Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Prematurity Awareness Month

November is.  Obviously I think prematurity awareness is an important public health/science/cultural issue, but it's also a strange one, because it encompasses several very different strands of experience.  From a public health perspective one of the biggest and most potentially solvable issues is preventable near-term prematurity.  This includes babies born at 36, 37, or 38 weeks by induction or c-section because a doctor or pregnant woman thinks it's time.  Maybe the woman is feeling terribly uncomfortable, perhaps the doctor is seeing small signs that the woman or her baby are developing problems, or perhaps the doctor or woman want the delivery to happen within a particular timeframe.

 Babies who come even a week or two early can have health issues related to prematurity, these issues cost money and cause personal stress.  LB's three month NICU stay cost around $500,000, as best I could tell from the very confusing insurance forms, and even a short NICU stay costs a lot.  So it's a issue, but not one that I find particularly relevant to LB's experience as a very early, very small preemie.    It does irritate me when the issues surrounding preventable near-term preemies and unpreventable early preemies are conflated.  A chipper "Keep those babies in Mommy!" makes me want to snap back with a "really, I should have waited until I was dead?"

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving Redux

We were lucky enough to be hosted by a friend on her farm, which was lovely.  The pictures tell the story.



The Not-Turkey Roast (make mostly of gluten), recipe found here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving to You and Yours

This time last year

How to Quarantine with Preemie (without losing your mind)

Happy RSV Season (not)!

It is the season of illness and ick, and if you have recently brought a preemie home, or you are expecting a preemie, you are probably dealing with a doctor-recommended quarantine.  Keeping preemies home and away from people helps them stay healthy by limiting the number of germs to which they are exposed.  It's a simple solution, and it works, but it can drive a person crazy.

We only had to quarantine LB for one season (she also got Synagis shots to boost her immune system). She was a 29 weeker born in November and we quarantined until May.  Places LB went during those months: doctor's office (waited in an exam room rather than waiting room), courthouse (for our 2nd parent adoption hearing), and outside for a short walk.  You will note that list is very short.  People who visited LB: a few older family members, very brief visits from our co-workers, some quick hellos with neighbors.  People we avoided most strenuously: children and sick people.

So, what to do with an infant and a few months of your life?  I won't claim that B and I were always happy and gracious about being cooped up in the house, but we did manage to keep ourselves fairly sane.  My suggestions

  • Keep a loose schedule so that one day doesn't just slump into the next
  • Get some exercise, even if it's just stretching in the living room or walking baby around the block
  • Skype with friends and family
  • Make sure you (both of you, if there is a both) get some downtime each day, even if it just a half hour
  • Pretend you're having fun: do a puzzle, play a board game, watch a movie, anything outside of your usual routine
  • Listen to good music
  • Steal some time when baby is asleep, eat together, have desert, a glass of wine, or what have you
  • Have a dance party!  
  • Make a list of things others could do to help you (buy groceries, run errands, bring food), and when people ask what they can do to help, give them a few options from the lists 
  • Ignore anyone who tries to tell you that quarantine is paranoid or over protective
It's stressful to not only have a tiny preemie and never sleep, but also to be trapped in the house and rarely see other people.  I didn't always have a good attitude, but I tried to remember to be positive, and if I was feeling down, to put on some good music, make a cup of tea, and realize it would pass.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Marriage: Love and Contracts

"Let me check my schedule." I think that's how our engagement began.

Married life over the past 24 hours has involved shifts taking care of an up-all-night sick toddler, cleaning up vomit, and administering nebulizers.  Thankfulness that I will not have to travel away from B or LB for the next ten days or so.  Appreciation of the cozy house.  Debates over likely outcomes of a Supreme Court decision on DOMA.  Coffee at 6:00am, dinner at 6:00pm.  A good and simple married life.

As a feminist and a hater of the wedding industrial complex, I never planned to marry and I've never been particularly invested in the social approval that comes with marriage.  Then when B and I had been together for five years or so, Maine put marriage on the ballot and we started thinking that a little civil marriage ceremony at the courthouse, with a few friends and family members, and a nice dinner afterward, might work for us.  And then the people voted down marriage equality in Maine.  And with that rejection, we became more invested in marriage.  We were living in Baltimore when gay marriage was approved in D.C., we decided to go for it, and since our schedules were clear that first day they were offering licenses, we thought we might as well hustle down on the train in case they suddenly changed the rules.

We were couple #81 (I think) on the first day that D.C. offered marriage licenses to same sex couples, and it was a fun and happy experience.  People were giving out cupcakes and flowers.  The couples waiting in line were a diverse group, men and women, elders and youths (including some who looked a little too young by my standards), people of many races and ethnicities, those in business formal and those in sweatsuits, people from the District, from Maryland, and from Virginia.  The line was long and slow, but spirits were high.  We married a few weeks later at the courthouse with our parents present and everyone cried.

Eight months later we had a baby (she was two and half months early if you're counting).  Our marriage was, in no small part, an effort to ensure all possible protections for that future child.  Marriage was a public declaration of our love for each other, and our responsibilities to each other, but we could have made those declarations privately.  I've never felt that our love for each other needed state sanction, or that I needed the state to tell me our relationship was legitimate, but the legal rights and responsibility provided by official recognition of our marriage have been very important.

I really admire legal theorists like Nancy Polikoff, who point out the structured inequality embedded in a system where marriage provides access to rights and benefits.  However, I don't think academics like Polikoff recognize the situation on the ground.  Marriage (if you can get one) is cheap and easy.  It provides protections to gay couples who lack the financial means or background in the law to cobble together those protections by other means.  I'm doubtful about the cultural good arguments for marriage-that marriage will solve all our social problems of poverty, crime, and whatever-but I do think that when you tell someone, say the clerk at the admitting desk in the hospital, that you are married, the word carries a cultural power that forces people to acknowledge your relationship even if they don't want to do so.

I'm curious to see where the fight for same-sex marriage will take us.  I hope it will help us create a country that is more inclusive and equitable to all, and not a world where singleness is vilified and marriage is exalted.  I fear that, as anti-marriage activists have said publicly, the next fight against same-sex marriage will be uglier, a return to the worst homophobic stereotypes and threats.  Either way, life at the cozy house marches on with our little piece of political embedded in the personal.

I'm writing this post for the Love Makes a Family Blog Carnival, which can be found here.

To go directly to the next post, click here.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Birthday Girl

A big two year old who is self-actualized enough to refuse to smile for mama.

A few days after birth.
Red cheeks due to illness.

A serious one year old.

It all the Halloween, traveling, visitors, election madness, LB didn't even get a birthday post. However, she did get to spend her birthday with all four of her grandparents, as well as assorted well wishers.  She ate cupcakes and got cool presents.  It was great to have people over to the Cozy House and to enjoy the quotidian life of a two year old.

LB's original due date was January 18, but she came ten weeks early.  That gap consumed our lives for a long time.  I suppose LB's birthday will always be a time of reflection, a time when the word "miracle" gets used a lot.

As a two year old, LB loves puzzles and adult company.  Her nemesis is our old husky.  She has become increasingly territorial with other kids (good times).  She talks a lot, mostly single words with the occasional two-word phrase, and she understands so much.  She loves to play outside.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Autumnal Life

During our move, we suffered a mysterious loss of our camera cord, so I can still take pictures, but I can't get them off the camera.  Luckily I could take these pictures with B's iphone to prove that we are in fact in New England.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Gay Moment

The Mormon moment was a fizzle, not just because Mitt Romney lost, but because he couldn't actually talk to Americans about his Mormon identity and beliefs.  As Republican candidates go, I've seen worse than Romney.  I cringed every time he offered a policy solution that seemed to come right out of the Church ward, but I can't quite see Romney as the evildoer of the liberal imagination.  That said, as a married lesbian mom, I was really a one issue voter.

Instead, it is our moment, the gay moment.  Three gay marriage victories at the ballot box!  One successful fight against restricting the definition of marriage to a man and a woman!  Multiple victories for openly gay candidates!

I can't wait until this moment is history, until I have to explain to LB a time that she can't quite understand.  A time when we were unequal.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Our Morning in America

In 2008, I spent election eve nervous and excited.  Even if I didn't like Obama, he would be the best choice for a person in my situation, but I do like him.  B and I have often said in the past four years that he should be a little less JFK and a little more LBJ, but I think he is a good man and a smart man, and those thing count for a lot with me.

The morning after the 2008 election I had a dentist appointment.  I took the bus through Baltimore cursing my stupidity; why wasn't I home basking in the glow rather than hustling though the city.  The bus was full of the usual suspects, people down on their luck, and those who probably never had any luck.  But that day, the bus was also full of hope and joy and pride.  When I got on, three men jumped up to offer me a seat, I think, just because their mood was buoyant. Baltimore gave Obama 87.5% of the vote in 2008.  Looking around that bus, we all knew we had done it, we had done it together.

After that moment, I was struck by the sadness of the situation.  Poor people who would always be poor and sick people who would always be sick.  No one is coming to save Baltimore, and no one good and smart man can save that city.  And people will carry on, but their lives will be hard.  This is what our morning in America looks like.

Despite all that I'm proud to vote for a good, smart man, proud to vote for marriage equality, proud to live in this crazy, ridiculous, tough country.  Thankful that my girl was born on this day two years ago, and that we are both healthy and whole. Four more years and many, many more!

Sunday, November 4, 2012


Our Sandy experience was uneventful in the extreme.  I'm thinking of those who are still in the middle of it.  Life without power gets old after the first 24, and I can't even speak to the stress of worrying over loved ones or losing a home.  I think the story of the NYU Medical Center evacuation (and here), which included an evacuation of their NICU, caught the attention of every preemie parent out there.

Many NICU parents (mothers?) feel intense guilt and lingering emotional distress from the experience.  I was the opposite of a calm and reasonable NICU parent in that I was high strung, angry, freaked out, terrified and generally difficult to deal with.  B was, as always, the good cop in that situation, and for every time that she talked me down she deserves an extra gold star.  But since LB came home, my NICU memories have faded.  Intellectually I know that was an incredibly hard time for me, but my memories are good.  When I think of the NICU now I remember cuddling a little LB, and our gentle routine of nights in the NICU, but all the fear and anger has faded.

One of my worst freak-outs was one night when I called to check on LB, and the phone in the Step-Down Unit rang and rang and no one picked up.  That had never happened before.  At the time, LB was generally very stable, but sometimes had bad blue episodes where she required significant help to get her heart rate back up.  The episodes were terrifying for us, made worse because they seem to freak out the nurses, who, no matter how often we warned them, always seemed shocked that LB could go from totally fine to really not good in an instant with no warning.  As the phone rang and rang, I could only imagine that LB had coded in the tiny Step-Down Unit with its one nurse.  I imagined a team working on LB, ignoring the ringing phone.  B said she would drive me back to the NICU, but then I was able to get through to the main unit.  But by then I was done, just hysterical and sick with worry.

Years before, I'd seen news the Katrina NICU evacuation and wondered at the horror of having your tiny baby shipped off to God-knows where, with limited communications lines.  While LB was in the NICU, I lived in fear of a winter storm like the one that had come the year before and shut down the city for at least a week.  Reading those stories about the NYU NICU brought back all those bad memories.  As a not super emotional person, that distress has been mostly generalized queasy feelings and snapishness.  I hope all those NICU parents are finding some relief and those babies are sleeping easy tonight.

This post brought to you by Prematurity Awareness Month!