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February 2005

Also True

I feel I should point out to you guys that narrative convention dictates that the exciting parts are supposed to be saved until the end. I know, I know, you hate it and you have said so but... I'm just saying. I find your need for immediate gratification a little unseemly.

The ultrasound at the OB's office was "inconclusive" as the World's Oldest Ultrasound Machine (TM) was able to see "something" in the gestational sac and "probably" a heartbeat but nothing was measurable. One, by the way. Just the one. So I got shipped off to a radiologist whose sonographic equipment actually employs this new electronic technology everyone is talking about (Essay Question: Do you think the field of obstetrics will ever fully replace hamster power? Discuss) Do you want to know how happy I was with the inconclusivity and the added delay? DO YOU?

The radiologist's sleek and modern ultrasound machine found the "tiny" gestational sac and then was able to find the fetal pole (measuring two days behind dates, thank you very much, always a pleasure- I know that these things are +/- 5 days or whatever but is it too much to ask for me to have an embryo measuring big JUST ONCE?? And before you point to Patrick I should tell you that I spent the entire first trimester with him in a state of catatonic terror so I have no recollection of how he originally measured, thus the lack of possible reassurance) and a heartbeat. Blink blink blink. We could see it but she had the hardest time measuring it and once she finally did she noted it was "slow" (107 bpm.)

So if we take all of these quotes and line them up we have: "inconclusive" "something" "probably" "tiny" "slow." Is it any wonder that despite the ostensibly celebratory nature of the ultrasound findings I am still feeling shaky and uncertain? Steve and I left the radiologists' office and said nothing for a few moments. Then Steve said, "Is it me or was that EXACTLY how the last three pregnancies started?"

Ummm, pretty much.

So I am not reassured. However, I am not in shrieking misery either. I am merely tentative.

On an unrelated note, thank you so much for all the color suggestions. I am going to try to amass as many of your recommendations as I can find this afternoon. I'll let you know what we decide (if we decide- maybe leaving the taped drywall would look industrial and edgy?) 


Updated: I just got off the phone with my nurse at the Shade of Grove and I feel a gazillion times better. No, TWO gazillion. The nurse said that measuring two days off is absolutely fine and they see it all the time. Also, she said that the heartbeat was absolutely appropriate for the dates. She suggested that the local people are probably not used to seeing patients this early and that I should not to pay too much attention to them. Perfect. That was the word she used: she said things look "perfect". Whether this is true or not is beside the point- I FEEL better.

And she ordered another ultrasound for one week from today.


It's Like An HGTV Show But Without Pictures To Keep You Interested

1. My cold is better but I still have no sense of taste or smell. This makes life surprisingly bleak and uninteresting. I know I am eating Peppermint Patty Bites and yet I cannot taste them. I cannot even taste that they are sweet. It almost renders eating them not worth the effort. Almost.

2. Patrick is as cute as a million baby seals.

3. Pregnancy... what pregnancy? I am refusing to think about it until some as-yet-unspecified event in the future occurs to confirm or deny the likelihood of an actual baby. The first few weeks have lost their ability to thrill, frankly, so I am just ignoring the whole thing. OK, I am not actively sabotaging myself by quaffing Nyquil (o! glorious green licorice of the gods! absinthe of the New World! how you would have eased my troubled slumbers long these many nights past) or foregoing the nightly progesterone shots (my ass has LUMPS; honest-to-god LUMPS from the progesterone injections even though I am rubbing it hard and sitting on a heating pad afterwards) but beyond that... we'll see what happens when we see what happens. First ultrasound on Monday and I GUARANTEE there is only one (if that.) I would bet anything you like that I am not pregnant with twins. Just so you know.

4. Steve continues to dwell in the basement.

Steve has been in the basement for weeks now, emerging briefly for a business call or something only to descend instantly back down the steps. Patrick's daily commentary runs thusly:

Daddy is using a hammer in the basement!

Daddy is making a really big noise in the basement!

Daddy is building a big house in the basement!

I don't know what it is about little boys and even minor domestic construction but Patrick is having the time of his young life. For example, this morning I found Steve and Patrick arranged in a charming tableau. Steve was on a ladder framing the last of the two columns that will prevent the house from crushing us when we are down there and Patrick was standing next to the ladder handing up screws on request. They both looked at me like, this is a private construction site, lady, so I went back upstairs to drink tea.

Forgive the wifely pride, but Steve is so fucking good at this sort of thing it is scary. It fills me with awe and there is absolutely nothing less suited to marital bliss than awe. So I'll just tell you how impressed I am and continue to roll my eyes at him as he describes why he has chosen to use American cherry for the basement trim rather than the darker Brazilian cherry that covers every conceivable surface upstairs. He does plumbing. He does wiring. He does rough carpentry and perfect finicky trim carpentry. He does structural things and design-element things and he makes incredibly tidy little drawings of it all on huge sheets of graph paper. He's amazing.

Do you want to hear about my house? Probably not but it's what we have today. Besides, in blogs as in art, I am always partial to a pleasant domestic interior. I like reading about everybody's minutiae, so here is mine.

The intention when we bought this place was to finish the basement at some point. The impetus to start actually doing the work was when I told Steve that I would like to turn the long bedroom upstairs into two separate rooms, creating a bedroom for a second child and a study for Patrick and said child to use when they are older. This was three pregnancies ago but hell, who's counting? The nice thing about being a recurrent spontaneous aborter is it gives you LOTS of time to get the nursery together. YEARS, really.

So putting up a wall will give us two kid rooms, a study, a guest room and a bathroom up there. It also renders Steve's big TV homeless since we currently use the long bedroom as a family room. This was unacceptable to Steve so he concluded that we needed to get the basement finished if we were going to modify the upstairs. Now we are a couple of weeks away from having a basement with a big family room, a guest room and guest bath, a storage room and then another storage room with a washer-dryer (for Steve's hunting clothes, ahem, yes, Steve desperately requires separate laundry facilities for the clothes he wears to hunt.) Finally there will be a home theater in the back but we (we! how do you like the use of "we" there? It's ok, Steve is one of those people who says "we" are pregnant. Drives me crazy but he persists) are going to wait to finish that part until later. What we will NOT have, as you will have noticed if you were paying attention, is a second child's bedroom upstairs which was... anyone? Yes! The POINT. But, again, we have t-ii-iii-m-e.   

It has been sort of annoying to be a basement widow but I am now getting excited about having it done. Besides, after months of having my sensible suggestions shot down with withering scorn (Can't you just put another window in over here? Why don't you move this column over there so the view of the television from the little bar isn't obstructed?) I am finally getting a chance to exert creative control. Carpeting! Countertops! Paint! Wheeee!

Unfortunately, I suck at this sort of thing. I wish I could have you all over and you could help me with it. I thought about posting pictures but I just don't think it would translate well. Largely because I also suck at taking pictures. Really, my incompetencies know no bounds. So I'll just describe the general situation and if you have any hard-won insight feel free to pipe up.

Carpeting, despite being the totally uncool flooring choice, is necessary for two reasons: 1) the floor is poured concrete and 2) this is Minnesota. You have NO IDEA how cold a concrete floor can be until you have padded barefoot across a basement slab in Minnesota in January. A girl I knew lost a toe that way. So Steve and I have spent the past week looking at every carpet available for sale in the United States. Here's a hint: do not look at the really really nice 100% wool carpets at C'est Chic Carpet Boutique and then go back to Home Depot to see if maybe they have something similar. They do not and the carpet that you originally thought might be suitable will suddenly feel like an acre of Brillo pad. Do you want to put Brillo all over your comfy floor? Of course not.

Damn it. I have been trying to find a picture of the carpeting we just ordered but both Ralph Lauren and Karastan are suspiciously quiet on the subject. Why is that? Licensing arrangements are always so odd. We wanted something thick and soft but not plush and these three requirements caused everyone we spoke with to send us into the frieze section. Originally I recoiled in horror because really, people, frieze is just a shag carpet with a haircut but the more I looked at other things the more it kinda grew on me. It IS thick and it IS soft and it will hide a buffalo let alone a grape juice stain or some cracker crumbs. A practical carpet for a family room, if not a very glamorous one.

The carpeting they (the crazy DINKs who built this place) put in upstairs is about one shade darker than snow and it perpetually looks awful (sock lint! who knew that ordinary pairs of old black socks shed more than a Persian cat?) so we knew we needed to go with something darker. The floors on the first floor are all maple thus, for lack of anything better to inspire us, we tried to kind of match that color and we went with a light brown but on the golden side.

An interior designer originally "did" this house when it was built (not by us, I repeat hastily, we just got here) and we are too intimidated by the oppressive perfectness of it all to make any changes to the existing rooms. As much as I dislike the idea of the copper-leaf stenciling in the living room I have to admit it is rather pretty and it certainly works in there. Still [FUCK! I am making myself a cup of tea and I was too lazy to get a spoon so I was just tap tap tapping a little sugar in from the bowl when WHAM! a veritable iceberg of sugar detached and landed with a mighty thump in my cup. I am not kidding, I think I just put 1/4 c of sugar in my tea] all of the walls are painted depressingly neutral, mushroomy colors and I would like to jazz things up a bit in the basement. But earth-tones! Jazzy earth-tones like, um, well you tell me.

My mother has requested yellow for the guest room and both Steve and I tend to loathe yellow so it is making it difficult to pick just the right one. Because we keep saying Ick! If you have used a nice, soft, inoffensive yellow anywhere and would like to recommend it I will be forever grateful.    

So any thoughts? I know this is vague but surely you have built a house/done a remodel/painted a room/played with Barbie's Dream House/watched Trading Spaces at some point in your life. Imagine a fairly large space with windows and a sliding glass door on one long side only. Now picture the lightish-brownish carpeting. The trim is cherry (American cherry! not Brazilian!) Now... what jazzy earth-tone are the walls painted? Come on! I need you.

*Gak Wheeze Hurk*

I am apparently going to die as a result of this massive horrible head cold I have acquired, either as a bastard off-shoot of Patrick's recent flu or perhaps as a result of entering a pediatrician's office in order to confirm that Patrick did, indeed, have the flu.

So I have been lying around guzzling peppermint tea and blowing my nose and I thought I should let you guys know that I won't be around much longer. Which is sad because I am so damned likable.

Anyway, here are two, totally unrelated, totally inappropriate tales from the crypt.

#1 When Steve was in college his next-door neighbor died of breast cancer. It was a long battle and towards the end, apparently, her husband so fully embraced the acceptance portion of the grief process that he started seeing someone. Naturally this upset both his wife and their grown children. It was all singularly unpleasant, according to Steve, but the coup de grace was when he brought this mistress to the funeral. As his date.

Steve leaned forward as he told me about it and punctuated the anecdote with, "And she wore RED!" I was suitably shocked although when you think about it, what color could make showing up at your lover's wife's funeral more appropriate? Navy, I suppose.

I was reminded of this ancient on-dit as I hacked and wheezed at my mother on the phone this morning. Steve came in to bring me some more tea and I handed the phone to him saying, "You two will probably want to discuss... the arrangements."

Steve said, "Hi Mom. Uh-huh. I see. OK. So, I don't need to bring anyone since you'll be inviting lots of single women who love children? Great!" 

They think they are amusing but I will be haunting them both.

#2 The reason we stayed with Steve's parents for the duration of our DC IVF-o-Rama is that my mother lives in a wee, albeit charming, apartment that barely has room for another soda cracker let alone Clan Hippo. Usually we all just reside with her gentleman friend when we are in town, but moments before we arrived he contracted pneumonia, of all things. He only recovered enough to have company towards the end, so after the embryo transfer we moved out to his place and I spent my bed rest on his couch while he demonstrated the wonders of Tivo-recorded fishing shows. The things I have suffered to have another child scarcely bear repeating, I swear.

Anyway, I adore Papa Stan and he has a marvelous sense of humor so I was anticipating something good when he opened a piece of mail and then burst out laughing.

To back up, Stan was married briefly to a woman named Peg with whom he had a son. Their relationship was a tempestuous one but they stayed sort of close over the years and when she had her final bout last winter (another breast cancer victim) he was one of the people at her house when she died. It was, he said, the absolute single-most traumatic experience of his entire life, an absolutely horrible time for him and his son.

So I was lying on his couch when he opened the following card from his sister-in-law. The front had some innocuous Get Well Soon message and inside she had written:

Dear Stan,

It's funny, but we were just thinking about you as it has been almost a year to the day of Peg's passing. And now we hear you are sick.

Love, C & E

That's all. The entire message. What do you think? Worst get well card ever?

And The Dog Ate My Homework

Frequently my afternoons fail to go as planned.

Sometimes Patrick neglects to nap when I expect him to do so.

Sometimes a cat gets stuck in the layer of gunk that covers the floors of my house and requires an extraction followed by a visit to the decontamination chamber.

Sometimes the five inches of snow that fell yesterday slurps forward under the heat of the pale Midwestern sun and blocks the satellite feed and, in turn, our internet connection.

Sometimes my husband points out that the drywall guy just left and the child is finally asleep and that I have never looked sexier than I do right now with my dirty ponytail and virus-reddened nose so, um, how about it?

Sometimes I have to physically produce the post-transfer sheet the RE gave us and highlight (in green) the part where is says to refrain from sexual activity until after a heartbeat is seen via ultrasound.

Sometimes I then suggest that, instead, we just watch the last episode of Alias Season II Part I that we have had out for over a week now (no more late fees? and you expect it back this year? we'll think about it.)

Sometimes I have to listen to my husband explain, in detail, how it is JUST NOT THE SAME. Of course, he is not digging Alias as much as I am, I think because he realizes that he would be a crappy spy whereas I would make a really really good one. I mean, if I was capable of not telling everyone everything all the time. Which I am not.

Sometimes I write all this and then my pinkie hits, what? Something. One of these keys over here and whoosh! Explorer disappears entirely taking what I have written with it.

So instead of my tales from the basement I only have time to tell you that today's beta was 914. Nicely doubled. I am pleased. They suggested an ultrasound a week from today. I think we should wait but I will most likely cave and just go.

More later. Thanks for checking on me.

Sunshine And Lollipops

Yowza! I am feeling so much better.

My friend had suggested that the doom and despair I was hauling around last week like an old tire was more the product of Sick Kid Syndrome than Recurrent Pregnancy Loss-itis. At the time I said uh-huh and flipped through the calendar trying to figure out when I would have a D&C but I now believe she might have been right. Two nights of Patrick sleeping well has left me feeling less convinced that we are in the twilight of the world and all things will succumb to death and sadness. In fact, for about two seconds yesterday I startled myself by thinking positively. I actually wondered, well, why not? Why shouldn’t this pregnancy work out? I mean, why not this one, this time?

It is a long way from calculating due dates but it is a step in the right direction I think.

Perhaps more importantly, I am waiting for the third beta result with a pleasant feeling of lightness that exists in sharp contradistinction to the teeth gnashing I did on Friday. On Friday I thought I was going to throw up until they called and even after the results were as good as they could be I still felt sick and desperate. Now I am eating cold leftover ribs and they are pretty damn good. Oh, and sorry, no recipe. I just bought the ribs from a rib place that is 1/100 as good as Sonny B’s in Chicago but 500 times better than what I can make.

I’ll come back this afternoon after I get the next hcg level. I also want to bitch about the Great Basement Project and today seems like a good a time as any since the air continues to be filled with the sound of hammering and my downstairs bathroom remains cluttered with contractors (yikes! sorry! I, um, didn't realize there was anyone in... I'll just go.)


And Then

This morning's beta was 285.

But...BUT... before we start whooping and hollering over the doubleliciousness of this result let us all give due consideration to how very low this number is compared to, oh, say, EVERY OTHER BETA the internet can find for fourteen days past a five day transfer (14dp5dt: an abbreviation that I am only adding so that I wind up googling myself again when I look this up- a phenomenom that is so. fucking. annoying. it gives me a sort of morbid pleasure.)

There. Now wasn't that sobering?

My nurse called with the number and declared it to be "good." Then I prodded a bit and said but isn't it a little, you know, LOW? And she said, "We-ee-ee-lll, we ARE going to have you repeat it on Monday."

So more blood draws pending. Also pending: unbridled enthusiasm.

But please, for the love of goth, if you want to be all hopeful and encouraging and share your similarly low betas that just started preschool... bring it on. I have nothing against optimism, I just cannot seem to find mine.

For now, to celebrate this short-of-momentous-occasion, we're having ribs.

And The Number Is...

The beta today was 138, which tells us... well, it tells us nothing, really. I guess it confirms that 1500 First Response pregnancy tests can't be wrong. And, at 12dp5dt, I don't think that number looks a whole lot like twins.

Beyond that, who knows.

I find myself strangely unsettled by this result. You would think that by now, by pregnancy number nine (nine! good grief!) I would know that there is no such thing as a declarative beta. Blood tests never say, "Congratulations and everything is going to be absolutely fine, I promise." And yet I still feel vaguely gloomy. Of course, poor Patrick has the influenza and I have not slept in two days, so that might be contributing to my general sense of underwhelmedness.

Steve and I had a bet on whether the RE would call himself or if we would just hear from his nurse. I argued that it must be the nicest part of the job, calling people and telling them they are pregnant. Steve said a cost-efficient chimp could do it and lo and behold, he was right!

Well, it wasn't a chimp, it was a robot, but close enough.

The call went like this:

"Hi. This is Q34T calling from Dr. Levy's office. Your beta hcg was 138. We would like you to repeat this same test on Friday. Do you have any questions?"

"Why yes," I said, "do you remember when you lost your passion for this job?"

But she had already hung up.

So, you know, 138.

Um, yay?

The Pasta Sauce Post

I remembered that I owed you guys my spaghetti sauce recipe but as I sat down to post it this afternoon I wondered, "Why?" Because frankly there is nothing too exciting about this recipe. It has the advantage of requiring few ingredients, little prep work and it freezes well, but it isn't the sort of thing you hand down through the generations. In fact, I said to myself, I'll bet they have something better.


Which is when it occured to me to do a pasta sauce post in which I will give you my Quick n' Easy Spaghetti Sauce recipe and you, if you like, can leave me one in the comments.

An exchange, my little oricchettes, in which every one wins.

I know it is a total pain in the ass to post recipes so if you do not feel like it I totally understand. Oh and before I forget, I was so touched by the recipes you posted during The Great Chicken Crisis while I was in DC (quote from that dinner: "This is the best meal we have had here in two weeks"; from my mother-in-law, no less.) I didn't have a chance to thank you at the time and ever since then it has been all about me me me but I was grateful. So thank you.

Julia's Spaghetti Sauce (lends itself quite well to lasagne, by the way)

1/4 c olive oil

1lb ground beef (85% fat - fat helps with freezing)

1 large onion, chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1 t dried basil

1 t dried oregano

2 28oz cans diced tomatoes

1 15oz can tomato sauce

1 6oz can tomato paste

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add ground beef and saute until there is just a little pink remaining. Add chopped onion and garlic. Saute until onion softens. Add oregano and basil and stir well.

Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste.

Let simmer on low heat for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. It will thicken as it cooks.


How easy is that? Very. Very easy.

Beta tomorrow morning, results tomorrow afternoon. Not sure what we will collectively do with those results but I thought you might want to know.

What About Everything

You've got questions; we've got answers.


Under the circumstances (the circumstances of the transfer being defined by the quantity of things cluttering up my what-have-me and the associated tension of watching $19,000 worth of embryos wooshing their way into the black abyss of my nethers) I think my restaurant recommendations for Unknown British Couple were pretty good. I suggested Makoto, Pesce, Bistrot Lepic and La Chaumiere. Within seconds of naming the last two, though, I questioned the wisdom of sending English people for French food in America. I mean, hell, they could just swim for it when they got back home. So I articulated this concern to my RE and thought frantically about what might constitute a more uniquely American dining experience.

"Hey!" I said "Do you think they might want to go for barbeque?"

My RE said, no, he really did not think so.

Their loss, said I, although it did keep me from having to suggest a restaurant that is actually a lean-to shack and involves a drive through La Plata. So there's that.


Have I taken a pregnancy test?

Have I taken a pregnancy test?

Have I taken a pregnancy test?

Have I taken a pregnancy test?

What do you think?

I once described my pregnancy test addiction as an inexpensive hobby, comparable to, oh, say, cross-stitchery. I have my favorite brand (First Response Early Detection.) I have my favorite collection method (jumbo disposable plastic party tumblers in green red yellow and blue.) I have my favorite time of the day to test (afternoon is always darker than morning for me- strange but true.) I have been working on a series of shade cards similar to the paint samples found in Home Depot. I am thinking of naming these after my dear imaginary friends (a little pregnant Pinkish; Leery Polyp Pale Surprise!) or my own pregnancies (Fuck it's Chemical #3 or Darker than Dark, Still No Luck #8.)

So, yes. Yes, I have been taking pregnancy tests.

When we got home on Sunday night, as I told you, I took one to make sure that the trigger shot hcg was gone. And it was, almost. The next morning I tested a nice clear negative and then, just to be sure, I tested negative again later that day. This was now 3 days past the 5 day transfer (3dp5dt) for those of you googling along at home.

4dp5dt rolled along and I tested in the morning (negative) and then again in the afternoon (negative) and then maybe once more for bad luck that night (negative- in fact, I think that one laughed at me.)

5dp5dt? See above. More or less.

"I know this did not work," I told everyone.

"It's too soon," said my mother, having done her own google sleuthing. "Don't you need to be 14 dippos?"

Dippos? What the fuck was she talking about? "Dippos, my honored mother? What the fuck are you talking about?"

"You know, dippos."

Ah! DPOs! Days past ovulation! I considered explaining to her the difference between getting pregnant in the back seat of your car and in-vitro but decided that she just isn't old enough yet.   

"It's too soon," said my brother the scientist. "Yes there is a probability that this experiment failed but...." I listened to him compare our attempt to have a child to his old work with lab rats for fifteen minutes while carefully crossing his birthday off all our calendars.

"It's too soon," said my best friend. "And you don't want two children less than ten years apart anyway."

"It's too soon," said dear Danae. "It's too soon, jackass," said wise Julie.

But I knew. I have been pregnant EIGHT TIMES. I know pregnant and I know not pregnant. I raced through the stages of grief and wondered what the hell we should do now. Steve suggested waiting for the beta (NEXT THURSDAY) before we thought about anything. Steve is always making asinine suggestions like that.

6dp5dt found me taking yet another pregnancy test, bright and early (FUCKING morning insomnia oh my god!) and glowering at the whitey-white blank space where the second line should be. Fuck you, I said to the test.

Or... huh. A smudge? A smudgey line?

Sorry, I said to the test. You know I love you. Let's never fight again.

I took another one a few hours later and there it was. A faint but still apodeictic little line. And then another and another and another until we come to last night's (8dp5dt) fantab-o-line which was courteous enough to show up extremely promptly and dark enough to be seen without the aid of wiggling and bright lights. An elderly person could see this line, I told Steve. And, for my fellow pregnancy test enthusiasts, you want to hear something weird? I went back to compare my faintly faint positive to all the negative tests arranged chronologically in the drawer and I discovered that only the two earliest were still negative. Every other test in there had developed a pale second line at some point in the ensuing days. Just for the record.

But anyway, guess what? I'm pregnant!

And I am so damn excited I do not know what to do with myself other than write long teasing blog entries.


Oh, and could you guys help me track down that random British couple who figured so prominently in this wondrous creation of Life? We would like to find out which restaurant they wound up choosing. You know, so we know what to name the baby. We are sentimental like that.