Dentists: A Love Story

By February 14, 2017 Musings

No one believes me when I tell them that I actually enjoy going to the dentist.

No, I don’t have perfect teeth — I spent 11 months in braces and have more fillings than I’d like to admit — and I only floss when I have something stuck between my teeth.

I’m no poster child for dentistry.

But I do enjoy the experience of going to the dentist.

It helps that my dentist — I’ll call him Dr. H — is great. He’s efficient, gentle, quick and calm — important traits in anyone wielding extracting forceps. He doesn’t ask me complicated questions when there’s a suction hose stuck in my mouth. And he always explains what he’s doing before he does it. There’s no mystery.

I haven’t always had great experiences in the dentist chair. When I was younger, I went to a dentist that I swear would fall asleep mid-way through cleaning. When he would numb my gums, I wouldn’t be able to feel my legs. And he wasn’t gentle. I would taste blood for hours.

Still, I’ve always looked forward to regular cleanings. It’s like a spa day for your mouth. Your teeth are scraped, flossed, cleaned and polished, all in less than an hour. You can recline, listen to Shaina Twain, stare out at the Ko‘olau Mountains, in air conditioning, with no access to email or text messages. It’s like a vacation. (Especially when you have a newborn at home.)

And you can even learn something. The other day I discovered that lidocaine replaced Novocain years ago — and both taste awful and you shouldn’t swallow either. Or that gold crowns last longer than porcelain crowns and cost way less.

I learned that last part the other day, when I found out I had to replace an existing crown with a new one.

I really didn’t want to get a gold crown, even though it would be far back in my mouth and out of sight. Just the idea I’d have a gold crown in there, it just didn’t sit right with me. Teeth should be white, not reflective. But I could barely stomach paying the $600 it would cost for a gold crown, let alone three times that for a cosmetic porcelain one.

It had been awhile since I had to go the dentist for more than a routine cleaning. I had forgotten about the thin needle that delivers the lidocaine in my gums, feeling it thread through my flesh. Or that strange bubble gum taste in my mouth from whatever it was Dr. H smeared on them first.

I had forgotten how the drilling felt like a mini table saw in my mouth, like little construction workers were in there building a deck. Or the smell of something burning — maybe my flesh! — not dissimliar to a soldering iron. Or how my tongue, with a mind of its own, always wants to touch one of these tools. Stay back! I cry out in my head. You’ll regret it!

Or the Vaseline in the corner of my mouth keeping my skin there from cracking.

Or the strong desire to swallow, knowing full well you’ll be ingesting particles of bone.

Or the fear you feel when the dentist says, “OK, we didn’t numb this part, so it might hurt a little.”

I started to tense up. I know this because Dr. H said, “Relax your jaw.” And also because I had pressed my thumb nail so deep into my arm I had broken skin.

He talked about his 5-month-old grandson who’s already rolling over and eating solid food. He gave me suggestions on educational baby-friendly videos I could show my 11-week-old son. He chatted about how we use too many antibacterial products and that’s not good.

I stared out the window at the mountains, green from the thunderous rain that came down the other day. My mouth was so dry it felt like the insides would break apart. Somehow, there were four instruments in my mouth at once, including four hands. And the lidocaine was starting to wear off.

And yet, I could still think of worse places I could be.

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It actually does get better

By February 6, 2017 Musings

I’m sitting here typing while my little 9-week-old is staring at a plastic turtle filled with colorful beads.

He can sit here long enough for me to wash dishes, fold laundry, Swiffer the living room, scarf a milkshake and browse YouTube for different ways to use a ring sling. (This is exactly what I did today.)

I couldn’t have even imagined this would be possible last month.

Last month, if you recall, I was a mess. I felt defeated and helpless. I never thought I’d get three straight hours of sleep ever again. And I certainly didn’t think my baby would occupy himself long enough for me to get anything done.

While I didn’t believe it at first, I’m happy to report that yes, it does get easier.

A week into his second month, my baby is alert and responsive, he’s interested in the world around him, he actually looks at me (and not just my boobs… boys…) and — the best part — smiles. Oh, those smiles are such sweet rewards for weeks of no sleep, painful nipples and feeling like I’m trapped in this house.

Part of the change is biological: He’s older, his body is growing, his brain is developing. His digestion system seems to be working much better. (No more writhing and suffering.) He can entertain himself. He looks at and responds to us. All this makes a huge difference.

And the other part is us: We’re finally getting it. We’ve learned his different cries. We’ve figured out that babies needs to nap regularly. And we stopped stressing about the little stuff. He wants to sleep in the Fisher-Price Rock ‘N Play sleeper? Let him! He needs to be carried a little longer before going to bed? Go ahead!

Every parent, every expert, every website, every book advises something — and it’s all over the place: Don’t rock your baby to sleep. You can’t spoil a baby. Breast is best. A fed baby is a happy baby. Feed on demand. Put your baby on a schedule. Don’t use a pacifier. Use a pacifier. It’s confusing and overwhelming, especially for a desperate, hopeless new parent.

And, like I did to get pregnant, I tried everything. I tried feeding on demand. (It didn’t work because I wasn’t napping him at all.) I swaddled. (That worked, but the Halo Sleepsack Swaddle didn’t.) We used a co-sleeper, then a bassinet, then a crib — all in the same week! I sampled different formulas, different bottles, different breast pumps. I have every kind of pacifier ever invented. I browsed more parenting websites and message boards than I knew existed. I called and texted every mother I knew, begging for help and advice, sometimes at 1 in the morning. And every single one responded — they’ve been here before, too — with very helpful suggestions, always ending with something along the lines of, “This worked for me, but it may not work for you” and “Good luck!”

Mothers know. No matter what you do, what you read, what you try, you will never know what’ll work. And what works with one child may not work — maybe almost never work — with another. So, basically, you’re screwed.

It’s like we’re raising this kid using trial-by-error — and, in a lot of ways, we are.

And it’s OK.

We still have a lot more to learn — like how to get him to sleep through the night. (He slept for five straight hours last night, so that’s progress!) And we still have moments of frustration, when we can’t figure out what he wants or needs. But, for the most part, we’re getting better at sticking to a schedule, getting him to sleep on his own and managing life with three hours of sleep.

And when I start to feel like life as I knew it is completely over, he smiles at me and I remember: a new life has only just begun.

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Motherhood: The struggle is real

By December 30, 2016 #BabyFox, Musings

It’s 2 a.m. and, for the last hour, I’ve been trying to settle a one-month-old who can’t seem to get comfortable. He’s scrunching and stretching, his face is turning a bright red, he’s crying and rooting and can’t stop fidgeting. He won’t take a bottle, he doesn’t need his diaper changed, he’s downright revolting. I haven’t slept — literally — in days. I haven’t left the house in a week. I can’t remember what the sun feels like.

Welcome to the rude awakening that’s called motherhood.

This is the part no one tells you about. How you’ll never have time for a shower. How you’ll walk around like a zombie for a month because you’re feeding a baby every two hours. How your refrigerator will only have condiments and beer — not the fresh veggies and pre-made meals you thought you’d be eating. How your body will hurt in places you never thought possible — like your nipples.

I knew that being a parent wasn’t going to be easy. And, despite the warnings from been-there-done-that friends, nothing could have prepared me for what I’m going through right now. My fantasies of peaceful, early-morning feedings where we’d listen to classical music — great for the baby’s brain! — and strengthen our bond while breastfeeding were quickly replaced by the reality of an inconsolable baby painfully clamping onto my raw boob while I struggle to comprehend whatever informercial is on TV. It’s not pretty.

Every day I feel like a total failure at this. Whenever the baby cries, whenever I open the fridge and see nothing to eat, whenever I look in the mirror and see a bleary-eyed, pasty-skinned, brain-dead version of myself. All that circulates in my head is, How do women do this? And more than once?

I’m no schlep. I can usually deal with high levels of stress, juggling multiple tasks while making sure the house is clean, there’s food on the table, the bills are paid and the dogs are walked. I do that and still manage to read books and get eight hours of sleep!

I figured adding a newborn to the mix would just be another thing to juggle.

That was my first mistake.

First of all, you can’t juggle a baby (figuratively or literally). The baby takes over everything. All those other things you juggled — work, laundry, Pilates, hanging out with friends — no longer exist. This newborn assumes every aspect of your life. You won’t leave your living room, dirty clothes will pile up, you may not shower for days. Your life will revolve around dirty diapers, sterilizing bottles and pumping breast milk. You’ll never be more interested in the color of poop and the conversion from milliliters to ounces in your life.

As much as I’ve been through — from working in stressful newsrooms to enduring a difficult pregnancy that had me sidelined for months — I never felt as defeated as I have in the past month. I can’t understand why it’s so hard for me, why other women seem to have no problem raising a newborn (so much so they have MORE), why I can’t seem to get a handle on this. What’s wrong with me? I’ve always been able to manage so much — multiple jobs, workouts, lunches with girlfriends, birthdays, family dinners, cooking, cleaning, blogging, volunteering — why was this so hard?

My body isn’t producing the amount of breast milk my friends did. (I have two girlfriends who had to buy refrigerators just to store their extra milk.) Because of my baby’s sensitivity to lactose, I’ve had to supplement with formula, a practice that has been wrongfully shamed in the past few decades, making me feel even more like a failure. I’m still recovering from a C-section and can’t hit the surf or gym like many moms can. And forget trying to scrapbook the experience; I’m lucky I brush my teeth!

I kept wondering if it’s just me. I desperately search online for confirmation of the opposite, hoping to commiserate with the frustration of other women who feel like they’re failing at this. I can’t be alone.

And — thankfully — I’m not.

While it seems like raising a newborn is some kind of ethereal, magical experience — especially on Instagram, which I had been trying to avoid — I’m here to say it’s not. It’s full of spit-up and poop-splosions. It’s the only thing in my life that has literally brought me to my knees in tears. It’s beyond humbling; it straight-up destroys you.

I feel so defeated, so hopeless, as I struggle to comfort this clearly uncomfortable baby. I can’t imagine ever getting through this stage, though I know — people keep telling me — that it gets better, it gets easier, I’ll actually sleep again. I just can’t fathom it.

But when he does finally fall asleep, cradled in my arms, and the house is quiet and the dogs are curled up on the couch with me, there is a kind of peace that washes over me, a feeling that it’s possible I’ll get through this.

But do this all over again with another baby? Ask me when I get four hours of sleep.

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‘You’ll forget the pain’

By December 5, 2016 #BabyFox, Musings, The Daily Dish

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The other day, my mom asked me what she called the million-dollar question: After everything I had been through — really rough pregnancy, a dog attack that sent me to the hospital, and an insanely hard labor and delivery where even the epidural failed to relieve my pain — was it all worth it?

I think the real question is: Would I do this again?

My first, gut response is no. Hell no. There’s no way I’d relive all that pain and suffering.

But now, looking at this little baby, he somehow makes me feel like I’d do it all over again if I knew this was going to happen.

Women have told me throughout my pregnancy — even my mom — that I’ll forget the pain. I won’t remember having two catheters in me at once. I wouldn’t remember the intense pain of contractions that I felt for two straight weeks. I wouldn’t remember the feeling of being in active labor when the epidural stopped working. (Yeah, that was fun.) I wouldn’t remember going through all of that — the internal monitor in my uterus, the infection I got while in the hospital, the feeling that you’re being stabbed from the inside the uterus as it contracts — and then having a C-section. I wouldn’t remember how it felt to get the urinary catheter removed the next morning and having to walk, slowly and unsurely, to the bathroom on my own, hooked up to an IV and trying to nurse a newborn.

All that, yeah, I’d forget it once I was holding the baby in my arms.

This entire pregnancy was nothing how I had imagined. I saw women competing in triathlons in their third trimester, surfing well into their second, and sporting cute maternity clothing. I was lucky I took a shower during my pregnancy.

I really thought I was going to be that on-it mother, hiking and taking weekly Pilates classes, eating a schedule of healthy foods that would benefit the baby’s development, reading to him in the womb. Instead, I was puking in the office bathroom, surviving on cereal and Slurpees and taking a Unisom before I went to bed every night.

Women who saw me struggle through the pregnancy would often tell me, “Don’t worry. Hard pregnancy, easy delivery.”

Ask any of the nurses who saw me over the past two weeks and they’d tell you my labor and delivery was pretty bad.

I likely won’t forget the pain, not just because I’ve documented it in a journal that I’m going to give my son when he can read (just kidding), and, to be honest, I don’t want to.

The pain and suffering were part of this whole experience that resulted in a healthy, adorable (I’m biased) baby boy, and I couldn’t have wanted anything more.

So was it worth it? Of course.

Would I do it again? Ask me in a month.

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After the dog bite: What really happened

By November 21, 2016 #BabyFox, Musings, The Daily Dish

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This hasn’t been an easy pregnancy to begin with.

I’ve dealt with infertility, nausea and vomiting that lasted for six months, acid reflux, sleepless nights, anxiety and leg cramps that would wake me up in the middle of the night.

My activities were already restricted; no hiking, surfing, traveling.

And then, on Tuesday, I get attacked by a neighbor’s dog.

I posted my injuries on social media right after the incident and was immediately inundated with well wishes, advice and offers to, ahem, talk with my neighbors.

But the experience was far worse than the two puncture wounds I suffered on my upper left arm.

So here’s what happened: I took my three dogs — Opae, Sunny and Indy — on our morning walk, alone, something I’ve done for years and throughout this pregnancy. There are a few routes we walk in our neighborhood, and this one happens to pass a house with an aggressive dog. I say that because twice before, this dog, who is let out of the house without a leash to pee and poop in the front yard on the main road, and had attacked my dogs. Once, she ran across the street after us. This dog should never be allowed off-leash.

This morning, however, I was walking toward this house and saw the dog peer out of the garage. I stopped and held my dogs — who are always leashed, by the way — back. I called out to the owner, who was in the garage, too, and said, “Hey, your dog is loose! Grab your dog!”

Too late.

The dog came charging and I, despite being well into my third trimester, went into protective dog-owner mode. It was a blur, me trying to keep my dogs away while fending off this dog, who’s more than twice the size of mine. In the scuffle, I got bit and fell. At one point, I lost hold of Opae’s leash and, to my horror, she ran into the street. I managed to pull my dogs away, get up from the ground, grab Opae and scramble across the street to relative safety.

The owner stood in the garage and did nothing. She apologized, said the dog just ran out of the house, and hurried inside. That’s it.

I’m clearly pregnant. I have clearly sustained injuries. And not a single person — not the owner, no neighbors, not even the construction workers who had been working on houses along the road — despite my cries for help, came to my aid or to even check if I was OK.

That was utterly disappointing.

I walked home, cleaned my wound, and made sure the dogs were OK. (Indy had cuts on his neck and back leg, but the other two seemed OK.) And then I called the police.

My intention wasn’t to press charges; it was to let my neighbors know the severity of what happened. This dog could have seriously hurt me, or a child, or another dog. This isn’t something to shrug off.

I filed a police report and asked the officers to go over and talk with them. But my neighbors wouldn’t answer the door. Maybe they were too embarrassed. Still, that’s no excuse.

It didn’t take long for me to start to feeling the physical affects of the attack. My pubic bone started aching first. And since I fell, I knew I had to call my doctor. (Let’s just say falling isn’t recommended during pregnancy.) She told me to go directly to the hospital to get checked out.

Turns out, falling is one of the ways you can suffer a placental abruption, an uncommon yet very serious complication where the placenta separates from the inner wall of the uterus before delivery. This deprives the baby from oxygen and nutrients and can, if left untreated, lead to death.

It’s rare, but a fall will do it.

By the afternoon, I started having major contractions and that concerned the doctor, who ordered antenatal steroid treatment — two injections right in my ass — to speed up the development of the baby’s lungs in case I was going to give birth prior to reaching full term.

I was on 24-hour fetal monitoring — which meant I couldn’t leave my bed unless I had to pee — and was constantly supervised. The doctors and nurses in the labor and delivery ward were incredible, too, keeping me informed and, maybe more importantly, keeping my spirits up.

I was in the hospital for four days, always worrying about the health of this baby that has really been a miracle for us. But apparently, he’s a tough little guy. His heart rate is strong, he moves around a lot, and he didn’t seem to be affected at all by the dog attack.

Instead, I was the one the medical team was worried about. And I was the one dealing with the emotional scars.

I spent a lot of time in the hospital — well, besides watching the Food Network — thinking about what happened. Why didn’t anyone help? Why do my neighbors insist on letting their dog off-leash when she’s attacked before? What do I do now?

I just hope there’s a lesson to be learned here. Aside from the fact that I’m now not allowed to walk the dogs alone — or near that house — I hope people remember that we should be good human beings first. I wouldn’t have been so upset had the owner come to my aid, asked how I was, just helped me up from the sidewalk. But to run away? That just seemed so wrong and cowardly and, frankly, unneighborly.

So thanks to everyone who’s texted, emailed, sent messages on social media, posted comments, shared personal stories and ranted on my behalf. It’s nice to know I’m still surrounded by people who care.

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