fun with ovarian cysts

So, you caught the ref to my emergency room adventure in the last post, huh? Yeah. As it turns out, ovarian cysts can feel a lot like appendicitis, only – surprise! – they’re just a totally benign set of baubles, hanging out in my ovaries and making me want to die. I bet my face was red! And not just from the morphine!*

It turns out I’ve got hemorrhagic cysts, which typically reabsorb or something, but in my case have merely proliferated and grown fat and lazy. They’re harmless, if by “harmless” you mean “extremely painful but not actually going to kill me.” Ask me how much I like the idea that my body spontaneously creates things which cause me excruciating pain! Because, seriously.

And it wasn’t like I’d planned on spending the first full day of my New York vacation being rushed to the hospital in an ambulance while I sent a pain-muddled text to my poor friend, due to meet me any moment, saying “I’m so sorry I can’t meet you but I’m on my way to the emerg room w/ severe abdom pain” – which, I would like to point out, is NOT THE SAME AS SPENDING THE AFTERNOON AT MOMA, thanks a lot, ovaries.

hospital IV

*Have I mentioned I don’t like morphine at all? I mean, yes, it took away the brunt of the pain, which was definitely of the good, but it gives me the spins something fierce and just makes me want to sleep for about five years, which isn’t exactly helpful when hospital-folk want questions answered in a competent manner. Then again, my gasping in agony wasn’t exactly helpful, either.

above my means

Zen as I might be about socioeconomic status, there’s still a part of me that gets off on being able to Afford Things. Nice things. Things like my prettypretty BlackBerry Pearl or our multitude of Apple products. That part of me really, really wants to join this snooty athletic club that’s $100 a month and totally, completely impractical. But they totally offer childcare, and the idea of paying someone to watch my kid while I take a yoga class? Compelling. (See, because when I leave him with Not So for no reason except that there’s something I ‘want’ to do, I always feel guilty. Yes yes, I know, therapy would help with these things. But – another reason to feel guilty! You see my dilemma.)

big boy bedI’m starting to feel a little bit like our lives are getting managable, which – hey, there’s a reason I take meds, you know? When just getting out of bed in the morning seems huge and untenable, it’s kind of a big deal to think that things might actually be okay, kind of. It was cleaning the house that did it. We’ve got this great apartment that I love unreasonably (well, except for the permeating smell of Rice Junkies that greets me every morning), but it’s jammed so full of stuff that it might as well be a storage unit. But Not So went all MacGyver on the stuff in Ellison’s room this weekend, so not only is all our old crap hidden successfully in the closet, we finally got to assemble the kid’s toddler bed! And, dude, don’t even get me started on how exciting it is to think that someday in the possibly near future I may be able to sleep through the night again. In any position I want. I can barely contain my potential bliss.

Next step is to get our room whipped into shape. This is a bit more complicated than it sounds, since we’re waiting to be able to afford these cheap-but-cute wardrobes from Ikea so that I can stop keeping my clothes in a big ol’ Rubbermaid storage bin and actually explore the idea of drawers.

a rant, just in time for the holidays

You want to know one of my pet peeves? The idea that there is a certain type of person who is poor. Because everyone knows that economic status defines who you are, the things you enjoy, the caliber of your intellect. Right?

Kings CanyonI was trailer trash. Those kids running wild in the mobile home park with their dirty feet and their ratty clothes? I was one of them. We weren’t even financially solvent enough to own our own trailer. We rented, and we rented the cheapest trailers we could find, which were somewhat…less than posh. I rocked the louvered windows with the hand-crank. I was accustomed to the entire house moving when someone walked from one room to another. I was dutifully impressed by the weird indoor-golf green that covered the “porch.” I shared a mattress (box springs were a luxury, but sometimes we’d find them behind someone’s dumpster – lucky day!) with various siblings, often sans sheets because hey, who had money for laundry?

And that’s just the nice parts.

You know what else I was? Smart, artistic, talented. I was in the GATE program. I read constantly. I was accepted into the Johns Hopkins Program for Gifted Students when I was ten, after scoring the prerequisite over-1100 on my SATs. Is that incongruous? Because…I was poor, right? That meant I must have had bad grammar and enjoyed brawling and graffiti. And possibly marrying my cousins.

I don’t get how people can be so casually judgmental about the poor. I was part of a conversation recently in which a woman was talking about how dirty – physically covered in dirt – the kids were at an elementary school out in the sticks, and the other person (I am being intentionally vague) replied “That sort of thing comes from the home. They must have learned it from their parents.”

Okay, what? I’m sorry, do you honestly believe that the parents of impoverished children actually teach their offspring to be dirty? Or are you suggesting that the parents are just too lazy to teach their children to wash?

Because, when I was a poor kid (and I am aware that my situation was much, much better than some) there were times – months, sometimes – when we couldn’t afford propane, and that meant no stove (we cooked everything with an electric frying pan), no heat, no hot water. Bathing in cold water? Not a hell of a lot of fun, especially in winter. Did I wear my hair in a ponytail for the better part of seventh grade so that no one could tell I hadn’t washed it? Yes, yes I did. Did it work? Uh…

When our clothes were dirty, it wasn’t because we were ignorant of the inner workings of the laundromat or too busy watching daytime TV to wash them. It was because we could either have clean clothes or eat that week, and I’ve got to tell you, eating won out pretty much every time.

Don’t get me wrong. There were plenty of stupid, ignorant, horrible people who perpetuated the poor-people stereotype. But you know what? There are plenty of stupid, ignorant, horrible people who make a decent living. Money (or lack of it) doesn’t dictate how intelligent or free from prejudice you are.

And yeah, we were on welfare. You know what welfare gets you? Not a hell of a lot. As a family of four (three kids plus a father) we got around $200 in food stamps a month, plus a few hundred dollars for rent and utilities. The food stamps? Always gone in the first two weeks. Always. The money? Gone even faster.

Kids are expensive. Food is expensive. Gas is expensive. It didn’t matter how we economized or what we spent the money on – sometimes you’ve got to feed your kids meat so that they get enough protein, and if there’s a baby in the family, you needed diapers. Or shoes. Or coats. We bought our clothes at thrift stores and counted our pennies at the store, but – look. Take my word for it. It wasn’t enough.

We always had to supplement our income by setting up a stand at the flea market and selling cameras my father had refurbished, which meant we were always looking over our shoulders because the welfare department? Does not allow supplemental income. And then sometimes the cameras wouldn’t sell, and we’d be out of food or unable to pay our rent, and my dad would have us call his mother (who he refused to speak to) and beg for money, and…it sucked. And we still ended up without propane, or eating nothing but bread for a few days, or having to pack our stuff in the middle of the night and move.

It sucked, but it’s not like we were doing it on purpose. It’s not like we had a choice. We weren’t stupid, and we weren’t lazy, and we weren’t bad people. We were just poor. I’m not a better person now because I can afford to pay my rent and wear nice clothes. I’m just luckier.

 

unexpected goodness

Frog’s legs are, actually, very good. They do taste quite a bit like chicken, which is reassuring when confronted with a food that used to be covered in a slick reptile skin. I was afraid that they would come like that, covered in frog skin, and I was certain I would not be able to consume anything covered in frog skin. They were deep-fried, though, battered, and only resembled the extended, leaping legs of a frog in shape.

My week was a lot like that: unexpected goodness in unexpected places. I was surprised on Thursday by an e-mail from the Portland Picks folks, saying they love my Cranky Pals and are featuring them in (last) Friday’s newsletter. Squee! The Crankies, they are all about the love. (I accidentally typed “lobe” there, the Crankies, all about the lobe, and then spent a period of time contemplating what sort of lobe the Crankies might be all about and where in the brain it was located. Although perhaps the ear. It is hard to say.)

The kid = still weaned, which is good since my supply is finally (finally!) dwindling. Apparently I am a milking machine. Several third-world countries could be sustained on my milk supply. Unsurprisingly, now that the milk is finally going the way of the dodo, I find myself suddenly deflated. This means none of my bras are even remotely functional. You’d think I’d just start wearing one of my less immense bras, considering that I had a stash of them from my less endowed days. You’d think that, but that would presuppose that I knew where any of them were, and could locate them as needed. I suspect that they are in a box somewhere, like pretty much everything else we own. Being prepared is not one of my strong suits.

Not nursing is pretty great, though. I heartily recommend it.

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belly babble

I was all set to write a nice, pleasing post about our new place (short version: I LOVE IT OMG) but was derailed, as always, by my reflection. My belly, specifically. Belly: what did I ever do to you? I feed you. I bathe you. I sneak you treats every once in a while. So why all the hate? Why do you protrude, gelatinously, from my midsection, rather than laying flat like you used to? Remember how fond we were of each other when you were small? What happened to that, huh?

I know what happened. First, I stopped being 19. Funny thing: just because you had the metabolism of a hyperactive finch in high school does not mean that you can go through your life eating brownies and not exercising, no matter how many times you had to argue with people about whether or not you were anorexic. (Which, so not. I ate then exactly the same way I eat now, only in high school? I weighed 107 pounds. I could almost fit two of me in my skin right now. So. Creepy.)  And then, secondly, I gave birth to my lovely son. And ate brownies. And did not exercise. Except that I did! I do, I mean. Exercise. I run after a toddler all day, and I lift things, and I walk everywhere. (Ponderously, sure. But it counts.)

The hot weather is bringing my reflection-hatred to a head (as it were), since I find myself leaving the house in things like skirts and tank tops. Don’t get me started on the tank tops, either – I used to be able to wear one without looking like a low-rent porn star, and now? Let’s just agree never to speak of it. (Except I totally will.)

On the other hand, we have a full-length mirror in our home for the first time in two years, and that’s pretty keen. Assuming what’s being reflected isn’t me.

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only only

You’d think that after a beastly pregnancy, a crushing case of PPD and a schedule so full I always burst out laughing when I try to describe it, I’d have given up on the idea of gestating again. I mean, we won the Baby Lottery with Happy Fun Baby – I found out I was pregnant right about the time we got the results of Not So’s sperm tests, which said, basically, that there was a chance in hell that we could conceive without medical intervention, but only just. And let’s take a moment and think about my schedule, which currently involves two businesses, school, full-time mothering and a vast and endless supply of dirty dishes, all of which I am staying on top of by sheer force of I don’t know what. Not So and I sat down the other day and discussed the pros and cons of having another kid, and what it came down to is that we wouldn’t be able to maintain the same quality of life if we were to add to our family. Right now, we have the best of both worlds: an amazing kid who we adore, and career opportunities we used to only dream of. It’s a delicate balance, and another baby would send it toppling.

Does that stop me from wanting one so badly I could cry? It does not.

I always wanted a big family, and though the definition of big has changed since I was younger (I no longer want enough children to start my own circus troupe, although if Happy Fun Baby decides to be a contortionist I am so all over that) my idea of family still involves children, plural. More than one, fewer than three. Kids. Of course, I also thought I’d be a schoolteacher and have really great hair, so we’ve obviously got a bit of a reality disconnect here. Still. I find myself oddly reticent to get rid of Happy Fun Baby’s more memorable bits of baby gear, and every time I see a newborn I feel my ovaries twanging in a decidedly un-pc way.

Having an only child has its benefits, though. Besides the obvious perk of not having to go through the whole pregnancy thing again, our little family is uniquely suited to the type of lifestyle we lead. We love our little two-bedroom condo; a bigger family would need a bigger house, and more stuff to put in it. We don’t own a car and don’t want to. How would I wrangle a baby and a toddler on public transportation? People do it, but it looks very hard and I do not like things that are hard. We like the fact that we can strap the baby into the Ergo and go out into the world with only minimal additional baby-related gear. I’m terrible about keeping a schedule, and Happy Fun Baby is accommodating enough to let me wing it most days. I can’t imagine how I’d get a day’s work in with an infant and a toddler. And I like being able to be completely there for my kid. I don’t necessarily want to divide my attention, even if Happy Fun Baby would be getting a different sort of family experience from his theoretical sibling.

Only children have gotten a bad rap; most people think of them as spoiled, difficult, selfish. I’ve known only children who fit that mold, but I’ve known people with siblings who fit it, too. One of the moms on a bulletin board hit it on the head when she said “No kid of mine will be spoiled–just because we CAN give her something doesn’t mean we always will.” Happy Fun Baby won’t be an only child so that we can lavish him with stuff. He’ll be an only child because we made a choice about our quality of life. He’ll have parents who love him, and aunts and uncles who love him, and cousins, and friends. He doesn’t need a sibling to be a whole person.

Now, if I can just sell that pitch to my ovaries…

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reflections on reflections

cat and babyI’m almost 14 months post-partum, and I finally feel like I belong in my skin.

I was taking a bath the other night and noticed the way my belly fat jiggled. That wasn’t unusual, because, dude – the belly, it jiggles, much like a bowl full of jelly, were you to fill a bowl with jelly and then try and fit it into a pair of jeans. But instead of instantly flashing back to my pregnancy or thinking that’s what happens when you give birth, I just thought that’s my belly.

Yeah, some epiphany, right? But it really was, and here’s why: my body is mine again. It might be flabby and lumpy and unattractively coiffed, but sometime in the last couple of weeks I stopped feeling like a vehicle for the continued sustenance of my kid and started feeling like a person who is also a mom. I mean, yes, I’m still nursing, so it’s not like I can exist separately from the kid for more than a couple of hours at a time, but now that he’s snarfing down every solid he can find the nursing seems a bit more secondary…and the mom thing, oddly, seems more deliberate. My body isn’t what makes me a mom; being a mom is.

I still don’t fit into most of my pre-preg clothes, but at least now I feel like doing something to get into shape is less like auto maintenance and more like – well, exercising. That’s something, right? Especially since I don’t even own a car.

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and how was your morning?

This has been an exciting morning, if by “exciting” you mean “awful.” Following on the heels of yesterday’s bank debacle (I’d suggest you see yesterday’s entry, but – ha! – I didn’t post one. The gist is that I am such a poor credit risk that I cannot possibly have anyone else on my account because we will surely TAKE OVER THE WORLD VIA OVERDRAFT, or something) I woke up with a horrible headache and half an hour until the landlord walkthrough. I fed the kid, got sort of dressed (sweats are totally clothes, yo), tossed another load of laundry in, gathered up all the rest of the dirty clothes and hid put them in an unobtrusive pile, moved all the unfolded clean laundry into the closet, closed up all the closets, picked up all the detritus that inexplicably ends up everywhere we are, and went downstairs with roughly 30 seconds until 10 (which was the early end of When The Landlord Might Arrive) followed by two cats who should know better. To find that the kitchen was a mess, the living room weirdly full of boxes which had been almost entirely unpacked but then stacked, carefully, as though the three screws and a single figurine needed a huge box to keep them safe from their enemies, and random toys and things on the floor.

Now, you’re probably asking yourself two things: 1) why did I not deal with this last night? and 2) why am I noticing all the things that aren’t done instead of all the things that are? The answer is simple: I suck. Or, wait, maybe it has something to do with the fact that Ellison had his six month shots yesterday and spent last night wailing and clinging and generally refusing to let me do anything that did not involve snuggling him and nursing, a lot. And since I had such a good time with the bank letting me know I’m a bad credit risk, I wanted to avoid a similar situation with the landlord (i.e. him coming in and seeing how horribly disorganized our house is and reneging on our lease, or something). So I’m looking at the house and seeing it through the eyes of someone who dislikes people like me (and possibly also has a splitting headache and needs a cup of coffee), but for the record: Not So, thank you for dealing with the unpacking last night. The hallway looks great, and that was the really important thing. Anyway.

So I’m freaking out, doing the pursed-lip cleaning thing I do when I’m anxious, the cats are yowling and underfoot, the baby is wailing because clearly the Pack ‘N Play is some form of baby torture. So naturally I start yelling, because that will make everything better. Funny thing: shouting at cats? Does not help. Especially when all they want is more food. I did get the momentary mean-spirited satisfaction of them running out of the room (“We’d better go! Mom’s crazy!”), followed by the inevitable guilt of someone who has just bullied her pets. I? I am not a nice person.

Anyway I fed the cats, made some coffee, and emptied out the dishwasher (all to a chorus of wailing baby, yay), to find the third surprise of the morning:

That’s our brand new Snapware, which I tossed in the dishwasher to get rid of the plasticky smell. Turns out that wee little note on the box that says Do Not Put In Dishwasher is actually true. Good to know! Also: FUCK!

The best part of all of this? The landlord didn’t even come in. He and the builder just asked if we had any problems, and when I said we didn’t, they left. Ha!

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seizure? I barely even know her!

benadryl

I finally broke down yesterday and decided to start with the Benadryl. Anecdotal evidence from other breastfeeding mothers outnumbered alarmist internet information like this:

Diphenhydramine is secreted in breast milk. Because of the risk of stimulation and seizures in infants — especially newborns and prematures — antihistamines should not be used by nursing mothers.

Seizures – seriously? Yet here I am, taking Benadryl anyway. I am the world’s worst mother. I did bottle feed him all last night, and is there anything sadder than standing over the bathroom sink at 4am, wobbling from sleepiness while pumping drugged milk into a bottle to be poured down the drain? I decided hesitantly to breastfeed today…and Cranky Baby doesn’t seem to be affected at all. Unlike me, of course. I’m a walking zombie today. Benadryl is like a fluffy pillow wrapped around my head. A nice, warm, fluffy pillow. Wouldn’t it be nice to lie on a fluffy pillow right now? Yes, yes it would.

The itching is slightly better but more importantly the hives finally seem to be healing. They’ve gone from huge, spreading welts back down to small, dark pink dots. There are still some areas that are all one big itching welt of doom, but my arms look like arms again. I am very much looking forward to the time when I don’t want to scrape my skin off with a bit of steel wool, but I’ll take what I can get for now.

Cranky Baby is all snuggled on his Boppy right now. I haven’t been playing with him as much as I should – the pillow around my head makes it hard to be really interactive – but he seems pretty happy. Maybe he will want to take a nap with mama. What do you say, kid?