Saturday, March 31, 2012

Gizzy, Interrupted

It appears we are having a bit of a dog problem. Not a day has gone by that I haven't scrubbed the cute nursery rug - Gizzy is seeking revenge for our lack of attention by pissing and shitting in the nursery when we are home. We invite her downstairs to hang out at our feet. We have begun walking her twice daily on a schedule. She seems interested in the Bean and eagerly licks her tiny baby feet. But still, she's marking her territory.

When I was first obsessed with getting a dog, I read Cesar Milan's dog whisperer books and remember learning about how to bring a new baby home. I wish I could draw on that wisdom now. We thought we approached it right - introducing the two, spending our initial minutes home with uninterrupted Gizzy-petting time. And periodic pets and pats while we laze around in bed. But still, she hides under the bed when we try to let her out in the yard. She won't come downstairs unless we are taking her for a walk or she hears me pour the dog food. And she pees. Multiple times each day. And now I'm out of Natures Miracle spray. My second bottle in the past month.

Anyhow, I'm feeling tremendously guilty about being a bad doggie-mama and need to seriously step up my game. Plus, if I'm gonna ask her to babysit Francie, she needs to prove she's responsible.

2 Week Check-Up

So big!

Francie had her first pediatrician visit yesterday. She's up above her fighting weight and seems to have grown two inches - now 6 lbs 8 oz and 20 inches long! She seems to be filling out just a bit, which means feeding is indeed going well. And no more counting dirty/wet diapers.

She got a clean bill of health and won't need to be seen again until she's two months. She was such a trooper and only cried when the phlebotomist poked her heel for the secondary newborn screen.

Francie has been a delight, so far. We've had only one bad night, before I understood "cluster feeding." Here I was, thinking that something was wrong with my milk supply, or something off with her latch. Extensive Googling and friendly advice schooled me in the natural inclinations of newborn babies. Since then, Francie goes down at about midnight, and wakes up every 2 or so hours, on average. When she's well-fed, she sleeps like a pro. And yes, she is indeed sleeping in our bed. Night feedings are strange, and feel a bit like sleepwalking. For example, last night around 4 a.m. I updated my Progressive car insurance plan. We are usually in bed from about midnight to 11 a.m. or so the next day. Francie usually feeds about 10 to 20 minutes, but likes to stay attached at the teet every evening for a few hours. That's my TV time - we just started a new show, Rescue Me. She's starting to be awake and alert longer each day. But the cutest thing about her is the noises - meeting, mewing, and growling. I wish I could bottle these sights, smells and sounds because I already feel like time is moving too fast and she's going to be heading off to college before I know it!

As for me and my body, everything is indeed feeling much better and nearly healed. I'm still not using TP to wipe, but it no longer hurts to pee. I'm still bleeding, but not enough to require the diaper-sized pads the hospital discharged me with. My undercarriage still aches, whether I sit on the couch all day or busybody around the house. So I'm maintaining a steady IV of ibuprofen, pending improved muscle and tissue pain. My nipples are no longer as sensitive, thanks to the very simple technique of brief hand expression before feeding. And while I am indeed tired, not so much so that I'm feeling run down. Plus, I can spend 12 hours per day in bed with my baby girl, if the spirit moves me. Overall, we are so grateful that things have gone smoothly so far, and love being mama and daddy to our adorable baby girl.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Meeting the Peeps

We've been fortunate to get a slow trickle of visitors, including cousins and dear old friends, but especially lucky that the fabulous Franzke's made the drive from Bend to meet our perfect new addition!

AJ, Francie, Chris, and Gus Gus

Breezy and Francie

Stacie and Fia with Francie

Gus and Francie meet

Laura with Francie

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Witch Doctor

So yeah, I'm eating my placenta.

Well, not eating it exactly, but taking placenta pills.

Then again, Alex and I stopped at McD's on the way home from the hospital so I could get a cheeseburger and diet Coke. So you can see that we are a bit confused about where we fall on the Crunchy-Conservative continuum. Or maybe not confused, just open minded.

We had not really decided one way or the other if we were going to keep the placenta, whether or not to have it dried and encapsulate it for postpartum consumption. But at the hospital our doula asked us whether we wanted her to take my placenta home and freeze it for us. We didn't want to close any doors, and knew we had about a day to make the decision. Originally a girlfriend had offered to do it for me, citing her own success taking the pills, but ultimately we opted to pay another doula, Wendy, for the service, as it was through the same doula company. Two hundred bucks for her to come to my house, sanitize my kitchen (that's reason enough, really), bake, dry, blend, and encapsulate the placenta, leaving me with specific administration instructions. And to provide hours of entertainment and education for my in-laws. I say that's a screaming deal.

"You have a beautiful placenta. You must have taken really great care of your baby."

This was the first thing Wendy the Witch Doctor (as Papa Pablo lovingly called her) said when I met her. She guessed that Francie weighed about 7 1/2 lbs at birth, given the size of my placenta. And she complimented my umbilical cord. Again, another one of those times where I am strangely flattered. I'm convinced that my placenta was big and juicy only because I spent the first three months of my pregnancy curled up on the couch eating chips, chocolate, and napping nearly 12 hours per day.

Part of the appeal to encapsulate was simply because both Alex and I were so awestruck by the placenta during the afterbirth. The side of the disposable organ that was attached to my uterus LITERALLY looks like the Tree of Life. Another part of the appeal was simply because I don't want to rule out anything that might aid me in reducing anxiety and depression, so why not support an ancient Chinese medical practice? As someone who took Zoloft throughout her pregnancy (sidenote: a Class B drug, recommended only if benefits outweigh the costs, and a perinatologist was consulted on my behalf), I'm not about to start throwing around judgments regarding health practices from across the world. I'm open to any and all, including even the placebo effect.

A few fast facts about the amazing organ that is the placenta:
- It is the organ that connects the developing fetus to the uterus for nutrients, waste, and gas exchange.
- The word "placenta" comes from the Latin word for "cake."
- The human placenta averages 9 inches long, 1 inch thick and weighs about 1 lb.
- It is connected to the fetus by the 24 inch umbilical cord, which has two arteries and one vein.

Reasons to take encapsulated placenta?
- To support lactation
- To facilitate easier postpartum recovery
- To increase maternal energy
- To ease life transitions
- To avoid postpartum depression
- To decrease iron deficiency
- To decrease insomnia
- To decrease postpartum night sweats
- Ultimately, the theory is that you're replacing the hormones you lost during the birthing process.

I was told that I might not necessarily notice a difference, being that I'm a first-time mom and don't know how the postpartum period might otherwise unfold. I'm now on Day 6 as I finish this blog. I have nothing but anecdotes to go off of, but I am indeed convinced that the pills have made a difference, at least in my milk supply.

How it's done: sanitize, steam, slice, dehydrate, grind, fill capsules, sanitize and refrigerate. I'm taking 2 capsules 3x/day for 3 days, then 2 capsules 2x/day for 2 weeks, then tapering off, saving some for my return to work.

Here are the less gory of the photos documenting Wendy completing the placenta encapsulation process.

Here's Wendy the Witch Doctor, preparing the placenta. If you didn't know, looks just like any other red meat, does it not?

Dried placenta ... just like beef jerky.

And the end result. No "worse" than a multivitamin.

P.S. I just read on Jezebel that January Jones does it, too. So there.

Article from 3/28/12:

Placentas Are Delicious, Sure, But Should You Eat Yours?

New moms, have you taken your placenta pill yet today? January Jones has and we all know how you always do exactly what January Jones does. You might want to hold off, though, considering there's some debate over whether or not it's doing you any good. While you and January, when your weekly mom club meets secretly in the walk-in freezer of that highway Denny's, insist that the placenta pills give you energy and much needed nutrients, there are scientists saying that's not the case. Then there are the other moms, la résistance, the traitors, who say that taking the placenta pills made them feel unstable and emotional (women, am I right?), along with that pesky FDA that has yet to approve anything.

To be fair, the FDA can be real dicks about approving non-traditional medicine (or, in this case pre-traditional medicine?) and mammals have been eating their placentas for nutrients for as long as we've been mammals. It's not the craziest thing you could do (forgive me, I grew up in a hippie community). On the other hand, we do live in a modern world where we have nutrients manufactured and ready for us. Instead of eating their afterbirths or spitting their food into their babies mouths as if they were birds, moms could embrace this crazy new era of store-bought vitamins and baby food like we have the locomotive and rock and roll. Or they can keep wolfing down their placentas — that's the beauty of choice — though, if you're going to do it, you might want to consider going full paleo and eating that puppy raw. That is how the other mammals practice, after all.

And a 3/25/12 column from the NY Times:

I Regret Eating My Placenta

It’s not as gross as it sounds, but then, it couldn’t possibly be, right? As a first-time pregnant lady living in crunchy Santa Monica, Calif., next to a raw food restaurant and a seemingly oxymoronic homeopathic pharmacy, hiring a so-called celebrity placenta processor seemed to make sense. Even the hospital birth class had suggested the practice of eating one’s own placenta as a natural way to ward off postpartum depression. It’s normal. It’s natural. EvenJanuary Jones is doing it.

Additional potential benefits of a placenta pill included the ability to improve breast milk supply, increase energy and even prevent aging. Talk about a miracle pill! Who wouldn’t sign up for placentophagia, the scientific word (usually referring to animals) for the practice of eating one’s own placenta?

Me — or at least, the prepregnant me. I’ve spent my career helping young women to avoid scams and misperceptions that prey on their body insecurities, and I pride myself on thorough research and general common sense. The old Nancy would have pulled the placenta pills out of a friend’s hand screaming, “You don’t know what’s actually in that! Natural doesn’t always mean good.”

But impending motherhood had shaken me. Delivery room horror stories and tales of baby blues caused my husband and me to spend months educating ourselves to best navigate the worst possible outcomes. So we were blindsided by the one scenario that seemed least likely: an awesome labor and delivery. Still, I was so freaked out about the possibility of awful things happening to me that I started taking the placenta pills as a sort of insurance policy.

After our son’s birth, I was meticulous about what went into my body. I declined all pain medication stronger than ibuprofen, and I even stopped using deodorant, fearing the rumors were true that aluminum might seep into my breast milk. I was a cheerful and healthy new mother. So why did I gobble placenta ground with what the processor mysteriously referred to as “cleansing herbs”? Somehow, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

But in my case, it was a terrible idea. Shortly after my first dose of two pills, I felt jittery and weird. By the next day, after just eight placenta pills, I was in tabloid-worthy meltdown mode, a frightening phase filled with tears and rage. This lasted another couple of awful days before my husband suggested that it wasn’t postpartum mommy madness finally making its appearance, but the hormone-and-goodness-knows-what-else-filled placenta pills.

My husband isn’t a doctor (though he is the son of doctors and has played one on screen), but he was right. After I went cold turkey on the placenta pills, I immediately felt better —exorcised even, of an entity that had willingly left my body but that I had stupidly, and with no medical supervision, scarfed back up.

Motherhood returned to being marvelous, save sleep deprivation. At my six-week checkup, I told my wonderful obstetrician that she should have never let me take my placenta home (medical consent is necessary at most hospitals, and she had somewhat grudgingly plopped my placenta in a to-go plastic bag as soon as I delivered it). While the Internet is teeming with individual pro-placenta stories, they are as anecdotal, and in my case as absurdly off beam, as alien sightings. Eight months later my son and I are fine, but I’m kicking myself for being so gullible without a single shred of proof.

Perhaps one day there will be clinical studies on human placentophagia, and we’ll find out more about the pros and cons of the practice. Possibly we’ll eventually be able to obtain a prescription for placenta processing, to make sure we know what’s really in those “cleansing herbs.” These are all concerns I have with the unregulated process in hindsight, which of course is always 20/20. And I wonder: how many other women are putting their trust in their placenta as a minimizer of baby blues when it very well may be a cause of their mama drama?

Maybe it was sheer coincidence that I went nuts right after I started taking my placental pills and returned to normal almost immediately after stopping. If I had continued, I might not have all this new gray hair, and I might have lost this stubborn baby weight faster. Who knows? I do know that I regret eating my placenta — if only because I am disappointed in myself for letting fear and insecurity cause me to make a potentially dangerous decision without doing due diligence on its safety.

Part of the reason I wanted to eat my placenta in the first place is that I am fascinated by the human body and all that it can do. The placenta is an incredible organ that deserves celebration. But — as with the appendix and other organs that the body tends to deem unnecessary — once it comes out, maybe it should stay out.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


"Oh what a day!"

Holy roller coaster ride! I think maybe today was Motherhood Initiation Day. Only instead of wearing all white, reciting vows, and singing ritualistic chants like I did when I pledged Alpha Phi in college - this initiation was less ceremonial but more of a metaphorical rite of passage. I laughed, I loved, I cried, I threw things (Kleenex).

This morning we woke up to say goodbye to Granny and Papa Pablo, and then Alex gave me a little treat and let me sleep in. Following my nap I found Alex downstairs reading Hunger Games with Francie swaddled in his arms. I felt deliriously in love with the both of them. It felt almost scary to love these two individuals so much - and to know that I could do very little to protect them - and as though my love alone might cause them to combust and disappear.

We gave Francie her first bath this morning. She's been smelling less newborn-delicious and instead a bit sour. Turns out she has some sort of nasty diaper rash-like thing in her armpit. And she had discharge caked inside her vagina (yes, apparently baby girls get discharge and even a little mini-menses after birth because of their bodies' adjustment to all their own hormones and those from breast milk). Also, her left eye started getting all goopy and leaking nasty pus-like splooge whenever she cries. She didn't exactly love being bathed, but she smelled sweetly again. In order to give her armpit, vagina, and thigh rolls time to dry out, I cuddled her naked on the couch. Turns out she must have REALLY hated bathtime, because before I knew it her tiny little butthole began errupting nasty orange lava all over her cute duck towel, oozing onto the Boppy on which she was propped, and began spilling down towards my lap. I was horrified at the prospect of being trapped in this cottage-cheesy baby poop with nothing to protect our couch but my body, and began screeching before I was caught up in a fit of giggles. Now that's what I call New Mama Initiation.

And as if I hadn't had my fair share of bodily secretions for the day, I was greeted in the nursery by a pile of dog shit on the rug and two pee stains. This is domestic bliss, is it not?!?

My mood shifted later in the afternoon, transitioning from love and laughter to anxiety and apathy. Francie couldn't seem to get a good latch, and at one point I thought she choked on milk and wasn't breathing. I know cognitively that babies deglutition/respiratory systems are designed to protect their airway, and that their breathing, coughing, hiccuping and occasional choking are all perfectly normal. But I was struck with the realization that I wouldn't even know what to do if my precious baby girl was indeed choking or required CPR. The instructor breezed over that in my last First Aid/CPR course.

I also found myself obsessing over this small spot on my calf that was tender to the touch. I remembered that the nurses and midwives checked my legs daily while in the hospital postpartum, presumably for edema or for clots. Google became my partner in crime, feeding my conviction that I was exhibiting signs and symptoms of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and that my risk of a pulmonary embolism was skyrocketing. Alex offered to take me to urgent care, if only to calm my nerves. But ultimately I decided that feeding this anxiety would only serve to empower it, which I am unwilling to do.

In the evening, I became more stoic, less emotional, and feelings of apathy seeped their way into my psyche. "What if I don't love her enough?" "Maybe this parenting thing isn't really for me." "Is this my new life? A monotony of eating, sleeping, pooping, repeat?" "Is this boredom that I'm feeling?" "How on earth am I going to stay at home with an infant for three months without stabbing my eyes out." I became very frustrated with Francie, after she fed for 3+ hours, nearly continuously, and continued to show signs of hunger. "I can't even meet her needs. She's insatiable!" I'm not proud. These are the feelings most women are ashamed to admit. I'm ashamed to have already experienced this mean-spirited aggravation, particularly on the heels of days of such utter bliss. I worry that maybe the novelty has already warn off. Like getting bored of new toys just a week after Christmas.

Again, cognitively I understand that a wide array of feelings and experiences are perfectly normal in the postpartum period. This barely even qualifies as "Baby Blues." And I know that this emotional instability is likely purely a factor of hormonal changes. But I want the hormones that make me feel blissfully in love, with both my husband and my daughter, and fear those that bring out the worst in me, worrying they will take root some place in my soul, and rear their ugly head undeservedly. I'm hoping a night's rest (6 hours sleep in 2 hour chunks) is just what the doctor ordered. And besides, raising an infant reminds me a bit of the Oregon weather - if you don't like it, just wait five minutes.

P.S. My daughter is STILL rooting. I used to say, "I don't understand why people don't breast feed." I spoke too soon. I'm starting to understand. The insatiable monster (that she inherited from her dad's side) would gladly stay latched 24/7 if given the opportunity. And my boobs are on fire.

Friday, March 23, 2012

5 Days Young

My body hurts. From swollen breasts to sore nipples to a falling undercarriage. Don't let anyone tell you having a baby is easy. It wrecks the body, at least for a little while.

It burns when I pee, so much so that my body quivers and and I'm on the edge of the toilet seat nearly dry heaving. The squirt bottle of warm water helps some, and the spray antiseptic make a temporary difference, but I miss taking a quick pee and wiping with Costco TP. Instead, the uric acid is, literally, like rubbing salt on a wound.

My boobs feel like they might be 100+ degrees on the inside. They seem to radiate heat when I feed Francie. My nipples barely resemble their previous state. And the tips are turnings shade of brown as they slowly callous. I was told we had mastered a "perfect" latch while at the hospital, and that Alex, Francie and I were "star pupils" (not that it tooted our horn or anything), but it turns out breast feeding is not this constant. It's not like a skill you can master in just 5 days, just as a newborn is not some creature you can simply just figure out. It's a song and dance really, and sometimes I'm the lead, but mostly Francie is the lead, and we're just learning each others rhythm.

And my ass, my ass feels as though I landed flat on my tail in a patch of ice. I got away without the waddle during pregnancy, but I'm more than making up for it now. I can't sit on the hard wooden chairs in the dining room without a pillow to comfort me. And we're not even talking hemorrhoids here. Just good ole fashioned muscle and ligament pain, presumably from all the shifting in my pelvis to squeeze Francie through.

My emotions are mostly in check, save for the one time I was your post-partum cliche - hand expressing breast milk while crying in the shower about how hard it is to hear your baby cry and not know how to make it stop. 'I fed her, we changed her, and she just keeps howling,' I sobbed.

And then, in that final moments before the 'Why did I do this again?' thoughts begin to enter my head, she magically calms down and falls asleep peacefully on my chest. And there is simply nothing more delicious in this world.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Surprise Visit

Guess who made a early visit home!

That's right, Uncle B surprise attacked us on our first night back home to meet his precious niece. He caught an early flight home from Thailand, travelled for some 36+ hours by planes trains, and automobiles, straight to our doorstep. What an awesome treat for her mama, too.

Notoriously fearful of infants, at least since the times he bravely held and helped care for me in the 1980s, he won her heart in an instant (he has this tendency with the ladies).

Brother, Sister, Baby --- Uncle, Mother, Daughter/Niece

Francie should be so lucky to inherit her uncles' good looks - either of her Uncle Brians, really.

Not-so-secret admirer.

New ink - "Francine Lynn" in Thai, completed on her very birthday in traditional bamboo needle work, with the bamboo needle souvenir saved for Francie's 18th birthday.

Coming Home

All dressed up and ready for the trip home.

Safety first! Thanks for the awesome car sear, WR aunties.

We had our first white knuckle adventure - the drive home from the hospital!

Our driver, Alex, took the wheel, 10 and 2, and I manned the backseat, next to our sleeping beauty. My job was to buckle up, hold on tight to the top of Francie's car seat (you know, because I'm stronger than the crash-tested engineered device), and to quietly whisper commands into Alex's ear. Backseat driver in the truest fashion.

"Okay, that's good, why don't we just pull over for a second so you can take a break. I think the parking lot was a good warmup."

"We are coming up to a stop light, do you see that it's red?"

"Okay, on the freeway, I think the right lane is the safest so you don't have to worry about your

"Watch out! There's a semi truck up ahead!"

"We are about to merge. I see a car that could speed up into your blind spot. Do you see that silver car?"

"You're doing a great job."

"Please do NOT drink your coffee while we are in motion!"

"You looked at that man too long. You always do that, it's like you linger a second too long and in that time someone could pull in front of us and we would crash."

"Don't touch the radio. It's best if the ride is silent so we can concentrate on the road."

You get the picture ...

And then we made it home. I reconnected with my favorite spot on the couch (although it mysteriously smells like urine, and I'm concerned that Gizzy might have been upset with our sudden and slightly prolonged absence), and settled in with the babe on my chest. Needless to say, we aren't getting in a car again until she's 25. And no, she doesn't need to learn to drive. We have a great hand-me-down bicycle she can use to mobilize. And if she gets the urge to put her hands on the wheel, we can keep my Volvo until it doesn't run and she can sit up front and play pretend.

Home again home again, jiggity jig.

Monday, March 19, 2012

We Had a Baby!!!

My wolf pack, it grew by one.

That's right, WE HAD A BABY!!!

If you are visiting this blog for the first time, you likely saw this web address posted on Facebook. I did so because I do indeed want to share our big news (in fact, I'm tempted to downright shout it from the mountaintops!) but mostly only with actual friends, old and new, who might not otherwise know that I keep a blog. In fact, only a handful of my friends/family are actually registered "followers" of the blog I've kept for over a year. So, I ask you to ask yourself: "Did I follow this link because I actually care about Jo, Alex, or this big life event? Or, did I stop by to see if the baby was cute enough? Or to determine how much weight Jo might have gained during pregnancy? Or simply because I'm a voyeur who gets off on viewing the personal lives of others?"

If you answered 'yes' to any of the latter, you should be ashamed of yourself. But still, we had a baby and we are JUST SO EXCITED!

And P.S., you, too, should "follow" my blog, or how will I ever get to field offers to write a book about the inanities of my life?

NOW PRESENTING ... (drumroll, please)

Francine Lynn Close
March 19, 2012
6 lbs 7 oz
18 inches

And here are just a few of her many admirers ...

Mama and monkey baby.


Sleepy heads.


BDA (aka Papa Al).

Granny and Papa Pablo.

Auntie Rachel.

Happy 0 Birthday, Frankie! Lemon cake and chocolate frosting.

Alright, time for a nap. Or another feeding. Or a dump.

Francine Lynn Close

She made quite a (swift) entry into this world early this morning! We are very blessed with a healthy, beautiful, sweet smelling, squeaky, baby girl. And mama and daddy aren't doing too poorly themselves :)

Name: Francine Lynn Close
Nicknames: Francie, Frankie, Squeaky, Lil Bean, Button
Birthday: March 19, 2012, 00:56
Place: Kaiser Sunnyside, Portland, OR
Due date: April 4
Height/Length: 18 inches
Weight: 6 lbs 7 oz
Looks Like: Joanna's squinty eyes, maybe Alex's nose - anybody's guess at this point!
Hair: reddish dark blonde, slightly matted waves/curls
Delivery Time: Water broke 3/17 5am, hospital 3/18 11am, Pitocin 2pm, active labor (pain level 4/5ish) 9pm, pushing at midnight, baby girl in arms by 1 am 3/19

What an incredible, traumatizing, intense, exciting, and ultimately rewarding journey the last 10 months have begin. And here is to wishing her nothing but good health, happiness, adventure, and many many laughs.

More to come, naps pending.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


It appears I might have gone into labor beginning yesterday morning. That's right, for lack of a less gross way to say it, and to embrace all that is the human body, Friday morning I "passed the plug." That's right, I found the equivalent of a loogie in my underwear. We, of course, had to Google this, just to be sure we were seeing what we thought we were seeing. It got me wondering what people did before the era of the Internet ...?

Anyway, I went to work as planned, and basically told everyone that I didn't think I was gonna make it through the end of the month, save for gory details. Alex and I spent our Friday night at Home Depot. And you would have thought I'd be the emotional basket case, but quite the opposite. I was married to both Jekyll and Hyde last night. He zoomed back and forth between sweet, thoughtful, angry and inconsolable, and back to apologetic. I was a bit flabbergasted, to tell you the truth, and found myself giggling uncontrollably at his erratic behavior. Seems something in my own hormonal makeup was triggered, because I then began to laugh maniacally for a minute at a time, followed, without pause, by hysterical sobbing. The best part was that Alex and I were sitting in the Depot parking lot, with a giant piece of melamine separating us so we couldn't even see or touch each other. It's probably one of those "had to be there" moments that we will likely both remember well.

And this morning started out a bit strange again. I had awful dreams about bleeding out and not being able to get ahold of Alex or my doula. But I also had these subconscious inklings of contractions. Turns out, my water must have broken in the middle of the night. I had a little meltdown to follow.

"stuff keeps coming out of me and I'm not telling it to ... I don't want the baby to fall into the toilet ... I'm terrified ... What if this is the real thing ... What if it's not ..." I sobbed and sobbed, punum and all.

Alex, back to his sweet old self, stroked my hair and scratched my back while I listed all the things that could go wrong from here. To distract myself, I think I will manically clean the house, do laundry, and prepare for baby's impending (early arrival).

Thursday, March 15, 2012

37 Weeks

Also known as "full term."

I'm not gonna lie, working full time while full term is hard fucking work, pun intended. Maybe it's just me, but while I don't feel like sitting at home simply waiting for baby's arrival, I don't feel myself too inspired to be dictated by the regular working schedule. Today, for example, I was so exhausted when my alarm went off that all I really needed was an extra couple hours rest, and then I'd bee on like Donkey Kong. But how does one say to their boss, "Hey, I'm tired. I know you work 60 hours per week to my 45 or 50, but is it cool if I sleep in a bit and just show up when I'm feeling up to it?" Yeah, I didn't think so. Instead, I find myself calling in "sick" for the whole day, simply to gain just a couple hours extra downtime. Then again, I'm taking myself on a daytime movie date, so it's not exactly complaint worthy, just guilt inducing.

I got to spend the day doing just Jo things. I took myself on a movie date to Bridgeport Village and saw the movie The Descendants. I even had the pleasure of hiding in a dark corner to cry through the movie, because there were only three other viewers at the theater. That's what I call a film success. Then I wandered about, shopping here and there. I spent hours at the Container Store, trying to create/build the perfect office. Because that's of the utmost importance right now, right? Nesting instinct anyone? Needless to say, it was a day well spent. Who knows when I'll get another one of those solo, wandering days again ...

Saturday, March 10, 2012


Soooo, if doggy parenting is anything like human parenting, Alex and I might not be quite as stellar as we've been over-confidently feeling. In other words, we finally planned this little "babymoon" - just a weekend overnight at the McMenamins Grand Lodge in Forest Grove - and we totally failed to plan for what to do with Gizzy. It only occurred to me while sitting at an OHSU lecture yesterday, that we had yet to make plans for the little four-legged beast that relies on us for food, water, and access to the outdoors. And since we were so last minute, I texted my dad, who was out of town. You'd think we'd exhausted our resources or something, but instead we decided just to leave her home alone for 20 hours. Outside. In the rain. Great parenting, right? I guess we'll need an extra kennel for the baby in case we want to get away for a night or two this summer.

We headed out Saturday afternoon for our quick getaway. We played pinball. Alex played pool. "You guys wanna play a 3-way game or what?," he asked a nice couple at the bar. I, on the other hand, napped on our king-sized bed. We soaked. "Does it feel really good to be weightless?," he asked. "Yeah, it feels good. But I'd still rather be in space," I said. Alex drank beer and ate a burger. I scarfed down bread pudding. We watched Mission Impossible 4 at the theater in our slippers. We cuddled in our king size bed. We slept in. Read the Sunday paper. Ate a huge breakfast. Alex drank bloody Mary's. We soaked again. Waxed philosophic about parenting. Then we put on our street clothes and headed back home. (Where I napped again!)

And by the way, Gizzy was totally fine. In fact, when we got home she had a huge smile on her muddy, muddy face. Turns out she made a track around our yard. Seriously. There is now a game trail encircling the grass. Weird little beast. But I love her.

We keep forgetting to ask someone to take a nice picture of the two of us. And I'm officially entering the fat-faced stage, so we used a tripod and timer to take our own. I hate most of the photos, but can't go wrong when my handsome husband kisses me so sweetly.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Drop It Like It's Hot (36)

Or, 36 Weeks.

People at work have been telling me that my belly appears to have dropped a bit. I'm not body aware enough to even notice. And breathing is still a task, so she mustn't have dropped all that low.

I feel like I might have doubled in size in the last week or so. My belly definitely feels huge and unwieldy. Unfortunately my pants and even maternity tops are feeling too snug for my liking. I'm starting to worry a bit about the whole weight-loss thing. What if it's too much work and I just abandon it? I have developed a few bad eating habits during this pregnancy, such as indulging 95% of my whims. Not because I feel entitled to eat for two, but simply because I don't feel like fighting myself anymore. Which has been very freeing. But not so good for the size and shape of my waist, butt, and thighs.

I've been feeling on and off a little bit sorry for myself this week. I feel tired and that makes me feel sorry for myself. And then when I think about staying home with the baby, I feel sorry for myself because I'm going to wish Alex was home too. And then I feel EXTRA sorry for myself when it comes time to think about going back to work full time - during my favorite season of the year - while my handsome husband stays home with the baby, basking in the sun and going for multiple daily walks and hanging out in the yard without me. Woe is me.

We had our doula, Melissa, over for dinner the other night. I'm pleased we decided to hire her. For whatever reason, it helps take a bit of the stress off, just to know we have someone there, on our team, who knows a bit more about what's going on than we do. Plus she brought me a chocolate bar. What can I say, I'm easy.

I'm glad we've gone for the ninja outfits in most of these pictures, because believe it or not, the black is doing me a slimming favor. And since we no longer have a computer with Photoshop, it's all I have to rely on.

Alex is adorable and I love him. This morning he said, "Can we please take her out? For just a minute? I'm too excited!"

Work Matters

I had a 'moment' today, as my brother would say.

I came to realize that the work I do as a speech-language pathologist does indeed matter. At least sometimes.

Because dysphagia (swallowing disorders) remain my weakness as a clinician, particularly reading and interpreting modified barium swallow studies (moving x-rays of the swallow), I have been watching old videos to practice my analysis and treatment recommendations, then comparing my interpretation to the actual clinician note.

Turns out, SLPs are kind of badass. Like, really awesome superheroes. They can be geniuses who catch cancer and save lives! Seriously.

One of the videos, a MBSS by my supervisor Annmarie from a few months ago, was of a 60-something man with no tobacco or alcohol history, complaints of 'globus sensation' (something stuck in the throat area) and reflux. I assumed he was going to be one of our typical GERD (reflux or heartburn) patients whose swallow function, as far as we are concerned, is totally fine; they usually get a referral back to GI. Turns out this guy had some funky lingual movement, restricted hyolaryngeal excursion, etc. I was pleased with myself that I, too, made note of these mild swallow impairments. But then I got to the part of Annmarie's write-up where she talked about referring the patient to ENT. Turns out he had a major tumor in his base of tongue!

My mind was blown. Essentially, she just bought this guy some time. Had she not thought to make a referral based on slightly funky tongue motion, this guy would have likely gone several more weeks before complaining to his PCP of pain while swallowing. Taking that much longer to get through the referral process. And that much longer to get a biopsy, a cancer diagnosis, and treatment initiation. Seriously, she theoretically just saved his life.

Turns out another one of my colleagues, Bethany, made a similar discovery week before last. That's a lot of pressure. No one prepared me to have to be a lifesaver!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Take Your Daughter to Work Day

Every day for the pregnant lady is Take Your Daughter to Work Day, but today is particularly special for Baby Girl, because she gets to see her first surgery! And so does mama! Today we get to observe a total laryngectomy. Rumor has it the operating room smells like burning flesh, the process takes 4+hours, I have to stand the whole time, and the ENT will hand me the larynx once it's removed! I'm thinking maybe this early exposure in the womb will predetermine Baby's career as a surgeon. Then if things don't work out with Cirque du Soleil, she has something to fall back on. I will be observing Dr. Cohen, an ENT who wrote the book on laryngectomies. No really, he just came out with a new book, Atlas of Head & Neck Surgery. He's supposed to be fabulous, both as a surgeon and as an individual. For example, I hear he wears bow-ties. How can you go wrong? I would fully entrust my head and neck to a man wearing a bow-tie. As long as it was decontaminated appropriately for the OR.


One of my supervisors escorted me (and Francie) to the OR, where I then entered the cluttered Women’s locker room to dress down into size L scrubs. I put my hair up in a cap and booties over my shoes.

Someone new escorted me to my patient’s actual operating room. The lights were bright and there were about 6 people bustling about getting the room set-up with the proper surgical bed, anesthesia equipment, surgical tools, and every type of sanitation precaution you can imagine. I seated myself on a stool in the corner, awaiting the patient’s arrival. For the sake of his privacy but my ability to call him by a name, I’ll refer to him as Buck. It’s a name that wouldn’t surprise me if it were his.

The doctors were just like I imagined they might be. There was one resident and one attending (so Grey’s Anatomy, I know). They were both tall, athletically built men, more or less attractive, with nice shoes and rings on their wedding fingers. The attending, who I learned lives in the Goose Hollow/NW Portland area, was discussing the money he was to shell out at his kindergartner’s school auction that evening. The resident later inquired about the attending’s upcoming absence. Apparently his family was taking a non-Spring Break trip to Hawaii. The two docs talked Maui for the next 20-something minutes. Condo this. Sushi that. SNUBA here. Resort beach there.

They were nice enough, of course, but I had to laugh in spite of myself for this being such a cliché. OF COURSE the ENT docs vacation with their families in Maui. OF COURSE they stay in 5-star resorts. And OF COURSE they are going to compare vacation destinations and places to dine out.

Back to the patient. Buck was wheeled in sometime later when everything was all set up. The nurse anesthetist was so kind and talked Buck through the whole “going under” process. But I could tell this was not his first rodeo. He has scars aplenty on his chest, and I remember from his chart review that he’d had some sort of cardiac surgery. Once the IV drugs were administered and he counted backwards a few numbers, he was out, and they intubated him.

Strangely, I had a sort of emotional reaction to this part of the procedure. My eyes actually began to tear, and I wondered if I had the spine to stay and watch a surgery. I couldn’t stop thinking about how scared I would be if I were in his shoes. What if he stroked during the surgery? What if he could never tell his wife again how much he loved her? What if …?

So I am either the most empathetic person or the most self-centered.

Turns out, I have a strong stomach and the smell of burning flesh doesn’t bother me one bit. Or Francie for that matter. The blood spilling onto the attending’s shoe didn’t bother me. The hours of cauterization of the neck didn’t bother me. The lymph nodes didn’t bother me. The entire larynx, on the OR equivalent of a paper towel, didn’t bother me. The cancer, visible within the larynx, didn’t bother me. And the trachea – in all its glory as it was re-positioned through a stoma in Buck’s neck – didn’t bother me. In fact, I thought that was the coolest part of the whole procedure.

However, I did not leave the surgery thinking, “Oh my god, I should have been a surgeon.” In fact, I’m embarrassed to admit, I actually got pretty darned bored during the procedure. The first bits of cutting and cauterizing were cool. And that clean, pristine trachea – just like something you’d find in the plumbing section at Home Depot – that was cool. But after about an hour, it was sort of the equivalent of watching someone fix a BMW motor. Or hanging out with Alex while he builds a TV cabinet.

Francie kicked throughout the entire procedure. All 6 hours I was in the OR. I was beginning to worry she liked ENT too much. How on earth am I going to pay for my kid to go to college, let alone medical school!!

After work, I was ravenous. I made Alex come pick me up from the hospital, and take me straight to get a burger and fries at the Old Market Pub. Francie and I were tired after a long day of surgery, after all.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

O to the B

At risk of sounding like a total prude, I have never had anything up my butt. Not sexually, not medically, and not by accident (what god forsaken accident would this be? I can only imagine. And if you Google it, you'll find all sorts of horrifying things to be afraid of. For example, bananas. Just sayin.) I probably did indeed have my rectal temperature taken as an infant, but this was at a time in my cognitive development when memories were not being formed, probably for this very reason. And don't get me wrong, I'm not afraid of my butt. In fact, we are great buddies. I'm a big fan of how it operates, as a sphincter that works in one direction. ONE direction. Out. And that's the kind of business I like to keep in order. That's the relationship I want to maintain between me and the butt. I don't want to confuse him (or her?) by introducing new directions. I don't want things to ever start moving in the opposite direction. Can you imagine how awful that would be, talking to my husband about the birth of our first baby, a sudden onset of diarrhea, a dash to the bathroom, and then a confused sphincter?!?

Here I am at the doc. I know the look on my face says "excitement," but that's merely a trick. In fact, this photo represents one of the expressions I make when I'm warding off a panic attack. The other one is me looking like a squirrel, tucking my top lip under, flashing my pearly whites in all their glory. I've been slowly trying to train myself out of that expression, because it makes me look like a freak. So I opt for the over stressed neck and shoulder muscles and fake smile. Good thing my ever-supportive husband was with me to take pictures to record this special moment in time.

And here are "the tools." Or, so I think, during the 20 minutes pant-less wait in the patient room. I keep imagining my pending sodomization. Even Googling the Group B strep test to make sure it's legit. I don't want to be some Kaiser doc's victim of weird practices.

And by the way, the exam was SO not a big deal. Which I'm sure most of you could have figured out. Seriously, barely even a blip on my radar. But maybe it was because we got that part out of the way first, and I knew I would get to see and hear my baby girl today. And I did! She was so big! No wonder it feels like there's no room at the inn. There's not. She is still as active as can be, my belly is measuring just right, I'm still right on for weight gain, and she's already in the head down position! Our midwife kept telling us how smart she must be, and how cute she was. This is how it all starts, and I have to admit, I kinda liked it. My baby's already so smart! And so beautiful! And here she is, at 35 weeks. Still can't make out distinguishing features in ultrasound pictures, but I pretend I can, and agree with how adorable she must be.
I can't even orient you to this image. Supposedly it's her eyes and cute button nose. Must not be ours then! Just kidding, as long as she's not as ghoulish looking in real life, I think we'll be fine.

And now here is my favorite doctor of them all, Dr. Daddy! He's got the stethoscope in hand. Not that either of us knows how to work it. And that pensive look on his face. He must be listening closely to what his daughter is saying. Something to the effect of "Daddy, if you pay me 50 bucks, I'll kick mama's belly button out so you win the bet."

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