Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Musings (finally!)

Whee! I'm back on the Internet again. Sorry for leaving this space barrenfor so long, but reaching the computer has become problematic lately. As you already know, I'm spending a lot of time in bed, so it's harder to get to my desktop computer. plus it has become difficult to reach the computer in another way, even when I'm sitting right there. I've been a keyboard-on-the-lap kind of typist for years now - but there's not much lap left anymore! So the keyboard creeps lower and lower onto my thighs, and my arms just can't reach around this behemoth belly and all the way down to thekeyboard anymore. I am definitely Technologically Challenged at the moment.

So how am I writing this - dictating it to the cats? (I only wish. That would definitely get us on Letterman's Stupid Pet Tricks. If not our own Superbowl commercial.) No, I finally bit the bullet and spent fifty bucks on a laptop desk to use in bed, and now I have a Rube Goldberg kind of setup with my ancient Thinkpad. (So ancient that it still has Win98 on it, if that gives you an idea.) This thing has so little firepower that when I tried a little while ago to update my Blogger account, it wouldn't read the anti-spam "Read these letters and type them in" bit. The image wouldn't comethrough at all. So I'm typing this in Word, then I'll email it to my desktop, and then I'll waddle into the other room and get online, and from there I'll upload this post to my blog. See what I go through for my faithful readers?

Although you're right; this blog is for myself, mostly. (Though I treasure the readers I do have!) There is so much going on in my life now, in a slothlike or turtle-ish sort of way, and I'll probably never be pregnant again, so I really want to remember it. All of it - the wonderful, the annoying, the heartbreaking. (To my sorrow, I already find myself forgetting about the reduction. It was such a huge part of my consciousness for quite a while there, but now it's over and done. I suppose it's human nature to put the hard things behind us with finality. That is how we have any reserves left to deal with the future.)

Oof - sorry, I had to stop for a minute to deal with a contraction. Frankly, if I had Dr. Braxton Hicks here at the moment, I might tell him to bite me. (I know; he didn't invent them, just name them, but still.) I get some big honkin' ones these days that feel like I'm being wrung out to dry. The only good thing about them is that every time I have one of the biggies, it reminds me how very happy I am that I don't have to go through labor! I'm not looking forward to my C-section either (surgery while I'm wide awake?Oh, fun!) but at least there won't be any of this hours-and-hours-of-labor crap. It could be worse.

Getting back to who this blog is really for - the other people that it's for is my sons, eventually. I started this blog before I became pregnant, with the idea that if I managed at some point to have a daughter, I would strongly encourage her to start working on children well before the point I did. I wanted her to know how hard it was to even get pregnant, after waiting so long, and after acquiring a uterus full of fibroids along the way. I intended to be as honest as I could, with the idea that this someday-daughter would read all this as an adult, and perhaps take it as a cautionary tale (and also a way to know what her mother was like back in the distant past before she became a Mom and presumably lost all vestiges ofhumor).

And then we became pregnant - with two sons. Sons! A pretty exciting event all by itself. But I looked at my blog to date at that point, with its female-oriented bluntness and repeated mentions of docs staring up my cooter(and how little I enjoyed that) and I kind of wondered: Is this suitable for males to read? (D has been informed that I have a blog, but not provided with the URL. Of course, he hasn't asked for it, either. A bit of don't-ask-don't-tell on both sides.)

But on further reflection, I think it is suitable reading for the male persuasion. First, I think they deserve to know, at some point, about the reduction. I won't be telling them as children, and I've sworn my SIL's to secrecy, but it is a reality of life and a part of how they came to be. Perhaps I'll change my mind in 20 or 25 years, but that's how I feel now. They should know. And secondly, I think it would be good for them to have some inkling of how difficult pregnancy can be - the achieving of it and also going through it. This isn't for sissies. And it's an experience they'll never have directly.

And yet, it's also an experience they definitely should know about. I want them to be thoughtful and responsible young men, and have some forethought about getting a young lady knocked up unless it's on purpose. And also not to think that should the unexpected occur, and the young woman is suddenly expecting when they least expected it - well, abortion is not something to be entered into lightly, and perhaps not at all, if a better solution can be found. I remember when I was young and stupid, and I thought that if I becamepregnant when it was not convenient, I would "just" get an abortion. "Just"get an abortion. I can't believe I thought that then. It's not that simple, as I know now.

And yet I am not willing to take abortion on demand away from our arsenal of solutions. I think that sometimes, if the woman is in truly desperate circumstances, or if the baby will almost certainly have a quality of life that is not what I would want for myself, it is a solution, and better the woman and her doctor should make that decision than let the government get its patty-paws on it. But how often are women in truly desperate circumstances? Rarely, I think. Of course, it does happen. Yet so often the choice for abortion really is a matter of convenience. And I'm not sure "convenience" is a word that should even enter into this question.

Okay, backing slowly away from the soapbox....

I wanted to cover one more reproductive issue today, though this is a personal question, not a general one. At my appointment last week, Dr. S brought up the question of getting my tubes tied. As in, did I want her to go ahead and do it while she was doing the C-section, since she'd be mucking around in there anyway and it would save me a surgery later, should I decide on it down the road?

Well. Uh, I said. Um. Huh? I hadn't even considered it, truth to tell. Frankly, I've given very little thought to birth control of any sort since realizing a couple of years ago just how difficult it was going to be to getme preggers by any method at all. Dr. S went on blithely that she needed to bring it up now since my HMO has a three day waiting period after signing the paperwork, and while our scheduled C is a month off, who knows what the babies will choose to do, and it's better to have things decided in advance. And besides, she said, I could sign the paperwork now, and still change my mind at any time right up until the surgery. So why not sign it now?

D jumped on the idea like a duck on a June bug, which annoyed me a trifle. I mean really, it's not his decision to make - which is what I tartly informed him. Dr. S went on with her reasons. Basically, she said, it would relieve me of worrying about birth control. (Except, of course, that I haven't been worrying about it.) Also, the older I get (I'm 44 now), the more chance there is for genetic abnormalities in a fetus. And she's right about that. I'll be 45 by the time we could really start trying again, and that's getting up there. We dodged the bullet (as far as we know) with the twins, but the two that we reduced showed indicators of abnormalities - both of them had thick nuchal folds, and one had a visible cystic hygroma. What if only two had stuck, instead of four, and the two were the ones with the abnormalities? I don't even want to think about that. Or if I had (somehow!) managed to get knocked up by normal means, and only one of those four eggs had stuck - which one would it be? One of the two we have now, or one of the other two? Those are fifty-fifty odds. Not so great.

I think my reluctance to do this is mostly due to the fact that neither of the babies that will be arriving soon is a girl. I'll get past this eventually (probably the instant that I see my sons' little faces!) but I guess at this point I haven't quite resigned myself to the idea of never having a daughter. Voluntarily tying my tubes seems to cement that particular future. Oh, I know we could do IVF again - the tubes have nothing to do with that. But IVF is so expensive and so mentally difficult, I doubt we will get up the gumption for it soon enough to use my own eggs again. We're both kind of worn out on that front, and tapped out financially. Whereas an "oops" baby... well, I could dream, right? I mean, my mother didn't hit menopause until she was in her late fifties, so I still have time, right? Right?

I'm also a little skeptical, it seems, that our sons will both arrive safely! I have no reason to think they won't, but this seems to be a remnant of "infertile" thinking - you know: "I'll believe it when I see it." I am a little too well-educated now on the millions of slips possible 'twixt cup and lip, when it comes to actually bringing a live, healthy baby into the world. We are nearing the finish line - heck, I can see it up there, justpast the cheering crowd! But, you know, something could still happen ....

If Dr. S had asked me this question two years from now, I'm pretty sure my answer would have been, "Oh, sure, let's do it." Because at that point I'd be fairly confident that my own eggs had turned to crap. But of course, if all goes according to plan, in a couple of years I'll be running nonstop after a pair of high-velocity little boys and have no time to go into the hospital for a day or two to get the old tubes tied! So logically, now would be a good time to do it.

So I think I will sign the paperwork at my checkup tomorrow, but I'm still mulling over this question. And I have a month - probably - to do the mulling. Input welcome from my discerning audience!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Tough days

These are just tough times, mentally, for both of us. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, D has to teach all day long, not getting home until 7:30. Then he has to clean litter boxes, feed the cats, take out the recycling and trash ... just fun stuff on top of a long day. (But it's all stuff I can't cope with right now.)

I felt kind of isolated since he disappeared to the living room right afterward, and because I was having some contractions, I stayed in bed. When D. finally came in to get ready for bed, about an hour later, I tried, very gently, to start a conversation ... just stuff about how his day went, etc. He told me that it looks like the teacher's union at his university may very well call for a strike. The problem with that is that he doesn't agree with many of the stances that the union has taken, and therefore has never joined it. But if they strike, it will be time for him to jump, to one side of the fence or the other. And whichever way he goes, he is sure to make some enemies. (They take this stuff very seriously there -- you would think they were life or death issues, instead of things like whether the student activity fee should be raised by $15 per year.) And the problem with making enemies is that he is finally up for tenure this year.

Sigh ... Anyway, then I made the mistake of asking him to help me put away a couple of things that were lying on the bed, since I was still having some problems. (I spent a good part of this afternoon sorting out drawers in our bedroom, thus the junk strewn all over the bed.) I asked him to get rid of a pile of newspapers -- and he threw them on the floor. Then I pointed out some old shirts that I had designated as new rags (which should have gone in the rag bucket in the hall closet) -- and he threw them on the floor.

Well, thanks, honey, I said. I could have managed that myself. I had more in mind "putting them away" -- what a strange concept. (And this is actually really funny in a sort of grumpy way, since he is the neatnik and I am the queen of useless crap -- hence the need to sort out the drawers and get rid of the excess.)

Decided at that point it was time to haul my Braxton-Hicksish butt out of bed and go wandering over the Internet instead, where at least no one would be grumpy at me. So here I am.

If one more person tells me I am glowing, I think I will bite them.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The California Pacific Medical Center drama continues

Got a call from ol' Tiffany today (a manager in California Pacific Medical Center's billing department -- the one who gave me the initial estimate for our amnio). I had to waddle hurriedly in from the next room and lunge for the phone before the answering machine picked up, with the result that I was out of breath, having a contraction, and a just a wee bit surly when I finally answered.

But I controlled my snarl and wasn't too surly ... and I was glad after we talked a little bit, since Tiffany had called to tell me that yes, in fact, there had been a mistake in billing. Seems they had billed us twice for the same procedure (isn't that what the first girl told me the first time?) -- and therefore the second bill was incorrect after all. Which results in a savings for us of about $3k. Which is an enormous relief. We are not poor people, or we would never have gone the IVF route in the first place -- but you know, you start adding up how much cribs and diapers and bouncers and whatnot are going to be, times two (and mind you, this is just the start-up cost!) and you soon start feeling pretty darned frugal. Better the $3k should be in our pocket than CPMC's.

In all fairness to CPMC's employees, I have to say that it sounds like it is their system that is at fault. Tiffany told me that the problem seemed to be that their third-party billing operation (though Sutter), which is the entity that gave me the wrong numbers, has no direct access to the actual medical records. So when they checked the billing, it all looked fine to them. But when Tiffany, who does have access to the medical records, checked things out, it was immediately obvious to her that we had been double-billed.

I'm just glad I don't work for CPMC's administrative arm. It must be a nightmare.

And perhaps I have been proven wrong. It took both hands to do it (or rather, both billing departments), but I guess they finally did find their head. Or an anatomical feature on the other end, perhaps.

Friday, February 02, 2007

100 Reasons Why California Pacific Medical Center Sucks

Well, actually, no, I don't have 100 reasons. But it's rather catchy, don't you think? With any luck at all, Google will archive it and a link to this page will be there for the ages. Because let me tell you, I am in a vindictive mood at the moment.

To recap: CPMC sent me an erroneous bill. The reason it's erroneous is because ol' "Tiffany" in Billing told me over the phone that our amniocentesis procedure, for BOTH babies, would run between $2 - 3K, plus extra for the lab (Genzyme). That was a trifle pricey for us, but we agreed to it because I was so worried about something happening to the boys from a bad amnio, and I had faith that Dr. Tex would do the best job possible. (Which he did, IMHO -- my beef is not with Dr. Tex or his staff at all.) Anyway, if you look up the above link you'll see the story of the first bill they sent us, which was approximately TWICE what Tiffany had quoted me.

WTF? says I at the time (back in December), and called up Sutter's billing (separate from Tiffany, apparently). A very nice little girl looked up my records, and shortly thereafter reassured me that it looked like Dr. Tex's office had accidentally double-billed us, and not to pay it while she straightened things out. (My bad, incidentally, for not typing up the end of that particular story.) Relief all around, right?

Well, today another bill came in, again for the same exaggerated amount, plus a little form letter saying that Nice Little Girl had looked things up, all right, and found that the bill was correct in the first place. And pay up pronto, sucker.

WTF???!! (This time in a yell.) Not happy. Called up Sutter billing and got the same Nice Little Girl, except she wasn't so nice anymore. Assured me that the bill was correct, as well as due.

I am just steaming now. I looked around but of course couldn't find my notes for my conversation with Tiffany about the estimate. (Everything is in a tremendous muddle these days, since I haven't been able to stand on my two feet to clean anything up in forever. As a matter of fact, I am rushing this post so I can go lie down again.) I called Tiffany nonetheless and left a voicemail. With any luck (with her track record) she might call me back by the end of next week.

I don't think I have a snowball's chance of winning on this, frankly, since everything was over the phone and I'll bet Tiffany didn't note down what she told me the procedure would cost (nor would she necessarily tell me if she had). But I am going to whine and bitch and kvetch until they are sorry they ever misquoted me a price on this. We expected this to run a MAXIMUM of $4K and instead it's looking like a total of over $6K. I am NOT happy. And CPMC is going to be a little less happy too by the time I get through with them.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Food fight

Or rather, it isn't so much a "food fight" here lately, as it is me fighting to make myself eat the food. Any food. I am just sick unto death of stuffing my face. In point of actual fact, I am eating a very reasonable amount of food, but it feels like I am trying to get a bit more stuffing into a waaaaaaaay overstuffed couch, if you can imagine what I mean. And my husband, lovely though he is, is a fairly wretched cook at the best of times, and takeout is pretty much a non-starter because of the gestational diabetes. (Everything that actually tastes good has TONS of sugar in it. Start reading the labels yourself if you don't believe me.) Also my honey is a vegetarian, so I don't want to put him through the angst of actually cooking a fellow creature ... so we have been using a lot of pre-cooked meat, things like chicken strips and meatballs. Nutritionally they are pretty sound, with a lot of protein, but taste-wise, they tend to be a bit like the dog's supper.

So I just made a sojourn into the kitchen to see what I could scrounge for dinner (since D's semester has begun again and he has to teach all day until 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays). I feel pretty decent today and thought maybe I'd actually (gasp!) cook something for myself -- but there's nothing in there. We had a Grand Meltdown with the fridge a couple of months ago, and all my lovingly prepared homemade beef stew and so forth went into the garbage at that time. There's nothing in there but precooked meatballs and the like.

I was anorexic for a few months when I was in high school, and my attitude toward food these days feels disturbingly like that time in my life. I should clarify here and say that my anorexia stemmed not from some desire to be ultra-thin (since I was pretty skinny to start with) but from simple depression. My life sucked and I just wasn't interested in eating. I lost 20 pounds in one month, and my parents never said a word. (Which perhaps shows you the state of my relationship with my parents at that time.) Years later, when my mother died suddenly, I again lost my appetite and shed a bunch of pounds in a month, simply because I couldn't bring myself to eat.

But now I don't have that luxury. I have two little boys that are depending on me to eat for them, and to do a damned good job of it.

But goddamn it, I am just sick to death of eating, and especially of eating the crap that is allowed me. I will be so ridiculously glad when these boys have popped out, healthy and wailing, and I can have some Chinese takeout again!