Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Unless something crazy happens today, Baby Girl will be born in 2009 after all. Definitely something to be thankful for. I am also thankful that my diabetes finger sticks are down to 2x daily instead of 4x, and that I will be getting wheelchair privileges for two hours a week (just around the unit, though, for now). And most importantly, I'm thankful for Steve and the rest of my family and friends who have all been so supportive.

Happy new year to all.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

28 Weeks (and 2 Days)

Just wanted to post a quick update. Baby Girl is now past the critical 28-week mark, and on Wednesday weighed a solid 2 pounds, 7 ounces.

I also heard a rumor that some women in my unit get wheelchair privileges once a week and can go OUTSIDE. I need to investigate this. I have not been outside in a full 6 weeks and it freaks me out.

Monday, December 22, 2008


These walls are kind of funny. First you hate 'em, then you get used to 'em. Enough time passes, gets so you depend on them. That's institutionalized.
-- Shawshank Redemption
I wonder if this is happening to me. I haven't been allowed to leave my room in more than three weeks -- not even for an ultrasound -- and I'm starting to worry about how I'll deal with being out in the world again someday.

It's kind of disturbing.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Good News and Bad News

The good news is we've reached 27 weeks. The bad news (for me) is that I do have gestational diabetes. It may not sound like a huge deal, but I was having enough trouble eating the hospital food, and now my options are limited that much more. Plus it won't be as easy for Steve to bring me dinner. I currently have a finger-prick blood sugar test four times a day. If my sugars stay fairly stable they'll switch to testing only a couple of times a week, which would be nice. But I've been having one test or so per day that is slightly over the official limit (even while following the diet religiously), so that makes me worried I'll have to take meds to control it or will be doing four blood tests a day indefinitely.

The diagnosis was a pretty big blow at first. Now I'm trying to get over it and just eat what they give me.

But I'm eating what I want on Christmas. Sugars be damned.

So now I have gestational diabetes, like my former roommate did. As long as I don't end up with preeclampsia or "the herpee" ...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

26 Weeks and Counting

Still in the hospital after four weeks, and still pregnant. Also still not gaining weight, but I'm not eating the Magic Cup anymore. It's too depressing. The doctors are more encouraging these days about a positive outcome. The first couple of weeks they were very grave.


My dad said he and my mom were "canceling Christmas" this year. I think that's a bit excessive. I'm not a POW, nor is baby girl.

Today, Steve and I decorated a tiny fake tree our nice neighbor Judy gave him. It's on the windowsill now. I do think I'll skip the "High Risk Perinatal Unit Holiday Celebration" on Friday. I'm not allowed out of my room anyway. The nurses were all about having "Santa" come to me, but, um, no thanks. (I mean, really.)


I have my glucose tolerance test (this is a standard test for pregnant women) tomorrow to see if I have gestational diabetes (GD). I really feel like I have enough going on already and I seriously don't know if I could take it if I ended up with GD. I might have to freak out.

When I first checked in here, I had to share a "semi-private" room with another woman for 9 days. She was admitted for preeclampsia, but also had GD, a terrible cold, and (get this) herpes. She was Thai, and had a pretty thick accent, but Steve and I definitely heard her when the doctor said "Any STDs?" and she quietly replied "the herpee." (For a couple of weeks after that, Steve would periodically go totally serious and say: "the herpee." But I had to make him stop because laughing too hard can kick off contractions.)

My roommate was at 31 weeks, and as I listened to her hack up a lung for those nine days, I pondered whether I'd trade conditions with her if I could have a 31-week gestation baby, vs. the 22-weeker I checked in with. Tough choice. Luckily I won't ever have to make that decision.

If I do manage to keep this going to 36 weeks, I'll be in the hospital 14 weeks. Kind of like a semester. Maybe like a semester abroad.

Or a semester abed.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Still Plugging Along

I'm still here in the hospital, and I got a visit from the nutritionist yesterday to admonish me for not gaining any weight. Um, maybe if the food wasn't GROSS I would eat more of it. But today I made a concerted effort to eat more, to the extent that I felt kind of sick after lunch. A new addition to lunch and dinner: "Magic Cup," a weight gain ice cream made by Hormel. Its consistency is akin to a cross between pudding and animal fat. I think I have a weigh-in tomorrow, and I'm hoping I showed a gain from last week so I can skip the Magic.

Thanks to everyone for all the support -- it definitely helps keep my morale up.

Friday, December 5, 2008

25 Weeks Today

Today baby girl reached 25 weeks gestation, and with that her long-term odds start to improve dramatically. I'm starting to get a bit less terrified, but I'm still pretty anxious. Yesterday, I had a consult with a NICU doctor. He told me what to expect if I deliver soon. It's scary stuff, but every day makes a difference.

I'm happily IV-free today, but my hand feels like it was clocked with a hammer where one of the the last IV ports was placed, so it's still pretty tough to type. (The needle had apparently slipped out/through the vein and the day nurse didn't realize it.) For today, I'm off the IV meds. It's nice to be able to wash both of my hands fully when I go to the bathroom.

It's the little things.

It's actually been 9 days since I left my hospital room. On a normal day in a normal life, you have thousands of choices to make as you go about your business, and thousands of variables float in and out. But here, I probably have less than 50 choices to make throughout my day, and about 25 of them are "should I go to the bathroom now?" And the number of variables is very small, limited mainly to the level of competence of the nurse who shows up for the next shift and whether the kitchen forgets my dinner roll/tea/dessert/etc.

The other day I was staring out the window and saw a little red byplane happily looping around in the distance. I'm pretty sure it was a model, although it was impossible to tell the scale for sure. But it was a nice little reminder that surprising things can still happen to me while I'm in this room.

Steve brought me a book, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, and he brought my iPod and speakers, so my long afternoons are going a little faster these days. My mom is sending that Twilight book some of you have recommended, so that is next on my list. My voice seems to be starting to come back (I have been hoarse for a few days) but talking on the phone is still hard. Things are still a bit too scary for me to have visitors other than my family, but I'm hoping to be here a while longer, and I figure if I make it to 28 weeks I might be ready to see more people. Maybe.

For now I just want to lie here quietly and gestate.

Monday, December 1, 2008

24+ Weeks

Baby Girl is 24 weeks, 3 days, today. Each day adds 3-4% to her likelihood of survival. Got the steroids last week for her lung development. If we can make it to 28 weeks, she'll have a really great chance, so I'm just lying here on my side gestating, getting shot up with drugs, eating bad hospital food, and watching lots of syndicated TV.

I can't believe I've been in the hospital for over two weeks now. There's definitely a rhythm to the days here, and it does get easier knowing how each day is going to go.

6 a.m.: Wake up for terbutaline, request water refill
7:30 a.m.: Wake up for good, lie in bed looking out window, wishing breakfast would come. Consider watching Today Show
8 - 9 a.m.: Parade of medical residents asking the same question ("Any bleeding, discharge or sudden gush of fluid?"); introduction to day nurse
9 a.m.: Breakfast arrives (not too bad -- rubber french toast, biscuit, maybe some fruit, cereal, decaf tea, milk)
10 a.m.-11 a.m.: Vital signs and contraction monitoring, additional meds if contractions are going strong (lately I haven't needed any extra meds in the morning), nursing assistant comes in to change the sheets, housekeeping comes in to clean the bathroom, parents might call on the phone
11 a.m.-12 p.m.: Shower (every other day) or feign sleep to avoid the Catholic chaplain ladies who want to give me Communion every day. I figure once or twice a week is plenty
12 p.m.: Terbutaline, water refill
1 p.m.: Greet lunch with dismay (today was meatloaf marinara, some sides, and a bottle of Ensure), hope I at least got my roll with butter, turn on All My Children
1:30 p.m.: Grudgingly eat some lunch, wishing I could have an Italian sub (not til after pregnancy because of listeria), chips, and a Dr. Pepper (caffeine can bring on contractions -- and I have enough of them on my own)
2 p.m.: Turn on Ellen, read a magazine
3 p.m.: Consider Dr. Phil, nurse arrives for more vital signs, water refill
4 -6 p.m.: Doze, zone out, flip channels, check out Oprah, wait for Steve to arrive
6 p.m.: Terbutaline
6 - 7:30 p.m.: Visit with Steve; if he did not bring some dinner, greet hospital dinner with dismay
8 - 9 p.m.: Introduction to night nurse; vital signs and contraction monitoring. Additional meds if contractions are too frequent. Shakes, dizziness, and increased heart rate then ensue
9 p.m.: Turn out light, watch random TV
10 p.m.: Ambien, water refill, random snack arrives, start trying to sleep
12 a.m.: Terbutaline

I take the terbutaline for five days, and then go on IV toradol for two. That's the cycle I'm on to avoid becoming desensitized to the meds too quickly. (Usually I have an IV port in my hand, which makes it really hard to type, but today I am blissfully free of the port. The IV port [and the dizziness/shaking] have deflated my earlier thoughts of writing short stories or the great American novel if I ended up on bed rest.)

People have asked if I get bored, but it would be hard to get bored here -- when you're in a constant state of low-level anxiety, boredom is a luxury you don't really have. But my brain is working hard to provide random amusements. I'll be staring out the window and a random memory will pop in my head -- sometimes from vacations or long-ago adventures, but sometimes just little snippets of normal life, like one memory that popped up of driving on a country road near my parents' house.

I'm trying my best to stay calm and patient, and hoping to stay pregnant at least a few weeks longer to give baby girl a good shot at being healthy.

I'd still love to hear those happy-ending stories if you've got any more -- it helps me keep a positive attitude.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Still Pregnant

I'm still in the hospital and the baby's still cooking. The contractions keep coming back, though. I've been on terbutaline and toradol. The terb shots seem to work better than the terb pills; the toradol doesn't seen to do much.

I'm getting a steroid shot today and tomorrow to help mature the baby's lungs. She's at 23.5 weeks. I'm getting the feeling that the docs don't expect me to make it all that much farther.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ready, Set, Triage

It seems I spoke too soon.

On Sunday night, I went to the bathroom and noticed a small amount of unusual fluid on the TP. Placed a call to my OB answering service, and they told me to report to the hospital.

I've been there ever since, and it's going to be a while.

In triage the doctors found that I was having actual contractions (vs. Braxton Hicks) and I was admitted overnight until an appointment Monday morning with the transvaginal ultrasound, aka the hootchiecam. They found that my cervix was 1.6 cm, well below the danger threshold of 2.0 cm. Less than a week earlier my cervix had been holding steady at 3.4 cm.

So here I am. The first few days were really hard. At first I thought I might be able to go home at some point, and I felt devastated with each sign to the contrary. I could not remotely wrap my head around my fate -- I would lie here in my hospital bed thinking, "I cannot believe this is happening." Steve has been really supportive but it took a while for him to realize that I wasn't coming home, and I felt terrible to be leaving him on his own.

I kept trying to look for a silver lining, and I couldn't come up with one.

I'm feeling a little better about the situation now... I know this is the best place for me. This hospital is a great one with lots of experience in high-risk pregnancies and preemies. Whenever the contractions get too hard and fast, I get a shot of terbutaline and that calms them down for a while. The doctors will move up to a new drug regimen as each one stops working -- apparently most people desensitize to the drugs over time.

A lot of my friends have been really great, asking to come visit and bring food (thank god) but I'm not ready to see anyone yet except family. I'm hoping to get a private room in a week or so and that should make things a bit better. I'm still sad sometimes and scared about how this will all turn out. I wish I knew what was going to happen. I also selfishly wonder how long it will be before I get to go outside again.

If you know of stories like mine that turned out to have a happy ending, I'd love to hear about them -- it helps me to hear about the successes.

In the meantime I'll be here in my medical prison, trying not to worry myself sick. The first goal is viability -- that's 24 weeks, officially next Saturday. After that, every day is a victory and increases the chances of us having an ultimately healthy little girl.

Eventually, I did come up with a silver lining, feeble as it is. You know the show "Locked Up Abroad"? It tells the story of people who get arrested in third-world countries for smuggling drugs or money or whatnot. Those people typically end up living in squalor in a Mexican prison for like 4 years.

That would be much worse than this.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

22 Weeks and All Is Well

As of today, the little girl sitting on my bladder is 22 weeks along. I continue to be shocked and thankful each time the doctor reports that things are looking fine. She continues to jump around so much that we haven't gotten any good ultrasound pictures. I have high hopes for the next visit, the day before Thanksgiving -- when she'll be about 24 weeks, the first reasonable point of viability.

I'm getting pretty tired of Gatorade, but I dutifully chug 20 ounces of the sport drink first thing every morning to calm down my irritable uterus. It does seem to be working -- the contractions are much less intense as long as I've had Gatorade or salty food (which makes me retain water). I'm still working but trying to take it easy. My job can be pretty intense, so taking it easy is a challenge, but I do what I can and I'm lucky that my boss is supportive on those days I need to work from home.

We still haven't bought anything for the baby. That's probably not normal, I know. But this still doesn't seem like a sure thing. We did finally start looking into daycare, which was a big step for me. When people congratulate me on my pregnancy, I try really hard to just smile and say thank you. And when they ask me when I'm due, I try to just say "March 20" instead of adding that I will probably not make it that far.

It would be a great irony if, after all this worrying, I actually made it to full term.

Please take some time to hop over and congratulate my UU compatriot Sara, who made it to 35 weeks with lots of complications before giving birth to the 4-pound baby Brynn on Nov. 8.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Who Does Number 2 Work For?

Pregnancy has a lot of unpleasant symptoms. I've experienced a wide array of the normal ones, and a few of the abnormal ones. The normal ones were your standard nausea, exhaustion, aversions to certain food, assorted back pains, etc.

One of the more disconcerting side effects is perhaps best illustrated by this Austin Powers clip, "Who does number 2 work for?" I think of it regularly. Actually, not as regularly as I'd like. More like every other day. If I'm lucky.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

What Are the Chances?

En route to our 20-week ultrasound last week, I was nearly overwhelmed with nerves. I've mentioned before that I have tended to approach each appointment with a stoic attitude, prepared for the worst. My biggest concern this time would be that the ultrasound would show no kidneys, or some similar malformation that is not consistent with life outside the mother.

I tried to calm myself down, thinking "what are the chances of something like that happening, especially when I've already had such unlikely things happen to me?" But for anyone who's repeatedly been on the wrong side of the stats, this is less than compelling. I had two miscarriages in a row (there's a 1 in 20 chance of this happening) and then found out I had a rare uterine malformation (there's an estimated 1 in 6000 chance of this happening). I'm no stranger to the short end of the statistics.

Steve came with me to this appointment. We had to wait longer than usual in the waiting room, and I tried to remain calm while the clock ticked on. After what seemed like a long time, we were called back. The ultrasound tech started doing her thing. Once again, the little bugger was deemed "very active" and it took her a while to check all her details. Finally, she announced that everything looked normal, and I was finally able to relax.

I did confirm from the doctor that I am already having contractions. He said I have an "irritable uterus" and told me that's pretty normal for a woman with a unicornuate uterus. He told me to stay hydrated and lie down when the contractions come, and he gave me the signs to watch for that would indicate I should hightail it to the hospital. I've been chugging Gatorade ever since.

We also found the baby's sex. I'd had a strong feeling that it's a boy. Of course, I had a 50-50 chance of being right. I was shocked to find out for sure: it's a girl!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Running on Empty

I have this bargain-hunting problem. When I know things will be expensive, I'm apt to just suck it up and buy them. But if I think I can get a deal, I try to gather all the information possible, sometimes to my own detriment.

On the way home from work Thursday, I noticed I was pretty low on gas. The station near my house had gas for what now appears to be a bargain-basement price of $2.82/gallon, but I could barely walk that evening because of sciatic nerve pain and decided I'd stop on the way to work Friday morning.

Friday morning rolled around and I found myself running late. No time to fill up, but I'd take care of it when I left work to go to a 2pm meeting. Unfortunately, 1:30 rolled around and I hadn't left enough time for the gas stop. The reserve tank light wasn't on yet, except for a quick flash that morning that I didn't think counted. I'd be fine. It came on soon into my drive to the meeting. Afterward, I headed out of my meeting and hopped in the car for the drive home. I came upon a gas station, but they were charging $2.89/gallon, and I figured I'd get it cheaper near my house.

I merged onto the Beltway into sluggish traffic, my reserve light still bright, and started wondering how much gas was in the reserve tank. I vaguely remembered the car salesman saying the reserve tank had 2.2 gallons in it. Or was that 1.2 gallons? If it was 1.2 I was liable to to run out of gas on the Beltway. I merged back toward the right lane, just in case.

When I made it to my exit, I was relieved. And yet I continued to make bad decisions, driving by the first gas station because it was on the wrong side of the road, and then rejecting the next (2 miles later) -- I saw the $2.99/gallon price and foolishly decided I'd take my chances.

I regretted my decision almost immediately -- what the hell was the matter with me? I don't usually choose to do things the hard way. Walking to a gas station would be a serious problem, because I was limping due to the nerve pain. I drove slowly, in the right lane, and tried to coast down hills. As if that would help. Meanwhile, at stoplights, I tried to look in my car owner's manual for the reserve tank capacity. The information I sought was not provided. It didn't matter anyway -- either I was already screwed and it was too late, or I was going to be fine.

I made it about 2 more miles to the last gas station I'd pass before home. With no choice, I pulled in, running on fumes. After I filled up the tank, I found I'd had less than a half gallon left -- enough gas to get home, but only *maybe* enough gas to then get back to the gas station the next morning. What really chapped my @ss, though, was the price I ended up having to pay: $2.99/gallon.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

More Perspective

I had a checkup today to ensure my cervix was still behaving. (Thankfully, it was. All looks good for now.)

While I was waiting in the exam room at my high-risk OBs' office, I noticed an appointment schedule on the bulletin board. It listed women by name, and included a "notes" field. In the notes field were things like, "triplets -- wants reduction" and "blood clot in neck." Leaving aside the obvious privacy concerns, it kind of drove home for me how lucky we have been so far in this pregnancy.

Sure, we have some adversity. But things could be a lot worse.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Music Rules for My Car

Since the XM-Sirius merger, XM seems to have trimmed its playlist. Some of the denizens of the various XM-user message boards say this had been in the works for a while; either way, I'm having to flip through channels a lot more lately to find a song I want to stick with. There have been times that many of my personal automobile music rules would have been flouted had I not continued the search.

My overarching rules are:
  • No jazz flute
  • No James Taylor
  • No "Locomotion" by any artist
  • No Gloria Estefan
  • No Jonas Brothers
  • No Jesse McCartney
These rules are subject to change at any time, and do not include the banning of individual songs (a topic for a later post). What are your music rules? Are they absolute, or are they flexible?

BTW, OB checkup tomorrow. Hoping all is well. Fingers crossed...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Looking for Meaning Where There May Be None

One of the odd symptoms I had in early pregnancy was an apparent increase in the intensity with which songs would go through my head on endless repeat. Since I subscribed to XM a few years back, the variety of options for my internal jukebox has increased exponentially, but suddenly that seemed to make no difference.

I was about five weeks pregnant when I found myself struck with insomnia, while Reba McEntire's "Fancy" rolled through my head, over and over, through the wee hours of the night. In case you aren't familiar with the song, it's about a dying mother who realizes that her teenage daughter has only one way out of poverty, and it's via the proverbial Oldest Profession.
She handed me a heart shaped locket that said
To thine own self be true
And I shivered as I watched a roach crawl across
The toe of my high heel shoe
It sounded like somebody else that was talkin
Askin' "Mama what do I do?"
She said "Just be nice to the gentlemen Fancy
And they'll be nice to you"

She said "Here's your chance Fancy don't let me down
Here's your one chance Fancy don't let me down
Lord forgive me for what I do, but if you want out, well it's up to you
Don't let me down now, your mama's gonna move you uptown."

Well, that was the last time I saw my ma
The night I left that rickety shack
The welfare people came and took the baby
Mama died and I ain't been back
I charmed a king, congressman
And an occasional aristocrat
Then I got me a Georgia mansion
and an elegant New York townhouse flat
And I ain't done bad
A strange song to have stuck in my head, but maybe the message, if there is one, is that Fancy triumphs over adversity in the end.

A couple of weeks later, the Estelle/Kanye West song "American Boy" kicked off its rotation on my internal jukebox's endless repeat.
Take me on a trip, I'd like to go some day
Take me to New York, I'd love to see LA
I really want to come kick it with you
You'll be my American Boy.
This went on for several days. I wondered if my brain was trying to tell me something about the sex of the little bean growing inside of me. At this point, though, I remained completely unconvinced that this pregnancy had much of a chance of success. I tried to just tolerate my internal soundtrack and go about my business.

A week or so after that, as the nausea descended heavily upon me, came another unique selection. The Smiths' "The Boy With a Thorn in his Side" began playing in my head on endless loop.
If they don't believe us now,
will they ever believe us?
And when you want to live, how do you start?
Where do you go? Who do you need to know?
In addition to the clear connection to a fragile life, I noted with interest the gender-specific title, and the fact that my UU condition causes all my pains and twinges to be localized to one side of my abdomen.

A thorn in my side, indeed.

Later, as the 12-week nuchal screen for chromosomal disorders rolled around, my anxiety again neared a peak. The concern nagged at me that we'd find no heartbeat, and if it was still alive, we'd get results that indicated a high chance of abnormalities.

Around the same time, though, "One Step at a Time" by Jordin Sparks (yes, the American Idol winner -- don't judge) started up on the old internal jukebox. Desperate for some sort of philosophy to cling to, I locked onto this one.
Hurry up and wait
So close, but so far away
Everything that you've always dreamed of
Close enough for you to taste
But you just can't touch
Now you're feeling more and more frustrated
And you're getting all kind of impatient
We live and we learn to take

One step at a time
There's no need to rush
It's like learning to fly
Or falling in love
It's gonna happen when it's
Supposed to happen that we
Find the reasons why
One step at a time
At the test, we saw the little bean jumping and flipping around. Steve was fascinated by the ultrasound images. We got great results from the screen. And as of yesterday we're at 16 weeks and counting.

One step at a time, right?

Thanks to for most of the lyrics, with a tweak by me here and there. ;)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Step Right Up. Take a Chance. Everyone's a Winner

Only a few posts ago, but a long time ago in blog years, I mentioned that Steve and I were headed to Emerald Isle, NC.

It was a great vacation on a beautiful island.

We hung out on the deck in our little beachfront cottage, cooked out on the old grill, ate lots of seafood, drank a few beers, and relaxed as never before.

We explored the island and visited Fort Macon. Below, Steve peruses the fort.

It was very windy all week long. I had some crazy beach hair.

Perhaps most momentous, however, was one of the last pictures we took:

I met this news with trepidation above all else. Steve was hopeful, but subdued. There was no way to know if the third time (our third pregnancy) would be the one that stuck. On the last morning of our vacation, before we headed back home, I spent some time sitting on the steps to the beach, looking at the ocean, trying to remind myself of my very small place in the world. The ocean always helps give me perspective, and I needed it, badly, after getting this news.

I was beside myself for the first few weeks, certain that each day would be the last one for this pregnancy. Even seeing the heartbeat at 6.5 weeks didn't make me feel any better -- we saw a heartbeat last time, too. I kept assuming it would be the same as before -- that is, until about 7 weeks, when the nausea hit harder than ever. That was the first real sign that this pregnancy might be different. (Because of the nausea, I had to cancel a much-anticipated business trip to Las Vegas.)

But still, for each doctor's appointment, I went in feeling stoic, bracing myself for bad news.

I'm at 15+ weeks now, and so far the news has only been good. This morning, for the first time, I entered the doctor's office without the certainty that I'd be leaving with a D&C appointment. Things are looking up, but we aren't out of the woods.

I'm considered high risk due to my unicornuate uterus, and I go to a perinatologist every two weeks now for a checkup to ensure everything is still closed up tight -- no signs yet of premature labor. I can't express what a relief it was at my first peri appointment, when I asked the doctor if she'd ever seen a UU before (typically the answer with past doctors had been "no" or "rarely"), and she said they see UUs regularly, because it's a very busy high-risk practice. I feel confident that we're doing everything we can do to stay on track.

We haven't told many people yet. I felt a deep aversion to sharing my news and having it go "viral" thoughout our friends and family. I didn't want to have to round up everyone who knew to tell them if things didn't work out. Even now, there are people in my family who don't know. I'm not sure when I'll feel comfortable telling them.

I don't believe that "God will watch over our baby." If that were true, there would be a lot more babies in this world -- in fact, there would be more in my house. If that were true, people would never miscarry or have stillborn babies or have preemies that can't survive. It actually upsets me deeply when people say things like, "this baby is God's plan" or "I know God is keeping my baby safe." It implies that people who experience devastating losses were abandoned by God.

I know the answer is supposedly "we never know what God has planned for us," and that, like Job, we are supposed to learn from the "gift" of devastating losses. But the fact that pregnancy is directly caused by unprotected sex, versus some sort of lightning strike from Heaven (Jesus/Mary notwithstanding), implies otherwise. And the fact that crackheads and murderers can have children if they have unprotected sex at the right time also seems to indicate something less than the hand of God in the mix.

I believe what science shows, which is that the human reproductive system is not perfect. For some of us, like myself, it is even farther from perfect. It's a crapshoot, and all we can do is make the best of it.

Here's hoping we've rolled our lucky 7 this time.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

9-11 plus 7

I drove by the Pentagon last night, and saw the 9/11 Memorial all lit up. It's being dedicated today, 7 years later.

I felt like I should write something about 9/11. There's a lot I could write. I could write my story, but I've told my story before. I lived it, and I replayed it in my head for months afterward. And my story, while it seems harrowing to so many people who weren't in NYC or at the Pentagon that day, is nothing compared to the stories of many of my friends.

I'll just say that I feel so lucky that Steve and I are here, and together. And we are lucky that no one we are close to was killed on 9/11.

Life goes on. For most of us.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

No Sleep 'Til ...

The Beastie Boys' "No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn" recently got me thinking about my prior life in the NYC area. Strangely, my 2 years in Hoboken, NJ, was what came to mind, versus my 4 years actually in Brooklyn. Hoboken wasn't too bad -- it is a fairly safe, cute town with lots of restaurants and bars and an easy commute to Manhattan. But nothing could erase the reality of its location in the Garden State.

I used to go visit my aunt's family on Long Island pretty regularly, and when I lived in Hoboken, she would often introduce me as "my niece from New Jersey." It pained me deeply when she would say this, and I actually asked her to please stop telling people I was "from New Jersey."

After I moved to Brooklyn (Borough of Kings), I cast aside all ties to New Jersey faster than you can say "What exit?" It was as if I'd never lived there. Wiped from my personal history. Meanwhile, my colleague Tim had just moved to Jersey City -- the nice part. At the time, the nice part was only a couple of blocks long. Tim was telling us one day about his weekend plans, which included a bachelor party, and, much to his chagrin, a ride on "The Beast," a giant, loud, garish motorboat for tourists with shark teeth painted on the front (photo at right). Jason remarked, "Tim, if you die on that boat, your obituary is going to say you died on The Beast." And, giddy with opportunity, I immediately followed up, "AND it will say you're from New Jersey!"

Truthfully, Jersey wasn't really that bad. I just didn't love Hoboken enough to stand up against the stereotypes. Hoboken doesn't have much character -- the birthplace of baseball has long since been overrun with young college graduates hitting the bar scene. Brooklyn, on the other hand, has a soul.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Two Plates and a Story

The other day I saw a Mini Cooper with the following license plate. Not sure if he was referring ironically to the car, or maybe to something more personal.


Then I saw one that might belong to a urologist:


The P license plate reminded me of a story told by my friend Deb. Right after college, she moved to NYC without a full-time job and started doing some temp work. For several months she temped in the urology department of a big NYC hospital. One of her duties was inputting the answers from a patient questionnaire into the computer system. And one of the questions on the questionnaire went something like this:

When I urinate, I feel:
A. Intense pain
B. Discomfort
C. Nothing unusual
D. Delighted

To this day I remember her waves of giggles as she relayed the "delighted" option.

It was not until I had had a UTI of my own and had recovered from it that I understood how truly delightful it is to pee with the absence of pain.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Why Is It That...

...people who announce their pregnancies to the world (via email spam to distant acquaintances to whom they haven't spoken in months and months) when the pee is barely dry on the HPT stick *rarely* seem to have to follow up with a sad announcement? None of the early public announcers I have known have had any kind of adversity in the following weeks.

One-third of confirmed pregnancies end in losses, but it seems to me that the one-third must sit disproportionately with certain people.

I guess some of us are just freaking lucky.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Which Student Is More Deserving?

On Saturday, the Washington Post ran an article on page B1 about a student who has been expelled from Thomas Jefferson High School for for Science and Technology. The reason, the Post breathlessly reported, was the student's 2.8 GPA.

The student, Matt, (I won't include his last name here) is the son of a Fairfax, VA, electrical engineer and an accountant. He and his family were reportedly "puzzled" in spite of the fact that Matt was placed in an intervention program last August for his mediocre grades and failed to pull them up. Of particular interest is that his science and math grades were a B and a C, respectively -- at a math/science magnets school. Furthermore, his GPA was lifted by his three dubious A's: in physical education, driver's ed, and photojournalism. Matt's local high school is likely the right place for a student of his academic caliber. And yet his parents have taken his case to the Washington Post.

Matt's situation stands in stark contrast to that of Cedric Jennings, also the subject of a feature in the Post on Saturday, page C1. Cedric was raised by a single mom, and his dad spent Cedric's childhood in jail on drug charges. In spite of incredible adversity, Cedric graduated from DC's embattled Ballou Senior High, went on to graduate from Brown University, and later earned two master's degrees. Cedric is now a social worker and is considering going for a PhD.

Cedric has made so much out of so little.

And Matt has made so little out of so much.

This Is What's Wrong With Business Communication Today

It's been a rough few weeks at work, with a major project taking over many of our lives. I don't even know how many dinners I ate at the office. Too many. But we should be out of the woods at this point, and I hope to avoid similar efforts in the future.

I do have one observation from this whole experience, related to poor business communication.

In a meeting earlier this week, one participant suddenly started handing out chocolate bars. In the disarray that followed as everyone reached for the candy, another guy stated, only partially tongue-in-cheek: "I didn't know you'd be implementing a food distribution program."

This would be otherwise known -- to normal people -- as "handing out snacks."

Friday, July 4, 2008

Where I'll be until July 14th

We'll be in Emerald Isle, NC, for a long overdue week of vacation. Happy Independence Day, and I'll see you when we get back!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Googling for Symptoms

Yeah, we've all done it. Pop your symptoms in the Google search bar and see what turns up. Typically I will mistakenly conclude that I have cancer. Then the symptoms will subside and I'll forget about it, long before a doctor gets involved.

But I have a message for the person who stumbled upon my blog today via the Google search "lower back, intestinal, and taint pain" -- that is one unfortunate combination. I'm so sorry. You should probably go to the doctor.

Incidentally, I don't know whether to laugh or cry that my post about an acquaintance's terrible inflammation is the first result under a Google search for "taint rash."

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Perils of the Search-Replace Function

I saw this post on Mary Ann Akers' "Behind the Scenes" blog on, and wanted to share it with my small cadre of faithful readers. It reminds me of a time a friend accepted an alternate proper name spelling suggested by spellcheck, causing her to send an email to dozens of high-level managers that referred to a colleague as Ms. Jerk. Only this one is much more appalling:

The American Family Association obviously didn't foresee the problems that might arise with its strict policy to always replace the word "gay" with "homosexual" on the Web site of its Christian news outlet, OneNewsNow. The group's automated system for changing the forbidden word wound up publishing a story about a world-class sprinter named "Tyson Homosexual" who qualified this week for the Beijing Olympics.

The problem: Tyson's real last name is Gay. Therefore, OneNewsNow's reliable software changed the Associated Press story about Tyson Gay's amazing Olympic qualifying trial to read this way:

Tyson Homosexual was a blur in blue, sprinting 100 meters faster than anyone ever has.

His time of 9.68 seconds at the U.S. Olympic trials Sunday doesn't count as a world record, because it was run with the help of a too-strong tailwind. Here's what does matter: Homosexual qualified for his first Summer Games team and served notice he's certainly someone to watch in Beijing.

"It means a lot to me," the 25-year-old Homosexual said. "I'm glad my body could do it, because now I know I have it in me."

More on Mary Ann's blog. Even more is available (including a play-by-play of the AFA's bumbling attempts to fix the problem) on the gay rights site that caught the mistake,

My final thought, now that I've stopped giggling, is this: the word gay has several uses. It is obviously a first and last name. It is a place name -- Gay Head, Massachusetts, comes to mind. It is the name of a historically significant WWII airplane, the Enola Gay. I'm sure there are plenty more. It boggles my mind that the the AFA site approved an automated process that wipes out a word from the english language, replacing it wholesale with a word that only sometimes works as a synonym.

You really just can't replace human reasoning with an automated process.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

When Your Herbal Medicine Tastes Like Ass

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was going to try an herbal treatment suggested by my acupuncturist. After discussing the treatment with her, I received my herbal "prescription" in the mail -- there were two types of herbs, one for the first half of my cycle and one for the second. Each daily dose came in a plastic vacuum package, which I warmed in a bowl of hot water before cutting into the pack and pouring it into a mug.

The first batch of herbs didn't taste great, but it was drinkable. There was a somewhat pleasant aftertaste that was slightly reminiscent of anise or licorice.

The second batch of herbs has been hateful. Just hateful. I can barely choke down each dose, and the aftertaste must be what sewer water tastes like. Actually, the most accurate way of describing it is to say it tastes old and gray and rotten.

Tonight is the first night I've finished the dosage, versus pouring some of it down the drain in disgust. I succeeded this time by trying not to smell the concoction, gulping it quickly down (it's about six gulps), and by eating a square of dark chocolate as a chaser. So that technique is my tip to you, should you find yourself drinking gray-tasting herbal medicine.

I'm not sure if this stuff will help. I do think it can't hurt. My acupuncturist also recommended a lot of seemingly random diet changes that don't have any basis in Western science. This is all part of "traditional Chinese medicine" (TCM). The thing is, the reason I believe in acupuncture is that there are Western studies that show the benefits. The other TCM stuff, including the diet, not so much. The studies I could find discounted it. And I can't say I'm surprised -- what diet that allows cooked spinach but bans raw spinach could possibly be based on science? So I have tried to improve my diet, but haven't really stuck to the TCM diet suggestions.

In the meantime, I continue to be happy to be off the Western fertility meds. I'm not sure I'll go back.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Shot Fired

This morning, I was walking Wendy a half-block from our townhouse when a loud boom rang out. Wendy, a retired hunting dog, recognized the sound immediately. So did I, from my skeet and trap days -- someone had shot a shotgun, and it was close.

Wendy and I started running for our house, picking up speed I didn't know she was capable of in her old age. When we got inside, I took off her leash and noticed her legs were shaking. Then I noticed mine were too.

I called 911. When the police arrived, I told the policewoman what I knew, which was not much. "Do any of the neighbors have guns?" she asked. I told her that a young Iraq vet, his wife/girlfriend, and friend rent the end townhouse two down from ours, where the blast seemed to emanate from. From the cars out front, it appeared that only the vet was home. We knew it was his by the bronze star license plate.

The police canvassed the neighborhood a bit and confirmed that there'd been a boom. Nobody else had called 911. The police knocked on the door of the house at the end, but nobody answered. It's now 14 hours later and I still don't know what happened. The vet's truck sat in its space all day. (I worked from home today.) Nobody else ever came home to that house after work, and no lights are on right now.

Maybe someone was just shooting a snake in one of the tiny backyards. Virginia's a red state, after all.

Hopefully, it was something like that.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Eating My Shoe

On June 30, 2000, I found myself at a Braves-Mets game at Shea Stadium as the Mets fell behind, 8-1.

This was the first Mets-Braves series in NYC after John Rocker's infamous verbal trashing of New York in a December '99 Sports Illustrated article. I'd bought tickets to two games, hoping to be there to boo Rocker in person for being a huge jerk. The first night of the series, I had that opportunity, and then watched the Mets fall to Rocker's unhittable pitches. This night was Game 2. My friend Tim and I were sitting up in the nosebleed seats, next to a group of special-needs adults with questionable hygiene who kept accidentally sitting in our seats, necessitating a few polite discussions on our part with the group leader.

The situation seemed grim on several levels, so I called my Mets-fan pal Jason down in his regular seats about a half mile closer to the action. I informed him that his team sucked, adding that if they came back to win, I would eat my shoe. It turned out to be one of the biggest Mets comebacks ever.

Final score: Mets 11, Braves 8.

About two years later, on Saturday, May 25, 2002, my brother and I were watching the Boston Celtics in the playoffs on TV, and he became increasingly agitated as the Celts fell woefully behind the New Jersey Nets. The Celtics were down 21, and I decided to try something. I announced, "Chris, if the Celtics win tonight, I will eat my shoe." It ended up being one of the biggest Celtics comebacks ever.

Final score: Celtics 94, Nets 90.

Last night, I watched the Celtics not bother to show up for the first quarter of Game 4 in the NBA Finals against the LA Lakers. My brother and I emailed back and forth as the game went on, with the Celts down as much as 24 points. Around halftime, with the Celts still down 58-40, I emailed my brother: "If they win tonight, Chris, I will eat my shoe."

Unless you live under a rock, you probably know what happened -- one of the greatest Celtics comebacks ever.

Final score: Celtics 97, Lakers 91.

So I have concluded that I have magical powers. This morning, my brother emailed me: "What does shoe leather taste like?" I wouldn't know -- the best thing about my apparent powers is that eating a shoe doesn't appear to be required. I haven't followed through on the promise yet.

Go Celtics!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Monday Night on My Own

Steve is out of town this week. I do miss him, but there's something about this evening that I'm really enjoying.

This Monday night, I don't have to watch his favorite program: Antiques Roadshow.

Instead, I'm watching the Bachelorette. She's kind of a shrew, based on this episode at least. She just bitched out all the guys for not paying attention to her at the pool. Nice.

Seriously, I think the Roadshow is better. But that's not what this is about.

This is about television freedom and control of the remote.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Airport Rage

I am currently trapped at the Minneapolis Airport, on my way home from a week in Banff for a business meeting.

I am irate.

Seven years ago, I missed my friend Dave's WEDDING because of Northwest Airlines. Inexplicably, my flight (from Newark, NJ, to Orange County, CA, by way of Minneapolis) was canceled due to "weather," when all other flights out of Newark Airport seemed to be taking off just fine. (Weather, my ass.) Of course, they kept us sitting on the runway for 3 hours, so by the time they released us from our imprisonment there were no more flights out that DAY. I left early the next morning and only made it for the reception. I swore to never fly Northwest again.

For my business trip to Banff, I had to decide between a 6am departure time out of Dulles, or taking Northwest through Minnesota. I should have known better, but I made the wrong choice. The flight here from the Calgary-Banff Airport was so turbulent that I seriously considered the possibility of driving the second leg of my trip home, from Minnesota to DC. At one point, I realized I didn't even care if the plane went down, because my emotional/mental/digestive misery would end. I spent the last half hour of the flight in a cold sweat. We finally landed and I made my way to the next gate.

The only food available is a Dairy Queen with questionable sanitation standards (evidenced by the large brown puddle on the customer side of the counter ... and it's not raining). The food looked dubious, so I got a small peanut butter cup blizzard, which turned out to be a heath bar blizzard. Whatever. I then tried to find an outlet for my laptop. The first one I tried was dead. The second one I tried was dead. The third one I tried was dead. Now I'm sitting in a hallway against a wall by one of the few working outlets as those elderly-transport carts whiz past me. I just ate the weird trail mix from the depressing "snack box" I had to buy on the first leg of the flight.

My cell phone has one tick of power left on it, and my charger is packed in my checked luggage.

Oh, and my flight is delayed indefinitely.

WTF? I just want to go home.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Force Is With Him on His Daily Commute

I've seen some fun license plates lately on the road. Two more parrothead plates:
  • A1ASOU
And this one, which made me wonder what the guy's motivation was. Big Star Wars fan? Writer of fan fiction? Does he look like Harrison Ford 30 years ago? It was:
  • H4N SOLO
Pretty sweet.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Company Picnic

Last week, my office held its annual picnic at an offsite location featuring games, music, line dancing lessons (!), rock-wall climbing, and assorted odd snacks. Initially, I looked for the old standby, hot dogs, but finding none, I picked up some chicken strips. At the first bite, I knew I'd made a mistake. I spit the limp, damp bite of chicken into a napkin, rinsed my mouth with some Amstel, and hit up the snack line once again. This time, I chose the mini corn dogs -- believe it or not, the least dubious snack there. They were cold, and oddly sweet, but edible.

I wandered up to the midway with some colleagues, won a stuffed parrot and consumed a funnel cake and half an ice cream cone. I hit the picture booth with a random colleague and headed back to the picnic patio, the only place alcohol was allowed. There I found my colleague Tammy, who was complaining about the lack of hot dogs amid the snack offerings. She told me she'd actually seen a bunch of hot dogs and had asked for one, but she'd been turned away. "These are for the hot-dog-eating contest," she was told. No matter what she said, they wouldn't hand one over.

Tammy said she was considering entering the hot-dog-eating contest and eating just one hot dog, perhaps requesting some mustard and sauerkraut before the start of the event. Once she'd eaten a single dog, she'd throw in the towel. She decided against it, but several other colleagues took the challenge and signed up, their type-A competitive juices clearly flowing. And it wasn't about the prize itself -- a mere $100. It was about winning, pure and simple.

The contest was about to begin, so we found good spots and settled in for the five-minute event, an orgy of encased-meat consumption. Some competitors dunked their buns in cups of water, taking a page from world-class hot-dog-eating champions (see "How to Win a Hot Dog Eating Contest"). Others just doggedly bit and chewed, bit and chewed.

When it ended, the colleague most-well-known for his cutthroat competitive tendencies had won. Another colleague ran to the portapotties to vomit. The organizers offered up the leftover hot dogs to the spectators.

NOBODY took one. Tammy and I agreed we didn't want a hot dog anymore.

Maybe not ever.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

In the End, the Odds Remained the Same


Yesterday I went for another monitoring appointment, and the doctor determined that I just wasn't going to be ovulating this month. She said sometimes that happens with Clomid, and she said my regular doctor might want to increase the dosage. I noted that I already ovulated normally on my own, so I didn't think increasing the dosage would be useful. She said sometimes you just don't ovulate anyway. And she sent me on my way, telling me to call on my next Day 1.

I admit I wasn't looking forward to another two weeks of progesterone and the associated side effects. In fact, I was dreading it. So I'm actually kind of relieved that I don't have to go through that again this month.

But I'm done with the medicated cycles. The whole point of them was to increase the odds of a pregnancy each month by giving me meds to ensure my left ovary ovulated each time (that's the attached one). This is based on the assumption that someone with my condition starts with half the chance of a person with normal girl parts. Well, I did 4 medicated cycles. And two of them were canceled. 50%. My chances remained exactly the same.

Seriously, screw this. I'm not doing another one. I'm taking a few months off to do some crazy "Eastern medicine" herb treatments recommended by my acupuncturist. Why not? It couldn't possibly screw me up as much as the meds I've been on. It'll probably make me healthier, because the treatments include diet changes that involve copious vegetable consumption. In the fall I'll head back to the doctor if we haven't had luck on our own and if they have some new ideas.

Your Happily Drug-Free Pal

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Commuters Look for New Options in the Face of $3.75 a Gallon

This morning, inspired by record-high gas prices, Steve headed to the park-n-ride to take the 7:08 a.m. 18P express Metro bus to the Pentagon.

He wasn't the only one to have this idea.

According to Steve, the crowd of people waiting for various buses was much, much bigger than usual. This may have been due to the fact that the park-n-ride's slug line had approximately 100 people waiting in it, causing many others who normally would have slugged to walk over to the bus stop instead. Typically there are no more than 15-20 people waiting in this slug line. The ratio of sluggers to drivers has clearly been thrown out of balance.

(Note for those from out of town: A slug line is a line of people waiting to get a free ride in the car of a person who wants to drive in the HOV lanes, which require 2 or 3 riders in each car. Slugging is free, and it's great if you don't mind getting a ride with a random stranger.)

When the 18P arrived, it was already half-full -- an unusual state. Steve boarded the bus, grabbed one of the last seats, and watched the bus become standing room only as it made its next stop on Old Keene Mill Road. By the time the last rider boarded, it was wall-to-wall people. And even for those sitting down, it was tight -- grown men are typically about 25% wider than the seats.

It seems that gas prices, combined with ever-higher prices for a Metro train ride and the $4.50 cost of parking at the Franconia-Springfield Metro (vs. the ample free parking at the Rolling Valley Park-n-Ride) have finally driven many of us just outside the Beltway to full-on bus transportation. The Metro itself has always been a financial boondoggle for us, costing more than the price of driving to work and parking in a garage, even including gas prices. Plus, it has always been faster to drive. Steve still took the Metro train at times, because he likes to read on the train. But the express bus at $3 -- not to mention the slugline for free -- these are ways you can save serious time and money. And it looks like the secret's out.

But it won't work for everyone. We live in West Springfield and I work in Herndon -- a 21-mile trail of tears through more than 20 traffic lights -- so there are no viable public transportation options for my commute. And there are no good carpool options for me, either. It's costing us over $50 to fill up my small SUV (a Toyota RAV4) every 5 days or so. Steve's Camry may get far better mileage -- or so we think. I love my little truck, even though it only gets about 22.3 mpg (the stated mileage of 24 city/27 highway is pure fiction). It has all my commuting-pacification stuff in it. The XM is all hooked up. A little case of bottled water is in the back. My maps are positioned in various pockets, easily accessible for shortcuts if needed. I've got Advil in the center console and always have a snack in there just in case. My RAV4 features my college alumni license plate holder and my little jade rear-view mirror bauble. But in the interest of financial savings, I'm being banished to the soulless Camry for a one-week test run.

At least the Camry has a sunroof.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Pour Your Misery Down on I-66

I took one of my lengthy back routes to the Fairfax County Parkway this morning to avoid the flooding that so often causes massive backups on that little-known but much-abused highway that never makes the cut for the traffic reports unless the asphalt catches fire or something on it actually explodes. Tooling along in the continued downpour and listening to XM, I cranked up the opening strains of Garbage's "I'm Only Happy When It Rains," an apropos song for this morning.

As I made my way across the I-66 overpass, I looked down and deeply pitied the thousands of people pointed east but sitting at a complete stop -- it looked much worse than usual. At the very moment I glanced down at the traffic jam, over my radio came the lyrics: "pour your misery down on me."


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Some Things Are Just Out of Your Control

Today at work I saw a presentation by Al Haynes, captain of United Flight 232, which crashed in 1989 in Sioux City, Iowa. Captain Haynes detailed 45 minutes in the air during which he and his co-pilots desperately tried to maneuver their crippled plane toward an airport after a design flaw caused engine #2, on the tail, to break off and spray shrapnel across the rear of the plane, slicing through key hydraulic mechanisms. The pilots flew the plane using nothing but the throttles on the two remaining engines. In the end, the plane crash-landed in a corn field at the Sioux City Airport. Miraculously, 185 of the 296 people aboard the plane survived.

Later, investigators tried to recreate the crew's flight and landing under the same conditions, and were unable to do so. Captain Haynes detailed conversations he had with DC-10 experts who said that the breakdown that occurred was impossible, as was flying the plane if that breakdown *did* occur. The captain said it was because of a few factors -- luck, communications, preparation, execution, and cooperation -- that so many of the passengers survived. And luck was #1.

Then, Captain Haynes moved beyond the standard disaster story into the personal. He said he gives these talks because it helps him heal, even 19 years later. He told us that his family has had its share of losses, with the sudden loss of his wife, the death of his son in a motorcycle accident, and a close call with his daughter, who needed a bone marrow transplant. He said the biggest lesson he learned is that some things are just out of your control. And in the end, you have to just keep going and live your life.


Monday was my one-year blog anniversary. For some reason, my thoughts turned to my Mother's Day post last year, when I wondered if I'd have reason to celebrate this year. Then I found out 10 days later that that pregnancy, my second, had ended. So there will be no celebration for me this time. I'll still call my mom like I do every year. I'm sure Steve will call his. And who knows what next year will bring.

One of the areas my job touches on is risk management, and perception is a major issue. No matter what the statistics are for the likelihood of a given event, humans tend to believe that if something has never happened, it never will (until 2005, few really believed a hurricane could devastate New Orleans), and we also tend to believe that the most recent disaster is extremely likely (prepping like crazy for hurricanes after Katrina). I guess that's what I'm doing here, too -- thinking that I'll never be able to get the job done, and that the same pregnancy disaster will happen again and again.

I know it's only been a few months on the fertility drugs, but it seems like a long time. I hate taking the hormones. I hate that one of the hormones mimics the symptoms of pregnancy. I hate that I'm bloated and my chest is too big. I hate having to insert suppositories twice a day starting on Day 9. I hate having bright green discharge and having to wear a pantyliner 2/3 of the month. I hate that some friends cut me out of their lives when they got pregnant, or when they hit the second trimester. I hate that I can't make firm plans to go out of town until I know when my Day 1 is.

I want to just say screw this whole thing. It's completely out of my control.

But in the end, I have to just keep going and live my life.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Thoughts on Wi-Fi and Rubbernecking

I am an avowed rubbernecker. I'll bitch about the traffic as much as the next driver, but if I've been waiting in line for 10 minutes, or an hour, or whatever, I damn well want to take the look I've been waiting for.

Today, there was a slightly unusual backup on the southbound Fairfax County Parkway around 6:30 p.m. When I got to the front of the line, I stared openly. On the side of the road was a BMW with a flat tire. And on the knoll next to the road was the driver of the BMW, sitting with his laptop open in his lap.

No doubt he was using his aircard to google "how to change a flat tire."

Monday, April 28, 2008

A Tale of Many Sticks

This morning I went in to the fertility clinic for a beta test to confirm what I already knew -- that I was not pregnant. I was annoyed that I even had to go, but figured I'd follow protocol in spite of the three home pregnancy tests that turned up negative over the last few days.

So I went in, and there was a new woman behind the needle. I got an insecure vibe from the start, and it made me nervous. I have very small veins, and things can go very wrong very fast for me in the blood-taking department. Sure enough, the first stick went in, and then I felt it moving around. I looked, and Bad Needle Nurse was literally sweeping it around under my skin trying to find my vein. She did this for at least 10 seconds, until I stopped trying to look away and stared at her in shock. "I don't like to fish around," Bad Needle Nurse said. "Your vein keeps moving from side to side." She pulled it out and tried again. Same result -- more fishing under the skin. At this point, I was feeling really queasy and a bit faint. Bad Needle Nurse finally asked, "am I hurting you?" and, hoping that an affirmative answer would end the amateurish prodding, I abandoned my usual stoicism and announced, "yes!" This woman then accused me of not drinking enough water. "It's not usually a problem," I replied ... and silently finished the thought: "when the nurse knows what she is doing." Bad Needle Nurse then called in Competent Nurse, who got it on the first stick, as usual. My arm hurt like a bitch. Part of me wanted to go punch Bad Needle Nurse in the neck, but I wasn't feeling so well at that point so I couldn't quite muster up my usual fierce animosity toward those who injure me or who injure people I love.

I was dismissed and wandered out to the billing/appointments lady. I was so woozy that I made no sense when discussing my next appointment. In fact, Billing Lady asked when my next appointment was supposed to be, and I said, "I have to wait until Day 1 and call." She looked confused and I confused her further by actually stating, "I already know the test is negative because I peed on a stick even though we aren't supposed to." Billing Lady looked really confused, but just said, kindly, "ok, you give us a call."

It was only after I left that I realized the POAS acronym doesn't really work when spelled out in real-life conversation with someone who doesn't spend much time on TTC message boards. D'oh!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Musings on XM 65 The Rhyme

I've been listening lately to XM 65 The Rhyme -- the old school rap channel -- in an effort to broaden my hiphop horizons and give West Coast rap more of a chance. (I was always an East Coast fan.) I can't quite get into Tupac, because his songs seem to be way too serious, about a 12-year-old girl having a baby that she throws in a trashcan, and things like that. But I have become a fan of the late Eazy E ("We Want Eazy!").

One morning last week, a song called "Nika" by Vicious rolled up on the playlist, and it sounded really familiar. I realized after a few measures that it had a really similar foundation sound to B.I.G's Big Poppa. I looked it up, and it looks like Nika was released a few months before Big Poppa. I scanned the internets ;) and found nothing about the correlation between the two. But I know I'm not crazy. Anybody know the connection?

Listen for yourself:
Big Poppa

Thus passed another 21 mile commute to work up the Fairfax County Parkway.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Eggs Don't Go There! Glory Days' New Featured Menu Item

I am taking the day off today (mental health day -- no Mogwai allowed) and was perusing my home email when I saw that Glory Days Grill, a local chain with a restaurant near our house, was announcing new menu items. We eat there from time to time so I opened the email. I found myself failing to comprehend the vision -- nay, the nightmare -- that filled my screen. Note the photo.


What the hell was that? Apparently this is called the Glory Burger. The menu describes it thusly:
Our fresh seasoned and grilled burger, zesty
BBQ sauce, fried onion straws, bacon and cheddar
cheese. Topped with a fried egg. 8.99

Why? Why top it with a fried egg? Who is going to order this? What is WRONG with them? And do you notice how they just sort of slip the egg part in there at the end? Don't you think that should be the first thing they mention? I'd write it this way:

Topped with a fried egg, this burger is not for the
faint of heart, nor for those with cholesterol counts
over 200.
Beneath the egg you will find our fresh
seasoned and grilled burger, zesty
BBQ sauce,
fried onion straws, bacon and cheddar

cheese. 8.99

That would be more appropriate, in my opinion, for full disclosure.

There were several other new menu items too, including a Cobb Salad and a Salmon Dinner. They all sounded fairly tasty and normal. I might even order the salmon one of these days. And yet they chose to feature this monstrosity, this crime of a meal that should not occur in nature.

If the goal was to get people to say "WTF?" and click to see what that thing was, I suppose they achieved that. But I can't say I'm thinking "Glory Days" and "mouth-watering" at the same time right now.

I think I'll go eat some fruit.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Mogwai Are Restless

I had a terrible week last week with the Mogwai client. We spent about 16 hours in "writing meetings" during which no writing took place. Instead, one of the head Mogwais pontificated on his Very Bad Ideas for hours at a time.

At one point, he said the following: "The problem is, we have bears and elephants. We need to have all elephants." Knowing his idea was a poor one, I followed up with, "but how can you turn bears into elephants?" And he replied, to my utter dismay: "EXACTLY!"


Because no writing took place in the writing meetings, the writing had to take place this weekend. For this, I am resentful. But I didn't bear the brunt of it -- I just did the edit. Another colleague had to write the first draft. It was his birthday yesterday.

What kind of life is this?

I need to get off this project.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Taking Sexy Back on the Road

The other morning I was driving to work, pondering the little mcmansions nestled in a tiny pocket between an interstate and a parkway. So commutable, and so soulless. And then, at a light, I noticed something odd about the license plate on the Honda in front of me. Someone had taken a label maker, typed "OH SO SEXY," and pasted the label across the license plate under the tag number.

At first I thought maybe someone did it as a joke, but when he turned the corner I got a good look at him and his sideways baseball cap. He kind of looked like he knew it was on there.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Client Work: In Support of Mogwai

I never talk about work on here because I think it's generally a boring topic, and it also seems like a great way to get fired. But I've recently started working on a project that is having some assorted "challenges," and as a result, the team I'm working with has instituted a number of hard-and-fast rules. The team was informed of these rules during an anti-motivational meeting in which the manager's finger pointed at us all numerous times. (Thankfully, it was quite uncharacteristic of my experiences to date in this particular career.)

I don't remember all the rules verbatim, but I'll try to give you an idea of them here.
  • This task and no other must be a priority
  • Do not announce yourself on conference calls
  • Do not allow too many of your team members to attend the same meeting
  • The client may joke around with you, but you do NOT joke around with the client
  • Keep it out of bright light
  • Never get it wet
  • Never, ever, ever feed it after midnight

Monday, March 31, 2008

Guest Post: On the Road in Pennsylvania

This post comes from my friend Annie.

So I was driving to work this morning and saw a SUV with the license plate that says TITLIST. I’m thinking the guy is a golfer and wanted it to say TITLEIST but couldn’t score that plate or at least I hope that was the case!! I have seen this vehicle before and all I see every time is the naughty version of it….did the guy not think when he agreed to have that plate after hopefully his first request got denied??

Heh heh... TITLIST.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Generation Gap

I've been pondering the difference between Gen X and Gen Y recently. There have been a lot of theories on what Gen Yers need at work, including acceptance of their need to have access to all their social networking tools, many of which cause major security concerns for the corporate network, and all of which are productivity drains.

Personally, I don't care how wired you were growing up -- you don't get to play on Myspace and Facebook all day at work, because we don't pay you to do that. In the end, good employees are good employees, and contrary to this BS conventional wisdom, many of our recent college grads are actually doing really well, working hard, and waste no more time online than your average worker. That's not to say we're always on the same page, though.

Yesterday I was driving to lunch with three coworkers. Two are Gen Xers like me; the other is one of our really successful recent college grads. She may have the work ethic down, but she perfectly and violently illustrated the generation gap when "Lovesong" by the Cure (c. 1989) came on the radio. And out of nowhere, the young Gen Yer blurted out: "Oldies!"

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Medicated Cycle

I just finished my second medicated cycle, the first one that went all the way through. Before it started I was pretty curious about how it would all go down. Everyone will have a different protocol per her doctor, but maybe this could be useful information for others to have.

Disclaimer: If you're easily grossed out, you probably want to skip this post.

On Day 3 of my cycle (the third day of bleeding), I went to the doctor for a transvaginal ultrasound (the wand that goes inside the va-jay-jay) and a blood test. The ultrasound allowed the doctor to take a look at my ovaries and ensure they didn't have any cysts left over from the last cycle. The blood test ensured I was not pregnant. I was cleared to begin medication after those tests. I started on Day 3 with 25 mg of clomiphene citate (AKA Clomid) to stimulate my ovaries. I ovulate naturally on my own, but I have a unicornuate uterus (only the left side of my uterus formed) and I have no right fallopian tube. This means that if I ovulate on the right side, the egg has no way to get to my uterus and ends up just being released into my abdomen somewhere, where it eventually dissolves. The clomid increases the chance that both ovaries will ovulate, and every time the left one works, that's a chance for pregnancy.

Clomid, however, has side effects. For me, they included increased thirst, a hot flash or two, and the most unfortunate one -- it reduced the thickness of the lining of my uterus. I took the clomid through Day 8, and starting on Day 9 I began taking a 2 mg estrogen pill called estradiol. This is a green vaginal suppository that counteracts the issue with the uterine lining. I inserted it twice a day through the remainder of the cycle. The estradiol caused intense headaches until around the time I ovulated. And because it is a green pill, it caused bright green vaginal discharge.

On Day 11, I headed in to the doctor again for another transvaginal ultrasound and blood test. At the ultrasound, I had three follicles on my right ovary (the disconnected one) and two on my left of a good size, so we were good to go. (The prior cycle had been canceled because I had no follicles on the left.) If the follicles were not large enough yet, I would have been told to come back in a day or two. This was all in preparation for my "trigger shot," which triggers ovulation.

The blood test results revealed that I had already started the 24-48 hour process of ovulation, so we were told to make sure I injected myself with my "trigger shot" that night and to ensure we did the deed that night as well.

The trigger shot is a syringe pre-filled with 250 mg of recombinant human chorionic gonadotropin. It is best injected into the belly. I was disturbed at the idea of injecting myself in my tummy, but it actually didn't hurt at all. It was trippy, sticking a needle into myself and pushing the plunger, but the pain was less than minimal.

So we did the deed that night and the next night. We were actually told to do it that night, optional for the second night, and definitely on the third morning. But I was pretty sure the show was over by the third morning, because the ovulation pains (pretty noticeable when you're on clomid) had disappeared. And the third morning was a Monday, so that was that.

I don't regret missing that last opportunity. Remember, this is a natural cycle, which means we do it the old-fashioned way, and I was inserting those little green pills. And nothing says romance like green vaginal discharge.

Starting on Day 14, I began taking prometrium capsules, which increase progesterone levels. They were also vaginal, so they got popped in right after the estradiol, creating an even greater need for a panty liner. Prometrium is supposed to help with implantation. The side effects basically mimic pregnancy, which to me is a cruel joke. My breasts were very sore, my chin broke out, and I felt irritable and tired, especially as the cycle wound down. Luckily, I'd been warned about the pregnancy symptoms, so I didn't get too excited.

At 7 a.m. on Day 28, I went in for my beta test (a blood test to check for pregnancy). I found out later that day that the test was negative.

On the bright side, I was able to stop all the meds. And the meds are not pretty. For two days after that, I still had to wear a panty liner as the meds continued to drip out. Finally, yesterday, it stopped (Day 31).

And today is a new Day 1.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Signs of the Apocalypse

Britney Spears on the cover of the Atlantic Monthly:

I wonder how many kids will pick this one up at Borders thinking it's the latest US Weekly.

If you're interested, the article is here. I thought it was moderately interesting, but I had expected more of a big picture (no pun intended) or global view. Instead, it was pretty much all about the photographers following Ms. Spears, and that was it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day

About 8 or 9 years ago, when I lived in NYC, I would take St. Patrick's Day off and find an Irish pub in which to plant myself starting around noon on the big day. Total alcohol consumption: unmeasurable.

Today, I wore a green suit jacket to my client meeting, and bought a shamrock shake at McDonald's on the way. It was tasty and delicious. When I got home this evening, I cooked corned beef and potatoes (puhdaydahs to my New England relatives), and the big excitement came when we gave our beagle some of the beef. Total alcohol consumption: half a beer with dinner and a hot toddy afterwards.

How times have changed.

I'll tell you what, though -- it was a pretty good day. And I won't have to deal with a hangover tomorrow.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Organizing the Parrot Head Movement

On one of my commutes last week, I found myself behind a Dodge Caravan sporting one of those special interest license plates, you know, the ones that are pre-printed with designations like "Horse Enthusiast," "Hokie Grad," or "Bowler." Well, this special interest was "Parrot Heads" and the plate itself said something like "4PIRATE."

To get a special interest license plate in VA, you need to get at least 350 prepaid applications. That seemed kind of counter to the flip-flops-and-Corona spirit of parrot heads. Organizing a shared special interest license plate is quite an organizational endeavor. Maybe they passed out the applications at a Buffett concert when the fans were potentially impaired and especially pliant. Next thing they knew, a license plate is showing up in the mail.

If it wasn't that, I'm baffled.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Adventures With a Digital Recorder

Steve got me a digital recorder for Christmas, so I could record any deep thoughts I have while driving. I'd been using it intermittently for a while when I noticed the battery was already low. I assumed the device just eats batteries. But that wasn't it. Today, I noticed there were 11 files saved on it, and I couldn't figure out what they might be. I started listening.

It seems that I had forgotten to switch the "hold" button on, and I had inadvertently recorded:
  • Several lengthy files of me walking around at work (my heels going "clomp clomp clomp," me saying hello to people);
  • One file containing four hours of silence (I think it turned on when I put my laptop in my work bag and it recorded through the night); and
  • One especially brilliant one -- it was a minute of rustling sounds, capped by the sound of the toilet flushing and me washing my hands.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

A Very NYC Valentine's Day Taxi Story

I intended to write this one up for Valentine's Day, but better late than never.


One Valentine's Day circa 1999, back when I was living in New York, I found myself single and looking for something entertaining to do. I set up a dinner with three girlfriends, and we embraced the idea of enjoying a girls' night out. We booked reservations at Florent, a cool French diner in the Meatpacking District. (This was before Bungalow 8 made the Meatpacking District into hipster central -- at the time, meat odors of varying freshness still wafted through the neighborhood air.) But this post isn't about the restaurant. It's about the journey. Or rather, the mode of transportation.

My friends and I left work around the same time that V-Day evening and headed down to the taxi stand in front of our office. We were third in line, with two couples in front of us, and cabs were scarce. The way I remember it, the weather was cold and snowy. A cab pulled up for the first couple, and they headed off. Then, the couple right in front of us saw an empty car from a car service (a Town Car for hire) about 10 yards away. The couple got out of line and began negotiating with the car service driver.

Finally, a taxi pulled up in front of us. We opened the door, and out of nowhere, a homeless-looking guy plunged into the taxi ahead of us. He ignored my protests and that of my friends, and told the cab where he wanted to go. As he prepared to shut the door, I called out, "Happy Valentine's Day, ASSHOLE."

Suddenly, the taxi driver asked the guy: "Do you have any money?"

The guy didn't answer -- he just jumped out and ran off. (I assume the answer was no.)

We wasted no time piling into the cab. I can't speak for the other ladies, but I know I was smiling smugly. It wasn't over yet, though.

The couple that had been negotiating with the car service came running back to the cab, claiming it was theirs. I felt no guilt, as they had clearly relinquished their spot in line. AS IF we were going to get out. Someone shut the door. We all waved goodbye to the couple, grinning widely.

And we drove off cheerfully into the snowy, lamplit evening.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Some Things Are Always Funny

Things that are always funny (as long as they don't happen to you):
  • Accidental macing
  • Gas passed in a formal setting (especially if you aren't sitting next to them)
  • Pants/skirt falling off unintentionally
  • Tripping and/or falling down in front of a crowd
  • Toilet paper on the shoe or hanging from an article of clothing
  • When a friend's online dating service matches her up with a guy whose picture contains the caption, "getting ready for the Renaissance Festival"
What's on your list of things that are always funny?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

XM Song Selection

Yesterday, I heard the opening strains of the Macarena on the XM '90s channel. I flipped the channel immediately.

This morning, I heard the opening strains of Mambo Number 5. Again, I evacuated that frequency post haste.

Come on, people. Really? I mean, really? Those songs are just terrible by any rational measure. You have a whole decade of songs at your fingertips. If you have to play these songs, play them at 3 am or thereabouts.

And while I'm on the subject, what's up with the Milli Vanilli on the '80s channel? They sucked and didn't sing their own songs! Don't play them!

Is This Thing On?

Wow. So I've been swamped with work and just haven't wanted to go online after the (often extended) workday. Things may be calming down, so I'm hoping to get back on the blogging horse for real this weekend.

Friday, February 8, 2008

How Hard Is It to Put on Some Pants?

I've mentioned our next-door neighbor before in this space. She's the one with the barky dogs, bleached hair, cottage cheese thighs (and a propensity for short shorts), inability to make eye contact, and recycling bins overflowing with empty liquor bottles.

Generally, we don't see too much of her. But a couple of weekends back, Steve was making breakfast when I heard him say, with great gravity, "Oh my GOD." I quickly trotted into the kitchen to find him staring out the window at our neighbor, who had gone to the mailboxes with no pants on. She was wearing, as far as we could tell, a quilted jacket and flip flops. That's it. In 20-degree weather. And the quilted jacket was not a long garment.

We took a picture. See for yourself:

Seriously. How hard is it to throw some pants on?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Better Luck Next Time

Today was Day 11 of my medicated cycle, so I went in to get my ovaries and lining checked. I had two great follicles -- on my right ovary. Unfortunately, since I was born without a right fallopian tube (and right side of my uterus), that is not particularly helpful. The left ovary was sitting there quietly all hooked up to my half-uterus, but keeping a low profile, follicle-wise.

The doctor said we could go ahead with the trigger shot this month on the offhand chance that -- get this -- my left fallopian tube swings over and picks up the eggs from the right ovary. (I have heard of women with unicornuate uteruses [UUs] getting pregnant when they knew the unattached ovary was the one producing eggs, so I guess that's how it goes down.) But I decided just to stop the meds for this cycle. I'd rather really go for it when the chances were high.

I'm bummed, but philosophical about the whole thing. I guess that's easy since it was the first real attempt under medical observation. I wonder how far this thing will go before we actually succeed.

My XM Radio Mocks Me

My XM mocks me. It has a memory function that is supposed to let me know whenever a song I like that I've marked with the memory button is playing on another channel -- but mine never worked right. In the beginning, I didn't realize it wasn't working, and I'd hit "memory" whenever a good song came on. Occasionally, I'd also hit memory by mistake when I was trying to change the preset band. One of the times I hit memory by mistake, the song "Everybody Plays the Fool" was on, and I know this because that is the ONLY song that my XM ever reminds me of.

But I haven't given up. Even now, Mr. Mister (for example) will come on and I'll hit the memory button. I mean, I kind of know it's not going to happen. It's an exercise in futility, but I do it anyway. I keep thinking that one of these days, maybe it will fix itself.

I called XM and they said I'd have to reset the entire device, and reenter all my presets, to attempt to fix the problem. Like I have time for that. There's 30 presets.

And so, every so often, "Everybody Plays the Fool" comes on somewhere in the XM universe, and I hear the mild-mannered beep that is my XM taunting me another time.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Here Goes Nothing

Heading to my Day 3 monitoring appointment last week, I was full of angst and almost weepy. I was worried about starting the medicated cycle, afraid of the side effects, and generally dreading starting the whole process of trying to have a baby again. But I felt a lot better after coming out of the appointment. I went in there and noticed several professional women and a few husbands. Nobody was looking at each other or talking, and the women with husbands were looking extra tense. We all have a common bond, but we were sitting there in our private worlds, not sharing. The vibes passing between people are basically, "you're infertile. I'm infertile. And I don't want to talk about it." It's like a bus station full of infertile people.

After an awkward 10 minutes or so, pretending not to look at the other patients, I went back and had blood drawn. Then I was dispatched to a smaller waiting area in the back for an ultrasound, which was just to ensure my ovaries were in good shape. Another woman was sitting back there and we got to talking. She's done at least one IUI and this is her fourth IVF cycle. She went down the litany of her various tests and injections and was completely blase' about it. I felt like a big wimp.

I really hope this is her cycle.

Meanwhile, my fertility specialist suggested acupuncture, saying it seems to improve results, so I've been going and getting needles stuck into my legs and hands. I'll try to take a picture one of these times and post it on the blog. It's pretty wild. It doesn't hurt at all, though, and is actually really relaxing.

So we'll see how this goes. I'm going to try hard not to be scared, or sad, or depressed. I'm going to try to just move forward.

It's really the only thing we can do.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

What Makes Us Human

Last night I volunteered at the Special Olympics Virginia Winter Games Opening Ceremony. It's my third year working the souvenir stand as a "SOVA" volunteer. Nearly everyone there, with the exception of a few exhausted parents, was walking around with a huge smile. Every year I am impressed with all that these athletes can do. For these Winter Games, the athletes figure skate, speed skate (!), bowl, and do gymnastics -- and pretty much all of them are better at those sports than I am. When they come to the souvenir stand, they communicate well, properly count money and use credit cards, and are just teeming with charisma.

I have a cousin, Patrick, with Down Syndrome. He loves to dance, bowl, and watch the Three Stooges. He was the life of the party at our wedding, staying on the dance floor even when everyone else was taking a breather. Growing up with Patrick as a part of the family showed me not to be afraid of someone who was different. But not everyone has that advantage.

When I hear of someone who is considering terminating a pregnancy only because the fetus has tested positive for Down Syndrome, it makes me very sad. I recently read that over 90% of pregnancies are terminated when a fetus tests positive via amniocentesis for Down Syndrome. If the potential parents had ever known someone with Downs, I think they would be much less likely to make the decision to end the pregnancy. With good education, health care, and support, many kids with Down Syndrome live a normal life, or close to it. And it's worth mentioning that a fetus that tests "normal" may have far worse issues down the road -- there is no way to know. It's never a sure thing.

In the wild, a sick or abnormal animal is typically abandoned by the pack. Nature is hard, and life is cheap. What makes us human is that we have the ability to rise above nature's cruel reality.

Whether we choose to do so is another question.

More information on the Special Olympics Virginia
More information on the Special Olympics international organization