Tag Archives: health

my Washington Post article and a finished shop

Hooray! My piece for the Washington Post ran last week. Last year, I mentioned what a traumatic time I had a week after giving birth to baby L., and it felt good to write out the details. I never realized how difficult it was write about medical issues — it’s so nuanced I was a bit stressed about getting the details right. But after pestering the Stanford doctor and the CDC press officer and my friend Natasha who’s an infectious disease doctor, I felt confident when the story ran.

I also have so much more to tell, like how lonely it felt to be that sick even though my husband didn’t leave my side or how I wished I had those early days with my last newborn at home instead of in the hospital or how I sometimes look at the horizon and talk to the woman who saved my life even though I don’t believe in heaven. Lots to unpack there, I know. Maybe I can work on another piece — I just have to find the right angle.

A few weeks ago, A. finished my pottery shop and I’m throwing during my spare time. I’m a bit rusty and I need a full weekend to throw and throw to get in the groove, but I think I’ll find that in the new year and will be able to re-open my Etsy shop.



Exciting things are on the horizon! I don’t think I’ll pull off Christmas cards this year (sadly), but we’ll see. It’s hard to get a picture of the five of us. Have a happy and relaxing holiday!



Filed under birth, ceramics, creativity, happy, health, Uncategorized

on healing, exercise and pottery


It’s been six weeks since my surgery, and I feel back to normal. Well, as normal as you can feel with a newborn. Luckily, L. is a decent sleeper. Usually. OK, last night not so much, when he was up at 2 a.m., 4 a.m., 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. But three nights ago my little 7 week-old gave me a 6-hour stretch, which had me dancing to “Foot Loose” around my living room. (Another exaggeration, I can’t help myself today.)

I’ve been walking and I tried to run a few days ago. That wasn’t happening. It’s hard enough to run after a pregnancy, but now I have a surgery to contend with, so it will take more time. I’m trying to be patient.

We took the boys rock climbing in the Jemez mountains yesterday and A. set an easy climb for them (and me), but I wasn’t feeling up to it. Rock climbing is harder when you’re carrying extra weight and I have 10 more pounds to go. But it was lovely being in nature — trees! Fresh air! Sunshine! I’ve missed day trips like this.


In other news, I opened an Etsy shop to sell my pottery. I was simply investigating how to do it, and then suddenly it was done. I went with Erin Killian Pottery so it’s easy to find. My sister-in-law is a graphic designer (check out her stuff at Beth Killian Design) and she whipped up a logo for me.


I haven’t formally announced the shop to family and friends yet — I want to tweak it a bit and maybe add a few more items. I’ve read it’s good to have 20-30 items to start and I have 16 up there. Who knows, that might be enough. On Saturday, I started to throw again for the first time in two months. I made four mugs and three small ring bowls and felt relaxed and in my element. I’m pretty sure I think better when I’m throwing clay. A. said, “Look at you, you’re filthy!” and I nodded and gave him the biggest grin. It feels good to be back to myself again.



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the first weeks (not home)

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If A. and I have learned anything in the past two weeks, since our third boy, L., arrived at almost 11 p.m. on July 5, it is to respect the fever.

In L.’s first two weeks, he spent three nights at home. All of the rest were in the hospital. The first two were the standard recovery nights. The next one was because his bilirubin numbers (jaundice) were too high and he needed light therapy. And then, a week after he was born, I was admitted for a 104 fever.

The fever came on five days after L. was born. And it broke with Tylenol. But by the third day, I knew we had to go in. Something wasn’t right.

At the OB/GYN triage, my fever spiked. The pain was concentrated in my lower back and head and I was so cold the nurses put four warmed blankets on me and I was still shaking.

That Tuesday evening, my pulse reached 220, which had the doctors running to see what was going on. I was on IV antibiotics, but it wasn’t till the next morning that they knew that I was septic (blood infection). That afternoon my right lung started to hurt when I breathed. And by Thursday, my liver enzymes were rising.

The blood cultures finally showed I had group a strep — an aggressive bacteria that releases toxins to shut down your organs. And the way to treat it is to act fast and get rid of the source of the infection. For me, that meant an emergency hysterectomy.

My doctor told me I was the fifth case the hospital had seen in two years (some were flown in from rural New Mexico, one was after a home birth), and the other four ended up in the ICU. One of them died. Because my doctors acted fast, I didn’t have to go to the ICU and I came home a week after I was admitted. I’m still finishing up IV antibiotics to get rid of the blood infection.

It was a scary week, and I plan to write about it more fully, but that’s what we’ve been up to. And I’m grateful for good health care, fast-acting doctors and, truly, my life.


Filed under birth, health, Uncategorized

a ground-breaking (fruit) discovery

Several years ago, I was dating a guy who visited my Chicago apartment. We were hanging out in the kitchen and he opened the freezer and jumped back: “What is that?” he said. The man was 6’5” — and seemed scared. It was a pile of brown, frozen bananas. A whole slew of them. He was visibly repulsed. Shortly thereafter, we decided to end our short-lived romance.

See, I save bananas when I don’t eat them. If you put them in the freezer, you can eventually make banana bread or frozen fruit drinks out of them. And it feels so wasteful to buy bananas and then throw them out. I feel downright guilty about it.

But as anyone who knows me knows — and A. learned this on our third date — I am very picky about my bananas. They have about a two-day window where I can eat them. Brown spots make me gag.

So what happens, then, is that the entire freezer fills up with bananas. We’re talking two to three years worth of bananas. Cause I don’t even really love banana bread. My roommate, who is very flexible, was embarrassed when, at a party she hosted, a few of her friends were scrounging for alcohol late night — and they noticed the 50 or so bananas. They teased her incessantly. Also, her brother and sister-in-law saw them and said: “It’s more socially acceptable to have a severed head in the freezer.”

So before we had another party, N. practically begged me to throw them out. And I did — I filled up a garbage bag full of hard, brown, frozen bananas and hauled it out to the trash can. And I didn’t even feel bad about it.

But since then, a banana or two (or four) has creeped into that freezer. I’m ready to claim innocence if accused: “How did those get in there?”

Then, last week, I made an important discovery. A ground-breaking discovery. I discovered that if I trick myself — like a mom tricks a child — by mixing the fruit into other concoctions I eat regularly, I will eat it. Every day for the last week, I’ve had muesli with my Wallaby organic vanilla yogurt (I’m picky about that, too) and a sliced-up banana and some blueberries for good measure.

I gotta say, I’m really proud of myself. I’m trying — really trying — to eat better (just like the USDA recommends in its new nutrition guidelines) and am thinking about everything I put in my body. My next goal is to cut down on my sugar.

Now, who wants some banana bread?


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on vigilance

There’s a lot of breast cancer in my family. And when I say a lot, I mean doctors raise their eyebrows when they hear about it. So today, I walked into the Georgetown Breast Center for a risk assessment to chat about how to be vigilant.

And let me just say: I know I’m lucky. I personally pay for very expensive health care. Just for me. It costs $300 a month. But that allows me to just walk into a respected place like the Georgetown Breast Center without a referral and get a mammogram that same day. Most insurance companies won’t agree to pay for a mammogram for women at my age (33). But not only did my mom have breast cancer, but four of her sisters have had it — three of them in both breasts. And both of my grandmothers had it, too. My mom and aunt tested negative for the known genes (BRCA 1 & 2) related to breast cancer, but there is probably a gene that hasn’t been discovered that runs in my family.

Today, the nurse practitioner and doctor felt me up — and the technician prodded and pulled and squeezed my breasts and clamped them down into the cold device. After my mammogram, I sat in the waiting room in my white gown and jeans across from a woman in her early 40s, I’m guessing, also in a gown and jeans, whose eyes were red and splotchy. She dabbed her tears with a tissue. And I was in that awkward position of trying to look away, but I couldn’t help but staring, and wanting to reach out to her and comfort her, but knowing that as a stranger, it wasn’t my place.

And then the imaging technician called me back into the imaging room: “The doctor wants two more images,” she said. “She sees something here” — and she pointed to a small round spot on the black-and-white film. In the moment, I tried not to worry — I remembered my doctor saying that 80 percent of the time a mammography shows something suspicious, it’s benign.

But 10 minutes later, when the radiologist called me into the room to go over the results, I looked at her searchingly. She seemed nervous and didn’t smile. And then she said, “Your films are normal.”

There is nothing happy about cancer. There is little you can say to someone who has it to make them feel better — it’s scary. But it can be beat if caught early. I know I have many more years ahead of me of getting screened — and waiting and hoping for that response: “Normal.”

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if you’re scared, I’m scared, too.

As soon as he said, “I’m scared,” I was scared, too.

We had just returned from a weekend from A.’s hometown in New Jersey, laughing at the Jersey accents (at one point, during a pizza and beer dinner, a hockey teammate of A.’s said, “Why am I sweatin’ my bwalls off?” which made us exchange glances and giggle.)

But by about midnight, A. was running a high fever and tossing and turning. He said he felt like he was hallucinating and his legs ached — they hurt so bad, he said. We were up all night and he groaned and groaned. After calling my parents for guidance and feeling shaky, I took him into the E.R. at George Washington Hospital. I would never forgive myself if he had a bug that attacked his neurological system — or something equally as crazy — and I didn’t take him in.

They didn’t make him wait. He hobbled to the hospital bed. The nurse gave him an IV of water and they ran tests.

As we waited for the doctors, and I sat in a chair at the foot of his bed, he finally fell asleep. And when the doctors did arrive, they didn’t seem too concerned, so that allayed my fears. His blood and urine tests came back normal.

So I took him home. And I slept on his couch for two nights as he recovered from a nasty bug.

And now, two weeks later, he’s happy and silly and goofy and fun all over again — and I’m so relieved.

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