Monday, December 28, 2009

Morphine And Julie Andrews

I was feeling pretty good about this whole pregnancy thing, really. I had passed my glucose test, my anemia was improving and the little guy is so active that I finally decided to send the doppler back. Sure, it's hard to get comfortable sometimes when I'm trying to sleep, and I have been getting a lot of heartburn lately, but all in all things have been going well.

But yesterday I was pretty sure that I was going to have an emergency C section and then possibly die. I had the worst pain I have ever felt in my life, including having given birth without pain medication. And being run into by a school bus and having a pinched piece of nerve stuck between two of my lower vertebrae. This was worse, to the extent that I wondered why the pain scale that doctors use only goes up to 10.

The pain started suddenly, radiating down from my lower ribs. It was so intense that I had to double over on the couch and cry into my pajamas. It didn't feel like contractions - those are somehow familiar pains, a stronger version of monthly cramps that comes in waves. This was a constant, unwavering torture. I went to L&D only because the pain was covering the whole area of the uterus and I wanted to make sure the little guy was okay. I could feel him kicking and wiggling around, but other than that I needed definitive information.

They ran lots of blood and urine tests and the covering doctor (a Sunday, and a holiday weekend of course) ordered a CT. But having read so many articles recently about CT machines being calibrated at up to 1,000 times more radiation that recommended, I wondered about the risks of exposing the baby to what can possible trigger serious cellular problems later. By that time, I was on morphine and felt like my brain was made out of something light and fluffy, like cotton candy. Nice, but useless. Luckily my husband talked with the radiologist who said CT is only used in pregnancy for dire life threatening conditions and converted my orders to US and an MRI.

Which showed nothing. Nothing! By this time a gaggle of doctors were mulling over my reports, telling me they were stumped. Appendicitis would likely show elevated white cells, pancreatitis would show elevated enzymes, kidney stones would show red cells in the urine... but all of my tests came back normal. So, they dosed me up on morphine and I watched The Sound of Music on the giant flat screen TV in my L&D room. I kept dozing off and having dreams about singing nuns and outfits made from curtains, but at least I was beginning to think I might not die.

Here's a little something I learned about MRIs, by the way. I had one once before to diagnose the nerve damage in my back, and the experience was horrendous. I swore I would never again let myself be slid into that glowing tube and assaulted with those space-alien heavy metal sounds that seem to go on forever and fill your whole body with concentrated distress. However, the morphine kind of took the edge off. It still sucked, especially since they had to do a lot of the scans two or three times because the baby was seriously freaking out during the noise, but it was somehow less drastic.

At a certain point, though, I realized that what with waiting for the MR tech, waiting for the radiologist and waiting for the transport guys to wheel me back to L&D, a lot of time had gone by. Even just realizing that made me think that my brain might be functioning properly again, and I asked how long it took for the morphine to wear off. The nurse checked her paperwork and said it was probably time for another dose, But the thing is, the pain was gone. The most horrendous pain I had ever felt in my life seemed to have gone as mysteriously as it had come. We waited another half hour to see if the drug would clear and the pain would come back, but nothing happened.

The doctors were stumped again, gathering around and asking a million questions. Mostly ridiculous questions like "Has this ever happened to you before?" Um, no - pretty sure I would have mentioned that when I got there. They kept me overnight for observation. I was attached to the contraction monitor, which showed very minor uterine irritation that is considered normal at this point. The fetal heartbeat monitor was driving the nurses crazy, since most bigger babies can't move around as much as my little guy did - he was constantly scooting out of range so the alarm kept going off at the nurses station. But he was fine, very active and the US hadn't shown anything unusual.

Weird, eh? In the morning my OB came to check on me. She just confirmed that everything looked normal and wants me to see her weekly from now on. It was the shift change for the nurses, so I was checked out by my third nurse, who hadn't been there when I was writhing in agony. While she was going over my chart she suddenly stopped and asked me if the pain had started right after breakfast. When I told her yes, she asked what I had eaten. Whole wheat waffle, half a pear and a veggie soy-sausage patty.

She said that when she was pregnant the same kind of thing had happened to her. It turned out to be an inflamed gallbladder - not necessarily stones that would show up on an US, but a condition brought on by the hormones of pregnancy combined with a gallbladder, pancreas and small intestines that are squished up by the expanding uterus. The pain works itself out as the bile levels slowly seep into some kind of equilibrium. She had several bouts before a gastroenterologist diagnosed the problem and put her on a very low fat diet and extra calcium. She recommended some diet options and a stool softener (keeping the intestines from being irritated really helps, apparently) and gave me her direct number at the hospital in case it happens again.

Of course, I don't know for sure that that's my problem, but it seems like such random luck that she showed up for the last fifteen minutes of my stay and was the only person with some kind of information that clicked with what I had gone through. I will absolutely put myself on the low fat diet. All fat will be brain-development friendly rather than just basically whatever seems yummy at the time. Believe me, I will do whatever it takes to avoid that pain again, even though the weird yodeling goatherd daydreams were almost worth it, really.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Boxing Day (Literally)

To celebrate Boxing Day, we are packing boxes. Lots and lots of boxes of what turns out to be the crap of life, basically. Even though at least half of our things are going directly to charity, we have SO MUCH stuff that for one reason or another can't be ditched.

The blanket my mother in law knit, for example. It's an open lacy pattern so it's not exactly cozy for snuggling and watching TV on the couch. Plus, it has to be dry-cleaned. But we can't get rid of it because of sentimental value, so we'll just keep it in it's vacuum-sealed bag and it will move to our new house and languish on a top shelf in the garage storage cabinet.

Also, my daughter's Madeline doll house. It's big, it has a lot of accessories, it was the perfect little-kid dollhouse because the pieces aren't breakable but they are so much nicer than most plastic doll house things. And I am FINE with the idea of a boy playing with a dollhouse, but my husband said it's too big to keep around on the off chance that he'll be really into Madeline. (Which is code for "I hope my son doesn't really want a dollhouse in his room.")

My jam-making supplies. Which I rarely use, but maybe I'll get a second wind of old-fashioned housewifery after my son is born? Maybe...

And I know I've mentioned the nine giant boxes of bubble-wrapped, peanut-protected Limoges china, with delicate violet-flowered borders and gilt edges, complete with tiny consomme bowls and individual butter-holders. This belonged to my husband's great aunt, and apparently none of her direct descendants wanted anything to do with it, so we have it. Still packed up after seven years. If you know me at all you know that this is the antithesis of anything I would ever use. For one thing, I don't use dishes that can't go in the dishwasher, which is why I spring for the All-Clad pots and pans. I refuse to wash fussy dainty china in the sink. I'll do knives and cast iron, but that's it. I can understand being sentimental about your mother's hand-knit lap-blanket, but this china thing is ridiculous.

As for the 900 years of New Yorker magazines, I got the CD version of all the back issues. On the off chance there really IS a dire need to go back and read that tidbit about guerilla theater, it might actually be possible to find it by doing a search. Instead of vaguely remembering that the cover was a parody of something that may have been related to education, and that it was predominantly green, and was possibly from the mid-1990s...

Anyway, my big holiday plans include more boxes, several trips to the Goodwill and lots of recycling. Festive, right?

Hope you are all enjoying the time off and some holiday cheer of your own!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Shopped, Dropped

Just for the record, a lingering hacking cough is bad enough normally, but with all your internal organs smushed up into your rib cage? Not good. And I say this as someone who actually once broke two ribs from hacking my way through whooping cough. That was bad, but this is worse. It's not even that I've been terribly ill - no fever, nothing too painful - but I'm full of some kind of mediocre virus that won't go away.

Still, staying home in fuzzy pajamas has given me hours to do all of my holiday shopping on the internet. I'm sure I'll still have a few odds and ends left to scrounge at the last minute, but I really did almost all of it from the keyboard. But it still took hours, and I was still exhausted when I was done.

I'll admit that I was also shopping for me - not just self-indulgently, but for the practical needs of a woman who has for the most part not thought about what she might need when she gives birth to an actual baby in a few months. You know, not-counting-chickens-before-they're- full-term, etc. - which is fine, and basically necessary for self-preservation. But at some point an actual baby might show up and then it could possibly be a good idea to have a diaper or two lying around.

I didn't really buy much, but I have a lot of bookmarked sites and a folder full of information. I can't believe how much has changed since my daughter was born. I feel like some relic from the distant past, way back before babies were their own niche market and everything they need is handmade in the Sweden.

ETA: I never even managed to publish this post back when I wrote it - my cough just got worse and worse and I thought I might actually have pneumonia, but it turns out that my airways are just compromised by being so squished up into my chest. Then the coughing makes it worse and now I am stuck in some vicious cycle of lousy breathing problems. No pneumonia, just steroids and inhalers and warm mist humidifiers. I'm basically fine, the little guy is fine, but my ribs and stretched-thin stomach muscles ache like they've been through boot-camp. Blah!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Non-News News

Not much to report here. I've shifted from doing everything I can to get pregnant to doing everything I can to stay pregnant, but staying pregnant is just not very dramatic for me. I take my blood thinners and my extra folic acid and lots of vitamins and go to acupuncture. Nothing too fascinating, no midnight trips to the ER or lengthy bedrests here. Which is all good because boring is what I want now, but it gives me very little to write about.

Unless, of course, I write about peripheral things, like the fact that we are moving. Yes, we are up and leaving our sweet little two-bedroom/one-office bungalow and heading nine blocks over to a groovy new place with actual closets and - my lifelong dream - a laundry room. Interest rates just made it all too good to pass up.

It is bigger than our current house, although not by much. But it's more about the storage and the closets than the number of rooms or how big they are. We'll have one more room and one more bathroom than we have now, but the layout is so much better that it feels like twice the space. The lot size is exactly the same, but the setbacks in the new neighborhood mean the front yards are shallower so there is more usable backyard. Plus, the fact that everything is scaled to modern humans helps - our current house is neither pre-war nor past-war, but war-contemporary, built in 1941. The kitchen cabinets hold about 8 teacups and a saucepan, and our closets are like coffins turned on end.

If it weren't for the little studio building we have in the back we'd have been doomed a long time ago. That room is floor to ceiling storage on three sides, with two big walk-in closets. We keep most everything out there and just bring what we need into the house depending on the season or the occasion. We're like our NY friends with tiny apartments who keep most of their stuff in storage units (although it is more convenient to have the storage on the property.)

I love our little house. It's a California classic bungalow, very lovingly maintained and cute as a button. But it's also an artifact of our fertility struggles. We've been looking at open houses for years, but somehow we felt that we couldn't justify moving since we didn't "need" more room. We only had one kid, after all. We also try to live fairly sustainably, keep our carbon footprints low and all that - it felt philosophically weird to buy a bigger house if we didn't even have a bigger family. And some of that is fine, because it makes sense to really think about what you need and to make decisions that value our resources, etc. etc.

But infertility becomes such an emotional component of those decisions. We didn't want to jinx ourselves by moving, we didn't want to buy in the crazy market and be stuck with a big house and no money for IVF, we didn't want to wonder what the "spare" room was going to be some day. All of our thoughts about moving started to hinge on whether or not we would ever have another baby. We did some more remodeling and told ourselves we would make it work, but we were never really happy with the idea.

I wonder if it's like that for most people who struggle with infertility for a long time. If whatever big decisions are looming - taking a new job, getting a new car, going back to school - revolve around the theoretical idea that maybe, next month, everything will change?