You’re In Hell

I’ve been wanting to write this blog for a long time.

Last year, it was too raw. Too new. It was still difficult for me to find the words, even after a full year had passed.

Today marks two years to the day since the worst day of my life.

Two years ago today, I almost lost my son.

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It started a week prior with enough to make any new parent concerned: a high fever, vomiting, diarrhea. But on February 19, 2015, it became dire. My three-month-old was emaciated, dehydrated and in obvious distress. A decision was made, and an invasive emergency procedure was done to save his life.

He was then immediately transported to the ICU, where the nightmare continued.

The next few days and hours are a blur, but there are few moments that stand out, and always will.

The Video

We alternated nights in the hospital – only one parent could stay overnight at a time. On this particular night, my partner was there and I was home. I wrote about what it was like being at home here.

That night, he took a video of our son minutes before everything changed. I didn’t receive it until the next morning, something I have yet to decide was a blessing or a curse. It showed my baby writhing in pain, eyes sunken and darting around wildly, tubes protruding.

I’ve only ever been able to watch it once.

The PICC Line

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Due to a completely destroyed gut due to a severe milk protein allergy, my son couldn’t receive anything orally. A regular IV wasn’t enough, so he had to be given something called a PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) line – an extremely invasive intravenous line that enters the body midway up the arm and extends to the superior vena cava (a fun little vein above the diaphragm that has the important job of returning deoxygenated blood to the right atrium of the heart).

This was the only way he could receive the nutrients he needed to keep him alive while his body healed.

The Brain Ultrasound

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I’ve never spoken about this one because I’m still not quite sure it was real. A photo exists, so it must have been.

Later that day, a team of neurologists were brought in to perform an ultrasound on my little boy’s brain. The purpose of this, we were told casually, was to assess whether or not there was adequate blood flow to his brain after the crash that sent him to the ICU hours earlier.

In other words, they were checking to see if he’d had a stroke.

Not much more was said. Instead, watched as they huddled over a portable ultrasound machine, whispering quietly amongst themselves. I don’t think I blinked as I observed them move their tiny wand over his tiny head, for what truly seemed like hours. Maybe days. I don’t know.

They didn’t speak to us, or even acknowledge our presence. They were stoic and mechanical; pointing and writing, whispering and analyzing. They left as quickly as they appeared, and it wasn’t until several days later we were told everything was fine.

You’re in Hell

While everyone around us was sending their love and well-meaning but essentially empty platitudes, there was one person who was brave enough to tell me what this really was, and where we actually were.

“You’re in hell,” she said.

It was strange hearing that at the time, because I was so used to being placated by gentle words. I had grown so accustomed to hearing things like “we’re praying for you”, or “things will get better”, that when I was told that I was I hell, it shook me a little.

But through all the noise, her words spoke the loudest. She was a mom who had been through similar trauma, and she wasn’t afraid to cut through the bullshit. She allowed me to acknowledge that this was a place that no parent ever wanted to be, and it was okay to be angry. It was okay to be scared, and it was okay to admit that for the time being, the darkness wasn’t going anywhere.

But in that moment, I understood that one day, it eventually would. I will always be grateful to her for that.

Two years later

Two years later, you would never know that my truculent little fart machine overcame an almost inconceivable trauma. I often look at him and wonder what life would be like if he weren’t here anymore.

I don’t allow myself to push those thoughts away.

I force myself to think them, because I know what it’s like to teeter on the brink. I don’t speak about my gratitude, because I can’t find the words. I remember hell, because we made it through.

And you will too, if you’re there.

I promise.

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Gender Reveal Part 1: I mixed my own urine with baking soda so you don’t have to

Before we begin, I’d just like to state for the record that I am a firm believer in science.

I consider old wives tales – or alternative science – to be thoroughly asinine, which is why I decided to waste my time and energy testing a bunch of them to see if they can predict a baby’s gender. (My guess is a hard ‘no’, but stranger things have happened, like that time my cat decided to go vegetarian).

On Friday, science will confirm whether I’m having a girl fetus or a boy fetus, so in the meantime, let’s screw around with some silly charts, experiments, and good old fashioned folk tale folly to see what they say.

Old Wives Tale #1 – The Chinese Gender Predictor

The Chinese gender predictor calculation is based on the lunar month of conception and the mother’s age (both based on Chinese calendar) at the time of conception. For me, the lunar month – not to be confused with the actual calendar month – was 9,  and my lunar age – not to be confused with my actual age – at conception was 34.

For this one, I wanted to be sure I was doing it right, so I used two different calendars from two different sites. Both gave me the same result: girl.

Here are the results from YourChineseAstrology.com:

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And here are the results from TheChineseBabyCalendar.com:

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OLD WIVES TALE #2 – THE MAYAN GENDER PREDICTOR

I’m an equal opportunist, so I’m not letting the Chinese take all the credit.

What do those pesky Mayans have to say?

Well, for starters, they keep it simple.  According to TheGenderExperts.com (more on them later), here is their simple predictor:

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My age at conception was 33 (odd), and the month of conception was October (calendar month 10, even).

Here’s another way to view it:

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The Mayans say boy.

Tie game. Let’s keep going.

OLD WIVES TALE #3 – FETAL HEART RATE

Another popular, yet highly unscientific gender predictor uses heart rate of the fetus. According to this one, a girl will have a consistent heart rate of 140 beats per minute or higher, and a boy will have 140 or less.

At just under nine weeks, I was able to pick up my baby’s heartbeat on my home doppler. Check out that impressive little mini ticker, clocking in at nearly 145 beats per minute:

Most recently, at my midwife appointment on Thursday, my now 18-week-old womb warrior’s beats still came in at a solid 145 bpm.

Let’s call this one girl, but by the skin of her teeth.

OLD WIVES TALE #4 – The baking soda test

That’s right, I peed into a cup of baking soda for the purpose of this blog. I’m not even getting paid to do this – that’s how dedicated I am to my craft.

I PEE FOR FREE, PEOPLE!

The theory behind this one suggests that the gender of the baby changes some of the hormones in the mother’s body, which may then change some of the acid content of her urine. This experiment first instructs you to add a tablespoon or two of baking soda to a glass or cup. Author’s note: I used a disposable paper cup, because I’m not disgusting.

Once you have your baking soda, you’re supposed to pour some of your urine in there. If the combination fizzes, like a soft drink that has been shaken up, then you are having a boy. If there is no reaction at all, you’re having a girl.

There was no fizzing in my cup. A tiny bit of white foam formed, but it stayed flat otherwise.

We’ll say girl for this one too, given the extreme lack of fizz.

OLD WIVES TALE #5 – Nub Theory

Fun fact: did you know that boys and girls both start out with the same little doodad down there?

That’s right – all babies regardless of sex have something called a genital tubercle in the initial stages of development, which is sometimes referred to as a ‘nub’. Gender is determined at conception, however, sometime between 9 and 13 weeks, the sex organs begin to differentiate into male or female. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, “in a comparatively late stage of embryonic life, the genital tubercle of male embryos encloses the urethral canal and becomes the penis; in female embryos it remains small and becomes the clitoris.”

In other words, by 13 weeks, a little penis or a tiny clitoris has developed, but will likely not yet be visible on an ultrasound. Most women wait until around 18-20 weeks, where it is fairly unmistakable.

The ‘Nub Theory’ of determining gender states that it is possible between 12 and 14 weeks to accurately predict gender. This is done by analyzing the angle and shape of the nub. The scan must be in profile view, to allow viewing of the spine, and the nub’s relationship to it.

The below example shows how this is “calculated”:

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This brings me back to TheGenderExperts.com, mentioned earlier. They are a group of self-described “experts” that offer a variety of methods to determine the gender of your baby, even as early as 6 weeks.

Nonsense, right?

Well, for the low low cost of $7.99, I decided to put them to the test. Shortly after my 12 week ultrasound, I submitted my scan (below).

I got the following response less than 12 hours later:

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These self-identifying “experts” say girl, and they do so with a bold 83-92% accuracy claim.

SO, WHAT’S THE TALLY?

Out of my five chosen alternative science gender predictors, four predict girl.

Check back on Friday when I reveal who was right, and who was wrong in the exciting conclusion tentatively titled: GENDER REVEAL PART 2: BUT REALLY THOUGH, SCIENCE.

 

I stopped wearing makeup to work and so should you

Since entering the rat race ten years ago, I have held five full-time jobs.

Now before you try to calculate exactly just how much of a professional flight risk I am, peep this stat: up until this year, I’ve never gone a day without wearing makeup to every single one of those jobs.

Sick as a dog?

Full head of makeup.

Hungover to the point where I probably shouldn’t have even driven to work?

Full head of makeup.

Literally about to give birth right at my desk?

Full head of makeup.

I’m talking the whole gamut – liquid foundation, concealer, powder, blush, bronzer, eye shadow, mascara and lip gloss. At this point, I’ve probably put the founders’ offspring from Shopper’s Drug Mart, Sephora and MAC’s through college.

I get up at six o’clock in the morning just to give myself enough time to shower and put on my predominantly drugstore-brand façade that in theory, is supposed to present me as a human female, but in reality, probably makes me look a lot more like Mimi from the Drew Carey Show.

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Screw the extra sleep. Screw breakfast. Time to look club ready as I sit hunched over in a windowless office surrounded by cheap fluorescent lighting for the next eight hours!

When I became a mom, wearing makeup every day to work became harder and harder to justify, but I kept doing it anyway. Force of habit? Maybe. Lack of confidence? Likely. Self-absorption? Most definitely.

I recently started a new job (with a window office!), working for a small communications firm with an all-female roster of unbelievably talented powerhouses. Truthfully, for the longest time, I couldn’t fathom the president’s decision to bring me on board. I felt completely inadequate and legitimately questioned her sanity when it came to the hiring process.

But here’s the rub: when someone takes a chance on you, it’s probably not because they like the way you accent your cheekbones.

And as I got to know these women more and more, they made me realize something about myself that I’m ashamed to admit: I cared far too much about what people thought of my physical appearance, for far too long.

A decade too long, in fact.

See, my new colleagues didn’t care about my uneven skin tone, my blemishes, and oh-so-dark under-eye circles. They didn’t care if I moisturized, powdered my nose, or drew a line across my eyelids. They cared that I showed up, did a good job, and contributed to the company in a meaningful way.

So I stopped.

For the first time in a decade, I actually stopped putting makeup on every morning.

It’s glorious, guys. I’m as free as Alicia Keys, and I only wish I had the confidence – and the courage – to do this sooner.

Now, I get a few extra minutes of blissful slumber each morning. I don’t have to stare at my reflection longer than absolutely required. And the best part is I use the extra time in the morning to eat breakfast with my son before I wrestle him into his coat, pack his bag, and drop him off at daycare for nine consecutive hours.

Look, I’m not against wearing makeup at all – to work, or anywhere else. Not by a long shot. If we’re being honest, I haven’t given up wearing it to work completely: part of my job occasionally requires me to look like I’m not a homeless meth addict, so when duty calls, I’ll run a curling iron through my hair, put on a blazer, and gussy up my drawn, tired-as-all-hell mommy-mug.

And if I get the exceedingly rare opportunity to leave my house for a night out with my partner or my girlfriends, I refuse to subject them or the general public to my blotchy, ghoulish complexion. Besides, wearing makeup makes me feel good – it elevates my mood, and gives me a confidence boost that is so needed during these dark, exhausting pregnancy days.

I’m fortunate. I have the privilege of working somewhere that I’m not required, nor expected, to put on filtered mask every day. Many professional women don’t have this luxury, and I cannot overstate how grateful I am to be part of a team that nurtures this environment.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go let my toddler run his hands all over my face with absolutely no consequences.

Toddler hands don’t have germs, right?

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Watch Amy Schumer’s “Girl, You Don’t Need Makeup” here.