Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Mambo Kings

Am I supposed to be this miserable this early?

Actually, I'm not miserable every day. It seems to follow a pattern: a day (sometimes two) of feeling quite decent (and sometimes getting a few things accomplished), followed by a day or two of feeling that I am Going To Pop Right This Second. Ugh. My belly right now feels tight as a drum. I'm guessing that perhaps Dexter and Sinister go through a day or two of sudden growth (or that my body finally registers the growth they've been doing all along), and then I have a day or two of my body adjusting to it and stretching. But ye gods and little fishes, on the days when they are growing ... there just are no words to describe this. You know how you're only supposed to fill up your tires to 28 pounds? (Or whatever it is; I'm no car expert.) I feel like I've been filled up to, oh, about 306 pounds at the moment. (Or so. Maybe only 304.) A trifle over-full.

Also, the boys have discovered the joys of movement. Which is a good thing in general, as I hope they will be active and fit little buggers as they grow up. But when they move inside my belly, although it make me happy (in an abstract sort of way), it is Not Comfortable. The funny thing is that I rarely feel any movement with my hands on the outside of my belly ... but oh, the inside is a different tale! Sometimes it feels like they're practicing their synchronized swimming moves, with a slow, rolling sort of motion. Other times they feel like they're doing the mambo. Still other times I have no idea what the guys are up to, except that it feels damned weird and I wish they'd cut it out. Sinister in particular has developed a habit of putting his head (or perhaps his feet) up under my ribs, like he's trying to warm them up there. Not comfy for me, though perhaps for him. Dexter is fond of pushing on a particular spot just to the right of my belly button. (I do have a fibroid there; perhaps he's simply trying to make a little more room for himself.)


Oh, and sleeping. Ah, the classic question: the Back vs. the Left Side -- who wins? Not me, that's all I know. I am a habitual back sleeper (with occasional detours into a side fetal position), but since sleeping on your back squishes some vein or other that's not supposed to be squished, you're theoretically supposed to sleep on your left side during pregnancy. Or if you just can't manage the left side, then even the lowly right side is better than the back. And if you do sleep on your back, your children will all have club feet and excessive dental caries. If not two heads.

So I've been attempting the side sleeping for several weeks now, mostly without much success. When I lie on my side, my belly feels like a huge sack of Jell-o with a couple of five-pound free weights thrown in. (In case you're wondering, no, that's not comfortable.) I tried using a pillow -- even went out and bought a special body pillow that threatened to take over the whole bed, like Godzilla in Tokyo -- but the pillows were way too bulky. I have had some success with taking our blankets and wadding them up to fit under my belly -- sort of a customized pillow. This has the disadvantage of stealing my husband's covers (which is not so bad, really, since he's always too hot at night anyway), and sometimes my own butt ends up hanging out in the cold, but it seems to work, after a fashion. At least I can get to sleep that way.

The real problem comes a couple of hours later, when my body signals me to shift to another position (or get up to pee, which is of course a favored activity these days). First, I grasp my belly and hold it firmly to me, to counteract the squishy Jell-o motion. Then I roll over to my back -- and then I inevitably gasp out loud, since it hurts like a mo-fo! Ooooooooooh .... You know that feeling when you fall asleep sitting up in a chair. and then you wake up? You're okay as long as you're just sitting quietly in the chair, thinking about moving. But as soon as you actually do move ... oh, the pain. Every stiff muscle in your body shouts the same thing: "What were you thinking, you idiot?!"

I never knew bellies could stiffen up. Silly me.

Ah, well. I confess that these moments are balanced, at least roughly, by moments like this one tonight: Since I'm supposed to take a walk after each meal, to help the blood sugar metabolize properly, after dinner I went to our back porch, which is about 40 feet long, and started in on my ten laps of the porch. It was chilly, about 40F, but clear, with a beautiful sparkly quarter moon and diamond-bright stars. Mostly I didn't notice the beauty of the night since I was trudging along with my cold hands in my coat pockets, watching the ground so I wouldn't trip over the seismic cracks in the poured cement slab, and trying not to think about the possibility of my stomach exploding right then and there. But I finished my ten laps, and then happened to look up at the Big Dipper, and for some reason thought, Soon I'll be able to show this to my sons.

My sons.

Holy crap, what a huge and wonderful thought. My sons! I've thought of them as the twins, the kids, the boys, and even "me fine boyos" (which, I'll confess, is what I call my five male cats too), but the phrase "my sons" had never really taken up residence in my brain before. I started crying, of course, looking up at the stars and just leaking.

My sons.

What an amazing and immense thought, since only a few months ago, I wondered if I would ever have children of any sort, let alone children of my body. And now, here I am, with what feels like immense unearned riches poured into my lap like gold, like the finest silks. A wealth that I might not deserve, but will never let go of again while these hands can grasp anything.

By my count, I have 17 weeks of this discomfort left ... but I think, just perhaps, I -- and my sons -- will be able to make it. Together.

Well. Probably, anyway. We'll see what the ol' Jell-o and free weights belly has to say about that.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Give thanks!

Just a quick update so that I can hop into bed, so that we can rise bright and early to go down to Monterey tomorrow. But I have to say that yesterday was one of my most thankful days in a long, long time. Dr. Tex treated us to a freebie ultrasound so that we could see just what was going on with Sinister's spine. (The Baby A and Baby B thing is just too confusing for me, since it changes every time! So the right side baby is Dexter and left is Sinister. I hope this does not give Sinister a complex.)

And the answer was ... absolutely nothing interesting was going on with Sinister's spine, or with his tiny little head, except for absolutely normal growth. Dr. Tex showed us how all the structures in the brain were normal, and also how the skin followed the spine, unbroken along the entire length. Normal. Just plain old normal.

Dr. Tex also showed us how the sac of one of the reduced fetuses is pressed right up against Sinister's sac. Since the membranes are permeable, Dr. Tex said it was very possible that the cholinesterase (what the AFP measures) was migrating through the membranes a little and screwing up the measurement. He said this was an ongoing problem with multiple fetuses and with fetal reductions. He further said (O happy day!) that it was his definite professional opinion that little Sinister is just fine.

Both D & S are at about 13 - 14 oz, and right on target for growth (at the 70th - 80th percentile for their age). They are fine, fine, fine.

I thought I was walking on a cloud as I left the office.

I regret to report, though, that today, only 24 or so hours later, that warm glow of thankfulness has dimmed a bit. Is this just human nature or am I really that shallow? I'd like to think I'm not abnormally shallow, and that this is just the normal state of things -- no one can walk around in a pink cloud 24/7; you'd bump into things.

But as D and I held hands before our little Thanksgiving dinner tonight and talked about what we were thankful for, a little of that pink glow came back. I hope it always will, on this day, as I recall at last getting the good news from Ghent.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

"May cause anxiety in parents"

So ... we got the amnio results.

I decided yesterday morning that it was time to take the bull by the horns, and wade into the bureaucracy of California Pacific Medical Center to try and get some answers on the amnio. I called in the morning and tried to reach a genetics counselor by selecting the voice mail button that supposedly lets you talk to the "next available counselor." Well, the next available counselor appeared to be coming in to work via mule team from the Himalayas, because after an interminable wait, I was finally shunted off to their appointments line, where someone offered to take a message and relay it to the genetics counselors. We did that, then I got right back on the line and tried again, pushing different buttons.

This time I got one of the senior genetics counselors, whom I've talked with before. She was very nice but said that the information still had to come in from the lab, and she would put a message in to "our" genetics counselor (the one we saw before the fetal reduction, who was very nice, but I had lost her phone number) to get the information and call us as soon as possible.

That held me until afternoon. At that point I was on the phone with my aunt, catching up on things and swapping pregnancy stories, when the "boop boop" sounded and I dumped my aunt from the line rather unceremoniously, explaining that the clinic was calling. It turned out to be a young woman from the lab, who had apparently called me only to tell me that the genetics counselors would be the one to call me. "But isn't it ready yet?" I whined. "We came in on November 8!"

Lab Girl allowed as how that had been some time ago, and this time actually pulled up my chart to see about things. "Oh," she said after a moment, "it looks like someone should already have called you. I'll patch you through to one of the genetics counselors."

I gratefully agreed. She then proceeded to connect me with Juanita Somebody's voice mail, which informed me that Juanita would be out of the office for the entire freakin' month of November.

Now that's what I call service.

(Would it be belaboring the obvious to point out that while the Professional Types I have dealt with at CPMC have been nothing but lovely, extremely competent, and a joy to work with, the CPMC bureaucracy and lower echelons do not seem to be able to find their collective asses with both hands?)

My heart rate and blood pressure both skyrocketed, and I started punching phone buttons with both hands, ready to do battle (again) with the CPMC phone lines to try and reach a genetics counselor. But then the "boop boop" sounded, and lo, it was "our" genetics counselor, ready at last with the amnio information. I called out to D to get on the line so he could hear it too, and then noticed that while my anger had dissipated, my heart rate was still up there. "Anxiety" would just about describe it.

The first thing she told us was (drum roll, please... ) that all the chromosomes for both babies were normal. NORMAL. Normal, normal, normal. I felt myself wilt, and said quietly, "Oh, thank God." On the line, I heard D draw a shaky breath and say something similar.

We had to ask her again, of course (just to hear it, really), so she nicely reiterated it several times, and then we started to feel cheerful, to say the least.

And then she asked if we wanted to know the sexes. D had recently come around, deciding, I think (though I didn't press him about it) that the whole naming problem might just go away if we knew the sexes (and didn't I say that several weeks ago?). So we said yes. And she said that they were both the same ... (another drum roll, please!) ... and they were ... BOYS!

Oh, my goodness. It was a party on the line for a few seconds there. I think it would have been the same no matter what she said, really, but the happiness and relief of hearing that we had two normal, healthy baby boys on the way was just too much for us. What joy, what quiet delirium. It was lovely.

But ... there's always a fly in the ointment, isn't there? In this case, our counselor revealed that they had also done an AFP assay on the amniotic fluid, since they had it there. (Normally the AFP is done as a maternal blood test, earlier in the pregnancy, but because of the multiple placentas present, they were not able to do that in our case.) She said that one twin had tested normal, but the other one had had a slightly elevated AFP, testing as a "weak positive."

We had no clue what any of that meant, but she explained. Elevated AFP levels are commonly associated with neural tube defects such as spina bifida, a condition in which the developing spinal tube does not close up properly and therefore leaves nerves exposed. The effects of spina bifida on the child can range from nearly no effect, to paralysis (of different levels) and anencephaly.

She said, however, that because we had had several ultrasounds which all indicated that both babies were normal, it was very possible that some AFP had crossed over from the other placentas, and caused this weak positive -- in which case, our baby not have the condition and would not be affected. But we just don't know yet.

But she had been extraordinarily efficient (our counselor being one of those aforementioned people at CPMC who are a Joy to Work With), and set up a followup ultrasound to examine the spine on Wednesday morning (tomorrow, that is), with Dr. Tex, who had said he would do this ultrasound at no charge, bless his heart.

So tomorrow's another Big Day. I have to admit I am nervous, though it is not as bad as it could be. If there is a problem, hopefully it will be on the smaller end of the scale, especially since it was a weak positive (as opposed to off the scale). And spina bifida does not cause mental retardation, though of course it does cause physical problems.

I also have to admit I didn't know jack about spina bifida before yesterday (and don't know that much about it now) except that one takes folic acid to prevent it. (And yes, I have been taking 1200 micrograms of folic acid daily since before we conceived, so that has helped me remain calm as well.) I also didn't know jack about the AFP test. Here's one good page I found on that: Elevated Maternal Serum Alpha Feto Protein. It is mostly about elevated AFP found in maternal blood samples, but also discusses AFP in amniotic fluid.

But this one sentence from that otherwise useful page seems a bit obvious:

"Elevated maternal serum AFP may cause anxiety in parents."

Hm. Ya think?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Getting tense

I can feel myself tensing up, waiting for the amnio results. I have negotiated this particular two week wait mostly without incident, mainly by ignoring the fact that I am waiting for something. But waiting for what I fervently hope will be the good news from Ghent is getting to me. Tonight I was in the shower, talking to God (what, haven't you already figured out I'm a strange one? Of course I talk to God while I'm in the shower; doesn't everyone? And no, smartass, He doesn't answer me, at least not out loud), and praying that the amnio would come out okay (which I suppose is nonsensical at this point, since the results are probably already in, and may already be in the mail -- so what is He supposed to do, intercept my mail? Is there such a thing as Heavenly White-Out?).

And I just kept thinking about how hideous it would be if the amnio is not okay, and it didn't take much of that to send me into a fullscale meltdown. So in very short order, poor D (who was innocently watching a football game while I was in the shower) had to contend with a dripping-wet preggo lady of Wagnerian proportions and way too many hormones who was also dripping copious tears. He did manage to get me calmed down, finally, just by patting me and repeating, "It'll be all right," like some sort of mantra. But oh, in my heart of hearts I am still frightened. I cannot imagine what we will do if something is severely not okay. I know what we agreed to, but I look down at my huge belly, and I cannot imagine doing that now. I also cannot imagine raising a seriously handicapped child. I am suffering from a severe failure of imagination at this point.

But I calmed down for a while at least, and we went out to a regular games night and potluck we have with friends, and things were much better. But as we were getting ready to leave, somehow the subject of showers came up. Two people so far have offered to throw showers for us. One person is quite serious about it (we talked about it again just this morning on the phone), and she is part of a circle of friends we have developed here who are separate from my husband's work. The other person is one of my husband's work colleagues, and I don't know how serious she was about her offer. If she was in fact serious, I think it would be better to have two showers, rather than try and blend the two sets of people, none of whom know each other. (Although I am open to other opinions on this, if my Dear Readers have experience or input.)

But D wasn't open to anything. This is one of his least lovely traits: He tends to make up his mind on the spur of the moment about something I have been giving thought to for an extended period of time, and blast out his opinion as though it's the only possible answer and I'd be a fool to naysay him. He immediately decreed that it would be silly to have more than one shower, and when I tried to explain why I thought two might work out better, he absolutely didn't want to hear anything that didn't jibe with the opinion of the Great God D. I am afraid I lost my temper a bit at that point, and pointed out (alas, in front of our friends) that he'd never even thought about showers before, that he didn't know the first thing about showers, and he was being all logical and sensible and in fact, just being a damned Man. This little hormone-fueled soliloquy amused our friends greatly, but of course incensed the Great God D, and, well, it was a good thing we were already leaving. He was quite short with me all the way home, though he had calmed down by the time he was getting ready to go to bed.

But this is a tendency of his that has annoyed me muchly in the past and I guess is not going to get better. I think he is channeling his father, who was very much the autocratic head of the household. His mother was a dear lady, but an alcoholic and something of a vague presence in the household, who only rarely put her foot down or even seemed to have an opinion about most things. As you may have noticed, I do have opinions, and tend to be forthright about voicing them. And I'll be damned if I am going to be intimidated or shut up when I have something to say.

In D's defense, I'll also say that once he has calmed down and thought about things, he often changes his mind and agrees with me, or agrees to defer to me if the issue is important to me. But damn, this initial charge-of-the-Light-Brigade approach is annoying, and I can see it causing problems later with the kiddos. We need to be united on things in front of them, not have him spout out his unconsidered opinion and leave me to try and change it. But I've talked to him before about it, and he doesn't even believe he's doing it, let alone be open to changing it. So I need to find another tack to approach him when he does this ... and not just fly off my own handle, as I did tonight, and complicate things.

I just wish the damned amnio info would get here. And I pray that it's okay.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Shake it up baby

It's amazing how emotions go back and forth and up and down and well, just all over, with this pregnancy thing. On Sunday night, I was convinced I was headed for miscarriage. Today I woke up to a lovely sunny day (the unfair advantage of living in nuts-and-fruits headquarters, aka California) and all seemed right with the world. But of course a few things went in between.

Late Sunday night, I was dishing out catfood when I suddenly felt some very odd roiling just to the right of my bellybutton. I mean, this felt weird. Something was going on. I stood stock-still for a moment, then laughed: of course! It was the babies, finally doing something! I was feeling the babies move, at last! How wonderful and cool!

Of course, in about a minute I had talked myself out of that, and decided I was having premature labor and a miscarriage was no doubt headed for me like a freight train. I abandoned the cat food and went searching for my little booklet on preventing premature labor. I followed the directions in the booklet (hands on my belly, middle fingers at the belly button) but had no clue whether I was having contractions or not. I could feel my heart racing in anxiety, but that was as much as I was sure of.

I had two more repeat bouts in the middle of the night, and each time followed the directions in the booklet: empty your bladder, then drink two big glasses of water. I became very well hydrated using this procedure, but no better informed. Finally, a few minutes before my alarm went off, I woke up from a dream in which I was having an orgasm (and do you know how long it has been since that event occurred?! Since before I was even officially pregnant, that's when! My IVF doc said no sex or orgasms during the two-week wait, then during the next ten weeks once I was pregnant, and then my pack of cautious OB's echoed her: no, no sex or orgasms for now, well, maybe sometime after the amnio, better to be safe than sorry, right? Grrrrr ... talk about a long dry spell!).

But as I woke up, I realized that what I was really feeling was not the Big O, but a very odd subterranean rippling of my abdomen. It was pronounced, though not painful, and it completely sent me into panic mode. I had to come in for my in-depth 19w ultrasound that day anyway, so I made an appointment with a doctor to find out when to expect my miscarriage.

But of course my fake Big O was pretty much the last gasp for the mysterious abdominal ripplings. I had one more little episode later that morning, and that was it.

The ultrasound went well, though I didn't get Oscar this time, and neither D nor I were much impressed with the woman who did the u/s, compared to the CPMC tech. She didn't seem to know or care that it's nice if the tech can give a bit of a tour, as in explaining, "This is what I'm doing now...." Also, it was pretty much a repeat of what the CPMC tech had done just the week before. Same measuring of the tiny brains, measuring of the femur, oh, yawn ... except for seeing the beating hearts. That wasn't a yawn. And seeing the little folks squiggling around in there. That part never gets old.

This tech said that the computer said that the babies weighed in at 10 oz and 13 oz. Last week, the CPMC tech said they were 8 oz each. It seemed odd to me that the one could have gained five ounces since just last week, so that was one of the questions I asked the doc when I saw him. He seemed to think the CPMC report had been wrong, since 8 oz was rather light for 18w.

The nice part about seeing the doc was that it was Dr. Empathetic! Who did the abdominal myomectomy for me that made all this happy nonsense possible. I had originally wanted him for my OB, but he ended up taking extended family leave because one of his children was diagnosed with cancer (which just kills me when I think of that -- I can't imagine how horrible that must be). At any rate, he was back in the office, and it was very nice seeing him, not only because he's a terrific doctor who actually listens to you, but you know, I wanted to show off my immensely pregnant belly to him and say thank you in person. He seemed touched by that. I guess it's not every day you see such concrete evidence that your work makes a difference for people.

And he set my mind at rest. I told him the tale of my belly wrigglings (including my fake Big O), and he told me that localized movement of that kind was definitely not a contraction. Contractions are apparently much more global in nature -- you feel them through the whole belly, or the whole lower back, or your whole cooter ... and then just to illustrate, he put one hand on either side of my belly and pushed. I was so startled that I just made kind of a wheezing noise in reply, but he made his point. I think I'll know a contraction now if I feel it!

So the kids are officially awake now. I think maybe the one to the right of my belly button (where all the activity was) perhaps was flipping himself around like a swimmer at the end of the pool, getting ready for the next lap. (Last week his head was up under my ribs; this week he was head-down.) It's an amazing and unsettling feeling, sort of like feeling snakes rustling around under your skin ... and I can't wait to feel it again.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Just a pinch

This post will be a quickie, since I'm still having little ping-like owies from yesterday, so I think bed is still the best place for me. But I wanted to reassure anyone who tunes in that I am fine, and it looks like the babies are better than fine, and although I'm already bored out of my skull with bedrest, things in general are good.

Dr. Tex was great again, and his staff was quite nice and seemed like they knew what they were doing. And the joy of doing this at the satellite office is that we were not subjected to machine-gun-like noise from ongoing construction. We did an in-depth u/s on both babies beforehand, measuring their little heads and the contents therein, looking at their tiny little innards such as kidneys and hearts and so forth, measuring femurs, and their computer added it all up and spit out an answer: Normal, normal, normal. (Hallelujah!)

Then we did the owie part -- the actual amnios. Perhaps it is summed up best by this exchange:

Me to nurse (grumbling just a bit, after completion of both procedures): Pinch, my ass!

Startled nurse (with adorable Aussie accent): I'm sorry, did you say it pinched your ass?

Me: Um, no, sorry! I just meant that my friends who said that amnio felt like "a pinch" were obviously off their rockers. That hurt like a son-of-a-gun, if you ask me.

Or maybe I'm just a card-carrying whiner. That's possible, too.

But in any case, the deed is done and I am greatly relieved by that. Now it's all over but the waiting for results (8 to 14 days, from the various estimates I heard). Oh, yeah, that and the bedrest. Which I'm back to now. Ciao!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Tomorrow is the amnio, featuring Dr. Tex. I plan on taking a day or two of mostly-bedrest afterward, so I may or may not make it back here to update this blog in the near term. I am assuming the amnio itself will go okay (after all, we are shelling out the big bucks to Make It So), but I am worried about two things -- one trivial and one not.

The trivial bit is: Will it hurt? I hear that the amnio feels like a "pinch" to most women, but that reminds me of a pediatrician I had when I was little, who would tell me he was going to give me a "mosquito bite" whenever I had to take a shot. That always annoyed the hell out of me. Even when I was four, I knew the difference between a mosquito bite and a damned shot. (Hm, and I still hate patronizing, condescending men! LOL!) Anyway, I just hope it doesn't hurt too much since I'm a wimp about these things.

The untrivial bit is worrying about the results. My intuition tells me that the kids are fine. Now, sometimes my intuition is astoundingly on the money, but there are other times it takes a hike to parts unknown and gets lost out there. So I can't rely on that.

I am -- well, not terrified, but certainly very concerned that one or both of them might have Down syndrome or some other genetic abnormality that would be very difficult to deal with. D and I talked at great length about DS in particular, but also disability in general, and we agree that neither of us want to raise a disabled child. Of course, something could happen during the birth process, such as a shortage of oxygen, or sometime in the future, the kid could walk under a bus and suffer brain damage -- but it just seems to both of us that there is a big difference between coping with problems as they come along, and volunteering for a lifetime of problems. And of course, with modern technology, you don't have to volunteer for that if you don't want to.

But I can't imagine how awful it would be to terminate one of the babies now (or -- horrors!! -- both?). That last ultrasound completely did me in. The babies were facing each other, and hopping and bopping in there -- moving all over the place, and being completely adorable and astounding. They are becoming very real to me. I look at this enormous belly I'm growing, and frankly it just looks (and feels) like I've swallowed a watermelon -- but the ultrasound makes it all real for me. I want these babies. I want these babies. And I want both of them! I have progressed from not being able to imagine my life with the burden of twins, to being quietly tickled and amazed that I -- little old me! -- I managed to win the two-fer-one package! Woo hoo!

There's been an awful lot of praying going on here, and will be for the next couple of weeks, I guess. (We're not doing the 3-day preliminary FISH since that's another $600 or so, and I would want the full report before acting on anything, anyway.)

Oh, boy. I am pretty sure this two week wait will be worse that the original two week wait ever was.

Monday, November 06, 2006


Gentle reader, you’re in luck: we’ve got two topics for tonight. One: why I changed our amniocentesis appointment; and two: why I hate Shakespeare’s heroine Cordelia.

I can boil the amnio question down to a rather succinct answer: More than once, I found myself waking up in the middle of the night worrying about this thing, and that is very unlike me. Once I’m asleep (which, granted, can take a while), that’s it for the night. Aside from taking potty breaks (especially these days), it more or less takes a nuclear blast to get me up before the alarm goes off.

But why was I worrying about it so much? We had booked a doctor (call her Dr. X) through our HMO to do the procedure. I had talked about this doc with the HMO genetics department, and they told me she had done 2500 procedures since 1991. Granted, that sounds pretty good, but they didn’t have a yearly breakdown. For all I knew, she had done only 25 of them in the last year. (Unlikely, but who knew?) Also, when I talked with Dr. Blinky about this particular doctor, he didn’t seem to know much about her or her work. Since there are only three doctors in our HMO local area who do amnios, I would think he would know something about her if she had much of a reputation.

Finally, the week before the amnio was to be done, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I fired off an email to Dr. Enterprise (our IVF doctor, who recommended Dr. Tex for our reduction). I was expecting her to say, oh, it’s fine, I know Dr. X and she does good work, don’t worry. Instead I received the following (slightly redacted for names):

I recommend you have your amnio with Dr. Tex just to be sure. He knows what to look for after the reduction and has a lot of experience. None of the (HMO) doctors, especially Dr. X have experience with patients who have had reductions. I think it is well worth the extra money to have a doctor like him. He’s a vanishing species.

Frankly, you have to have bigger cojones than I do to buck Dr. Enterprise's advice. So now we are booked with Dr. Tex to do the amnio on this coming Wednesday. It was funny, actually -- as soon as we made the decision to do it, and I called CPMC and got an appointment (which luckily will be at a satellite office in the town we live in, rather than having to go all the way to San Francisco), I felt as if a weight had been lifted from me. Literally, it was as if I had been carrying a heavy object on my shoulders, and it had rolled right off. It was the most extraordinary feeling.

Of course, that was immediately followed by my worrying about how to pay for it! For those who wonder about such things, the procedure plus the lab work is going to run us about $1800. Ouch. We are not poor. . . but after all these expenses, I’m starting to feel like it! But at least I’m sleeping through the night again. (Except for the aforementioned potty breaks.)

And now for the luckless Cordelia.

One of my favorite writers ever is the science fiction and fantasy author Lois McMaster Bujold. I discovered her works shortly before D and I married, and I’ve been snapping up her works as they come out ever since. Her most brilliant series is the Vorkosigan family saga, which begins with a rather unusual late-in-life romance between Aral Vorkosigan and Cordelia Naismith, in the book SHARDS OF HONOR (also included in the omnibus volume, CORDELIA’S HONOR). The novel is written from Cordelia’s POV, and she is an incredible kick-ass character: smart, wise, witty, and very brave. (And she only gets better in subsequent books in the series.) If you like character-driven SF, and especially if you like non-stupid romance, I urge you to check out this book.

After a few years of my waxing ecstatic over Bujold’s work, my darling husband wanted to see what I was so excited about. I gave him SHARDS OF HONOR. He read it in short order, and afterward said that if he ever had a daughter, he would want to name her Cordelia. High praise indeed! And such was the impression that the book made on him, he has kept this notion ever since.

There’s just one hitch.

I really, really dislike the name Cordelia.

This is rooted mostly in my antipathy toward Shakespeare’s play, “King Lear.” Mind you, I’m very keen on some Shakespeare. “Cymbeline,” a very dark comedy, is one of my favorite plays ever (and it also has the advantage of a kick-ass heroine in his Imogen -- but then, Imogen is a fairly awful name too). “Hamlet” is a play for the ages. “Romeo and Juliet,” while a trifle nonsensical, has sublime language and some unforgettable scenes and characters.

But I’ve never liked Lear, either the play or the character. King Lear starts the play half-potty, as far as I can tell (today I think he’d be diagnosed as well on his way to senile dementia), and doesn’t become a sympathetic character until the last ten minutes of the play. Of his three daughters, the conventional wisdom is that two of them, Regan and Goneril, are awful, conniving bitches, and his youngest daughter Cordelia is an angel and the incarnation of the word honor. Well, I’ll agree that I wouldn’t care to meet either Regan or Goneril in a dark alley, but as for Cordelia, she’s not a heroine; she’s a passive, cowering simp. She never does anything throughout the entire play, except for her initial action of refusing to suck up to her dad (which in itself is a passive, negative action, not a positive one). And even that is nonsensical. She’s supposedly his favorite daughter, which means that she should know him like the back of her hand, and be used to dealing with him. So what does she do when he’s acting like an idiot? Instead of talking him down, or gently showing him what an imbecile he’s being and getting him to see the humor of his own ridiculousness (techniques we see used by Portia in “The Merchant of Venice”), Cordelia flies the metaphorical red flag right in the face of the enraged bull.

Now, in my opinion, this is old Billy Shakes busy at work setting up his plot. He’s not particularly worrying about whether the characters totally make sense at this point. He’s just setting up discord between his characters, to hang the rest of the play on. (He does the same thing in Hamlet – sacrificing common sense for showmanship – but that’s such an amazing play in so many other ways that I’ll forgive him just about anything for that one play.) Also, I believe Cordelia is meant to be Honor incarnate, which means she doesn’t have to be a real person or an interesting character -- she is more of a place-marker for the idea of Honor and what one should be willing to sacrifice to keep it.

But I just don’t like her. And I don’t like the name, either. There is no good diminutive for Cordelia. Delia? Sounds like a hooker from the 1940’s. (Please, if your mother is named Delia, I’m not insulting her. I’m just saying what the name sounds like to me.) And Cordie? Oh, ick. Okay. . . then how about Cord? Of what, wood? So you see, you’re stuck with a three-syllable name at all times. And that seems both unwieldy and pretentious to me.

An obvious solution would be to use Cordelia as a middle name. However, there is a six-generation tradition in my family of giving the first-born daughter the middle name “Louise.” I am the sixth Louise in a row, and I really want to make it seven (if we are even having a daughter, which is in doubt, but my dear darling stubborn husband has also decided he doesn’t want to know the genders of the babies).

So I offered him a compromise last night. If we have two daughters, the first gets the middle name Louise and the second gets the middle name Cordelia. He was okay with that, but asked, what if we have one daughter?

Well, it’s not euphonious, but I suggested that we saddle the child with two middle names: Louise and Cordelia. (This poor kid is going to hate us!) The downside to that, of course, is that having two middle names is ridiculously unwieldy and pretentious as well. Needless to say, D. thought that was a crappy idea. (Honestly, I think it’s a crappy idea too, but it STARTS with the crappy idea of being too attached to the name Cordelia!)

D. then offered what seemed to him a brilliant solution: what about naming a girl Louise Cordelia?

Well, that is a solution of sorts … except that I am attached to the name Louise not because I find it particularly attractive, but because it is part of my family history. I know I’d start calling her “Lou,” which to me is redolent of some fat guy chewing a cigar. Not the image I see when I think of my daughter-to-be.

We left it at that for the moment, but I’m not imagining for a moment that this is over yet. D. was clearly marshalling his forces for another round.

I swear, I’m starting to hope we have two sons.