Thursday, October 30, 2008


Here we are again on the cusp of so much: Halloween, the end of daylight savings time, the presidential election, Big A's birthday, and the first real rainstorm of the California wet season. The pumpkins not yet cut into jack o' lanterns, and the new moon waxing, but hidden behind thickening clouds.

The world wobbles on one foot, ready to plunge in some direction at any moment. Are you feeling it, too?


I cannot think of a nice way to transition, and since I'm kind of time strapped this morning, I won't even try. I'll just say thanks to WhichBox for nominating me for a I Heart Your Blog award! (Mutual admiration society on that one, Which.) Below is the related meme, which says to answer questions with one word. Ha! I'll do my best ...

1. Where is your cell phone? Misplaced
2. Where is your significant other? Work
3. Your hair color? Faded
4. Your mother? Dead
5. Your father? Mellowing
6. Your favorite thing? Jewelry
7. Your dream last night? Forgotten
8. Your dream/goal? Serenity (the state, not the pad.)
9. The room you're in? Office
10. Your hobby? Knitting!
11. Your fear? Port-o-Potty during earthquake
12. Where do you want to be in six years? Mexico
13. Where were you last night? Couch
14. What you're not? Reassured
15. One of your wish list items? Cashmere
16. Where you grew up? Burbs
17. The last thing you did? Email
18. What are you wearing? Glasses
19. Your T.V.? Old (enough to drive)
20. Your pet? None
21. Your computer? PC
22. Your mood? Hopeful
23. Missing someone? Always
24. Your car? Mini
25. Something you're not wearing? Socks
26. Favorite store? Anthropologie
27. Your Summer? Restorative
28. Love someone? Many
29. Your favorite color? Aquamarine
30. When is the last time you laughed? Today
31. Last time you cried? Summer?

I nominate:

Sara at Streaks on the China
Beruriah at Further Records
Lori at Losses and Gains

Saturday, October 18, 2008

When the Personal Is All Too Political

Thanks to the world credit markets going boom, abortion hasn't been central to this presidential campaign. Yet when it does come up, the lets-talk-about-real-stuff style of the race evaporates, and we're back in the land of pure slogan. For instance, McCain air quotes the phrase "health of a mother," and everyone instantly knows his opinion on a whole range of issues -- all from four words and a hand gesture. When this sort of telegraphing happens, you can be sure that whoever McCain had in mind while uttering those words, it wasn't a real woman or real babies. Because just as you won't compress a 1-megabyte image to 10 kilobytes without losing the essential picture, you cannot discuss abortion in bumper-sticker phrases without major degradation of the story.

So I'm saying up front that when candidates talk about abortion, I listen on the small scale. I think of myself, of my medical termination for trisomy 18, and of all that I went through almost three years ago. Then I try to relate whatever they said to me.

I'm having a really frustrating time this fall. A lot of extra stomach bile and swearing. Too much teeth grinding, too.

Just once, I want to hear a candidate -- any candidate -- acknowledge that not every abortion is for an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy. Each year thousands of people terminate beloved, sought-after pregnancies for fatal or extremely serious problems. But since most people seem unable to imagine these sorts of problems until they touch their own life, the stories must be pointed out. They must be proven true, lest they be shrugged off as fictitious, or as an excuse for something else. (Hellooo, McCain, hellooo? I'm talking to YOU here, mister.)

I would also like anyone who utters the phrase "late term abortion" to immediately add, "of course, the vast majority of these are done for very serious medical problems I know nothing about, so I won't presume to try to moralize or legislate about that." Oh, and before anyone laughs at the idea of mental distress being a genuine reason for abortion, how about having them live through clinical depression for a day and then decide afterwards? (Hey, a woman can dream.)

And Palin -- I've got a huge list of disappointments and issues for Palin. But for starters, it would have been so nice to hear her say, "Regardless of my personal choice when it came to carrying my youngest son to term, I want women to know that I understand the anguish of receiving hard news after amniocentesis. A lot of women go through that, and it's just heart breaking."

Maybe that's slim common ground with Palin ... but it's something. And it would be the start of a genuine conversation that otherwise isn't happening today.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Searching for 'The Safe Side'

Little A had a regularly scheduled pulmonary appointment last week. I was almost looking forward to it. It's been over four months since we've had to break out the rescue inhaler to stop an asthma attack. Even two weeks ago, when we had that fast breathing episode with a cold, there was no wheezing present, and radiology declared it wasn't another pneumonia. Plus we made it through a whole vacation without going to the ER, which hasn't happened in over a year. To me, all that was progress. I arrived at the pulmonary clinic expecting to hear "Good job, guys! Those long-acting maintenance asthma meds are doing the trick. Keep dosing her, and see you back in six months."

Which is why I felt pretty smacked upside the head when the pulmonologist talked about how Little A's latest Xrays are oddly grainy in the same place they have been oddly grainy in previous illnesses. He launched into a discussion of right middle lobe syndrome . He also mentioned how he'd like to stick a scope down her lungs to see if there was any goop or other obstruction in there. Depending on what they found, they might culture the goop, biopsy a growth (gulp), or in the case of discovering something she accidentally inhaled into her lungs that got stuck there -- remove the problem.

Not quite the high-five fest I was expecting.

Hearing that a doctor thinks your child's lung is partially collapsed all the time does not make for a happy mommy. And a syndrome is extra difficult to contemplate. I'm not a medical professional, but it seems that the word "syndrome" is medical shorthand for "this grab bag of weirdness impacts the same body part, so let's call call it a single disease, even though it actually has fifty causes and can range from being a little bit annoying to requiring a surgeon to cut out part of your lung."

This would be nerve wracking enough if I had a good relationship with Little A's pulmonologist. But while he is gentle and good natured with children, his communication with me sucks. Each appointment the doctor (let's call him Newbie) spends one minute examining Little A, then buries his face in his laptop while firing off questions and typing answers while I hold Little A. I often wonder why we have to be there for the appointments after the nurse takes vitals. We might as well be at home on conference call, given the amount of times he makes eye contact with either of us.

Because Dr. Newbie is in his fellowship (aka still training for his subspecialty) he needs to check in with the attending pulmonologist at the end of our appointments. And many times, what the other pulmonologist says to me doesn't sound the same as what Dr. Newbie says. It's terribly confusing to get conflicting explanations in the same appointment. Especially now that we're dealing with tracking down a less-than-straightforward diagnosis.

I balked at Dr. Newbie's idea of immediately putting a scope down Little A's lungs to have a look around. When the attending physician arrived, I explained that I was concerned because I kept hearing the same phrase from everyone involved: To be on 'the safe side."

  • I had taken Little A to the pediatrician before vacation for an iffy cold that in retrospect, would certainly have cleared up without any intervention. I did it "just in case."

  • Her pediatrician sent Little A to be Xrayed this last time despite the fact she didn't hear clear crackles or wheezing in her lungs. "Because of her history, let's be cautious," she said.

  • And now the pulmonology dept. is saying this latest Xray is evidence that, just to be on the safe side, we should do more testing.
It's not that I don't want to discover a potentially serious problem in addition to the asthma. But I am haunted at the prospect of such aggressive testing when we are not 100 percent sure it is needed. Usually a parent wants to hear that tests have come back clear for their child. But if we jump in with both feet on this and Little A is poked with needles and surgical instruments, I can't help but feel like I won't be quite as elated as I should be if this syndrome is ruled out. Instead, I'll be sad at the thought of what we've done to my little girl needlessly.

Off to email the pulmonologist some pointed questions. More on this soon ...

Friday, October 3, 2008

I Heart Disneyland (Holy Crap)

We have officially broken the vacation jinx, getting through an entire week in Southern California without needing to call 911, visit an ER, or have Little A admitted to the hospital to be tethered to an oxygen line. This differs markedly from the previous two vacations that were cut short by medical emergencies. It's just so freaking normal, I almost don't know how to process it. Oh wait, I remember -- YAY! We had such a great time!

So, Disneyland. I'd never been there before. I believe there are two types of Americans: those that naturally embrace all things Mickey, and those that squint and back away from the cartoon empire as if it emits toxic fumes. Prekids, I was a big Disney hater. The parks, movies, DVDs, and merchandise tie-ins are so massively hyped that it seemed like a huge, embarrasingly obvious racket to me. I just didn't get how anyone would want to go there. It didn't help that since DH is in the entertainment industry, we know people who have worked for The Mouse and oh, the stories of hardcore corporate craziness I have heard. So going to Disneyland in my twenties or early thirties made me grunt and roll my eyes. It was not going to happen.

Of course, motherhood changes you. Alters your body, makes you accept things you never thought you'd accept, makes you utter ludicrous statements on a regular basis. Just the other day I found myself saying "We do NOT wash each other's butts!" Shortly before that, "You cannot marry daddy. He already has a wife." But even though strange announcements are fairly routine around Chez Wabi, this latest one still feels odd when it comes out of my mouth:

I am a convert. I love Disneyland. I want to go back.

Now, I expected Big A would want to move there. She's almost five, deep into that frilly princess stage. (Ah, the princess stage. This is another one of those things I was initially horrified by, but now just find routine.) And Little A is a generally affable little imp, so even though she is too young to know the various characters and stories involved in Disneyland attractions, I guessed she'd like it all.

But me? I figured I'd just grit my teeth and be there on the girls' behalf. The lines were going to bug me, I knew I'd be hot and annoyed by people in the crowds. I didn't expect that I'd find going to Disneyland so pleasant myself: That walking by the uber-romanticized buildings on Main Street would still feel cozy and fun; that the parades would be delightful to watch, and that the rides would be as fun for me as the girls. And the lines? With a little planning, they turned out not to be a big deal. In a nutshell, I discovered that despite the nonstop merchandising and inflated prices, despite the fakeness of every single thing there, I had an authentically great time anyway.

I read somewhere that Disneyland averages 30,000 visitors every day, and that as many as 50,000 are in the parks during the summer and on other holidays. But the interesting thing was that I didn't see a lot of the typical ugly scenes of family stress/hunger/tantrums/arguments that one usually witnesses with that many people hanging around together. I wonder why it is that everyone seemed to be on such good behavior (my family included)? Is it park engineering? People's expectations? Some sort of happy gas?

If anyone has any theories on this, I'd love to hear them.