Saga of the Little Peanut

So we thought I lost the baby yesterday. Or I thought I lost the baby yesterday. WARNING: Graphic Situation. I started spotting brown yesterday afternoon and feeling cramp so I called my doctor’s office. The medical assistant said it was probably nothing to worry about. Brown spotting is old blood and as long as it wasn’t bright red, it was probably nothing serious. She said they would fit me in if I felt I needed to come in but I told her I wouldn’t fret and would instead just monitor it.

I got off work at 5:15 pm and went to pee before the long drive home. When I wiped, the tissue was covered in dark red blood and I had dripped red into the toilet. I freaked. I had no idea this was happening and my underwear was stained through and my new slacks were spotted with dark blood. I had no tampons so I was glad it was the end of the day and I was the last one out of the office. I called Ben and he offered to come pick me up but I honestly just wanted to hide my stained butt in the car and get home as quickly as possible. I called my doctor’s office on the way home and they were closed but the answering service said it would page the doctor on duty that day and ask her to call me, which she did very quickly. I explained what happened and asked if I should try to go to an emergency room. I didn’t want to bleed out. She said in very rare cases women can hemorrhage from a miscarriage and that I should go to the ER if that happens. She said the ER would do an ultrasound if I wanted to go but she said it would be less expensive to come to their office and she would make it a priority to see that I could be fit into my regular doctor’s schedule. She said it was possible that I would pass some pregnancy tissue that night and I could try to save it and bring it in if that happened. Well, that freaked me out because I interpreted this to mean she thought I probably had miscarried. I cried off and on during the ride home, no radio on, just listening to my thoughts flit around my brain at a million miles per hour.

So the rest of the night I was conflicted. I think I was more stressed out about how I should feel rather than what was actually happening to me. Either way I figured I would be fine. I know that miscarriages are normal and there would be nothing I could do. I think I just wanted to know, either way, if I still had a baby. By the time I got home the bleeding had reverted back to a brown spotting. I was still slightly crampy but I felt pregnant, if that makes sense. It didn’t feel like anything was wrong. I actually slept better last night than I have in the two weeks since I found out we were expecting.

The next morning my doctor office called and scheduled a time for me to come in. Ben went with me in a separate car in case I decided to go to work after. I peed in a cup and sat in the exam room, a stained, royal purple cotton cover wrapped around my waist, the ultrasound machine and the fate that it held for my baby, directly in front of the exam chair. I love my doctor. She is to the point without being rude. It’s almost compassionate the way she is gently direct and informative. She warned us that I might be too early in the pregnancy for her to be able to see anything but as soon as she started, I could see it. A little blurb in a giant open dark area. The Little Peanut. It was blinking. The heartbeat. Like a little lighthouse beacon, signaling everything was okay. She was explaining what everything was on the screen and I was trying not to cry and barely failing because I think I expected the worst and could not believe I was seeing my baby’s heart beat.

So I have a slight subchorionic hematoma and that was probably the cause of the bleeding. The doctor said it will most likely resolve itself or it may present complications later. I’m not stressing about that now because that is the worst thing I could do. The Little Peanut’s story is not over. Not today.

Secret Handshake

So, apparently being a “mom-to-be” warrants entry into a special club of sorts, where the invitation is automatic and all-inclusive. As soon as someone finds out I am expecting, I am subject to a reminiscing of a woman’s history of childbearing, what worked, what didn’t, how many she has, how long she was in labor, whether she experienced morning sickness, etc. And if it’s a guy, I get a vicarious recounting of his wife’s experiences while pregnant. And I don’t even have to ask. People are so generous. Sheesh.

So, my boobs hurt. A lot. And I need to stay away from any and all books regarding expecting for a bit because the sections on testing and Down Syndrome are freaking scary. I always thought that genetic defects were more likely if the father was older. I had no idea how much bigger my risk is of having a Down Syndrome baby is because I’m 36 years old. No one told me this. I definitely am putting this on my list of information to make sure my child has readily available when old enough. I come from a family where you have kids early, you plan them, and everything will be okay. Not the real world.

Mom Status

So, there’s a tiny human growing inside me. And it freaks me the hell out. I’m going to assume that’s normal at first but this may be the scariest grown-up thing I have faced to-date.

We’ve not been actively trying to get pregnant but we did decide this year that we would give it a go. We aren’t one of those couples that takes a temperature and decides to go at it till we get a result. We have had a very relaxed approach to the whole thing. I think my husband was beginning to think that he was infertile since we started a few months ago. My job up until very recently, has been very stressful, and I am fairly certain on my birthday, I had a miscarriage while we were celebrating in San Antonio. I was not devastated or anything. Like I said, we have had a very relaxed approach to the entire thing and figured if it happens, it happens, and if it doesn’t, well,  it doesn’t. I have never been a woman who believes my sole existence is to breed. That shit drives me crazy. And if I have a child, I will lay down my life for it and love it to the moon and back, but my life is NOT going to revolve around her/him. I don’t believe that is a healthy example to set for a child, or a healthy lifestyle for a parent to live.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. So the funny thing is, I was getting close to my period and even had some spotting so I was on my way to work and realized I didn’t have a tampon in my purse so I made an emergency stop at Walmart and bought tampons. But the entire day at work I was feeling…off. I was having dizzy spells, I couldn’t concentrate, and the night before my abdomen felt…weird. I had just taken a pregnancy test a week before and it had come out negative but on a whim, I stopped after work and bought another pack of three and as soon as I got home I used one. At first there was one line but when I checked it a couple minutes later I had to peer at it closely because I could swear that another faint, pink line was appearing. The longer I watched it, the darker it grew, and suddenly the mood swings, crying fits and dizzy spells I’d been having for the past week all made sense. Preg. O.

I tried to call Ben at work but he was away from his phone. I called the front desk where he works and asked them to page him. I asked if he was sitting down. I told him he was going to be a dad and I texted him a picture of the test and he said the line was pretty faint so I sent the picture again (the lighting was bad). He said that was better. I spent the entire evening in shock. I think I’m still in shock, even though I’ve taken another home pregnancy test, a different brand, with the same positive result, and my blood work has come back positive (hormone levels are normal) and all I can think is that this isn’t me. Someone else is pregnant, but I can’t possibly be grown up enough to make a human. If anything, I’m probably one of the last females from my high school graduating class who has not had a baby. It’s unheard of in that backwoods town to be over 30 and not have kids unless you’re ugly, a lesbian, or infertile. Highly unusual. But I’ve never been in a hurry. I’m a very healthy, very active, and I don’t feel my life ticking away, and I’ve never thought my greatest accomplishment in life would be having a kid. Pretty much anyone can have a kid. It takes no talent whatsoever.

But I’m still freaking out. There’s a ton of shit for me to read and sift through and it’s overwhelming and stressful, even though it all emphasizes you need to RELAX. Yeah, funny.

So I’m excited. And I’m scared. Sometimes I feel Ben is my only family. The rest of my “family” is not very supportive or present or healthy so I’m kind of on my own through this, kind of like how I’ve been through everything important in my life. But you know what? I’ve made it this far just fine so if that’s any indication of how this will go, I’m going to rock this adventure, too. I can’t wait to have a little one born in the year of the monkey that I’m hoping will inherit the best of both of our characteristics. I can’t wait to experience life through the eyes of a child. I can’t wait for Mom status.

Arm-in-Arm with PTSD

You know what it’s like to be in love with someone who has PTSD? It’s like watching them inside a cage with two-way mirrored walls. They can’t see you but you can see them…you watch them being tortured by some unseen force. They are in pain and there is nothing you can do to help. There are no doors into or out of the cage, only the walls. You watch them throw themselves against the walls of their cage, hurting themselves, and still they don’t know you’re there and still you can’t help.

The Ugly Front Lines of Photography

Photography seems to be a ubiquitous pastime, a run-of-the-mill hobby for poor college kids or stay-at-home moms or entrepreneurial hipsters. When you think of photographers, you think of paparazzi, of celebrities temporarily blinded by fierce LED strobes. You think of stalkers waiting, darting in like a hummingbird for that perfect no-makeup-screaming-at-their-boyfriend/husband/girlfriend/wife shot. Photogs suffer the occasional broken nose, black eye, or fractured equipment; hardly reward enough for their hard work…

Because I’m telling you-it is HARD WORK. Don’t get me wrong; I am IN. LOVE. WITH. TAKING. PICTURES. See, I have this thing for sounds, sounds like a weed eater cutting through tall grass, the monkey whimpering of my pug when he is happy to see me, large pages in very big books being turned, thunderous rain, a bullet being shot by a gun with a silencer…and the snap/click of a picture being taken with a DSLR. The crisp “SCHLICK” sound that tells me the bars of the cage that is my mind’s eye have dropped down around the perfect image…love, love, love that sound.

So imagine my happiness at being offered a part-time job as a lighting pro for a wedding venue where I would receiving on-the-job training and be paid at the same time…a job that would eventually lead to me being a pretty well-paid photographer on their staff! Yep, I’m pretty stoked. My first gig was Saturday. I assisted a photog who started out being the lighting pro like me.

If anything, I learned that weddings are not my thing. My goal is to shoot boudoir, male, female and couple boudoir. Saturday made it very clear to me that there is a reason photogs seem to charge a hell of a lot of money for their time and product. It’s definitely not as glamorous as the masses pretend. I would argue the majority of them don’t charge enough for what they do.

So August in Texas is hot as Christian Bale doing pull-ups. Slowly. Pretty damn hot. We’re talking full sun and over 100 degrees, and our clients booked us from 3:30 pm to 10:00 pm. It was a long, long day.

Weddings are stressful, anyway, so when people are late, ceremonies don’t start on time, it has suddenly become your job to corral everyone and cue them to the next step, you’re wearing two shirts, long sleeves, and all black, lugging heavy equipment around and holding a heavy mounted flash up in the air for half the night, the day goes from long to exhausting. I was pretty much extraneous the first half of the day and spent most of my time stumbling backwards out of every shot the photog took. After all, I’m the lighting pro. The sun makes me irrelevant. My main focus was to keep her happy and positive, since she was doing most of the work. I trailed her like a silent, lost animal, trying to stay out of the way, smiling over and over and over again at people I didn’t know, feeling her frustration as the wedding party seemed bored and irritated with having their pictures taken, answering questions from people as to what I was doing, dodging line-dancers and bumpers and grinders as the night wore on and the alcohol flowed and people became less inhibited (there are going to be some very sobered up and embarrassed parties when the videos are released), and ignoring the inevitable family drama and crying spouses that ensue when large families collide at festive gatherings. Thank God my family lives over 500 miles away.

By the end of the night, I drained four bottles of water, had sweat running down places sweat had never been, could not feel my feet, was covered in gravel dust that had turned my outfit from black to gray, had a cramp in my shoulder…and then I glimpsed them…the wedding couple…who pretty much spent the entire evening after the ceremony apart hanging with friends and family and dancing…sharing a tender kiss that was softly lit by the sparkler they both grasped. These two were starting their lives together and I had been invited to record it all in time so it would never be forgotten. What we did that night will probably outlive them and their families. That’s pretty powerful stuff. It almost made the entire evening worth it.

Mental Health Month was a Sick Joke

So May was Mental Health Month, apparently. I feel it is ridiculous to have a month dedicated to mental health. We should be aware of our mental health for the entire year. And after the experience I have had trying to find a mental health practitioner, I’m starting to think that our society needs to dedicate an entire year or decade to mental health awareness.

When I started my job with the Travis County Clerk’s Office, everyone lauded my decision, making it a point to tell me how lucky I was to have secured a government job. I was told the benefits alone would be worth taking the job…not true! The dental insurance I have limits me to using dentists who all have terrible Yelp ratings, which leads me to pay out of pocket to go to a decent dentist this year.

I am trying to find a psychiatrist/therapist/psychologist that has weekend or evening appointments, since I am one of two supervisors and I don’t have a lot of sick time to use to go to the doctor. I just started my job with the county last November so I’m waiting for more time to accrue. I have called about 8 doctors so far. They either will not return my calls, and I say calls because I have made several attempts to contact them; they are not accepting new patients; they do not accept my insurance even though they are listed as in-network providers by my insurance company; they have either no reviews or atrocious reviews; they do not see patients on the weekends or in the evenings.

I’m sorry, but in a huge urban area such as Austin Texas, I expected a PLETHORA of mental health providers. But the pickings here are slim. I would not feel comfortable speaking to a male therapist about issues of incest but I may have to go that route. On Friday I thought I had found a doctor and even though I read in the reviews that she would not accept debit or credit cards, only cash (what doctor in the 21st century operates this way?), I made a call to her office to inquire if she was taking new patients. I received an answering machine message, not a voice mail, a true to life answering machine message and her heavily accented voice, which I could not understand a word of, was cut off mid-sentence, and an automated voice said, “I’m sorry, but this number does not accept faxes,” and the line disconnected. Sorry, no thank you. I don’t need more stress as a result of finding a provider. So now I have a 10-page list of providers, group (not my thing) and male, because I am desperate.

I have called my insurance company about 5 times now asking if a doctor is in-network. Every time I call, they have to transfer me to the “Mental Health Department,” and I am always asked if I feel like hurting myself or someone else. “Yes,” I reply, or want to….”I’m about to pull my hair out in frustration or kick someone in the shin because I can’t get help and I’m really glad I’m not suicidal right this second because there are no doctors available to see me.” I feel like a criminal when I call and have to answer that question. Honestly, who is going to say yes to that question?! One of the customer reps even asked me what issues I was going to need a provider for…I hung up on her…it was none of her business. She also wanted to lecture me on the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist. Please. I am an intelligent woman and I never said I needed that explained.

On a really bad day I made a desperate attempt to try the online counseling through a free program at work that allows employees short-term (5 free session) counseling through their website. That was a disaster. I tried three separate times to select an “available” counselor and chat with her. I entered the chat room and waited and waited. I continuously typed out “Hello” into the white void on my MacBook Air…to no avail…no one ever answered.

The only thing Mental Health Month and the month that followed taught me was that our country’s method of assisting people with mental health issues needs a serious overhaul and redrafting.

On Being Amanda Green

Scary…to see my thoughts splayed on a backlit MacBook Air screen…naked and reaching like newborn baby bird toward cyberspace…

This is my first blog…my maiden voyage. Simultaneously, I am working on publishing a book of my poetry. I imagine both of these projects will disturb some old wounds, which always stimulates the fount of creativity locked in the dungeon of my brain. You wary, treasure-hunting travelers have now been given a map to this fount and that map is I suspect you travelers will soon be very rich people indeed.