Thursday, April 26, 2007


Wow, it's been a busy week. I just sent off my final pre-submission paper revisions (along with doing a new multi-panel figure, ouch) to my old boss. Hopefully that'll get sent out for submission sometime soon. It's an ok paper. Another six months in that lab and it could've been an awesome paper. It has been nice remembering what working on a fruitful project feels like. It's been kicking my butt trying to get a hold of all of these people I haven't talked to in a year and a half (tracking down the former summer student was especially fun). Revisions and figures have been killing my time, plus I've got to keep up working on my current experiments or all hell would break loose. So, I've been busy.

On another front, thanks to everyone who commented, emailed, messaged me on Myspace, or called about the baby. It's been so encouraging and uplifting, really. Not that we weren't excited before, but we are super pumped knowing there are so many people out there who are rooting for us. Really, with the exception of Dr. B, everyone's been super positive. It's great.

As for my always-inspiring boss (ug, sarcasm that heavy could kill someone), Dr. B and I had our little Monday morning chat this week. He's worried that my timeline is too short for me to finish to go back to med school next summer. I totally disagree, and so does my committee.

Case in point:
-I have over a year.
-I only have to get one paper out. (This one I am doing with my old boss should count as one).
-I'm more than half done on that paper. Considering it took me a year to even get collectible data, that means it's taken me about six to eight months to get most of my work done.
-I've got the rest of my experiments planned out. If our cell culture incubator ever gets fixed, it shouldn't take me more than a few months to do the big stuff.
-That means I should be done with most experiments before I go on maternity leave.
-This isn't going to be a good paper no matter how long I work on it, so why not do it and get it out?

He gave me the typical "you need to be here every waking minute before you have the baby--evenings, weekends, etc while you still feel good." Two points: considering I already am here constantly, I don't quite know how to create more hours in the day; two, umm I'm not feeling good--remember how sick I've been?--but I've still been coming in.

He really isn't bothering me too much at this point. Like I said a few months ago, as time goes on, I just accept more and more that this is how he is, this is how the lab functions, and it doesn't reflect on me. I just need to keep doing my stuff. I've had this reiterated multiple times by other people in the lab, so I feel pretty confident in that statement.

Life is progressing otherwise. The lower GI stuff is letting up, I haven't had the upper GI bathroom rush since Friday night, and I'm slowly able to stay up past 7 PM. As the GI stuff leaves, monster headaches have started to take their place. I had one so bad last night that I went to lie down with a cold compress as soon as I got home. But, I feel a little better every day. That's good news--everyone keeps telling me the second trimester is so much better. If I get the energy rush that some of the other women in the lab got, getting my experiments done should be a breeze!

Just wanted to post a brief update. It's been a full week, so there's more to talk about, but it'll have to wait. Back to lab!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Big news!

Ok, I know I promised to post this yesterday, but life is what happens when you are making other plans! So, here's the big news: I've finally got an answer to what has been going on with my GI issues these last few months. And the answer's name is Bucky. Who's Bucky, you ask?
This is Bucky:

That's right, we're having a baby! Bucky is a nickname for Baby Under Construction, which is what we decided to call the baby (it won out over "the little grouper" and "embryonic smoonchkie"--smoonchkie is a nickname we have for the dog.)

We're due in mid to late October, depending on which ultrasound they use to calculate the due date. That puts us around 14 weeks, give or take, which means I'm pretty much done with the first trimester (and all of the aggravating illnesses that go with it).

I promised a few people I'd tell the whole story here, instead of telling it over and over via phone/email, so if you're not so interested in the gory details (not too gory, but some people don't like this stuff), I'd advise you to scroll down for a while.

Tim and I found out we were pregnant literally right before we left for Aruba. He made me do the test twice because he didn't believe it the first time--typical male :) We told our parents when we got back--actually, we told Jen first, because she asked us point blank as soon as we got home from the airport (she was teasing, but I couldn't lie to her!). We had to wait until the next weekend, Sunday, Feb. 25, to tell the rest of our immediate family. We were just about 6 weeks when we told them.

We had planned on telling the extended family the next weekend, but something happened in between that changed our plans. I had been spotting a little since we got home from Aruba, but my doctor wasn't super concerned. She said it was fairly common, but she scheduled me for an early ultrasound just to be sure. On Tuesday, Feb. 27, the bleeding got serious, and I went in that morning for an emergency appointment. Tim left work to go with me, and the hour in the waiting room was one of the most nerve wracking experiences ever. The room was filled with obviously pregnant women, and they decided to start sharing stories about their babies.
Knowing there was a chance we could be losing ours, I did everything I could to stay distracted. I didn't think bursting into tears would help the experience.

When we finally got into the room, I recognized the doctor present as the high risk specialty OB for the hospital. She had taught several classes during med school, and I remember thinking then she was pretty on top of her game. I was partly reassured to see her, but I also knew she was there because I was high risk.

The ultrasonographer dug around for a little while (it wasn't the normal, pleasant type of ultrasound--no other details needed), and she found what she was looking for:
That is our little gestational sac at 6 weeks, with the small, bean-shaped item on the right side of the sac being the embryo. The CRL (crown to rump length) was 0.55 cm, which put us a little behind our due date, but not too far. Seeing the embryo was reassuring.

She also saw something else. She found another sac in the uterus, but this one was empty (it's called a vanishing twin or a blighted ovum). The doctor said that by the positioning, it was likely a fraternal twin that wasn't viable. That sac was miscarrying, which is what was causing my symptoms. The concern was that the uterus may try to expel both sacs, which would cause the viable embryo to miscarry. Because of that, I was considered to be having a threatened abortion.

We were happy and sad at the same time. It was great knowing that we had one surviving baby. However, knowing we could've had a second one, and that the one that was left wasn't out of the woods yet, was pretty tough. The doctor told me that my risk for miscarriage would go down tremendously at my 12 week appointment. If I heard a heartbeat at 12 weeks, then my risk went from about 50/50 to about 2%. Tim and I talked about it, and we decided to wait to tell anyone else until we were in the clear.

It was about two days after this emergency appointment that my lower GI stuff started acting up. It was absolutely debilitating for about a week, and it was unpleasant and painful for several more weeks after that. Add to that the fact that morning sickness kicked in at about week 9, and I wasn't a happy camper. I knew it was for a good reason, and I knew that I'd rather have me be sick and have the baby healthy.

I kept spotting all through the first trimester. Of course, I stopped about a week before my doctor's visit (you never have the symptoms when you actually see the doctor). I had my appointment on April 11 (last Wednesday), and I was nervous as hell. I really like my OB, and she had me come into her office to talk about concerns before I went in the exam room. I filled her in on the high risk stuff that she didn't already know about. She agreed we should look for a heartbeat before we did another thing.

Lying on the exam table, I was so nervous I thought my heart was going to pop out of my chest. She warned me that sometimes the Doppler machine finds the mom's heartbeat before it finds the baby's, so I shouldn't be too excited until she knew it was the baby's heartbeat. It took about 5 seconds, but she found the baby's heartbeat, and it was nice and strong. After that, I could finally be excited about the pregnancy. I had been nervous for so long, preparing myself for the worst, that it was completely surreal to know there was a healthy baby growing in me.

Skip ahead to this Tuesday. My doctor suggests that everyone get screened for Down's syndrome early in the pregnancy. It involves an ultrasound and a blood test, and it has to be done before you are 13 weeks and 6 days gestational age. I should've been within those ranges according to my new due date, but apparently, I am incubating a basketball player.

The fetus measured too long for my expected due date--not by more than a few days, but it put me outside the window for the test. This was actually ok--the ultrasound tech said she could tell the fetus looked normal, and it meant I didn't have to give any more blood. Plus, she had more time to do the ultrasound. It was so cool. She'd thump on my stomach a little with the wand (I got this ultrasound the fun way, not the other way, which was a plus), and the baby would respond to her movements. I got a good look at the baby's heart, brain, fingers, and toes (we could actually count the fingers and toes--10 of each!). I could see the ribs forming, and the facial bones were mostly visible. She got a few good pictures, but it was so much cooler to see it happening in person.

Here's one where you can see one hand of fingers. She even labeled them on the ultrasound:

The baby's heart rate was 143 beats per minute, which was right in the middle of the range. And I didn't get a picture with the CRL measurement on it, but if I remember right, it was about 10 cm (about 4 inches). That means the baby was now about 20 times the length it was at 6 weeks. Just amazing.

So, between the heartbeat at 12 weeks and the ultrasound at 13/14, everything looks normal. We called our parents and told them it was ok to start spreading the news, and I made as many phone calls/emails as I could before I crashed. Exhaustion has been a big part of this pregnancy for me, as well as the GI stuff, and it seems like weekends are usually the worst for it. Doesn't that figure? I didn't get everyone contacted by phone, which had been my plan, but email had to do the job for quite a few. And there are still a few I haven't gotten a hold of yet. Hey, there's six months of this pregnancy to go--everyone will know by then, I'm sure.

So that's our big story. Tim's actually much more adjusted to this pregnancy than I am. I've read my pregnancy book cover to cover, but it still seems pretty surreal. People ask me questions, and I have no idea what to answer.

Have we picked names? We've had a list for a long time, but no front runners yet.

Am I going to do a natural birth (no pain meds)? Umm, probably not--I'd get an epidural at 6 months if I could. I know my mom was natural for all 5 of us, but personally, I think the drugs
are there for a reason. I have some research to do on them, but if it looks ok for the baby, I'm game.

Are we going to find out the sex? If we can. I hate the idea that the doctor knows, and the tech knows, but we don't know. If they can't figure it out on ultrasound, we won't stress, and we'll have a backup plan just in case the guess is wrong (it happened to my cousin).

My sister asked me what size clothes a baby wears, because she saw some cute stuff. Umm, I have no idea--I'm guessing it says newborn, but beyond that, I'm clueless.

Are we doing daycare or family care? Yet to be determined. It has a lot to do with where I am in the lab. If I am writing, I can do most of that at home. If I still need to do experiments, then it's a different story.

The list goes on--I really am clueless about the whole thing. Tim has been planning how he wants to fix up the house for the baby. I guess constructionizing is his acceptance method. I'm still in some shock. I haven't gained any weight yet (actually lost a bit with the GI stuff, but I can afford it), I'm in the same clothes, and I won't feel the baby kick for a few more weeks. Once that happens, I think it'll really sink in.

Anyway, enough babbling. I promise not to turn this blog into all baby details, although you'll hear about it when things happen. I know a lot of bloggers are big into taking pictures of their stomach as they progress. As for me--don't count on it! My body image issues haven't vanished, and I'm definitely not flaunting my stomach on the internet. You'll probably see more baby pictures, though.

Well, back to lab. I'll be back in tomorrow (Saturday), which is always fun, but I'm trying to kiss up to my boss to make up for the pregnancy, in a way. He's not real thrilled about it, but he legally can't do anything to me, so we'll find some sort of happy medium (or at least survivable medium), I hope.

If you have suggestions for me, I'm all ears, especially if you've done this whole baby thing before. And I'd welcome questions too--it'll give me more to think about. You can comment without signing up for a google account, so all comments are welcome!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The usual

Today's been an exciting day, for reasons I will go into on Thursday probably (I'll have time to scan my pictures in, and I may actually have some time to blog then). Sorry to keep you in suspense, but it'll be worth it, I promise.

The Billy Joel concert Friday night was awesome. Totally worth $100 a ticket. Our seats were super sweet--they had the floor section, and then there were barricades around the side walls, and we were in the second row behind the barricades. Just enough to be able to see over the heads of all the people stuck on the floor--awesome! There were a few quirks in the show, though. The big man came out on stage, and his piano wasn't mic'd up, so he sort of danced around and mugged for the crowd until they got that fixed. Then, in the second song, the whole PA system went out for the second half of the song. He was really cool about it, and then he replayed the part that went dead. After that, no more sound snafus.

We did get to see a fight, though. The people on the floor level were standing (you sort of had to, since that level isn't stadium seating or anything). The first row of our section was raised only a stairstep or so off of the floor level, and it went up another stair step or so every row after that. This meant that people in the very first row had a rough time seeing over the heads of the floor people. Since the average age for the show was about 60, people generally stood up when Billy Joel first came out, and then they sat back down. Well, the floor people kept standing, and there was a group of people in their late 20s/early 30s in the first row next to our section that kept standing so they could see. They weren't doing anything else--just standing--but they kept getting heckled by a few old guys who wanted them to sit so they could see without standing. About four songs in, this old guy went over, grabbed the younger guy on the end of the group, and threw him into the seats. The young guy restrained himself and didn't fight back. Security came over--they escorted the group of younger people to (hopefully) better seats, and after questioning the old guy for a few songs, they kicked him out. My whole section was clapping and happy to see him go! Serves him right for being a bully, I think.

Anyway, for the one of you (my sister Amy) that wants to know the set list, I texted it into my phone as Billy Joel was playing so I would remember:
1. Angry Young Man
2. My Life
3. Everybody Loves You Now
4. The Entertainer
5. Vienna
6. Allentown
7. Zanzibar
8. New York State of Mind
9. Root Beer Rag (from Streetlife Serenade)
10. Movin' Out
11. Stand By Me/Innocent Man
12. Don't Ask Me Why
13. Always a Woman
14. Keeping the Faith
15. River of Dreams
16. Highway to Hell (a roadie came out and sang it--sounded just like AC/DC!)
17. We Didn't Start the Fire
18. Big Shot
19. Still Rock n Roll
20. You May Be Right
21. Only the Good Die Young
22. Scenes from an Italian Restaurant
23. Piano Man (like he could get away with not playing that one).

Overall, it was totally worth it. He is a great showman, interacting with the crowd between almost every song, and the music was fantastic. It was a little weird to go to a show with such a mellow crowd, but even the old people (with the exception of the 80 year old woman with a walker in front of us) was on their feet by the end of the night.

Not much else to report--my GI stuff is getting better, but then they put me on antibiotics for another issue, and I was sick all weekend from those (antibiotics and I don't get along). But, it's only a seven day course, so I'll survive.

Look for an exciting update on Thursday. And no, Thursday isn't exciting just because it's my birthday. 27 isn't exactly a milestone. As Tim says, once you hit 25 (when your car insurance goes down, and you can rent a car anywhere), the next big milestone is when you get your senior discount card (the Golden Buckeye Card in Ohio, which used to get you 25 cent coffee at McDonald's. Too bad I don't drink coffee). So, until that glorious day when the Golden Buckeye card shows up, I kind of like birthdays to be the same as most other days. Except maybe with cupcakes--you can't go wrong with cupcakes.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Getting my BJ on tonight

No, that title isn't what you think :) Jen and I have good seats to the Billy Joel concert tonight, and I am totally pumped! I think we're going to take the Rapid into town. The Indians postponed home opener is at 7 PM next door, Christina Aguilera is at the Convo Center down the road at 7:30, and then Billy Joel is at 8. Downtown is going to be a madhouse (plus, it's a Friday night), and there's probably going to be no parking, so public transportation it is!

I'm pumped about the concert, but I wish my other sister Amy could be here to go with us. She's probably the most rabid Billy Joel fan in the house. We're definitely going to call her from the concert, though. She's in San Francisco on spring break/job interviews, so she'll actually be at Alcatraz while we're at the concert. Creepy, but hey, why not?

As for everything else, the GI stuff is slowly letting up, the boss is gone again (but he'll be back Monday), the incubator with my cells (and everyone else's) is broken, so I've gotten nothing to work the last two weeks, and I'm still behind on my to-do list (the oil change and eye appointment are about two months overdue). But, one thing at a time, I guess.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

What are you doing here?

I came back from my doctor's appointment, and guess who was here? My boss. Normally, that's not a weird thing, but he was supposed to be out of the country, so it's a small bit disconcerting to see him walking down the hall towards me. We had a sit-down about where I'm at with my project. Always fun explaining the same thing we talked about last time and having him decide to go in a different direction than what we previously decided.

He's apparently leaving again today, and he'll be back Monday. I've got to get some stuff done before then, so it may be another weekend at work. But, such is life.

I'm glad I didn't choose to go home after my appointment today. I've got this childish need to rebel against my boss when he leaves. Usually, when he's gone for a long trip, I'll take a day off or a half day the first day he's gone, and then I'll slack for the next day or two. Of course, then my work catches up with me. I then have to push myself to get caught up, which usually involves evenings and/or weekends, and I'm right back to where I was when he gets back.

It's totally childish, but he's gone so infrequently that everyone in the lab takes a little breather. I know I only hurt myself in the end by rebelling the first few days he's gone, but honestly, I feel so burnt out around him that any break is a welcome one.

It's bizarre too--he's so busy with other things around the med school and hospital that there are weeks when I don't see him, even though he's around. I don't feel entitled to slack then. It's more of knowing he won't be there--that there's no chance of getting "caught"--that inspires my childish behavior.

But, that's me, I guess. I never felt that way in my old lab, probably because my boss wasn't a stress causer. With Dr. B., I feel my blood pressure go down 20 points as soon as I hear he'll be gone for a week.

Anyway, I have been a little productive (but not much). The paper I was working on with Frank, my old PI, is finally in draft form. There are still a few figures I'd like to add (I worked hard for that data, dammit!). I've got to convince Frank's postdoc, who's been my co-writer for all of this, that those figures add to the story, but I think I can. We'll see.

As for the doctor's, I had a bunch of bloodwork today, and I've got another appointment next Tuesday, so I should have some answers next week. Hooray!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Catch-up post #2: Spring saw its shadow...

Well, I had a pretty little "Ode to Spring" blog churning around in my head about two weeks ago. We had been having a lovely spring--warm weather, blooming flowers, and a generally nice time. My daffodils had come up. The flowering trees were blooming. My lilac bush was starting to get buds. The temperature hit 80+ degrees. Tim mowed the lawn and spread the first grass treatment. It was looking great.

And then last week, it snowed. And snowed. And snowed.

By Easter morning, we had over a foot of snow. All of the trees and bushes were frozen, and my daffodils were totally covered.

Tim pointed out that in the last two years, both times we have gotten 80+ degree weather in April (2005 and 2007), we got over a foot of snow within a week. 2005 was worse--it started off as an ice storm, and then it turned to snow, so a bunch of our trees lost branches from the weight of the ice. At least now, as the temperatures slowly move into the 40s and 50s, the snow is melting and we can see grass again.

I guess that's what I get for waiting to blog about spring. I'll have to make it a point to blog sooner next year :)

Anyway, I'll probably post again today or tomorrow. My doctor's appointment is tomorrow morning, and I'm nervous about that, but I probably won't have all of the results until early next week. So that post may wait.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Catch-up blog, part 1: The washer ordeal

Ok, so way back in February, our washer quit working. It would spin, but the water wouldn't drain out. We dredged the basin and just decided to wash clothes at our parents' houses on the weekends. We did this for about a month, and then we decided it was time to decide what to do.

The washer isn't anything special, but we only bought it about 4 years ago. It gets used fairly lightly (at least, compared to how my parent's washer was used with 7 people in the house. And that thing has lasted forever!). We knew it'd be a minimum of $100-$150 just to have a repair guy show up. If there was a lot of repairing to do, that number could double easily. We could buy a new washer for $300-$400.

But it was only 4 years old! I did some sleuthing on the internet, and I came up with a differential diagnosis for a spinning but non-draining washer. The good news was that spinning meant the motor worked. There were about 5 reasons it might not drain, but a few looked like we could fix them at home.

I convinced Tim to give me one shot with the washer. I'd take it apart and look for the easy fixes. If it didn't work, we were no worse off than we were before. Tim was not a big fan--he just wanted to go out and get a new one, without trying repairs.

He agreed, and two weekends ago, we did washer surgery. I couldn't find a repair manual online. The best I could do was a schematic with no words or instructions. That was fun. We managed to get it apart, finally:
That's the cabinet of the washer outside the laundry room. It's too small of a room to keep all the parts together, so we branched out. Here's what it looked like inside:
That's the inner plastic tub and all the mechanical stuff. If you look at the bottom of the tub, there's a white pump sitting out in front with two black hoses attached to it. When we disconnected the hoses, all of the water poured out. It looked like we at least found the site of the leak. After probing around in the little white pump, we found the cause:

That is one of Jen's black socks. Our best guess is that there was a big load of clothes, it got unbalanced, and when the water splashed around, it was enough to kick this little black sock over the rim of the metal basin and into the plastic tub that holds it. The water drains out of the plastic tub through those little black hoses. The sock made it through the first hose, but it got stuck in the turbines of the small white water pump. That's where I fished it out.

After another hour or two of figuring out how to put the washer back together, we had a functioning washing machine! Woo hoo! All it took was some elbow grease.

Tim was really impressed that my idea actually worked. He's not used to being wrong, so it took him a while to adjust. But word of my washing machine repair skills spread around, and now I'm quite the fix-it girl. Of course, Tim said we should celebrate by buying something fun with the money we would've spent on the washer. I had to explain that we didn't have the money in the first place--we would've had to have taken it from somewhere else--but we compromised and got dinner at a cheap restaurant.

I am still quite proud of my little fix. Frankly, it was just luck, because if I hadn't found that sock, I was just going to call the repair man. But the most common cause turned out to be the right diagnosis, and the washer is still functioning well today. If only fixing a roof were that easy...

Monday, April 02, 2007

AAH! It's the plague! Oh, nevermind...

Saturday was one of the worst days I have had, GI-wise, in some time. I think it's a stress cycle--I go to bed early Friday night because I am exhausted, Saturday the stress catches up with me and I'm a prisoner to the bathroom, Sunday I start to feel better, and then by Monday, I'm well enough to go to work. It sort of sucks, but oh well, at least it gets better.

Saturday night I felt so crappy I decided to try something different. I tried some of my sister's pepto-bismol chewables. It's supposed to cover the whole gamut--nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, diarrhea (according to the weird dance they do on the commercial). Since I had all of it, I thought, why not?

Sunday morning I woke up, and my entire tongue was black. Disgustingly black. It took ten solid minutes of brushing my tongue with my electric toothbrush, followed by mouthwash, to even get it to go away a little. Later that day, my stool was black. No color--totally blackish-gray. I had absolutely no idea what it was, but I was trying to decided exactly what defined melena and if that was it. I felt ok--as ok as I had in recent days--so I wasn't freaking too much.

I was telling the fellow in my lab about it this morning. She looked it up, and it turns out that black tongue/stool is a common side effect of pepto-bismol. Umm, don't you think that's maybe something you should put on the label? I mean, the consumers using it probably don't feel fantastic, and then they see a black tongue/stool? Just a thought, really.

Anyway, I'm glad that's one mystery solved. My doc told me not to take any medication for the GI stuff if I could help it, and I've been pretty good about it so far, but I didn't want to have to explain to her how one dose of pepto gave me the plague. I just think maybe I'll follow her advice and stick to non-medication treatment for a while.

The fellow in my lab is really nice, but she is pretty good at making me a hypochondriac. For all the pain and crap I'm in, I'm pretty sure this is just going to turn out to be IBS, as usual. Granted, it's the worst case of IBS I've ever had, and the longest lasting, but it fits the bill. Then the fellow starts freaking me out about how her sister-in-law was just diagnosed with sprue on Friday, and how her symptoms sound like mine. Great--sprue is highly genetic (my dad's sister has it), and I live on wheat flour. That'd be an awesome disease to have. She also brought up Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, which had crossed my mind. By 10 AM, I was a bit freaked out. Luckily, a morning spent on up-to-date reassured me that my symptoms are nowhere near as severe as typical sprue, Crohn's, or UC. I really think it's just IBS, and so does my doctor. We'll see if that diagnosis changes in a week and a half, at my next appointment. But I doubt it.

And with that, I am done talking about poo. I've got my first catch-up blog post almost ready, but it needs pictures, which are at home on my camera. So look for that post tonight or tomorrow. And no more GI stuff, I promise (at least until I have a definitive diagnosis).