My Due Date.

On Monday I took a bus from 14th Street all the way to the Upper East side. I enjoy riding the bus. Many people find that crazy, but I do. I love getting lost in thought while moving through the streets of Manhattan. There’s just so much to look at, so many things that don’t go together, yet somehow it works. It’s like I’m entering a diorama of my very own head—thoughts are free to come and go as quickly as office buildings, delis, taxis, and tenements. For an obsessive person, this feels quite good.

Right around 23rd street my thoughts came to a standstill. One of them tripped me up, stopped the flow of traffic. It was too fascinating to move around, too seemingly important to let go of. A thought that makes you go, “Huh.”

I think some thoughts really are better kept at 140 characters or less, so here is what I tweeted at the time.

Remember this post? I wrote the following:

If this story were taking place in a novel—if she were a fictional character—she might go to the delivery ward and sit in the waiting room watching pregnant women come and go; ankles swollen plump with water; cheeks puffy from practicing breathing techniques; bellies newly vacated and deflated. She might even buy a newspaper, like she did with her first, the one born right in the middle of a tornado, the first tornado in 100 years! Because that’s what fictional characters do—they do something poignant or peculiar in order to keep our attention.

Now, had S.’s sister called me, say, today and asked me if I wanted to visit the hospital, I’d have taken Life aside and had a word with it. Because truly, had Life done that—thrown me a curveball like that—I’d have wondered if Life was indeed toying with me. But as it were, Life was two days away from coming off as The Real Joker. No. Life wasn’t about to drop all coincidence, man-up and say once and for all: This is all happening for a reason.

Life ain’t like that. Life is mysterious. It keeps one guessing.

I could go on and explain moment by moment how Monday played out, but I’ll spare you the mundane details.

I shed some tears in the lobby.  If there’s one place you’re allowed to cry without anyone paying you much mind, it’s in a hospital. I texted Toby Joe letting him know how hard it was being there. And that I hadn’t really thought that it would be. I wrote that I needed to get a hold of myself for S.’s sake. That she may misinterpret my tears to be about her appearance or that things looked much worse than everyone let on. (Which, by the way, isn’t the case at all.)

I would not, could not make the visit about me. So I texted a few more messages to Toby and included a few obscenities about Life and I let out a couple of “Ha Has!” Because, it really is kind of funny if you think about it, maybe not in an Adam Sandler kind of way, but funny nonetheless. And I realized that this is something I think I have going for myself: when it comes to serious matters, no matter how difficult things are, no matter how sad or troubling they seem, I will find the part to laugh about.

But I digress.

I watched infant car seats get carried in and out of the lobby. I picked out the “It’s a Girl” and “It’s a Boy!” balloons and each one sent a thousand tiny gasps throughout my chest. Never mind the sick people, the people who were there for other reasons. I wasn’t looking for them. I was looking for the new life. I was looking for me.

And so I waited. Because that’s what one does in a lobby: they wait. And I thought. I thought about everything that happened, and everything that has happened since. I thought about where I might be in a year from that moment, where I might be sitting and if I’d still be waiting. I thought about the cheap plastic boxed gifts we buy people, the cards with sentiments that help us say the things we’re unable to say on our own. I thought about the power of hope and how it’s a damn good thing Pandora closed that box in time.

Hope.

Eventually I texted S.’s sister letting her know I was downstairs. I told her not to hurry, that I was fine and to come down whenever she wanted. I told her I was in the lobby, right outside the gift shop, the one filled with breath mints, junk food, and metallic balloons asking that someone Get Well Soon.

Don’t worry. I thought. You will.

Skin Cancer, Eczema and SWEET RELIEF!

Back in July of 2009 I wrote a post about my shins and the itchy bumps. I wrote about how I’ve spoken with many doctors over the years. I’ve asked them what it might be and no one has been able to help me. Two of them were even dermatologists. Yeah. It sucks. And to be completely honest, I have lived this way (which is to say miserably) for far too long. Anyway, yesterday I finally met with another dermatologist because the rash and itch was spreading to my thighs and upper arms. I’m a hot mess—a modern leper. Sexy.

I have a tendency to downplay things while in the company of a doctor. My arm would have to be dangling by a tendon before finally admitting that things are bad. But yesterday I left the house promising myself that I would get an answer, even if the doctor remained unsure, I wanted something, anything. It has gotten unbearable. I have great insurance; I shouldn’t have to live this way. I thought.

Yesterday, she took one look and knew immediately what it was. It was bad enough for her to say, “You must feel pretty miserable.”

I DO! I REALLY REALLY DO! THANK YOU, KIND DOCTOR WOMAN!

Forgive me for supplying you—the Internet—with yet another post boasting way too much information, but I simply have to rejoice in the fact that finally I know what has been tearing me up.

Eczema. I have eczema. I know! It seems rather obvious. If I remember correctly, several of you suggested this as well. It’s worse in the winter, which is why lately it’s gotten just terrible. I was told no hot showers, no smelly soaps, no perfume at all. (Although, I love me some patchouli and am not sure I’ll abide by that for too long). She gave me a prescription for a topical cream that I have used twice already and it’s already helping. Last night was the first time in years I didn’t wake up scratching the crap out of my legs.

Relief. Sweet relief. Sometimes it pays to show one’s desperation.

On top of yesterday’s diagnosis, she only found ONE pre-cancerous spot on my face! This may not sound all that awesome, but it is! I was worried I’d have another MOHs surgery in my future (WARNING: LINK HAS PICTURES.) Nope. She froze the area and I’m done. For now.

Lastly: Wear sunscreen, idiots.

Mostly Wordless

You’ll have to forgive me for not having much to say right now. It’s been a rough week. And other than baking some more chocolate chip cookies for a friend, I haven’t baked anything new this week.

I have written three posts since last Wednesday and all of them seem completely inappropriate given the situation. I just can’t put this into words right now, not well, not correctly, not yet. You see, one of my closest friends had a brain hemorrhage on Wednesday, just a few days after giving birth to her second daughter. What was supposed to be a happy time turned into something tragic. I spoke with her hours before and she was fine. Totally fine.

How does this even happen?

And so we wait. Everyone waits.

What I do know is that she’s fighting and doing really well considering. She’s showing improvement every day. She has a long road ahead of her, maybe, and I’m going to make sure that I’m there for her, her family (who mainly lives overseas) and her 3-year-old daughter (who is my son’s closest friend). That’s the only thing I know right now. And that I miss her. I miss her so much.

I will write more soon. In the meantime, I need to write something cliché in this spot because I don’t know what else to do: hug your family. If you have kids, hug the shit out of them. A husband or wife? Give him or her a noogie and a fat wet kiss. Hug your parents, your brothers, your sisters and don’t forget about your friends. Hug your friends.

Do you know a stroke survivor? Do you have stories you might like to share? I want to hear the good stuff. She’s strong, probably the healthiest person I know, and so I know she’ll pull through this and be on top again in no time. But I still need to hear something positive. Because if you search the Internet, the stories are a little less than uplifting.

The Fevers. They're Back.

I have a recipe for today but I don’t think I can give it the time it deserves, so I am going to save it until next week.

Emory is quite ill. The fevers are back.

Last year he suffered from fevers that brought with them Febrile seizures. That duo seems to be making an encore presentation this year. And I hate them. So, I’m trying to keep his temperature down as much as possible, switching between Motrin and Tylenol. It’s gonna be a long day and night. We’re a tired bunch.

Do you have any tricks for fevers and colds? I’m all ears and a little desperate. Or if you wanna come over and keep us company; there’s only so many times a family can watch Night At The Museum and we’ve cruised way past that allotment.

I have heard “Starve a fever. Feed a cold” which is a good thing since he won’t eat anything—not even cookies! Thus far, the only thing I’ve gotten him to eat has been watermelon, which is super since he doesn’t seem to want to drink fluids either.

My poor child.

A Triploidy Pregnancy: Incompatible With Life.

We received the genetics report back from my doctor yesterday.

I had been anticipating yesterday’s phone call since my D&C took place a month ago. I worried that the report would bring us results suggesting that I had done something wrong. (I think every parent thinks that.) I worried it might be something on Toby’s end. I thought the report might inform us that there was something horribly wrong with our genetic makeup. I mostly worried about my age and the eggs I have left. But none of that was the case with this pregnancy.

Our fetus had something called triploidy, a rare condition incompatible with life.

From Healthline:

A fetus with triploidy has 69 chromosomes, rather than 46. The majority of fetuses with triploidy are spontaneously miscarried during pregnancy. Those that survive until birth will have severe growth retardation and multiple birth defects. This condition is incompatible with life.

This baby had a whole extra set of chromosomes, 69 instead of 46. It hadn’t had a trisomy after all, which is precisely what I had been feverishly researching.

I was floored by this information. The biggest question weighing on my mind at that point was: OH MY GOD. How did I go 11 whole weeks?

“That’s what I wondered too.” She said. “I’m shocked you didn’t miscarry sooner.”

She went on to tell me that this means there’s nothing inherently wrong with my eggs or my genetics and there’s nothing wrong with Toby’s either. She said there’s nothing I could have done to stop this and there’s nothing I did or did not do that caused it. She reassured me that should we ever wish to try again, there’s nothing that suggests we’ll have problems in the future.

We talked a bit more about how I have been and I thanked her once again for being so kind to me that day. She said I can thank her when she delivers my second child. And I wept.

It should go without saying that Toby Joe and I yearned for and imagined a healthy baby. But this was not that baby. This baby wasn’t the one we named or pictured in our minds. This fetus didn’t stand a chance at life at all. This baby simply wasn’t meant to be no matter how much we wanted it.

This information helped me immensely, but I still wish my body figured it out sooner. I wish it hadn’t worked so hard at keeping this fetus alive and for so long. And I’m left wondering if this is why I was so completely wrecked with sickness. But that’s something I’ll likely never know.

After we got off the phone, I began researching the information she had given me. I plugged terms into Google and it spit back answers. As I combed through information, I realized that she had inadvertently given me the gender. And I was surprised to discover that knowing as much didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. I think that’s because I knew that this fetus never stood a chance at life, so this wasn’t the person I had imagined and named after all. (Or maybe it’s a defense mechanism, either way, I’ll take it.)

So, how does triploidy happen? Do you care as I do? The researcher and forever wonderer in me does care and so…

There are a few different ways triploidy pregnancies can occur:

From Healthline:

The most common mechanism for triploidy is the fertilization of a single egg by two sperm.

This is what is referred to as paternal inheritance (2 sperm, one egg). It accounts for 60% of cases of triploidy. The placentas are small and non-cystic.

The other mechanism is an error in cell division in which an egg cell ends up with 46 chromosomes instead of 23.

This is what is referred to as maternal inheritance (egg with 46 chromosomes fertilized by sperm with 23). This accounts for 40% of cases of triploidy and is often referred to as partial molar pregnancy, where the placenta is enlarged and cystic.

My placenta wasn’t enlarged or cystic. A partial molar pregnancy had been ruled out for me.

In our case, this egg was most likely fertilized by two sperm (but I am by no means a geneticist).

Had you told me about this disorder a year ago—even two months ago—I would have thought, “Wow, that’s some crazy rare weird genetic stuff. What are the chances?”

From Healthline:

Triploidy occurs in about 1–2% of all conceptions, but most of these pregnancies end in early spontaneous miscarriage.

Yeah, no chance that’ll be me.

Oops.

A month ago, when my life became such a blur I’m not even sure I was the one living it, my doctor called to give me my options. After we decided to schedule the D&C, we spoke more about doing a biopsy and running the genetics. I wasn’t sure if that’s something I wanted to do at the time. I went back and forth with her on this and finally just asked her, as a friend, to tell me what I should do. She replied, “Well, knowledge is power.”

I agreed to do it.

Yesterday was a bad day all around for many reasons, so when her call came in, I prepared myself for the absolute worst. If there was one day I needed some power, it was yesterday.

I realize that this post may read a little matter-of-fact, a little stony compared to other posts I’ve written on this topic. You’ll have to forgive me for that. But yesterday’s news brought me some closure, a little more strength and a bucketload of hope.

I’m still not sure if we’ll ever have a go at this again. I am, after all, 35 and not getting any younger. But I know now more than ever before that some things truly are outside of my jurisdiction, completely beyond my control. I now know that for whatever the reason may be, this happened to us because it had to happen to someone.

Instead of asking, why us? Today I’m asking, why not?

So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to do something I’ve never done before: I’m going to buy a lottery ticket. Because I reckon our place in the universe (statistically speaking) has a little bit of leveling out to do.

My Miscarriage.

Are You Currently Pregnant?

I sat in the waiting room chair and read it again.

Are You Currently Pregnant?

What’s the definition of pregnant? I thought. Did the baby have to be alive? Was I still pregnant? And why did it matter right now? I was there to have my blood drawn.

Seven hours earlier, during a 12-week sonogram, a doctor had informed us that our baby no longer had a heartbeat. But the standard form born from America’s bureaucratic, medical womb was cooly oblivious to the facts: in less than 48-hours, I was scheduled to have the baby removed from my body.

Was I currently pregnant? I wondered.

I drew a question mark next to the “Yes” and “No” checkboxes.

I finished the forms and gave them back to the woman behind the counter. Written on a piece of paper next to her computer keyboard were the words: “A whore of a day.”

Earlier that day, I had met with a nurse at my doctor’s office. She sat down across from us and read questions from another medical form.

“When was the first day of your last period?” She had asked without looking up from the clipboard.

“April 29th.” I said.

She looked confused, certain I was mistaken. She stared at the form. I saw her eyes scan it, pen poised, as she worked out the math in her head. It’s as if she looked to the form to find out how one might proceed in this situation: “If patient answers A, proceed to question D.”

“Are you sure you didn’t have a period in May?” She finally asked.

“No. It was April.”

Her confused expression morphed into one of concern.

“I’m 3-months pregnant.” I said, relieving her. “But the fetus has perished. That’s why I’m here.” My voice trailed off.

Perished? I thought. I said the sentence again to myself. The fetus has perished? My thoughts had become a byproduct of a new and acute confusion. My response to this pregnancy sat somewhere between the profound attachment I had developed to the baby growing inside of me, and the manmade comfort I got from reminding myself that it was still a fetus, a sac of cells.

“I’m so sorry.” She whispered looking away from the form.

We left for the hospital at 5:45 AM on Wednesday. It had been a terrible night. Our son was up every hour from midnight until the minute we left. On top of that, I had gone into labor. My husband and I stumbled out onto the sidewalk in a daze.

The drive into the city that morning was a typical one. Our driver sped through the city streets with little disregard for those around him. The city was just waking up. The usual neighborhood drunks littered McCarren Park’s many benches, as a few well-dressed people walked past them on their way to the subway.

I am lover of mornings but that one was hard to appreciate.

When we arrived at the hospital we headed up to the 10th floor. They checked me in and handed me a bag with a hospital gown.

“This is the same robe I wore when I had Emory.” I said to my husband.

“I know.”

We sat down and talked for a while about the little things, mundane things. We discussed our upcoming vacation to North Carolina and probably having to cancel it. In truth, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be around three women at varying stages of their pregnancy.

“I’m not sure I’m strong enough for that right now.” I said.

“I understand.” He answered.

We talked about the procedure and how I might feel after it was all over.

A young doctor, probably a student, walked in clutching a clipboard. “I need to ask you a few questions.” She said sweetly.

I nodded.

“What is your current mood?”

I glanced over at my husband, judging by the look on his face he found it strange as well.

What is your current mood? I repeated it to myself.

Did she want me to dissect my level of sadness, a level I hadn’t known existed up until two days ago? Did she know why we were there?

“Sad?” I answered uncertain.

After she left the room, Toby and I talked about how inhuman much of the experience had been. The great number of unnecessary medical forms that had been given to me, the inappropriate questions involved, the fact that following protocol isn’t always a good thing. We made a few Kafkaesque comments and tried to laugh about it. Putting aside the gravity of our situation and our intense sorrow, the unfortunate events taking place around us could have been stopped had each person put aside the rigid, bureaucratic protocol for a minute and tried to be a little more human.

The whole experience was morbidly comical.

We sat in silence for a while.

“So, yes to the autopsy?” I finally asked.

Autopsy? I thought to myself. Where had this word come from? You autopsy a dead person, not a fetus. And the testing would have nothing to do with the fetus; they would be using the placenta.

“I mean, yes to genetic testing?”

“I guess so.” He said.

I nodded. “But no to gend…?” I was unable to finish the word. I deflated.

For 12 weeks, we had excitedly discussed whom I had been carrying. We pictured this person as a small child, toddling behind Emory. But we weren’t sure, and faced with the option of finding out made us both fall to pieces. The moment we give it a pronoun, whether it be “he” or “she”, the option of referring to it as a “sac of cells” or “just a fetus” is off the table forever. There’s no going back. There’s no undoing that knowledge. While a side of me knows that this fetus probably stopped developing because it was very sick, the larger part of me pictured dozens of holidays, and a hundred first stumbles and falls. I already pictured this person crying, keeping us up at night, endlessly pooping, farting, and laughing. Finding out its gender would take us further away from rationalizing its sudden absence and move us closer to seeing him or her as a living, breathing person (with a name we’d already brainstormed) that had died.

Neither one of us know what we’d do with that knowledge. I’m not sure we’ll ever know how process that information, which is why that file will likely remain closed forever.

“I just don’t think so.” Toby said. “Not now.”

We held each other and cried.

Just then a cheerful doctor came in to let me know that it was time to say goodbye. I kissed my husband.

“I love you.” I said.

“I love you too.”

I have had several operations over the years. When it came to anesthesia, every single one of them was conducted in the same manner. I was either sedated or put to sleep entirely in a pre-op area and later wheeled into the operating room. Most of the time I hadn’t ever actually seen the inside of the OR.

But this was different. I walked myself into the OR, wheeling a tall IV bag alongside of me the whole way. I said goodbye to my husband at the elevator bank, walked through a sea of surgeons in the “Patients Only Beyond This Point” section of the hospital, and personally climbed onto the operating table.

The room was really cold. I found it fitting. My doctor placed a blanket on top of me. I told her I didn’t much care about comfort. She placed one hand on my belly and the other one on my right shoulder, “You should be as comfortable as possible during all of this.” She whispered.

Her pager went off. She walked over to the phone that hung on the wall to my right.

“How far apart?”

She listened.

“I bet she is….”

She listened some more.

“Ok, well, I am in the middle of something. I’ll be down there once I’m finished.”

My surgeon was about to remove an 12-week-old fetus from my uterus and then immediately head downstairs to deliver a healthy baby. I couldn’t breath. I began to sob. When I closed my eyes, graphic imagery streaked the inside of my head. When I opened them, I realized I wasn’t dreaming. Where would my fetus end up later that day? Would it be burned? Tossed out? Used for science? Was it a girl or a boy?

Was it a girl or a boy?

I hope to never know for sure, but I think that moment is what insanity must feel like.

I felt envy for the woman downstairs, the one in labor. Perhaps she was in the very same room that I had given birth to Emory in almost two years earlier. I cried harder.

“This is just a bump in the road, Michele. Everything will be OK in time. You will have a healthy baby. This is difficult, but I promise you, this is just a bump in the road. You will get through this. You will get through this.”

I collected myself. I felt strong again. I would get through this. I will.

“I hope so.” I said. “And I hope that someday you’ll deliver Emory’s little brother or sister.”

“I look forward to it.”

The anesthesiologist started the antibiotics and it sent a dull, painful ache up my left arm.

I noticed that at some point the song “Wonderwall” had come on a radio they had stashed in the corner.

Back beat, the word is on the street that the fire in your heart is out.
I’m sure you’ve heard it all before but you never really had a doubt
I don’t believe that anybody feels the way I do about you now.

“We’re going to start the twilight sleep now. When you feel sleepy, it’s OK to close your eyes.”

And all the roads we have to walk are winding
And all the lights that lead us there are blinding
There are many things that I would like to say to you
But I don’t know how

I have a knack for thinking about every wrong thing at every wrong moment, which is why at that very moment, I began thinking the following: maybe I made a mistake, that as a mother, I had failed. Maybe this baby hadn’t died. Maybe we were wrong. Maybe they should check for a heartbeat again. Maybe it started up again.

Tears streamed down my cheeks.

And right before I closed my eyes and checked out of the room completely, my doctor put both of her hands to my face and looked directly into my eyes. “Do not cry, Michele. Please don’t cry. You’ll have bad dreams. Think about your son. Think about Emory.”

Because maybe
You’re gonna be the one that saves me
And after all
You’re my wonderwall

I did. I made the tears stop. I thought about Emory. I thought about his beautiful and crazy blond, Einstein hair, and the fact that I call him Professor. I pictured his infectious smile, his laugh, and his bright blue eyes. And just as I closed my eyes, I pictured a little boy with him—another blue-eyed creature.

They are running through a sprinkler together, their pale legs are covered in wet grass and all around us smells of wet dirt and newness, like a thousand healthy roots among a million specks of soil.

It’s late spring. There is laughter.

————————-

I would like to thank everyone who has reached out to me over the last several days. You all have helped me as I work my way through this. I am forever grateful. You have no idea how much it means to me and how grateful we are to you as a family.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. From the bottom of my heavy heart, thank you.

One more thing: Mom it Down posts will resume next week. I need a week or two to process everything and haven’t felt much like baking. Murray will return next week as well. He’s currently a full time snugger.

Itchy Calves

I can already picture the responses I’ll likely get from this one: “TALK TO A DOCTOR!” I have. In fact, I have talked to five doctors about this and not one person has been able to tell me anything. The best response I’ve gotten is, “Put some lotion on it.”

This post might feature a little too much information. But what’s a personal blog without a little too much over-sharing? Am I right?

Here’s the skinny: My calves regularly itch something fierce. And red raised bumps form because I scratch them so much. And sometimes I scratch for so long, they bleed. It’s not all the time and it has nothing to do with an allergy. Nor does it have anything to do with shaving, the type of razor I’m using or a certain laundry detergent. It just happens for seemingly no reason at all. And I’m sick of it.

I’ve looked it up online and while I’ve found a lot of people complain about this exact problem, they always blame it on excessively dry skin. I am not convinced this is the case even though several doctors (including a dermatologist) have said the same thing.

Here’s why I’m not buying it. I’m blaming it on something bigger, something I refer to as “The Big H”.

One time I was sitting with an endocrinologist discussing my post-pregnancy hyperthyroidism (which is now gone, thank goodness.) He was trying to figure out based on initial tests if I had Grave’s disease. (At first glance people have thought this due to my large and relatively buggy eyes.) He asked me to look certain ways, do certain things with my jaw and facial muscles, and at one point he asked me to show him my shins.

“Why?” I asked as I pulled up my pant legs, which at that point were fairly normal and not covered in itchy red bumps.

He didn’t answer. I continued. “I’m asking because while you can’t see it right now, I get this strange itchy rash on my calves very often and it’s maddening. Sometimes I scratch them so badly they bleed. Is this related to my thyroid? Is this a hormonal thing?”

“No.” He said. “That’s probably due to dry skin.”

We moved on.

I still have no idea why this happens to me and it’s troubling. It still happens almost every evening. I apply lotion and nothing seems to help, in fact some of the mildest of lotions tend to burn.

I’m writing today to find out if anyone out there has ever had this. I know it exists for other women; I have had conversations with people about it, but no one knows why. We all just deal with it.

Here’s what I can offer:

  • It miraculously stop right at each knee.
  • It only seems to happen to women.
  • The red bumps appear at the hair follicles only.
  • It’s worse along the sides and on my calves, not as prevalent on the shins themselves.
  • It MAY flare up during certain times of month, I am not sure if I’m making this up or if it’s true.
  • It happens all year round.

If you have any information at all regarding this very annoying problem, please do kindly share it with me. If you just think I’m some kind of leper, keep that bit to yourself because I already feel that way on my own accord. :]

Type O Negative Blood

I have type O negative blood. I really gave this little thought up until yesterday when my mother and I started talking about blood type. I told her I was O negative and she remembered something about the negative Rh factor. My eyes glazed over. Rh? Huh? Antigens who? Uncle what?

So last night I started digging around on google (I KNOW!) and discovered all sorts of weird stuff about my O negative blood type and how seemingly incompatible and uppity it is. 

Here’s the breakdown of ABO and Rh blood type by nation. 

And here’s a laymen’s understanding of my blood type:

  • I am a universal donor. Anyone can use my blood but I can’t use any other blood type except for my own.
  • I’m recessive. (Yeah, yeah. I get that a lot.) 
  • Two O positive blood carriers can have O negative offspring. (My brothers and I are proof of this.)
  • O negative blood carriers cannot take any other blood type because they lack the antigens involved and will therefore fight with it. Or something. (Someone smart needs to mom it down for me.)

Can two O negatives make an O positive? Is that even impossible? Also, are all the negatives eventually going to die off? It appears that way, right? Were there more at one point in time? I need a crash course on blood types. I’m so intrigued. 

But I digress. As I was searching and reading and learning about Rh factors and whatnot, I discovered a corner of the Internet dedicated to second and third pregnancies and O negative blood types. Here’s where things get a little wacky. If an O negative woman has a baby with an O positive man, and the baby is O positive, the woman can develop a problem. And since positive blood types are the dominant ones, there’s a good chance the baby will end up positive. A first pregnancy is usually not a problem because the woman most likely hasn’t come into contact with the antigen before. However, during birth, blood types often mingle, causing the O negative carrier to come in contact with the O positive blood type. The O negative person starts to fight said blood type—treat it as a problem, a foreign body. So, any future pregnancies can result in big problems.

The hell is that about? And why didn’t anyone tell me?

Naturally, I’m prematurely freaking out here and my husband is ready to cancel our Internet access. We don’t yet know Toby’s blood type because we weren’t required to have one before we were married. And I am not yet sure of Em’s blood type either. Maybe we’re super rare and all of us are negative? But I’m not holding my breath on that one.  (Emory is O positive.)

And I’m assuming my doctors had this in mind throughout my pregnancy and the moment Em was born. (Apparently there are shots mothers are given if the blood is mixed so they don’t develop these antibiotics. Look at me try and pretend I have the slightest idea what it is I’m talking about here.) At least I hope they knew about this. They are incredible, after all.

One thing is for sure, someone should take away my Internet connection.

Edited to add: I feel like such a moron. I’m actually O positive. I just called my doctor to find out why they didn’t give me this shot, ready to lose my mind about it, and she proceeds to tell me that I’m actually O positive. (My brothers, however, are negative.) I feel like the biggest O positive idiot ever. 

A Few Things I Learned About Toddler Poop

It’s been a long couple of months for us health wise. Em has been sick on and off since December. Earaches, asthma and constipation have had Toby Joe and I at a loss for what to do next. It’s been a great big guessing game. We’re guessing more now than we were when he was first born, something I didn’t think was possible.

I wrote about Em’s constipation a while ago. We received a great number of suggestions and we’ve tried many of them. It’s really about elimination so it takes a lot of time and can produce a great deal of mistakes along the way.

I’m a little uncomfortable writing about this solely because it’s about someone other than me. The older Em gets, the more and more I feel that discussing his personal information is just plain unfair. But I also feel that bringing such things to light can help another mother and father in need. I was also really shocked to discover just how common constipation is for toddlers. 

So, here goes nothing. (But if I freak out and take this post down in a few hours, you’ll know why.) One thing is for sure, this is the last you’ll likely read about it on here. 

Bananas and Apples

Bananas and apples are very fibrous. I know. Everyone knows that! What I did not know, however, was how they work. Apparently, they take double the amount of water for someone to digest. (Something having to do with using two water molecules for their every one. I dunno. I was on about two hours of sleep whenever my doctor explained it to me. Plus, my son was screaming on the top of his lungs at the time.) So, if your kid is like mine and loves apples and bananas, make sure that they’re drinking a LOT of water. And up until recently my son didn’t drink very much water, so we had to cut bananas and apples from his diet.

Milk

Too much milk causes constipation. The hard part is trying to figure what “too much” means for each kid. I was told that 15 – 17 ounces of milk is OK but 20 and more is too much. But that difference seems so small! Nevertheless, cutting down on the milk has been very hard for us because Em loves his milk. 

Wheat

Wheat (and wheat allergies) can lead to constipation and, in our case, that’s probably been the culprit. We’ve been feeding Em whole grains and whole wheat and both are extremely fibrous. So, the whole wheat bread I’ve been diligently baking for him might be a little too fibrous for his tummy, which is pretty ironic. When it comes to Em’s digestive system, it probably would have been better all along had we been feeding him the nutrition-less white bread you often find in stores. 

The thing is, I always thought wheat allergy meant loose poop. Have I been wrong with that assumption? I have no problem whatsoever with wheat, so this is all very new to me. (Any insight here would be very helpful.)

Antibiotics

Antibiotics cause diarrhea. Most everyone knows this, but oh my goodness

Antibiotics work by killing bacteria, but they don’t know the difference between the good stuff and the bad stuff. So, they end up killing both. The balance gets thrown off and loose stools are a result. Another result? Smell-less poop! (Which is kind of awful, because scent has always been my cue!)

Suppositories and Laxatives

A few days before Em was diagnosed with asthma, he’d been more constipated than ever before. While we were at the doctor having his chest and ears looked at, we discussed constipation as well. She suggested that we start on Miralax but not until after he was finished with the antibiotics. She suggested in the meantime that we use a glycerin suppository to loosen things up. 

The next morning, I gave Em a suppository. Nothing happened.

That night, still nothing. But he was growing increasingly more uncomfortable and let us know by arching his back and screaming. On top of all this, both ears were bursting and he was having trouble breathing. At 9 PM, I called the doctor. 

I got in touch with another doctor this time and she gave me a different set of directions. She suggested that I start him on Miralax immediately even though he had just begun the antibiotics. Her biggest concern was that if we don’t get the constipation issue worked out (and the screaming and pain under control) he’d develop a roadblock when it comes to potty training (which we’ve begun but not militantly so). 

I gave him Miralax on top of the phantom suppository.

The following morning everything changed. Let’s just say that I ran four loads of laundry, mopped the floor twice. He had three baths, and the carpet in his bedroom had to be scrubbed and disinfected. German fetish jokes were exchanged between Toby Joe and myself (why we pick on Germany when it comes to poop fetishes, I haven’t the slightest clue).

GREENS! AND MORE GREENS!

My kids loves veggies, so we’re lucky here. He will consume an adult-sized portion of broccoli. He loves spinach, peas, carrots, and green beans. We upped these items drastically as of late in hopes of making things easier on him (and us). We’re also offering him more scrambled eggs and a lot more fruits (with the exception of apples and bananas.) I am very much looking forward to berry season which is right around the corner.

Looking Back

I was elbow-deep in poop last week. In fact, just yesterday when I picked Em up from school, he was wearing all new clothes. I was handed not one, but two bags of clothing, which meant he went through the clothes I sent him to school in, his backup pair and was sent home wearing another boy’s backup outfit.

I’m still not sure that we have things figured out yet especially since the antibiotics have pretty much thrown all results out the window. I imagine that there will be some more guessing before we really get it worked out. All I know is that watching your child scream while he or she is trying to use the bathroom is no fun. 

Please feel free to discuss poop, lack of poop, or whatever tickles your fancy.

Breathe Locally

This post was going to be about organic food and locavores both of which are growing trends here in America. Just last week, Michelle Obama planted an organic vegetable garden on the White House lawn – the first garden at the White House since the FDR administration.

It seems that people are starting to care more about what they eat, where it comes from and who is potentially harmed (or helped) in the process. I like that. I like that more people are curious about and buying locally grown foods. I like the idea of waiting until something is in season before adding it to a shopping cart. I especially like the idea of cutting down on the pollution involved in shipping and producing many of the foods we buy and consume today.

Union Square Green Market

At home, my family tries to buy food grown, produced, caught, and slaughtered locally. I know what some of you might be thinking – how the hell does one do that while living in New York City? I thought that at first, as well. After all – I’m from Pennsylvania. Growing up, our milk was delivered by a local farmer before the sun came up. Our eggs could have rolled themselves over to our house. We got nearly everything locally. (The exception was Tang, which was made on the moon, by astronauts, and mostly of rocket fuel).

In my mind, the term “local” used to mean “in my neighborhood”. That’s not an option for the majority of New Yorkers, as so much of our food travels thousands of miles before it hits our bodegas and grocery stores, our restaurants and street meat stands. Our food is trucked in, shipped in by boat, train or plane and tends to leave behind it a long, dark carbon footprint.

For New Yorkers, “local” is a relative term and has come to mean “within a hundred-mile radius.” Since we have more farmer’s markets than you can shake a stick at, getting to some of those local foods is really easy.

I was excited to cover this topic as my first March Of Dimes Moms post, especially since they wrote an article recently on whether or not organic is better for your baby. Their conclusion seems to be that it’s not necessarily better. But how about trying to buy foods grown locally? I couldn’t wait to tackle this topic! But Monday came along and it had different plans. I was steered onto a much different road. You see, my son was diagnosed with asthma on Monday and that’s all I can think about right now.

Here’s how the last few days unfolded.

My son kept us up all night Sunday. He woke up every hour. His belly was tight. We thought he might have gas and constipation on top of the usual congestive rattle we’d come to know. On Monday morning, I began to realize that things were much worse than I had thought. At 3 PM he was hit with a high fever. I called the doctor. By 4 PM we were in the waiting room.

And by 5 PM we were armed with a ProNeb Ultra II, some albuterol, a more powerful round of antibiotics than he’s yet been given, and a new worry.

At that point, my husband and I did what parents do with an Internet connection: we started researching. I was looking for ways to blame myself. That’s what mothers do, right? And at first glance, my research told me that I was right. I was to blame for this—we were to blame for this. After all we live in a very polluted area. The rates of asthma in children living in North Brooklyn are on the rise.

“Ever look at dirty truck exhaust? The dirty, smoky part of that stream of exhaust is made of particle pollution. More new evidence shows that the particle pollution—like that coming from the exhaust smoke—can lead to shorter lives, heart disease, lung cancer and asthma attacks and can interfere with the growth and work of the lungs.”  (American Lung Association: State Of The Air)

Fact: Emory spent the first year and a half of his life living right next to the BQE (The Brooklyn/Queens Expressway). We were so close to it, the trucks used to shake our apartment. We knew all along we were inhaling harmful toxins, but we chose to stay there. We were in a lease and rent was affordable and we thought we were leaving the area at any moment.

Actual view from the back window of our apartment.

We used to clean an alarming amount of dark black soot from our windowsills. And it didn’t take long to build up. A few days would go by and a black film would lazily blanket every surface in our home. We used to joke about how our lungs must look. We were nervous.

Signs of Asthma include:

• wheezing
• rapid breathing
• labored breathing
• gasping
• difficulty breathing when exercising
• chest tightness

Generally speaking, a child must first be vulnerable to airway inflammation. Everyone is vulnerable, to some degree – and often to any number of irritants. Next, the child needs an antagonist or trigger. Triggers can range from a common cold, a sinus infection, or bronchitis, all the way to secondhand smoke, smoking, cleaning agents and air pollutants. Triggers can also be as simple as getting too much exercise or experiencing too much stress, or the absurdly cold air of a NYC March day.

When I started digging in a bit further, I realized that this isn’t specific to Brooklyn. Emory probably would been diagnosed with asthma no matter where we lived especially since almost every place we’ve ever discussed living is also on the highly polluted area list. And that’s not because our list is really short. It’s that the master list is really long. Even the small, idyllic town we’ve  been pining over for years has some of the worst statistics when it comes to the two types of air pollution at the root of the problem.

Dare to dream.

In Brooklyn, the biggest asthmatic culprit is exhaust from vehicles. This is why you’ll also find Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, The DC Metro, and a great deal of the Northeastern corridor on that list. Pretty much every city or town near a major trucking route is seeing a rise in asthma, cancer and other related illnesses. And most large, polluting vehicles (as we used to watch from our bed) are used to transfer goods – like food – into our cities.

The New England Journal of Medicine reports:

“Mortality rates were most strongly associated with cigarette smoking. After adjusting for smoking and other risk factors, we observed statistically significant and robust associations between air pollution and mortality. The adjusted mortality-rate ratio for the most polluted of the cities as compared with the least polluted was 1.26 (95 percent confidence interval, 1.08 to 1.47). Air pollution was positively associated with death from lung cancer and cardiopulmonary disease but not with death from other causes considered together. Mortality was most strongly associated with air pollution with fine particulates, including sulfates.”

The simple truth is that asthma rates are on the rise, as is infant mortality and in many cases we have air pollution to blame for that. And we need to do something about it. And I don’t mean we need to come up with more medicine to throw at the problem. (Though, I am really grateful for our new nebulizer.) I think we need a more preventative approach.

So, while buying organic and/or locally grown foods may cost you a bit more monetarily,  I think that cost might be worth it when it comes to the greater good. Change won’t happen overnight, but it can happen if we just put our minds to it.

A funny thing happened as I was writing this post, I ended up within a hundred mile radius to the original topic.