Friday, February 27, 2009

MPM or Milk Producing Machine

I'm starting to refer to myself as MPM, or 'milk producing machine'. It's an apt term for someone like myself, a woman who pumps at least four times a day and feeds her child when her breasts are not attached to shields and tubes. Yes, this is the term that best fits my 24hr job, that of a human dairy cow. 

When did breast feeding get so expensive? They lie when they tell you that it's cheaper than formula. The pump alone costs three hundred dollars and all the nursing pads, kleenex, and nipple lube thins out the wallet pretty fast. Our grocery bills have doubled. Alex has to cook all the time to satisfy my insatiable hunger, the little demon inside my belly that roars its ugly head anytime I release milk, is not content with the normal three-meals-a-couple-snacks regiment that the hospital proposed. My hand is constantly dipping into some bowl, holding a fork, picking up chopsticks, and rummaging through cupboards and the fridge. There are fingerprints on every single surface that contains or serves some function related to food. 

Alex has found remnants of my food foraging on little Adelle. Coming home from work one night, he picks her up and scratches at her onesie. "What are you doing?" I ask, one eye barely opened as I lift my head up from the bed. "What is this?" he asks. "There's a dark spot on her onesie and it smells." Crap. I know exactly what it is...."Oh, sorry," I mumble, "it's pasta sauce." I suddenly recall trying to eat spaghetti with one hand while holding Adelle's rotund torso with the other. I guess I must have flicked some of the sauce on her outfit during my binge session. I look at my shirt. There is a mirror image of the same stain on me, underneath my bulging chest. 

My bra has officially become a catch-all for my new full time job. It harbors everything from crumbs to chocolate chips (which melt into chocolate puddles) to blueberries to pasta shells. On occasion, I've even found a broken tortilla chip in there. The space between my boobs (Hereafter referred to as my spoob. 'Cleavage' has too many sexual connotations and my breasts are anything but sexual right now) is constantly getting caressed by pieces of food and food paraphernalia. (On occasion, I have used my spoon or chopsticks to fish something out). 

I am thinking of getting a stool to place in front of our fridge. I am constantly there, opening the door, moving things around, and sometimes even partaking in an impromptu meal, pairing a few carrots with some deli meat or hot dog. It sounds bizarre, but trust me, to a lactating mama, anything can seem appealing when hungry enough.  

Currently I'm eating almonds, salt and vinegar chips, seaweed strips, cereal, popcorn and soy ice cream (yes, it IS as gross as it sounds), all jumbled together, in a hodge podge mix, sitting in my gallon-sized bowl. 

Most women gain weight during pregnancy and slowly but surely lose it while they breast feed. Not me. I lost all my pregnancy weight within a week of giving birth (don't hate me just yet) but gained all of it back within the next several months of breast feeding. I didn't know it was possible, but considering all the food I consume, it makes sense. 

Curious to see if I was alone, I searched for forums about weight and breast feeding. I found one worth mentioning, a place where women moaned and groaned about how their waistlines were expanding with every month of lactating. Yes! Misery does love company and I exalted in the fact that I was not such a freak. There are others out there like me. 

Needless to say, I can't diet. I've never been successful at limiting foods I love. If it weren't for the yeast infection and Adelle's extreme reactions to certain foods, I'd be dining on twinkies, dark chocolate and twizzlers. Now all my angst against being in a dietary prison is taken out on the helpless carbs I can indulge in....Those poor spelt crackers don't stand a chance against this mama!

I asked Alex if he notices how hungry breast feeding makes me....His response, "Uh, yeah. Considering you hover (I love that he used that word) around the snack bowl before, during, and after you feed her." Hm, honest Abe tells me the truth. My dad is also fairly honest when he talked to me the other night about this issue. "You haven't changed at all. You've always had a snack bowl. It's just gotten bigger, that's all." Thanks Dad. You really know how to make a girl feel good about herself. 

I want to wring the necks of these lactating bitches online who say things like, "I lost all my weight with breast feeding." "It only took me a few months to get to my pre pregnancy weight." And my favorite, "My husband thinks I'm sexier than ever." I almost gagged reading the last one. 

So, here it is; my verdict on breast feeding. Breast feeding is good for the baby. It is a bonding experience for sure. However, it is not cheap. It is not the cure all for getting post pregnancy figure back. At times, it makes you feel like you belong in a factory, bottling the milk that comes out of your engorged tattas. Though I must admit, if faced with the choice again, I'd still do it. Masochistic? Yes, but I'm also lazy. It's my only ammunition against getting a good night's sleep. There's nothing better than being able to stick the boob in her mouth when she wakes in the middle of the night, watching her suck hungrily and getting satisfaction out of my body, nestling her little self against my soft flesh and falling asleep.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Staph Infection Part Deux

As I've mentioned before, there is no hell on earth like a doctor's waiting room. I imagine that the waiting room in hell can't be much worse than what I experienced today. 

I should've had an inkling something would go wrong when I received a phone call this morning that my appointment was changed to 9:30 this morning. Mind you, I checked my voicemail at 10:30, after a sleepless night. 

"Uh, I'm calling to confirm your appointment for 9:30. I went ahead and changed it so that you could get it over and done with. See you in a bit." She left the message at 8:42am. Is it possible to say that you confirm an appointment if the other person doesn't respond?? At the time she called and "confirmed" my new appointment, I was in la-la land with Adelle's head resting on my arm, drool collecting between the folds of her cheek and my elbow pit (the fold on the opposite side of the elbow. Sounds gross, I know, but how else would you describe it?) I was lost between a dream where I was maniacally chasing after triplets, trying to get them all to sleep and a dream when I was trim and fit, laying on a beach in Cabo. Oh yes, stuck between a nightmare and a fantasy of some sort. 

At 10:30,  I had just crawled out of bed, a boob exposed from nursing in the night, my hair disheveled from Adelle's angry-tired fists, and my feet in the opposite slippers (No wonder they felt so weird). I was a classic case of tired mom. I somehow retrieved my phone from the seat cushion after I heard ringing. At first, I thought the sound was imagined, until it started getting louder. Afraid it would wake the baby, I started rummaging through my purse, jacket, and finally followed the noise to the couch. My phone was lying there next to an old cheetoe and popcorn kernels and my old insurance card (Damn! I had been looking for that for ages!) The receptionist didn't seem bothered by my bewildered state. "You want me to come in now?" "Uh yes, I'll tell the doctor you had issues with the baby." For once, it had nothing to do with the baby. I can't blame the receptionist's ineptitude on a five-month-old child. I wanted to say, "Thanks for scapegoating my little Adelle. She can't be at fault for your ridiculous incompetence." I thought the better of it and held my tongue, something I am going to do all afternoon. 

She tells me to come 'right away'. Without telling her that I look like a victim in a horror movie, I tell her that it's impossible. "I need to pump (and eat my face off) before I come down."  "Alright. I'll tell the doctor." Who knows what she'll make up to the doctor, but frankly my grumbling stomach prevents me from pursuing this train of thought. 

I hadn't eaten the night before which was a big mistake. My stomach was grumbling to the point where Adelle might awaken from the tremors my body was producing. While I pump, Alex makes me a huge fattie omelette, the kind that smells and looks good, its edges hanging over the already-huge plate. I eat that in two minutes. Still hungry but too embarrassed to eat any more, I grab some chocolate covered pretzels and head out the door. 

Walking there is a breeze. I've switched doctors since I absolutely detest the other one. (Boy, do I have a story to tell you about him!) My former doctor, let's call him Dr. Quack, tells me that I need surgery for my nearsightedness. He mentions a procedure that is the new LASIK called LASEK and assures me that I am the appropriate candidate. I go home and google (of course) and I realize that I am the absolute wrong person to get this done. When I raised my suspicions to the new doctor (Dr. Frigid), he tells me that I'm right. The surgeon would have to cut away most of my corneal layer for me to see correctly. So much would be cut away that I would be left with a wobbling eyeball, so unstable it may collapse. Great. Just what I need....collapsed eyeballs while trying to breastfeed. Dr. Frigid also tells me that the old medicine (given by Dr. Quack) is antiquated and that there was no need for me to go blind. I should've used simple bethla-blahblahblah drops. I'm grateful to this new doctor, but he is the coldest physician I have ever met, one of those guys that should be typing in data into a machine rather than dealing with people. Doctors should be forced to take a social aptitude test. 

I walk in the door and take off my heavy jacket. I hang it on the IKEA like coat rack and the entire structure falls apart. Everyone in the waiting room looks at me, but no one helps me reassemble this shitty coat rack. The receptionist smiles at me and motions for me to sign in. She keeps looking over my head and I realize that she's smiling at Joy Behar on the View who's cracking a joke on the flat screen TV behind me. (Is this where my money is going?) She asks how the baby's doing. "Great" I answer and sit down. I know the wait will be as long as last time so I brought my Baby 411 book. She notices it from across the room and asks me about it. I don't feel like giving her a synopsis so I say "Great" again. Everything in this damn overheated office is just great. The waiting room is filled with people who can't see. Everyone has those plastic glasses, the kind that remind me of 3D movies, except they're all watching women gab instead of flying dolphins. I'm the only person under 70 in this room. If I'm here now, imagine what my eyesight will be like when I'm 70?!

After two hours of waiting, reading, peeing, texting, web surfing, email checking, and daydreaming, I get called into the back room. The physician's assistant is a round, exuberant woman who has the thickest pair of glasses imaginable. She has black ringlets that seem just as excited as she is. "Sit down!" She practically yells. I'm blind, not deaf. She goes over my chart and tells me that I'm not a candidate for the LASEK surgery. I'm wondering if everyone is hearing my diagnosis since I have the urge to cover my ears, something I do when I walk under the loud ass 7 train. She tells me to go back outside and wait to be called again. What a tease!

I finally get called. Dr. Frigid announces, "Park, Jo. Come on in." I gather my jacket, purse and book and squeeze my way past all the other waiting room prisoners. I want to say 'Suckas!' but resist the urge since I may be coming out here once again. 

I look for a place to put all my crap and just settle on putting in on the ground. I'm a bit of a germaphobe so I quelch the thoughts of eye juice and other bodily fluids that may be on the floor. 

He looks over my chart and asks about my progress. I tell him that my eyes still feel dry. A 'Hmm' comes out of his mouth as he swivels around on his stool and comes so close to my face, I thought me might kiss me. He looks deeply into my eyes and does the most unromantic thing ever, he flips my eyelids. Gross! I want to freak out, but I don't want to be a baby, especially since I just had one. 

"Grab on" he says. "To what?" I want to ask. I hold his arms. "No, the sides of the machine." Embarrassment doesn't even begin to describe what I felt. This machine looks like R2D2 except fancier. I peer into the light (I'm beginning to think this is a rather spiritual experience) and follow his finger as he moves them from side to side. Am I getting hypnotized too? He probes and pokes, swabs and wiggles, and then he asks if he could take a break. What? In the middle of an exam. "Okay," I respond like an idiot. What else am I going to say? 

He gets on the phone and precedes to talk to another opthamalogist. "Yes, she's a fine specimen. A hole in the left eye. Six o'clock....You think I should prescribe that?....No, I don't think she'll go blind, just yet." Holy crap! Was this guy diagnosing me right now? I hold my tongue. "Okay, I'll get the lab results to you this afternoon. How was the '90?" What? "Did you and your wife drink it last night?...No, that's okay. I prefer the Muscadets from Loire." Crap, this guy is shooting the shit about wine while I lay semi-prostrate in my Inspector Gadget chair. "Yeah, okay. I'll get Marisol's results to you today." Oh, so he wasn't talking about my blind ass. As long as it's someone else....No! I'm kidding, well, half kidding.

He takes out a big plastic chart of the eye. It's pretty cool, but I am beginning to wonder if this is my fifth grade science class all over again. DIAGNOSIS: He points to the eyelid and tells me that my glands are plugged.  TREATMENT: He tells me to put a warm washcloth on my eyes for five minutes and then wipe my inner eyelids with a Q-tip. When will this be over?

As if reading my mind, he asks how long I will be lactating. Of course, he couldn't just say breast feeding, right? Had to say I was lactating. 'For a while' I respond and he give me a look that said, "Didnt I just tell you stupid bitch that your eyes are clogged and you almost went blind yet you still want to breast feed? What's wrong with you?" I mutter my defense, "Good for baby."

Head hanging low, I walk out to the waiting room area and book my next appointment. The receptionist lifts up her poorly colored hair (People with black hair should never bleach their hair! It looks orange) and tells me to come back in April. Yeah, like I'm going to remember that.  She says she'll confirm the appointment the day before which doesn't really reassure me. 
She starts talking to me about babies and I use this opportunity to tell her I need to get home and breast feed my hungry Adelle. "But I thought you pumped?" she asks. "I do, but she doesn't take the bottle well." "Ohhhh, you gotta make her take it. I breast fed my kids till five and they took bottle. Otherwise they get too attached to mommy." This woman is talking to me about attachment issues and she's the one who breast fed her child till he was in kindergarten. What?!

"Great," I say for the millionth time even though it makes no sense. I grab my coat, zip up, and walk out the door. I trip on the half step that lays just beyond the door and land on my hip. My ankle hurts and I wobble home. Why, I ask you, would they have a half step (not large enough for human feet) outside the door? At an eye doctor's nonetheless? How does that make any sense? To all my lawyer friends out there during these harsh economic times, LAWSUIT! 

I come home and Adelle is screaming, probably because I look like Quasimoto, limping hunched over, and moaning. She's so hungry she's hysterical. I strip down faster than you can say 'naked' and latch her on to my too full breasts. She sucks and milk spews out like a pressure washer, the white substance making perforated lines across her face. She snorts milk and screams even louder. We panic and run around, trying to appease her. It reminds me of when the smoke detector goes off and you feel like you're going crazy from the beeping noise. You open the windows, fan like a crazy person until it stops its irritating pitch. 

She finally calms down and nurses. My heart aches. After this miserable day, seeing my Adelle's face wet with tears and snot melts me. All hell can break lose, but I still have a little piece of heaven right here. 


Friday, February 20, 2009

Unconditional Mothering

"Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world a mother's love is not."

Joyce is known for his epic novel, Ulysses, and his incredibly difficult and enigmatic work Finnegan's Wake, but I remember him more for his audacity in life. He boldly said things that appalled people, but I like him all the more for it. He's known for his strained relationship with his mother, his impossible love for his wife Nora, and his love/hate relationship with Ireland. Despite the difficulties he faced with his mum, he still understood how deep a mother's love runs.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Sleeping Dragon

Adelle is asleep. She has been a little pill today. I wonder how many parents feel like their lives revolve around their babies' sleep schedules. It's not uncommon for me to tiptoe around the house at 2pm, taking phantom steps around the crib, careful not to make a sound. 

I've read a dozen books about parenting. I subscribe to parenting magazines and surf the web for miracle sleeping tactics, but they all stupefy me. I swaddle, wrap, rock, shhh, and it all goes to hell once she kicks back her head, arches her back and lets out the most ear piercing scream possible. From there on, it's an uphill battle to slumber. I'm usually panting, motion sick, and dehydrated by the end of it all. She, however, looks angelic, absolutely beautiful with no evidence that she has ever let out a yelp. Then, I question if I imagined it, until I notice the spit up stains and strands of my hair tightly gripped in her hands. 

Maybe she just lives up to label on her bib, 'high maintenance'. Although, knowing her, she'd probably just say that she is particular. 

I want to write a book about babies like mine. The title would read...."She's just not that into IT", a cheesy, lame reference to the movie/book about men who lead women on. In the manner, I have come to terms with the fact that Adelle is a prize fighter in a bitter battle against sleep. 

I love how my Korean relatives rationalize this tough period of crying, sleeping, burping, farting, pooping (sometimes outside of a diaper...Why do babies tend to pee/poop when we're changing them?), and temper-tantrum-throwing. 'Oh, she cries a lot. That means she be a good toddler. You see. If she cry now, she won't cry later.' WHAT? What kind of logic is that. Another one of my favorites, 'Oh, she Park family baby. They all cry. Just the way it is.' So, you're telling me that all babies with the last name Park (about a million) cry more? How does that make sense? My dad has the best one so far. 'She's gonna be a good singer. See, your sister is a good singer because she cried a lot. Good practice.' 'Uh, Sally doesn't sing that well, Dad.' He explains, 'Yeah, but she likes to sing a lot. She's always singing.' 

They say it to give me hope. They know that this time will pass. I know it too, but it's hard when I'm worn down, day in and day out. 

The woman at the Korean market confirmed this as I was paying for some cold noodles. 'You sick?' I nod even though I got over my cold weeks ago. 'You don't look so good. Too yellow. Drink some water. It makes the yellow go away.' Can you believe this? I didn't ask for a pound of kick ass when I paid for my food. Of course, she only gets away with this because she's asian. I felt like saying, 'I am asian. You don't think that has something to do with it?' (For the record, I asked Alex and he told me that I didn't look more yellow than normal. Ha! I'm laughing while writing that). I love her remedy, 'Drink water', as if the water is going to flush out the color in my face. I'm not a bucket of paint. You can't water me down. 

Apparently, it's not just this woman who thinks I look bad. My dear friend came over last night and asked if I was okay. I mean, I must really look bad with all these questions. He motioned to his eyes, said I looked drained. I did remind him that I almost went blind and have been sick for some time, not to mention the fact that I am a new parent. I should be excuse from looking good for at least a year.

By the way, celebrity moms should never be allowed to whine. It kills me. I love how Gwyneth Paltrow complained about how hard it is to be away from her kids during movie shoots. First of all, you have nannies to take care of your kids even when you're there. You make millions of dollars making movies while my sister who works at a public school makes shit when she deals with twenty hellions everyday. You have time, money, and help so that you can practice your yoga/pilates/other-crazy-Madonna-inspired-exercise while you eat your macrobiotic diet that probably costs more than my entire salary. Oh, and I love how they get their tummies tucked while they get a c-section because it's more efficient, killing two birds with one stone and whatnot. 

When I want to get an honest opinion, I can't ask Alex. Of course, he's going to lie. Who would risk the wrath of a postpartum chick when he just fib his way into safety? Only an idiot would do that. And, trust me, given his blunt nature, there are moments when he is an idiot and tells me the truth. I think he's learned his lesson. For all you men out there, lie lie lie!!! Be kind and tell her she looks amazing, like she did before the baby. It's the least you can do given the almost ten months of pregnancy, childbirth, and aftermath. 

To top it all off, I'm officially going bald. I finally go to get my hair cut and the hairdresser looks at my hair and tells me that there are chunks of it practically racing to fall off. I tell him I had a baby. He looks at me with sympathy before saying, "Oohhh, okay. Yeah, you're going to lose more. Normal. It's also why your hair looks so dull." Geez, thanks.

I should get to bed. Don't want to wake my sleeping dragon. As I write about the changes I've been through, the havoc my body has experienced and is experiencing, I will say that I am still amazed that I have Adelle. I rock with her in my arms, look at her pouty lips, and feel her hands clenching my robe. She needs me. I've got to enjoy this time when she wants me to comfort her, hold her, kiss her, and unconditionally love her. Before I know it, she'll be thirteen, hating me for being her mom, slamming her door in my face as she yells something mean. It happens. 

For now, I enjoy the moments of peace between the screaming sessions, cataloguing her angelic poses and facial expressions in her slumbering state, for a day when she'll no longer need me to fall asleep. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Baby Blues

Postpartum depression warrants discussion. Brooke Shields thought so when she felt dissed by Tom Cruise's comment about her baby blues. 

I don't know whether I could classify my vacillating mood swings as PPD, but I do know that I have crazy, erratic mood swings that make Kristie Alley's yoyo dieting look tame. Poor Alex. The guy has to deal with this on top of a screaming baby and loud neighbors. One day I'm gonna turn into the normal woman he met, the composed person who knows how to keep her cool even amidst hormonal rushes. Until then, watch out!

Apparently, it's something that even doctors can't ignore. When I asked my opthamalogist the reason for my staph infection, he tells me, "The hormones a woman produces during pregnancy and breast feeding affect many things, including the production of proteins on the surface of the eye." So, if breast feeding's hormones can throw my eye out of whack, it makes perfect sense that hormones can make my mood change instantaneously.

All I know is that it feels like PMS times a million. I'll be fine one minute, cooing with the baby, looking lovingly in her eyes, and then, bam!, I feel overwhelmed and irritated, not with Adelle but with something trivial, like the fact that I missed my morning walk. Poor Alex is the only one around, looking at with me befuddled eyes, as I enter my rage. My sister coined a term, 'fire in the eyes' for people who turn crazy mad. I think it's an appropriate nomenclature when talking about my emotional temper tantrums. 

I promise I was never like this before, which is probably why Alex looks even more confused. It's also probably why he's willing to stick it out. Depending on memories of me as a sane partner is the way he deals with it, but I tend to forget that, beneath this emotionally turbulent exterior, I once was a pretty kick ass chick, one who could control my moods far better than the I do now. 

On this Valentine's Day, I've learning that forgiving myself is just as important as loving Alex and Adelle.  The french have a saying that I adore; 

Comprendre, c'est pardonner.
To understand is to forgive.

So simple, but it speaks right to the heart. Forgiveness is only possible when one truly understands the circumstances. As I look at my little baby and realize that I have nurtured, birthed, and breast fed this baby (despite a yeast infection), that I walk with her, sing to her and soothe her until my limbs go numb, I can forgive myself. More importantly, I hope I am starting a habit that will influence my daughter. Women are the hardest on themselves and I want her to understand that everyone is capable of giving and receiving forgiveness, most of all, herself.

Monday, February 9, 2009


Technology can be great. It's what allows me to work from home, connecting with students miles away, all from the convenience of my home office. But it's also a way to conveniently distance yourself from uncomfortable situations too. Why is it that some people feel more comfortable going on instead of actually approaching someone at a bar? Does the comfort of technology afford us the experience of dealing with people whether we like them or not? 

Case and point: 

Alex and I experienced a little surprise eating lunch today. Trying to jungle Adelle with one hand and scoop up slippery vermicelli noodles with the other, Alex tries to quiet his buzzing cell phone. It makes that irritating sound whenever he gets a text. 

"Who texted you?" I demanded.

He shakes his head. "I don't recognize the number." He starts to laugh and reads the following text aloud. I almost lost it; I was laughing that hard.

"Yo if ur stupid ass want 2 fight mii we gonna fight cuz briana told me that u want 2 fight mii and dis is ragina 4 the record"

We couldn't resist. Somehow our fingers started responding..."If u come near me i'll tear ur weave down bitch".

'Ragina' didn't waste any time in her response: 

"Yo ur friend dropped her phone  we I was jumped her I put ur # in my shit so u and ur friend cece is gonna get washed up and I'm serious I no ur face and so imma fucc u up".

After trying to decipher the message, we realize that she obviously has issues with this girl, whose number she (mis)writes down in order to tell her that she's gonna 'wash up'. (I'm gonna have to remember that one. 'Alex', I say later that afternoon, 'I'm gonna wash you up if you're not careful.')

More than her desire to fight, I notice that Ragina couldn't  actually muster up the energy to tell this mystery girl her feelings. It took more effort to pick up her companion (Cece)'s phone and record a number to later vent her feelings. Very passive aggressive if you ask me. 

Kids learn young. They absorb everything so can we really blame them when they merely mimic what adults are doing everything, hiding behind the mirage of text messaging and comfortable distances? 

I used to date a guy who communicated almost all his thoughts and emotions through texts. I had to practically learn a different language just to understand what he was saying. 'Mt me law-b EO @ 11. C u ltr'. In English, it reads, 'Meet me in lobby of Employees Only (lounge) at 11. See you later.'

When he found out I was a writer, he gave me an apprehensive look. He admitted that he used to date a woman who wrote an article about how his text code. I could understand why. It's interesting that a successful, attractive, educated man needs to hide behind his blackberry (though I assume he has an iphone now) to tell a girl that he digs her. It was only after we stopped dating that I realized how much he liked me. The stream of text messages kept flowing as the dates were coming to an end. 'When can I c u again?', 'R u n town? Miss u', 'Did I do somethg wrg? Sry,' 'I want to c u. Miss ur face.' Despite the fact that I'm virtually married with a child, I still get them from time to time. 

I admit I do the same. Instead of dealing with crazed parents with tighter-than-ghetto-girls'-jeans schedules on the phone where they can ramble on and on, I tend to text succinct units of thought. I don't want to spend my day coordinating the minutia of their lives on top of trying to get their kids into the ivy leagues. Sorry, I'm not paid enough to do that. 

Technology is wonderful. I am sure that if Ben Franklin were alive, he'd be one kick ass texter, sending messages of his brilliant inventions to his investor friends. However, there is a time and place for real human interaction; confronting someone, telling a girl you like her, etc. that seems to get lost in the sea of SMS. 

The French government declared that text messaging is ruining the quality of french language. It is banned in schools for that reason. I'm beginning to wonder if they have caught onto something that I'm just beginning to realize; texting is no substitute for the richness of words, the rawness of human encounter, the subtlety in personal interactions. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Staph Marginal Keratitis

Most of you will probably never have to deal with staph marginal keratitis. However, most of you have probably waited in a doctor's office, crammed with sick patients, who are all vying for five minutes with the specialist on hand. It's not fun whether or not you have a hungry, breastmilk dependent baby at home, but it is especially harrowing when you're constantly watching the clock, checking your much-too-full breasts, discretely (or not so discretely) checking your nursing pads to see that they're not soaked, and praying to God you don't leak when you hear the crying baby in the next room. 

They told me that there was no one in the waiting room. "Come," they said. "There's no one here. You'll be seen right away." So...I strap on my boots, wear my hideous down coat, and put on mismatching gloves and hat to beat the clock. Instead of feeding my little turkey, I sneak out and bolt it to the opthamalogist.

It's fifteen degrees outside and I realize that I forgot to wear my pants. I'm in paper thin tights and my knees feel like they are actually freezing. I'm a sad sight. I suddenly feel like Malvolio in Twelfth Night, when he dresses himself in yellow stockings and prances around the castle. With my yellow-gray striped rainboots and big black blanket of a jacket, I look like an ugly bumble bee, one that's gone blind. 

I don't normally walk in a straight line (one leg is longer than the other). I tend to veer towards the right. Now, however, I am a big mess. I can barely see. The combination of the wind and my poor oozing, cherry-red tomato eyes, I can only make out my bright boots and the glare of ice on the road. 

I've never been able to ice skate or roller skate or do any gliding of any kind on slippery surfaces, but suddenly, I am sliding and gliding all over the icy pavements in my blind state. People actually pause to look at me on the street. A few kind souls stop to ask if I am okay. I try to smile but it ends up looking like a sneer since I can't feel my cheeks. 

I try to find the office building. I call the office three times because the street numbers don't make any sense. If you have ever lived in Queens, you know what I'm talking about. I enter an apartment building that matches the address I have in my hand, but I can't find the doctor's name on the list of residents. I look again, wondering if I'm missing it because I can barely read. Just as I am about to dial again, a blast of hot, moist air shoots through a vent and completely fogs up my glasses. Now, I am really blind. I can't see a thing. In a panic, I take off my glasses and get hit by the swinging door. Instead of receiving an apology from delivery man, I get a grunted "Are you blind?" thrown my way. I couldn't make up this stuff if I tried. 

I step outside and dial the number. They tell me it's next door. Two addresses that are exactly the same? Have you heard of such a thing? 

Needless to say, I'm annoyed. It doesn't get any better when I see a huge reception room filled with patients. "Uh, I thought there was no one here. That's why I came down." No recognition. Instead, "Uh, I didn't tell you that. You must've spoken to someone else." "I just called your office about five times in the last half hour. I recognize your voice. You told me that it was empty. I have a breastfeeding child at home. I can't wait for an hour." She looks annoyed. Rolling her eyes, she tells me to fill out some forms and has me sit in the corner seat. 

I am sweating. I realize that I haven't taken off my down jacket and now my breasts are really uncomfortable. I return the paperwork and spot the doctor. "Excuse me, I really need to get going. I'm breastfeeding (hoping that my girls looked like they were filled with milk) and I need to get home soon." Doctor, surprisingly, has sympathy. "Fifteen minutes. Can you wait that long?" He looks at my breasts as though they were going to spurt out milk any minute. "Yes," I respond with relief and sit down. 

Everyone looks at me with wonder. Most people were speaking another language and they were engaged in their own conversations until I spoke with the doctor. After that, they seemed to notice my presence, my disheveled hat head, the breast milk stains on my shirt, the ripping stockings, and the crazy funky glasses I only wear in the privacy of my own home. Maybe I'm just paranoid but I could've sworn I heard the word "loco"....

Thirty minutes later, I am still waiting. A woman finally comes out and asks me come with her. Yes! I follow her and do everything she asks. I put my head in one of those gadgets and get crap misted into my eyes. I do the eye chart test. OVBDA, and other nonsensical letters stream out of my mouth until the technician declares that I have terrible eyesight. No shit sherlock. That's why I'm here. 

I have to wait again! What a farce. I'm back in the reception room with everyone else. I wait and wait, checking the tiny clock on the microwave....(Why is there a microwave in the waiting room?Are people here that long?) Doctor finally calls my name. I follow him into a room where more liquids and utensils are prodding my eyes. He tells me that I have something serious. "You could've gone blind if you waited another day. Good thing you came to me." Uh yeah. I did almost wait another day. With a baby, it's hard to get anything done. "I'm the best one who could help you. This is my specialty. You would've been really in trouble without me." What is this guy doing? He's trying to sell me something that's already been sold. "Give it up doc! I came to you! What more do you want?" I want to shout. He keeps it up. "Wow, really, this could've been bad." I ask what I had. He won't let me finish my sentence. Instead, he shushes me! He won't even give me the name of the infection. I keep asking until he finally gives up and writes it on a piece of paper. I'm gonna google this shit for sure. 

I get home and immediately type it in. He's no specialist! It's a common infection that any opthamalogist can treat. This medicine man wants me to worship him for curing my eye when all I needed was an ointment for three days. Don't get me wrong. I'm thankful that he helped me, but did he seriously have to act like a magician-Christ figure when he diagnosed me? He practically wanted me to kiss his feet. 

He forgets to tell me one important thing....You go blind for two hours after you put the ointment in your eyeballs. The first time I applied it I thought I did something terribly wrong. "Alex!" I shout. "I can't see. Check the box! See what the side effects are." I stumble to the couch and try to keep the ointment from oozing out of my eyes. He reads, "Burning, stinging, blurred vision," except that this is more than blurred vision. I literally can't make out huge objects in my room. It's a palette of colors smeared across my cornea. I feel like Monet, except that I can't paint. 

Try nursing a baby with no sight. It hurts. She keeps latching onto the side of my breast, giving me a hickey on my tatas. Ouch. 

I look pathetic and I am pathetic. I run into everything in our cramped apartment normally. Now, I'm just one big disaster waiting to happen. Alex has to follow me around with a trashbag since I drop just about everything on the floor. I don't even realize it. He's taken this opportunity to feed me things I normally detest. Ground meat, bumpy foods (don't ask), and other things he sneaks into meals I can't see. 

I'm waiting, wishing, wanting this infection to go away. I'm counting down until I can stop taking the medication that blinds me. Until then, I am feeling my way around life, trying to smell, touch, and hear my surroundings, something I didn't think I would do until I was at least eighty-five. All the while, I can hear Adele laughing, her little chubby feet pounding my thighs as she dances, and I can smell her baby soft sweet scent as I hold her, the only little person who doesn't notice that her mama can't see. 

Today is the Fourth Annual Bloggers Silent Poetry Reading. In the spirit of this day and my literature background, here is a poem by my favorite poet, Rainer Maria Rilke

Moving Forward

The deep parts of my life pour onward,
as if the river shores were opening out.
It seems that things are more like me now, 
That I can see farther into paintings. 
I feel closer to what language can't reach.
With my senses, as with birds, I climb
into the windy heaven, out of the oak,
in the ponds broken off from the sky
my falling sinks, as if standing on fishes.

Post any poem that moves you...

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Going....on a jet plane...

If you ever have to fly with a baby, I suggest a better, more civilized form of torture. I'd rank swimming with a bunch of sharks or diving with a sinus infection to be a more enjoyable way of spending seven hours. 

In the case that you do have to embark on such a journey, I'd recommend the following things:
1. Bring earplugs--For you and everyone else on the plane. It's the least you can do if you have a colicky baby like ours, who persists to scream even after her voice is hoarse. 
2. Order 1,2,3 cocktails--It not only takes the edge off, but the baby have absorb some of the soothing liquor through evaporation. Just don't be surprised if she becomes an alcoholic later in life.
3. Put baby in a front carrier--The bastards at security made us take our sleeping baby out of the car seat when we went through the metal detector. Geez people, have you no decency? Can you not look into our faces and see that we are bedraggled, subsisting-on-two-hours-of-sleep-per-night parents? I think people plotting to take down a plane would have more composure than we did on that day.  
4. Bring a tape recorder of a vacuum cleaner--Sounds absurd, but it's a miracle. The people at the airline counter couldn't believe their ears. "Two bags. Okay, attach here. Frank, do you hear that noise?...It's a buzzing. Where is that coming from?" I finally realize that they're talking about us. "Oh sorry," I fumble. "It's us. It's the tape recorder in the car seat. It keeps her calm." "Oh," they look bemused, but let us pass. Everyone looks at us like we're lepers. What's new?
5. Baby Tylenol--It's good for earaches, but it also has a nice side effect. They get oh so sleepy....We made the mistake of not doing this on our flight to Portland, but we changed our minds after we talked to the pediatrician and she confirmed that this was okay. 
6. Lots of diapers and wipes--For some reason, she always poops more when we're out. Maybe it's the nervous hershey squirts. Alex has changed her on his lap when we are no where near a changing table. Thank goodness planes are equipped with a table above the toilet seat....uh, that can't be too sanitary...
7. Running shoes--If you have a baby like ours, you will be hopping, walking, trotting in the aisle, trying to calm her down. Your feet will start to swell and you will wish, with all your might, that you brought your Nikes instead of your Manolos. Fashion goes out the door!