Archive for July, 2010

I was awakened two nights ago by violent cramps that felt like a black belt in karate was in my abdomen trying to kick his way out. I thought, well, this is it. Game over. I knew it couldn’t last. I am miscarrying.

I got up and went into the bathroom expecting to see blood all over the place, but much to my relief: nothing. Well, diarrhea, but that’s it. In fact I was never so happy to have diarrhea. In fact if diarrhea were a person, I would have been smiling and waving to it, motioning it to come over so I could give it a big hug, and it would turn around and look over its shoulder to see if I was talking to someone else.

The love fest was soon over. I went to bed, and five minutes later, I was back in the bathroom. I went back to bed and 15 minutes later, same thing. What the heck did I eat? I thought. I went through the day’s menu like I was scanning a deck of cards. Raspberry ices? Couldn’t be. Steak? Nope. Sliced tomato? Nah. Corn? No way. Corn’s too nice. Suddenly, all the foods I’d eaten over the last day were suspects, like when your lunch is stolen from the office refrigerator, and you find yourself looking at all your co-workers with suspicion.

The following morning, I felt better. I went to work for a couple of hours on a community farm to which we belong. We get fresh organic produce every week throughout the summer, but you have to put in a few hours labor as part of the arrangement. Knowing I’m pregnant, one of the farm’s owners, Juan, sat me at a table and had me replant vegetables from small containers into medium containers, and then replant vegetables from medium containers into larger containers. For the first 15 minutes I stood over my chair rather than sitting, and I found myself surrounded by hens, one of which kept leaping into the air and pecking me on my backside.

hen pecked

“Hey. Stop it,” I’d say, and for a moment, she would. But after a minute, she’d be back again, while another was pecking lightly at my foot.

I walked over to Juan. “How do I get these hens to stop pecking at me?”

“City folks,” Juan said, barely looking up.

“Dude, the thing is leaping into the air and biting my ass,” I said.

“Just shoo them away,” Juan said, adding, “I forgot to pick up their food.”

People sometimes say things to try to make you feel better when they really have the opposite effect: “Don’t worry. Her beak hasn’t been sharpened since last week.” “They don’t eat people. Usually.” “Your butt has a lot of meat on it. It would take her some time to draw blood.”

I walked back and began waving plastic plant flats at them like wings, scattering the hens like bugs –though after a couple of minutes, one came back and sat at my feet like my cat does.

By the time I left the farm, I was hungry and had a hankering for a bacon cheeseburger. As I got to the restaurant, I slipped on these elastic acupressure bands I’d bought that people wear on cruise ships for motion sickness. The band has a little bead that sits over a particular acupuncture point that controls nausea. They worked the day before so I figured they’d work now –though I felt a little funny wearing them on both wrists. They reminded me of the bracelets little kids wear when they’re allergic to penicillin or bees. But with the bands, I felt impenetrable. I had super powers. When I wore them, I was invincible. Morning sickness could not hurt me. I sat in the diner with my wrist bands eating my burger and about halfway through, I bit into a raw onion and bam! A feeling of naseau moved in so quickly, I thought I was going to puke. I was flapping out there in the breeze, thinking the bands would protect me and that I could eat whatever I wanted, and somehow, my protective shield had been breached. And now I’m about to throw up in a public place.

I sat for a moment and tried to relax myself, taking deep breaths and exhaling slowly. Soon, I began to feel better, but I wanted to go home.

At dinner, I was convinced the villain from the night before was the salad. I just kept thinking about the bad California spinach that sickened people because it was contaminated with e coli that came from cow dung from a neighboring pasture.

“Did you have salad last night?” I asked Bruce at dinner.

“No,” he said.

“Hmmm. I had two bowls. And I had another one just now,” I said. It felt like a witch hunt. “Are you going to have any?” I said. I wanted to see if he would get sick.

“In a minute,” he said.

A few minutes later, I said, “Did you have any salad yet?”

“Not yet. I’m going to eat like an Italian. I’ll have it after the meal.”

I waited for him to have some. I felt cruel. In my zeal to learn what wrought havoc on my intestines, I was dragging my husband down with me. Hopefully, he’ll understand it was all in the name of research.

Read Full Post »

I was with a group of friends the other night when one woman began talking about some unwelcome guests she’d had the weekend before. The guests had an 18-month old child, and yet they forgot to bring a stroller. Well, they didn’t actually “forget” the stroller, the woman said. They opted not to bring it. They only had so much room in their car, and they wanted to bring several of the child’s toys, so when they ran out of space, they decided they’d rather just carry the child all weekend than forgo the stuff they’d already packed.

“Were they older parents?” another woman asked.

“Yes, they were,” the first woman said.

I tried to imagine what the parents’ age would have to do with such a decision. Older parents are shortsighted? Older parents make bad decisions? Older parents don’t realize how heavy a child can be after carrying them all weekend? (younger parents would clearly know this calculation).

It all worked out in the end, the first woman said, because they wound up borrowing a stroller — no doubt from a young couple on their way to the beach who had to choose between carrying their surfboards or pushing a stroller, and they opted for the surfboards. At least older parents would have removed their child from the stroller before handing it off.

Read Full Post »

There’s an old Twilight Zone episode that tells the story of a man who wants to read all the time, but between the demands of his wife, his job, and his daily routine, he can never find a moment to do it.  And then the H-Bomb falls, and everything is obliterated –everything, that is, except the library.  

Twilight Zone Episode, "Time Enough At Last"

And that’s where he finds himself, the only survivor of the apocalypse, on the steps of a library filled with books. But as he runs up the steps, his eyeglasses fall off, and he accidently steps on them, crushing them.

I keep thinking about this episode as I watch my sight deteriorate. My nearsightedness, which I’ve had since I was in second grade, keeps getting worse, while my farsightedness, which I developed at the age of 45, continues to deteriorate as well. When they meet in the middle, and I can longer see near or far, life will be one blurry mess. And that’s when I will finally, at long last, give birth to a child. I just won’t be able to see him.

Read Full Post »

They say summer is a bad time to schedule surgery. Doctors are out on vacation. The interns are in charge. The kids have the run of the house. And so it was when I went for my ultrasound this week. I was sitting on the examining table half naked under a sheet, texting a friend on my iPhone, when an intern whom I’d never seen before walked in with three other people. I quickly put my phone down and lay back on the table. She asked me if I minded having an audience there. I think I said it was fine. She then inserted the wand inside me and we all looked at the screen. There it was again, the brine shrimp in the little sac. She measured the fetus and said it was larger than the prior week.

“Everything looks exactly as it should,” she said.

It’s not often in life when you feel you’ve done something so right, without even trying.

She then proceeded to root around inside me with the wand like she was churning butter or driving a stick shift, searching first for my left ovary, and then my right, as the doctor in the room gave her instructions. I thought, do they realize there’s a person attached to this uterus?

“It’s not going to hurt the baby, is it?”

“No, no. It’s fine,” she said, rooting around some more.

I felt like saying, if you’d just tell me what you’re looking for, I’m sure I can help you find it.

“You see that?” she said. “That there. Can you see it on your screen?”

“I’m not sure,” I said, looking at the ultrasound monitor.

“It’s the heartbeat,” she said.

I looked near the top of the sac and saw a little fluttering. She then turned on the volume and at the bottom of the screen, there was a moving graph that went up and down every time the heart beat, like you might see on a heart monitor. But it didn’t go ba-damp, ba-dump, ba-dump, like I would have expected. It made a quick dah-duh dah-duh dah-duh dah-duh, like a humingbird’s wings. I thought it might beat right out of its sac.

I gave a little whimper and shed one tear, and then the feeling was gone. I felt  empty. And the whole thing — the fetus, the heartbeat — felt remote. It was hard to relate to the idea that the thing out there on the screen was the thing inside me.  I’m not sure what happened. It was as if I felt something and understood it, and then suddenly I didn’t.

I called my husband and told him about the heartbeat. And then I told some friends. And sure, it was nice. I felt I’d passed a milestone. It was at this point the last time I was pregnant, three years ago, that we went in to hear the heartbeat and found only an empty fetal sac with no sign of a fetus. It was like going to meet a friend, and they don’t show up, and all you find is their car. And yet this time, I heard our baby’s heartbeat, but instead of it being a moment of joy, it felt surreal. Hearing that sound should make the baby seem more real, more alive. Perhaps I’d rather not feel that just yet –at least not until I know he’s going to make it.

Read Full Post »

Under the heading of “Careful What You Wish For,” there has got to be a newly-pregnant woman who’s whined, “But I don’t feel anything. How come I don’t have morning sickness?”

Blech. Among the rapidly growing list of things that make me wanna puke: chicken, fish, my home-made cole slaw, my home-made macaroni salad, coffee, leeks — particularly when one of the outer layers is slimy because it took me too long to use them — my cat’s litter box, food magazines, my illuminated laptop screen, the fact that I didn’t call my 95-year old grandmother on her birthday, sunshine, pre-natal vitamins, the book “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” and finding my husband’s clipped toenails in the bathroom sink. Actually, that last one always made me sick.

I’ve started to smell things I never noticed, like a super hero with hyper olfactory abilities. I have an x-ray nose that can smell odors that lay beneath the surface of things. I got on the subway the other day, and all I could smell was everyone’s breath.  The other day, I smelled something in the air and asked Bruce if he could smell it. He said he couldn’t. I can’t even remember what it was, but just thinking about it makes me sick.

Last night, I defrosted a slab of sockeye salmon because my acupuncturist recommended eating foods that gave me omega fatty acids, but I took one look at it, wrapped it back up in saran wrap and put it in the refrigerator for another day –perhaps in March. Even the sweet potato I’d put in the oven seemed unappealing. I wound up making a frittata with fresh eggs — the yolks were a sickeningly bright orange — potatoes and asparagus. I’d made us some chocolate chip cookies and told Bruce to make ice cream sandwiches out of them using vanilla ice cream, but  when I looked at them on the plate, the ice cream melting out the sides, it made me queasy. I ate the whole thing of course, reluctantly.


I’ve limited myself to foods that don’t make my stomach flutter: Basic Four cereal and milk, cheddar cheese goldfish, peaches and watermelon. In fact I ate half a watermelon today. I’m certain if you pricked me, I would not bleed. I would ooze sweet red juice, without seeds.

I should have known when morning sickness came knocking, it would bring a lot of friends. Even without pregnancy, I’m prone to nausea. I get car sick, I can’t read on the bus, and when I went on a cruise with my mother and sister last year, I kept popping crystalized ginger.

The thing is, all I keep reading is how this is a critical period in the fetus’ development, but instead of eating well in order to nourish my baby, I’m barely eating anything except for junk food.

My acupuncturist told me about a couple of patients who after receiving acupuncture and eating a diet heavy on omega fatty acids, they gave birth to 10-pound babies with large heads and big brains. He said they were excessively smart. “Acupuncture babies,” he called them. I wonder what my baby will be like, all full of ginger snaps and cheddar goldfish.

Let the bad parenting begin.

Read Full Post »

I met up last night with two writer friends, and one of them asked, “Do you think you really need a universal point in an essay? What if I’m writing about something not everyone can relate to, like addiction?”

“Listen, I could read an essay about a gay guy who only picks up Sri Lankan men, and he keeps getting rejected by them. I’m not gay, and I don’t have a thing for Sri Lankans, but if it’s a story about rejection, I can certainly relate to it.” I said.

On my way home, I walked along the boardwalk and saw a band practicing under the open sided shed on the boards that they call the pavilion. My town has a strong Methodist influence, and the structure is typically used for church services during the summer, so I imagined the musicians were about to play Christian hymns or a march by John Philip Sousa (there’s often an overlap between religion and patriotism, and the musical tastes in my town are no exception). Despite not liking either, I stopped to listen because it was a beautiful evening. I was also tired.  I have been tired a lot lately.  There was a cool breeze coming off the ocean, a welcome change after three days of 95-degree weather and a warm wind coming off the land.

I took a seat in one of the pews. The conductor tapped his baton, and the musicians sat up at attention. Suddenly, the first clarinet began: buh duh duh duh duh duh, and I knew immediately what it was: Fiddler on the Roof. I could name that tune in two notes. I’d played clarinet for many years, though I was relegated to third clarinet for the first several years, where you play a lot of whole notes and rests. There’s a home movie of me in sixth grade where I’m wearing silver circle glasses and a pants suit my mother made for me, and I’m standing in our dining room playing my clarinet part for our upcoming school concert.  All you see is me tapping my foot for several measures, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, buh duh duh duh duh, buh duh duh duh dut, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.  Buh duh, two, three, four. By ninth grade, I had graduated to first clarinet, but I was second seat, so when we played Fiddler on the Roof, Russell Alesi, who was first clarinet, first seat, got the coveted fiddler solo – the most famous refrain from the whole play, and a wonderfully mournful little song made almost specifically for the clarinet.

The song works so well for the clarinet because the piece of music sounds so very Jewish, and the clarinet has always been the voice of the Jewish plight. That’s why it’s featured so heavily in Klezmer music. It captures the laughing and the sobbing of the Jewish experience.

It was funny to hear this Methodist band play it under a sheltered structure usually reserved for Christian services. But then if I can relate to a gay man longing for a Sri Lankan boyfriend, surely a Methodist clarinet player can sing like a fiddler on the roof.

Read Full Post »

There’s a concept in child development called permanence, where the child learns that just because mommy has left the room doesn’t mean she ceases to exist. Mommy still exists. She’s just doing it somewhere else for a while.

Sometimes it takes a few times of mommy leaving and then reappearing, and leaving and then reappearing to understand the concept. And then sometimes, for people like me, it can take a liftetime to get. This pregnancy has put my sense of permanence to the test. In the absence of constant reassurance that I’m pregnant, I seem to keep falling un-pregnant. It would be good if I could walk around with an ultrasound monitor, like people in the hospital wheel around an I-V, that showed a live image of my fetal sac and fetus. That way, whenever I feared I wasn’t pregnant anymore, I could simply consult the monitor and “Okay. It’s still there.”

Not me in photo. I never ever ever look. Ever.

Cornell probably has the closest thing to wheeling around an ultrasound monitor: the twice-weekly blood test. Two times a week, I go to Quest or to Cornell’s offices to get blood drawn so they can test my hCG, estrogen and progesterone levels. So long as those numbers are in range — hCG should continue to rise and progesterone should be about  9 to 47 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) in early pregnancy — I can kick back and know I’m still pregnant. At my last test on Thursday, my hCG was about 14,000. I had another test this morning, and I just received my results: my hCG was a whopping 53,000! In a word, I’m still pregnant —until tomorrow, when I begin to doubt it again.

Read Full Post »

I can’t help but wonder if I’m still pregnant. I don’t have morning sickness, and my breasts felt more sore a couple of days ago. There used to be a saying in journalism that newspaper photos had to pass the breakfast test: they couldn’t be so graphic that readers threw up their cereal. I’ll spare the details but suffice it to say, I’ve been spotting — and then some — every time I wipe. Despite seeing the tiny fetus on the ultrasound monitor, I fear I have now passed him like a kidney stone. I keep thinking of the little cowboy kid in Willy Wonka, who went from being a human being in the room to being an image on a television screen, except my baby went from being an image on an ultrasound monitor to being a human being in the room, just before being plunged into the toilet. It’s gotten so that I don’t want to go to the bathroom for fear of what I may find on the toilet paper.

Worse, I’ve been sleeping a lot and gaining weight. So now if I’m not pregnant, I have nothing to which I can attribute these nasty habits but my own sloth-like nature.

Every now and again, I feel a wave of nauseau come over me, but it’s usually just after I’ve asked myself, “Do I feel sick?” The question always precedes the feeling and not the other way around. It’s similar to when I was trying to quit smoking many years ago. Every time I’d consider the idea , I’d be overcome with a strong compulsion to have a cigarette, even if I’d just put one out. It’ll be nice to be past all of this, when my every waking moment isn’t filled with the question, am I still pregnant or am I not? I almost don’t care anymore. I just wish it were one way or the other. A person could go crazy living with this kind of uncertainty.

The heat was oppressive yesterday –95 degrees but they said it would feel like 100. It did. Even those who went to the beach said it was hot unless you stayed in the water, which everyone did. There were so many people in there, it was almost like standing in a rush hour subway car except that your feet were in water. Instead of the beach, Bruce and I went to the movies. We wanted air conditioning and popcorn. We saw a movie called Grown Ups, a terrible film about five elementary school friends who reunite upon the death of their childhood basketball coach. They all bring their wives and spoiled children to a house on the lake, and by the end of the film, everyone is transformed. Bad as the movie was, it conveyed one of my fears about parenthood: I want my children to be nice people who play with wood blocks and board games like Candyland and Chutes and Ladders. I don’t want them to play Grand Theft Auto and text their nanny. It’s hard to know what to do about it, though. I’ve considered not letting my child have any electronic devices until he’s in college, but either he’ll be a freak or hate me for it.  You can’t hide modern-day society from these kids. News of these gadgets will leak out, and then resent me for not having these things even if he doesn’t know what they are. He’ll just know everyone else has them. And then my mind says, “What child? You’re not even pregnant.”

We walked to the beach last night to watch the fireworks. Bruce led the way, taking us on a trek across the sand in the dark as I complained about why we had to keep going farther and farther and how I was going to trip over a piece of concrete and break a tooth.

“I know what I’m doing,” Bruce said. “Have I ever steered you wrong?”

All the time,” I said.

As we reached the border of the next town, which was the town putting on the fireworks display, we started to unfold our chairs but were stopped by a police officer who told us to move back. He was about to cordone off the area because they didn’t want people too close to the where the fireworks were being set off. It was testament to how far that town had come  in terms of its redevelopment. In years past, you could sit so close to the fireworks, you could almost taste the ashes. I liked the town better when it was dysfunctional and people were afraid to come here.

Soon the show started and Boom! A blast of color, like a big red carnation in the sky. And then another. And another. It was brilliant. And our seats were perfect. We were as close as we could get, and the ocean was just to our right, lapping at the shore. As I watched the brilliant pyrotechnics display, I was in awe and thought yes, Bruce had once again steered us right. And for one small moment, as the fireworks exploded before us, I forgot about losing our baby.

Read Full Post »

This morning was the Fourth of July parade. We usually watch it at the end of our block because its a place at which the parade route turns, so you can see the floats from the front first and then the side. It’s good for my husband because he takes a really long time to snap a photo, so it gives him an extra couple of minutes to get the shot.

When we walked over to our usual corner, there was a row of nine empty chairs that had been set up by a man hosting a party nearby, but his guests weren’t going to take their seats until the parade started.  The line of chairs wasn’t straight. The whole row was pretty far back from the roadway, where most other people had set up their seats. The line also veered off at an angle, making it easy for us to put our chairs in front of two of his. But it put us in the vexing position of being annoyed that someone would reserve such a large space along the parade route — without even sitting there to hold their place — and yet in putting our chairs in front of their’s, we were violating some unwritten law of civility. We decided to live with the consequences.

Oddly, the man hosting the party had a yard sale a year ago, and while he clearly had a lot of wood slat folding chairs, he sold a few of them at the sale. Bruce and I had bought two of them, and those were the chairs we had brought to the parade.

When the parade started, a man who had been seated next to us decided to leave to join his family across the street, so Bruce and I moved our chairs down, hoping to get out of the way of the people behind us. As soon as we moved them, the host of the party came running over.

“Excuse me,” he said sharply. “What are you doing with my chairs?!”

“These are our chairs. You sold them to us last year,” I said.

He looked at me blankly, and then turned on his heels and walked away. If he felt any

‘It wouldn’t hurt to say ‘I’m sorry,’ ” Bruce said, as he walked off.

The parade had the customary line up of vintage cars, clowns on bicycles, baton twirlers, marching bands and kazoo and the bagpipe players. And as is customary, parade participants would throw candy to the crowds. But it’s always a delicate balance. If you’re not sitting next to children, the people on the floats don’t throw candy, no matter how enthusiastically you wave or loud you clap as they drive by. If you are seated sit next to children,  they throw candy, but you then find yourself in a heated competition with a bunch of six-year olds over who can get to the candy first.  It would be easy to elbow a small child in the ear and get to the tootsie roll pop first, but it’s one of those situations in life where if you win, you’ve lost. Nobody likes a bully. Still, I gave it the old college try. I’d leave the laffy taffy and the red and white mints to the children, but whenever someone threw a “Werther’s Original” toffee or Skittles, even a tootsie roll, I’d fly out of my seat and root around on the ground, trying to reach the candy before the kids seated next to me. The competition became so fierce, if a leaf fluttered to the ground, we were all out of our seats.  Were it not for the fact that my shorts kept getting caught on one of the slats in my seat so that I wound up dragging my chair with me for a few feet every time I lept up for candy, I would have accumulated a much larger pile.

The most curious group to participate in the parade was one called “Rainbow Girls.” They all wore orange t-shirts with the slogan, “Rainbow Girls Get Ready for Life.” It was an odd juxtaposition with their performance, which you couldn’t really hear because they were all either singing different songs or different verses of the same song.

One of the next groups was a local dance company that stopped and did a little show as they rounded the corner in front of us. The teachers performed the routine they had practiced in class perfectly, while their young students did something that slightly resembled it. I kept watching one particular teacher who was very pregnant. Her legs were swaying in and out like she was doing the charleston while her arms flapped up and down like wings. Only her bulbous belly remained still. She refrained from jumping up and down, lest she harm the baby or give birth to it right there.

As the parade ended, we folded up our chairs and started to walk home when we were approached by the man who’d insinuated we’d stolen his chairs.

“I’m sorry about before. I thought those were my chairs,” he said.

“No problem,” Bruce said.

It’s nice when you’ve been wronged to have that person then apologize. It’s as if the world has righted itself in some small way, and everyone is good.

As we walked home, I sucked on a purple lollipop, a fruit of my ill-gotten gains.

Read Full Post »

When I walked into my doctor’s office, he extended his hand and smiled.

“Your numbers look great,” he said.

“I was bleeding this morning,” I said. I felt like the one who tells everyone at the party, “The police are here.”

My doctor looked mildly but not overly concerned.

“Well, let’s see what’s going on,” he said, motioning for me to lie down so he could do an ultrasound. “I don’t know how many women have come through here and said they were bleeding. How many?” he said to the nurse, not waiting for an answer. “Three million?”

“Make it three million and one,” I said.

He inserted the wand, and as he looked at the ultrasound monitor, I stared at his face for signs of disappointment.

“Look here,” he said.


“Here. By the ‘x,’ “ he said. “That’s the fetal sac. And that there, that’s the baby.”

It was tiny, like a pine nut or a brine shrimp. And there was just one.

“You don’t see another one?” I asked.

“No. Just one,” he said.

And then there was one. I was now one baby away from having no baby. I felt a little more exposed. With two, there was always that extra one. In fact I’d told my friend, Patti, a nurse who sometimes gives me my progesterone shot, that she could have the other one. Still, I was grateful I had one. But as I looked at the baby on the monitor, it seemed to just sit there in the sac, motionless. I would have felt better if I could tap the screen and watch it move around a little bit, like a goldfish in a bowl. In fact as a general rule, it would be good if I could tap my stomach every now and again and feel the baby swimming around, just to reassure myself I was still pregnant.

Yep, it's alive.

“Can you see a heart beating?” I asked.

“No, we wouldn’t see that yet,” he said.  “But it looks exactly how it’s supposed to look. Exactly.”

I started to whimper a little bit.

“Stop being so nervous,” he said.

“Do you think maybe I had a twin, and the blood I saw this morning was the twin miscarrying?”

“That’s a very good point. Maybe,” he said.

Why didn’t he think of that?

He warned me I’d probably see some spotting for the next couple of days, but right now, everything looked fine. He started to leave.

“Wait!” I said, jumping off the examining table. The sheet that was covering me fell to the floor. I was naked from the waist down. I started rifling through the front pocket of my knapsack looking for the sheet of paper on which I’d jotted down my questions, as my doctor stood behind me.

“Why don’t you get dressed, and I’ll come back,” the doctor said.

When he returned, I asked him about jogging


Swimming or bicycling?

Swimming better.

Special diet?

Just don’t eat anything raw.


Not just yet.

I walked out of Cornell and back to the subway station. At the bottom of the stairs, there was an organ player and a singer, belting out a song. I began to sway with the music. As he reached the chorus, I joined in.

“My girl, my girl, my girl. Talkin’ ‘bout, my girl,” I sang as the subway pulled up.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »