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When they sat on a clean baby blanket, covering the couch, my therapist told me one day I’d be putting out the blanket for them.  When we came home one night to find our babysitters  sitting on their book jackets and tote bags pressed flat, I rolled my eyes, and Mr. Apron confronted the absurdity of it all.  We’d replaced the cushion covers, and no dog had ever sat on that surface.

So knock it off, he told his parents.

Later, we’d return to my father-in-law sitting on a dining room chair pulled a few feet from the television, using the kids’ Fisher Price activity station as a coffee table.  That I could excuse, as we have a tiny TV, he wanted the sound low so as not to wake the babies, and he needed to see the action of The Game.

But the night we came home to find both of my in laws seated in plastic patio chairs in the middle of our living room was the epitome of the lengths to which my in laws have gone to avoid any “contamination” of dog-related materials on their person or their home.

“We have bad backs,” they said. But then followed up with, “We waited until you’d left to take the chairs out of the trunk, because we knew you’d get mad.”

Mad about their “bad backs”?  Hardly.

Mad that they treat our home, our clothing, our very children like infectious waste?  That’s more our speed.

At their home, our coats must be laid across a wrought iron banister, not placed in the coat closet.

After they leave our house, they go home and shower and change.

They refused to let us wash clothing at their house when our laundry room blew a fuse.  Not clothing – cloth diapers.  White pieces of microfiber and PUL that touch our babies’ bottoms.  The dog doesn’t wear diapers. And washing machines are for cleaning things.

I could understand that the vacuum my mother-in-law used to clean out my husband’s first apartment couldn’t be taken back to her home.  We got a free vacuum cleaner out of the deal.  But this?  Ridiculous.  Especially considering that, a few months earlier, my father-in-law had washed a load of our baby laundry in his home for us when our old washer died.  Back before he considered all the contaminants that might have been clinging to my daughter’s dresses and my son’s polo shirts.  Never mind the baby socks!

I had to go to a neighbor’s house and ask to use her machine so my children could have clean diapers for another few days.   Thankfully no one in her house is allergic to dogs, peanuts, or logic.

Now I realize none of it is based in reason, but my in-laws are guided by intense anxiety.  My sister-in-law, a 45-year-old woman with no real severe health issues, lives at home with her parents.  Yes, she has a condo of her own, but a snowstorm 3 years ago plus a mouse problem sent her packing, and she has once again moved into her childhood home.  Where her alleged allergies dictate everything that comes into the home.  While in the beginning of my relationship with my future husband, I took her at her word that she was actually allergic to dogs, I now doubt the intensity as well as the veracity of her allergy.  My own husband had allergy tests recently that revealed that he, too, is allergic to dogs.  And he takes a small pill every morning to combat the fact that he’s allergic to most things that grow outdoors, and we have a dog.

We were dog-free for a number of months, after our previous mutt passed away, and toyed briefly with the idea of staying dog-free. Maybe she’d come in our home.   Maybe she’d interact more with (e.g., hold) our children.  We hosted the kids’ first birthday party in our home (as opposed to a dog-free “neutral zone”) as a way to call her bluff.  And she came.  Then, a few months later, we adopted a basset hound, a “low-shed”, short-hair dog who is an absolute delight, and the perfect hound for our family.

“Why didn’t you get a dog that doesn’t shed this time?” my sister-in-law asked.

“This breed didn’t come in that style,” I answered.

Later, we realized the ego-centrism of her question, and my husband revised our collective response.

“Because it wasn’t for you.”

Between the laundry, the couch cushions, the fact that our kids don’t know her when they look at photographs, as well as her myriad other health “issues”, it’s clear to me that she’s literally chosen her veil of sickness/allergy over her relationship with my children.

Initially, my therapist said that it wasn’t personal, that there was no commentary on my housekeeping skills woven into the fibers of the couch cover.

I’m torn, of course, because it is personal.  It’s a reflection of their disdain for our chosen animal companion, their choice to subscribe to the lifestyle of Extreme Allergic Reaction, and their preference for anxiety over family.  I don’t want to lose our local, free babysitting services, along with the family connections.  I don’t want my children to know the fuming rage I have towards those patio chairs and what they represent.

But I can’t make them feel comfortable in our home, can’t make them understand the lunacy of their proceedings, can’t make them realize it’s all manufactured bullshit.

So we accept their limitations, we accept them into our home, and help them unload their fucking patio chairs.  We roll out the allergy red carpet.  Am I putting a blanket on the couch for them, as my therapist predicted?

Not yet, but I’m this close to putting a “decontamination in progress” sign on the front door and supplying them with hazmat suits as a gesture of my good will and understanding.

Either that, or lighting a bag of dog hair on fire on their front step.

When it comes down to the reality, it’s not just my sister-in-law who’s sick.  They’re all feeding into the illness.  Before I asked my neighbor if I could wash our laundry at her house, my husband approached his other sister, one who lives less than 50 yds away, to see if she could help us out. Mr. Apron made the mistake of explaining why his parents had refused our request.

She, too, refused, siding with my parents-in-law, citing the obvious about her sister, “She’s sick.”

Yes, she is, we agreed, but not in the way you think.

I started yoga again.  I’ve done yoga on and off since my freshman year of college, which, as my reunion committee has kindly reminded me, was over 13 years ago.  I signed up for yoga as half of my physical fitness requirement (having passed out of the other half with a series of mediocre scores in sit-ups, push-ups, running, and sit-n-reach) because I was looking for something low-impact, that wouldn’t make me sweat through my pajamas.  After all, this was a 9am class.  It was low-impact.  We learned some basic postures, stretched and crawled around on the floor twice a week, and avoided working near the girls who, unfortunately, did sweat through their pajamas.

When I was pregnant two summers ago, there was nothing I was looking forward to more than prenatal yoga.  I have no idea why.  Even since I heard about it, years ago, it held a mystique.  Perhaps it was the exclusivity of the class membership, or the fact that it was one of few forms of exercise I could do as my belly bulged with the weight of twin fetuses.  I don’t pretend that I was “good” at it, if one can be skilled at prenatal yoga, but it helped me in many ways.   Physically, though my back did ache with my increasing load, it allowed me to maintain my flexibility and strength throughout my pregnancy.  I credit yoga with helping me stay healthy enough to help my twins reach a full-term gestation.  I was as agile as I could be, and the nurse who placed the fetal monitors even remarked, as I heaved my belly up so she could find my daughter’s heart rate, that she was impressed I had any abdominal strength at all left.  More that the physiological benefits, prenatal yoga became a place for me to commune with other women in the same condition.  I didn’t have any pregnancy buddies at work (they were either months ahead or months behind me, gestationally), nor really any geographically close friends who could guide me through pregnancy with their own experiences.  I was conscious of the desire not to become That Pregnant Lady who drones on and on to coworkers and family members about fetal measurements, heart rates, nursery colors, crib safety requirements, and stroller designs.  At prenatal yoga, the firist 15-25 minutes was dedicated to everyone going around the room, introducing themselves and having a couple minutes to talk about their pregnancies.  Finally, every other Saturday, I could talk about my due date, feeling the twins kick for the first time, having a good prenatal check-up, and air out my anxieties among people who welcomed them or shared their own.  And while it felt like a support group, our teacher said it was part of our yoga practice.

More recently, E, my coworker – who was thrust into the role of supervisor this year without much preparation or choice – had expressed a desire to find a way to de-stress, and was thinking of yoga.  I had been looking, too, but for a different reason.  In the midst of being a mommy for the last year-and-almost-a-half, I’ve been so focused on arranging and adhering to my children’s routine (okay, okay, it’s a semi-rigid schedule), that there’s been little time or flexibility left to feed the Me-ness, the Me-ness that I was so worried I’d lose to mommyhood.  I never wanted to be defined primarily as E’s and L’s mommy, and to that end, I have wisely kept working full-time. But once I get home, I shift to mommy mode, and still hadn’t found a way to balance what I want/need to do beyond caring for my kids.  My husband was in a play last fall, and while it was stressful to have him away two nights a week, and lonely during his dress rehearsals and shows, he got to get back into his Me-ness in a very real way.  He was back on stage, expressing his creativity, and bringing joy to yet another packed house.  It was now my turn.  With my colleague holding me accountable (and in turn, me relying on her), we found a nearby studio, made a date, and went to yoga.

The first Tuesday, I rushed in, breathless, having struggled to put the kids to bed in time for me to get out the door.  I worried that E would think I was absolutely nuts, that yoga was completely weird, and that I was more of a hippy-dippy granola that I’d let on. We moved through the poses, focusing on breathing, getting used to the style of the instructor, catching glances at others to make sure we were doing it right.  Somewhere in the middle of the class, the self-consciousness left, and I think that was when we actually started doing yoga.  I don’t have a great grasp of the philosophical or spiritual background behind yoga. I’ve always just done it primarily for the physical benefits, hoping to become slightly more limber or well-balanced.  But my concerns of E thinking me completely batty vanished when we rolled up our mats and stepped out into the cool air of the street.  Airily, she turned to me and said, “Where has this been all my life?”

Our husbands now have to kick us out the door on Tuesday nights. We’re tired, we complain.  It’s easier just to have a relaxing evening at home, we reason.  But you come home so relaxed, they counter.  Do it for yourself. They think we’re sneaking off to bars, we come home so Zen and dopey. I’ve done yoga before to strengthen and support my body, but I’d never before done yoga to feed my mind, my soul.  I know that sounds ridiculous and transcendental.  I only wanted an activity for myself to do.  It could have been a knitting circle or a book club, or taking bassoon lessons.  But I think yoga was a serendipitous, and overly auspicious choice.  I doubt somehow I would have come home from book club with my mind freed from anxieties, my body ready to enter a peaceful sleep, and my soul filled to the brim with Me-ness.

I missed therapy last week.  At 4pm, when I should have been parking my car and entering the building, I was instead holding my son as he screamed through a nebulizer treatment on the pediatric inpatient unit of Bryn Mawr Hospital.  E had been wheezing over the weekend, and we did nothing. Sure, Mr. Apron had noticed it, had asked for my confirmation (I heard it, too), but I did nothing.  I figured, as with most infant illnesses, it would resolve on its own, and, with the new conservative stance on such things as cough and cold medicines for children, we wouldn’t be able to give him anything anyhow.

A miserable Monday night’s sleep had us headed to the pediatrician on Tuesday, and after they’d tried to jack him up with breathing treatments in the office, we were sent directly to the ER.  What followed was a 36-hour ordeal filled with doctors, nurses, changes in treatment plans, screaming babies, childcare arrangements, and poor sleep for all.  My son had to endure being poked too many times in his chubby arms.  Even after digging around in his fat flesh for endless minutes, they still could not strike a vein, so the threats of putting in an IV “just in case” were abandoned, and the poor baby passed out from sheer exhaustion.

“He looks tired,” the nurses commented.  “Yes,” I said, “He slept poorly last night and hasn’t had his nap yet this morning.”

“No,” they demurred, “When we say, ‘he looks tired,’ we mean, tired of working so hard.”

But whether from exhaustion, fatigue, or defeat, the child napped on the stretcher, ensconced in the same hospital blanket they’d used to restrain him for the failed IV attempts.

Hours later, he napped again, this time securely attached to my breast for the better part of an hour as he tried to rehydrate and comfort himself while blocking out the noise and lights of the hospital.  By the time we reached the pediatric unit, he had rested, fed, and was perking up.  It would be another 12 hours before his labored breathing relaxed enough that his little chest wasn’t retracting with each breath, but his affect was brighter, and he’d stopped the endless helpless screaming.

All Tuesday, and into Wednesday as well, I stayed by his side, cuddling my son, feeding him, and letting him sleep on me whenever he could.  I tried 6 times to transfer my sleeping child to the prison-like crib provided for him, and for about 3 hours he slept by himself as I shoveled down a soggy garden burger brought up hours earlier by room service.  When the white noise of the nebulizer shut off after the 1am breathing treatment, he awoke again, and I gave up on the lavish plans I’d had for myself – to pump milk for my daughter, and text message my sister – and just let him sleep by my side on and off all night.  We lay on the pull-out cot together from 1:30 until he woke after 5am for his usual breakfast, despite the night nurse’s pleas that I put him down in the crib.  Co-sleeping is not a hospital policy, especially for babies on oxygen, but if he hadn’t sleep with me, neither of us would have slept at all that night.

I stepped up, I rose to the occasion.  I played with him for hours when my husband went home to our daughter.  I left for only an hour to go home and take a nap.  I advocated for his care, asked about his treatment plan, saved his diapers for the nurses to weigh, and cut up bits of fruit for his breakfast.  I gave him apple juice by syringe in 5ml increments, and let him nurse whenever he wanted.  I commandeered the best toys on the hall and brought in his favorite books from home. I sat for an hour just watching him sleep in the crib — after my only successful transfer — afraid to put the crib rail up for fear of making noise and waking him up.

And when we got home Wednesday night, just in time for bed, the family breathed a collective sigh of relief.  The nightmare was largely over, save for nebulizer treatments every 4 hours, oral steroids, and more follow-ups to the pediatrician.

I blame myself for ignoring the wheezing and landing us all in the hospital.  I blame my inadequacy as a parent.  I was in denial that he was sick because I couldn’t allow myself to believe something serious could be wrong.  Lurking around the corner, hiding behind that sweet baby wheeze, is asthma.

They technically won’t diagnose a baby with asthma, as they can’t really cooperate with all the breathing tests to measure tidal volume, and blowing out the birthday candles or whatever assessments Mr. Apron has told me about from his years of experience at his pediatric allergist/pulmonologist (to whom he still goes, but at least they don’t make him do the birthday cake any more).  But he might have it.  Having a nebulizer, giving him albuterol treatment, listening for wheezing, having an “asthma treatment plan” as part of our discharge instructions — it all scares  me shitless.

“This should be the worst thing that ever happens to him,” Mr. Apron says.  Asthma, or reactive airway, or wheezing when he gets a cold – all of these are manageable things.  Still, I found myself collapsed on the kitchen floor at 9:40pm the night we got home from the hospital, having a whimpering, silent, self-indulgent adult tantrum about having to give my baby nebulizer treatments.  Because I was in denial, and couldn’t face the fact that something real and scary might be wrong with my baby.

Eventually, Mr. Apron refused to coddle me, I shelved the self-pity, and I pulled on my big-girl panties to go help my son.  I learned about all the meds, familiarized myself with the nebulizer, figured out how to detach the individual vials of meds from the plastic strips, and determined how to teach the nanny all of this horrific mess of plastic tubing and drugs.  I labeled each vial with a time, and taped them to E.’s daily communication notebook.

Nebulizer aside, meds aside, asthma aside, it’s just one more task in a seemingly endless series of “have to”s in caring for my children.  And it’s just exhausting.  Choosing to breastfeed means managing milk, rotating my personal dairy, freezing it when it reaches close to expiration, worrying about producing enough, and making sure others know how to handle the Liquid Gold.  Choosing a convertible car seat (and having to buy 4) means researching safety, ease of installation, trying them out in my tiny car, and finding the best deal (did I mention we had to buy 4?).  Starting solid foods means more preparation, choosing healthy, kid-friendly foods, and keeping alert for hidden, forbidden ingredients.  Managing food safety.  Making bottles.  Teaching my husband or in-laws how to use the car seats. It’s an awful lot, and I was managing pretty well.  But along came bronchiolitis and a nebulizer, and treatments every 4 hours, and I just melted down.  Being a detail-oriented, perfectionist mom is hard enough.  I was stretched to my breaking point, everything just working, but without wiggle room.  Adding one more “have to” just set me over the edge.

I’m okay now.  I debriefed with my therapist.  The nanny used a nebulizer when she was a kid.  And the pediatrician said we can skip the overnight treatments, as he supports my belief that sleep is restorative and uber-important.  I love our pediatrician.  I may have a doctor-crush on him; don’t tell Mr. Apron.

I don’t really know how to end this post, as it was just meant to be a Brain Dump, cathartic way of processing the hospital stay and my resulting feelings.  I’m glad we’re all home and on the way to healthy.  I’m glad I’m no longer scared of the nebulizer.  I’m relieved I’m able to care for my son.  I’m scared, too, scared for the future, whether the next emergency is my son and asthma-related symptoms, or something frightening with my daughter, my husband, or my parents.  It’s certainly not the last crisis in the years to come, but I hope I can get my big girl panties in gear so I can handle the situation like a grown-up.

In my house, only the babies are allowed to shit themselves.

I was sitting at lunch with my colleagues yesterday, one of few occasions I actually get to do so, owing to regular lunch-time meetings, or frequent lunch duty down in the “dining commons” (since they’ve upgraded the lunch program, the cafeteria’s name has had a makeover, too).  Colleague A had brought in rice crackers from the bulk section of a local cooperative grocery store, so they had no label.  “They’re rice, but they’re not gluten free,” she remarked, in case anyone needed to know. Then she and two of our colleagues proceeded to calculate how many Weight Watchers points they would have.

“Four points!  In 26 crackers!” Colleague B exclaimed, as if they had been slabs of cheesecake instead of innocuous crackers from a health food store.  “I only get 21 in a day.”

It turned out that Colleagues A, B, and C all are allotted only 21 points each per day, and they were already mentally tabulating the point overages that this week’s gluttony of turkey, mashed potatoes, and pie would undoubtedly cause.

Just then, Colleague D came in from the soul-sucking task of lunch duty to report that a student had whacked his head and needed the nurse.  The nurse excused herself, and Colleague D continued her report from lunch, complaining about the 9th grade girls.

“None of them eat lunch,” she lamented.  “I don’t know if it’s anorexic behavior or a social thing.  I see some of them snacking – this one eats potato chips – but none of them eat during lunch time.”

My colleagues tsked disapprovingly, saddened by the pressure that mass media has played in these girls’ negative self-image and their resulting poor nutritional choices.

I just ate some crackers.

*By “dummies”, I mean sleep-deprived new mothers nearing delirium.  My IQ must have dropped at least 20 points (10 per child?) since becoming a parent.

I have sought out support in breastfeeding, both before the babies arrived, and in the last 5 weeks.  I went to two classes prenatally.  I have also been offered unsolicited advice by well-meaning mommy-friends, and called in a lactation consultant.  I have started going to an awesome support group on Thursday mornings.  From all of these sources, I have distilled a top-ten list of breastfeeding tips, as no one who needs help breastfeeding has time to read any more than 10 bulleted points at a sitting.  Heck, I don’t even know if there are ten.  It’s just a nice, round number.

  • Don’t ask your mother for help.  Or at least, don’t expect her to be the ultimate resource. I tried asking my mother, whom I know successfully breastfed all three of her children.  I personally was nursed exclusively for 15 months, having refused nearly all baby food.  I figured Mom would be a good resource, especially as she was breastfeeding during formula’s hey-dey.  Nope.  Her first response, when I asked if she had any resources (books, advice, etc.) back in the 1980s, was, “No.” She initially claimed breastfeeding was natural, so easy she never gave it a second thought. This led to a lengthy discussion about the manufactured industry of lactation consultants and heavy-handed pressure on all moms to breastfeed nowadays.  Later, however, upon visiting my house and seeing La Leche League’s “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” on my bookshelf, she remarked that it was the seminal resource she herself had consulted.  And also that she had met with a group of stay-at-home new moms of young babies in their homes to, among other things, troubleshoot breastfeeding.  But no, it had been for her, a completely natural, instinctive thing to do.  No support whatever.  So, yeah, don’t hedge your bets on maternal wisdom.
  • When we eat a hoagie (translation for non-Philadelphians: sub/zep/Dagwood/regional sandwich), we don’t just open our mouths and shove it in.  Try it next time.  Watch what you do.  I’ll bet you squish the bun/bread a bit, then roll the sandwich into your mouth from the lower lip first.  Your boobie is a hoagie for your baby.  Compress it, then roll it into the baby’s mouth from the lower lip.  Don’t just try to shove your breast into their mouth as is.  Compression while nursing also helps baby breathe, a vastly underrated function during breastfeeding.
  • It’s called breastfeeding, not nipple feeding. Make sure your kiddo has a huge mouth-full of boobie.  You’re actually aiming for your nipple to go as far back as the place where the hard and soft palates meet.  Feel in your own mouth using your tongue; that’s pretty far back, and if the kiddo is only latched onto your nipple, not only will it hurt like tiny needles stabbing your breast, but there’s no chance it’ll reach that far back in baby’s mouth.
  • Breastfeeding might hurt, even if you’re doing it right.  There’s some mystical bullshit out there that if it hurts, you have to adjust baby’s latch, or your position, or your chakra. Nope.  It might hurt for a minute when they’re latching, or only during the initial let-down, or for four months.  And you might be doing everything right.
  • Bring kid to boobie, not boobie to kid.  Otherwise, you’ll be hunched over like some old hagitha for a half-hour, dangling your breast in your kid’s mouth.  And your back will hurt.
  • To help you bring baby to boobie, get a pillow designed for breastfeeding.  My favorite is the idiotically named “My Brest Friend.”  You’ll feel like a tool the first few times you strap this planetary orbit around your midsection, and stupider still as you waltz around the house wearing a satellite dish, but it’s the best thing ever not to have to fold and fluff a regular pillow into the right position, or to strain your arm holding even the smallest infant in the precise position for any length of time.  Many people love Boppies.  They do have pretty covers, but it’ll be a cold day in Hell if you think you can wrench my “My Best Friend” away from me.
  • When baby is rooting, and opening its mouth, and you seize the opportunity to shove its precious little head towards your engorged breast, manipulate your little darling’s noggin by holding it nearer to its neck, not the round part of its skull.  I usually hold my baby’s heads with a thumb and forefinger or middle finger by the mastoid bones, which are right behind the ears, near where the lower jaw attaches.  If someone tries to move your head around by pushing at the back (occipital region), feel how you tense up and resist (go on, try it.  No one’s looking).  Now feel how much more control they’d have by holding nearer the neck.  Now you have ultimate control over baby’s noggin.  Use it wisely.
  • Set a stopwatch so you can keep track of how long baby is nursing for.  You can try just watching a clock and doing the math, but in my experience, your brain will be too fried to do even simple subtraction.  Plus, when you’re at it ‘round the clock, you won’t remember if the :19 you’re calculating from was from the 3pm feed or the 6pm feed.  The doctors profess to love and support breastfeeding, but it makes them nuts, because it’s so hard to measure.  They want numbers for their reports, so they can make calculations, compare to charts, and write goals.  If you have a formula-fed baby, you can ask how much it’s taking from a bottle, and report back in ounces.  Easy.  With a breast-fed baby, the best you can do on a regular basis is count wet/dirty diapers, and ask how long they nurse for.  Babies are all different, and some are more efficient than others.  Women produce more milk at different times of the day.  And sometimes babies who hang out for a long time at the breast, are just dicking around, using you as a human pacifier.  Sure, you can weigh a baby before and after a feed, but on a daily basis, the duration and frequency of a nursing session is the only number you’ll be able to give the doctors.
  • Get an iPad or an ereader or at least some good phone apps.  Nursing is not only time-consuming, but also soporific.  To keep yourself from falling asleep mid-suckle, download engaging books and mind-numbing games.  Until your baby knows it has hands and can stop flailing about volitionally, you’ll have to help it stay on the breast.  This requires at least one hand.  You will value any and all activities you can do with the other hand, and you may eventually tire of 3am TV infomercials.  Though I am only a recent convert to the ebook world, I have found yet another lesser-known advantage over paper books – you can turn the pages with the swipe of a finger, and don’t have to deal with a paperback folding up, losing your page, or holding the spine open with two fingers and turning pages with another.  While you’re at it, download a stopwatch app and a nursing log app.  The doctors will love you.
  • I guess I only had 9 tips.  Oh, no, wait.  Here’s one more – keep trying.  Breastfeeding can be really hard, but don’t give up.  Call in the troops.  Get a lactation consultant, or go to a breastfeeding support group.  Call a mommy-friend, or  use your iPad to find an online support group.  But keep at it.  You’re awesome.
  • Oh, shit.  Another one.  This one was personal, and stems from a failed 4am feeding where L. wouldn’t latch.  Through streaming tears, I pleaded with her to stop rejecting my breast, to stop rejecting me.  And while this may seem silly from the comfort of daylight hours, it was very real to me.  A baby’s difficulty latching, or sucking, or removing enough milk is not a personal affront on your motherhood.
  • Or your best intentions.  It killed me to have to supplement with formula on doctor’s orders because my babies had lost too much weight since birth.  But by adding formula for only two weeks, I was able to appease the doctor’s need for numbers (Yes, we give her up 2oz to “top off” after a 20-minute feed, etc.), and once I could show my babies were gaining weight, we were back to boobie.  It did not mean I was a failure that I had to give my children formula.  We just needed some help.

I hope my earnest little list offered you’re a little help.  Now go, get some sleep.  You look awful.

Well, as I posted on Facebook, the babies face eviction on the 15th, unless they are prepared to vacate the premises on their own before such time.

And under other thinly veiled euphemisms, unless I go into labor on my own before next Thursday, I’m being induced then. 

I have mixed feelings about this.  While it’s kind of a relief (albeit unnatural) to have a deadline, a timeline, a birthdate (practically, though it could happen Friday if this takes a while, or Wednesday if the Pitocin drip is feeling frisky), and a plan, it feels like we’re jumping the gun and subverting Mother Nature.

If full-term for twins is 37 weeks, and average gestation is 35 weeks, then they can be born now anytime.  It’s not their health or development that is concerning me.  For goodness sake, I’ll be 38 weeks tomorrow, which is pretty much full-term (38-42 weeks is the range, actually) for a singleton pregnancy.  That’s not my worry at all, and that, of course is what’s most important — having two healthy babies.  By all signs, that’s what they’ll be.  I’ve witnessed fetal breathing (practicing for the real thing), and seen numerous ultrasounds.  I’ve felt thousands of kicks, and seen them recorded during non-stress tests.  My babies are within normal range for weight.  Today they were estimated at 6lb 5oz and 6lb 9oz, respectively.  And I’m shocked I can still walk around.  All this is very, very good.

No, what worries me, is a loss of control, a loss of a plan, ironic, really, when we have a scheduled induction of labor.  Much as I’m not the type of person to go to a birth center or even dream of  a homebirth, I worry about jumping into medical interventions when there doesn’t seem to be a need.  I’m upset that continuous fetal monitoring will ruin my plans to walk my way through contractions, that I’ll be confined to the hospital bed, and so miserable I’ll jump at the chance for an epidural, rather than taking the wait-and-see approach I’d planned on.  I worry about the cascade of medical interventions.  I worry about causing fetal distress from inducing labor before the babies tell us they’re ready.  I’m worried that the increased risk of a C-section will ruin my plans for a vaginal birth. 

Sure, I’ve done too much Googling, and not enough talking with my doctor directly.  Of course, she’s on vacation until next Thursday, so I’d have to talk to some other doc at her practice and try to get him to explain her clinical judgment that lead her to decide inducing labor was the best choice.  I should have asked her about risks and benefits when I had the chance.  And I’m not thrilled that I haven’t found any clinical studies or journal articles that indicate that a multiple pregnancy is a reason to induce.  I don’t have any other indicators — pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, threats to maternal well-being, babies not growing inside me, threats to their health, lack of access to medical facilities, being more than 2 weeks beyond my due date — so why?  I should have asked, eh?  I guess it all just made sense in the moment, or at least I made it up to convince myself that if I went to 40 weeks, they might get too big and make delivery more difficult.  Is that true?  Or did I make it up completely?

As any good mother-to-be who has an abstract-sequential personality, I have a list of pros and cons. 

Pros:

  • My family can actually plan a time to be here. 
  • My sister can start her 16 hour drive from St. Louis, and won’t miss more than one class. 
  • My mother-in-law can put in for time off before the frantic phone-call. 
  • My parents can make a hotel reservation. 
  • The 15th is my late grandfather’s birthday. 
  • It’s as far from Christmas as can be, given our Dec. 24th due date. 
  • The babies will (hopefully) be home with us in time for Chanukah, so they can wear the “My First Chanukah” bibs my crazy aunt sent (just kidding about that last part). 
  • I won’t have to worry about a skeletal hospital staffing near the Christmas holiday. 
  • I can work up until the last few days before the Holiday break, and I’ll only miss 2 days of work, days dedicated to packing up and moving from our old building to the new school (work a pregnant lady oughtn’t do anyway). 
  • We can plan dog care. 
  • We can go to the hospital after rush hour, with our bags packed, and hopefully in a lower panic mode, sans regular contractions. 

And then there are the cons:

  • I’ll be on continuous fetal monitoring, and, lacking telemetry, be restricted to finding laboring positions a hospital bed will allow.
  • Contractions won’t be “natural” and are rumored to be stronger when induced with Pitocin.
  • Inducing might not actually work. 
  • It can take a long time.
  • I don’t get to have the realization that I’m in labor, and the opportunity to labor at home comfortably during the early phases.
  • Increased risk of C-section.
  • Increased risk of additional medical interventions.
  • I won’t get to walk around, not even in my room.
  • I’ll never know how long I could have naturally maintained this complication-free, miraculous pregnancy. 

I mean, come on!  Who else can boast a nearly full-term twin pregnancy with a net weight gain of only 25lbs, and babies estimated to weigh over 6lbs each?  Without any morning sickness?  Not on bed rest?  Still able to drive and walk dogs and craft and only having edema in her last week (and still wearing my wedding band)?  Without wretched mood swings that drove her husband nuts? I must say, I have had a pretty awesome pregnancy.  I just wonder how it would have ended, had we given it the chance to end naturally.  And that’s part of my confusion, too. 

When it’s all over and done with, God willing we’ll have two healthy, beautiful, brilliant babies, I’ll miraculously get my figure back, lose the eight thousand stretch marks I’ve incurred over the last 6 weeks, and my dearest husband and I will have a family that all sleeps through the night.  That, of course, is the end goal, one I must not lose sight of, even as I prepare for the end of the pregnancy, and the labor and delivery that will mark the beginning of our little famly.

Let me go on record as saying that while I am approaching that phase most women reach late in their pregnancies where I am kind of sick of looking like a Volkswagen Beetle and feeling like Humpty Dumpty, I have rather enjoyed being pregnant.
I hesitate to apply the word “blessed” to my easy pregnancy as I think some might attribute this “blessing” to other-worldly factors, or divine intervention, but I have been fortunate, extremely fortunate.  Far from my initial (okay, pervading) worries about the inherently high-risk nature of a twin pregnancy, or the looming threat of pre-term labor and/or months of bed rest, the actual pregnancy has been remarkably, well, unremarkable.
I have been spared many of the statistically and stereotypically common ailments and complaints, or at least the annoyances have been late in coming, minor, or easy to cope with.  Morning sickness?  Twice I think I felt slightly queasy.   If anything, not having morning sickness caused me to worry, as I was paranoid I had miscarried, or in disbelief that, after 18 months of trying, I actually was truly pregnant.  Yet the distinct lack of heaving and vomiting let me keep the first trimester a secret from work and family.  Cravings?  I remember feeling constantly thirsty during the first trimester, and craving juicy fruits, but luckily I was kept flush with my need throughout the spring and summer as peaches and watermelon came into season and were ever-present in our home.  My husband was spared the midnight run to the grocery store for pickles and rocky road ice cream.  Swelling?  I’m at 36 weeks with twins, and still wearing my wedding bands.  I still have ankles, even if I can’t see them.  Stretch marks?  My first appeared around 32 weeks, and I’ll admit, my lower belly is now covered in deep red ridges like magma flowing from a volcano.  They itch all night long, no matter how much baby oil and cream I slather over them, but at least I was spared these ghastly disfigurements until 32 weeks.  Hemorrhoids?  Never heard of ’em.  Constipation?  Just drink more water.  Trouble sleeping?  Once my belly became large enough to need “support” I found a pregnancy support pillow called a “Snoogle” and it has been my sleep partner from month 4 till month 8.  Only recently has sleep become evasive again.
The point here is not to catalog a list of woes, or to minimize the difficulties others have had throughout their pregnancies; it is only to demonstrate how fortunate I have been to have such an uneventful twin pregnancy, thus far.
When I began feeling the babies kicking around 22 weeks, I suddenly became one of those pregnant women resting her hands on her belly.  I am addicted to feeling them squirm and wiggle and kick.  Our nightly kick counts, where I just zone out on the couch and focus on their movements until I have counted ten, are moments of pure self-indulgence.  If I’m this hooked on feeling a little foot in my belly, I wonder how mesmerized I’ll be watching their chests rise and fall while they sleep, or seeing the smiles on their little faces as they fall deep into a milk coma.
Initially, as I said, I kept my pregnancy a secret.  Our previous miscarriage made me afraid to jump the gun telling people, not for fear I would jinx the pregnancy, but because of the pain we had endured having to “untell” our friends and family last time.  I didn’t have to tell, either, because I didn’t show for some time.  Though my doctor warned of the lordosis and back aches many pregnant women develop from leaning back to off-set their growing bellies, I was only able to see that I had a baby bump when I did arch my back.  Even at 4.5 months pregnant, on our trip to Ireland, I was barely showing.  I was almost embarrassed to have a belly, to have something to show for my growing babies.  I’m not accustomed to changes in my body shape, and I was self-conscious as I passed into that “Is she pregnant or just fat?” stage.   I often joked with friends and family who wanted to know how huge I was, that I just looked like I had had a large meal.
Now, however, the enormity of my belly is finally a result of having two nearly formed beings inside, and it’s unavoidable, which has also become fun.  As my belly grows more and more comically oversized, strangers’ attitudes have shifted from polite comments and questions, “Oh, when are you due?  Do you  know if it’s a boy or a girl?” (when it wasn’t obvious I was carrying more than one) to more brazen “Oh, jeez, lady!  When are you due?  Tomorrow?”  I have also received my fair share of inappropriate questions and comments, such as our neighbor who asked if it was okay to call my “chubby”.  And the awkward lady at the grocery store, who, upon hearing we were expecting twins, asked if I’d had something “done”.  My favorite is when people ask if we know the sex, which we have kept a secret so far.  My hubby will usually say, “Why, yes, obviously.  We do know The Sex.”  We’ve taken to telling people who ask if we know what they are, that they are lemurs.  This catches them off guard enough to head off any further probing.
The attention is interesting.  Sometimes people are overly accommodating, opening check-out lines just for me, and freeing up chairs when I’ve made it clear I can, thanks to prenatal yoga, be perfectly comfortable on the floor.  Other times, they wait for me to ask for what I need.  Pregnancy is not a disability, though I do take advantage now of “stork parking” at the Superfresh, and try to minimize the number of trips up and down the steps if I can help it.
I’m 36+ weeks pregnant with twins.  The last growth scan/ultrasound (at nearly 34 weeks) estimated the babies each weighed more than 4.5 lbs, and were within “average” size for singletons.  I’m still working full-time.  I climb 63 stairs each morning to get to my office.  I go to yoga every other week.  I’m still walking our 64lb (though elderly) and 32lb (though spritely) dogs.  I’m still out doing things I love, and I’m very grateful my babies and my body allow me to do so.
We were visiting with one of Mr. Apron’s friends when she brought her 1-year old to town, and she asked if I was enjoying being pregnant.  I modestly replied I didn’t mind so much, as I knew she was not the type to embrace her pregnancy glow, and had probably found the belly burdensome to her daily farmer chores.  While I do confess I’m sick to pieces of maternity clothing (I wax nostalgic about my  pants that stayed up without advanced engineering and the closet full of shirts I haven’t been able to wear in 5 months), and I would love to be able to turn over in bed without a Herculean effort (or sleep on my back!  What luxury), it’s been rather enjoyable.  I’m bonding with the little parasites in my belly, imagining what they’ll look like and who they’ll become.  I’m channeling my excess hormones lovingly crafting clothing for them and decorations for their nursery.  I’m keeping busy researching sleep training, breast pumps, and high chairs.  I’m thrilled to pieces to hear that the cribs and the bedding will be arriving within a week.  The excitement from our friends and family is infectious.
With most of the threat of premature labor behind us, and my bag packed for the hospital, I’m preparing for the final portion of my pregnancy, the part that ends in the doubling of our family and the welcoming of two precious babies into our home and our lives.

My sleep situation finally reached its tipping point.  Or should I say, my lack of sleep.  For perhaps two weeks now, I’ve awoken after only 4.5-5 hours of sleep (some night it’s as little as 3.5), and been completely unable to fall back asleep.  I do all the tossing and turning they show on mattress, pillow, and sleep aid commercials, but what they don’t show is the toll it takes on the psychological health.  Night after night, I’d try to coax myself into a peaceful slumber, yet my mind was racing.  It was filled with the torments of my anxieties about our impending parenthood.  The theme was always, “We’re not ready.  It’s too soon.”  I’m 34.5 weeks pregnant with twins.  Average gestation for a twin pregnancy is 37 weeks.  To think that I’m just sitting here placidly at work for 8 hours a day instead of frantically preparing for their possibly imminent birth is ridiculous, or so my subconscious mind would have me believe.  And as my mind filled with my worries, my body began to absorb the unrest.  Suddenly, my Snoogle maternity pillow, which has been my miraculous sleep companion since August, could offer me little comfort.  Suddenly the sheets clung to my pajamas or to each other.  Dog fur seemed to be everywhere.  My nasal passages were at once clogged with my pregnancy swelling.  My throat was dry.  I had to pee.  And then, my legs got in on the party.

I’ve always been a kid who needed to fidget a little.  Not strictly ADD, it was more of a nervous habit I developed – moving some part of my body, so that my mind could focus on the task at hand.  I played with Silly Putty throughout 9th grade geometry to keep myself awake.  I find it difficult to sit through an entire movie without feeling an unbearable urge to shift my body.  And when I’m sitting “still”, I am often tapping my foot rhythmically, or rapping my fingernails against some piece of hard plastic in the car, usually without realizing it.

Now they’ve put a medical term to my fidgets: Restless Leg Syndrome.  The commercials are goofy, and mostly dedicated to (like the ones for fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome) trying to convince you RLS exists, and of course is treatable by their drugs.  My need to move, though, never kept me awake at night.  Now, I think, my bladder wakes me up, my mind keeps me up, and my body keeps me from falling back asleep.  My legs began twitching.  I can’t explain it like the commercials do, like a tingling, or like ants marching up and down my legs.  It’s not even an unbearable urge to move them.   It’s just…moving them.  And moving them doesn’t relieve the issue.  I’d lie there, trying not to think about my legs, and then they’d jerk around on their own.  My feet would start rubbing frenetically against each other, my toenails slicing battle wounds on my calves, my toes, my heels.  I tried to pin them under my no-longer-sleeping husband or dog.  I tried sleeping on the couch and shoving my feet in the crack between the cushions to give them some deep sensory input, or at least to provide some resistance to their twitching.  Nothing worked.  And as the hours wore on, I became so tired and so frustrated with the futility of working so hard to sleep, that I would break down completely.

Many nights, I woke up a sympathetic husband who was at a loss how to help me.  He tried rubbing my back, holding me close to him, and asking if I wanted to talk.  One night the comfort of his body against mine did seem to break the spell and let me fall back asleep, but it was no cure-all, as night after night, I continued to disturb both of our rest.  I would whimper, I would cry, I would wail apologetically to my husband, knowing he had to work in the morning.  I would work myself into thrashing crying fits, working at cross purposes to my attempts to fall asleep.

I found myself at the computer in the middle of the night, the sudden bright lights of the monitor shocking my dilated pupils, trying to numb my brain with Facebook, trying to empty my mind by writing down my anxieties, trying at least to leave my poor husband alone, but nothing worked.  After an hour or so I’d return to bed and fitfully catch another half-hour of sleep in bursts, usually in the minutes before my alarm would go off.

In one of my non-sleeping stupors, I found myself e-mailing my parents.  Panicking the next day that my missive had seemed psychotic, I dug through my sent-mailbox, relieved to find out it had actually been somewhat coherent.  This of course led to a useless phone call with my mother, who chose to focus on my fatigue – not the reasons behind it – by suggesting I somehow slide a couch into my 4’x 8’ cubicle, or take cat naps at my desk during lunch, and compensate by eating half my lunch at 10:30 and 2.  I assured her that if my school had any spare spaces big enough for a couch, they’d have made it into a classroom by now.

Finally yesterday, the sleep deprivation caught up with me.  I had had a particularly rough evening.  The dog, left unsupervised, had destroyed the base of the couch in search of the tin from a pot pie, ripping shreds of corduroy, batting, foam, and Ikea “wood”, sending me into a storm of anger.  She had also eaten yet another one of my socks, one I had thought I had put out of her reach.  In a torrent I lashed out at her, raging around the house screaming, scaring my husband and myself, unable to access any coping mechanisms to calm myself down.  Even after I did, I knew sleep would not be restful.  I woke at 3:30, and I eventually gave up on sleep and instead chose to shower at 5:15 rather than trying to fight the sleep demons for 45 minutes of shut-eye.

I called myOB’s office in desperation.  I had not mentioned my difficulty sleeping last week when I saw her.  I had been running late to the appointment, caught up in rush hour traffic, and had felt guilty running through my full litany of inane questions.  What’s more, every pregnant woman has difficulty sleeping, and the complaint seemed foolish, or at least mundane.  I read about it on Facebook as my peer-group kicks into reproductive overdrive, and recommends pregnancy pillows and memory foam mattress toppers.  I hear about it at yoga, as the other women discuss iron supplements, stretching, and massage.  And I hate the pat response I always get when I do try to reach out to people – “Just wait till the babies are here!” or “It’s just practice for the sleep deprivation that comes with newborns!”  Of course, when I had worked up the courage to actually call my doctor’s office, she wasn’t there.  The entire staff of MDs, it seems, was out yesterday.  So I spoke to a nurse. Through my overwrought fatigue, I managed to convey to her that this had reached a breaking point.  Nerd that I am, I may have said, in my quivering don’t-cry-don’t-cry voice, that my difficulty sleeping was “untenable”.  So she recommended I take Benadryl.

While the smallest bit of caffeine can send me bouncing off the walls, and a Starbucks Frappuccino sets me hypomanic for at least two hours (low tolerance for caffeine is great), the antihistamine has little effect on me, as opposed to my husband, who conks out on the couch after taking one Benadryl.  Through his sniffling and schmulling (did I mention he’s sick?), he took one pill, and I downed two.  I did my yoga stretches, trying to fatigue my legs, and my sweet husband plied and massaged my calf muscles and feet until they could put up resistance no longer.  Maybe it was the placebo effect of trying something new, or throwing the book at my sleep issue.  Maybe it was the effect of the Benadryl, or maybe the fatigue had finally caught up with me.  In any case, I slept from 11 until 4, got up for my customary pee, and was able to fall right back asleep until the alarm went off.

I’ve never been one to reach for the meds as my first defense.  Many days in college I would lie on a scorching heating pad and skip class rather than treat my cramps with Advil.  I dealt with my tongue seizures for years by running and hiding rather than seeking treatment.   And through the early part of my pregnancy, I was extremely reluctant to take even Tylenol (which, of course, was all I could take) for my migraines.  As for a sleep issue, for that, too, I’d rather try my other options first.  I’d rather deal with the underlying issues, whether they’re anxiety or physical discomfort, than chemically sedate myself.  But in this case, the lack of sleep was compounding, and I was having such anxiety about sleeping itself, that I was at odds with myself.  I’d tried listing out my worries, doing my yoga, and soliciting calf massages, to no avail.  My therapist is woefully out of commission for the near future, recovering from back surgery.  And talking to my mother had of course proved futile.  I was wracked with guilt about disturbing my husband’s sleep, and barely able to function at work.

And so I took the meds.  And so I got some sleep.  I still worry about the babies coming.  I still need to talk to my therapist.  I may still need to go through the yoga and the massaging, and I won’t be giving up my Snoogle any time soon.  Maybe meds are not the answer, but they might be part of the equation.

Sometimes I think I can’t remember the Depression, can’t remember watching myself sink into the couch, too upset to move, full of self-loathing, apathy, and passive disinterest.

And then, it all comes back.  It’s only an hour and a half that Mr. Apron is gone – including travel time – but if I’m not glued to one screen (TV), I’m glued to another (computer, iPad), and still immobilized enough that the feelings from the Depression come rushing back.  Sometimes I can “bootstrap” myself out of it by running through a mental list of all the things I allegedly want to do.  I of course reject doing 99% of them, but by latching onto the smallest, least cumbersome chore, I am sometimes able to gather enough momentum to pull myself off the literal or figurative couch.  However, I think my list of tasks is too long tonight, or I’m so overwhelmed in general, that I’m just going to bask in the deluge of being stuck.

The babies are coming, the babies are coming.  I’m at 33 weeks gestation.  At 30 weeks, they weighed in at over 3 lbs each, and I’m estimating that by my next ultrasound this Friday, they’ll be at 4 lbs.  I’m still terrified of pre-term labor.  I had a scare around 27 weeks, where the ultrasound showed my cervix might be getting ready for labor.  Thankfully, I wasn’t showing any other signs, and clearly, I haven’t had the babies yet, but it still shocked me into a hyper aware state, much like how Mr. Apron behaved for about a week after he was pulled over, driving past the corner where he was caught in a speed trap.  After a while, the caution and sensitivity fade, and life returns to normal.

Unless you’re having twins.  They’re coming, pre-term or not.  At the outside, if I go full-term, I only have 7 weeks left.  And if I make it “full-term” for twins, which is only 37 weeks, I have less than a month.  I speak as if I’m facing a terminal illness instead of the birth of my children.  Still, I’m not ready.  I doubt that 4, or even 7 weeks would ever be enough time to prepare, mentally.  Sure, the cribs have been ordered, and the car seats lie in wait.  The stroller is in the basement, optimistic that we’ll ever set foot outside our house again once the babies are born.  I’m mourning the end of our life as a couple, of our life as adult-focused people.  I’m not even talking about so-called adult activities, like drinking, staying out until all hours, and beer pong.  I’m talking about our adult activities, like snuggling in the bed together, watching Antiques Roadshow together, botching home improvement projects together, and evening crafting/computer time together.  Our together time.  I know we’ll make time for these things that are important to us.  I know babysitters (aka in-laws) exist for a reason, and they will provide respite care so we can go out for an evening.  But I’m still scared.  And I know that despite our best efforts (and even successes!) at retaining the essence of who we are, who we were, before children, it can never be the same.

I’m scared I won’t be ready.  I never can be.  I’m excited to meet my babies.  I narcissistically can’t wait to see how they look like us.  I can’t wait for their new baby smells.

I know I won’t be able to have my pity parties anymore either.  There just won’t be a 90-minute block of time for me to be stuck.  There will be diapers and feedings, and burping and entertaining, and soothing and swaddling.  I’m scared.  I’m scared I’ll get stuck even though it will look different than it does now.  I want to enjoy my babies whether their father is home with us, or gone for an hour or a day.  I want to be the awesome mom I know in my heart of hearts I can be.  And I can’t let the Depression get in the way.

I went to the dentist tonight and almost escaped without incident or threat of a return visit.  Almost.  They say I need a crown.  I cannot accept this.  I have no scheme, no possible scenario in which I, a 29-year-old who grew up in the United States drinking fluoridated tap water, who faithfully brushes and flosses daily, and who doesn’t do anything stupid like bleach her teeth or gargle with acid, need a crown.   It just doesn’t make sense.

I can accept if my body has an issue.  I can go full-Monty to find a solution, a diagnosis, a treatment.  I am willing to undergo invasive testing, have cameras shoved down my throat, or tubes shoved up other parts.  If something goes wrong with my body, I want to find out how to fix it.

My teeth are a different story.  I take care of them, and all I ask in return is that they give me six months between Water-Pik torture sessions in the dental chair.  They have let me down again.  When I had my first cavity, I freaked out.  My dentist could sense this, and did all but hold my hand the whole time.  He even called later, from his home, to check on me.  Not on my oral state, but on my mental state.

He retired last month, and some random guy with a mask on his face told me I need a crown.  He doesn’t know me, doesn’t know my teeth, doesn’t know my history and my family.  He doesn’t know my old dentist had been watching “staining” settle into weird cracks in my teeth, and had been hesitant to drill.

I can’t trust him.  I can’t go back.  I can’t face any of it.  I couldn’t bring myself to ask any questions, so I don’t understand anything about it.  I can’t face my husband or my dogs or the “estimate” of $850 to repair what I can’t even accept is a defect.  My old dentist might just see it as staining.  Anyone else might be less alarmist, less drill-happy, and look further.

So, yeah, I have a healthy dose of denial.

I haven’t spoken since I walked in the door 2 hours ago.  I’m having a 29-year-old’s silent tantrum because I cannot process what is allegedly happening to my tooth.  If I keep my mouth shut, will it all go away?

We watched an episode of “Hoarders” yesterday, and one of the people on the show had a decent amount of insight into her problem.  She called herself a hoarder, called her house a mess, and knew it was time to do something.  Everything in the clean-up was going swimmingly, until Dr. Zasio, the condescending therapist called in to support the individual, pushed her too far.  She wanted her to give up a smelly, dirty old moving blanket.  And the woman refused, insisting it could be cleaned, bleached, used again.  Yet Dr. Zasio persisted, and pushed her too far.  She couldn’t read her client, couldn’t respond to her needs as an individual, hadn’t established enough rapport that the woman even trusted her.  The therapist herself was too wrapped up in the blanket, too insistent on what it symbolized.  The woman melted down, refusing to sort the heap in her home rationally, and exploding with mediagenic-drama, saying ,”Fine, throw everything out!  I don’t care.”  In her obsession with the blanket, Dr. Zasio had sabotaged the entire clean-up.  I spoke to the TV as her melt-down began.  Why didn’t they keep the stupid blanket for the time being, and show it again at the end, when the home is (relatively) beautiful and (relatively) clean, for the woman to make her own decision then, seeing the big picture?  Why did it have to happen then?  Why did they push so hard?

What followed was some analysis of the woman’s short fuse (or, in my household, the therapist’s insensitivity), and a discussion of how she cannot handle stressful incidents.  Like being pressured to throw away a filthy blanket.

Whatever her disordered mind may be going through, I am feeling a sort of identification, a kinship.  I’ve been given an ultimatum, with no decision, no choice in the matter.  I don’t trust the authority delivering the message.  Maybe to him, it’s no big deal.  Maybe he’s done dozens of crowns since he finished dental school last year.  Maybe to my parents, who grew up in a different era, and already have mouths full of metal and other foreign objects, it’s a routine inconvenience.  Maybe to my friend who lived in Russia for the first 12 years of her life, who has to accept the dental inferiority of the place she grew up, it’s just the cost of her heritage.  But it’s a little more to me.

I screamed as I drove home.  I wailed.  I’m too young.  It’s not supposed to happen to me.  What did I do for this to happen?  What didn’t I do?  What would my old dentist have said?  What would any other?  How many second opinions can I get before my tooth falls apart?  Why do I have to think about $850 for a crown when I’d rather think about earmarking that money for our trip to Ireland next week?  Why me?  Why does my husband have misaligned snaggly teeth that criss-cross his mouth every which way, but are still otherwise cavity-free and freakishly healthy?  It’s just not fair, and I can’t be expected to rationally consult my date book and make appointments 2 minutes after I’ve been told what’s wrong with me.  I can’t be expected to calmly make plans when I’m still mourning, grieving, processing, and, oh yeah, still in denial.