is it possible, though, that I never noticed the full moon on Purim before? And why don't I remember it from that drive I took to the hospital, the day A died? Last year I was not in the mood for Purim. Monkey, though, lives for Purim. When she can wear her Queen Esther costume. My sister took her last year, while I stayed cooped up in the house. But all the years before-- how is it possible that I paid no attention to the man moon in the sky?

When Monkey was turning three, she invited her playground posse to her birthday. One little boy showed up with a gift of a biggish plastic box with a dressup ansamble for an unspecified princess, in unspecified princess pink with a few nice purple accents. The kid's mom must've wanted a girl very much is all I could figure about that gift. I was, to put it mildly, displeased. Pink? Princess pink for my daughter? For a kid who already has a grandmother who, shall we say, overemphasizes the fake sugary aspects of princess life? Yeah. And that is to say nothing of the horrid plastic shoes that came in the box, the ones that are plain dangerous on the stairs or any uncarpeted surface. My friend Sam fixed the situation somewhat by telling Monkey that it was in fact Queen Esther costume that she would be able to wear to the synagogue for Purim, only weeks away. And this is how the love affair with Purim was born.

Of course Monkey also wears it at home to play dress up, but since it's a designated Purim costume, not as much as I'd feared. And since it was recast as a costume of a strong female character, I am cool with it anyway. She has worn that costume to four Purims. She has had this thing for half of her life. Three years ago, I had to take the skirt in severely. A little less two years ago, and only a bit last year. But this year she is tall, and the top of the costume is still the same exact length. Oh, and the skirt was ripped in the back, near the seam. I fixed that. I also sewed her pink turtleneck to the skirt to ensure structural integrity and full coverage. The top went on over the turtleneck. She looked very cute. Very. It is, though, self-evident that next year we shall need a new costume. I am cool with that.

What I want to know, still, is how is it possible that over all these years that I have taken Monkey in her repurposed Esther costume to celebrate Purim, or the many years before, how is it possible that I never made that moon connection before? I must've seen it, just not paid attention. Maybe I even smiled at it, year after year-- I do love a good full moon. It is possible that my brain needed a second data point, something to make the click sound. The strangest role for A's yahrtzeit I believe I have ever contemplated, that.

It's a weird feeling-- I feel like I have discovered something profound. I know, though, that I simply noticed something that I should've known all along.

P.S. The pictures were taken with our new Nikon D40 with a long-distance lens and vibration reduction. How did we ever live without this thing?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


I got seven hours of sleep Sunday night. I got seven and a half last night. And what have I been lusting after since about eight o'clock this morning? That's right-- the weekend. When (maybe) I can sleep, hopefully a lot. It's Tuesday, people, Tuesday! One word-- pathetic. I wrote problems for the exam today, and the boss had a few minor comments. So if I fine-tune these tomorrow, and they are approved, maybe I can have a short day on Thursday and get some sleep then. I tell you-- pathetic.

Equally pathetic is that I am only now getting to the meme I was tagged for by two(!) excellent bloggers-- Kalakly and Tash-- over three weeks ago. So the rules:

The rules:

1) Link to the person who tagged you.
2) Post the rules.
3) Share six non-important things / habits / quirks about yourself.
4) Tag at least three people.
5) Be sure the people you tagged KNOW you tagged them by commenting what you did.

Since it's been a while, I won't make you search for the very illuminating lists of my taggers through their blogs, which you should totally check out. Here they are: Kalakly's and Tash's.

1. Jumping off of Tash's, I, too, like dark beer, although it's been years since I had a whole bloody thing of one instead of a few pathetic sips. Thank you, PCOS. JD, on the other hand, prefers blonds. Blond beers, not what you thought (hm... come to think of it, according to his best friend from high school, he did use to like mostly blonds). There was one time when we were having dinner at a restaurant that was also a brewery, and we ordered local beers, each to our preference. A different waiter brought our drink order out and proceeded to put the blond in front of me, and the dark in front of JD. We proceeded to switch our drinks right in front of him. The waiter got very embarrassed and apologized. We laughed.

2. My taste in beers is not really surprising given how it started. Senior year in high school I was invited to a party thrown by the kids of the friends of my parents. After I got back I mentioned to my mom that I decided that I do not like beer. She was very surprised and wanted to know what kind they were serving. This is how I found out that is not really beer. And this is how come a few days later my mom took me to a wings place that also served many a dark, mostly German, beer. This is beer, she said. And I was enlightened. My dad, by the way, does not drink beer. Dry white wines is what he drinks.

3. As long as we are on the subject, I have only been drunk twice in my life. I have unusually high tolerance, not in that I do not feel the alcohol, but in that I air out very fast. This is, I believe, thanks to the same pesky PCOS with its oversupply of insulin. Poor JD had to listen to me bitch and moan about how I am nearly through college and have not yet been drunk. Then, one day, there was a get together at a friend's house. We all showed up at the house around the same time, hosts included, and so all of us were put to work making food for dinner. As I peeled and chopped, I may have mentioned a severe hunger due to not having eaten since breakfast. JD then proceeded to pour me two giant goblets of port (yes, I got drunk for the first time on port) to drink in rapid succession. The second one did it.

4. Switching gears. We used to drink milk still warm from a cow. My grandfather's company had a bunch of summer cottages by the water some 60 mi away from the city limit. You had to sign up to use these, and there was a fee, but nominal enough that we could afford it. When we were there, every afternoon we would walk to the nearby pasture where the old women were getting ready to milk their cows. We would wait by "our" cow while "our" old woman milked it, and then get a cup of fresh warm milk to drink. Not pasteurized or enriched or anything. It was considered to have the most health benefits that way. We would also get a container to go. It went into the fridge as soon as we got back to the cottage, for morning kasha. I have a picture in my photo album of us with "our" old woman and "our" cow. I can still hear the sound of the first splashes of milk hitting the metal bucket. The sound changed, got a lot duller, the more milk there already was in the bucket. Funny, I never particularly liked that warm milk, and truth be told, there were on occasion stern words used to make me drink the stuff. But that sound? For some reason, the sound is firmly associated with good things in my mind. Those being lazy summer afternoon rather than warm milk, I would wager.

5. Monkey can do a lot of things that I couldn't do at six. There may only be one thing I was doing at her age that she isn't yet-- playing chess. Ironic, considering JD and I met playing chess. Actually, we showed her chess a few years ago, and she immediately decided that the object of the game was to put the pieces into their starting positions. Totally our bad for showing her the setup. Both of us completely forgot that the way you start to teach chess is back to front-- endings first. Checkmate techniques, checkmate in one, two, three... So we decided it would be wise to let her forget about this board setting obsession in order to try teaching her the right way. It may be time.

6. My dad, who taught me how to play chess, never let me win on purpose. He played full strength, always. Sure, he would play several pieces down, but he wouldn't handicap his play for me. When I finally won, fair and square, both of us staring with all the pieces on the board and everything, well, I can only imagine that being up all night all hopped up on uppers feels something like a muted version of what I felt then. I actually have recollection of being physically bouncy. The fact that it took me years to get to that point probably had something to do with me developing the idea of my dad being able to do pretty much anything and everything. Not until fairly recently did he tell me that when teaching me to play chess he was just learning himself. His trick, he claims, was to stay one chapter ahead of me in the book he was using. That and, I assume, a somewhat more developed ability to reason. Still, nice trick.

I am not tagging anyone, because I am so late doing the meme (see: pathetic) that I am not sure there is anyone left who hasn't done it yet. But if you are such a blogger, please consider yourself tagged. In fact, if you would rather I formally tagged you, please whisper in my ear comment section, and I would be more than glad to pretend I knew what I was doing all along. And if you are inspired to do one of these, please leave a comment too-- I would love to read yours.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The bond

I was going to try to work a clever 007 joke in here somehow, but the definite article in the title is making that difficult, so I am giving up. On to the subject then.

I am having trouble finding the right way to start this. I have turned it over in my mind a few (dozen) times, and I am still not sure where this tale should start. So perhaps I will start by making a simple disclaimer. It wasn't my choice. It wasn't our choice. She did it herself. She equated her brother to herself in status as a child of this family a long time before he died. I used to ask her "Who do I love most in the world?" and since she was a baby, Monkey learned to answer that it was her. And then, when she learned there was a baby growing, when she learned it was her baby brother, she started pointing to herself, and then to my stomach. My sister told my mother, before the day it all went wrong, of course, that Monkey saying "shabbat shalom, little brother" into my stomach every Friday night after we lit the candles was the cutest thing she had ever seen.

She beamed. She told strangers she met for the first time that she was going to be a big sister. She was possessive-- she would tell us it was her baby. We would tell her yes, your baby brother, our baby son. Nope, she'd say-- all mine. A sibling, her dream come true. The way she found out, even. We had been debating about when to tell her, and kinda decided that we'd do it after the anatomical scan. But about ten days before I was putting her to bed and she just came out and asked me whether there was anybody growing in my tummy yet. Because we have a policy against flat out lying, I called JD upstairs, and we told her. But first I inquired as to why she had asked. Because, she said in the tone of stating something completely obvious, I am kinda bored here by myself. Right then.

Right after A died, before he was born, there was a fit pitched by my MIL about us daring to even think about telling Monkey the truth. It would scar her for life, see? Since then there have been others who said or implied that it would've been gentler to minimize it in some way for her. I am always dumbfounded by that suggestion, just as I was that day in my hospital bed. How, I wonder? She had her object permanence down. She knew her brother was in, and he was supposed to come out and come home to live with us. How was I supposed to explain my no longer baby-containing belly in a way that wouldn't cause her to lose trust in her parents on top of losing her brother? How? After the fit, JD decided he wanted to avoid saying the word "died" to her. One of the children's books we saw while at the hospital was about a girl who has a rosebush that the family planted when the baby brother who was supposed to be born didn't get to be born. JD liked that way of putting it. That's what he wanted to say-- your brother didn't get to be born. OK, I said. But I think you are going to lose. I think she knows enough to figure it out. I was right-- it took her two minutes and about four questions to ask whether her brother died.

She knew what a cemetery was-- there are two not half a mile from our house. She even knew what a funeral is-- her friend told her all about his great grandma's funeral. I had wanted to take her to the funeral, at least if she asked about it as I thought she might, but JD didn't. I told him that one day he will have to explain it to her and maybe apologize. In the end, she didn't ask, and we didn't take her. Not bringing her was probably the right decision, for us. We cried rivers. We held the little casket. Brining her would've meant that we would have responsibility to help her process what was happening. As it was, we were free to do what we needed to do, to be in the place we needed to be.

I thought she would ask later, about where her brother's body is. A couple of times she came close. We saw a funeral procession at a cemetery we passed, and she asked who buries people. Family, I said, and friends. Do you want to ask anything else? No. Based on little clues like that, I started to suspect at some point that it is on her mind. I started to worry that maybe she thought that we didn't bury her brother, that some indignity befall his body instead. That she was too afraid of what it might be to ask, or too considerate of our feelings, our grief.

January rolled around, and with it a barrage of art. Cards to her brother, cards to us, drawings. It dawned on me some way through the month that even if she didn't remember the dates, she remembered events, and she is feeling the time approach. Then a book came from school, a book she made. The picture on the bottom of the page was pretty unmistakable, although I did ask for clarification just to be sure. It is A's skeleton underground, she said. Got that? Skeleton. Not A, not A's body. His skeleton. I knew then we would have to take her.

A few days later I told her we would go to the cemetery if she wanted. She had a million questions, chief among them who buried A and why didn't she get to go. And then the snowy January interfered, stranding us until it was almost anniversary. So that is when we went. On the anniversary day we stopped by the store to get the kind of flowers she insisted on bringing-- red roses-- and then picked her up from school.

She read the little marker, and there was pure glee when she figured out what A's middle name is. We don't have middle names in the Old Country language, so it was actually a few years before Monkey even knew what hers was. A's hadn't come up, really. There is a kid in her class whose first name is A's middle name. She was genuinely happy about that little discovery. She read more. Died the marker says, and then the date. I don't like that word, said Monkey. I know, little one, it's a very sad word. There is a line for age on the marker too, but it's left empty for babies.

She touched the marker, over and over. We unwrapped the flowers and spread them around. She looked strangely at them. Do you want to take one home? Two. Ok.

Normal. It was all very normal. But it's not exactly easy to watch. JD had the hardest time with it. It's ok, I said. She is entitled to all these emotions, and we need to remember that she shouldn't have to mute them for us. There is no bandaid big enough to put over this booboo. When we drove out of the cemetery, she waved, a lot. She used to waive good bye at things when she was little. She hadn't done that in a long time.

The conversation where I told her about the cemetery started with me telling her a friend of hers in another city had a baby brother. Same conversation where she admitted to being a little mad at A for pulling the cord. Why did he do that? Oh, fun-- I thought we took care of that last year. Repeat the lesson on babies don't know what they are doing yet, twice-- second time with JD, for good measure. Also the conversation where she told me she had thought A would be born on March 9th, or maybe her birthday, and that she thought it would've been cool. Right. Great. She remembers everything. Crap.

After the anniversary things quieted down some. For most of February there wasn't any A-themed artwork. And then there was. Barrage of it. Incredible matching hearts with names written on them, plus some other words and drawings, colors of appliqué hearts and backgrounds flipped for hers and his. A card. "Dear A, I miss you a lot and love you very very very much." Finally a different card "Dear brother, we will see each other in the cemetery." Right, time to go again. "...see each other..." was hard to take, by the way. Directionality. And yes, I eventually caught on to her marking approach of his due date anniversary.

We ended up going again last Sunday, on the anniversary of the due date itself, the day after Monkey's birthday. My parents were in town and wanted to come too. She knew where the grave was, headed straight for it. Wiped the marker with her finger. She needed a lot of hugs. She dug up the little pebbles that snowstorms moved from the marker and carefully placed them back on. She asked whether daddy was crying (yes), and grandma (hard), and mom (a little bit, under the sunglasses). She said she wanted to cry but it wasn't working. We told her it's ok not to cry, you can be very sad without crying. Eventually, though, her tears came too. She needed to hug me, she stuck her hands under my sweater to warm them up. She wanted to kiss my belly. This was something she started doing the week before-- wanting to kiss my belly again. She said she knows her brother isn't there, but when she kisses the belly it's like he still is. When I kiss you, it's like I am kissing him too, she explained. Physicality, something else she is missing.

So the bond. There certainly is one. It makes me so sad to contemplate how one-sided it is. Monkey has a special bond with her brother. Not Monkey and A have a special bond. Mind boggling the depth of loss the distinction reveals. She didn't know the depth of pain she was opening her little heart to that fall day when she asked whether there was someone growing inside. Our grief is the mirror image of our love, I decided some time ago, the pain revealing how much love was, is, there. So the big question then-- all other events immutable, if I could, would I choose differently for her? Would I choose to spare her the pain?

It's not an easy question to answer. In choosing to spare her this pain I would choose for there to be one less person who loves A so deeply and unconditionally. Very few people are supposed to do that. Hell, to even remember him. So for me, selfishly, giving that up, erasing it, that wouldn't be a trivial thing. For her, though? Don't we all want to spare our children this level of pain? Any level of pain, really? Ok, maybe not any-- Monkey knows that I am of firm belief that girls should have plenty of bumps, scrapes, and bruises. Because the ones who don't have them? Chances are they are missing out on fun things. So not any, but this much?

The protector in me would want to spare her. But the budding ethicist isn't so sure. What right would I have? To spare the grief, I would have to take the love, and what would give me the right to take something that deep, that central? How can I even remove her from the reality of grief that our little family has lived with for thirteen and a half months now? Wouldn't that create a big disconnect, big enough to pay for some shrink's boat one day? (Yes, I realize that her mother having this ability might be fodder for couch discussions too.) In essence, does "it's better to have loved and lost..." hold true for five and six year olds?

In the end, I am grateful that I wasn't given this choice, that I don't have the power to make this decision. Instead, I focus on helping her through the tough times. She is not damaged, I am sure of it. She just knows things and is sad sometimes.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Short update

Big post tomorrow. Quick glucose-related update for now. Nurse Kind called Monday late afternoon, and asked me to email her my failed results. Next day Dr.Best called and now we have a plan. I am monitoring for now. Dr.Best is trying to find out when the much anticipated paper is supposed to come out. If it's not for months yet, I am stopping my meds after tomorrow. If it's soon, we wait to read it. And did I mention we monitor in the meantime?

My beta cells, by the way, appear to fashion themselves more upon the stage hands than the writers in that their recent strike did shake me up, much like, if TV news was to be believed, the stage hand strike shook up the Big Apple last fall, but neither lasted. I am back to reactive lows, severe reactive lows to be sure, but no failed readings in the last couple of days. I fully expect this thing to go bust again before this is over, and possibly, if we do end up withdrawing the meds, as soon as this weekend. But for now everyone is back to work and I am going to bed. G'night.

Monday, March 10, 2008

But if they really are after you...

Funny story. At last week's OB appointment I asked Dr.Best to prescribe a glucometer for me. I had been borrowing a friend's, but she needed it back. Sure, he said, no problem, which pharmacy do you use? And then he stopped to ask "But you are not testing like a diabetic would, are you?" I assured him that no, I was not. Just testing when I felt funny, and that I did indeed catch a few rather impressive reactive lows*. I think they are getting worse, I said. I think I am loosing sensitivity in my receptors, I said. (Hm, as I type this, it occurs to me that this sounds like a pretty terrible pick up line. Don't try this at home, ok?) Dr.Best nodded, sagely, in what I interpreted to be agreement with my deductive reasoning, but also a statement of there is nothing we can do but watch, a sentiment with which I heartily agreed.

So where's the funny part, you ask? Here it comes. I failed four tests in five days now. The 1 or 2 hour postprandial (after eating) measurements on both my friend's glucometer, and my own new shiny freshly calibrated one. The first one was the night last week when I felt too puky to eat anything but carbs, so I thought that was it. But I started watching after that, and measuring, and had a few much more worrisome setups since. I am taking insulin-sensitizing drugs already, although my dose is not maxed out. In fact, one area of discussion we left open at the appointment was whether I am staying on the drugs for the duration as per experimental protocol in agreement with a paper that is supposed to come out soon in a very respected journal, or whether I am dropping the drugs as per current widely-accepted protocol. I called today and left the message for Nurse Kind, throwing myself at their mercy. A triage nurse called me back, but I asked for Nurse Kind, so they will try to have that happen today. And we'll see where it goes from there.

This is how this happens, by the way, the transition from insulin resistance to diabetes-- your insulin receptors become more resistant to the actions of insulin, requiring more insulin to accomplish the same work in each cell, making your beta cells work harder to make more insulin, resulting in more insulin in the circulating blood, resulting in more and more profound reactive lows. Until, one day, the beta cells just give up from the overload and make less insulin. And then it's the glucose that stays too long in your blood. A textbook case, really. My nerdy little self has to admit that it's actually kinda cool to watch it happen in real time. It's just what it means for me that isn't so cool.

I am not shocked. I have had documented insulin resistance for a while (and obviously since well before then since I had those pesky PCOS symptoms for years before someone was smart enough to diagnose me definitively), so it was always a toss up as to whether I would get through any given pregnancy without dipping into gestational diabetes. I got away with it twice, and that, I believe, was pretty impressive in its own right. I have been watching my carbs for so long that it's really second nature to me, or maybe even first one by now. So I am not shocked. I am mildly annoyed that it appears to be happening so early on in this pregnancy. I am resigned to whatever I have to do for the duration, though. I am resigned to it happening every time, and early, in any pregnancy subsequent to this one. I am not panicking or freaking out because this is sort of expected and should be manageable.

The scary thing, the unknown, is whether my beta cells are just on strike or whether they have severed their relationship with this particular employer forever. I can handle the strike. I was just hoping not to become a real diabetic, for life, before the age of 35. Little things, you know. But I am not going to think about this for now. Most likely it's just gestational, and I can't know one way or the other until I am done gestating. So I am going to focus on doing what needs to be done now instead. That's my plan and I am sticking to it. La-la-la-la-la-la. Now if only the nurse would call so I would know what it is they want me to be doing...

*going hypoglycemic relatively soon after a meal due to too much insulin ending up in the blood, and so clearing out too much glucose too fast.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Slow, unsteady

Last year I had hoped that by this year this week would be easier. This is the birthday week. Saturday is Monkey's sixth birthday. Sunday is the one year anniversary of A's due date. Oh, and did I tell you before that Monkey was born precisely on her due date? I think I did.

Last year I found a place for Monkey's party before A died, but then I didn't reserve the spot in time. And when I remembered, a week or so later, the good time slot was gone, and the other one had to do. It felt like a small but oh, so painful insult to go with my injury. It felt, at the time, like the biggest freaking deal in the world. After I reserved the space for the bad time slot, I procrastinated on more than a few things for a couple more weeks. Then this fierce need came over me, the need to make it THE!BEST!PARTY!EVER! for my one living kid. She wanted her brother to be born on her birthday, actually. She thought it would be the best thing. I couldn't give her that, not anymore. But in the name of the almighty plastic I could make her party rock. In the end, after a mad dash to find kid art smocks that would cost me no more than one of my appendages ended with a spectacular thud, Cecily told me to just get oversized adult t-shirts at a second hand store, and lo, all was well. With the party, anyway.

My parents came for that weekend, and so did my aunt and uncle, and my grandmother. My uncle helped a lot with the art activity for the kids at the party. My mom and aunt helped with the food preparation, for both the kid party and the thing we had at home afterwards for the family. In retrospect, that weekend was the last time I remember my grandmother really focused, and truthfully only until the moment when I showed her the pictures of A that she asked for almost the moment she arrived. After that it felt like she let go. At the time I though it was only for the rest of the weekend, but it might have been for good.

On Tuesday of that week a year ago we went for my not quiet six week check up, and to talk about the autopsy report that was officially completed about a week before. I got a pap that visit. I got my next one exactly fifty two weeks later, at my 13 week appointment. And even that, the much desired, the most desired change in our circumstances, even that wasn't enough to get me out of the funk that is this week.

I reserved the space early this year. (Two spaces, actually, because she is having another party, later, for the kids in her class and a few other favorite exclusively English-speaking friends. Little Miss Popular knows more kids than could be accommodated by any one place we considered.) But after I reserved the space? If you started spelling p-r-o-c-r-a-s-t-i-n-a-t-i-o-n even before you finished reading that last sentence, well, you win. Not the sharpest tool in the set, this one, so it took me a couple of weeks to figure out this birhtday preparations thing is one giant trigger. Did a few things once I figured it out, but put a lot of them off too. Like buying plates and such. The party is at a Science museum, so we wanted a science or space theme. Found nothing online. Put it off some more. Went to a store yesterday. Bubkas. Went again today. Same result. Hello? Do our kids not want to be astronauts anymore? I am telling you, it was depressing.

Had to buy something. Monkey wondered around for a long time before declaring that what is really striking her fancy this fine evening are pastel unicorns. I gave her a fair warning that the older boys are liable to make fun of her. She considered the possibility for a while but then declared that she would tell them she doesn't care what they think. I suggested telling them that since she put up with their Star Wars plates they would have to deal with the unicorns. That seemed like a good idea to her. But now I am stuck with the unicorns. Pastel unicorns. Well, actually, the unicorns are white, they are just seem to fly exclusively around pastel rainbow colored environs.

My parents are coming tomorrow afternoon. I still have to do laundry, make the whole shopping list, shop, cook, bake, decorate, and clean. Can't forget about the cleaning. Oh, and assemble party favors. That I have to buy first.

Is this what I am doing accidentally on purpose-- backing myself into a corner from which the only way out is a mad mad sprint to the finish? I could be, I may well be. My natural procrastinator tendencies are certainly not helped any by the weird thing this week has morphed into in my mind. Maybe next year it will be better. After all, next year Monkey's birthday will be a Sunday, and the due date anniversary will be a Monday, a whole new week. Right?

We are going to the cemetery on Sunday. Monkey wants to bring A some flowers. That, however, is a story for another day. Monday, I hope.

Monday, March 3, 2008


We had a dinner out for moms in Monkey's class last week. One of the moms, the one right next to who I ended up sitting, is pregnant. 18 weeks or so, I think. Thankfully, only a small part of the dinner conversation was about her pregnancy, but the part that did left me distinctly uncomfortable. She didn't bring it up, I'll give her credit for that. But when asked when she is due she answered "July. With my luck, though, I will be pushed to August." She then went on to say that she had swore that she would never have a baby in late summer, but it really is the ideal timing for the business.

They own a local business, one I patronized before I ever met them. It's really a great business, and something of a lifesaver for me. Another mom chimed in to say something like "I never thought about this, but I guess you do have to plan this with respect to holiday shopping season." And that's exactly it-- the thing I couldn't formulate in my head right on the spot, but the thing that had me studying my silverware rather intently during this conversation. They have a business, and the business has a busy season, and a season for preparing for the busy season. But the funny thing to me is that this is their third kid, and not only does she still think they can schedule this, but they in fact can. Perfectly. Leaving her able to kvetch about how hard it will be for her to be so pregnant in the late summer. Not to mention her concern is not increased likelihood of problems as you go over your due date. Nope-- it's the extra days in the heat.

She is a perfectly nice woman, she is. She just happens to live in this universe I don't ever remember occupying. And when I get glimpses of that universe I can't be sure who is the freak. Are we freaks? We who hold our breaths, individually and collectively, for every pregnant friend, be it online or IRL? Or are they? The unaffected? The ones who have either never been close enough to infertility, to miscarriages, to dead babies, or have been, but are still somehow sure they are not going to be touched by this?

I am not angry, and wasn't then. I am not even jealous, not exactly. But I am sad. I feel something of a loss-- I can't be a part of a conversation like that. I can't offer genuine support on the subject of the inconvenience of a hot pregnant summer, even though I understand intellectually that the choice may feel forced for her. On the flip side, I don't imagine having concerns about a pregnancy of mine that would lend themselves to an easy dinner banter with other moms in the class.

I guess that should answer my freak question. Only it doesn't. I feel that we are the realists, for we know that there is no rhyme or reason, and anyone can be hit, even the happy shiny pregnant women. I also feel, increasingly, that our culture is inappropriately obsessed with pregnant women. The feeling reinforced for me this weekend by the movie Knocked Up, of all things. What can I say? JD wanted to see it, and I heard it was funny, so I agreed.

To give credit where it is due, every time there was something that could've made me uncomfortable, JD asked whether I was ok or should he turn it off. But the plot kept being so over the top weird that nothing actually bothered me. Until the crying baby entered the picture. Living baby being born, suctioned, and crying. That being the end of the movie though, it was ok.

Back to the cultural obsession. The lead female character is an on-camera host at E! and so gets to interview stars. At the time when she is distinctly uncomfortable with the whole pregnancy thing, all the stars want to talk about is her belly, how big she looks, etc. etc. etc. She reacts to it in understandably uncomfortable ways. The movie's point about this, I think, was that her personal issues were preventing her from engaging in this happy talk that she somehow owed these people, that people had a right to expect of her, and, by extension, any pregnant woman. In stark contrast, my take away was that her personal circumstances were preventing her from engaging in this happy talk that has somehow become mandatory but really shouldn't be. People were invading her space on the one subject that, because of things going on in her life at the time, made her feel vulnerable, made her feel like it was the last thing she wanted to discuss. And yet they felt entitled.

I know that some infertiles, after years of being ignored and invisible, relish this part-- the part where strangers talk to them, and smile, and wish them well, the part where they find instant comradeship with other pregnant women and with mothers of small children. I am worried about that part. Dread it, actually.* The girl from the movie and I clearly couldn't be farther from one another in terms of reasons why public displays of interest make us uncomfortable. And she is a movie character, for crying out loud. I am just saying I get it. Which probably seals the freak indictment, firmly.

*This, I realize, can sound like one of those complaints that I should be swatted for. Except that I had this particular dread before I ever got pregnant this time. An overactive imagination, perhaps?