Getting There

Last night, I told Kyle that I really wished we could have a normal week for once, because our weeks lately have been anything but normal.

Take this week.

Things started out somewhat normal. Sunday was filled with trips to the park and the store and experimental recipes (specifically, strawberry Jell-O popsicles in Star Wars molds, which were super easy to make but have a kind of weird texture? We’ll have to work on that) and then the week started out normal. Sort of. I went to work and Sam went to school and Kyle went to work.

My Monday was probably the most Mondayest of Mondays, but that’s something I won’t get into. When I got home on Monday, I didn’t want to see or talk to anyone but Sam, and I did, and we had a delightful evening just cuddling and watching videos together. I went to bed thinking of one of my favorite poems, Shakespeare’s Sonnet 30, in which the narrator talks about how they can be having the worst and saddest day of all time, “but if the while, I think on thee, dear friend, all losses are restored and sorrows end.” That’s honestly a Sammy thing. He brings me a lot of joy.

(after bathtime the other day)

And Tuesday was better, not by a HUGE margin, but better. And then Wednesday.

Tinkerbell, as I’d written a couple of weeks ago, was recently diagnosed with hypercalcemia. She’d been doing better by a mile, but on Wednesday morning, Kat heard her straining to use the litterbox, straining so hard that she made herself vomit. Tinkerbell wasn’t herself at all, so we sucked it up and brought her back to the ER, which meant high bills again. It turned out that the hypercalcemia caused something called “megacolon,” which is basically like EXTREME CONSTIPATION for cats. We saw X-rays of it. It wasn’t pretty.

(aside: I have so many questions about the Poop Emoji and also this movie, most of which are probably better left unanswered)

$1500, some fluids and enemas later, and Tinkerbell is pretty much back to herself, now with doctors’ orders to eat only wet food and take Miralax to keep her regular. Like any old lady, her guts have lost motility, and since we can’t really put her on an old lady diet of prunes, prune juice, and a side of bran, Miralax it is. If that doesn’t work, we’re looking at prescription meds.

The $1500 is the sticking point. Once again, we had it, but it was what we had left over after the last time, when we recouped about $600 and Kat managed to do a great whip-round and raise $700 to offset the overall costs of the situation. I’d pulled $1500 out of our account just a couple of days ago because I didn’t want it to end up being spent in a flurry of bill paying and birthday money spending. And it wasn’t spent on those things. It was spent on the cat’s constipation issues.

(my actual life lately. The furnace is a cat’s anus)

There really wasn’t any way around it. We weren’t about to just let her die in agony of constipation, and putting her down would’ve been both (a) silly because it’s constipation and (b) pointless because it would’ve been the same cost either way. The overall cost for the treatments she got is pretty standard, so even if we’d waited and taken her to a cheaper vet, we probably would’ve had a similar bill. It was a lose-lose situation, financially (though thankfully, since we have a plan going forward, this shouldn’t happen again any time soon).

And just like that, PGS is off the table for the time being.

We could do it, I suppose, if we waited until next spring or something. Waited until the next tax return, waited until the next windfall, whenever that is. Kyle’s company gives him a sizeable bonus every year, and combining that with a theoretical tax return would probably be enough. In theory.

I’m hoping to do another cycle without PGS in the next month or so; I start birth control probably Saturday or Sunday. After that, we’d have two cycles left of IVF with ICSI before we’d have reached our lifetime maximum on the insurance, and I don’t know what would happen after that. It’s a while from now. I’m afraid to think that far ahead because things keep changing and becoming undone.

But then there’s hope, too.

This week, some friends of ours finalized the adoption of their foster daughter after what seems like an eternity of having her. I watched it on Facebook Live (sidenote: I always have to laugh at people who are grumpy about technology, because holy crap, how awesome is it to be able to watch your friends adopt their daughter live while it’s happening 2000 miles away?), and I cried buckets. And then I cried more buckets at a picture of their daughter signing her new initials at dance class. I don’t know if there’s a word for “something so awesome that it makes all other awesome things look boring” but if there is, that’s the word I’d use here.

(if such a word exists, it’s probably German)

Watching my various friends who are going through the process of adopting through foster care has been heartbreaking but also enlightening. I used to think that it wasn’t something I could do, especially after the pain of dealing with infertility… it’s bad enough to get your hopes up every month for a child that doesn’t even exist yet, but to fall in love with a child that does exist only to have that child taken away or constantly worry about that child being taken away? Terrifying.

But I’m feeling differently lately, not in an immediate sense, but in a sense that someday, when we’re done with this IVF process (whether it’s because we’ve had a child or because we couldn’t), I’d like to foster-to-adopt. We’ve always talked about adopting, and we’ve always wanted to, and I think we could eventually manage going down that road. Eventually. Not as a consolation prize or as a “well, we couldn’t get pregnant, so we might as well adopt,” but because we have love to give and we want to give it to someone who needs it.

Eventually. I think, though, that right now, life is a bit too turmoil-y for it. But someday.

In the meantime, I go in for bloodwork tomorrow, and we have another appointment with the RE on July 6 to square things away for this next cycle. Something somewhere along the line will work out. It’s just a question of getting there, that’s all.

Flying Solo

Before I got married, I was a traveling FIEND. I loved flying and traveling solo, anywhere at all. I couldn’t afford to do it as much as I wanted–money is still a thing, after all–but I always felt something of a thrill getting onto an airplane, checking into a hotel, slipping between those cool and probably not at all hygienic sheets, and just enjoying time away from home.

(like I’m not going to do this at home, but at a hotel, definitely)

I still do enjoy traveling, but it’s changed a lot. I used to love traveling solo; now, I can’t stand it. I need to have my family with me or else I’m mostly miserable.


Which is funny because traveling with a kid is probably a special circle of hell reserved for people with truck nuts, diet racists (a.k.a., “I’m not racist but…” followed by something very racist), and whoever invented these. A coworker and I were laughing about it, how anytime you vacation with your kid, you come back more exhausted than you were before you left. And that’s entirely true, even with just one kid in the picture. Sam takes an immense amount of wrangling, even more when he’s tired or hungry (which he always is on vacation; yay for schedules being all wonky?). Kyle and I have four hands between us and we feel like we need at least eight more just for one Sam.

(still not enough)

But still.

This week, I went on a business trip. I don’t do business trips often, but I do go on them, like I’m important or something (ha, that’s funny, mostly I spent the entire time sitting in informational sessions on best practices and being too introverted and socially anxious to even yell out “BINGO!” when I got a BINGO before anyone else in the room because I didn’t want to draw attention). Before Sam was born, before I was married, I probably would’ve enjoyed the hell out of the trip, even with all the bizarre bumps in the road. And don’t get me wrong, I didn’t have a bad time, but…

Well. The hotel room felt too quiet. My hands felt too unbusy. I nearly jumped out of my skin when I saw a little boy with blonde hair wearing a T-shirt that looks like one of Sam’s at the airport (he turned out to be, like, seven. In my defense, I’m very tired). I kept slipping away to try and catch Kyle and Sam in a quiet enough moment to call them, and even though Kyle and I dealt with vile traffic on the way home last night, it still felt like a burden off my shoulders to see him there.

My dad went on a bunch of business trips when I was a kid; I don’t remember half of them. I know he went to London, mostly because he got us a boatload of souvenirs (like a shirt that said LONDON on it in big block letters that I wore to bed basically until I was 25; and a beautifully illustrated book of Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes). I know he went to Nashville once, and Berlin. Most of the business trips he went on came before 9/11, so we’d actually go to the gate with him to say good-bye (yeah, young kids, did you know you used to be able to do that?). And I could always tell he missed us by how many souvenirs he brought back, as if every time he thought of us and felt sad, he bought something for us to make himself feel better.

(not quite this shirt but close)

I didn’t buy Sam any souvenirs, mostly because the gift shop next to my gate didn’t have anything I was willing to pick up when it was inevitably discarded within 15 minutes of Sam opening it.

But I missed him. I’ve Skyped with him and FaceTimed with him, but I haven’t gotten a chance to hug him yet, and I’m looking forward to that.

I don’t know. I’m not one of those people who are like “I AM NOTHING WITHOUT MY CHILD” because I know that’s not true. I’d still be feeling this way if Sam wasn’t in the picture and it was just Kyle and Kat I was leaving behind every time I traveled. There’s something about building your own family that makes you want to have them within driving distance, if not at all times, then at least with great frequency. And it makes you miss them when you’re apart from each other.

Our house isn’t the same when one of the four of us (five, with Tinkerbell, whom I include for this exercise) isn’t there. It feels incorrect, like if you’re playing a song on the piano and skip a note or like when you’re walking along and miss a step.

(for the record, I do this all the time)

And, well. I don’t feel myself when I’m apart from my family. Maybe that makes me a little pathetic, but that’s okay. It only really becomes a big deal when there’s a business trip anyway.

Kitty Boots

I think the overall moral of this story is that my cat is an asshole, but that’s getting ahead of myself.

Tinkerbell spent the night at Tufts Veterinary Clinic on Monday. They’re expensive (as noted), but they’re also the best around (and the closest emergency clinic to our house), so it wasn’t even a question for me. They gave her fluids and ran tests, and they even convinced her to eat a little food. The vet called me Tuesday morning and explained that the blood work had come back mostly normal, save for two small blips. One was a decreased platelet count, which is common in older cats; the other was elevated calcium levels, or hypercalcemia.

In her case, the hypercalcemia was what’s known as “idiopathic” or “lol we have no idea what’s going on here.” But she was doing a lot better yesterday, eating well and drinking well and overall bright and alert, so they saw no reason to keep her. I went and picked her up after work, with enormous thunderheads towering in my rearview mirror and classical music playing on the radio.

(I like to listen to classical music on my drive home; something about its smoothness helps me relax. On the contrary, though, I’m a Top 40 girl for the morning commute, particularly if I’m listening to Matty in the Morning)

So I picked her up, and because I’m softer than a melting marshmallow in May, I let her out of her carrier for the ride home.

(my car is an absolute disaster area, pls ignore the mess on the floor)

She was surprisingly content with this arrangement. She spent most of the ride lounging on the front seat like the royalty she is, but for the first ten minutes, she rode on my lap, looking out the window over my arm. She tried to look on the dashboard, but found that was too unstable while the car was moving, and settled instead for poking around the passenger-side floor and, eventually, the backseat.

I picked her up out of the backseat when we got home, and she promptly peed all over me, protesting as she did so. Well, I can’t blame her. They gave her a lot of fluids, and she’d probably had to go for a while but been unable to communicate as much because she’s a cat and can’t talk.

(she sort of talks; she yowls, which she did when I picked her up… and then there was a lot of pee, which I assume humiliated her as much as it disgusted me)

Inside the house, she immediately started exploring everything, making sure it was all as she’d left it. She devoured a bowl of her new cat food (prescription stuff for hypercalcemic cats), chugged some water, pooped perfectly well (compared to what she’d been doing, which was not pooping at all), and then spent the evening lounging at the top of the stairs and showing off her cat boots.

(things of note: her irritated expression at being photographed, the bruising from where they placed her IV, and my ugly ass carpet… I can’t wait until we can afford to tear it all out and replace it with hardwood)

So it’s all good news in her department. She’s an ornery, picky old lady, but she’s alive and well enough for her age. She has another vet appointment at her usual (significantly less expensive) clinic in about a month, so we’ll see how she does in the meantime. For now, though, she seems like she’s stubbornly sticking around for the long haul, and I’m very happy to see that.

There’s more good news as well. Because her issues weren’t anything severe, we recouped some of the cost of her stay at the clinic, about $600. As if that wasn’t awesome enough, Kat managed to organize a quick fundraiser, and many of our awesome friends donated a total of $700 to help us offset the costs. I’m in awe and so very grateful on so many levels. We’re still a little less financially ready for PGS than we were, but thanks to our friends and Tinkerbell not actually being sick, we’re not in as bad of a place as we were.

So I’m tired, but happy. It feels like this week has already taken a month, and it’s only Wednesday, but at least the back half of the week seems like it will be less stressful than the front half.



If it’s not one thing…

I love cats, always have. When I was about Sam’s age, my parents got us a cat that we called Chim-Chim because he looked like he’d come down the Chim-Chimney (a la Mary Poppins), all dark and sooty. He didn’t last terribly long, after breaking a window in our basement and escaping before we could get him neutered. Our next cat, Flower, gave me cat scratch fever, which sounds like a big band number (a la Zoot Suit Riot), but was really a serious medical condition. She was far too violent to have in a house with small children (I was about five and my brother was an infant), so we had to rehome her. Two years later, we adopted sisters, Tigger and Silky, from some friends of ours in New York state whose barn cat had just given birth to a litter. They stuck with us until I was probably nine or ten, and then we had to rehome them because my sister had developed severe allergies.

After Tigger and Silky were rehomed (which thoroughly broke my heart), I decided that I’d adopt a cat of my own the second I moved out of my parents’ house. Thankfully, though, I didn’t have to wait that long. On my seventeenth birthday, my mom drove all of us to the grocery store after school, ostensibly to get some supplies for my birthday party the following night. Instead of getting party supplies, though, she picked up a box of kitten chow, a litter box, and a bag of litter. While I was still processing this, we drove to the animal shelter the next town over so that I could choose a kitten to bring home.


The shelter had about half a dozen kittens at the time, which was somewhat remarkable for early November. One litter was four weeks old and had just been brought in. They were all long-haired with Siamese-type markings, and none of them knew what was going on. They were matted to high heaven and none of them had gotten their shots yet because they were so brand new.

The other litter was just a brother and sister, both grey tabbies, about six weeks old and ready to go at any time. I washed my hands from the four week olds and met the sister, a tiny puff of fur who fit in the palm of my hand. She wasn’t content to sit there, though, and dug her needle-like claws into my peacoat until she reached my shoulder, where she perched and purred contentedly. I was sold, 100%, and on the drive home, I decided to call her Tinkerbell.

(Tinkerbell the Christmas after I got her–she would’ve been about three months old)

I wish I could say that she’s been at my side ever since, but it’s vacillated. A little less than a year after I brought her home, I moved away to college (side note: why do movies always depict people moving away to college as them moving out forever? Like literally, just because you’re going away to college doesn’t mean we’re going to turn your room into a hot tub time machine or something. Calm down, movie parents), and I really only saw her on weekends. Sometimes, not even then, like when I spent a semester overseas, studying at Oxford.

(the September after Oxford, during her “I am a triangle” phase)

When I moved to Texas, I couldn’t bring her with me because my life was too unsettled. I hopped from home to home and place to place, and even once Kyle and I found the apartment we’d live in for about the first year of our marriage, everything was too up in the air to commit to bringing her down with us. Tink and I didn’t properly reunite until Kyle and I moved to Massachusetts, about five years ago, but she’s been by my side there ever since.

(Christmas 2013)

For the most part, she’s been a healthy cat. She pukes with unerring regularity, as a method of either demanding attention or communicating displeasure. Once upon a time, I wondered if this was cause for concern, but since she’s been otherwise healthy, it hasn’t worried me too much. She used to be obese, so fat that she was shaped like a triangle, but as she’s aged and calmed down (read: as she’s ceased sharing her home with other cats), she’s slowly lost weight… nothing concerning, just age. She hasn’t changed, behaviorally, since she was about six months old: she’s absurdly lazy, talkative and demanding, cuddly but only on her terms (read: you must be lying down, not sitting, and there must be room for her not just on top of you). She loves cheese, her stuffed turtle, and her catnip mouse.

(some point recently, lounging on Kat’s bed)

And she hasn’t eaten in 24 hours. Maybe more.

Kat texted me yesterday to tell me this, and after some frantic shuffling, I came home to bring her to the nearest veterinary ER (which is one of the best in the state–it’s at the Tufts Veterinary School, so you know they’re going to be good). They ran tests on her but couldn’t find anything wrong, so they wanted to keep her overnight because she was dehydrated and they wanted to run some more tests–bloodwork, urine samples, X-rays, ultrasounds, the works. Despite not eating, she was 100% herself: she yelled at me and Kat the entire drive to the vet, yelled at everyone who came in to look at her, made mournful noises when we dared to pick her up and cuddle her, tried to jump off a table that was way too high for her.

(bundled up at the vet yesterday and very angry about that fact)

I’m waiting to get the call back and hear what they’ve found, if she’s eaten anything, if she’s gotten better or worse. I’m dreading it for many reasons. What if they’ve found something that’s unfixable? What if it’s something that’s fixable but that will cost a lot of money to fix? What if it’s just going to be ridiculous bills either way?

They had us put down a deposit last night, $1875, to cover her overnight stay, testing, and any treatment they might do overnight. That’s almost $2000. Thankfully, we had that… because we had set aside $2000 for PGS. I didn’t even think about it before swiping my card (that’s not true; I did think about it, but I thought about it in terms of, “well this sucks”). She’s my baby, you know? I can’t not try to fix whatever’s wrong, if I have the money for it.

But what if we don’t have the money? What if they call today and say, “we can fix it, but it’s going to cost you $5000”? What do I do then?

When we first got Tigger and Silky, back when I was a wee child of seven, Silky stopped eating and started throwing up. My parents brought her to the vet, and the vet found that she’d eaten a piece of floss and gotten it tangled around the back of her tongue and all through her intestines. Without hesitating, they performed emergency surgery and removed it, and Silky was healthy afterwards–healthy, active, and as happy as a cat owned by a family with small children could be.

The surgery, though, cost $600–more than–and they didn’t talk to my parents beforehand. When I was a kid, the fact that it was even a question infuriated me. It was her life! How could you even pause and think about it? You save her life and find a way, that’s what you do!

But now I’m an adult, in the same position, and I don’t want to make that decision. If they call me back and quote some ridiculous number to save her life, I don’t know what I’ll do. She’s old; at best, she’s probably got another three, maybe four years in her. That’s aeons in cat years, but what will her quality of life be? If they fix this, will she decline more quickly afterwards? Will she stop chasing leaves and playing with her catnip mouse? Will she sleep far more, start missing the litterbox, lose use of her legs? If she was younger, if she was even five years younger, this wouldn’t even be a question, but now…

I don’t know. The last 24 hours have made me feel so hopeless in so many ways. Literally the only thing that’s made me feel better is looking at pictures of kittens on various shelter sites. Otherwise, I feel like I’ve lost way too much in just a couple of hours–my hopes for a healthy baby and my beloved and cantankerous old lady furbaby.



Infertility and testing go together like peanut butter and jelly (or peanut butter and marshmallow fluff, depending on where you’re from). The tests start roughly around the one year mark, when you bring up to your doctor that, hey, we’ve been trying to fulfill our biological imperative and propagate the species for about a year now, but no dice. What gives?

These tests fall into one of two basic categories: giving someone else your bodily fluids or having things shoved delicately inside of you to take a peek around. The latter is usually the less pleasant option, if only because it takes a lot longer, but the former can be an adventure, too.

In terms of giving someone else your bodily fluids, the ovary-haver usually only needs to offer two types of fluid: blood and urine, like this is some sort of terrible German porno. The blood work has to happen about once a year, and it’s a LOT of blood–my most recent testing required a grand total of ten vials, and six of them were for fasting bloodwork (in other words, I was going in there with no food or drink in my body). The urine–I’m not really sure what they test when you pee in a cup, to be honest, but once you’re pregnant, the cup peeing becomes a monthly and then weekly and then daily thing, so if nothing else, I figure it’s just to get you used to it and help you develop your technique.

(tip: aim better than this)

The sperm donor has to contribute blood as well, but he also needs to have his semen analyzed. This particular facet of testing is ripe for comedy because there is no way to make wanking for the spank bank not funny. In the best of times, a fellow can make his contribution in a pleasantly lit room at the infertility clinic. This room is, inexplicably, soundproof. The best clinics have rooms with sterile furniture; the worst clinics have wicker, of all things. They all have magazines with the covers torn off and DVDs of questionable content.

I won’t go into detail about the worst of times.

When we first started testing, way back four years ago, the clinic actually refused to give us the results of Kyle’s test because he didn’t yet have a primary care physician in Massachusetts (long story short, we had very bad insurance back then). He had to go through the whole process a second time (this clinic did not have a room, so he had to bring his donation with him, tucked under his arm to keep it at body temperature), and we still didn’t know the results until we reached this IVF adventure.

(his results: A+ quantity, but very poor motility and morphology–a.k.a., the guys are drunken mutants, the wrong shape to fertilize a single egg, if they could even find it)

But fortunately, that’s where the testing ends for the sperm donor. For the ovary-haver, the testing has just begun; because, you see, sperm donors don’t need to have anything delicately shoved up their danger clam. Ovary-havers? We do.


There are three basic “things inside you” tests (in order from least horrible to “WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO ME?”): the sonohysterogram, the hysteroscopy, and the hysterosalpingogram.

The sonohysterogram is entry level invasive junk testing. In this test, a tech fills your uterus with a saline solution in order to check your uterine lining for abnormalities that wouldn’t otherwise be seen on an ultrasound. The test takes a grand total of five minutes and is less unpleasant than it is just very wet. At my last one, the tech told me to think of it as a spa treatment, maybe like yoni steaming or something like that. I’ve never desired to try yoni steaming, and the combination of that metaphor with the weird “seashore” sound effects she played during the procedure just made me uncomfortable.

(if you’ve never heard of yoni steaming, it’s basically perching with your lady bits over boiling hot water for like. Gwyneth Paltrow reasons or something)

But as the tests go, the sonohysterogram is easy as pie. You get in, you get splashed, you get out. Boom, boom, boom.

The hysteroscopy is a little more involved, because it requires a camera. With a hysteroscopy, your doctor inserts a light and camera to have a look around the inside of your uterus. This is never not weird. It’s a relatively painless procedure; maybe there’s some cramping because there’s a camera in your uterus, but all in all, it’s not bad. At my last hysteroscopy, my doctor even let me watch the monitor that showed the inside of my uterus (I told her, I wanted to look my uterus in the eye after all it had put me through). Truth be told, it was less red than I expected. It looked more like a pale piece of undercooked chicken, which is apparently normal. And I suppose that makes sense, but after twenty-something years of periods, I expected more carnage.

(more Carrie, less Food Network, really)

But the hysteroscopy and the sonohysterogram pale in comparison to the worst of them all: the hysterosalpingogram.

On paper, it sounds simple. They squirt dye into your cervix and uterus, it travels up your fallopian tubes, and then they take an X-ray of the whole system to make sure nothing is blocked or broken. The dye then leaks into the rest of your abdomen, where it presumably makes your internal organs look really funky. Easy, right?

No, no, no. This procedure is terrible. It starts the morning of, when you take a huge antibiotic pill–one of those ones that kills e v e r y t h i n g–and that makes you sick to your stomach. Shortly before the procedure, they give you hospital grade Tylenol to dull the pain, but this does exactly nothing except make you mildly loopy (if you’re me, at least, and get loopy at the suggestion of medication).

You go into a weird sort of OR for this, and I say weird because it’s a radiology lab, so it’s very different from the pleasant OB/GYN offices you’ve been visiting all along. Everything seems normal, though: you put on a johnny and lie down on a cold metal table. You put your legs in stirrups, and someone explains what’s going to happen. The doctor tells you, “Whatever happens, don’t move,” and that sounds easy enough.

Then comes the speculum and the iodine to clean your cervix, and so far, everything seems normal. Even the dye tube seems normal at first, but then they squirt the dye in, and I will tell you that this ranks third in worst pains of my life (first was gallstones, second was when my epidural didn’t work when I was giving birth to Sam). It would have ranked higher, except it doesn’t last very long. It’s a fiery, cramping sensation, not entirely unlike menstrual cramps, but much more sudden and much more severe (and for those who’ve never experienced this level of menstrual cramping, imagine the cramps you feel when you’ve got severe diarrhea, and then multiply by about ten).

And you’re not supposed to move. Every instinct in your body tells you to curl up and fight this pain, but you cannot move. At all. They take an X-ray of your abdomen, and then it’s over, but the pain lingers in the back of your mind, to the point where you can’t help but say, “I’m so sorry,” if anyone ever mentions a hysterosalpingogram in your presence.

That’s one of the silver linings of IVF, too: it doesn’t matter if your fallopian tubes are blocked. You don’t need to have a hysterosalpingogram. You can just go on with the sonohysterograms and the hysteroscopies and be happy about your life because your life does not involve hysterosalpingograms anymore.

Anyway. Today is a testing day. Kyle did his testing this morning, and I’m heading in for a hysteroscopy after lunch. Fingers crossed it’ll show that we’re free and clear to keep moving forward.

All Ears

This weekend, we confronted an old and familiar enemy–the ear infection.


I’ve written before about how Sam dealt with monthly ear infections from roughly the time he started attending daycare until we got ear tubes put in when he was about eighteen months old. He inherited this physical annoyance from Kyle, who had so many ear infections when he was a kid that his ears are permanently scarred and ringing. One time when he was visiting me, he suspected that he had an ear infection, and so we went to the ER. The doctor looked in his left ear and remarked, “Wow, yeah, you’ve got some really bad scarring in here,” to which Kyle replied, “I know, but I came in to see you about the other ear.”

After Sam started daycare, we slipped into a frankly obnoxious routine: Sam got a cold that turned into an ear infection. He’d spend a good week recovering from the cold and ear infection, ten days on antibiotics, and then have about a week of decent health, only to get another cold and ear infection immediately thereafter. We went through so many bottles of the pink stuff that you’d think we’d invested in it. Kyle and I lost so many days of work because Sam couldn’t go to daycare when he had an ear infection, not until he’d been on antibiotics for twenty-four hours.

The worst ones sneaked up on us; they happened when the fluid built up so much in Sam’s middle ear that he got carsick. And at his age back then, carsickness couldn’t be avoided by a small voice from the backseat whimpering, “Mommy, my tummy feels sick.” We’d just hear him start coughing, and before anyone could grab anything to catch it in, he’d puke all over himself and the backseat. And then we’d have to turn around and drive home with that delightful smell permeating everything.


At Sam’s eighteen month appointment, his pediatrician brought up the idea of ear tubes to us. “It’s a really quick procedure,” she said. “He’ll be in and out in time to have a perfectly normal day, though you’ll want to keep him home so that he can rest and heal.”

After a few more doctor visits, Kyle and I found ourselves in a surgical center with a groggy baby. The surgical center was, for some reason, located in a pretty seedy neighborhood. It was under construction, and large pieces of plywood covered the windows, spray painted to direct us to the front door around the corner. In broad daylight, this would have been discomfiting, but we arrived at the center before sunrise on a mild December day, and that just made the whole thing worse.

A handful of families were already there, all of them with carriers holding sleepy babies. The nurse who’d scheduled the surgery explained that they liked to do procedures in descending order by age, and so we knew that the two babies called in ahead of us must have been really, really young.

Sam was game for the whole thing, at least at first. He toddled around the waiting room in flannel pajamas, tried to go through the doors to the recovery area, tried to sneak into the nurse’s office. Gradually, however, he began to remember that he was hungry; after all, you’re not supposed to eat before surgery. We’d been in the waiting room for about an hour when he started to whimper; by the time they called us in at two-plus hours after we’d arrived, he was howling.

And he didn’t stop. I couldn’t blame him, though; surgery is a weird thing when you’re an adult, and I imagine it must be even weirder when you’re a baby. He begged the nurse to take the blood pressure cuff off him (inasmuch as an eighteen-month-old can beg: “Off please?” he asked her with fat tears rolling down his cheeks). He said “no” a lot. He didn’t listen at all when I pointed out that the six-year-old sitting across from us was taking this whole experience in stride. And eventually, he clung to me as we made the trip down the hall and to the surgical suite where he’d get the tubes put in.

He didn’t like lying down on the table, but the nurses distracted him with some spinny, glowy toys that made a pleasant whirring sound. That said, my son is not one who will be distracted for very long if something Strange is happening, and sure enough, when the anesthetist came to knock him out, he started howling again. This was particularly difficult to watch, at the anesthetist was approximately 500 years old with palsied hands and the bedside manner of a midwinter bear. He held a mask over Sam’s face with one shaking hand and, with the other, pressed Sam’s jaw shut. Sam screamed for a beat and then was sound asleep, a furious expression still twisting his features.

A nurse took me out to the waiting room, rubbing my back as she did (nurses are awesome). “It’s always harder for the moms and dads than it is for the babies,” she promised. “The surgeon will be out to get you in a couple of minutes.”

I sat down next to Kyle, both of us bleary-eyed and wishing that we were the ones getting a dose of sweet, sweet knock-out juice. Not fifteen minutes later, the surgeon came to get us, as promised. “He’s in recovery. The procedure went really well, and the tubes should last him about six months to a year.”

We followed a nurse to the recovery room where we found Sam very much awake and twice as angry as I’d last seen him. He didn’t stop howling until Kyle administered a large bottle of apple juice; Sam isn’t usually a juice kid, but he was so hungry that day that he’d probably have chugged a bottle of black coffee if we’d offered it (author’s note: black coffee is nasty y’all). And he didn’t really calm down until we gave him donut holes at home (because if your kid has surgery, they have a right to enjoy sweet treats afterwards). He then slept for five hours and returned to normal so quickly that it almost defied belief.

And then, no more ear infections! Oh, it was a gift. Granted, Sam still got sick sometimes, but far less frequently than he had before and with far less severity. The tubes functioned beautifully, and they stayed in for another year and a half, all of that time blissfully infection-free. It’s been wonderful, it truly has.


But then Saturday happened.

Sam and I have both been dealing with a cold all the last week, and it’s a doozy. It started for both of us with a nasty migraine, and that was followed by horrendous head and chest congestion. For me, it’s mostly involved a lot of wishing that I had less to do this week so I could afford to take a sick day and sleep. For Sam, however, it’s involved a lot more physical bleh.

He’s had a headache pretty much all week, and though Tylenol keeps it at bay, it doesn’t make it go away entirely. He was in this state Saturday, after his nap; Kyle brought him downstairs, and he was whining and whimpering and cuddling, clearly not feeling well. I went to lie down for a little while myself, also feeling gross, and I’d only been up stairs about half an hour when I heard Sam start screaming. He’s three, so this isn’t entirely abnormal, but what was abnormal was Kyle coming upstairs and informing me that Sam was complaining of ear pain.


We took him to the urgent care clinic, and long story short, it looks like he’s managed to perforate his eardrum. This isn’t the end of the world; Kyle’s had it happen to him more often than he can count. We guess that the tube in the infected ear fell out but that the hole didn’t have enough time to heal before an infection set in, leaving it vulnerable.

The good news is that Sam isn’t in any pain. It hurts like a BEAST when you rupture or perforate your eardrum… at least for a couple of minutes. Once the eardrum is actually perforated, the pressure alleviates and the pain goes away. Sam was back to his usual hyperactive silly self by the time I’d thrown jeans on and gotten down to the car on Saturday; with the help of the pink stuff and ear drops, he’s doing just fine.

As for me, I’m just hoping we can get a new tube put in before we return to the old pattern.