Saturday, October 16, 2004

Conversations with my Mom

A few months ago, my mother shocked me with the news that she is voting for Kerry. She's since promised that Kerry definitely will win. When I expressed worry about Pennsylvania's and Ohio's electoral votes, she promised that both states will tip Democratic.

I really, really want her to be right.

And, no doubt about it, I really love my Mom. She's intelligent and generous to a fault. She also can rile me like nobody else.

For example, she's told her friends that she feels "trapped" between her FOX-watching husband and her NPR-listening daughter. She's intimated that FOX and NPR are equally distorting, a logic that leaves me equal parts befuddled and incensed. And so I had to laugh when, during a recent phone conversation, she said, "You know, I listen to way too much NPR and it's giving me a negative outlook on the world. That's why I should really cut back on my radio listening so I'll be a happier person." She paused, expectant. I paused too, wondering whom I was talking to. My mother rarely listens to NPR, so her confessional made no sense.

Finally, I said, "Mom, are you trying to offer some sort of instructional allegory?" She muttered something about the unpleasantness of talking politics and hung up.

The next time I phoned my parents' house, the call wouldn't go through. A robot-woman informed me that "The number you have dialed does not accept blocked calls. Please hang up and try calling from a different number." Huh? We don't have a blocked number, so this came as a surprise. I imitated the robot-woman's spiel for Adam: "The number you have dialed does not accept blocked calls. Please hang up and urge your brother to phone your parents, as they would much rather speak to him."

So, yesterday, I called Mom again, this time from a cell phone, outside our doctor's office. Ten days ago, my period failed to show. Six home pregnancy tests declared me not pregnant, but my abdomen seemed to disagree. Once it had swelled to strange and painful new proportions, I got nervous enough to call a doctor.

"You're probably pregnant," said the nurse I saw on Wednesday. "Don't you want to be pregnant?" Then she frowned at the urine and bloodtests that came back negative.

"Don't you want to be pregnant?" asked the doctor who examined me on Friday. He prodded my puffy belly, and I tried not to scream.

Verdict: ovarian cyst. But only a sonogram next week will say for sure. I phoned my mother to ask about her own experience with ovarian cysts.

"You're probably pregnant," she said happily. "Don't you want to be pregnant?"

As patiently as I could, I explained how impossible that was. But over-the-counter home pregnancy tests only became available in the late 70s, and so my mother had never used one. "Those home tests can't be all that good. It probably takes about a month before they can pick anything up, right?" When I told her how some of the tests detect traces of the hormone hCG as early as the day before one's period, she said, "Oh!.... Well, don't let them cut out your ovary until you get a second opinion!"

Several hours later, I started to bleed. Copiously. I'm crampy as can be, but glad to see my abdomen returning to normal. According to the doctor, this is the best thing that could happen with a cyst — that it would resolve itself and my cycles would return.

Meanwhile, my mother has decided that I would feel better if we say that I had a miscarriage. "You were sick earlier this month, so it probably wasn't a viable time. But you're getting closer!"

Yeah. Closer to a bizarro world in which a lost pregnancy is somehow better news than a resolved ovarian cyst.

Still, maybe Mom and I can both have our way. A grandchild AND President Kerry in '05.


At 10:44 PM, Blogger New Kid on the Hallway said...

Wow, what an interesting post... I hope you're feeling better! It would drive me insane if everyone kept saying to me, "Don't you want to be pregnant?" Of course, I have no idea whether you want to be or not, don't know if it would make a difference. (For what it's worth, I'd much rather have a resolved ovarian cyst than miscarriage too...!)

At 1:15 PM, Blogger Mel said...

So glad it seems to be resolving itself. It is amazing how fixated the medical establishment can be on pregnancy -- any woman of childbearing age who presents symptoms that might possibly be related to pregnancy (which includes a heck of a lot of things) is automatically told, "you must be pregnant."

My mother has a tendency to rewrite reality to suit her version of things, too. You seem (in your essays at least) to deal with it very well.

Christiane Northrup's book, Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom, has some good sections on ovarian health. Her book is one I recommend to women friends all the time, no matter what their health concerns might be.

At 5:38 PM, Blogger Benedict said...

When it is too earlier to say for certain, the medical professionals probably consider either diagnosis as equally likely. So they place emphasis on the happier option for the piece of mind of doctor and patient alike. Why give bad news when you don't have to?

Unless it is Bizarro World, and they have a different opinion of what the happier option would be.

At 6:05 PM, Blogger What Now? said...

What a terrible ordeal--both the health issues themselves and the medical and familial response to them. I hope that your body is returning to well-being. Prayers are with you.

At 7:35 PM, Blogger YelloCello said...

Thanks for your good wishes. Am feeling so much better now than I was on Friday afternoon. I feel like myself again. Mel, I will definitely check out Northrup's book. Could use some "women's wisdom," particularly as I'm feeling more ambivalent than ever about the experience (social and physical) of pregnancy.

Incidentally, on Monday of last week, I got an out-of-the-blue email from a college acquaintance, whom I'll call "Cindy." Cindy and I had last communicated before the beginning of the Iraq war. She had learned that I opposed the war and wrote to rebuke me on the grounds that I was "not a mother and therefore can't understand the need to keep our country safe in the same way that [Cindy] can." We had no further communication after that, mostly because I was too flabbergasted even to attempt a reply. Cindy's email on Monday was conciliatory (maybe?) and the opening paragraph read: "I had this really vivid dream about you 2 nights ago: you had come out to our house and you had a little baby boy. The whole pregnancy had come and gone without my even knowing about it. It was so real and wonderful to see you so happy. I'm sure that the reality is quite the same. I'm not one to believe that dreams are precursors of things to come but I guess it just got me thinking."

I know Cindy probably meant well, but the timing was awful. Blech. Cue the AMBIVALENCE!

At 11:25 PM, Blogger Manorama said...

Late in responding to this, but wanted to reply nonetheless. Hoping that your health returns and that you will be well.


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