Friday, June 27, 2008

I get to keep my uterus

Whoa, there's a headline. I visited the gynecologist Wednesday, fully expecting that the two-years-delayed hysterectomy was about to occur. But no, she said things haven't changed since last year. Just keep doing my kegels. Wait, I'm doing one now.

The other good news was that I'd lost seven pounds since last year's exam, and my blood pressure was lower than ever, a good thing in a family that tends to stroke out.

But back to the uterus. I was quite nervous driving to Corvallis for my exam. There's always the awkwardness of showing your parts to the doctor and the fear she might find signs of cancer. Have I mentioned that childless women are more likely to get breast, uterine and ovarian cancers? We are. But I was also wondering how I was going to work surgery into my busy schedule. I pictured myself pleading, "Can I keep it until October? I have some time then." Shoot, I don't even know how to fit in my dog Annie's spay job before she goes into her first heat.

As I muttered to myself on the road, I finally said the words I've always shied away from: "I'm never going to have children." I heard myself and thought, whoa, I said it. Does that mean I've accepted my fate? Yes and no. With menopause, it's a done deal. I still have regrets, and those puppies I'm always talking about are not the same thing. They're dogs, not people. Cute, but really hard to call on the phone.

Part of me wants to get this useless uterus out. It's almost like the final stage of menopause. Take out the unnecessary parts. But it makes things so final.

Meanwhile, pregnant young women dominated the waiting room, their bellies sticking way out in front of them. I scanned the middles of every woman who came in, smiling at the ones with no "bump." My group. An older lady sitting across from me scanned the magazines, heavy on parenting, and chose a National Geographic.

As I waited in the examining room, wearing a gown that left half of me exposed, I scanned the walls. Everything was about having babies: pictures of babies, nutrition for a healthy baby, how to make labor easier. Can't they set aside an examining room for those who are never going to have babies and might be losing their uteri? Call it the Empty Womb Room? It would be the compassionate thing to do.

Anyway, I'm keeping my parts for now and hoping for happy test results. And I'm never going to have a baby.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Learning mother lessons from the dog

I came home from church choir, weary and glad to finally relax. A soak in the spa would feel great. But it was not to be.

As I opened the door of the dimly lit laundry room/dog room, Annie jumped on me, smearing something dark on the left leg of my jeans from knee to crotch. Mud, I thought. The floor was also covered with black. What was going on? I turned on the overhead fluorescent lights and gasped. It was not mud. It was blood. Blood in the shape of dog footprints.

Where was it coming from? I lifted up the front end of each four-month-old dog, looking for blood. I checked Annie's mouth, feet and even under her tail to see if she had come into heat early. Then it was Chico's turn. Oh God. He was bleeding heavily from the little toe of his left front foot. It looked as if someone had sliced it down to raw, bloody meat. The nail was completely gone. It appeared some of the toe was missing, too, but it was hard to tell with so much blood.

The puppy resisted inspection, although he didn't seem to be in much pain and appeared to walk all right. I blotted with paper towels, one after another covered with blood. I had blood all over my hand in a minute, but I didn't care.

I needed a closer look. I tried to lift all 30 pounds once and failed, took a deep breath, gave it all my strength and hefted him onto the washing machine, "Mom's" examining table. Blood all over the white Maytag. It didn't matter. I looked at his wound, felt sick at heart, and set the dog back down. I cleaned the washer with a baby wipe.

Chico kept licking blood off the concrete floor as I tried to wipe it off with paper towels. Annie kept biting at the towels. With every step, Chico spread more blood. Oh my God, I thought, something has cut off his toe. My perfect puppy is maimed.

He was still bleeding. I took him inside, not caring about the blood dripping on the kitchen floor and the beige rug in the den. It was 10 o'clock at night. Sitting on the floor, holding Chico next to me with one hand, I dialed the vet's phone number and got the answering service.

"My puppy has hurt his foot and I don't think it can wait until morning."

The gruff woman said there were no emergency vets available that night. She could give me the number for a vet in the Valley . . .

"No, I can't do that." Not when I was too tired to drive an hour and a half of mountain roads, not when Chico was walking around just fine despite the blood.

"Well, Chico, I guess we're on our own till morning," I told the dog.

Back in the laundry room, I sank down onto the bloody floor. Chico walked over me, bleeding onto my bare ankle. It did not matter. All that mattered was that Chico be all right.

We sat vigil. Eventually the bleeding slowed. The puppies went into their crate, snuggling up together for the night.

I re-filled the water dish, put out the pee pads and locked the doors, saying a prayer that God take care of Chico.

Early the next morning, I dressed quickly and greeted the dogs. Chico's wound was dry, with a magenta hole in his toe. It was just the nail that was gone. Still, I skipped breakfast and called the vet as soon as they opened. I listened to the hold tape, Mozart, interrupted three times by "Your call is important to us . . ." before Denise at the desk listened to my problem and told me there was nothing they could do. I should watch it and put pressure on the wound if it bleeds again.

"Will the nail ever grow back?" I asked.

"Oh sure," Denise said.

The dogs, seeming to know that Chico was injured, spent the morning lying around on the deck instead of their usual roughhousing. I joined them, ignoring work and husband to snuggle with my puppies.

Mothers, even mothers of puppies, will do anything to keep them safe. If Chico had been hurt worse, I would have driven to the valley, arriving at midnight, probably getting lost on the way. I didn't care about the blood on me. Whatever I had to sacrifice—sleep, clothes, my spa soak, a big vet bill--I did not care. I just wanted him to be all right.

Of course I know these are dogs, but when your family consists of two adults and two puppies, that's your family, and you're the mommy.

The lesson that motherhood teaches is that we are not the center of the universe; if we don't have children, we must learn that lesson some other way or remain perpetual children. I may be late to class, but I'm learning more every day.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Suddenly they're everywhere!

I'm on the road with my husband this week, and it seems as if everywhere we go, there are children, small children, oodles of them. Even Tuesday at orientation for dog class, the teacher had to talk over the chatter of little kids whose parents think it will be good for them to train the dog. At every restaurant, we get seated next to a table of little ones who seem to think the world revolves around them. They don't talk; they scream, and it gets old. But tonight while I gorged on a Denny's chocolate brownie with ice cream and hot fudge, I watched a new mother hold her baby. You could tell they had a special connection. It didn't seem to bother her when he babbled and squealed and grabbed for every condiment on the table. The mom ate a salad, probably trying to lose the baby weight and also not having time to eat much. The father blithely devoured a burger and fries.
Watching, I envied the closeness of mother and child and knew it would not last long before the child was too big to cuddle and would be demanding "Tacos!" or letting the world know they don't like peas.
Was I sorry I don't have children? Yes and no. It will always be that way.
I'm typing this in the lobby of our hotel. A woman checking in responded, "Thank God, no" when asked if she had kids or pets with her. As someone who left her puppies at home and can put my shoes on the floor without having them chewed up, I agreed. Love them, but sometimes a little grownup people time is good. I even got the pool to myself, except for a motel cat named "Mouse" who minded his own business. Bliss.
I have a time limit and this keyboard leaves out half the letters. Gotta go.
Your comments are welcome.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: This blog has moved. Please switch over to the new site at All of the old posts have already been transferred over there, and it would make life easier if you would comment at that site. Thank you.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Sometimes even puppies are too much

Puppies! They're driving me crazy. Unlike human children, dogs move into the "terrible twos" by the time they're three months old. Mine, now one day short of 16 weeks, have already gotten too big to carry, and they are so tall they can reach things I never thought they could reach, like my favorite shoes. Yesterday I looked out the window and saw them carrying something big and white. Didn't take me long to figure out what it was. If they can reach that, they can reach everything on the tables in the back yard, so my ceramic frogs are doomed unless I figure out someplace higher and more stable—but not so high that the raccoons can get them.

They're not only tall but energetic. I remember tales of my young cousins found climbing on top of the dining room table and such. At least my aunt had a year or so to get used to having them around, feeding them and changing diapers and such, before they learned to walk.

Speaking of diapers, Chico is fairly well house-trained, but Annie either doesn't get it or chooses to express herself in the form of urine. The vet says she's marking her territory. Lovely. I cleaned up an ocean of pee this morning. When I went to feed them, I was so flustered I forgot to make the dogs sit and Annie knocked the bowl out of my hand. Puppy chow everywhere.

The fact that it has been raining all day (this is Oregon in June) does not help. When I bring them in, the dogs are so restless they go after every electrical cord, gnaw every wooden furniture edge, and even chew the nubs that stick up on the carpet. They grab tissues out of the trash and carry them under the bed, somehow making themselves flat enough to crawl around under there. We hear muffled barks and see the occasional face sticking out.

They accidentally got locked outside when we went to lunch. When they came in, they covered the floor and my jeans with muddy paw marks. I guess they finally got some exercise because both are sleeping now in the crate in my office. It took a lot of doing to get them in there. Two months and 40 total pounds ago, they went in willingly and fit easily. Now if I leave the room, they'll probably wake up and start gnawing on the door.

Whether you ever wanted children or not, you have to admire mothers. You can't lock human babies outside or toss them a rawhide bone to amuse them for awhile. It's a round-the-clock obligation for years. I don't know if I ever would have been ready for that, but the payoff would be grown children and maybe grandchildren in my life now.

The dogs are asleep, all wrapped around each other. One of them is snoring. Nap time is the best, whether you're raising children or dogs.

I'm heading out of town to sell books at a festival next week, so the next blog entry will either be early or late, depending on how the rest of my work goes. I promise to get back to serious childless issues.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: This blog has moved. Please switch over to the new site at All of the old posts have already been transferred over there, and it would make life easier if you would comment at that site. Thank you.