Monday, September 23, 2013

My First Time

Four couples are sitting in the dimly-lit waiting room.  There is no conversation and all eight heads are pretending to read the six month old "People" magazines.  I sit there, with my husband, awaiting our turn.  It seems inhumane to be awake at 6:00 a.m. on a Saturday to see a doctor, but here we are.  What is even more punishing is we had to wake up at 5:00 a.m. and have intercourse.

My name is called and my husband and I shuffle into the exam room.  There is little conversation in here as well.  Mostly along the lines of "what time did you have relations today?", "feet in the stirrups, scoot your rear-end towards the edge more", and "is the sun up yet?".  Your normal, run of the mill Saturday morning verbal exchange with a physician.  I answer her questions and mention that this cycle I really felt like I ovulated.  She shrugs and says, "Maybe."  Reaching in to take our "post-coital" sample, I feel weirdly like I'm at Jiffy Lube.  That thought makes me giggle.  I am rewarded with a stern "do not move look" and she goes back to work.

I get dressed and we exit back out into the waiting room.  Avoiding the other couples' eyes as they avoid ours.  We all know we had sex with the person sitting next to us that morning and are here for answers.

Hostile mucous.
Basal body temperature.

These and other fun vocabulary words are all a part of couples who are having problems conceiving.  This doctor I had selected to guide us through what should be a "have sex, make baby, the end" process isn't warm and fuzzy.  She makes me feel bad about myself.  When I have questions she is dismissive.  The post-coital and Clomid trial we are going through she said is not likely to work.

Later that week, I contact a new "Fertility Medicine Specialist" and make an appointment.  I arrive at their office and it looks like they are working out of boxes.  This is not a comforting sight to me.  One doctor moves a stack of clutter, has me take a seat and listens to the litany of what we have been through so far and my medical history; I feel like I can recite this story more accurately than spelling my last name at this point.  I am weary.  He asks who I am "seeing now" (like I'm dating the grumpy doc) and nods a lot.  He calls out loud across the hall and another doctor, this one slightly older, bounces in like Tigger and is very warm and welcoming.

They may not look like they have their shit together, but what the hell?  I want to keep trying.  They write me a slip for bloodwork and give me crazy directions to the hospital lab, which is in the same building, but sounds like it's in Siberia.  I go, they take the blood.  I don't even flinch anymore.  I know what vein to offer so I look less yellow and junkie-like for the next week.

Three days later I come home to a message on my answering machine.  (This is 1999, get over yourself.) Dr. S. is babbling on and on about this hormone being this level and this being that and I barely pay attention until he utters his last sentence of "oh and your hCG levels were very high."   I clutch the arm of the sofa and play the message twice over before calling his office.  I got Dr. J. instead of Dr. S. but I asked him, "So, um, I'm, uh pregnant already?"  Yes, yes I am.  I knew I was ovulating when I was taking Dr. Meanie's Clomid.  Jokingly I ask Dr. J. for my money back as $300 is a lot to pay for a pregnancy test.  He laughs this off and schedules me for regular appointments through the first trimester before they hand me off to the regular OB.

Pregnant.  Expecting.  Thrilled.  I called my husband at work and told him.  I called my brother and told him he was going to be an uncle.  I almost hired a sky-writer.

Hayley came at 37 weeks, assisted by a wonderful midwife and my husband, who pulled her out and onto my chest.  I kissed her all over.  Gross baby goop and all.  She was worth the $300.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Chosen One

They stood in lines, tall, straight, proud.  They paid no attention to the wintry weather gathering around them.  They were the elite group.  The Fives, The Sixes, and The Sevens.  Standing in their precise lines, awaiting the start of The Ritual.

The Elders told tales of this ancient custom that had not varied much with the passage of time.  One would be chosen from all of the groups.  The elite of the elite.  The Chosen One.

The Ritual would be starting soon.   The sun was just breaking above the crest of the valley, spreading light, but no warmth upon the candidates.

The Others were coming soon.  The Elders could feel the vibrations of their wagons, slowly navigating the snow covered hills to The Clearing.

The Others dismounted their transport and began to walk the line, appraising The Fives, The Sixes, and The Sevens.  Discussions were had whether it'd be a Five, Six or Seven being a sufficient offering this year.  Walking slowly in front of the proud, straight lines; circling each Candidate with an appraising look.

The decision had come. The Others had chosen a Six.  This Six would make a fine sacrifice to the gods.

An axe was raised and The Six was cut again and again yet The Chosen One did not cower or even allow a whimper.  Finally, mercifully, The Other's sacrifice fell to the frozen ground.  Ropes were quickly affixed to the corpse of The Chosen One.  As they drug their quarry through the snow and out of The Clearing, The Six's body left a faint trail to the awaiting wagon.

The Others hoisted The Chosen One onto the wagon,tying it securely for the journey ahead.

* * *

When they reached their destination, The Chosen One was drug into the warm house.  A red ring was affixed to its trunk and secured with screws.  The Six was dead and could not protest as further preparations for The Others' ritual were made.  Tiny hooks and candles were hung from Six's limbs and a metal hat, in the shape of a golden star was placed upon Six's head.

The Others stood back from their now adorned sacrifice.  Satisfied, smug smiles were on their faces, knowing the God in the Red Suit would be very much pleased and The Others would be rewarded greatly for their efforts.

* * *

Back in The Clearing, The Elders and The Former Candidates settled down for a nap.  Not to be disturbed again until next Christmas Eve.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Mr. Bubble is My Co-pilot

Maureen lay in the tub, letting the warm water envelop her like a down quilt.  It had been quite the day.  She had taken her son to his monthly psychology visit and it had proven to be an interesting visit.  As she took another sip from her now lukewarm Chardonnay, Maureen wondered where it had all gone so terribly wrong.

The therapist asked her to come back, mid-session, to discuss "something".  Vague, but alarming enough for Maureen to surrender her copy of the May 2012 "People Magazine" and follow Sandy from the drab waiting room and back to her small office.

Max sat on a chair, his small legs swinging back and forth.  He was looking through a picture book, not acknowledging Maureen's presence or Sandy's return.  Sandy began, "Mom, Max here was telling me something pretty interesting."  As the therapist continued all Maureen heard was "voices", "compulsions", "referral to a psychiatrist" but no actual big picture was forming in her swimming head.

Being blindsided by "pretty interesting" news about your own child, revealed to your by a relative stranger was more than Maureen could handle today.  She sat on her own chair, now, swinging her legs in time with Max's.  Sandy was talking and scribbling out forms for bloodwork, for a psychiatry evaluation, hopefully a large script of Valium, too, for Maureen, but doubtful.

With the therapist's grin plastered on her perpetually sunny face, she handed the paperwork to Maureen and wished her to have a good day.  Maureen silently wished Sandy to have a horrible day, locusts, frogs, flat tires on the way home.  No one should be that goddamn chipper and the bearer of "interesting news."

Max and Maureen, hand in hand, made their way to the parking lot.  She had pulled him out of school early and while there was some of the school day left, there wasn't enough to bother with.  "Max", she said, "how about some ice cream?"  Max was immediately agreeable and climbed into the car.

She watched him through the rear view mirror on the drive to the restaurant and a thousand thoughts came rushing over her, tsunami wave, after tsunami wave.  Maureen turned off the radio, and before Max could protest, she asked, "So, um, Sandy said you were hearing things?  Do you want to talk about it?"  Max nodded his little blonde head in agreement, but was staring fixedly out the passenger window.  "What do the voices want from you Max?  Are they asking you to do things?  Has this been going on for awhile?  Why haven't you told Mommy about this?"  She could feel the torrent of questions just spilling out of her.  While Maureen kept her voice and tone level, she feel this bile, this lump of fear and rage and uncertainty and other yet to be defined emotions rising out of her.  She was met with stony silence from the backseat.

"Mommy's not mad at you Max.  I am really glad you told Sandy, I am.  I just didn't know about all of this was happening with you and want to understand better.  Can you help me to understand?"  Maureen was grasping at straws.  Walking that fine line between Momma Bear Concern for Max and adrenaline fueled panic. "Don't upset him more", she kept repeating in her own head, "he will talk when he is ready."  Great, she thought with grim irony, NOW I have voices.

Crossing the parking lot to the ice cream parlor, Max reached for Maureen's hand.  She gladly took his small hand in hers, not sure if she was steadying him or her.  God, she felt selfish for her need for comfort at a time like this.  Max was the one who needed comfort and reassurance.  Here he was stuck with a slightly unhinged mother, having sundaes at two o'clock in the afternoon on a school day; way off the routine and expected schedule of "regular" life.

After they ordered, Max started to color his placemat.  He finally spoke, softly, and mostly to the cartoon seal balanced on the ball.  "I have these, voices, I dunno."  Pause, hesitation.  Maureen restrained herself with every available ounce of patience and silence, hoping he'd continue.  "Like, since after Christmas. (the fact that it was September,NINE BLOODY MONTHS LATER, screamed inside Maureen's skull)  It's mostly when I take my medication.  I dunno, it makes me feel, like, funny.  It tells me to touch things and if I don't listen to it the voice just gets louder.  It won't go away until I do what it says."

He dropped the red crayon and looked at his mother.  Maureen took a big sigh and kept her plastered smile on her face,a la Sandy.  "Is the voice scary, Max?  Is it telling you bad things will happen if you don't listen to it?"  Max considered this as he picked up a green crayon and said, "The voice isn't bad or anything, Mom, it just is."

Maureen sat back and stirred her dish of ice cream into a brown soup.  Her mind was not able to focus on the singular issue at hand: her son needed her, went to someone else for guidance, was he violent, would he hurt her, would he hurt himself, would he hurt his baby sister, was the dog safe, could he be left alone, should he go to school tomorrow, what do I tell the school, is this my fault, is this Joe's fault, why did she ever medicate him - and on and on and on, until her mind was a buzzing, firey hive of "not good thoughts".

Max finished his ice cream and they left.  When they pulled into the driveway, Maureen felt relief they were at a safe harbor, their home, but also felt dread of the ensuing phone calls for referrals, bloodwork appointments, more time off from school and work, oh, and to fit a conversation in with her husband about what had transpired.  Max ran inside, greeted the dog, did his math worksheet and began "Minecrafting" for the rest of the afternoon.

The blame game now crept into every corner of Maureen's psyche; what did she eat while she was pregnant? What were those fertility drugs called?  Did she stand too close to the microwave with her swollen belly?  Maybe it was gluten.  People seemed to be blaming gluten for a lot of problems lately.  Maybe her husband was to blame.  Joe was a little off, maybe Max got it from him. Perhaps this was just all a big misunderstanding and Max was making this all up.  Maybe Sandy was looking to pad her calendar with more frequent (and costly) visits.

None of this was "thinking". It wasn't thinking.  It was free association of self-inflicted mental assault.  She fixed a dinner and fed Max and and his sister.  When Joe came home, she threw up the "I Need to Escape Right Now" look and took her bottle of wine and sat in the tub.

Was there anything more humiliating than finding out your child, who lives with you seven days a week, 365 days of the year, holds in such "interesting news" and when he decides to share it, he shares it with a relative stranger?  Maureen took a long drag of wine and looked at the clock: 7:00 pm it glowed at her.

Calls and questions would have to wait for better answer for tomorrow.  Until then, Mr. Bubble would have to do.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

First the good news...

Today I was able to wear a belt for the first time in a loooong while.  It made me feel happy.  After putting on my belt (my belt!), I left the house, went to Dunkin' Donuts for a coffee and a pumpkin doughnut. (The calendar says "September" so let all of the foods be infused with pumpkin).  Caffeine was needed this morning for fortitude because I had a 504 Meeting with my daughter's elementary school.

For those of you not familiar with the abbreviations and secret language of a child who has learning difficulties, a 504 is needed when there is a disability and accommodations for that child's disability must be made.  I have more experience with my other daughters' IEP Plans but they're more instructional based than "my child needs to hear the teacher so please provide the equipment, thank you very much".

Darcy failed four hearing exams at CHOP (The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia).  Granted her loss is at the lower end of the spectrum, but it is really hard at times for her to hear us and participate with her friends.  The School District, naturally, performed their own tests and considered her "not failed" but (here is the but) they don't test down to the decibel levels that CHOP does so CHOP's findings "win".

Last year was a nightmare, in so many words, getting the equipment assigned to her, working, charged, teacher non-cooperation - the works.  I blew my top around June (yeah, I am impressed too) and filed a formal complaint that the 504 Plan was not being followed.  I have been dealing with the Special Ed people since Cady was in Kindergarten (she has Asperger's).  I believe, I have given a lot of latitude when things got forgotten or the plan isn't followed to the crossed t's and dotted i's.  The Plan is a guide.

It is also a contract.  The District agreed to provide the equipment and training to Darcy's teachers last year.  It is a real, honest to blue, contract.

I go into my meeting this morning, full of pumpkin and coffee, hoping for the best.  New year, new teachers, newer principal - maybe things will go well.

First, there were lots of excuses (from the people I dislike) on why the system doesn't work or is always broken or why there are limited number of units.  I boldly stated, with the modifier "I am sorry but..." you agreed to provide these things, you are not, you need to do these things you said you were going to do.

Then, the District lady says as an aside to Darcy's new teacher, "Well, you know she passed the hearing test."  I immediately went to level magenta and said that CHOP failed her 4 times and that is what is in the 504 and that is what you will accept.

After a lot of wrangling over that, please don't fall asleep, the fun part of my story is coming up, we discussed "where the heck is the ear piece Darcy was given at the end of the school year?"  I stated we never had it at home, it was offered once via a phone call, there was no follow through.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, we never had it at home."

"Are you really sure?"

"Yes.  They have new backpacks and I helped them transfer their things to the new bags."

"Well, it isn't in the box here."

(blank stare)

"I don't have it.  I have never seen it.  In the classroom or at home."

Thankfully the principal interjects at this point to the annoying District lady that maybe the unit is in her office.  She mused over that possibility.

"Are you certain she didn't bring it home?  You know..."

And this is where I lost it.

"I really resent your implication here.  I have never, ever seen the unit you are talking about.  Darcy didn't bring it home and in reality only wore it for a week before it broke and she had NOTHING for two weeks."


Belt, coffee, doughnut = good.
504 Meeting = not so good.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Ruth Mae

I woke up, abruptly, in a cold sweat from some dream I could not and still cannot remember.  The clock read 2:30 a.m.  Five minutes later I got the call that she had passed.

What does do with oneself and that type of information at that hour?  I threw on some sweatpants and walked the half block to the beach.

The moon was high and bright and it led me close to the shoreline.  There, I wrote her name in the sand and her years, like bookends of her life.  Temporary, fleeting, waiting for the tide.

A week later I was asked to speak at her memorial.  I had no idea and too many ideas of what to say.  I am not new to writing and delivering eulogies but I really endeavored to get this one right.

“When I was a little girl, Mom Mom and I would travel into the City for our Annual Christmas Adventure.

We'd board the R5 and take it to Reading Terminal.  The trains and the train house were so big to me.  Larger than life.  Mom Mom would grasp my hand and lead me down the train steps and off to Broad Street.

Hand in hand, we strolled to the Academy, going to see 'The Nutcracker'.  The tall buildings and noisy traffic was a lot to a 5 year-old.  But her hand was a reassuring presence.

After the final curtain call, we'd walk to Wannamaker's for lunch in The Crystal Tea Room and then to see the light show.  One year, Mom Mom must have wandered off to the hat department.  When the light show ended, I panicked.  Running from grown-up legs to grown-up legs, until I found her.  She held my hand and took me back to The Terminal.

Mom Mom always held my hand.

When I was young and scared; when a boyfriend didn't work out; when we were kneading dough – we held hands.

We held hands when we kept vigil as my mother was dying.  She held my hand.

As we both got older, it was me holding her hand more and more.  Helping her navigate uneven sidewalks or in and out of the car.  She relied on me to steady her.

One of Mom Mom's favorite songs was by Bobby McFerrin.  I had once bought her a big, red sweatshirt as a gift.  It said,

'In every life, we have some trouble, when you worry, you make it double.
Don't worry, be happy.'”