Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Reproduction: it's not for the faint of heart

Fair warning: If you don't want to listen to my whining, just skip this one.

Ok, so seriously, some people make this baby thing look so easy. You know the ones I'm talking about. The ones who - oops - get pregnant with a honeymoon baby and then quit their jobs and become cloth diapering, organic homemade baby food making, scrapbooking Babywise aficianados...and then continue popping another baby out every 18 months or so - probably have twins at some point - and then decide to homeschool. They look adorable when they're pregnant; they can have a successful grocery shopping trip with one kid sitting in the cart, another slung on their back, and one still in the oven.

Yeah, those people. Why do I resent them so much? Because I'm so stinking jealous.

Now, let me explain before I go any further where I'm coming from. I just got a call from the doctor's office to let me know that I failed the 1-hour glucose test and I have to come back to Evansville on Monday for the 3-hour test...the one with four blood draws. Now, lots of people fail the first test; objectively, it's not a big deal. But it just felt like that proverbial straw that broke the pregnant camel's back. I can't catch a break!

When I was little, I wanted to have fourteen kids, I think because I kept coming up with baby names I wanted to use. Anyway, I love being conservative, and there's something about the Dugger lifestyle that makes me lightheaded. I was itching to get married before I was out of high school. When I finally caught Tim at 22, I already felt like an old maid.

I would have had a baby the first year if it were up to me, but the best-laid plans often get thwarted by lack of insurance and other such unromantic factors. By the time we were finally ready to start a family, I could feel my biological clock ticking like a car bomb. At this point, I was down to wanting five kids, but I calculated that I still had time to gestate them all before I hit 35.

Almost a year and a half later, I still wasn't pregnant. I was convinced that I was barren, and that the reason was because God knew there was nothing I wanted more than to be a mother. I must have wanted it too much, because it sure seemed like I was being punished. Somewhere in my religious upbringing I picked up the idea of a sadistic God who likes to take away the thing we love the most, just to teach us a lesson. I wouldn't have verbalized it or preached it to anyone else, but I couldn't shake the expectation that that was the way He would always deal with me.

Anyway, one day the test was positive. I dragged Tim to CVS at 6:00 in the morning to buy one of those digital tests that you can't misread. Another positive. The next day, I made Tim drive through rush hour traffic to Babies R Us so I could properly revel in my happiness. It seemed too good to be true.

Two weeks later, I'm in the campus clinic being told, "It sounds like your body is trying to miscarry." I knew it was too good to be true.

At eight weeks we had an ultrasound. The doctor said it was a beautiful heartbeat. So we went home filled with joy again and started spreading the news.

Two more weeks, and we're back at the doctor's office because I'm bleeding again. Of course, too good to be true; I should have known. Another ultrasound, and there's our baby wiggling around without a care in the world.

Then things started going well for a while. The baby starting kicking, I started showing. At 20 weeks, we found out we're having a girl. We stopped at Wal-Mart and bought a baby doll and a "Little Princess" picture frame for my dad's office.

Less than 24 hours later, I'm in the hospital with a fetal monitor strapped to my barely-rounded belly, my heart racing from a shot of terbutaline.

I never should have got my hopes up. It really was too good to be true.

My doctor comes into the hospital room, assesses my condition, and then says, "Also, we were going to call you on Monday. There were a couple of areas of concern on the baby's ultrasound from yesterday."

For the next several days, I'm too worried about keeping my bun in the oven to think too hard about said bun's long-term prognosis.

Two weeks later, we're sitting with a genetic counselor, listening to facts and figures. "The nuchal fold looks a little generous, and the left kidney is dilated. Both of these can be indicators of Down syndrome." Yes, we understand. No, we don't need an amnio. No, we wouldn't be terminating if we got a positive diagnosis.

I never thought pregnancy would be a time of such fear. I thought it would be easy. My body is supposed to know what to do, right? Women have been doing this since the beginning of time, and the vast majority of the time it comes off without a hitch.

So why do I seem to be so incompetent at child-bearing? And why can't I have a few weeks' peace to enjoy something I've been looking forward to all my life, without feeling like disaster is looming around every corner?

The relevant insight came to me one of those first mornings when I was on my knees in tears, praying over and over, "Please don't take my baby...please let me raise this child." I started asking myself when I would relax. When I make it past the first trimester; then I'll feel safe.

What if she's born too early to survive? What if she's full-term, but something goes wrong during delivery?

Ok, once she's born, then I'll stop worrying.

What about SIDS?

Fine, when she's a year old.

She could choke on a hot dog. She could fall in a swimming pool. She could get leukemia. She could get in a crash with a drunk driver.

Well...then I guess...I can do one of two things.

I can worry every day that I'll lose her, or I can enjoy every day that I have her with me. I can fret about whether she'll be "healthy", whether she'll be able to fulfill all the dreams I have for her and experience all the life moments that I'm already anticipating...

Or I can trust. I can believe that God is not in the business of finding people who have too much hope and pulling the rug out from under them. I can lay my baby in His hands every day, knowing He will do "immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine." I can start believing that this is not too good to be true.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Tim and I have a great passion for a well-made portmanteau. For those of you who are not linguistic nerds, a portmanteau is a word that is made by combining two other words. Some common examples are chocoholic (chocolate + alcoholic) and ginormous (gigantic + enormous).

The quest for golden portmanteaux has become so ingrained into our lives that we habitually create them as part of our everyday conversation. We're always trying them on for size, looking for one that has that special ring. Here is a typical conversation from our newlywed days:

Tim: Would the most powerful of all the potatoes be called the potentato?
Erin: Oh, that's a good portmanteau!
Tim: ...Portmantato!

Here are a few of my favorites that we've collected over the years:

Manpoo (man + shampoo) - shampoo for men

Tabernannequin (tabernacle + mannequin) - a mannequin found in a phone booth (building on the fact that the Feast of Booths is also sometimes translated as the Feast of Tabernacles)...and yes, there is such a thing as a tabernannequin; there was one permanently stationed in someone's front yard in Knoxville

Gripples (grip + nipples) - those little rubber dots on the bottom of things like laptop computers, which keep the equipment from sliding around

Fauxtatoes (faux + potatoes) - a diet food that looks like mashed potatoes but is actually made of pureed cauliflower

I encourage you to make the creation of portmanteaux a part of your daily routine. I think you will find it most fulfilling.

I would love to hear any original portmanteaux that you have heard or created, or that you can make up on the spot!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Bed Rest Blues

Bed rest seems like a good time to start a blog. Because, what else can I do?

First topic: bed rest. Because, what else is there to talk about?

I know what you're thinking. "I would love to be on bed rest. Sounds like a vacation!" Or perhaps, "Enjoy it while you can, because once the baby gets here, you won't get any more rest - ever!"

During my first trimester when I was queasy and exhausted, completely burned out on linguistics, and preparing for the move to Illinois, I did fantasize about being placed on bed rest, imagining it as some kind of serene extended spa visit with attendants to fan me with peacock plumes and feed me seedless grapes and bon-bons.

On the other hand, many of my fellow bed rest prisoners make their sentence out to be worse than death. The languishing, the muscle atrophy, the insidious bowel irregularities! Oh, to be free from our chains and allowed to do pilates and bake cookies like in the days of our pre-gestation! Once we walked like carefree vagabonds through retail stores and ate like emperors at greasy spoon restaurants on every street corner! Yada, yada, yada.

The honest truth is, as in most cases, between these two extremes, and my subjective opinion of my predicament varies from hour to hour. Here's a run-down of the pros and cons:


1. The no-pressure (or at least low-pressure) aspect is truly nice. I was so worn out by the end of grad school that the first few weeks of bed rest were a welcome reprieve.

2. I really do have people waiting on me hand and foot, and I fully recognize that this may never happen again. Tim and my Mom take turns being at my beck and call, bringing me apple slices, rubbing my sore back, and setting up our incomprehensible entertainment system to play Little House on the Prairie episodes.

3. People write, call, and sometimes even visit me to give me encouragement. I didn't know how many prayer warriors I had until this little setback, but they're everywhere. I might not have known how many people cared about us and our baby otherwise.

4. I get to spend lots of time appreciating the experience of being pregnant. It's easier to feel baby's every move when I'm completely still. I can write in the baby's journal whenever I have the notion. And I have all the time I could wish for to explore baby names and read up on things like childbirth and infant care.


1. Sometimes I really am bored to tears. It's not that I don't have anything to do; it's just that sometimes I really want to do something different! Like sew baby clothes or make macaroni and cheese or go to Wal-Mart and buy shampoo.

2. I'm missing out on a lot. Tim is taking our big trip without me, and getting to see so many of our friends one last time before we leave the country for three years. It tears me up that I am missing that opportunity. Next week is Homecoming at JBC - our five-year class reunion, no less - and I wanted so badly to see everyone.

3. They're not kidding about the insidious bowel irregularities, not to mention heartburn and indigestion. Combine the already sluggish peristalsis of pregnancy with the effects of being horizontal 24/7; add to that the need to cram as many calories as possible (because, like many bed-resters, I'm not gaining enough weight) into an ever-shrinking stomach space, and you have a recipe for digestive disaster.

4. It's not always as relaxing as it sounds. There's nothing calming about timing contractions when you are only halfway through your pregnancy. When they get worse, there's the agonizing back-and-forth about whether it's bad enough to go back to the hospital. All I want is to keep my baby safe, and my worst fear is that I'll fail to do that and she will have to suffer as a result.

So that's how it is. It's not the way I would have chosen to spend the next three months, but with every change in plans, there are unexpected blessings. Besides those listed above, I get to spend this time with my parents, which is really special. And I think that every challenge we've faced in starting a family has helped us to realize how blessed we are to have this baby; despite numerous problems that have plagued us almost since the day we found out we were expecting (and even before), she's still there, kicking and rolling and growing strong inside me. And when all is said and done, that's the only thing that really matters to me.