Category Archives: self

Ruminations on my Return

So clearly it’s been a while since I posted! I’m planning to post more often soon, but you’ve got to break the ice sometime right?

This post is being written from my mobile phone while sitting in a hospital waiting room, so please pardon the visual boredom and lack of layered text today. Why am I in the hospital? Well it’s due to my reason for taking a blogging break recently: I’m pregnant! I’ll be filling in the beautiful, freaky, terrifying, fulfilling details on that over time. For now, suffice it to say we are having a baby girl in January 2014 and we are overwhelmingly pleased.

So today I am having my one hour gestational diabetes screening. You come in, drink a kid’s size bottle of gross flat orange soda type drink, and wait around for an hour. Then the lab draws blood and analyzes it for blood sugar levels to determine your likelihood of having or developing GD. It’s routine, done in every pregnancy.

I’ve had a glucose test before. A little over a year ago, I was in a much sadder place from a self-worth perspective. I had been trying to get pregnant for over two years without success. I knew my weight (approximately 190 lbs) was a large factor in my failure to ovulate, and my total inability to lose weight was making me feel like a worthless failure. I’d just returned from a beautiful wedding in Jamaica, during which I really enjoyed myself but got very few photographs I felt like I could look at without crying. Taking pictures is absolutely one of my favorite things to do, so my weight dampening that joy really hurt. And my lifestyle was also a contributing factor. I was eating unhealthily, living in an apartment I hated, trapped in a cycle of frustration and failure to make the changes I wanted in my life. I was fed up. Something had to change.

So I went to the doctor. She told me most of what I already knew–that I most likely did have PCOS, that my weight was contributing heavily in my failure to ovulate, and that if I can get it under control my chances of getting pregnant are good. She recommended a specific diet (the South Beach Diet), and an additional piece no one had ever suggested before: Metformin. A drug normally given to diabetes patients, Metformin helps people with insulin resistance regulate their blood sugar. Not all women with PCOS struggle with insulin resistance, so my doctor wanted me to undergo a glucose test to see if it was one of my personal PCOS symptoms. Turns out it was. She put me on Metformin in August 2012 and my life started to change.

I’m not exactly sure how big a role Metformin played in my diet and weight loss success. I was absolutely more successful than I’d ever been before. But I was also more dedicated to diet and exercise than ever before. I had the benefit of an extremely supportive running partner. I did notice that being hungry stopped transforming me magically into a horrendous grump when on Metformin.

Regardless of the reasons, the regimen worked. I lost thirty pounds by December. I started ovulating. My cycle regularized (mostly). And on May 6, 2013, I got my first positive pregnancy test.

So here I am, taking my GD test at 27 weeks, 6 days pregnant. This is one of the most universally dreaded screening tests in pregnancy. It’s long, boring, uncomfortable, hungry. But I’m reflecting on the feeling of coming full circle here, of returning to the apex. It’s been fourteen months since I crossed that threshold of being fed up with my life and taking control of it. I’m so glad that I did. Now, unlike my last visit to this part of the circle, I’m hopeful and excited to see what the next cycle is going to bring.
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Room to Breathe

So since my last post I went on a truly incredible vacation, I fell off the good health bandwagon, I endured a lot of frustration at work, I moved into a new house, I got some great news, and I recommitted to my diet and exercise routine (and just now I recommitted to blogging!). But today I’m writing about atmosphere.

When we moved into our apartment two years ago, I was still jobless and had no idea when or if I would have any income. It was the cheapest place I could find that would fit our family. It had a bedroom, a loft-style room, a living room, a kitchen, and a bathroom. It had carpet everywhere but the kitchen and bathroom. BAD carpet. I came to find out it was susceptible to disgusting mold, and bugs, and creepy neighbors, and general awfulness. But at the end of the first least we could not afford to move and had to stick around another year. By last month I felt like I was not going to survive this place. I dreaded going home (and I dreaded being at work), so life was pretty miserable. I would try to just curl up on the couch or in bed and pretend the rest of the place did not exist. This led to a bad, self-perpetuating cycle of the apartment getting grosser and grosser and me getting more and more stressed out about it. Cash felt the same way, so as much as I found it difficult to take pride in my home he found it difficult to help me do so. It was a bad situation. And let me tell you, it was number one on the list of things that had to change before we have a baby. I would never put an infant in that environment.

All that complaining, and I am deeply cognizant of the fact that millions of people in this world live in vastly less palatable circumstances. I don’t think that people who were born and raised in the middle class–people like me–understand the significant impact of the intangible experience of poverty on human life. Of course I can in no way be said to have lived in “poverty” because of my bad apartment. But I felt like it was a taste of how exhausting and fruitless the simplest actions can feel, when you cannot afford comfort at home. It makes cooking harder, which leads to unhealthy and expensive restaurant food, which leads to reduced savings and inability to invest in your future. It makes cleaning harder, which leads to poor health, more frequent medical visits and bills, and again, reduced savings and inability to invest in your future. It makes staying organized harder, which leads to difficulty keeping important documents together and can also lead to missed payments, missed opportunities, etc. You probably get my point by now.

I am especially aware of the atmosphere factor the last few weeks because we moved into our first single-family residence at the end of April. Wood floors (a priority for me because all four of my pets are shedders), fenced backyard (again important for the pets), enough room to appropriately organize (not just “stash” and “hide”) my things, a clothesline, a shady neighborhood off the main streets! It’s an old place and it has its little faults, but I love it. It feels like home, a feeling I haven’t had in a long time. My time at home is restful, not stressful. I am proud of it and I enjoy doing all the little things that keep it nice…all the little things I could not bear to do in the apartment.

We are so lucky we found this place, and that we are in a position to afford it. I know that millions of people could not dream of what we have: just a little room to breathe.

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Not Enough Information

Please be advised, this post will include clear references to the following sex and gynecological conditions. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not writing medical advice or fetish eroticism… Heaven knows I haven’t felt all that erotic, and all of creation knows I’m not a doctor and you should not take medical advice from me. I’ve just had an extraordinarily long, frustrating few weeks and I’m jumping back into my blog with extreme candor! Consider this your opportunity to click on to the next blog if you  don’t want to proceed. No hard feelings.

———————–

Except… maybe some hard feelings. The year is 2013 and we females have been around for all of recorded time. Yet every woman I know (including me) prefaces conversations about their own health with the phrase, “This may be too much information, but….” In fact, the title of this post was originally “Too Much Information,” until I took an anonymous, blog-bound, principled stance against such nonsense.  (Color me courageous, hmm?)

I’m not blaming anybody. I am blessed with a husband who will uncomplainingly go to the drugstore late at night to buy me tampons or yeast infection medication, even though I know he is embarrassed by the much less daunting prospect of standing in Victoria’s Secret while I shop. I’m not offering solutions. I don’t know why we still feel socially restricted from speaking of normal (and bloody frustrating) bodily functions, even among good friends. The point is I’m tired of it, I’m feeling cranky, and you’re all about to get an earful of my personal information (custom be damned)!

This story begins happily. Last weekend my beloved Cash and I made love well and vigorously, because despite the stress and anxiety over conception that leaks into this blog making a baby is, in fact, a good time. Yay us! But we may have overdone it just a smidge because a couple of days later I started feeling under the weather.

In specificity, I suspected the beginnings of a UTI. (The last few moments of urination were painful and too warm). Many women are plagued by frequent UTIs, but I am mercifully not one of them. So I did a little research–surfed the internet, quizzed my best friend who is a nurse in training, etc. I did not particularly want to go to the doctor because I was leaving for Italy in 9 days and I did not feel up to the rigmarole of trying to get an appointment/get diagnosed/get formal treatment. Besides, I prefer not to take antibiotics unless they are really necessary; I don’t intend to contribute to the superbug

 problem! My ad hoc research tended to indicate if I drank the equivalent of the seven seas I might (might) be able to get rid of my UTI before it really got started. And so, I began to guzzle. Aside from peeing ALL THE TIME, I did feel quite a lot better!

Sadly, the second day of symptoms was significantly more uncomfortable than the first day, and I found a bit of blood at one point.  So I decided I needed an actual medical opinion and probably a urinalysis to identify the pesky bacteria causing me problems. My OB/Gyn’s office got me an urgent appointment with the nurse practitioner the very next afternoon.

All of day and evening 2 I was stressing out. I was worried that my simple UTI was not a simple UTI. I should be ovulating soon and I was so frustrated that my condition (whatever it was) and subsequent treatment would get in the way of making love at the right time. I also got it into my head somehow that I was suffering from prolapse and would have to have surgery to fix it. (This hypochondriac reaction was probably colored by some medical records I had to review recently, rather than anything to do with my own issues.) I never used to be a hypochondriac. I’m still not much of a germophobe. But gynecological issues seem so wrapped up in my long term happiness that every small thing causes my mind to go into anxiety overdrive.

I woke up on day 3 and my symptoms had effectively disappeared. By my appointment that afternoon I felt 100% normal. I told the nurse practitioner the whole story and she said I might have managed to kick it with my excessive fluid intake. We did a urinalysis just to be safe, and I was told to continue drinking a lot of fluids to ward off any additional symptoms. The test came back negative so it seemed like I was in the clear. I was so relieved! I was also pleased with myself for beating that UTI off with wave after wave of water/tea/cranberry juice/anything watery and unsweetened.

Then that evening, I started feeling off again. This was a really mild “off.” My plumbing just didn’t feel normal. I am not at all sure I would have even noticed the onset of symptoms a few years ago…but over the past eight or nine months I’ve gotten into the habit of paying such close attention to my body. I knew that consuming so much water and cranberry juice can alter your body chemistry–that’s why it helps the UTI symptoms. And I knew that altering your body chemistry can throw off your natural balance in the baby factory. So I thought, maybe I just back off for a few days and everything will return to normal. Sadly, my discomfort only grew.

I felt like it was probably the beginnings of a yeast infection (itching), but I wasn’t sure (zero discharge). I’d only had one before, and the first one had been different and more severe (worse itching, significant discharge). By Day 4 I was freaking out again. Why should I have to go to the doctor again when I’d just been cleared? Of course, my nurse practitioner had not been informed of these new symptoms because I didn’t have them when I saw her.  But the difference between Day 4 symptoms and my prior yeast infection made me nervous. I felt so pressed for time: I was leaving for Italy and (hopefully) ovulating in less than a week. Even if I gave over the counter yeast infection treatments a shot, I wouldn’t know if the experiment was successful until I was in a foreign country.

On the other hand, I had to do something. My symptoms were going to be a distraction at work the next week and I frankly can’t afford to miss out on more billable hours right before vacation. Out of my anxiety, I unfairly yelled at Cash for not knowing more about women’s health. Eventually I sent him to get me a pack of Monistat 1-Day. When he returned, we had a calmer discussion about how I do wish he would take a more personal interest in the medical requirements of conception, even if not women’s health generally. I feel like I’ve explained the ovulation cycle a hundred times and I doubt I’ve explained it for the last time. I don’t think he means to turn off his brain, but he hasn’t really committed the information to long-term memory so far.

Back to the point, the Monistat seems to be working even though it’s only day 2. Next time I will actually be going for the less potent 3-day dose, because the 1-day dose felt very strong and uncomfortable for the first few hours. Fingers crossed I’ll keep feeling better! The instructions in the package recommend against intercourse during treatment, but unhelpfully they don’t indicate how long treatment lasts. The dose itself is administered just once, but it takes up to a full week to fully cure an infection, so it’s anybody’s guess. Anecdotal internet reports suggest waiting until a few days after symptoms subside.

Vacation is in 4 days. Estimated ovulation is in 3. I might still miss the mark on ovulation and that makes me pretty unhappy. After the past several weeks, I was really looking forward to the chance to build my family. But, the consolation prize is a trip to Italy with my husband and two good friends, and that ain’t too shabby! So, the story ends happily, too. I hope this post will help someone out in the future, although it is anecdotal and unscientific and can’t offer a whole lot more than moral support. Then again, let’s not underestimate moral support.

UPDATE:  I woke up the morning after this post feeling fine. Less than 12 hours later my UTI symptoms were back with a SERIOUS vengeance, bad enough that I left work to go to the nearby urgent care center even though I have a doctor and good health insurance…COULD NOT WAIT. Then I peed pink. They’ve diagnosed me with a UTI and this time I took the freaking broad-spectrum antibiotic. Let’s hope it works.

UPDATE 2: On the second day after starting the broad-spectrum antibiotic, I feel better again. I don’t feel totally normal, but I am not suffering anymore. But I got a call from the lab that did my second urinalysis today and they said they really didn’t find “much bacteria at all” in the cell culture. The person I was talking to was the nurse at the urgent care center, so not the doctor, and not the person that actually analyzed the cell culture. She couldn’t tell me what the heck “not much bacteria at all” is supposed to mean. Does it mean it was a UTI? It wasn’t a UTI? WHAT? Because whatever it was, it was not normal. At this point I’m not sure what else to do but wait any see…and I’m leaving the country in 2 days. Urg.

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On Human Divinity

Religion: an organized expression of ideas relating to matters of the human quest for peace and happiness, whether in this life or another one. Usually involves a literary canon considered holy/enlightened texts as well as some kind of hierarchical power structure based on nearness to God/enlightenment. Foremost in my experience is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-

Smith's later theology described Jesus and God...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Day Saints, my own religion until age 14.

God: a divine being, objectively better than humanity in some way. Often acts as a paternalist force, offering reward and punishment as teaching tools for proper human behavior.

Nearness to God: the quality of bringing oneself in line with the values and wishes of the divine. The ultimate state of happiness available to human creatures.

Faith: the belief in a being, a concept, or a structure of the universe even in the absence of evidence. Often considered an essential part of religion.

Enlightenment or Spirituality: the quality of bringing oneself in line with values determined to produce happiness, even in the absence of any divine power dictating those values. Often offered as a juxtaposition to the nearness to God of Judao-Christian religions.

Sin: the wrong; an act or a state of being in contravention of the articulated values of the religion.

Mercy: the capability of kindness, even toward people who do not and have not tried to deserve it.

Forgiveness: the act of setting aside pain and anger from being wronged in order to give the wrongdoer the gift of a new beginning; the quality of seeing an individual’s worth despite full knowledge of their faults and mistakes; the expression of unconditional love.

Redemption: the wrongdoer’s attempt to earn forgiveness; also, the achievement of forgiveness.

Sacrifice: conduct that is the expression of forgiveness. Sacrifice is putting a part of ones own desires aside because the value of the  person benefitting from the sacrifice outweighs the value of that desire. I think sacrifice is an integral part of both what the wrongdoer does on her quest for redemption and what the forgiver does when she offers that gift.

I have a complicated relationship with the concepts I’ve described above. I am sure that these ideas mean something else to other people–I’ve only transcribed what they mean to me. I was raised LDS (commonly known as Mormon), and though I’ve since left the Church I continue to believe that my upbringing had a positive effect on me. For years after I left, I eschewed every indication of spirituality, until two or three years ago I found myself increasingly attracted to stories and music about redemption and forgiveness. (Examples here, here, here, and here.)

I wondered if this attraction I felt suggested a need for religion in my life. I thought about it for a long time. I”ve worked hard to craft an ethical vocabulary that does not include divinity. I wholly believe it is possible to be a good person and to achieve harmony and peace in this life, if you work at it. In the end, I came to the conclusion that many of the concepts wrapped up in religion–redemption, sacrifice, mercy, forgiveness–do not need to be entangled with the concept of faith or divinity. You’ll notice that while some of the concepts I described above are interdependent on the essentially faith-based concepts of God and Religion, the concepts of Mercy, Sin, Forgiveness, and Redemption are not. I believe that as people we are capable of little and large sin. We are also capable of showing each other forgiveness and mercy. We are capable of earning and offering redemption.

Perhaps we identify so much with religion because it embodies these principles, which we must practice in order to survive as a human community. Perhaps I’m wrong about faith and my vocabulary is a pale comparison to true spirituality that is dependent on the divine. But isn’t it a beautiful dream, that we can create divinity in our own lives through choices we are eminently, humanly capable of making? I offer no judgment whatsoever on how people should internalize and practice the concepts of mercy, forgiveness, and redemption…just so long as you do practice them somehow.

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Cleo

When I think back to my first serious attempts at writing, I wasn’t sitting down and writing a poem because I thought that I would get published; I was doing it because of that abstract, inexplicable urge to create, and the urge to find self-expression in this act of creation. Writing was the outlet that I would return to again and again to explain my life to myself, to take the maelstrom of ideas and emotions and create something ordered and tangible.

This freshly pressed post from Anna Spanos is great. I only just discovered her blog and my thoughts here are my own interpretations–they might be totally inaccurate. But then, I believe readers should be empowered to draw their own lessons, regardless of author intent, so I will forge blindly ahead.

For Spanos, the forced prioritization of busy mother/wife/middle-management-hood has had a counterintuitively freeing effect on her writing. As she eloquently puts it, she has by necessity eliminated the time she spent on less important things. She is no longer “handcuffed” to the time and effort spent considering the critical reception of her work. She has, at least momentarily, escaped the egoism that weighed down her art back when her art was the thing that defined her most.

Spanos’ post illuminates a tension in my own blogging project. An essential part of starting this blog was the desire to anchor myself back into my creativity. I started writing when I was in junior high and kept writing, prolifically, and all for the “inexplicable urge to create,” for years. Law school stopped all that. I like being an attorney and I find legal research and writing fulfilling in a way that many of my peers find bizarre, but it is the antithesis of the creativity I engaged in before law school. Law school was an oyster that treated my creative urges like a grain of sand. I know they are still there, they are still beautiful, but they are encased in an impenetrable shell at the moment.

Black pearl and its shell

Black pearl and its shell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My first post-law-school blog was an attempt to dive back into my creativity, but it sputtered and died within a few weeks. It felt alternately too preachy and too frivolous. In this second endeavor, I’ve tried to craft an experiment with more structure and deeper roots. There are real, positive goals that I hope to accomplish here, goals that have nothing to do with anyone but myself. Goals that have a lot to do with “tak[ing] the maelstrom of ideas and emotions and creat[ing] something ordered and tangible.” Yet writing to get in touch with my own voice feels peurile. Like my disastrously melodramatic college Xanga account. So I hope that someone out there will find value and insight in my posts, if only to  ameliorate all the navel-gazing I do here. It’s a tension between self-conscious creation to help myself or others, and the purer, painful joy of creating because there is simply nothing else I can do.

For now, I hope that practice makes more perfect. I am the converse of Cleopatra–instead of dropping my pearl in vinegar, I’m dripping vinegar, post by post, onto my pearl, in an effort to methodically dissolve the shell of four years of exclusively professional writing.

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Wish on a Full Moon

Tonight I was driving home and noticed a huge full moon hanging low in the sky. I always try to take pictures of natural phenomena like this with my cell phone, and am always wholly dissatisfied with the result. Tonight I decided to take a few moments and bring my “real” camera out in an attempt to get a better record. By the time I made it out a few miles past the city lights, the moon had shrunk, but I still managed the shot below. As I sat on the hood of my car taking photographs and messing with the settings on my camera I began thinking about poetry. I used to write a lot of poetry; I miss it. Recently Natasha Tretheway, the U.S. Poet Laureate, had an interview on NPR and it reminded me how much. I came home and composed the verse below. Image and poem copyrighted by me, please ask permission before use.

Full Moon 01-27-13 8:00 PM

Wish on a Full Moon

Suddenly I recognize:

I don’t know the moon at all.

A wan reflected pall is the only face I’ve seen.

Was she understood by those who walked, in Teflon, on her skin?

Or shrouded still in mirrored shine that never entered in?

For uncounted generations, how like her we were.

Seen from space only by the absence or echo of other light.

But mankind remade the Earth, electrified and

independently visible through our fearless invention.

And as I come now into my own progress,

I hope for courage

to practice singularity over semblance,

to pass through this world showing only my own face.

 

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My Late Resolution

This post is a bridge between the self and family categories. Fitting. After all, the family we are born into dictates the material of our lives. The family we choose helps us build those blocks into the cathedral we hope to become. When you are a member of a family, you have a responsibility to build others up.

My resolutions post focused on myself. But in these first few days of 2013 I have been considering what I can do to improve the lives of my loved ones. Most especially, my husband Cash.*

It would take a long time to explain all the things about Cash that make him my soulmate. I’m sure they’ll shake out over time but for now you can trust me on that. We have been together seven years and ten days, married five and a half of those. Part of what makes us great together is that we are different. Today I’ll just describe the parts that are relevant to the resolution…

I am highly motivated, a result-oriented perfectionist, with excellent work habits, sharp critical thinking skills, and a tendency to extrapolate past trends to future results. The flip side of my coin: I am anxious. Relaxing is a challenge and truly living in the moment is rare. I judge others too harshly by too high a standard. I am terrible at networking (or even just making friends) because I am unable to focus on and really listen to others when I have my own agenda. I am materialistic. I hold grudges, predict failure based on past mistakes, and find it difficult to forget even when I do manage to forgive.

Cash is affable, casual, funloving, supportive, extremely selfless and sublimely nonjudgmental. He brings moderation to my personality. He constantly builds my confidence. He gives me permission to have fun and give myself a break. He loves unconditionally, to an extent I’m not sure I even understand, but am hoping to learn. But his other side: He lacks motivation and is not a self-starter. He gets discouraged and sometimes gives up when things are difficult. He goes to extremes in the name of a good time or an escape, and these extremes can get him into trouble.

I’m sorry to say that one of my weaknesses is picking at Cash’s weaknesses during a fight. I blame him for mistakes caused by the characteristics I know he wishes he could change. I believe comparing myself to Cash is silly…water and wine. But when I’m angry or hurt, suddenly comparisons are easy and I always win. The world I spend most of my waking time in (read: legal industry) values my qualities over Cash’s and calls the valuation objective. Of course it isn’t objective. It’s not even valid. It’s unilateral and inhuman. Unfortunately it’s a myth that leaks into me and through my hurtful words into Cash.

So we come finally to my resolution. It’s late but it is perhaps the one I treasure most. This year, I will show Cash the way I see him even at the hardest moments. I will remember that how I think of him changes his architecture, just as how he thinks of me impacts my own internal structure. I will understand that sometimes he can only know his value if I tell him how much he means to me.

*Cash, like all the names on this site, is a pseudonym.