Friday, February 22, 2013

First In Line For Takeoff

Do you know Osama Bin Laden’s birthday?  Adolph Hitler’s Birthday?  The birthday of Pol Pot?  Neither did I.  Until one morning when I was sitting with one of my Obstetrician’s nurses, Adrienne, a friendly young lady with big brown eyes.  We were sitting at her desk at Dr. Bob’s office in Ridge Hill, a new development in the Sixth Borough, where Dr. Bob and many other West Med conglomerates of physicians and their staffs and patients had relocated to after the past few months.  It was mid-January, my husband and I had text the Stork 9 months earlier, and the Stork was delivering.
What was originally a due date set by the Stork of February third, 2012 was slowly creeping into January.  Several sonograms and meetings with my obstetrician, Dr. Bob, had indicated that the Stork was sending us a delivery, however, the baby was not in ‘proper exit position’ and it looked like said baby was going to have to be delivered surgically. 
We sat with Adrienne, as she looked at Dr. Bob’s calendar online.  Rob was adamant the baby not be delivered on January 24th, his Dad’s birthday.  Meanwhile I was having a spaced-out moment thinking that if I was a young Victorian Bride giving birth 100 years ago, I would be destined to die in Childbirth with this out-of-position-for-delivery baby (none of that sentiment was true, however it didn’t stop me from thinking about it).  Thank goodness for the 20th Century, I thought.  Regardless of my own self-preservation strategy, Rob reminded Adrienne that his son and his father could not share a birthday of the 24th of January, despite that his wife was only seven to ten decades away from losing her life in this whole process.  (Not Necessarily). 
I removed myself from my bad-medicine day dream and looked at Dr. Bob’s calendar on Adrienne’s computer screen.  “Dr. Bob likes to schedule Cesarean Sections for Thursdays”, Adrienne said as a matter of fact.  Well that’s nice I thought.  Let’s see if I’m free, I thought to myself (OK I was).  But the Hospital had no openings on the Thursday of the 4th week of January.  So we were S-O-L.  “How about Wednesday” Adrienne said?   Let me see, was I available?? (Ok I was).  But you know how the Nursery Rhyme goes…’Monday’s child is fair of face, Tuesday’s child is full of Grace, Wednesday’s child is full of woe, Thursday’s child has far to go...
Yes, Full of Woe.  Don’t I know it?  I was born a Wednesday, my brother was born on a Wednesday; Rob was born on a Wednesday.  How much more Woe could this family take?

As if it was just part of her job, (because it was), Adrienne scheduled our Cesarean Section for Wednesday, January 25th 2012 at 8 AM.  “Don’t worry”, she said, “That’s the first surgery of the day, and you will be first in line for takeoff”.

We left WestMed’s shiny, new facilities with my husband loving the idea of a scheduled birth (which was not his father’s birthday of January 24th) and me torn between the easiness of a scheduled birth and the fearfulness of a scheduled surgery.   Please understand, not only was this my first go at Motherhood, it was also my first go at surgery, and the latter was freaking me out a little more than the former.

Let me say this:  I am a bit of a romantic when it comes to birthdates.  I have this feeling we should all come into this Earth at the exact moment it is intended for us to come into this Earth.  The idea of ‘picking birthdays’ doesn’t sit well with me.  I was torn.  A scheduled birth is super convenient when it comes to planning for a baby, but part of me felt we were cheating God, and to a lesser extent, the Stork, that our little delivery should choose his own birthdates, and arrival.  But it was out of my hands, medically and romantically, so along with Wednesday, January 25th I went.

But as a soon-to-be-mother, I had to do some my due diligence and see who else also shared this January 25th birthday.  I didn’t want my child to grow up with the same birthdates as Osama Bin Laden (March 10th 1957), or Adolph Hitler (April 20th, 1889), or some other horrendous individual who has walked this Earth.  After all, I share my birthdates with some very harmless individuals (Prince William 6/21/82, Meredith Baxter and Michael Gross, both of Family Ties, 6/21/47, and Jean Paul Sartre, 6/21/05).   Rob also shared a birthdate with decent people, his day, 14th July, Bastille Day, shared 7/14 birthdays with Gustav Klimt (1862), Gerald Ford (1913) Tommy Mattola (1949) and Jane Lynch (1960) – all fully respectable individuals.  So I Googled the birthdates of some of the 20th Centaury’s more low-quality contributors: Mao Zedong (12/16/1893), Joseph Stalin (12/18/1878), Vladimir Lenin (4/20/1870), Theodore Kaczynski (5/22/42), Timothy McVeigh – the Oklahoma City Bomber (4/22/68), Jeffery Dahlmer (5/21/60), and the individual who I feel was the worst President of the United States of America, George W. Bush (7/6/46).  None of these people were born on January 25th.  It was a safe date.  In fact, one-twentyfive (two perfect square roots) was the birthdates of Alicia Keys (1/25/80), Etta James (1/25/38), Corazon Aquino (1/25/33) and Virginia Woolf (1/25/1882) – all fully respectable individuals.  Looked like my baby’s birthday was a good day, even if it were slated to be 'Full of Woe'. 

Let the countdown begin

Wednesday, January 18th was my last day in the office.  My boss’ boss, Ken, a super proactive guy who really should just run the company, said this would be my last day in the office (I think he was afraid I would go into labor during a staff meeting).  I made my goodbyes.  Thursday, January 19th, I worked from home, but to be honest, I didn’t do anything but watch Law and Order for about 10 hours.  At the time, little did I know, but this would be my last day of ‘doing nothing’, as it were, and vegging out, in my life.  Man, I love Law and Order.  Man, I loved responsibility-free vegging-out.  Friday, January 20th, was my last official day at work.  So I actually worked hard at tying up loose ends as best I could.  The weekend of Jan 21st and 22nd I know somewhere involved going to Costco and stocking up on food, and of course being too worn out to even push the shopping cark around the Costco warehouse.  (Why is Costco so big?).  Monday, January 23rd, I had an appointment with Dr. Bob, again confirming the baby was not in ‘delivery-ready-position’.  I knew I was carrying a boy, and let me tell you, Men never ask, NEVER ASK, for directions, Jesus, Lord have Mercy.  I also went to the hospital for bloodwork.  Yes, I have blood.  Tuesday, January 24th, what would have been my late Father-In-Law’s 68th Birthday, My aunt Choochoo took me out for lunch, and we drove to Dobbs Ferry, not too far from my house and still part of the Seventh Borough.  We went to a Mexican restaurant on the main drag and even though we had just a nice lunch and chit chat, Dobbs Ferry is where she lived at a point with her young family.  I had a feeling there was a sentiment of imparting well wishes upon a young family underlying that super-yummy rice and beans.  Aunt Choochoo drove me home, and Rob and I had our pre-baby dinner at the Old Stone Mill in Tuckahoe (part of the Seventh Borough). 

Let me tell you something right now, a true life lesson to be learned.  DO NOT BE A DUMMY like me and go to a nice restaurant the day before you have a baby and be persuaded to order the scallops.  I always end up ordering scallops, and though they are nice, when you are about to  have a baby order a dinner of SUBSTANCE, ie steak and potatoes.  Now is not the time for lady-like scallops.  ORDER STEAK.  Get protein.  Store Carbs.  Prepare your body for famine, even if it’s only 48 hours of ‘famine’.  Be a true AMERICAN.  Ask, “Where’s the Beef?”  Have no shame. Order the Cheeseburger deluxe.  Find your inner Irish immigrant and overindulge on potatoes.  It’s ok.  Trust me.  The day before your baby comes; you will need to store protein for energy and crabs for sustenance.  Yes, the hospital feeds you, but not like a good steakhouse can feed you in your hours of need.  My scallops in garlic sauce were no match for a C-Section. 

Wednesday, January 25th 2012.  This was it.  D-Day (Delivery Day). 

We were to be at Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville at 6 AM for an 8 AM surgery.  We set the alarm for 4:30 but my mind was racing well before then.  The car was already packed, just a few last minute things like packing one’s toothbrush.  After brushing my teeth I came downstairs with an urgent need to call my medical insurer.  What if we weren’t pre-approved?  What if our hospital wasn’t ‘in-network’?  I used my last few pre-baby moments to check in with Blue Cross.  I dialed their 1-800 numbers from my home phone.  “Please call during office hours…”  What the….no one is there to reassure me at 5 AM in my neurotic pre-maternal state???? I had to give up and get in the car.  Bronxville was only six minutes from our house via the Bronx River Parkway, but we took White Plains Road instead, dragging out our journey to 20 minutes - out of Scarsdale, through Eastchester, Tuckahoe, into Bronxville, Car parked, we checked into the hospital like it was any old hotel on our honeymoon.  Labor and Delivery: 4th Floor. 

As the sun also rises, the nurses took good care of me and Rob suited up into surgical daddy-gear.  The nurses paid no mind to my fast or measly scallop dinner.  Aunt Choochoo, an OR nurse manager in one of her past lives, negotiated her way into pre-op, and sanely reminded me that like IVs, caths also work best when working WITH gravity.  I obliged and walked myself into the OR, catheter below bladder level.   

Please understand, not only was this my first go at Motherhood, it was also my first go at surgery, and the latter was freaking me out a little more than the former. 

I sat on the operating table, fully aware of my surrounding.  There were many cabinets filled with supplies, Dr. Bob taking some last minute notes, Dr. John, the second Dr. and Dr. Kim, the Anesthesiologist, a slew of nurses, a bad 90’s ‘boom box’ (if you will) or a boom box with a CD player, hence its 1990s reference.  There were also many posters around the OR stating things like “count your instruments” and “make sure you have the right patient”.  Holy Hell, I thought, yes, let’s make sure this is the right procedure here.  Immediately before walking to the OR the nurses asked me if I would sign an Organ donor card.  I said “NO, not today, please take out only the baby this go round”.  You can have my liver/kidneys/heart/lungs 50 years from now.  Plus I never got the OK from Blue Cross this morning, so let’s not overstep our boundaries, OK?

Dr. Kim gave me the anesthesia and I was quickly out of it from the ribcage downward.  Rob came in fully suited in sterile scrubs-blue.  The lead OR nurse went around the room asking for a status of preparedness.  All good to go.  There was as silence for a few moments.  “I’m ready” I said, even though no one asked me, and everyone seemed a little stunned that I made myself part of the OR checklist.  Hey, Me, Blue Cross and my employer were the true financers of this operation, to be literal, so count us in.  I’m tired of being pregnant and now I’m numb, so let’s get moving. 

A few minutes later, 9:08AM to be exact,  the baby came out screaming.  Wow, I thought, he’s good at breathing!  And screaming!  Dr. Bob and the nurses confirmed the baby was in good health and I was happy to be sewn back together.  For a moment I realized the full capacity of my lungs for the first time in a long time and I was grateful.  The baby went off to nursery after a few photos with Dad and I was off to recovery.  One of the nurses let me kiss the baby, and his skin felt like super soft silk.  How beautiful!

In the recovery room, I was covered with warm blankets while one nurse taught computer data entry to the other nurse.  Meanwhile, Preggos in the next bed were getting ready for delivery.  For a relatively small hospital, they were truly a bit of a maternity shop.  I felt I was truly first in line for takeoff that day.  My limbs were slowly coming to while Rob got phone calls and text messages from friends and family stating that the baby looked just like his dad.  Like Bobby?  I barely got to see the baby, yet this kid, born one day and sixty-eight years after his paternal grandfather looks just like his Grandpa Bobby???  Ironically so.     

Meanwhile, while one nurse taught the computer system to the other, we all had a chat about on-line dating.  Me and my quasi-numbness told the nurses not to give up.  Rob and I had met online, and it’s worth a shot.  But please, keep the warm blankets coming, #1 it’s January, #2 Blue Cross doesn’t charge extra for that. 

My good Nurses from L&D took me to Maternity on the 6th floor and finally after a few hours I got to see my super soft baby again.  My mom was there, relishing in her first grandchild.  Rob’s family was also there.  Aunt Choochoo was still playing nurse.  But finally I got to hold my baby with my arms, no longer induced with anesthesia.  I took a good, hard, look at this kid, and unwrapped his swaddles.  Almond-shaped blue-grey eyes, ginormous cheeks, a cleft chin, 10 articulated, long fingers and 10 beautiful toes.  I smelled his baby head for a little bit and gave him a kiss.   He was perfect.  “Happy Birthday, little one”, I said, “This is the best day!”

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Story That Nobody Wants To Read (Or The Story That Nobody Wants To Write, Part II)

Professor Pat should have had a follow-up session to that class, in which our parents take a stab at writing that same conception essay, creatively, not literally, and we could have read the parents' and the daughters' versions side by side. Of course this class would have to be held our senior year, or when all students were of drinking age, because we'd all need a glass (or a bottle) of wine to get through those gems.

Sixteen years later, that assignment remains a sweet memory in my brain filed under 'college stresses that now seem silly'. Sixteen years later, Pat is still on the faculty, perhaps still teaching that same assignment, I am now thirty-four and have a child of my own, and my mother, if she ever reads this Blog, would get a kick out of it and say something like, "Elizabeth, you are ridiculous".

If I had to write that essay today, my approach would be entirely different, and I don’t mean to imply I would have adopted Angie’s sensational, over-the-top, graphically-detailed essay.  In hindsight, both our essays were missing the same element.  Writing about one’s own beginning is not so much an exercise in mechanics – we all know how babies are made (two adults pop open a bottle of champagne - or several bottles of lemoncello - and one thing leads to another and lo and behold the stork receives a text message requesting an infant).  No, the mechanics of conception, whether presented in a graphic or subdued manner, are quite basic.  Both our stories, and all the stories of the childless students in that classroom, were missing the why.   All the stories of the childless students in that classroom were missing that seminal moment where one (or both) of the parents-to-be realize they are willing to take on the biggest responsibility of their lives.  These stories, written by nineteen and twenty year-olds, as clever as they may have been, could not possibly capture the emotions behind wanting to bring a new life into this world.  It’s easy to send a drunk text to the stork.  It’s not so easy to articulate how you know that you are ready to send that text.

Now that I have my own little bundle from the stork, I imagine what story line my son would concoct, should he ever be asked to recreate his own conception.   Oh, let’s cut to the chase, why wait for the assignment?  I’m  going to be a bad mother here and just give him (you) the answers.

Dear Baby, it went like this….

Picture it: March 2011, Dad and I have been married a few months now and are settling into Seventh Borough life just fine.  Things are very busy at work for the both of us, Dad is off to Asia for a fairly long business trip, he’s got projects in Taiwan, Singapore and Jakarta.  I’m up against a deadline at work myself, for what is basically a series of quarterly internal audit reviews, and have to prepare reports on the internal control failures of my own department without losing any friends.    So Daddy’s jet lagged and Mommy’s walking a very fine line.  To accommodate this crazy schedule, we set up a plan, Dad will call home at 5:30 AM, Seventh Borough Time, to check in and assure me he hasn’t been kidnapped for a corporate ransom.  I promise Dad I will take out the garbage and the recycling and clean out the litter box in his absence, even if waste removal is my most loathed set of household tasks.  Dad lets me know he’s not feeling well but cannot read the labels of any of the medicines in Taiwan and no one seems to speak enough English to help him out.  I decide that as payment for taking out the trash, and because I am working very late these days, I will drive to work and skip the train.  Besides, Dad can’t use the car when he’s on the other side of the globe and is focused on not mistaking cat food for Pepto. 

One morning I wake up and turn on the TV to break the silence in the house with the AM news.  To my horror, Japan was just hit with an earthquake, which created a Tsunami that’s ricocheting all over the Pacific Rim.  Oh my God, I think to myself, Daddy can’t swim!  Speaking of Daddy, where is my 5:30 AM Phone call?

As I nervously watch the news unfold, thousands upon thousands of Japanese have already perished, I start talking to the TV in my loneliness.  The news reports that the effects of the Tsunami are moving mostly towards Hawaii and the Western Hemisphere.  I think to myself, thank God, Tsunami, you need to go away from Taiwan, or Singapore or wherever my husband is.  And where is my 5:30 phone call????  In an early-morning-can-not-believe-my-eyes kind of trance, I talk to the television:  “How could this happen?  How is everyone doing? How close is Japan to Taiwan? I’m sure Hawaii is much better equipped for this kind of thing (based on nothing), right?  Rob can’t swim and no one is there to talk to him in English!”  Apparently I convinced myself the only thing you needed to overcome a Tsunami is swimming skills.

 I was freaking out and I couldn’t even call anyone in the Seventh Borough Time Zone, it wasn’t even six in the morning.  Finally, the phone starts to ring and it’s Dad, he’s having a few drinks at a bar in Singapore with some of his coworkers, watching the news, in English, just the same.  As casual as could be he asks me, “Did you hear about this Tsunami thing?”

The day went on.  I drove to work, Dad had left Taiwan for Singapore just a handful of hours ago, he was safe and had met up with familiar colleagues in Singapore, who were kind enough to interpret the labels on pet food and Pepto, should he still need to differentiate.  It was a foggy March day and all seven boroughs were expecting a deluge of rain in the evening.   I worked on my reports until 8 or 9PM.  I was tired and I was running from the fierce downpour to the garage to get the car and drive home. 

It was not the best conditions for driving.  I was exhausted, up early, worrying about your dad, worrying about the crisis in Japan, worrying about the world, really.  The rain was incredible, so bad that I had the windshield wipers on full speed and still could barely see where I was going.  All the lights from the third and fourth borough city lights bled red, yellow, and green onto the pavement, like pools of paint, through the swish-swish-swish of my wipers.  Rain was coming down quickly, gutters were filling up and creating small lakes at each intersection.  I changed the channel on the radio from something pop-rockish and up-beat to 1010 Wins just to hear the regular traffic updates.  Surely this downpour would be shutting down some roads. 

I made it across the Tri-Borough Bridge (aka the RFK Bridge, aka the bridge I had long been afraid of), I made it to the Bronx River Parkway, unfortunately, though expectedly, located next to the Bronx River, and prone to flooding.  I drove slowly, almost in anticipation of finding the highway to be closed.  The rain pounded the roof of the car and I had to raise the volume on the radio just to hear the quick-talking traffic reporters over the gunfire-like sound of rain on a metal roof. 

I just about made it into the Sixth Borough, when the water on the highway seemed to be getting deeper and I decided to get off that road on my own volition.  I was driving around, pelted by rain, exhausted, and flat out lost.  I tried to follow the service road near the train tracks, I thought I recognized a street name here and there, but it was all too much and I just pulled over, shut off my lights, and let the rain take over.

I had a good cry and then I pulled it together and found my way home.  The next few days were more of the same: 5:30 AM phone calls, lots of audit report writing, a little bit of taking out the trash, watching the news, thinking, praying, hoping, and figuring out my own how-to-out-swim-a-tsunami strategy.  I was overcome with a tremendous sense of the fragility of life.  I thought to myself, I am not going to be on this Earth forever, I need to start a family and spend as much time with them as I can.

Dear Baby, that’s kind of how it went, but feel free to ‘choose your own adventure’ as you will.  Dad flew in to Newark.  Mom mobilized the lemoncello.  And the Stork got a text.    

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Story That Nobody Wanted to Write

"I want to be dismal when I grow up", says no child, ever.

I went off to college without a declared major and without a real solid idea of what I was going to be when I grew up. During my very first semester at college, I took an Economics class and realized that the Dismal Science Department was going to be my home for the next four years. Econ was a great combination of math, analytics, history, government, business, and people - right up my alley!  For a liberal college, Smith had a fairly diverse group of academics in its Dismal Science Department: Keynesians and Reganomics groupies alike, game theorists, designer-dressed finance-types, the blue jeans wearing pro-labor union set, the pro-developing world aid set, the Monetary policy wonks who worshipped Alan Greenspan, we had it all. And I wouldn't be surprised if the foreign-born Econ majors outnumbered the U.S.-born Econ majors 2 to 1. Never again in my life, thus far, have I been in a room with so many female Economics students since those college days.  The coursework was very objective, highly quantitative, and in completing the 40 credits required by the department as one's major, I may have written seven papers all in all. 

In order to round out my college studies, I took a writing class called 'The Short Story and Its Writer', taught by a very memorable Professor Patricia S. (last name withheld because she doesn't know I'm giving away her syllabus, albeit from 1997). Pat was a force to be reckoned with. She was a petite lady, who often wore floral print dresses and skirts, offset by her icy blue eyes and steel-graying hair. Not that she came off as cold or disinterested, quite the opposite, I think she used her 'steel magnolia' fa├žade to both guide and challenge, to deconstruct and construct, to correct and redirect students in their writing.  She spoke with a slight accent, I think she was originally from the South, that was more pronounced as she would slow down her speech for emphasis, or in the few times that she was annoyed with us, when we begged her to hold class outside, as spring brought the most pleasant of days after a bitter New England winter. "Class", she would start loudly and then pause to look around the room, "Will be held inside.", she would finish more softly, after her Southern-ness would add some flavor to that w.

Our class consisted of reading short stories and a few novels which were basically a compilation of essays or short stories, and we had to write two short stories of our own and keep a journal. Pat never limited our writing topics, but one day she made a specific request for one of our journal entries.  She  asked the class to write the story that nobody wanted to write: "For your next journal entry", she would start loudly and then pause to look around the room while a beguiling smile formed on her face, "Please write about how you believe your parents conceived you".

I think the room collectively giggled until we realized she was serious. Then came the laughter out of fear, the nervous laughter, the eye rolls, the confused looks. There is no way I could write this story!

I'm sure I went about my day and just filed that assignment with my other assignments, and as the days passed, and I had the choice of writing that essay or doing something else, I would always choose the 'something else'.   How could she ask us to write about that topic? Doesn't Pat know I went to Catholic school and no one ever talks about that.  Out loud.  Doesn't Pat know I'm an Economics major?  The Dismal Science Department would never ask its students to ponder that event.  Besides, when you start to bring up sex and childbirth among Dismal Scientists, the conversation often turns to the pros/cons of the legalization of prostitution for taxable revenue, and/or the human trafficking business, and/or the lifetime production/consumption of said child.  Either way you slice it, it's not a light subject.  And Pat wasn't asking for some essay about sex, she was asking for an essay about your parents (my parents!??) having sex, and this was giving me a real knot-in-my-stomach feeling that made me quickly think about something else (anything else!!).  Besides, I am pretty sure the stork delived me! 

(Sixteen years later I honestly don't remember what I wrote, and back then in the Alan Greenspan days, my assignments were saved on a floppy disk, which even if I could find that disk today, I am certain my current computer, here in the Ben Bernanke days, does not have a disk drive for such an outdated piece of plastic.)

I went to class with a completed assignment. I don't remember what I wrote but I remember I calculated that nine months before I was born would roughly put you at the end of September, 1977, very close to my dad's 34th birthday. I avoided addressing the topic of the actual conception, like the Catholic church avoids addressing its abusive priest issue, and hypothesized some story about a 34th birthday celebration for my dad in Brooklyn in the late Seventies.  I'd bet my essay included things like my dad's sideburns and my mom wearing bell-bottoms, or something polyester. Late September is a nice time in New York, the oppressive humidity from the summer has usually left for the season, the air is crisp but not yet chilly, sunset and dusk linger late enough for a nice walk home - maybe they went out for surf & turf, maybe there were cocktails, maybe they went to a movie, maybe all of Brooklyn was dancing around like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever and they were just out for a good time.

I can write about people and places and I can tell you that my parents enjoyed a good seafood dinner now and then but I cannot go any further. I can guarantee you I did not call home and I did not make this a matter of investigative journalism.

I went to class with a completed assignment. I prayed that the Professor of Steel would not call on me to read out loud in class. I made eye contact with no one. Several other classmates had the same wallflower look to them as well. Yet a few students were actually eager to read their stories (I doubt they had gone to Catholic School). One classmate, a fearless platinum blonde with chunky glasses named Angie, had brought a photo of her parents to add to her essay. She believed the photo to have been taken around the time of her conception and in the photo, her parents were sitting, or rather straddling, a large rock, and were dressed for a hike.  Angie's essay weaved a story that she was conceived after her parents were on a cross-country road trip and stopped to take a rest on this 'phallic rock'.  Pat was eating this story up - she loved it!  I thought to myself, how could I impress this revered professor with my John Travolta antics?  Angie was filling in the blanks of her conception story, demonstrating a level of worldly experience I was not familiar with.  The vocabulary used in Angie's essay did not overlap with my choice of words, and as the Phallic Rock story diverged further and further from my let's-count-the-days approach, I prayed even harder that Pat would not ask me to read aloud. 

I went to class with a completed assignment, but I was so naive, so literal in my interpretation.  I thought to myself, 'what is a phallic rock'? I've never seen rocks like that. Maybe Angie's parents lived out west in the big mountain states. We don't have rocks like that in sea-level Brooklyn. I was pretty sure Angie wasn't an Econ major. 

I made it through class without having to read my story.  I think Pat was aware that this topic may  not have been for the squeamish, and she was merciful.  I really, really enjoyed that semester.  I wrote my two short stories without ever revisiting the conception topic again: one involved a journalist who makes front-page news, not with her writings but with her death.  The second short story was more of an unrequited love situation.  But hey, those stories were more up-beat than consumption and taxes!