July 21, 2010

Starts with "BL" and rhymes with "thud"

Two days ago changed my life.  You'll never believe what I did.   

I gave blood without crying, passing out, or needing a large woman in scrubs to wave smelling salts in front of my nose.  Smelling salts?  Yup - ammonia is called that in the real world, not just in Anne of Green Gables.  When The Deed was done, I looked over and saw my FOUR tubes of blood and right there on the tray beside my arm were two little packets labeled: Smelling Salts.  Now, if I had seen those packets before I had given blood, be assured they would have worked such mental magic on me, I would have passed out immediately.  Or had a panic attack thinking It's this bad. It's so bad I will need to be revived with something pungent. She's expecting this. Just give in to the fear, Betsy.

I tried to give blood in high school.  Not get my blood drawn - no.  Tried to actually give blood away in the form of a charitable donation, like a pint or something, to anybody out there (excluding Jehovah's Witnesses) who might need a blood transfusion.  What ensued was laughable.  I started by eating a king-sized Rice Crispy Treat, the kind in bright blue foil.  (Those things are delicious!) Then my friend Andrea gave me a pep-talk and I sat down in a chair and a nurse told me she needed to prick me for a drop a blood to get a sample and would I prefer her to prick my fingertip or my earlobe?  I chose the earlobe.  I know, I know, why did I do that?  So close to the brain and the central nervous system, but it seemed less painful and out of sight.  Besides - a drop!  A single drop of blood.  So she pricks me and starts to milk my earlobe like it's the udder of a cow.  I remember this moment with the kind of clarity that only comes as a result of trying really hard not to remember something.  She asked "Have you had sex with anybody from Nigeria over the age of 17?"  I didn't know which part of that question to focus in on.  No, no...no.  I couldn't focus at all.  Then she says "You have a very nice resting heartrate, do you exercise often?"  And I said sweetly, "I run cross country." That was supposed to mean:  I'm freakin' invincible!  I'm strong and healthy and have a resting heartrate of 60!  I eat bananas for breakfast and there's nothing that you in your scrubs can find out about me that isn't medically satisfactory!  (Pride comes before...)

And then she goes "Ashbrook is a lovely middle name.  Is that a family name?"  And that's when I realized that I was leaning very, very far to the left, out into space, off my chair, away from the nurse who was milking my earlobe, away from everything.  Then I was flat on the ground and she was standing over me.  Do you remember those little slideshow-watching plastic glasses you used to hold up to the light and look through as a kid?  If you clicked the lever down to get to the next slide, it would go black and then the next slide would come up.  This was like clicking the lever slooooooowly down to black.  And the next slide never came up.  I passed out because a nurse pricked my earlobe.  I was wheeled over to the snack table where they gave me sugar cookies and Mountain Dew in a tiny Dixie cup.  Other people were there, replenishing themselves because they'd just reclined in a plastic lawn chair and given half their body weight in blood to help out the sick.  I was just a pathetic sugar cookie moocher.

The next time I had an... incident was when I first went to the gynecologist.  I thought they were just gonna take a look around and say "You can get married now!"  I had no idea they were going to do bloodwork.  But they did, and I was in this teeeeeny tiny room.  The tiniest room in the whole hospital.  In the whole world!  And the walls were white.  The only thing that wasn't white was my nurse Wanda's scrubs.  They were Disney.  Wanda was very, very large and she had a grey crewcut.  Right when they started the bloodwork, I spotted out and buried my face right into her cleavage.  She pushed my forehead up and waved around the smelling salts.  Do you remember those little collapsible toys that you could push the bottom in and the toy would collapse and then you released it and it would pop back up?  Having smelling salts coerce you back to consciousness is like slooooowly collapsing and then Hey Betsy Pop Back Up.

The last tale I will tell (and I have many) was just a few years ago.  Dustan had this bright idea that we were gonna get some kind of special life insurance that we do not even HAVE any more, so right there is enough to make me angry all over again.  Pointless bloodletting!  There's nothing worse.  So I show up to work, because this is where InsuranceMan has agreed that we should do our simple paper-signing.  Dustan had already been talking to InsuranceMan and told him, "My wife has a real problem with the whole blood thing, so, is this gonna be a bloodwork thing?" and this is when LyingMan replied "It's just a finger prick thing."  At the time I was working at a radio station.  Now, this wasn't an uptight place at all.  But it was serious enough to have doors, a conference room, computers and hundreds of thousands of dollars of songs pumping out every second.  We wore jeans, but we also worked like crazy.  So not unusual that when I got there early to "have my finger pricked," other people (like my boss) were already there working.  In comes what I was really hoping would be a plump female wearing scrubs and a gold cross necklace.  Nope.  A man in street clothes with slicked down brown-grey hair.  A polo, too tight.  FakeNurseMan.  I can't stand this man already.  We sit down at the conference table and he puts a rubber strap around my arm.  All my arm hairs pull.  I burst into tears when he asks me to pump my fist.  He looks at Dustan like, "Women are nut jobs" and I literally RUN to the bathroom.  I do all the business I can do in there, and I'm weeping uncontrollably.  Dust comes to get me and was super nice and convincing with shushes and pats, and I go back to the conference room.  I had to leave again (seriously) because I couldn't pull myself together.  This time Dust tries the military approach.  "You are being ridiculous," he tells me.  "You are behaving like a child."  So I go back to the conference room and sit down sheepishly.  I ask if we can go outside and do this because this room is just so SMALL.  FakeNurse says no, but he lets me open a window.  He gets the strap around my arm, I pump it up, I'm strong, I'm powerful, I can do this.  I look at Dustan and start to sing really loud "IN SLEEP HE SANG TO ME, IN DREAMS HE CAME..." and I make him sing with me, the Phantom of the Opera song.  It was so loud my boss comes out of his office.  He just kinda looked around, staring, and then stood quietly by.  When the needle was out, the whole holding-the-cottonball thing made me just as woozy, so I hung my head out the window and resorted to "Then SAY YOU'LL SHARE with me one love one lifetime..."  It was the nuttiest bloodletting of all.  I had no concern for my professional environment, or poor showtunes-sing-along Dusty, or my kind and understanding boss, and definitely not FakeNurse.  I hated him, and we cancelled that dumb insurance.

But hey, so Monday, right? I had my first baby appointment!  It was great.  Allie, my midwife, was determined to find Blueberry's heartbeat for us and that was awesome.  It sounded busy and frenzied, reminded me of a woman power-walking on an indoor track with pursed lips and sweaty bangs.  Like "I don't know what you're doing here, but I know what I'm doing here."  So we eavesdropped a little bit and then got on with the important stuff.  Like me giving blood without passing out.

I wasn't sure what to expect.  In my estimation, the needle-blood experiences have only gotten worse with time, and this time marked the pinnacle of adulthood.  It's not about you any more, you're a grown-up, making babies and paying parking tickets.  My lady was nothing like Wanda.  She was fit and had snappy brown eyes, a perfectly sleek ponytail, and a very loud talking voice.  Megan.  I knew she was gonna do me right.  Megan didn't mess around.  She had posted loads of pictures of pit bulls dressed in rain coats and tutus and other stuff she'd ripped out of pet calendars to amuse those of us who need amusing while bloodletting.  She told me I had "a nice vein."  Not gonna lie, that almost did me in, but I bit my finger and thought about this van full of handicapped kids I saw on my way there.  How many procedures had they had?  What kind of selfish overblown dramatic sensationalized person was I, who couldn't sit through some painless bleeding for the sake of my very own Blueberry?  For all of you who have a similar problem, I recommend this type of self-loathing to help you along in the process.  The whole: "I'm invincible!  I hiked a big long hike!  I so got this!" kind of pyschology doesn't seem to do the trick.  That's one of the few things I know now that I didn't know in high school.

That and a 10-week-old baby en utero has fingernails!

July 14, 2010

The I'm-Going-To-Have-A-Baby Post

This is when I tell the internet I'm pregnant.  Pretty fitting, coming on the heels of that last post, huh?  You can only do so much with a hot husband in a workshop filled with Rocket Rockers.  On the way home today I saw a lady walking a very old dog.  I mean, the lady was getting up there herself.  But the dog, which used to be black, was now a splotchy gray.  His legs were skinny and his body was lumpy and I'm almost positive there were big white hairs sprouting out from under his doggie chin.  The lady had on a sun visor (something I forgot even existed) and a ginormous tee shirt with a row of seashells across the front.  One day I'll look like that lady.  (One day I'll look like that dog.)

But not today.  Today the dew is still on the ground, and it's the first baby.  (Maybe - I hardly believe it's real).  We will look back on pictures of ourselves now and say things like "That was before you were born!"  Nothing sags yet (I said yet all you cluckers) and everything is brand new.  My little baby is the size of a grape, and she just outgrew her blueberry status, which is throwing everything off because we had just gotten used to calling her Berry Balkcom.  And yeah, I'm saying "she" because I want a girl.  There are stacks of unread books, a little container of unworn clothes and a baby backpack for hiking that is so new it still smells like plastic.  I look up and see miles and miles of uncharted territory, never before navigated waters, lots of places we've never been to or seen.  We eat a few squares of expensive chocolate and tortilla chips for dinner if we want.  We can't enforce a good bedtime to save our lives.  We feel frazzled if going out of town also requires calling a kennel.  Bless our little hearts, right?

So just a few days ago at work I discover that this guy I work with also co-owns this amazing company called Heritage Foods.  They provide all kinds of well-raised beef, pork, tuna, poultry, chickens and eggs to amazingly rich people by getting it from small local farms all over the Midwest and Virginia.  (Love when my world makes a circle like that).  As I perused the website I couldn't help but be amazed all over again at all the cool things so many cool people are out there doing.  College-quitting, company-starting, jet-setting beatniks who change careers midstream and die with ratty passports.

People that invent things.  That other people actually pay money to use.

People who own major league ball teams, who produce the TV show that millions of people watch, who decide it would be cool if all our jeans tapered at the bottom now.  

People who turn trash into energy for a living (and graciously pick up AT thru-hikers in the meantime).

People who've lived their whole life in a cranberry bog in Nantucket.

People who take a heart or a kidney or a lung out of one body and put it into another one.  And it works.

People who follow their guitar across the whole nation.

People who dive down to the bottom of the sea, have tan feet all year round and never eat anything out of a package.  White fish, mangoes, banana mash.

Those with personal chefs, those with best-selling memoirs, those with unkempt dreds, those who breed labradoodles.

Mountain climbers, zipline riders, horseback herders, hitch-hikers, lollygaggers and chocolatiers.

Anyhow, I just love the variety of things going on around me.  Suddenly I feel like being pregnant fits into the category of amazing things.  Because a teeny tiny blueberry-grape that just grew eyelids and has a microscopic pancreas could very well grow up to be one of these people.  Isn't that a cool thought?