Victoria Jelinek


The Pregnancy Diaries 26

“Don’t tell your kids you had an easy birth or they won’t respect you. For years I used to wake up my daughter and say, “Melissa, you ripped me to shreds. Now go back to sleep.” Joan Rivers

Bon AnniversaireI’m actually in the hospital room in Sallanches waiting for them to take me to the operating theatre for my C-section. My husband and I got to the hospital at 6am with the operation scheduled for 8:30. I had an iodine shower, necessary in France before my procedure, and not one of my finer moments. I felt like a prisoner being scrubbed. My husband did the iodine as I’m too huge to bend and can’t see my nether regions, so it was a very practical wash. While he was doing it in this little bathroom to the side of my hospital room, there were nurses, sage femmes, and the cleaning woman, who came to the door of the bathroom to enquire about this-or-that, inform us of something, or simply to take the rubbish bin.

My good doctor with the great ham hands who has overseen two of my three pregnancies, came in from Chamonix to do the procedure. While I’m sceptical about the size of the incision he’ll leave with his huge hands, I am touched that he bothered to do this because he’s so busy. It’s weird to see him outside his office and particularly in scrubs. He tells me that I’ll go into the operating theatre. I’ll be given an epidural. The incision line will be so tiny and low that I’ll be able to wear a bikini again “if you lose your baby weight,” he notes. The baby will be pulled out and he’ll sew me back up. I will not be given the baby after the operation. Instead, it will be given to my husband while I go into a recovery area for two or three hours. The French believe in the importance of skin-on-skin after birth, so my husband will be asked to hold and keep the baby against his bare chest while I am in the recovery area. Knowing my incompetence regarding babies, he assures me the sage femmes will instruct me how to do everything from nursing to changing his diapers. I let him know that I’m prepared – I brought an eye mask, earplugs, and sleeping pills.

It’s 9:30am now. There is apparently some kind of emergency that takes precedence over me (imagine!). As a result, my good doctor is arguing with the staff and trying to arrange a new time. He’s just informed me that he will have to return to his office and begin his workday. He’ll leave me his mobile number. “You’re going to leave me with all these Frenchies? I don’t know anyone here!” I start to panic. His manner is calm, competent and jovial. “I’m going to have a baby by the end of the day for god’s sake!” I remind him. “Peut-etre…” he jokingly replies. Grumpily I say, “Forget your office hours. This has been two years in the making.” He smiles and reminds me that he’s French and they’ll take care of me or else have him to answer to or worse yet, a lawsuit waged by an American woman. A man with a thick gold chain around his neck and a lot of dark chest hair unfurling upwards from his white coat walks in. My good doctor introduces this man and tells me that he will be doing the procedure and he’s a very fine doctor. I’m too stunned to even catch the gold-chained-doctor’s name and too scared to ask him to repeat it. He doesn’t speak any English. He’s wearing a gold chain for god’s sake! And that chest hair doesn’t seem hygienic! I have to do an iodine scrub and this man has a bale of black hair emerging from his whites? I’ll also have to concentrate on French at the same time a baby is being pulled out of my womb like a sleeping bag from its case. Rather rudely, I smile up at him, tell him I have no questions other than to be informed of when it will happen, and continue typing on my laptop. I hope he views this as typically French behaviour and doesn’t go light on the pain relievers in retribution.

It’s 12:30. I’m starving but they won’t allow me to eat before my procedure. Dangerous to leave a hugely pregnant woman hungry like this. I’ve been here for six hours and I haven’t eaten since yesterday’s dinner. I might bite someone’s hand or sneak (not too stealthily mind you) down to the candy machine to get a Snickers. The doctor with the gold chain has just come in. They’re going to give me a C-section at 1pm. He indicates a gurney in the hallway and asks me to get on top of it. It’s time. I hope to whatever fates and gods there are that the baby is fine and that all goes well. I’m scared. It hits me that I’m about to deliver a baby. So much can go wrong. And now I don’t have my good doctor there and my husband is not allowed into the operating theatre. Tears have started rolling down my face. “Be strong, Victoria. Try to have faith that things will turn out well,” my husband tells me (easy for him to say). I’ll close my laptop and say “good bye” for now.

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The Pregnancy Diaries 25

Be the change you wish to see in the world. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Roller coaster floodedOne of the reasons I was reluctant to have a child was because I worried about the state of the world. My husband told me these worries were a rationalisation for my greater concerns like my not wanting to forfeit naps. He argued that negative global events are precisely the reason that thoughtful individuals should have children. But as I go into the last several weeks of my pregnancy I find myself fighting my previous trepidations about bringing a child into this world which I believe is only getting worse. I’m a glutton for news, even as it upsets me (both the topics and the reporting). My father used to advise me not to take it all so ‘personally,’ but I find it all to be a personal affront because I find all of the worries and incidents of the world to be indications of greater philosophical issues such as selfishness, avarice, corruption, hypocrisy, inequity and aggression.

Globally, I see the fact that the Syrian leader won’t step down, even as his Russian allies tell him the situation is untenable and he should help implement a new regime and transition government, as the sign of universal greediness and hunger for power regardless of which country one cites. Many people in the Philippines are living and being schooled on houseboats due to rising water levels (and I won’t even go into the animals and vegetation and desertification throughout the world) yet apart from a few developed countries like Denmark, there doesn’t seem to be any real initiative to aid the environment by using sustainable energy supplies, which I see as a sign of universal selfishness and lack of foresight because it seems no one wants to compromise their way of life even in small ways. There was that huge shooting in the US last week of almost 40 people – there are now so many families grieving – and gun sales went up in the days that followed. The American government signed in a new fiscal deal, and while it’s certainly good that something has managed to happen in an ideological bi-partisan country, the very rich – and even the middle and lower classes – do not seem to object to the fact that there is not health coverage and educational opportunities for all, which can only be had with more money coming into the coffers, which means higher taxes. If the US continues in this manner of individualism and capitalism at all costs, it will not be able to proclaim that it’s the land of opportunity for all. Yet other countries are equally as bad. Since Hollande proposed the 75% tax for the upper 1%, 5000 rich folks have left the country, even Gerard Depardieu, who owes the French people for his money and fame. In the UK, despite the fact that banks were bailed out by the government, which is ostensibly for the people, the banks have not passed on their savings to customers in recent years and despite their rising profits. And, while many folks are not able to live in major cities like London anymore, meaning they often must commute for work, transit costs in the UK have gone up 50% in the last ten years.

Perhaps opportunity and resources only for the few is the crux of the matter? Capitalism versus Socialism? Perhaps it’s a sign of collectivism versus individualism run riot? Is this the fault of Thatcherism and Reaganomics? Is it simply human inclination? I often see people operating in their own interests to the detriment to others in all manner of ways on a daily basis even in a little mountain town like Chamonix, particularly during the high season when there are many holiday makers: no one wants to cede their way on the roads, making it dangerous in the snow and ice; no one wants to give cuts in the cue at the grocery market to a heavily pregnant woman with two items or a young mother with a toddler when they’ve just fought to get their huge grocery carts full of food; folks don’t clean up after themselves in the cinema, or they throw rubbish on the ground, or they don’t pick up their dogs poop; and I was recently told by a few women here that I was attempting to discuss politics with that they don’t know who Romney was/is and they don’t ‘bother’ to read the papers or watch the news ‘cause it’s ‘too depressing.’ Indeed. Why be informed? Why vote? Why should we look out for anyone else’s interests when it’s so damn hard to assert our own in this rat race of a world? I see the dystopian novels of Philip K. Dick, Anthony Burgess, Ray Bradbury, Aldous Huxley and George Orwell moving from science fiction to reality. The only thing that is keeping me going right now is another thing my father told me before he died – that we cannot affect others because they don’t want to be proselytised to, but we can live our lives the way we would like everyone to live their lives. Simple advice that’s not easily followed…it’s hard to remain patient and kind and to take the ‘right action’ when one is tired, or worried, or over extended, or highly emotional and pregnant!



The Pregnancy Diaries 24
December 22, 2012, 8:43 pm
Filed under: The Pregnancy Diaries

“Never go to your high school reunion pregnant or they will think that is all you have done since you graduated.” Erma Bombeck

Image

Almost there

my belly

huge and swollen

can’t shave my legs

or tie my own shoelaces

can’t get comfortable

sleeping or sitting

going pee all of the time

night and day

tired, restless and strong

An elbow

a hand

a fist

a foot

the buttocks

or head

of the baby

can be seen



The Pregnancy Diaries 23

I told my dentist my teeth are going yellow. He told me to wear a brown tie. Rodney Dangerfield

waiting-room1It seems as though I’ve spent this entire pregnancy in doctor’s waiting rooms. Even so, I’ve had a toothache for about six years and if there’s one pain I can potentially get rid of right now, then I’m going to try.

Several years ago in London I had a cavity filled. I didn’t have a dentist there so I ‘simply’ went to one of the Boots with one. What a mistake. The dentist carved my tooth so deeply and so widely there was barely any tooth left and it still hurt. On my next visit to the U.S.A., I visited the family dentist. I’ve had the same dentist for over three decades, and when I’ve visited other dentists where I’ve lived, they have always commented on the positive state of my teeth…I attribute this to my good doctor, because I eat too much sugar and am not conscientious about flossing. My mother tells me she and my father prepared me for my first visit to the dentist, aware that I might be freaked out and be a bother to him. Instead, I promptly fell asleep in the chair. The dentist told my mother afterward I was “the most relaxed child” he’d ever seen.  I’d like to believe this was true, but I attribute this to the fact that as a child my parents tried an “experimental method” of sleeping with me in which they would allow me to tell them when I was tired and wanted to sleep…my mother admits I regularly would “go and go, then simply slump somewhere and sleep.” Nice. During this last visit to the family dentist a year ago, he dug up the cavity and replaced it, telling me he’d filled in some “space” created between the teeth so I wouldn’t get “food packing” in between the teeth which causes pain (yech!).

But the pain has remained, so I went to the dentist in Chamonix recently. My body is becoming huge, my stomach is regularly cramping, my eyesight is blurring, and I have regular heartburn, so if there’s a pain I can do something about then I’m going to do something about it. Except that I couldn’t really. But it took several visits to ascertain this. I went the first time and she explored the tooth but was hesitant to take x-rays because of my pregnancy. She asked me to get an “okay” from my doctor regarding her taking x-rays and kindly booked me in for an appointment (it took me six months to get one in the first place!). My good doctor looking after my pregnancy replied when I asked whether it was okay, “Bof! Bien sur!” However, the dentist did not believe me upon my next visit to her and telephoned his office. Of course he said it was fine. She took the x-rays and declared my roots were dying, however, it would be best to see if we could revive them rather than diving into a root canal. At the next appointment, she gave me local anaesthesia twice (I don’t like pain, but I couldn’t drink my coffee afterwards, I felt as though my lips were paralyzed) and dug up the old cavity and filled the roots with clove derivatives…it felt nicer, and I did hope the tooth would revive. I returned this last week and discovered the roots are still dying and it will be best to do a root canal, but she doesn’t want to do this while I am pregnant. So, she took out the old cloves and packed the roots with more cloves and sent me on my waddling way, instructing me to call her when the wee one is out. Between the weekly visit to the laboratoire for blood samples, the weekly visit to my doctor for a check-up and an ultrasound, the intermittent visits to specialists and recently to the dentist, I feel as though I’ve spent my entire pregnancy in a doctor’s waiting room.



The Pregnancy Diaries – 22

“The aim of the wise is not to secure pleasure, but to avoid pain.” Aristotle

I met the anaesthesiologist in Sallanches hospital. That’s a difficult word for me to say even in English. Read somewhere that there are 13 anaesthesiologists per 100k of the population in France, whereas the US & UK have a 1/3 less.

We didn’t wait long for the appointment blissfully. It’s getting hard to sit for any duration of time comfortably. I can just about do a movie in the cinema. She spoke French and no English but she was nice enough to enunciate. I don’t know if she’s a doctor or is certified to do this. If our appointment were in English, I’d make small talk and find out why she’d become an anaesthesiologist, what it involved, where she’d studied, whether she liked the job well enough, etc. As it were, I simply lay on an examining table smiling stupidly and she strapped some things to my stomach to monitor the heartbeat while we spoke. She took my blood pressure. She asked if I’d ever had an operation under general anaesthesia, and whether I’d ever had an allergic response to any medicine in the past. She asked me if I wanted to order an epidural in case it was necessary. I said “yes,” and told her that I’d like to know what other pain relievers I could have. She informed me that there is only the epidural. No gas. No air. No gas/air combo (Entonox). No morphine. No intramuscular injections. Moreover, I had to choose what I’d want in case right there-and-then. There were no options on the day other than an emergency spinal epidural if a caesarean were necessary or something went wrong, and doctors and nurses would dictate that then. I don’t mean to sound like some kind of drug addict, it’s that I’m completely adverse to pain and from what I hear giving birth or having a C-section is painful.

It’s funny. In the US and the UK there’s a “birth plan” (“a what?” I’d said the first time I’d heard it, which was not from my midwife here). Apparently, a mother can determine the type of pain relief she wants, what position she’d like to be in, what music she’d like to have playing while she’s in labour, the option of a doula or midwife present…If I were even able to communicate some kind of cogent “birth plan” in French, I’m positive I would be met with sceptical or pitying looks at best and revulsion at worst (“Les Anglais! Tsk, tsk). Must say that I’m kind of into the French mentality in that I’m thinking “Let them do what they need to do,” except on the pain relief front.  Jeez, less than 60% of women even remember their doctor’s names after delivery and many of those have the whole birth-plan-thing. Even so, it’s still a better average than the 4% that remember their anaesthesiologist’s name. I couldn’t understand her name when she told it to me much less remember it afterward.



The Pregnancy Diaries 21 by a guest writer

The Father’s Perspective of the Six-month Stage

By Kingsley Jones

It’s about now that I realise that I know absolutely nothing about babies, nappies, birth, or how not to kill them in the first few days or weeks. It’s a sobering thought. Quite literally, as I sip a beer with a friend, and hear the joke “oh well you’ve done your fifteen seconds of effort to make a kid” yet again. I’ve heard that joke about twenty times now, and it’s wearing thin, but at least this friend rates my performance as breaching the ten second barrier, which is more than most of my supportive mates.

So, it’s off to the gynaecologist for the ‘all important’ six month scan. I sit with my wife in the waiting room, looking blankly at the posters on the walls of new mothers cradling their children. There are no fathers in the pictures. My frazzled brain focuses for a minute, and I consider the pregnancy so far. I wanted it, perhaps more than my wife, but she’s going through nine long months of hell. Then my pregnancy-filled brain wanders. Would a really pregnant woman break through one of the worn wicker chairs in the doctor’s office and get stuck? How did a fat man with sausage fingers ever consider gynaecology as a career in the first place?

I swear if another doctor tells me “mais, c’est tout normale”, I will hit him. Can he not see that my once beautiful wife is waddling like a duck, and that her stomach looks like an alien is about to erupt out of it? Oh wait, yes it is, just like the Sigourney Weaver film. Tout est blatantly not normale. Then the questions start again in my head. I’m not the greatest fan of picking up my dog’s turd when he’s in the park. How the hell am I going to cope and scoop up nappies full of poop? Friends who are new parents haven’t helped, with stories of when dear little Johnny was covered in it from his bottom up to his shoulders. Oh brilliant, what have I done?

The sixth month mark is, perhaps, the scariest so far for me. I imagine in the labour room, I’ll feel helpless and terrified, but I’ll be surrounded by medical staff who’ve seen it a thousand times before. It’s now, for the first time, that I’m faced with the worries that this really is going to happen. Sure, you consider it after the ‘fifteen seconds of effort’, when you first discover that your wife is pregnant, but every mental image I had was playing with a toddler, paddling in streams, and learning to ride a bike. Never was it of me getting up at three in the morning to attempt to calm a wailing baby that I didn’t know if she was dying, bored or just hungry.

Who is going to teach me all this stuff? And in three months time, who is going to take the responsibility for letting me carry a baby out of the hospital doors, without a clue of what to do? Comments of “oh you’ll learn” and “it’s instinctive” make me break out in a cold sweat. I’ve never held a baby in my life, and would be terrified of dropping or breaking it or something.

Six months really is the reality check when you know that against all odds the sperm that was released during your fifteen seconds is actually going to bring a child into the world, and you realise that most of all you really should have at least tried to break the one-minute barrier at conception, because the phenomenal lack of sex recently is going to mean the first sex after birth is going to make my mates jibes all too true.



The Pregnancy Diaries – 20

“Who has fully realized that history is not contained in thick books but lives in our very blood?” Carl Jung

My brother had a pulmonary embolism last week. It’s a blood clot in the lung that can cause sudden death. I’d be so sad if something were to happen to him that I don’t even want to think about that. Apparently, he had chest pain and shortness of breath. He wasn’t even going to the go to the doctor, just went to bed to lie down, but thank goodness for his wife who insisted that he go to the hospital immediately. He’s fine now, but he’ll be on medication for life and he has to have his blood levels checked regularly.

So, he calls me to tell me about all of this after he’s been in the hospital. I panicked by his call ‘cause he never calls, thinking that a call from him meant something horrific had happened to someone in our family. I wasn’t too far off base. Anyway. He tells me that he has a Factor II mutation in his blood. It’s what our father had, too. Before they discovered this, however, he’d been discussing his family history with the specialist, and one of the questions the specialist asked him is whether there’s any history of miscarriage in our immediate family. Of course. There’s me. The specialist tells my brother that a hereditary Factor II Mutation could be the cause of my previous miscarriages and I must get it checked out with a specialist so that something can be done to protect my current pregnancy and my life after the baby is born.

I’m scared. I’ve started to feel “safe” in this pregnancy. No more bleeding. No abnormal pain. Things must be okay, right? But even as I feel nervous about whether I have this mutation and it means there may be problems with this pregnancy, or later for me, I must admit I also feel a sense of relief because this may explain why I’ve repeatedly miscarried and I believe knowing is better than not knowing — I have a very hard time with the oft French phrase from doctors ‘c’est comme ca.’ My brother sent me the report and screening. It’s hard to understand. Words such as “mutation (G20210A) in the Factor II (prothrombin) gene,” and “in pregnant patients with placental abruptions and fetal growth restrictions,” (though everything looks good on my ultrasounds!). Something about testing for “R506Q (Leiden) mutation in the Factor V gene,” and “plasma homocysteine levels.” I took the results of my brother’s exam and the specialist’s report to my doctor who then referred me to a specialist in Annecy. The reports are in English, though, and the specialist in Annecy doesn’t speak English, so my doctor in Chamonix wrote a letter outlining everything and giving the gist of the problem. I’ve investigated it online now, too, and I’ve written a load of questions in French. Likely my grammar will be all off and the doctor will think I’m stupid, but the point is to find out whether I have this science-fiction sounding mutation or not, and whether there’s a risk for my baby. I must admit there are times like this that I really wish that I were in an English-speaking country or that I spoke fluent French…it’s bad enough to try to figure this kind of a thing out with an English-speaking medical system. To try to understand it in French and how the whole system works on top of that, is another thing altogether. Intimidating. That said, the French medical system thus far has been amazing for me; it’s immediate and responsive; comprehensive to the point of sometimes seeming overly careful (and all paid for by my taxes! It ain’t like that in the states). I think I’m in good hands…