Food Update

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. In browsing older posts I realized there might be some confusion to new readers as to what exactly I eat. Thus I would like to clarify (don’t worry, I know the world doesn’t hinge on what I eat, but I don’t want to confuse anyone).

Years ago I was a strict vegan. I truly believed this was the healthiest way for a human to eat. I made this decision based on books like Eat to Live, The China Study, and the various vegan websites out there like vegsource (I have no idea if they’re still around). Eating a whole food vegan diet, claimed these books, led to perfect health and slim waistlines.

I have always been thin but I was trying to improve my health- after my 4th child was born I began experiencing recurring and debilitating fevers. Based on testimonials of vegan converts I switched to a completely vegan diet.

It took a while but my health did improve. I didn’t eat only health foods- I loved vegan cookies and desserts, but I did eat mostly health foods, and I completely eliminated sugar from my diet 4 years ago.

Then I got pregnant with my youngest child and despite being low weight, gaining virtually no weight, and eating a “healthy vegan diet” I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. I was 190 mg/dL on the glucose tolerance test. I obtained a glucose meter and began testing my postprandial (post meal) blood sugar. I was horrified to find all those “healthy” whole grains and beans were spiking my blood sugar astronomically.

Then I remembered… in the back of my head… a documentary I watched ages ago. I thought it was funny back then but, as a strict vegan, believed none of it. That documentary was Tom Naughton’s Fat Head, where he eats both a moderately low carb/ high fat diet, and later a nearly zero carb/ high fat diet, and not only does he lose weight but his blood work improves significantly.

Against medical advice I immediately began eating low carb. I was concerned about going too low, given I was pregnant [note: I would no longer have this concern today], so I hovered around 50 net carbs a day. A typical day for me eating was as follows: I would skip breakfast then eat a huge lunch. I ate a tremendous amount of lamb and chicken thighs, and of course did not remove any of the fat. I would have a small amount of dried fruit for dessert (dried fruit and some veggies were my only source of carbs). For dinner I would have the same.

My blood sugar immediately normalized below 100 mg/dL no matter how much I ate, and my son was born 6 pounds just shy of 36 weeks. He did not require any NICU.

Well, when they gave me the glucose tolerance test a few months after his birth my numbers were even worse. I was 300 mg/dL! I was now officially diabetic, although it remains unclear if I am type 2 or LADA- adult onset type 1- since I am so thin it may likely be LADA. My well meaning but clueless internist advised me to “eat brown rice and potatoes.” I kept my mouth shut but knew some of my worst postprandial numbers resulted from precisely those foods.

I have been a low carber ever since, even going down to zero carbs for long periods, eating nothing but meat and fat. That’s right, I am still alive despite eating no fiber and eschewing all plant foods. My blood work is perfect. A1C is normal. I’m thinner than ever- not necessarily a good thing, but for those of you who need to lose weight, if it works at my low weight it would certainly work for you. When I was diagnosed with diabetes I was 135 lbs (at 5’9″). After a few months eating very low carb I went down to 120- slightly underweight for my height- and have maintained and even dipped below without trying.

I truly believe eating low carb has saved my life, and quite possibly saved my son’s life. So would I recommend low carbing to any dieters out there? HELL YES! The emphasis on fruits, whole grains and veggies in nutritional circles is ridiculously overblown. I’m not saying they’re bad for non-diabetics, but they are indeed terribly dangerous for diabetics and are not the golden key to weight loss the FDA would have you believe.

I’ve been able to maintain a normal A1C without meds, insulin, or exercise (I like to walk but don’t consider it “exercise.”) My blood sugar rarely cracks 100 mg/dL. So I would plead- yes PLEAD- with any diabetics out there to consider a low carb/ zero carb diet. There are countless resources online and just as many books. Atkins is a great place to start. I eat only foods from the induction phase, plus nuts.

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First Comes Love

First Comes Love is a 2012 documentary from Nina Davenport detailing her desire to conceive a child sans husband, as she has failed to find Mr. Right by age 41. Having yearned her whole life for motherhood, she enlists the sperm of handsome gay friend Eric and we’re off to the races.

I watched this documentary twice. The first go-round it rubbed me the wrong way. Nina and her vast social network are cringeworthily solipsistic and emotionally stunted. I began to wonder how this small army of navel gazing intellectuals manage to pull their pants down in the morning to pee. And half of them, including Davenport, went to Harvard! I even stated aloud to my husband: “I can’t review this; it would be too cruel.”

Yet when I watched her film a second time I felt far more empathy for Ms. Davenport’s plight. Despite copious dating, no relationship grows to fruition. She even dates when she’s pregnant, to a charming film critic named John (note to Nina: if you ever read this review, get John back!). I had to wonder if these aging men and women, after so many years of ill-fated prospects, simply lack the ability to connect to one another long term. Nina even has to attend couples therapy with her best friend Amy to navigate their interactions.

Yet beneath Nina’s whiny exterior burns a bona fide desire to be a mother, and this is an urge none of us can criticize. After all, the maternal instinct is what transformed us from slimy fish to land dwelling mammals: concerned mother fish flopped in the mud for safer ground to lay eggs, and eventually that led to legs.

And oh does Davenport flop around. Between awkward conversations with the sperm donor, viscerally painful battles with her father- who perpetually hides behind a print New York Times and barks that she “Get an abortion!” after her pregnancy announcement- and her floundering sense of self, I began to feel maternal toward this poor creature and wondered if perhaps I could adopt her.

The filmmaking is choppy, neither here nor there, and the docu is fundamentally not about Davenport’s burgeoning motherhood, but rather her tumultuous relationship with her family of origin. In that respect I was disappointed to see details of pregnancy glossed over: she goes from taxi with sperm donor to suddenly third trimester pregnant, though the birth scene, which handsome Eric decides to avoid but later attends, is not to be missed.

All in all First Comes Love is a confused and confusing enterprise that nonetheless affirms the beauty of motherhood. And despite their flaws, Nina and Eric manage to produce the cutest baby in human history- but you’ll have to watch the film to see him!

Currently First Comes Love is available on Netflix streaming.

Breast is Best, or Not

When I first started getting pregnant 17+ long years ago, I took it as a given that I would breastfeed. Of course I would nurse my kids! Breast was best, the formula companies were evil cabals poisoning our planet, and breastmilk is free. I had friends who breezily nursed their children, in public even, lifting a shirt and popping the baby on her boob like it was the easiest and coolest thing in the world.

Then I gave birth, tried to nurse my son, and was met with the most blinding, horrific pain I’d ever experienced (that pain has since been trumped by my horrific homebirth). But I kept at it, and at it, until day 4 when I cracked. “I can’t do this,” I told my mother that night. “If this is what it’s supposed to feel like to breastfeed, the human race would have died out long ago.”

My mother, still working as a principal then, was horrified. “Oh you don’t want to bottlefeed,” she said in her stern teacher voice. “It’s such a pain to prepare bottles, so much effort!”

“Effort I can withstand,” I told her. “Torture I can’t.”

So we prepared a bottle for my son who guzzled that thing like there was no tomorrow. My milk had not yet come in; as a first time mom I didn’t know this was abnormal, and I realize now the poor thing was likely dehydrated and extraordinarily hungry in the name of “breast is best.”

I continued to give him bottles through the next day. This irked my husband who kept harrumphing: “But what about BRAIN DEVELOPMENT?” (Back then they still thought breastmilk increased child IQ, until they figured out smarter women choose to breastfeed, thus their kids are genetically inclined to be smart like mom.) But I kept with my line: If that was what breastfeeding is supposed to feel like, the human race would have died out long ago.

That night (this is day five by now) my milk finally came in. Something in my head clicked. “Let’s try this again,” I told myself. I took off my shirt and sat with my son in the quiet dark, gritting my teeth, and put him on my breast. He nursed, and it hurt like hell, but not quite the hell of the previous days. And this time, unlike every other time, I could hear him swallowing milk.

I quit the formula and continued to nurse him for more than a year. I then nursed my second child for 18 months. And so on. With my fourth daughter I developed recurring mastitis, but I kept nursing because breast is best and every time I tried to wean her I got mastitis from the build up of milk. One time, my fever got so high I hallucinated (which I wrote about in my Wake Up post). This went on for 14 long months while I was bedridden every few weeks with raging fevers. It was so debilitating I had to ration how many times I walked up or down the stairs of our small home. I was only 30 years old but fully expected all this misery and constant infirmity to eventually kill me. I remember lying in the bathtub one time, feverish and in agony with yet another bout of mastitis, asking god to finally take me.

But I kept nursing the babies as they came. I really didn’t know how else to feed a squalling newborn (formula feeding seemed so complicated: what kind of formula? how much? what kind of bottle?) and I still believed there had to be some health benefit to nursing, even though by that point all my kids had eczema and two have severe asthma. Breastfeeding supposedly reduces the risk for both.

In her article The Case Against Breastfeeding Hanna Rosin describes her “aha” moment when she realizes she’s been had by the “breast is best” brigade. Sitting in the pediatrician’s office she reads an article that breastfeeding may not, in fact, reduce the risk of obesity in children. She’s stunned, and realizes her years of breast-based efforts to keep her kids lean and mean may have been for naught.

My own “aha”moment came when I researched drinking during pregnancy. I was flabbergasted to find a study showing children of women who drank moderately during pregnancy actually had higher IQs than the children of mothers who abstained completely. I realized then that just like breastfeeding mothers are smarter (in our culture anyway), drinking mothers probably have higher IQs- being willing to think for themselves, researching the subject- and their children are genetically prone to inherit their intelligence. It was all a lie; breast was not necessarily best, yet I had spent 17 years and immeasurable physical anguish pouring human milk into the guts of my offspring.

But this is where the mommy brain kicks in. For whatever reason, I don’t mind. I’m ok with it, and I’m still nursing my newborn son. To quote Rosin:

My best guess is something I can’t quite articulate. Breast-feeding does not belong in the realm of facts and hard numbers; it is much too intimate and elemental. It contains all of my awe about motherhood, and also my ambivalence. Right now, even part-time, it’s a strain. But I also know that this is probably my last chance to feel warm baby skin up against mine, and one day I will miss it.

Yeah, that sums it up nicely. It’s something that can’t be articulated. When it’s not agonizingly painful or making you sick as a dog, breastfeeding is beautiful, ancient, and visceral. I remember one night those many 17 years ago where I sat up in bed with my son to my breast, and I had the haunting realization that untold women for untold centuries had been sitting up at night doing this very same act and feeling the very same emotions welling up and through them. It gave me goosebumps; I was staggered by the weight of it as my son glugged down milk. It didn’t matter who he would become, it didn’t matter even who we were; we were mother and child in the most basic act of sustenance known to man.

Call of the Cockroach

While in the hospital last week, I noticed a cockroach scurry over the feet of Jesus. The Jesus statue stands guard over the lobby of the formerly Catholic hospital, and being an irrational pregnant woman I wondered if this was a good sign or a bad sign? It was a cockroach (bad sign) but cockroaches are fertility symbols, albeit a negative one, but it was a healthy and energetic cockroach (good sign) and he was scampering over the feet of Jesus (good sign?). Of course, I was sent home packing, so the prescience status remained inconclusive.

Exactly 48 hours after I started leaking fluid- I still believe it was amniotic fluid; I caught a sample and it was clear with white flecks, probably vernix- and at exactly 36 weeks 3 days gestation, I began having painful contractions as I lay in bed late Thursday night. Since I’d already been sent home twice I decided to give it some time to determine how bad they would get. They got pretty bad, and I continued to have small gushes of fluid whenever I moved. I ventured to the bathroom to clean myself up and abruptly delivered a huge blood clot onto the floor. It looked like a hunk of raw meat. Bright red blood chased the clot down my legs.

I stared at this gore in disbelief. What the hell was going on? I then realized with horror I hadn’t felt the baby move through any of this (about two hours). I poked my stomach, quickly ate some ice, lay flat on my back. Absolutely nothing. This is when me, who never cries, became hysterical. I woke my husband and got on the phone with the AWOL dr’s answering service and wailed I’d just passed a blood clot and the baby wasn’t moving. My husband got me to the ER where, in panic, I told the guard I needed to go to L&D.

“Who’s the patient?” he asked. I guess I really didn’t look that pregnant.

“ME!”

I was even more hysterical in L&D and didn’t want to be put on the monitor for fear of confirming the baby was gone. The nurse coaxed me to the stretcher and hooked me onto the monitor- and a perfect, rhythmic heartbeat rang through the room like a chorus of angels.

I started sobbing, but as soon as I could adjust to the seemingly miraculous turn of events I was hit with brutal contraction after brutal contraction. I’ve given birth four times without an epidural, and these contractions were as bad as they get around 8 cm, but I was 5 cm when they checked me. The pain was paralyzing and blinding. I begged for an epidural. I was shaking, keening, and two very sweet nurses worked as fast as they could to whisk me out of triage.

The anesthesiologist arrived like a beacon of light: a sunburned (had he been on vacation?) curly haired angel. In retrospect I only had to endure those brutal contractions for about an hour before settling into the blissful numbness of the epidural. I began having flashes of Born at Home in my head, where rural Indian women labor on dirt floors without pain relief of any kind, in primitive huts without water or electric. Wow- I was lucky.

When they next checked me I was fully dilated as the baby fast made descent to the world. It happened so quickly the AWOL dr nearly remained AWOL. I was, in fact, disappointed when he did appear, because I’d grown attached to the clever, young, female resident who’d attended me up to that point. She made cracks about her “big bootie” which somehow lifted my otherwise terrified spirits. The AWOL dr entered stage left 10 seconds before I pushed; by this point they moved me to the larger surgical room because the baby was, technically, premature. The obstetrician acted like a rock star, barking orders to the nurses and asking, do I like Bruce Springsteen? Because apparently, this was the soundtrack he wanted while he performed his magic.

There was no time to reply because before I knew it my legs were in the air and my son emerged with half a push, Bruce Springsteen crooning in the background. The baby was scrawny, pale, bawling; the pediatric team grabbed him and doused him with oxygen while the OB grinded away at my abdomen. I was bleeding too much, he explained, but he would save me.

I kept peeking over at the baby trying to see what he looked like. He was tiny, skinny legs and a fat face, red feet and hands flailing.

And then it was over. They showed me the baby- he was small but looked perfectly healthy. He didn’t need NICU and could go straight to the regular nursery. The OB had shot me up with a bunch of stuff but I was still bleeding like crazy. When they brought me to the recovery floor, my gown was drenched in blood and I left trails of blood everywhere I walked despite a triple layered fortress of sanitary pads between my crotch and the floor. But we were both alive, and ok.

I am home, but he is not, because of high bilirubin levels. Which means I get to torture myself with a hospital grade breast pump that would have come in handy during the Spanish Inquisition.

Curiouser and Curiouser

As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve been watching a lot of birth videos on youtube in an effort to get myself in the mindset of pushing this critter out of me. I usually watch homemade videos or a reality TV series like BBC’s The Midwives, which is actually pretty good (not to be confused with Call the Midwife which I’m not crazy about).

But I sensed right away something was weird about most of the birth videos on youtube. The descriptions would emphasize the youth of the mother, or the pain she is in, or how graphic the video was. In short it was obvious these were being put up by and for people with some kind of sexual motivation. Now I know there is pregnancy porn out there, and that some men are aroused by pregnant woman, but it never occurred to me there are people with actual childbirth fetishes- you know, of the actual event, with all the slime, poop, screaming, and squalling alien-looking newborns. Oh how wrong I was!

It took me weeks to gather the courage, but I finally googled: do some men have a fetish for birth videos. I kind of wish I hadn’t, because the answer is much stranger than I imagined. Not only are there men aroused by women in labor- but there are women, too, with this interest, or at least there are plenty of women willing to talk about it on the internet. Almost unanimously they identify themselves as straight, have no interest in ever really being pregnant or having an actual child of their own, but for whatever reason they get tremendously turned on by the sight of women pushing out babies while screaming in agony.

I didn’t think at my age I could find something that surprised me, but here you go. I guess I could say this is really weird, but in theory all sexual behavior is weird. I once watched a documentary about gay orthodox jews, and a gay jewish man recounted a discussion he had with a rabbi about gay sex. The rabbi asked him, “Why one earth would a man want to put another man’s penis in his mouth?!” to which the gay man replied, “Why on earth would any man want to put his penis in a woman’s vagina?!” The rabbi thought for a second and conceded he had a point: all sexual behavior is, on some level, irrational.

In my youtube adventures I did discover a gem of a documentary: the Indian-produced Born at Home. Despite what the title conveys this is not a homebirth advocacy film, but rather a docu about uneducated, low caste midwives (dais or dhais) who attend up to 90% of births in rural India and 50% in urban areas. Despite delivering so many of its citizens, the dais have no formal recognition from the Indian government or medical establishment. Dais treat their “patients” with a variety of folk medicine and superstition surrounding the placenta. Folklorically, it is considered a sin to cut the umbilical cord- even long after baby is breathing and the placenta has been delivered. This is why only women of low caste can practice midwifery. More than one midwife describes how an unresponsive newborn can be resuscitated by heating the placenta still attached by umbilical cord. The “life” travels to the baby and revives him. In theory I suppose this might work, since a still attached umbilical cord could function as a conduit delivering heat and a sort of rudimentary blood transfusion.

Without quick access to doctors the midwives are laid back about things like breech births, which most obstetricians would not attempt to deliver vaginally. “The chin gets stuck,” these midwives say shruggingly, “And you stick you finger in the mouth to tilt down the chin.” The only births that cause them trouble, they claim, are transverse births (when the baby is positioned side to side).

Here is the documentary in full; there aren’t any graphic birth scenes, and in fact only one full labor/ childbirth is shown where a dai presses her grimy bare feet against the delivering mother’s inner thighs while the baby is coaxed out.

 

It Only Takes One Microbe

I’ve officially entered the realm of crazy pregnant woman mode, where I’m in a constant and acute state of anxiety, superstition, and worry. I’ve been reading meaning into everyday occurrences. My daughter saw a mouse in the kitchen this morning. A good sign! There’s a dead cricket on the basement floor. Bad sign! And it would be even worse luck to touch that dead cricket, so it’s been there for weeks.

This morning I had to go to Willowbrook for yet another blood draw. My phlebotomist was an older Russian lady who suited up in a face mask before sticking me, ranting the whole time about Ebola and how neither the government nor the lab manager were taking adequate precautions to protect healthcare workers. “If it becomes an epidemic…” she said morosely, and put her hands in the air in a hopeless gesture. Then she jabbed me way too hard, and I still can’t fully extend my arm which is swollen and bruised opposite my elbow.

By that point I’d fasted for 14 hours, so I sat in the car and wolfed down a sandwich with juice. I was supposed to eat a high carb meal before returning two hours later for the second draw. I haven’t eaten bread in months, and while it was yummy it didn’t seem to re-awaken my bread addiction, especially since I knew it would make my levels shoot up (it did, I tested later at home out of curiosity).

During the second draw I overheard a group of phlebotomists in the hallway discussing Ebola. One intoned ominously there are a lot of Liberians on Staten Island. Yeah, but they live in West Brighton said another. No, they live in Park Hill said yet another. Well as long as they don’t come here, said a fourth. Errr… don’t they realize Staten Island is a mere 60 square miles? And microbes don’t care about neighborhood demarcations. As my aunt the pathologist always said when I left the cap off the toothpaste: It only takes one microbe.

I don’t know why but I’m just not worried abut Ebola, even in my crazy pregnant woman state of mind. I guess it could become as airborne as the common cold, then we’d all be in trouble. I’m a lot more worried about nasty flu viruses, or the enterovirus circulating the country, as two of my children have life threatening asthma and a third has moderately bad asthma. Even with suitcases of medication in the house they’ve been hospitalized for it, one in the ICU for a week (the overachiever). Anyway, if there were a clear and present Ebola threat I’m sure my aunt, who works for the CDC, would have contacted me. But so far she’s only sent me scary information about DV-68.

Here is the current state of the bump. It continues to look much smaller in pictures for some reason. It looks, and certainly feels, at least three times bigger in real life.

bump

Pregnant Conspiracies

Since all pregnant women are obliged to take selfies of themselves, I realized around six months I should be recording things for prosperity.

pregnant1

And this one I took a few weeks later:

pregnant2

I was surprised when I saw that first picture because I don’t look pregnant at all, despite being shy of six months. Maybe it’s the fluff of the shirt, or the angle, but the picture could pass for a non-pregnant women. This immediately brought to mind the conspiracy theories surrounding Sarah Palin, namely, that she was never pregnant with her son Trig and was in fact faking a pregnancy to cover up for her slutty daughter. Never mind the fact that they paraded said daughter (when she actually was pregnant) and the baby daddy around on the national stage during the election. The “proof” for the fake pregnancy was that Palin did not look pregnant in pictures taken while “allegedly” pregnant with Trig.

Now, I’m a bit of conspiracy theorist myself but this one is just stupid. And unless you think I’m covering up for my 15 year old daughter, who still thinks boys are smelly and annoying, here you have proof that a woman can be quite pregnant but not look it in a photograph.

But there’s an even more bizarre pregnancy conspiracy theory out there! I stumbled across this one by sheer chance a few weeks ago. This conspiracy claims that the Duchess of Cambridge (Kate Middleton) was never pregnant with heir to the throne George, and that the baby was actually borne by a surrogate with a donor egg. The proof? Kate doesn’t look pregnant in certain pictures taken during the pregnancy, or looks unevenly pregnant in photographs taken over the course of the pregnancy (i.e., bigger when she was less pregnant, smaller when more pregnant).

Even if the baby was carried by a surrogate, as long as it was the duchess’ egg and the prince’s sperm I don’t see what the big deal is. How the conspiracists somehow know that a donor egg was used, I don’t know. But once again, just because a woman doesn’t look pregnant doesn’t mean she isn’t. And having been pregnant a lot, I can tell you that the “bump” changes shape and height over the course of the pregnancy depending on the position of the baby and how much you’ve eaten that day.

Oh, and another piece of  “proof” is that Kate has neither stretch marks nor a linea nigra on her stomach (seen in a bikini shot not long after George’s birth). Perhaps they were airbrushed out- but despite my own numerous pregnancies I don’t have either of those things (though I do have stretch marks on my boobs from breastfeeding, yet another strike against my dismal chest). Here is a picture I took for a previous post.

skinny1

So there you have it. No stretch marks, no linea nigra, and a non-pregnant looking picture -yet I’m about to bring my 8th hellion into the world. Proof positive all these pregnancy conspiracy theories are dumb.

Polycystic Avian Syndrome

This morning I had an appointment with the new doctor. The results of the triple screen came in slightly elevated for Down Syndrome, but I knew from past experience these screenings have high false positive rates. Also, they gave me the information a month too late so I’m out of the window for an amniocentesis or medical termination (not that I would necessarily want one). As I alluded to before, though I didn’t know this when I chose the doctor from “the book,” the office appears to somehow be associated with the local crisis pregnancy center, a pro-life enterprise helping mothers who fall pregnant under less than ideal circumstances. It’s hard to tell how much of their clientele yields from it but there is a solid representation of teen moms and surly boyfriends in the waiting room.

I discussed the results with the on-staff midwife since the doctor continues to remain AWOL. I knew due to my age (“ancient” says my son) I was at increased risk of having a baby with Down Syndrome- somewhere in the 1-2% zone. But the results of the triple screen put me at a 1:145 odds which is actually a better statistic than the general one for my ancient counterparts. But it is still worse than the 1:270 cutoff used to deem women at risk.

I calmly explained to her that I understood these screenings have false positives and I wasn’t too worried. But I was curious, what happens to women as far along as me who do want to terminate? Is it even legal? Do they make exceptions for medical situations?

From her reaction my question didn’t fall on hospitable ears. “You would have to go somewhere else,” she said vaguely, rustling papers and avoiding eye contact. (Where somewhere else? Another practice? State? Country?) “And it would have to be a saline abortion to make sure the baby isn’t born alive.” She then said I should have a sonogram “So I could see my baby.” I suddenly realized she was trying to talk me out of a theoretical abortion I didn’t even want.

I didn’t delve further and they sent me to the basement storage closet for my sonogram. It’s cramped quarters down there, the waiting room the size of a modest bathroom. In strolled one of the aforementioned teen couples- the guy sporting those miraculously aloft baggy pants, and a hefty mother-to-be sporting tight leggings displaying more of her underwear and ample derriere than I needed to see.

They were both glued to their phones except for the occasional harsh exchange of words. The guy was agitated, pacing relentlessly back and forth in the small hallway muttering along to music off his earphones. He’d sit for a few minutes then get back up to pace. The Steve Harvey show was on TV, and though it’s not my cup of tea I have to admit it was kind of funny. He hosted a comedienne who joked her standard for boyfriends was a few real teeth and the ability to walk.

Then Mr. Harvey interviewed an expert on Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. The teen mom snapped out of her phone coma. “I got that!” she said excitedly. “I got that!!”

“You got what?” asked her boyfriend.

“Polycystic… polycystic… avian syndrome.”

“You don’t got nuthin.”

“Yes I do!” she retorted, all offense. “I got cysts on my… my… avians.”

He remained unimpressed and returned to his phone. I wondered how these two managed to create a baby together, yet all the while he never knew she had a serious medical condition? Then he announced he needed to charge his phone, and as it turned out the only outlet was behind my seat. I wasn’t about to argue with a guy with knuckle tattoos so I switched seats. Well the girlfriend would have none of this and started chewing him out for making a pregnant woman surrender her seat for his sorry ass (her words). She then tried to make me take her seat- which would mean I’d be sitting next to the boyfriend- but by the grace of all the saint statues in the office, the sonographer called me in.

Everything was perfect with the baby, who continues to measure big which is a good sign. All of my babies except the overachiever were born big, but she came into the world a little peanut.

Lena Dunham and Me

Even though I continue to have light bleeding, I am, according to two sonograms, still pregnant. I saw wiggling arms, legs, and even fingers at my appointment last friday. And yesterday I noted with dismay that my emerging baby bump now protrudes further from my epicenter than my boobs. I wasn’t dismayed by the baby bump, but by the utter lack of competition from my chest.

The thing about breasts is they are the primary determiner of if a woman is “proportional.” So if a woman is on the heavy side, but she has big boobs, things even out and she still looks good. I’ve seen women 40, 50+ pounds heavier than I am, but they look great because they have Venus of Willendorf boobs to accompany the body fat. Yesterday in the school parking lot I noticed the woman parked next to me had boobs so big that were of greater width (individually) than my thighs (individually). She was quite heavy, but looked proportional. Unlike me.

A fat- or pregnant- woman with small boobs just looks weird. Enter Lena Dunham:

nakedlenapingpong

Those tiny things floating atop a fleshy figure look bizarre and unnatural. This is the main reason I’ve always felt self-imposed pressure to be as thin as possible. Because at least if the rest of me lacks curves, I’m proportional (and no, they don’t get bigger when I gain weight).

I know there are more important things in the world than my boobs, but I think we all have some aspect of our body we’re self-conscious about (even if no one else on earth is paying attention). I don’t obsess about it, but I go through phases of noticing other women’s chests and realizing how paltry mine is by comparison. There’s a cashier at Costco with perfect, perky Barbie boobs that must be fake, and she always wears skin tight t-shirts to boot (yes, I will try to get a picture for you). Virtually all the moms at my girls’ school have boobs three times my size. Only a handful of moms have breasts in my size range, including the mom so scrawny she looks ill.

Unlike my previous pregnancies, I am now familiar with the world of pushup bras. These are heavily padded bras that give the impression of larger cup sizes. They look good, but are uncomfortable, and since the padding remains stiff and unmoving, they look fake unless you don layers of concealing clothing to hide their static nature. And given summer is around the corner, and I’ll be even more pregnant in coming months (heat makes me insane when I’m pregnant), sporting a pushup bra won’t be feasible. So, I’ll look like the Venus of Willendorf with a chipped off chest.

The good news is that when I’m breastfeeding, I’m a whopping B cup, so I’ll have a year or so post partum of a natural boob job.

Drinking During Pregnancy

I didn’t intend to blog about pregnancy, because nothing is more boring than a pregnancy blog. Yet since the cat is out of the bag I might as well discuss drinking during pregnancy. For all my previous pregnancies I took to heart the party line that any amount of alcohol– even a single glass– could irreparably harm the fetus. I avoided all kinds of alcohol, including alcohol based herbal tinctures, alcohol based mouthwash, and wouldn’t even cook with wine.

But when I started drinking wine earlier this year, I read everything I could about the safety and risks of drinking, including during pregnancy. I was surprised by what I found. Current thought seems to be shifting– though not officially– toward the notion that light to moderate drinking has no proven ill effects on the fetus. While there is a great deal of contradictory information out there, even the Wall Street Journal is proclaiming the safety of pregnant women heading to the winery.

I was surprised too in reading about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome to discover that the diagnostic criteria are vague, that the cause of FAS by ethanol exposure is not understood, and that a woman would have to drink a huge amount on a daily basis (more than 2 bottles of wine, or the hard liquor equivalent) to have even a 30% chance of producing a child with FAS. Symptoms of FAS include behavioral traits like impulsivity, learning difficulties, hyperactivity, as well as certain facial features like low set ears and small eyes. The behavioral symptoms can appear any time over the span of childhood– so for instance, a child could seem normal during his younger years, but if he turns out to be a highly impulsive teen, he could be considered to have FAS if his mother drank during pregnancy.

It dawned on me in reading these criteria that two of my children could fit the criteria for FAS– only I didn’t drink while pregnant with them. My 8 year old, who is a year behind in 2nd grade, has global developmental delays which were severe as a toddler. She didn’t even respond to her own name until she was 4, didn’t say words until she was 5, and spent a lot of time curled up in corners (she especially liked curling up under the bathroom sink). But unlike my late talking son who turned out to be something of a brainiac, she struggles with basic academic concepts. She even has some facial features associated with FAS.

My five year old, while not cognitively impaired, has tremendous impulsivity and is wild and defiant. She’s even had violent outbursts in school, steals things, and hoards food (let the ashamed mommy in me point out that none of my other kids are like this). She too has some facial features of FAS including very low set ears. In fact when she was born, my first thought was wow– you look like a baby with FAS! But with her too I was an absolute purist during pregnancy, and other than some advil before I knew I was pregnant, didn’t even take OTC meds.

Had I drunk alcohol during the pregnancy of either child, I’d be absolutely certain I caused their problems. And most clinicians probably would too.

So my point is that the impairments and behavioral traits attributed to maternal alcohol consumption might simply have appeared organically. It’s also possible that the kind of person who drinks heavily through her entire pregnancy probably has behavioral issues of her own, which she then passes down genetically to her children. Personality is in large part genetic (which makes me wonder where my five year old came from, lol).

I’ve combed through my memory of my pregnancy with my 8 year old trying to figure out what I might have been exposed to, to cause her problems. But it was an uneventful pregnancy. I ate healthy, gained a normal amount of weight, her birth was quick and effortless. But had I drunk alcohol I’d be blaming myself, and can only imagine the guilt and shame. So perhaps this alone is good reason to avoid alcohol during pregnancy: if your child is born with problems they would have had anyway, at least you’ll be spared a lifetime of crushing guilt.