No, Dad, we didn’t meet your buddy. Sorry for the false alarm.

Two Fridays ago the husband took the day off and I went into the District for an MRI to check on Martha. After the trauma of trying to find this medical center in the first place and parking in THE absolute strangest parking garage–seriously straight out of an M. Night Shyamalan movie–it was all standard fare. Very much been there, done that, except none of the nurses recognize me at this new place.

MRI tech: Have you had an MRI before?
Me: Haha, a few times, yes.
MRI tech: So you know the procedure pretty well?
Me: I do.
MRI tech: Ok, you can change in here and then bring your valuables into the next room and we’ll put them in a locker.
Me: <changes into blue paper gown and matching hospital socks, shoves clothes into purse to go in locker, crams everything into locker the size of a thumb>
MRI tech: <places IV for contrast> The first part will be about 30 minutes, then we’ll slide you out, add the contrast, and put you back in for another 15 minutes of imaging. We’ll be all wrapped up in about an hour.
Me: I have a four-week-old at home. I will be asleep in about 19 seconds. Shake me when I’m supposed to get up.
MRI tech: Congratulations!
Me: Thank you. Makes you think when an MRI sounds like a nice chance to rest.
MRI tech: Ok, here comes the football helmet. <clicks face cage into place> Would you like a blanket?
Me: Please.
MRI tech: See you in 30 minutes.
Me: Zzzzzzzzz.

30 minutes later

MRI tech: How are you doing?
Me: I’m napping and quite cozy, actually.
MRI tech: Good.

15 minutes later

MRI tech: All set! <slides me out>
Me: Here I am, right where you left me.
MRI tech: Hahaha! If you need some water I can get you some.
Me: Can you get me some merlot instead?
MRI tech: Hahahaha!
Me: …is that a no?

And then I went on my way, spent the weekend sick as a dog, and woke up on Sunday night. I’m still not sure what happened to those two days, but I couldn’t nurse the little oyster for 48 hours because of the contrast anyway, so no one really suffered. The husband got to spend day and night with his little girl and I slept like a Van Winkle.

My follow up with Dr. M was the next Friday. The little oyster came with me and sat patiently in her car seat for the entire appointment, including the 35 minutes in the waiting room. Not to worry though, Animal Planet was on and we watched a special on elephants in Borneo. We like to learn, the oyster and I.

Then came the good news. I would say it was the “good and unexpected news” but I don’t know why good news should surprise, especially when it’s an exact answer to prayer.

Dr. M: You had MRI one week ago, yes?
Me: Yes. Did they get the scans over to you?
Dr. M: Yes. MRI was normal.
Me: Come again?
Dr. M: MRI of brain was normal.
Me: <stares>
Dr. M: So this is good. This is very good.
Me: I’m sorry, it was normal? As in, nothing has changed since last year or, like, normal normal? Like a regular brain?
Dr. M: <reads from report> “MRI of brain shows no abnormality.”
Me: It’s just a brain in there?
Dr. M: MRI was normal. I am very happy. I think we check in one year. Now we discuss neck and handwriting, yeah?

We discussed my neck and the syrinx (Dr. M suggested an MRI of *that* in six months if things change, one year if they don’t, and also suggested that I’ll probably never have decent handwriting again) and then I went on my way with the little oyster, got in the car, and cried.

A normal MRI? Martha is MIA? ‘Tis the thanksgiving season indeed. Amen.



The dark horse

There was a little miscommunication between the o.b.’s office, the new neurologist’s office, and me this week. What I understood to be an appointment for an MRI this morning was really just a (lengthy) consultation with the new neurologist, which means I eschewed bobby pins and a decent hairdo for the day, while carrying around a wire-free bra in my purse, all for nothing.

Well, not for nothing. Bad hair and extra undergarments not withstanding, the appointment was informative and useful. And yes, of course my new neurologist has a thick accent, originating somewhere in eastern Europe. Even her staff call her just Dr. M.

While Dr. M read silently The Detailed History of My Brain and I sat fidgeting in a chair trying to understand and then answer her questions every few pages, the minutes ticked by. I certainly got my money’s worth for this appointment. The goal was to determine whether or not it’s safe for me to attempt a standard vaginal delivery in light of what we know about Martha.

The short answer is that Dr. M does not believe Martha stands between me and a successful, safe, standard vaginal delivery. The issue my o.b. was concerned about is the strain of pushing and the blood loss/blood replenishment that accompanies labor. But if Martha doesn’t sound like something to cause me trouble in that regard then yay! right?

Enter the dark horse.
In 2006, the first MRI I had to figure out why I couldn’t hold a pen showed a small syrinx in one of my cervical vertebra. A syrinx is “a rare, fluid-filled neuroglial cavity within the spinal cord (syringomyelia), in the brain stem (syringobulbia), or in the nerves of the elbow.” (Thanks, Wiki.) In other words, my brain juice is leaking down the back of my neck and pooling slowly.

The MRIs I had last year–through which we found Martha–showed the same syrinx. It seemed to be unchanged. This is, of course, a good thing.


My syrinx is almost certainly the result of trauma (me+roller blades+a hill+a chain link fence in 2005). All of my symptoms are consistent with the possible symptoms of such a syrinx, which again, we assume was the result of trauma and stress to the area.

So when one considers that a syrinx is an abnormality within the spinal column and expansion would put pressure on the spinal cord and impact functions controlled by the spinal cord (read: all functions), and when one further considers that this syrinx got there by trauma in the first place, it’s not out of the question to assume that further trauma, say, something along the lines of pushing during delivery of a child, could aggravate this syrinx, increase pressure on the spinal column, and result in central nervous system damage and paralysis.

Dr. M seemed unwilling and unable to conclude anything for sure. I guess that’s why they call it practicing medicine. At the end of the appointment she asked me what I would prefer in terms of delivery. I would prefer not to have a brain hemorrhage and I would also prefer not to become a quadriplegic after delivery. But the chances of either one of those are slim, while the work of recovering from a C-section is a sure thing if I have one. My body has handled pregnancy with no serious issues and hardly any mild ones in fact, so the chances of a smooth delivery are in my favor, I think. Then again, what’s a smooth delivery if I’m paralyzed from the syrinx down?

She did mention that I can change my mind once things begin, but that I need to understand that my threshold for changing my mind needs to be much lower/earlier than other women’s. I said I would discuss with the husband and talk to my o.b. some more. What to do?

The Detailed History of My Brain also included details about the dystonia in my neck and arm and the meds I have tried to get my fine motor control back. Obviously we’ve had no success with these medications and I’m rather uninterested in trying another one, or retrying any of those.

Dr. M: Can please write sentence.
Me: Sure.
<awkwardly writes out sentence>
Dr. M: Put arm out on table. We try this.
<ties two rubber exam gloves together, ties them tightly around my arm below the elbow>
Dr. M: Is better?
Me: Yes, actually. My hand relaxed.
<much less awkwardly writes out another sentence>
Dr. M: This is treatment for tennis elbow.
<we look at the blue latex tourniquet>
Dr. M: Ok, not official treatment. Similar.
Me: Is it supporting a tendon?
Dr. M: Yes. It puts pressure on tendon and does not allow hand to overreact.
<removes temporary support, pokes my arm>
Dr. M: Does theeese hurt? Well, except for where I em bruising?
Me: Yes.
Dr. M: We try real support for tendon. Tennis elbow support band. We will not try medicine again. Nize thing about being pregunent, we try mechanical feex, not chemical.

So that’s what we will try for my fine motor skills. The mom has tennis elbow support bands and will send them this way as soon as she can. If that fails, I know blue latex exam gloves tied together just might do the trick.

And so this episode concludes with no final answer to the delivery question and lots of other angles heretofore unconsidered. The husband and I must conference.

Dr. M did mention that just because Martha won’t cause problems for me during a delivery doesn’t mean I’m free and clear yet. I need to have an MRI very soon after the little oyster arrives, and I need to follow up with Dr. M after that. My next appointment with her is already scheduled for October 29, one month (we hope!) after the oyster comes. Martha “ees not something to neglect,” said Dr. M.

And we won’t neglect Martha. Heaven knows we’re always aware that she’s there.

The husband requested that I blog about something more cheerful soon so next up is a babymoon post. I do recommend a babymoon for couples who are expecting but I most certainly do not recommend one in the third trimester. Oy.

Martha rides again

If blogging was a class requirement, I would have failed by now. Whoops! Good thing I graduated already and blogging is just for fun.

On Wednesday the little oyster will be 34 weeks. 34 weeks! If labor starts anytime after next Wednesday, 35 weeks, my o.b. said they won’t stop it. Then she said she has no reason to believe the little oyster would arrive that early–she sounds way too happy tucked away in my belly.

But the oyster’s method of arrival is the next big item to settle and so tomorrow morning I go for an MRI to check on Martha. Dr. J sent over all my brain scans and pathology reports to my o.b. who said she wants another neurosurgeon to look at them and make the call on a vaginal delivery vs. C-section. A brain doc might look at the old scans, see nothing has changed on the new scans, and say “Oh, that location isn’t a problem, go ahead and push out your baby.” Or he might not say that, we don’t know yet.

I do know that there’s a reason most doctors don’t hand you your own medical record for a bit of light reading. But because my o.b. scheduled the MRI for me and it’s tomorrow morning, she sent me home with a copy of my record from Dr. J’s office so I can hand it to the new neurosurgeon in case the copy she mailed doesn’t get there by 11 a.m. tomorrow.

After my appointment today I dashed down to the pediatrics wing and asked for the bio of the pediatrician my o.b. recommended. While the very friendly receptionist printed the information for me, I flipped through my file from Dr. J’s office.

The two pages of operative notes were equal parts fascinating and disturbing. Seeing phrases like “The scalp was opened and a bur hole was drilled,” “The dura was opened primarily,” “A portion was taken consistent with abnormal tissue consistent with a brain tumor,” “The wound was copiously irrigated,” and “The system was removed from the skull” and knowing that was my scalp and my dura and my tissue and my skull put me into a bit of a funk for the rest of the day.

Flipping through the rest of the file though, it was nice to see that my post-op  psychiatric evaluation listed me as “intact, alert to place, time, person, and situation.” And that in our initial meeting, Dr. J called me “a pleasant 26-year-old female.” Those things take the edge off “lesion” and “mass.” A little.

So tomorrow I’ll go into work for a little bit and then zip out for an MRI to see what Martha is up to these days. And I do hope she’s up to nothing because I’m busy growing more important and exciting things at the moment, pleasant female that I am.


A typical baby doc visit and pregnancy auto-pilot

PSA: Today is brain tumor awareness day. As I told the husband this morning, in my mind (ha! get it??) brain tumor awareness day is September 15 but since May 22 is the date for mass (again, get it?) awareness, please be aware. Brain tumors are out there. Or in there, rather (gosh I kill myself). Go gray in May!

* * * * * * * * * * *

A friend was lamenting her impending trip to the lady doctor but then backtracked, saying “it’s probably nothing like having to go once a week, like you do.”

I told her au contraire, by the time you’re knocked up, provided that everything is going well, the monthly visits are non-invasive and quick. I’m very blessed to be having a textbook pregnancy so far, and this is a typical visit to the baby doctor:

Nurse: Step on the scale please.
Me: <eyes closed>
Nurse: That’s good, good. Now we’ll do your blood pressure.
Me: <falls off scale, opens eyes, sits, breathes deep>
Nurse: Excellent, right this way.
Me: <sits on crinkly paper in exam room>
Doctor: Hi. How’s it going? How are you feeling?
Me: Good. I walk the dog twice a day.
Doctor: Are you feeling the baby move regularly?
Me: Yes.
Doctor: Good, let’s hear the heartbeat.
Me: <lies on crinkly paper>
Doctor: <waves heartbeat wand over my belly> Sounds good.
Me: kthxbai.

The nice thing about pregnancy is that it’s gradual. You’re going to gain 30 lbs? Not to worry, you’ve got nine months to do it. You’re going to outgrow everything you own, underwear and some shoes included? No biggie, won’t happen overnight. Everything is going to ache and burn? Sure, but not all at the same time.

So much of what I read about pregnancy is negative or just plain stupid, and I’m talking about the articles and websites, to say nothing of the idiots who post on chat boards and e-communities–there’s a name for that kind of stupid, and I’m not comfortable including it in a post. My parents read this stuff.

I rolled my eyes at the article I found called “10 icky pregnancy side effects,” because in case pregnant women everywhere weren’t already fully aware of the itchy skin, random bloody noses, and constant need to pee, it’s really nice to have an article that spells it out for us.

My other favorite was an article–which linked to others like itself for more information/guidelines/rules about how to be pregnant–that detailed the daily chemicals we preggos come into contact with, how distressingly toxic these are to our feti, and how we must, simply must, without wasting another moment, haul our laptops to the bathroom, and sort through our face washes, moisturizers, toothpastes, and hair gels to cross-check each 27-letter ingredient against The List of Baddies Heretofore Provided and dispose properly of each offending product, promptly hopping into our cars (hold your breath, don’t breathe in the fumes you may contact on the road or rightoutsideyourownhomeomg!) and patronizing the local organic markets to purchase for prenatal consumption vastly overpriced products that use only Siberian sea salt extracts and Canadian spring water in their composition. And packaging.

Natural ingredients are awesome, but there is simply no way on God’s green earth that I’m going to believe washing my face with Noxzema is harmful to my baby and a dereliction of my motherly duty. Yes, I did text my older sisters, who have normal and healthy children of their own, to find out what truth there was to this business, and they were equally unconvinced and unswayed.

A lot of the pregnancy industry (yes, it’s an industry) is predicated on taking advantage of women who are vulnerable to opinions, thanks to hormones and the idea of being solely and uniquely responsible for another human life, and pumping them full of more opinions-disguised-as-requirements than there sperm in a fish in the sea so that they buy every last product out there to guarantee a health pregnancy and brilliant baby. Implying that only a bad mother would continue brushing with Colgate total and painting her nails adds insult to injury, both of which preggos are extremely susceptible to. These women, already getting familiar with the new responsibility their bodies take on, are eager to do whatever the pros say to do or not do, buy or not buy, lay on, sit on, pick up or avoid.

Case in point: I have read and heard that it’s dangerous to lay on your back after a certain point in pregnancy–but this certain point varies from book to book and doctor to doctor–because the weight of the growing baby puts pressure on the mom’s major blood vessels and can constrict blood flow to the baby, killing it. After about 18 weeks, I was extremely careful not to lay on my back, responsibly propping myself up on an extra pillow to lay in bed and read and wedging myself between a pillow and the husband at night to guarantee that I didn’t roll onto my back and murder my unborn daughter. And then I went for the 20 week ultrasound, during which I was–did you guess?–completely flat on my back for well over an hour, and which procedure I will repeat at 25 weeks, presumably inflicting the same lack-of-harm on the little oyster as the last time I held this supposedly life-threatening position. And guess what? With only one pillow to think about now and no more contorting myself like a Tetris piece to remain firmly on my side while asleep, I sleep better, which itself is better for me and the baby.

Unlike preparing to bring a baby home and gathering all the required equipment, insurance, etc., actually carrying one during a normal, healthy pregnancy is a relatively auto-pilot thing for a body to do. There is work involved and some adjustments to be made for sure. I can’t move as fast as I used to or carry things on my hip at the moment, but that’s because my body adjusted itself to not do those things anymore, not because I planned to stop carting the laundry basket around on my hip at week 22. Do I need to wake up each morning and consciously think of what I need to do today for my body to complete another day of pregnancy? Apart from making sure I drink enough water to fill a Volkswagen because it helps me not cramp, no I don’t.

There are some obvious things to avoid while pregnant, and others to take in moderation. Chat boards should be avoided, while websites should be consumed in moderation.

Ha, and you thought I was going to say no wine while expecting. Yeah, ok.

Thank you, readers!

Yesterday this blog crossed the 14,000 hits threshold–thank you, readers!

Some of those views are one-time, and some of you are faithful readers. I appreciate each one.

The stats tell me where in the world my blog has been viewed on any given day, and redwhiteandnew has made appearances this year alone on screens in Canada, Turkey, the Philippines, Italy, Ireland, France, the Czech Republic, Germany, the UK, Japan, Indonesia, South Korea, Nigeria, Vietnam, Colombia, Malaysia, Finland, Sweden, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand and, most interestingly to me, the Maldives.

I started this blog to keep friends and family up to date on our lives as we moved from the old home state to the center of the free world, and assumed that the blog would be primarily work-related and work-focused. Life takes some funny, not funny, unexpected, exciting, and terrifying turns, but it’s never dull and realizing that has helped me feel just fine blogging about What’s Happening Now, whether that’s Martha, moving, having the little oyster, looking for work, or just walking Dietrich.

Redwhiteandnew is a biographical statement, nothing more and nothing less. What I post is an honest account–or my best interpretation–of daily life, milestones, and unique events or experiences, nothing more and nothing less. I have fun writing, and I love reading comments when readers post them and so, for all the time and attention you all have put into pushing the blog over the 14,000 mark, thank you! Nothing more and nothing less.

All in good time

What I mean is all in perfect time.

I believe in God’s perfect timing for everything, from when it rains to when jobs and moves happen. I also believe God has a sense of humor…look what I discovered today when I put my hair in a ponytail:

…and on the 8th day, man invented bobby pins…

Yep, those are hairs growing back around Martha’s front door. Until recently it was short enough to be covered by the ponytail-length hair but now it has a mind of its own. I couldn’t figure out what some ends of my hair were doing all the way over there when the rest were dutifully hanging in ponytail fashion at the back of my head, and then I tugged on these little rebels and realized their origin. Then I laughed out loud and thought about leaving them out in left field because since Martha, I mostly let my hair do what it feels like doing, so thankful I am that I have hair. But then I remembered I was meeting a friend for lunch and I try not to embarrass others with my personal choices. So I stuck a bobby pin through the cluster and no one but my blog readers are any wiser.

So how great is it that I can work from home and not care about making a professional first impression with a rogue hair tuft threatening to make an appearance? Perfect timing on the new old job and the hair tuft.

Getting back to work with a work-from-home situation is also perfect timing. Since I have felt too horrible with morning sickness the last few weeks to do anything, the husband and I are thankful that I didn’t have to drag myself out of bed to work. And now that all my normal-person clothes are getting uncomfortably snug in the middle section, I’m glad to have a job for which I can dress in yoga pants.

What’s that?

Oh yeah, I’m pregnant. 🙂 Our baby is due in September. Pregnancy during a DC summer? Not my preferred timing, but see previous statement about God’s sense of humor.

My dog sleeps with his eyes open and 7 other things that make me say ‘hmm’

Today I have taken advantage of my flexible schedule to reflect on a few things around here that make me say ‘hmm’ for one reason or another. Feel free to reflect along with me, or add your own contributions.

  1. My dog sleeps with his eyes open. Not always, and sometimes the husband and I wave our hands in his face like children and giggle about it, but when it’s just the two of us and the dog goes into REM sleepwhile staring blankly at the room, twitching, and barking softly, I get creeped out. And sometimes set a Bible next to him just in case.
    He’s sound asleep. Freaking SOUND ASLEEP and watching me! And snoring like an old man. No old man in particular though (hi, Dad!).
  2. The Washington Redskins are 1. from Washington, DC and 2. “named for” American Indians, not 1. from Washington state and 2. named for potatoes. Anyone could make this mistake.
    Photo courtesy of the Washington State Potato Commission. (See??)
  3. As a brand, Dawn has not the sudsing power of Palmolive. This is very curious to me and I resent it a bit, having finished a bottle of Palmolive and replaced it with 20 oz. of Dawn. All dish soaps are not created equal. Fun fact: I went to college with twins named Dawn and Joy. We called them the dish soap twins. They were Canadian. Maybe their parents didn’t realize.
    Lies. All lies.
  4. Tomatoes. They pop like zits and they taste like dirt, yet people love them and enter them in contests.
    Egad! They’re multiplying! Tomatoes are only palatable in recipes. See for details, and thanks to the other middle for the ‘mato photo.
  5. The grocery store sells some really great books (i.e., new biographies, The Help, Harry Potter) alongside some really crappy books (i.e., anything with a man’s thigh featured prominently on the cover). The juxtaposition intrigues me and commands a certain respect.
    The blog is rated PG-13 so I can make points like this.
  6. The importance of having a library card. “Have you gotten a library card yet?” seems to be one of the first questions people ask when you move to a new area. In fact I have gotten an Arlington library card but only to shut down potential follow-up questions about why not. I don’t like reading library books and it has everything to do with encountering one too many pages stuck together with boogers.
    Virtually the only way to guarantee a non-contagious reading experience.
  7. The scar from surgery on Martha (in my head I call it her front door…unless…that’s Martha talking AHHHHHH) itches constantly and when I scratch it, not only do I feel like I look like (follow that?) I have fleas, but the tiny hairs that were growing there fall out, adding insult to injury. Also adding insult to injury is the fact that I don’t have any sensation on the left side of my head except for the itching. #thingstheydidntmention
    Little Miss Itchy.
  8. Facebook friend requests from people I don’t know.
    The only acceptable form of made-up friend.

I may be a masochist but at least I’m not lazy

It was a pretty Capitol, and always very stately.

Friday was my last day at the state House <sniff sniff> and today is my first day of being unemployed. While I had grand, self-pitying plans to sleep in, stay in my PJs, eat peanut butter from the jar, and wallow at the book store later, while thumbing my nose at the job vacancy list serve emails I receive daily and that have so far led to nothing, none of this came to pass.

Instead I got up at 8, packed a lunch for the husband, gave the rest of the peanut butter jar to the dog, and have been applying for jobs ever since. I think I’m addicted to rejection. The cold, unfeeling auto-reply, the inexplicable lack of response from people in the customer service industry, the cruel ‘you are qualified for this pay grade but are not being considered for this position’ email that comes after each federal job to which I eagerly submit a resume and rock star cover letter. I just can’t get enough and so I keep applying, day after day, month after month. The thrill of rejection never dies. I may be a masochist but I’m not lazy.

Although I am still in my PJs because let’s be for real, one day of unemployment has its perks.

I firmly believe that we go through some things, some seasons, in our lives so that we can be there for others who go through the same things, and so that we can walk beside people in our lives who will face similar circumstances. We can learn a lot about what we value when the unexpected arises in our own lives.

To be able to say, with all honesty and humility and gentleness, ‘I’ve been there, I know what you’re talking about,’ is a gift, though I do think it’s presumptuous to say ‘I know how you feel,’ because even similar experiences don’t yield identical responses.

For example, being outside when its 60 degrees and January. When returning from our walk, the husband and I went inside while Dietrich camped out on the stairs. Similar experience, different response.

From something as common as moving away from everyone you know to the relatively unique experience of Martha, I believe that the last few months have been one lesson after another about how to relate to others in less-than-ideal situations. If a stint of unemployment makes it on that list, then these next few days, possibly weeks, and potentially months are worth something beyond what I can see right now.

And so while my rejection letter body count rises and the days flip by on my shoe desk calendar that I thought would be at home in an office today, I will look forward to the day down the road when a friend or neighbor faces unemployment and dim prospects and say, in genuine compassion, ‘Ugh, I’ve been there, I know what you’re talking about.’ And nothing more.

The shoe calendar! A gift from a dear friend back at the House. She has the same one on her desk–at her job–and I’m hoping they function like the twin cores in Harry Potter, but in a good way. At least I have something pretty to look at each day I’m unemployed.

Until I have friends and a job though, I’ll stay at home with said shoe calendar, in my PJs, applying for jobs and blogging away to the masterful musical stylings of one Yo Yo Ma.

And then I will take a nap because although I’m not lazy, I am unemployed and this application business really takes it out of you.