I never imagined that selling my sperm would be on the list.
This morning I received an e-mail from WordPress, directing me to my year in review. I read, with some interest, the statistics summarizing the number of visitors to my blog, most popular posts, most common search terms (“lesbian pregnancy” was the winner, in case you’re curious). Really though, this summary of posts written and read isn’t my year captured- my year is captured more by the stories the posts tell and, of course, by the small person currently lying stretched across my lap.
My year, in review:
January brought the disappointment of a third failed IUI and the last attempt with our first donor. February was the month that worked, March was the month where we learned that it had. In the middle months of the year, my belly slowly grew as did the number of people anticipating Bingo’s arrival. As I sweated through the late summer, we went Facebook public. We learned Bingo’s sex: a badly kept secret until she was born. In the fall we worried about about our maybe-breech baby. In October we anticipated her early arrival (ha!) then I lay inverted on an ironing board and she flipped. In November I left work and waited. On November 22nd Bingo was born- though I did not give birth. She came into the world almost two weeks late, after almost two days of induction and labor (story still owed). The rest of November was spent in flux, split between the physical and emotional exhaustion of post-birth/early parenthood and the wonder of learning and falling in love with our daughter. December has brought increasing stability, as Sea and I have learned a little more about who Bingo is and who we are as parents. It has been a month filled with amazement, frustration, spit up, dirty diapers, uncertainty, sleep deprivation and love.
2013 has been a terribly hard year for many of the people I care about the most. For me it has just been a year of much change and growth- both literal and figurative. There have been many moments- over the past five and a half weeks in particular- that have left me feeling raw. This is no bad thing: it comes with the potential for more change and growth. I have no resolutions for 2014, but I am full of hope and anticipation. Part of that hope is for those people I care about- including all of you. I hope that 2014 brings only good things, and finds you and your family exactly where you need to be.
Over the past several weeks, I’ve slowly stripped my office of all things personal. I’ve pulled down notes and cards from my bulletin board, I’ve deleted years of e-mails, I’ve recycled an impossible amount of paper. Today I shoved the last of my stuff into three bags, shut down my computer, said goodbye to the people I share an office with, and stepped out into the cold. Aside from the three extra bags, it felt a lot like leaving on any other Friday. The big difference, of course, is that I wasn’t just leaving for the weekend: I was leaving for 6-12 months* of parental leave.
My parental leave is partially funded. While Sea and I will be taking a (significant) financial hit, this partial funding means that I’m able to have more than the weeks or scant months away from work that so many of you have described. I feel lucky to have this time, and even more lucky that Sea will be able to take a full two months away from her job. I’m looking forward to spending time together in our little family, really getting to know Bingo.
At the same time, I’ve worked in the same organization for a very long time. My work is meaningful (to me), engaging, and something I’m truly passionate about. Stepping away from it, even temporarily, involves stepping away from something that has defined a great deal of my adult life. Today I joked with my manager that I couldn’t handle being “cut off”, and that I would probably still be checking and responding to work e-mails when I went into labor. Except I wasn’t really joking: I don’t know how to let go. Confession: I’ve even had moments of resentment and jealousy as I’ve trained my (truly lovely) replacement.
I’m sure that I will let go of my work, likely stop thinking about it entirely, when Bingo is here. I’ll forget how to log in to my work e-mail, I won’t wonder how things are going in my absence. Right now, pre-Bingo, that’s hard to imagine—but I’m sure it will happen. And I’m absolutely sure that this new job will be even more meaningful and engaging under this new pint-sized boss.
(Side note: As I was readying myself to leave, a co-worker asked me if I was looking forward to my “break”. Though I only have a theoretical understanding of what parenting a newborn will like, I still felt like hitting her for treating parental leave like an extended vacation!)
*I don’t know exactly how long my leave will actually be. Sea might end up taking part of the available time. We’ll see!
NaBloPoMo, Day 2
Today was a perfectly ordinary, if busy, Saturday in almost every way.
Sea and I slept in until the luxurious hour of 9am. We went to the mall in search of a Christmas outfit for Bingo, our first dedicated shopping trip for new baby clothes. (Between hand-me-downs and the secondhand store around the corner, we haven’t needed much.). We helped a friend move into a new apartment, though I was banned from heavy lifting. I made four dozen cupcakes for an event. I put on a bow tie. I’m currently writing this post on my phone as I travel across the city to another friend’s birthday party.
A perfectly ordinary Saturday that, in many ways, feels anything but. Having believed until less than two weeks ago that Bingo would be making a forced early entrance into the world, and having been told a week and a half ago by Dr. Selleck that an ECV with an accompanying induction or c-section was in the cards for this past week, today feels unexpected. This ordinary Saturday feels like borrowed time: appreciated moments as an individual and as a family of two before ordinary permanently shifts.
(Disclaimer: I know how lucky we are to be having Bingo. Though I appreciate today, I’m obviously also excited and grateful for this upcoming shift in ordinary!)
Note: This doubles as my first NaBloPoMo post.
As a fat and nonathletic kid, I hated gym class. The only year I did well in the despised course was in tenth grade, when our grades were based only on effort, participation and written tests. Even then, I likely only did well because some misguided teacher mistook my red, sweating face as indicative of effort.
My overarching dislike of any physical activity has extended well beyond high school or gym class. At 30, I’m still physically awkward: running for the bus seems like a Herculean feat, I cower when Sea throws me my keys, I worry about what will happen if Bingo is an athletic child who demands involved parents. While all of these things are pretty consistent with my gym class hating childhood self, both my physical strength and how I view it have changed significantly since then.
A large part of that change began in 2001, when I met Herbert. Herbert was bulky, inelegant, purple and shiny. Herbert was my bike and yes, Herbert did have a name. I bought Herbert for $50 from a dubious store downtown. He had definitely been ridden and most likely stolen before he came into my possession, but I didn’t care. It was love at first ride. Herbert became my primary mode of transportation. I was living on campus at the time and would wake up ten minutes before my class began, throw on clothes, and bike to class with time to spare. When I moved off campus, Herbert came with me and carried me on the longer journey from my dingy apartment (complete with mice and cockroaches!) to class, as well as on the even longer weekend journeys to the queer bars downtown. I vividly remember biking home in the wee hours of the morning, often slightly drunk, feeling so connected to the city.
Five years later a move had taken me further away from downtown and a new job had supplemented my income. I bought a newer, shinier bike and lent Herbert to my roommate. The roommate promptly left Herbert unlocked outside while he ran into the grocery store, and Herbert was stolen. Though I still feel a twinge of jealousy or nostalgia when I see a pale purple bike, the loss of Herbert didn’t diminish the love for biking that had somehow emerged. I was hooked.
I’ve been through two (unnamed) bikes since then. Another move planted me firmly in the suburbs and increased my commute, but didn’t decrease my enthusiasm for biking. Five days a week I would hop on my bike and travel the ten mile round trip to and from work.
When Bingo was conceived, I immediately Googled “bike riding while pregnant” and found a reassuring article about how it was both safe and common practice in Finland. Along with assurances from Dr. Text and later Diet Coke that biking while pregnant is safe, this was enough to keep me in the saddle. I’ve continued my 50 mile a week bike riding habit while gestating Bingo and, whether accurately or not, have attributed a lot of my easy pregnancy to this fact. Good blood pressure? Biking! Passed glucose test? Biking! “Excellent core strength” (according to Diet Coke)? Biking! Biking has made me feel strong. Beyond this, I enjoy biking. I like spending the time outdoors, breathing deeply, stretching my legs, just thinking. Despite the city traffic, I’m at my most relaxed when I’m on my bike.
At 36 weeks when Bingo was firmly breech, Diet Coke told me to stop biking. At 37 weeks when Bingo had flipped, Dr. Selleck told me the same. The advice of two medical professionals, accompanied by Sea’s stern gaze, was enough to finally stop me. Since then, I’ve reluctantly stored my bike in the garage and stepped into the world of public transit. I hate it, with its uncertain timetables, crowded platforms, and 1000 comfortably seated people willing to look anywhere except at the standing pregnant person swaying in their midst.
Three weeks isn’t a long time, I know. Though I’m glad to have spent 37 weeks biking with Bingo, I also worried about errant car doors and careless drivers. So it’s only with the slightest bit of resentment that I’ve hung up my helmet for the first time in over a decade. I know it will be there for me when I’m ready to come back.
Here’s my confession though: earlier this week I had errands to run. It was a beautiful day and the fall leaves made the morning light golden. So I unlocked the garage, pulled on my helmet and rode. I inhaled the smell of the crunching leaves, felt the damp air on my skin, listened to my own breath, and appreciated those final stolen moments where it was just Bingo, the bike and me.
No, we don’t have a baby yet.
My lack of update following our impromptu appointment with the OB/GYN on Tuesday is purely a result of my computer having experienced an utter collapse a week ago. Though the computer has not yet been repaired, I’ve come to the decision that blogging from work is an excellent use of my lunch hour. (Food is optional at 37ish weeks pregnant, right?)
Let’s begin with a bit of history.
As you might remember, six weeks ago the hands of Diet Coke and the student midwife identified the possibility that Bingo was breech. At 30 weeks, this wasn’t a very big deal– there was still plenty of time for backflips and handstands.
Two weeks later, as the student midwife looked on, Herbal Tea reassured me that Bingo was now head down.
Somewhere around 34 weeks, I went for the then bi-weekly visit to the clinic and met my tertiary midwife. Based on the scheduling system of the midwifery clinic, it was very unlikely that this midwife would actually have anything to do with the labor or birth of Bingo. But I met her anyways, just in case. The tertiary midwife (let’s call her Skim Milk) was friendly, queer, and a good middle ground between Diet Coke’s fast pace and Herbal Tea’s uncanny calm. As I lay down for the exam, we talked about sperm donors and gay kids’ books. As the ever diligent student midwife looked on, Skim Milk felt my stomach. “Hmm”, she said. She felt some more. “Your baby has a bony head and a bony bum. I can’t entirely tell which is which.” Oh. Skim Milk explained that she was fairly sure that Bingo wasn’t breech, but that she didn’t want to have missed anything and I should come back a week later to see Diet Coke just in case.
So last Tuesday I did go back to see Diet Coke, just in case. She felt my stomach carefully, hands cupped around the bump just below my ribcage. Like Skim Milk, she commented on the difficult task of discerning Bingo’s head from Bingo’s bum, as I made a mental note to mock Bingo for this prenatal quirk frequently (“Bumhead!”). Then Diet Coke sighed, her tone gentler and slower, “So, I’m about 80% sure that the baby is breech.” She examined my face for any reaction. “Maybe 70%. I want to refer you for an ultrasound to make sure, one way or the other.”
The thing is, despite a healthy dose of sarcasm, I’m an optimist at heart. So even while two out of three midwives agreed that Bingo was probably breech, I had decided that Herbal Tea was the voice of reason. There was no way that Bingo was breech! I half-listened as Diet Coke talked about the decreasing possibility of Bingo flipping, and cheerfully called Sea as I left the appointment to tell her that we were going to get a bonus ultrasound! Covered by insurance! Score!
24 hours later I was lying on a crinkling sheet of paper at the clinic where I had, over a year ago, had my very first ultrasound ever. Sea had been relegated to the waiting room again, and I was sulking a little. But the ultrasound technician had promised to let her in after the initial scan was done so that we could both see Bingo in action. I tried to be patient as the ultrasound technician worked silently, screen tipped away from me. Finally I asked, “So, which way is the baby facing?” And, despite the large sign on the wall announcing that ultrasound technicians could not discuss the results of the scan, she announced matter-of-factly that Bingo was breech. Definitely breech. I had been so certain that Bingo wasn’t breech (Herbal Tea had said) that it took me a moment to process this information. “You’re quiet.” the ultrasound technician commented, which was slightly ironic considering the fact that this was her third sentence of the entire appointment. “Oh,” I replied, “I’m trying not to swear.” Sea was allowed into the room, and we both watched Bingo’s hands and lips move on the screen. This, along with two grainy printouts, was the only consolation offered by the appointment.
As we left the appointment, Sea asked me how I was feeling. I was less cheerful than before, certainly, but that could also have had to do with the drying ultrasound gel uncomfortably adhering my shirt to my skin. I decided that I was fine– that one of our now three midwives could surely make a fetus flip. The worst that was likely to happen, I reasoned, was a suggestion of yoga, acupuncture, massage, or something equally benevolent.
I’ve spent the last six days in this state of intentionally ignorant bliss. Sea, on the other hand, (who could be described either as a realist or a pessimist) went home and immediately read everything the internet could provide about breech births an external cephalic versions.
Which brings us to today’s appointment with Diet Coke, which both Sea and I attended. After commenting briefly on my iron levels (still “very low” but improving!), Diet Coke pulled out the paperwork sent by the ultrasound clinic. Like any well-trained medical practioner, she started with the good: Bingo is a good size, healthy, with a well-located placenta. She then moved smoothly into the bad: not only is Bingo breech, Bingo is twisted into an odd position. One leg is pulled upwards in the traditional frank breech appearance, the other is angled downward. The chances of Bingo turning from this position with low-level intervention are very, very slim. Natural birth from this position is potentially unsafe. Our two remaining options are a scheduled c-section or a referral to a doctor for an attempted external cephalic version (ECV).
While avoiding Sea’s frantic Googling, I had read an article or two about ECV and had imagined some sort of deep tissue massage: maybe not pleasant, but certainly not invasive. I had assumed that the ECV would either work or not (though, of course, I had really assumed that it would work) and that we could then wait out the rest of the pregnancy in peace. Not so. The most reputable doctor who performs ECV in our area does so with the patient not only fully monitored, but with an epidural administered. If the ECV works (a 50-70% chance), he immediately induces labor so that the baby doesn’t have the opportunity to flip again. if the ECV doesn’t work and the baby is in distress, he performs an emergency c-section. If the ECV doesn’t work and the baby isn’t in distress, a c-section is scheduled for a later date– but no later than 39 weeks. If you’re following along, that means the available possibilities (not even really options, as we’re not the ones doing the choosing) are:
1) Successful ECV in the next couple of weeks, followed by immediate induction.
2) Unsuccessful ECV in the next couple of weeks, followed by emergency c-section.
3) Scheduled c-section.
None of these options include a fully natural labor and birth, and none of them include carrying to 40 weeks. While Sea had read enough of Google to be expecting something like this, I was almost completely taken by surprise. I was almost, barely, keeping calm when Diet Coke suggested that I also stop biking to reduce the risk of Bingo engaging too deeply in my pelvis. “I’m going to cry”, I said. And I did.
It’s not that I had envisioned birth in the way that Herbal Tea does. I hadn’t imagined candles, warm water, soothing music. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, Sea and I had decided that our birth plan was to have a baby. Safely. Probably in the hospital. But on some level I also imagined having more choice, more freedom, more unpredictability. I had imagined not knowing the date of Bingo’s birth in advance, going into labor, figuring out what I needed and wanted as the time came. Now, if I go into labor we’re supposed to immediately go to the hospital for a c-section– telling everybody in our way that Bingo is breech. I hadn’t imagined much about Bingo’s birth, but what I had imagined wasn’t this.
Poor Sea watched bewildered as I sat crying on the neatly made bed/exam table in Diet Coke’s office. She reminded me that Bingo is healthy and safe, and that we’ll have our baby soon. Diet Coke did the same, her voice now almost as gentle and calm as Herbal Tea’s. “Birth is just the doorway,” she said, “Some people get to go through it smoothly, others bump their heads. But the rest of your lives is the journey: the birth is just the door.”
And it looks like, one way or another, we’re getting close to heading through it.