Monthly Archives: March 2008

the road ahead (6w2d)

I broke out the journal the Dilettante gave me when I was pregnant with Ben, to try to recall details, other than my famous story of lower abdominal pains while listening to the State of the Union address in Jan ’04.

The symptoms are similar, though some details are making themselves clearer. For example, I do remember falling asleep at about 8pm each night, but I didn’t remember waking up all through the night. I remember the seismic burping, but not any remedy other than passing out of the first trimester. (I think I discovered a solution this time around – ginger tea.) And consistent with the first time, the strain on all buttons, seams and fasteners is on, on, on!

Some things are very different. I’m starting out on the other side of 40, and 5 lbs heavier than I was with Ben.  I’m not working – the camaraderie from a remote office is still better than none at all.

And now, after reading my medical records, I have a concrete, clinical sense of how lucky Ben and I were – that there were so many internal issues that didn’t reveal themselves until later, and that my confidence and good health up until that point were what carried me through challenges. Now I’m much more wary – not so much in terms of diet, but certainly in terms of travel and physical activity. (I won’t be going to Denmark this summer, for example.)

I’m also seeing some changes in medical advice – I’ll be getting prescription vitamins this time around – big doses of folic acid, and a prenatal multi with DHA – something I barely had in my diet the first time around and which has been proven to offset post-partum depression. That can’t be a bad thing to try.

Here’s another thing that’s different – and wonderful. Ben is very excited to be a big brother. We’ve talked a lot about whether what’s growing in Mommy’s womb will stay around long enough to be a baby, or whether it will decide to go. We know it’s the little one’s decision what to do. But Ben hopes it decides to stay.

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Filed under children, first trimester, Motherhood, mothers, pregnancy, pregnant after 40, sons

Something that might become a baby

Ben had been asking why my tummy was so big. (Mommy has been eating lots of cookies.) He has babies on his mind, as his best friend at school has a new baby sister, and he has been telling me he’s like one too. And the kid’s alert; there’s been baby planning talk around the house. He knows that babies grow in mommy’s wombs, and that the womb is somewhere around the tummy.

Over the past two weeks, he’s been patting my tummy, saying “There’s a baby in there. Hi little baby!” I’ve told him that babies take a long time to grow, and that they start very very small. Sometimes, they end up leaving before they become babies. (I tell this for both of us.) And also, I told him there was nothing in there right now.

I was wrong.

It ends up that I was pregnant at my physical nearly two weeks ago. The one where they thought they  found a lump, had me do a urine test for pregnancy (neg) and sent me immediately for a mammogram and ultrasound. After the exhaustion of the scare, I thought my symptoms were typical cyclical ones and waited for the tide to roll out. No tide.

Nearly a week later, I break out the clearblueeasy stick, and in one (not three) minute, the little display read: Pregnant in a sans-serif font. Maybe Lucida. There was a scramble to find out what the mammogram might have done, and wtf happened with the urine test. (Short answer: minimal risk given focus of mammogram, and longer interesting explanation for wtf.)

And although it’s not prudent to announce, given how many pregnancies don’t get past 12 weeks, we are telling people. My symptoms are almost identical to those I had with Ben – namely I am a dream for third graders with all the musical gas I produce, I need to eat to keep from feeling nauseous, and I’m very happy.

When we told Ben, I told him there was something in my womb, and that it might become a baby, but we have to wait a while to know for sure. He gets it, and with a little pat, tells me to take care of the something.

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Filed under children, children's prescience, early pregnancy, first trimester, mothers, mothers and sons, pregnancy

and then, I got it.

I hadn’t seen my father since my 38th birthday, many many grey hairs ago. Before they unionized. Before Ben was crawling, or eating anywhere except Mom’s 24-7 Dairy bar. Before waiters stopped carding H. Before Ben’s first food, steps, words, animal sounds, full night’s sleep. Before my father got new knees, and remarried.

The reasons were not minor.

The end of his first, 36 year marriage to my mom, in the mid 90’s, was as sordid, lowclass and thoughtless as it gets. And what followed seemed to follow suit based on exchanges I heard second hand from my brother and his wife. Word of my father’s over-the-top proclamations to friends from his old life – our past and current lives, in other words – made me wince.

His newfound wealth in the form of a tubetopped sugarmama and her comments to my brother about what our lives were like triggered my only adventures outside low bloodpressure.

So on the occasions when I called (birthdays, holidays), I was civil – but that was it. Following good form for its own sake. I made no additional effort at outreach, and conveniently employed the prissy excuse of their unmarried state as a reason for not making more of an effort. He never offered to fly out to see us, even when Ben was just born. My family was more offended than I was about it – I was just resigned to it, and a little sad. I saved my anger for other things.

Then they got married. Whether I liked his choice or not, she was now his wife. Time was passing, and as my father rounded the corner of 80, then 81, I knew there would only be so much time left, when he might still be able to enjoy and bring enjoyment to Ben.

So, with my job having ended and a quiet, no-traveling christmas leaving us all the time in the world to get sick and recover in a familiar environment, we planned a trip to Florida to see my father and his (now) wife, as well as my birth mother’s family (two cousins never met, my sister, etc).

I decided that any effort anyone made for Ben would be instant positive karma, that I would appreciate it for what it was, and keep my focus on who would be kind to him. And so when my father told me that his wife was making arrangements for us to visit a horse ranch based on Ben’s love of horses, I decided that was a very nice thing, something to appreciate.

For many historical reasons, I felt a great deal of anxiety about the trip, but I knew we had to do it, and that it would be for the best. I plowed through, with little sleep, stomach upsets and rosacea flareups.

We set out from our base in Ponte Vedra to Port Charlotte, with stops at SeaWorld and a layover at a friend’s perfect home in Sarasota. The tension of 7 hours of driving and limited sleep, despite our splendid accommodations, were pooling in my shoulders.

Near the end of the final leg of the trip, we were in deep Florida, all Rudy and Mitt signs, model homes for no money down and with all the swamp you could smell. Cement roadways, which I could imagine in all their white heat starting in April. It felt more foreign to me than the cities of night kanji, or the coast of an old viking empire.

We came up on the last of the streets in our directions, and something familiar – the developer of the subdivision had to be from Boston, with streets named Cohasset, Carlisle, and other Mass C suburbs. At the seaway end of Carlisle, we arrived at my father’s house. Modest, well kept, with sculptures to greet you. A fiberglass dolphin standing on sea foam. A balinese? indonesian? totem of a frog.

My father and his wife answered the door together, in matching t-shirts (their regular wardrobe). These shirts they chose in my honor – hot pink souvenirs from Manzanita Beach in Oregon, a place I’d been and photographed for my father, mother and grandmother.

My father gave me a tour of the house – it has its own style as the outdoor sculptures could only hint at, but is spotless. Everything was well cared for.

That was when I got it. They were made for each other.

My father’s wife packed snacks for Ben, and was kind in her remarks to him. The ranch was a place where she could shine, telling us about her experience with horses after more than 60 years of riding, training and caring for them. She was kind and generous, and she was doing it because it meant the world to my father – just as I was being on my best behaviour for Ben and for him. We didn’t get to stay long enough for Ben to really connect to him – my father is wonderful with small children – which is my only regret.

Well, maybe I have two regrets- the second being that I hadn’t done this sooner, set free the hurt and anger, and just allowed a small amount of understanding and happiness for my father. Thank goodness I wasn’t too late.

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Filed under children, divorce, Fathers, fathers and daughters, grandchildren, Love, reconciliation, remarriage, sadness, Uncategorized

cv, meet la vita

I’ve been doing public communications work for two decades. Even though it doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes from time to time, the communications challenge I face now is huge and basic. In a town where I have few local connections, and where I am an exmat (Boston is my single-motherland), how does one get beyond the paper/bits presentation?

I’m not saying there isn’t some tuning that could happen at the resumé level, but I feel like evaluating a person  by the bulleted outline is like choosing a partner by looking at their skeleton. Most of us have a spine and sockets. Some people have great bones, but my good ones look better with a little flesh and blood around them.

The sassy, down-to-brass-tacks if not bones, paperface that got me considered at ‘GBH 18 years ago was the one-page kitchensink of all cover letters, which I’d summarize as, “Here’s what I did to pay the rent over the last 18 months. Now I’d like to do something that’s about more than getting by.” (What would my life have been if I hadn’t said yes to MIT? I think about that now… often.)

How to write that letter now  – to make them feel me walk into the room off the page and take notice – is what’s in the tips of my fingers. If only I could get it out, the right way.

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Filed under employment, finding a job, finding work, restart, work, working mothers

lumps and medallions

“Can you feel that? At two o’clock?”

Pamela, my np, was looking at the ceiling, her fingers on something she thought didn’t belong in the breast exam portion of my yearly physical. I tried to find the something, but didn’t quite.

“And the cancers in your family were?”

Stomach, malignant melanoma. I had a dysplastic nevus at 23 that was clearly on its way to basal cell, but it was whisked away, along with nevi and dermatofibromas in my 20s and 30s.

“When was your last mammogram?”
I demurred that I hadn’t had one yet.

Her eyes looked concerned, not scolding. “You know, you’re supposed to start having them at 40.”

“I figured I looked young for my age.” And the chuckles that usually pepper my medical visits returned, but not without a same day appt at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance for a mammogram and ultrasound.

I moved a job pre-interview to midday, which left me only two hours to worry. It was the right plan. But in those two hours, I managed to run through the list of next actions:

Would I tell H? No, not until I knew what it was.

Would I tell anyone? Yes, I called a good girlfriend, who was away from her phone. Just as well, since I wouldn’t want her to worry.

What would I do if it was something? Take next actions immediately and schedule whatever needed to happen, at the soonest possible time.  Call my wonderful neighbor who is a PA and worked at the Hutch to see if she could help with overnight childcare – she is such a pro at making things work, I actually trust her. And only if I could pull all of this together would I call H and let him know. H wouldn’t be able to do anything even if in the same room, and it might only be more upsetting and frustrating for him. He would be home soon anyway.

And so went the next few hours. I brought clothes to the thrift store. I took the backway to SCCA, listening to a wonderful oldskool rb/soul/funk cd a colleague sent that week. I noted how the SCCA decor was largely spring green. No obvious pink. I realized I didn’t want to be part of the pink ribbon (TM) movement. I was given a mask to keep me from spreading my nagging daycare cold, I waited in a consult room, alone. The only reading materials were a brochure for the Women’s Care floor and an info sheet on needle biopsies.

My screening was somewhat uneventful. Other than using a special towelette to remove any traces of antiperspirant, it was like any other waiting procedure, except as I sat in the little waiting room, I kept wondering how I could have missed this lump – and how I still couldn’t quite find it. I could tell the tech almost all about it; Left breast, 2 o’clock, edge of the areole, but all I felt was sore.

Then came the mammogram. The tech was surprised and a little excited that it was my first, and began swapping out lucite trays to fit – smaller seemed to be better. And then the pressing. Veal medallions, pressing the water out of a block of tofu. Not as bad as I expected, until they did the side views, and I wished I had remembered to take Advil in advance.

I didn’t get a chance to see the results; the tech just told me everything looked clear, but that  we’d do an ultrasound exam just in case. The radiologist, Dr. Bang, used the same technique – a light palpation while looking at the ceiling. We looked at the screen together while he explained what it was we were seeing. We weren’t able to find a lump, though we may have found some tissue that caused the concern. And then I was clear to go.

It’s been some time since I felt that tired coming back from an appointment. I wrote a short mail to H, with a two sentence summary of my lump and medallions. The call in the middle of my night, in his Amsterdam morning, was caring and gentle, his voice holding mine as I whispered the details, the soft sound of our sleeping boy ebbing and flowing from across the hall.

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Filed under anxiety, breast cancer, breast health, cancer, lump, mammogram, MD, scare, women, women's health