Vagina Warriors Strike Again

Right before I gave birth to Hazel, I posted about the vagina warriors.  Perhaps you’ve encountered them?  They’re the women who go around making mean and judgmental comments about other people’s birth decisions.  Not as their doctor, or their birthing coach, or their friend or sister, but women (in my experience, it’s always women) who go around making mean and sarcastic statements to other women. 

It turns out they still exist.  And, now, at 34 weeks pregnant with my fourth child, I’ve encountered them again.  This time, on the Internet.  It was my mistake—I made an offhand comment on a friend’s Facebook page.  I then was doused with a condescension, lack of listening, and viciousness by strangers to me.  I should have walked away, but I don’t let myself be bullied.  I think mean girls are awful, and I have no problem telling them they are awful.  I think the world would be a much better place if people took their big feelings, their passions, their interests, and expressed them articulately and respectfully instead of tearing other women down.

There are a lot of women out there in the world who delivered their children via Cesarean.  Sometimes it was necessary.  Sometimes it was elective.  Sometimes there were ways they could have avoided it.  Sometimes they didn’t want to, sometimes they weren’t given all of their options.

The rate of Cesareans is still really high in our country—a third of births are delivered that way.  I think that there is a discussion that needs to be held in the medical community about why those numbers are so high.  I imagine that the reasons why are numerous, overlapping, and include so many things, including but not limited to:

  • our litigious society making obstetricians (with one of the highest rates in the medical profession of being sued, if I remember correctly) afraid to let women make choices about their deliveries,
  • the better access to better neonatal care (what percentage of babies born prematurely are delivered via c-section?  And how does that impact the higher rates?),
  • the rising ages of women having children (and therefore having higher risk pregnancies),
  • the obesity epidemic in the United States
  • the use of epidurals (which can slow down the progression of labor, which can lead to the use of oxytocin to increase the rate and strength of contractions, which can lead to a harder labor, which can lead to fetal distress, which can lead to c-sections)

These are just some ideas that I have about it, as a non-medical professional, but as someone who reads a lot about birth, delivery, pregnancy, etc.

So, my friend whose Facebook page I commented on, is a doula.  She is a lovely, beautiful woman, and her goal, as far as I understand it, as a doula is to help women become empowered with all of the information they need to make the best decisions for themselves and their families.  She is a warm, kind woman whose presence in a woman’s labor and delivery will surely bring a lot of comfort to women and their partners.  Of that, I have no doubt.

She posted on Facebook about the rising rate of c-sections and some research she was doing about the different levels by state, and in different countries.  I read along because, as someone who has had multiple c-sections, and as an accountant, things like numbers and statistics and trends about cesareans are interesting to me.  The comments began innocuously, as people commented on the research and comparisons between different, neighboring states.

Someone commented, “It’s amazing how willing people are to undergo MAJOR surgery and how willing these doctors are to perform it. I totally agree, there are definitely situations in which you can’t escape it, but electing to have major surgery boggles my mind. “

Someone else (I’ll call her Heather*) then commented, “Shocking isn’t it? Amazing how women can’t seem to do what has propagated our species lo these thousands of years. And how the rates of induction/ surgical birth spike before holidays. Tis the season! ”

These comments rubbed me the wrong way.  You know why?  Because they’re mean.  Because they’re judgmental.  Of other women.  Of me.  I boggled someone’s mind with my decision to have major surgery.  I can’t seem to do ‘what has propagated our species lo these thousands of years’.

According to my (very limited) research, in the 1600s and 1700s in the United States, women were about 1% likely to die every time they tried to have a baby.  And women had more babies.  So, over the course of their lives they were more likely to die in childbirth than now.  A hundred years ago, about 600 women per 100,000 died.  Now it’s about 15 per 100,000.  And that’s just maternal mortality (great research when you’re pregnant and preparing for mind-boggling surgery, by the way, which is why my research was not overly extensive), not taking into account infant mortality.  But hey, let’s sing the praises of the good ol’ days!  Because birthing children was never complicated, was never messy, and was always a shiny happy event taking place in a manger with donkeys and cows watching and women being supportive of each other and living to tell the tale, without any gore or horror or intervention or death.

Source-less chart showing maternal mortality rates over the years

Source-less chart showing maternal mortality rates over the years

It’s easy to look back on the good ol’ days through rose colored glasses.  And it’s one of my pet peeves.  We didn’t ride in car seats and we turned out okay. (Except for all those kids who died, of course.)  Our parents and teachers used to beat us and we turned out okay. (Except for all those people who didn’t, of course.)  Romanticizing the past is incredibly annoying.

So, being me, being outspoken, being annoyed, I responded.  “I’m willing to undergo major surgery to have my babies…. otherwise, the rest of my brood would have a relatively high likelihood of being motherless mongrels. Thank God for modern medicine, without which my firstborn would have died in vaginal childbirth. Judging me for making the safest decision for my body and my family is not acceptable-I make informed decisions with the help of my doctors and independent research, and I am no less a woman or a mother because my babies were all delivered via cesarean. ”

I didn’t realize that I was opening the door for the vagina warriors to come and get me.  I have to say that I was even more surprised to find out that most/all of the women who proceeded to attack me on this Facebook thread were doulas and other birth workers… you know, people who are supposedly trained to help and empower women.  Women who claim to be supportive.  Women whose nasty, mean girls comments to me left me in tears and unable to sleep last night.  Women who probably slept fine themselves, feeling proud that they have “big balls”.  After dozing off to dream about a pack of baboons wrestling my child out of my vagina, and waking up in tears, I decided to blog about it.  Because women shouldn’t be made to feel bad for the ways they’ve delivered their children.  Because women shouldn’t be mean to other women.  Because women who work with other women should be supportive and loving and compassionate, the way that my friend whose Facebook status prompted all of this.

Here’s how it went down.  I am changing names to protect the mean girls, but directly quoting them and me, while leaving out posts in the middle that were not directed towards me.

Heather: katyjane, I don’t think anyone here, anyone who works with birth on a regular basis, is being judgmental of any particular case. It’s the overwhelming statistics and global comparisons. In a country where the c/s rates are increasing, if they were all necessary, the maternal morbidity and mortality rates would be decreasing. The opposite is true. We can’t work in birth without experiencing the necessary surgical births and would all echo Dani’s sentiments about the wonderful option that it is when necessary. But, believe me, there are plenty of women who are not well informed enough to make the best decisions for themselves and their future children. I have worked with them and their doctors. It’s perplexing.

Regina: katyjane, unfortunately 50% of our cesareans are not necessary (WHO) and lead to harming moms and babes. That is where the frustrations come from.

katyjane: Please understand that my frustration comes from the judgmental comments about c-sections and the assumption that most people who have them are making poor health choices for their bodies. Saying judgmental things and then claiming they aren’t judgmental but based on statistics is disingenuous. 

My first baby was an emergency c-section, without which he may have died. He spent five days–full term, 8 pounds, 3 ounces, in the NICU as he dealt with the consequences of meconium aspiration and accompanying pneumonia. 

I probably would have been a good candidate for VBAC. But you know what was horrible? Recovering from emergency surgery, almost vaginal delivery, and going home from the hospital without my child, along with the complications from breastfeeding that entailed that caused me intense nursing pain for six months. So, with my second child, I had an elective c-section. I had a beautiful birthing experience with her, she was born healthy and strong, breastfed like a champ. I probably could have had her vaginally. I didn’t. I chose to have what might have been a “medically unnecessary” major surgery, even though women have been birthing children out of their vaginas for all of time.

I then had my third c-section a few years later, and will have my fourth this coming January. Three elective c-sections. !!! 

Remember, even though you might be commenting generally about the state of c-sections, when you make comments about something that is actually what women are doing and choosing, it comes across as judgmental. If we want to throw stones, I’m sure your house is made of glass, just like mine. If I was working with you as a birth educator or in whatever your capacity is, and you made these kinds of comments to me, I would fire you. 

Is a c-section major surgery? Yes. Do some women make the choices for the wrong reasons? Probably. Do some doctors take away their patient’s choices, or explain things poorly? Probably. Is that most women who have c-sections? Who knows? Who are you to judge? 

Perhaps the increase in the rate of c-sections is correlated with other things that are also increasing, and not just dumb moms and litigation-fearing doctors. The higher rate of prematurity might require more c-sections. The increasing rate of obesity in our country might contribute. The higher age of mothers might contribute. Perhaps all of those things contribute.

This comment I made was responding to the tone of the earlier comments.  I understand that people get frustrated… but there is an appropriate avenue for expressing that frustration, especially as a doula or a birth worker.  Someone’s Facebook page is not that, because you are expressing your frustrating at their 400-500 friends, who may or may not be affected by your sarcasm and ranting.  Obviously, though, what I posted meant that I should be condescended to next.

Regina: Im sorry you allow yourself to feel judged by this thread. I could speak on all of your points with my own experiences but that would be pointless and not serve the original point of the post, the overuse of cesarean section, which add to our shamefully high infant and maternal mortality and morbidity rates.

I don’t do well with being condescended to.  I really, really don’t.  “allow myself to feel judged”?  Come on.  I have allowed myself to feel judged, but other women are bullied into letting people cut them open with scalpels?  They aren’t allowing it, right?  They’re bullied, I’m supposedly allowing myself to be judged.  That nonsense brought out the Southern in me.

Katyjane: Oh, Regina, sweetie, bless your heart; a bunch of strangers will never make me feel actually judged.  But working in the birthing industry, I do think you ought to be aware of how your comments could come across and how you could be making other women feel. As women, we should be building each other up and being supportive of each other. Comments like “Amazing how women can’t seem to do what has propagated our species lo these thousands of years.” and “It’s amazing how willing people are to undergo MAJOR surgery” are not proactive in a discussion or thought process about what could be causing higher rates of c-sections in our country, or the effects that that has. They do not further a conversation, but make it an emotional one, a sarcastic one, and an unsupportive one. 

Blair: We see a lot of birth as Doulas and Midwives, and knowing Regina as a close friend as well as a colleague like I do, I stand by her comments. I don’t see judgment in them. Sometimes things are read into which aren’t there.’

katyjane: Please know that my responses were solely in response to the specific condescending and judgmental comments that I highlighted above. I agree that the c-section rate in our country is too high and needs to be addressed, with all the factors that impact it. I don’t agree with being sarcastic or condescending when discussing those things, because they affect so many people.

Heather Katyjane, we have spoken in person about your choices and I thought I communicated my respect for your circumstances. It is certainly not disingenuous to address global statistics, at least for myself in a public health perspective. And that is one of my callings, it’s what I do as a profession. You specifically quoted my response to the original post, so I am responding from a personal and professional position. I can speak from experience, I can say. I have been present in the room with teen girls who were terrified of birth. I know the docs who wanted to go home. I can say. I have been working within this birthing environment for 13 years. There are things that I know that are completely unrelated to your particular experience. You are an n of 1. When we (health care professionals who are trying to be change agents in a failing health care system) become frustrated with a state of non-change, and we see the harm that ensues from a general lack of information and so many cases of choices that are certainly NOT informed, we will speak up. I will. And that is BECAUSE it affects so many people.

Katyjane But Heather, look at the comment you made that I quoted. It is a sarcastic comment, no? I understand being frustrated, but sarcasm doesn’t ever promote change, only divisiveness. A discussion of why c-sections happen is worth having. The factors that contribute to the increase, the problems with our health care system in general, the lack of information and resources and support that women are given when they are pregnant. All worth discussing and working towards fixing and bettering. HOWEVER, sarcasm doesn’t add anything to the conversation, aside from a negative tone. 

So, you can and should speak up to change the things that are wrong with the system. I will do the same, and for me, that includes calling people out who are making sarcastic statements that do more harm than good. And, I will say, a sentence like, “Amazing how women can’t seem to do what has propagated our species lo these thousands of years.” doesn’t take into account the number of women who used to DIE in childbirth, and the high rate of infant mortality that accompanied that. It turns out that the good ol’ days maybe weren’t as good as we like to think. Sometimes it worked out. Sometimes people died. Modern medicine has changed things–in some ways for better (better prenatal care, better neonatal care, etc), and in some ways for the worse. Our litigious society and ideas that if anything ever goes wrong in a hospital there should be a lawsuit is worse because doctors often react out of fear instead of compassionately. 

There are conversations to be had, education to be promoted, and outreach to be made. Sarcasm will not ever have a positive impact on any of those though, because as soon as someone is sarcastic, their listeners tune out.

Heather I commented on a post made by a fellow birth worker. If you take issue with my sarcasm, I can’t help that. I just hope that you understand this is not about you or your circumstances. Again, all of those things to effect change, I DO. It’s not generally effective on a person’s facebook thread. Expressing frustration with a global trend, I reserve the right to express myself as I see fit.

Katyjane Please express yourself as you see fit. But know that as yours wasn’t a comment made just to birth workers, but to all of my friend’s friends, that in some ways, you may do more harm than good, making more women feel isolated, more women feel like their experiences weren’t “good enough” or “valid” because, after all, if women have been pushing babies out of their vaginas forever, everyone ought to be able to do it. I would think, as a birth worker, you would always want to promote compassion and kindness, and reserve your sarcasm for private conversations with like minded individuals. But, maybe that’s just me. 

I take issue with sarcasm in general, though, because my experience tells me it always does more harm than good. That said, I wish you best on your journey and hope that you are able to implement the changes you wish to see.

Regina: This became a problem when Heather said, “Shocking isn’t it? Amazing how women can’t seem to do what has propagated our species lo these thousands of years. And how the rates of induction/ surgical birth spike before holidays. Tis the season!” In fact, her statement is factual. Like her, her language is colorful. However the fact remains that the human race would not have made it this far if one in three of us were unable to birth our children without being “saved.” Nor is she incorrect in pointing out the induction rates and surgical birth rates are higher before holidays. Hell, they are higher Monday to Friday and during the daylight hours. It is not a real mystery as to why women are suddenly better able to achieve vaginal birth on weekends, and during night time hours. They are being left the hell alone. Or better yet, take the same low risk group of women and divide them into two groups. Those who birth in hospital and those who plan to birth out of. Again… no surprise here. Those who avoid the OB and Hospital are suddenly better able to achieve vaginal birth. Not only that but they are able to birth without having their vaginas cut, their nourishment withheld, and even manage to come out with their dignity intact. Heather knows this. I know this. I too have been in the business for 13 years. And honestly I hate to dumb down the conversation by feeling the need to include the following statement: “Yes, I know cesarean section is a needed surgery. Thank God for it. Without it some moms and babies would not live.” I think we ALL know that. Really we do. But we also know that Moms are dying, babies are dying, at a much higher rate than is acceptable. Other nations have figured this out. They spend a fraction of what we do on obstetrical care. They have better outcomes. No, this can not be swept aside because of our weight issues, nor our poor overall health care system, nor any one thing that makes it easier to excuse. It is quite simple. We are fucking it up. Yup. Badly. And the more money we throw at it, the worse it gets. So if I sound angry…. well, yup. I am. I have seen doctors lie to my clients. I have seen them bullied, talked down to, had procedures done to them against their will… against consent. I’ve worked with moms who have suffered PTSD because of this. Moms who hated their baby for the first few months of life because of the unneeded abuse (yes, abuse) they suffered at the hands of their “care provider.” I have watched them hit rock bottom and most climb back up. I have also been with them when I knew as well as their doc or midwife that a cesarean was exactly what was needed no matter how badly they wanted to avoid it. I have held them when they cried and were forced to give up something that was more meaningful to them than anyone would ever know. And then stayed with them throughout their healing process. Birth workers give more of themselves then most people will ever know. We take home the pain, the sadness, the loss. We cheat our families, missing birthdays, Christmas, dance recitals, first days of school. So really…. if we sound a little passionate, hell… a little radical… cut us some slack. The women that you are claiming we are putting down or not respecting are the women we are giving our heart and soul too. You don’t see that. You mentioned something about Firing me if I were your birth teacher. I can tell you, no. You wouldn’t. Because you would know me. You would know how much I want to help you if you have come to me. You would know that I would give so much of myself to you. Because you sought me out for a reason. To educate you. Not to blow smoke up your ass.

Blair What Regina said.

Nancy Amen! Regina, I love you!

Katyjane Point to me where I said that c-sections are the most desirable outcome of delivery? Or that they are always and only performed in a medically necessary situation? Oh wait, I didn’t, because I know that isn’t the case. The rate of c-sections is ridiculously high. My first c-section probably wouldn’t have happened if I had known about midwives or doulas and worked with one, but I didn’t. I recommended that my sister use a midwife and a doula when she got pregnant so she could avoid being in my situation. I love the supportive nature of these roles. 

That said, sarcastic comments about c-sections are just offensive and don’t get anywhere closer to fixing the problem. In fact, they can be hurtful. And they don’t help solve the problems that cause the higher incidences of c-sections in our country. 

I appreciate the work that you do in your chosen profession. That said, the fact that you give a lot of yourselves to your job isn’t unique to birth workers. Soldiers are gone for months, years at a time from their families. Heck, lawyers work unreasonable hours to provide for their families. When I was working as an auditor, I missed birthdays, I missed seeing my kids awake for months at a time, for something much less noble. Everybody makes sacrifices in their lives for their jobs, whatever profession they choose. I never claimed that you, or anyone, was putting anybody down, but rather saying that sarcastic comments about c-sections, whether made in frustration or whatever, are not productive but can in fact be hurtful. I stand by that. I have been told too many times by too many women that I didn’t actually birth my children. That I should have done stuff differently to avoid c-sections. That I should have insisted on VBACs, regardless of all other situations, as if the end all be all is to push a baby out of my vagina, when my end all be all is to deliver my children safely. 

If anyone that I hired in my life spoke to me in a sarcastic tone or made condescending remarks about my decisions, you can bet that I would fire them. I might not fire you–because I bet you wouldn’t say what you’re saying in the way that you’re saying it if we were face to face the way that you’re comfortable posting them on facebook, with the relative anonymity of the internet. But if you did, if you implied that my decisions and my feelings and my experiences weren’t acceptable, you can bet that I’d fire you. I had absolutely no problem kicking the pediatrician out of my hospital room when my third child was born because I insisted on breastfeeding and she said that I was making a mistake in not giving my large baby formula. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

And this is where it got mean and nasty and vicious.  I went out on a date with my husband, and glanced at my phone at one point, and saw the following, and my heart sank.

Blair Ugh. Disengage. Someone clearly has a case of the “me me me I cannot see of hear beyond me” there I said it.

Regina And with that ladies, i am going to grab a nap. A mama is warming up and its gonna be a long night. If anyone would like to point out to Katyjane that I have no idea what she is talking about in trying to tie all of this together, and that no one has insulted her, well… good luck with that.

Blair Your choice to be offended by everything is exactly that, a choice. You don’t know Regina. And you are wrong about your assessment of her. Bet you all the money I have she isn’t the type to hide behind the internet either. Don’t ya know? Doulas have big balls. 

Now, I realize that it is a bit classless to repost an entire Facebook thread onto my blog.  My friend, after this nasty exchange above, basically asked for everyone to stop.  But, I couldn’t sleep last night without having bad dreams.  And this is a disturbing trend among women (a trend that has probably lasted for thousands of mind-boggling years of women being mean to each other).  So, hoping that my friend will forgive me, I am responding here.

These are women who have chosen to spend their lives theoretically supporting other women in their choices around childbirth.  Yet, they are going around talking about it publicly in a shaming and degrading way.  I agreed with their facts—if they knew me in person, if they knew the kind of person and woman and mother I am, they would never have said these things to me.  The Internet gives people a platform to be nasty, and that’s awful.

Nobody listens to you when you’re mean.  Nobody listens to you when you’re sarcastic.  Nobody listens to you when you cut them down.  I did not have a case of “me me me I cannot see of [sic] hear beyond me.”  I acknowledged all of their factual points, and suggested they communicate them in a more respectful manner.  I never once claimed that people were insulting me, but rather, speaking in such a way that could be hurtful to the very people they claim that they dedicate their lives to serving.

Doulas and their big balls can be mean, it turns out.  To pregnant mamas, it turns out.  To other women, it turns out.  And they don’t appear to feel badly about it.

My self-worth or self-esteem is not determined by a bunch of bitches on the internet, by a pack of vagina-warrior baboons.  But there are other women who have had to come to peace with emergency c-sections that affected them deeply, and insensitive comments by birth workers do not help with that.  I am perfectly happy with my C-peats, and it is not something I have negative feelings about.  But other women don’t need to hear that they had “mind-boggling surgery” or an eye-rolled statement about how women have been pushing babies out of their vaginas forever, as if those of us who do not, who cannot, for whatever reason, are inferior.

I am not inferior to vagina warriors.  I am a mother to three beautiful children, all of whom were delivered by cesarean.  I am an informed woman who makes informed choices for my family through research and discussions with my health care professionals.  I am a pregnant woman who cries when people are mean, but gets angry enough to try to stop them from doing it to other women (even though that apparently falls on deaf ears at times).  I am nice, sometimes to a fault, but also not a pushover.  I am supportive to the women in my life, and will support women in their informed decisions even if they are different from the ones I would choose myself.

And if you attempt to be mean to me, or people that I care about, or just in general, I will call you on it.  Because the world doesn’t need more mean.  The world doesn’t need more nasty.  I don’t care how passionate you are, there are better ways to express yourself than nastiness and sarcasm.  I don’t care how long you’ve been doing your job, there are more articulate ways to get your point across than defending mean comments.

*Names were all changed to famous mean girls from the movies and television.

Getting My Hate On

OK, I don’t really hate.  It takes too much time and energy, and I think that I can usually see both sides of an issue, or see the good in bad things, even if I don’t appreciate them as being good for me. 

That said, the end of pregnancy brings out all the curmudgeonly thoughts and feelings I have about everyone and everything.  I really need to go into hiding for these last few weeks, or I might piss off everyone I know by not showing any restraint on my opinions.  How does that outfit look on you?  Ugly.  Because everything looks ugly when viewed from the perspective of the girl lugging a 28 pound basketball around under her shirt whose heartburn burns so much that it’s risen to her eyeballs so all she can see is fire.  Everywhere.  You look like you’re on fire.  You’re ugly.  And people don’t like it when I say that out loud.

I made the mistake of reading a few articles out of Better Homes & Gardens last night.  Complete with families with giant houses that they could afford to renovate into some theme, and then decorate for Christmas using unicorns and rainbows and only homemade (but super fancy) decorations and only flowers that were arranged in their spare room for arranging flowers.  Complete with four lovely blonde children in light colored sweater vests gazing adoringly at their beautiful blonde parents, lovely in their white sweaters and white pants, drinking red wine on their white sofa while they laugh at some imaginary joke that doesn’t at all look staged, with a picture perfect tree in the background, sparkling with fake snow and dove ornaments.  All with instructions on how you can make fake snow out of the cocaine you aren’t snorting and make fake dove ornaments out of the dead pigeons and rats that your cat left on your back step, all by using magical unicorn spray paint.  (OK, I may be exaggerating with that last part.)

There was also the person who decorated her lovely white (but real, I’m sure!  More unicorn spray paint!) tree with hot pink ornaments and a giant hot pink bow on top (it’s so unexpected!), and who mostly loved how the ‘flickering of the candles against the homemade paper candle jar wrappers really captured the essence of the holiday season.’  Seriously?  That’s what captures the essence of the holiday season?  Not the incarnation of God, but the flickering of the candles?  Get the fuck out of Christmas—you don’t deserve it.

I’m also to the point in this pregnancy where people back away from me in public places.  Either they back away, or get annoyed when I drop something and it takes me five full minutes to figure out how to hike up my elastic waistband jeans so I don’t show too much of my hot pink underwear (hey, it’s not on my Christmas tree—don’t judge), bend down, and get back up without tipping.  I’m totally front heavy.  Inevitably I also have a tiny human climbing on me—she bent down!  Must be piggy back ride time!  Or, I go to the gym to exercise, and have people tell me that I’m basically a superhuman for exercising (I’m not—I’m just getting my hate out in a fairly productive way), or that I really should stop (because, after all, if they’re exercising in the gym with me, they obviously are also my doctor).  And if I do stop to take breaks while I’m in an exercise class (which I do—I’m not a superhuman, I just enjoy going to the gym), the whole class has to stop to make sure my water didn’t just break or that I’m not dying.  I’m only 34 weeks, people!  My water isn’t going anywhere, and if I’m dying, I will damned well leave the class so you don’t get to rubberneck it!

I will not be making garland for my Christmas tree out of wooden beads and stripey straws.  I love my home, but it isn’t tidy, and probably won’t be for awhile because I am an infrequent cleaner, and when I get started I also get tired and take breaks, and I live with three small human creatures who try really hard to clean up but also sometimes suck at it, a husband who is working all the time because he is thisclose to making his billable hours for the year, and so getting those billables in is way higher of a priority than cleaning—although he definitely pulls more than his fair share of the load (note: all), a dog who currently has a diarrhea problem that she is sharing with us in the house (but hey, the diarrhea was on hardwood floors—it could have been worse).  The diarrhea would probably go away if she would stop eating all the food off of our counters when we take the kids to school, but we aren’t home to correct her behavior and she’s a dog, so she’s dumb and doesn’t associate the fact that she ate an entire batch of cookie dough (damned dog) with the fact that she then shit all over my boys’ bedroom, which I found right before Henry’s lunch and nap.  (Dear Dog, please shit somewhere that I can close the door and ignore so that my darling, patient, loving Kullervo can clean it up when he gets home from work.  Bedrooms are not that place.  Love, katyjane).  We also have a cat.  She’s not really that much of a nuisance, really.  She kills and decapitates rats outside, though, which is always a fun treat for the kids to find.

All that hate aside, I really do love being pregnant.  The PUPPP is gone.  There are aches, there are pains, and there are days that sitting down on the couch and reading a book or watching TV feels like heavy exertion which totally knocks the wind out of me (what’s up with that, anyway?  And does it count as exercise?).  There is heartburn.  There is the fact that my ankles have disappeared and my face is getting fatter, and boy oh boy do I miss having a guilt-free glass of wine or unreasonably sweet liqueur drink every now and then.  There is the absolute exhaustion and the inability to sleep for long periods of time because water only tastes good after midnight, which leads to a lot of bathroom breaks in the middle of the night, which is good because I had to turn over anyway, and turning over involves moving my enormous self and all eight of the pillows it takes to hold the basketball belly in place, and then trying to figure out where the blanket went.  But, along with all of the annoying aspects of the last few months (who am I kidding—we’re to weeks now, not months), including my bad attitude to all things that highlight my lack of craftiness, creativity, and ability to wear white, pregnancy is great.

I go to the gym, and people think I’m a superhero!  Nobody judges me for stopping because I’m winded—they judge themselves much more harshly if they slow down.  I have a tiny human living inside of me who moves around and is going to grow up and be something pretty incredible (at least, if my others are any indication), and likely much more good looking than either of his or her parents.  I look way better really pregnant than I will for the six months after pregnancy.  For the first time in my life, I like cinnamon, which is really convenient at this time of year when cinnamon and nutmeg are in everything.  Being pregnant is a fun, crazy science experiment on my body, and I will really, really miss it when it’s over.  Especially knowing that this is my last pregnancy.

So, in short, if you see a crazy look in my eyes, know that I’m probably hating you.  But since hating doesn’t come naturally to me, I’ll feel guilty for it later, and it won’t last longer than any pregnant mood swing does.  (And maybe don’t ask me my opinion.  About anything.)  Also, I might not be hating you, I might have forgotten what the heck I was about to do, or why I’m where I am.  Or I might be trying to figure out how to tie my shoes when I can’t see my feet.

P.S. The fact that I couldn’t even get through a blog post about how much I hate everything without backpedaling and talking about how it’s all not that bad sort of makes the hormonal crazy lady pregnant part of me hate myself.  The rest of me is glad that the normal happy-go-lucky, optimistic me still exists.

Yes, I Know How It Happens

I have mentioned that there is something about me that invites people to say awkward things to me.  Sometimes it’s annoying; often it’s just an amazing gift of someone else’s lack of better judgment that I get to enjoy.

I’ve been waiting for the comments.  I’m 31.  I’m pregnant with my fourth child, which in this day and age, makes me a young mom.  In fact, when I was pregnant with Henry two years ago (whoa… my kid is going to be two soon…), I actually had a woman yell at me for being irresponsible for being an unreasonably young mother.  Literally–she yelled at me.  At her own garage sale.  I didn’t buy anything.  I tried to thank her for clearly assuming I was younger than 29, but she was too busy judging me and showing off her lack of verbal control.

I don’t remember all of the times that it has happened with this pregnancy, but two have stuck out.  An old friend (for whom I used to babysit when I was a teenager), when he found out that I was pregnant again, said, “Do you know how that happens?”

And then, again today, I was dropping my kids off in the child care area of my gym so that I could take my zumba class.  A man was dropping off his three children, and commented that we both had three.  I patted my belly and said, “Three and a half, actually.”

He said, “Oh.  Well, you know how that happens, right?”

I know it isn’t meant as an insult… I hope it isn’t meant as an insult… In any case, I don’t take it as an insult.  It’s a “clever” response to finding out that someone is having more than the average number of children.  If you overthink it, it is offensive… but I’m going to give these men the benefit of the doubt and assume they were joking.

That said, I am not one to let those comments slip by if I can be quick-witted enough in the moment.

The first time I was asked, I responded by saying, “Nope.  Will you please explain it to me, in detail?”

Today I said, “Yep.  And it’s super fun.  Don’t you think?”

28 weeks pregnant!

28 weeks pregnant!

This Pregnancy Has Gone To The Dogs (Or, Rather, The PUPPPies)

I am not a hypochondriac.  In fact, I am generally nonplussed about stuff that happens with my body and just assume that it’s normal.  This includes getting scraped up (cleaning wounds?  That’s for ninnies!), splinters (it hurts to pull them out!), etc.  I don’t like taking medicine, and only do in extreme circumstances (like, after I have a c-section).  I figure that if I do a pretty good job of eating healthy foods, eating a balanced diet, and regularly exercising and sleeping, my body will respond appropriately and not mess up.  I’m also not fastidiously clean.  I mean, I wash my hands at appropriate intervals (post bathroom, pre-cooking), and shower semi-regularly (hey, I have three kids…).  But I don’t worry too much about dirt or bacteria or sharing drinks and food.  And I rarely get sick—which I attribute to my body having an incredibly strong immune system in response to my lack of fastidiousness.

Now, I just began my third trimester of pregnancy with my fourth baby.  When all is said and done, I will have spent four years–almost 12.5% of my life so far–pregnant.  And I generally have loved being pregnant, just loved the whole process in that super annoying way that makes other people hate me just a little bit.  I want to write a blog post about the best parts of being pregnant.

I won’t be doing that today though.

This pregnancy has been more challenging than the first three.  I don’t know if it’s because it’s the first time I’m pregnant when I’m in my 30s.  I don’t know if it’s because I got pregnant while we were in the middle of one of the most difficult, emotional, and stressful periods of my life, what with living in a temporary apartment with a school system that wasn’t meeting Oliver’s needs, dealing with Hazel being a sad zombie because she missed her friends in Chicago, buying our first home, packing and moving for the second time within a year, and not knowing anybody and feeling far away from all of my friends.  I don’t think it’s because I have three other kids at home, although I’m sure that contributes to me being really tired.

Regardless of why, this has been a rough ride.  I had a lot of nausea in the first trimester, and some wicked migraines.  There was nothing I could do for the nausea except wish that I was throwing up because at least then I’d feel like it was a productive way to spend my time.  (And, you know your nausea has to be pretty gruesome to be wishing to barf.  Just sayin’.)  And the migraines!  Tylenol was ineffective—if anything, it just increased the nausea.  I finally found some relief from it by using a blend of essential oils (I’ll blog more about that another time), but I hated the smell of it.  So, I’d have to want to avoid the migraine enough to withstand the strong smells… it definitely felt lose-lose.

My belly popped out early, which isn’t a terrible thing except that it means that I’ve spent a lot of time with clothes that don’t fit right.  Also, it opens to door for strangers to give me their unsolicited feedback about my body.  Honestly, though, I don’t mind that because it amuses me.  But my body shape has been weird this time around.  Fortunately, I’ve mostly only expanded in my belly.  I still wear the same jeans I was wearing before I got pregnant (these days I don’t button the top button).  But they’re getting uncomfortable.  That said, maternity pants literally fall off of me.  It might be that the elastic is worn out from being enormous at the end of other babies… but I really don’t want to spend a ton of money on pants when I am confident this is my last pregnancy.  So I feel like I don’t have any good wardrobe options.  (I should bite the bullet and go shopping, but trying on pants is challenging with a toddler.)

But then, a couple of weeks ago, the icing on the cake arrived.  My belly started itching.

Now, that’s normal, right?  The skin is stretching (welcome, new stretch marks!), all sorts of changes are happening.  Some itching is normal.  So I ignored it, like any good non-hypochondriac who generally assumes all things are normal with her body.

I got itchier and developed a rash on my belly.  The itching was pretty intense, so I tried putting Eucerin cream on it—they say to moisturize during pregnancy, and the bottle claims to be anti-itch.  I assumed the rash was because I have a mild form of dermatographism, which causes me to have a histamine reaction to scratching and repetitive rubbing sensations.  I really assumed that I was itchy in the normal pregnancy way, which was making me scratch without thinking about it, which was giving me an allergic reaction.

Then I woke up one day last week in the middle of the night because I was too itchy to sleep.  And I had scratched enough in my sleep to actually draw blood (whoops).  I mentioned it to Kullervo at breakfast the next morning, while I was still incredibly itchy.  He said that that didn’t seem normal; this was getting to be excessive.  And he suggested that I call the doctor.

Now, again, I’m not a hysterical person who calls the doctor at every weird symptom.  But I called, and they asked me to come in.  This was on a Thursday morning, and it had been raining hard for 12 hours.  The roads were so backed up that the thirty minute drive to my doctor’s office took an hour.  The doctor looked at me, and said that it looks like I have PUPPP (but don’t worry—it clears up soon after delivery, more than three months away), although it could be something more serious.  She wanted me to get some blood work done to rule out worse alternatives.  Of course, they couldn’t do the blood draw at the office.  So I left with Hank, we got soaked on our way to the car, and we drove to the lab, where we got soaked on our way in.  A phlebotomy student took my blood (and was very nervous about Hank), and we got soaked getting back into the car.  (Buckling your toddler into his five point harness in the pouring rain is not the most fun way to spend an itchy, rainy day.)

So, I came home, armed without any knowledge of PUPPP or what else I might have that is worse than wanting to rip my skin off of my body.

So I did what any good, new hypochondriac would do.  I googled it.  Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy.  Or, according to my research, cholestasis of pregnancy, which is a liver disorder (and which, I have since found out that I do not have).

Whatever you do, if you want more information about PUPPP, don’t do a google image search.  It’s gross.  It’s a rash—they’re always unsightly.  And some people get it everywhere.  It originates in stretch marks, and they don’t know why it happens, although it appears to occur almost exclusively in the first pregnancy, and in the final couple of weeks of pregnancy.  It’s possible that it is an allergy to the placenta, as steroid antihistamines often seem to help, but which I’m reluctant to take.  I felt cheated–this is NOT my first pregnancy.  And I am NOT in the final couple of weeks of pregnancy.

Now, when I say that it’s itchy, I mean that if you haven’t had this, you don’t know itchy (unless you’ve had some other excruciatingly itchy rash).  I’ve had a lot of people tell me since I found out, “oh, yeah.  I know how that is.  I was really itchy when I was pregnant too.”  Or, “Oh, I have springtime allergies and my nose is SO ITCHY then.  I know how you feel.”

You don’t.

You really, really don’t.

I appreciate your empathy and sympathy and all that.  But you don’t know, unless you are waking up multiple times a night because you are too itchy to sleep, and have filed your nails down to nonexistence in order to make sure that you don’t scar your body up (post-PUPPP scars from scratching are normal).  Unless you have googled your condition to see any ways that people have found relief, and asked on your neighborhood listserve if anyone happens to have a particular brand of soap because your husband isn’t home from work yet (of course this hits in his busiest work season of the year—extended tax filing season) and you’ve put the kids to bed, and the store that was supposed to have this magical soap that you have hung all your hopes on doesn’t have any.

That Thursday was a bad day.  I cried and cried—out of lack of information, intense uncomfortableness, bad weather, and generally feeling overwhelmed.  I also cried at the kindness of the people around me—one neighbor who I had never met ordered that soap for me and had it shipped overnight so that I could get it more quickly, and wouldn’t let me pay her for it.  Another neighbor offered to go out on a quest for things that could help.  And an old friend who had experienced it with her first pregnancy was my lifeline until Kullervo got home, telling me things that she had done that had worked, and giving me a protocol of how to deal with it.  So I cried because I felt sorry for myself, and I cried because I never expect people to give of themselves—even in small ways—so freely, and it always takes me aback.  And, of course, I’m pregnant and hormonal and all that.

A week later, I still have this rash.  Thankfully, it hasn’t spread—it is still isolated to my belly.   It is still waking me up at night, which, between that, a cold that has me coughing all the time so that I’ve lost my voice completely, and having to pee at least twice a night, means I’m not sleeping much.  But I do get brief periods of respite during the day—an hour here or there when I am able to forget about it, as opposed to a week ago when it was just a constant.

I gave myself that first weekend to cry, to mope, and to feel sorry for myself.  I am not good at being miserable all the time, so I told Kullervo that by Monday, I was going to have a good attitude about it, dammit, even if I had to fake it.

If you ever have this, or know someone who does or who gets it, here are the things that have helped me.  I run a bath with both witch hazel and Aveeno oatmeal bath, and wash my belly multiple times with Grandpa’s pine tar soap.  It leaves me feeling pretty raw, but it helps a bit.  In the morning when I am incredibly itchy, I use original Sarna cream.  It smells unfortunately and uncannily like Arm and Hammer cat litter, but it burns/cools (it has camphor and menthol) enough to give an hour or so of relief, if you can tolerate the smell.  I’ve heard the unscented doesn’t work as well.  At night, when I wake up in the middle of the night, I use doTerra brand Deep Blue essential oils (made of a mixture of wintergreen, camphor, peppermint, blue tansy, blue chamomile, helichrysum, and osmanthus essential oils), which burns (especially if I use the lotion—that’s almost unbearable), but provides a similar relief to the Sarna without the nasty smell that I just can’t deal with at night.  My doctor prescribed me a topical steroid cream which I have yet to use (I’m hesitant to use steroids while pregnant—or ever—so that’s a method of last resort that I have on hand), and a prescription for a steroid pack.

I consider myself fortunate that my case of PUPPP doesn’t seem to be as severe as others that I’ve read about, heard about, or seen pictures of online.  I’m hoping that it doesn’t get any worse than it is.  And I’m thankful that I didn’t get it with my earlier pregnancies, because it might have made me reconsider reproducing again… and so far I have some pretty phenomenal kids.

PS… there are no pictures on this post.  That’s on purpose, because the best options for a picture related to this post would be me in a muddy looking bathtub (thanks, oatmeal and pine tar), or a belly shot of my rash.  Neither is particularly attractive.


Some random quotes from my Friday morning:

Oliver: I have a rhyme!

Um, um, um, um,

I have a butt.

Kullervo: That doesn’t rhyme.

Oliver: Oh, yeah. I thought it would.

(between Oliver and Hazel)

Oliver: I spy with my little eye… something brown!

Hazel: What is it?

(walking the kids to school)

Random Woman, to me: You look so cute!

Me: Thanks!

RW: You must be about to pop any day now, right?

Me: Nope, I still have about 10 weeks to go!

I spend my days laughing… is it any wonder why?

11 Months

That’s what it took.

Eleven months–to the day–after having Hazel, I am back to my pre-pregnancy weight. Woohoo!

I would love to attribute it to hard work, but aside from a couple of months of intensive Wii Fit (not recent months, either), I’ve been a lazy bum.

What I think happened is that as Hazel started progressively eating more solid foods, my body stopped holding on to that last stubborn ten pounds, and I just dropped the weight. I feel like something similar happened with Oliver.

In any case, I feel great! Actually, I feel tiny. Mostly because I got new, knee high boots, and I can zip them over my fat legs–no small feat, considering that I haven’t been able to do that… ever, as far as I can remember.

Today is the day!

I probably should get packing, since I have to leave for the hospital in about 30 minutes.  And, yeah, uncharacteristically for me, I not only haven’t packed, I haven’t written a list of what to pack either.  I guess it speaks to how surreal it seems to make an appointment to have a baby.

In any case, she’s coming today.  And apparently she’s going to have the same birthday as JLo’s twins, who were born this morning.

Wish me luck!  I’m, of course, looking forward to meeting this little girl and seeing what she looks like.  I’m also looking forward to getting something to drink after I have her… the no food or drink after midnight on the day you have surgery is kind of rough when the surgery doesn’t start until 12:45…