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When I started telling friends and relatives that I was pregnant with Lauren, a number of them told me I should start taking prenatal vitamins immediately. Everything I read impelled me to do the same thing; in fact, almost everything I referenced assumed that anyone trying to get pregnant was already taking vitamins, particularly vitamins chock-full of folic acid. It all made it sound like any baby born to a mother who didn’t take prenatal vitamins was destined to develop some kind of birth defect.

I held off on buying any vitamins until after we saw Dr. Shoji, mainly because I didn’t really have any idea what to look for, and we’d hoped that he would steer us in the right direction. When I asked him about vitamins I should take, he shrugged and said, “They’re not necessary. If you’re eating a healthy diet, you and baby are getting everything you need.”

His extremely relaxed response surprised me, considering how adamant all the American literature had been about it. But vitamins were clearly not at the main front of Japanese prenatal care. After the appointment, Geordie and I went to a drugstore, just to see what kind of vitamin options there were. We found nothing marketed especially for pregnant women, nothing in the way of “prenatal care.” When Geordie asked one of the employees about it, she pointed out the folic acid supplements but explained that there were no specific vitamins for pregnant women. We ended up getting a general women’s vitamin that had folic acid in it. Later in the pregnancy, I switched to one that had a high amount of DHA, the better for baby’s brain development. None of the doctors I saw in Japan ever asked me about the vitamins or supplements I was taking.

Fast forward to now. One of the first questions the midwife asked me at my first prenatal appointment was what vitamins and supplements I was taking. I was not surprised by the question, but I was a little taken aback by how insistent she was about what I was taking.

I’d started taking prenatal vitamins in late December, once we’d decided that we’d be trying for a baby in the spring. I wasn’t convinced of the necessity,but I figured it wouldn’t hurt. By the time I got the positive pregnancy test, the bottle was nearly empty, and I’d found that the vitamins were contributing to my nausea – supposedly because of the iron. I switched to a gummy vitamin that did not contain iron, along with a calcium supplement since the gummies didn’t have that either.

The midwife didn’t seem overly impressed with my choices. She suggested I look into an iron supplement. She suggested what type of calcium supplement I should take. She suggested a “plant-based” vitamin. She was adamant that, no matter what I took, I should be sure it had the full amount of folic acid.

We talked more about vitamins and supplements than we did about actual nutrition through diet.

I found it mildly irritating.

One of the things the head midwife mentioned at the open house was that they tried to reserve medicine as a last resort. Geordie kind of rolled his eyes at the mention of homeopathic treatments, but I figured that would be standard procedure for an establishment that focused on natural pregnancy and childbirth. Not that I’m into homeopathy, but I’m not in the habit of automatically reaching for pills when I’m not well. I’ve never been that bad off, fortunately.

Even though I do take my prenatal vitamins, I’m not convinced that they’re necessary. Well, maybe right now, while my stomach deals with all of these hormones and aversions and cravings – but I intend to eat as balanced and healthy a diet as I can. Not just during this pregnancy, but indefinitely. I don’t want to be reliant on vitamins for my nutrition. If I find myself needing more iron in my diet, I don’t want a supplement to be my crutch – I know what foods to reach for when I need iron. I want to put my trust in natural foods. I still believe what Dr. Shoji said: baby will get everything it needs from a healthy, natural diet.

Reading through American pregnancy books during my last pregnancy, I often felt that they were trying to convince me that babies aren’t born healthy on their own, that they need medical care, doctors, and vitamins to make it through their ten months in the uterus. Everything seems to offer assurance: follow these rules, and baby will be healthy. What can go wrong?

Well, we know how I feel about that. I took the vitamins, I had regular prenatal care, I carefully watched what I ate to make sure I wasn’t ingesting anything “dangerous,” I took the best care of myself and was blessed enough to have a partner who did his best to make sure that I did just that. None of it kept my daughter from dying. I don’t think any of it caused Lauren to die either, but the truth is that perfect prenatal care isn’t a guarantee.

The truth is that even the perfect pregnancy can end in heartbreak.

I’m not looking for the perfect pregnancy. I’m looking to keep my baby healthy, to bring home a happy child, a living child. Much of it is out of my hands – this early in the pregnancy, anything can happen, and there’s not much I can do to stop it. I know that. I’ll keep doing my best. But I’m not going to delude myself into believing that following all the rules will lead to a happy ending.

So, this is what I will do: I will live as healthy a lifestyle as I can. I will eat unprocessed foods as often as I can, I will eat as healthy as possible. I will take my vitamins in moderation. I will not obsess. I will follow my instincts. I will listen to advice and do what I feel I need to do. I will not follow blindly, nor will I take anything for granted. I will not believe in guarantees.

I will take care of myself and our baby as best I can. That is what I have control over. I’ll take that.

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Have I written about feeling incompetent before? I know I’ve written about feelings of failure and not being able to do anything right. It comes up every now and then. Like right now. This week. Mostly yesterday and today.

This week started out well enough. I spent less money on groceries than I had budgeted. The Thin Mint cupcakes turned out really well. Tuesday’s dinner got a little burnt, but it still tasted decent enough. We happily ate it.

And then came Wednesday.

The kittens have been having loose bowel movements for as long as we’ve had them (about three months now). They came home with antibiotics after their first vet visit, and that cleared things up for a while. Then they started getting the occasional loose stool. And now, for about the past two weeks – maybe three – the problem has returned in full force. It was a mess every time they got in the litter box. It became clear that the problem would not solve itself. So, Tuesday, I called the vet and arranged to come in Wednesday morning.

We came home with not two, not three, but four medicines: a probiotic powder for their food, an antibiotic (to take twice daily) to clear out their bowels, a “parasite purger” to get rid of any nasties hanging around in there, and Kaopectin to smooth things over as necessary. The probiotic and the antibiotics are for two weeks, while the parasite-killer is only three days. The Kaopectin is as needed.

Yuzu had runny stool immediately after getting home from the vet, so I decided to give him some Kaopectin and administer a dose of the twice-daily antibiotic to them both. This took a total of 45-60 minutes, and though it ended with both kittens dosed up, I came out of it a complete mess, emotionally as well as physically. I’d say at least a quarter of the various medicines got on me and not in the kittens – I had to go change my shirt, and my jeans still have a big white splotch on them in two places. Also, I now have a set of lovely scratches on my back where Mirin wormed her way out of the swaddle-towel, climbed over my shoulder, and launched herself off of my back with all of her mighty claws unleashed.

But for the most part, they were medicated. Yuzu completely and instantly forgot about it all and wanted nothing more than to settle into a nap on my lap. Mirin hid behind the couch for an hour before tentatively venturing out to eat and avoid me whenever I came near. By the afternoon, she seemed convinced that I wasn’t going to do it again and no longer tried to hide.

Except that I was, of course, going to do it again.

Before going to bed, Geordie and I took the kittens up to the guest bathroom on the second floor and attempted to give them another dose of antibiotic, plus the parasite-killer. I say “attempt” because we were only half-successful. Yuzu got both medicines, after much weeping and wailing. Mirin got the parasite-killer but not the antibiotic. She writhed and fought as Geordie held her, eventually giving into unrestrained yowling. Finally, she started making deep, angry sounds in her throat, at which point I told Geordie to let her go because she was getting pissed off.

So was Geordie. Rather than continue as we were and upsetting both us and the kittens any further, we gave up for the night. The whole thing had taken about 40 minutes. I once again felt powerless and frustrated, feelings which have often been my companions since Lauren’s death. I told Geordie I would call the vet’s office in the morning and try to figure out how we could manage to get through 13 more days of this.

Nearly every single video/how-to on the internet regarding giving medicines to cats all seem to feature cats that are far calmer than either Mirin or Yuzu. They do not try to run away when the human wraps a towel around them. They do not stick their paws straight out in order to avoid becoming a kitty burrito. They do not duck their heads into the folds of the towel. They do not yowl as the syringe comes near them. They do not thrash their heads back and forth. They do not smack their lips and froth up their medicine so that it drips all down the front of them. They do not squirm and twist and try to roll over on their backs or fight their way out of the towel.

My kittens do all of those things.

The majority of these videos are two minutes long, at the most, which is about half the time it takes me to calm down Yuzu so that I can get another 25th of a milliliter into his mouth. These videos almost always end with a single squirt and the demonstrator saying, “All done!”

I hate these people. They address the action but not the details. Yes, it would only take five minutes to do this if the kittens sat quietly and patiently – as the demonstration cats do. Half of them look like they’re about to nod off. These videos are not helpful.

For the most part, the advice I got the vet tech when I called was not helpful. She suggested doing the things I was already doing. When I asked specific questions – “how do I keep her from thrashing her head around?” – she merely suggested holding onto the kitten’s head with thumb and forefinger on either side. Which made me want to ask a follow-up question – “how do I do that without breaking her neck, because that’s what it feels like is going to happen when I do that” – except that didn’t seem an entirely appropriate question to ask. She did suggest putting the kittens on top of a washing machine so that I could brace better against them.

That’s what  I did for their morning dosage. And it helped. The kittens still thrashed and meowed and generally disliked the whole process, and it took nearly an hour just to get a millileter of antibiotic into both of them. But I did it. Again, afterwards, I was worn out emotionally and physically, and I resolved that tomorrow, when I have the car, I’ll take the kittens back to the vet and ask them to show me exactly what I should be doing, because does it really have to be this difficult?

At least there is a positive side to all this. The kittens aren’t holding any grudges. Yuzu apparently forgets about it all immediately after he gets his treat (which I give immediately after I put them back on the floor). Mirin sulks a while, but after 30 minutes or so, she’s back to her normal self. Best of all, they’re already responding to the treatment. They’re going less frequently, and when they go, they aren’t leaving a mess behind them. Or bringing it along with them, which was a more major issue.

So, it’s working, but I feel drained. And we’re not done today. I just don’t know how to make it easier on them and on us.

I’m just hoping we can all make it through the next 13 days.

I have discovered that three-day weekends are not conducive to blog-writing, even though we did little more than sit around the house and play the Sims. If I could write a blog post and play the Sims at the same time, that would solve some of my problems. Not all of them, just some of them.

We don’t really have any plans to go out today, which is fine, because it’s nice to have ample time to relax with Geordie at home. And we’ve got the kittens to entertain and occupy us too. They went back to the vet’s on Friday, and while all their stomach yuckiness has been cleared up, it turns out that they’ve both got ear infections in both ears. They’ve probably had them since we adopted them, I’m just not sure how they got missed at the first vet appointment. For whatever reason, it means that we have to wash and medicate their ears, which is a little more involved than just force-feeding them antibiotics but seems to be less trouble. I think the main issue for the kittens is that because the ear drops have to be kept chilled, they go into the ears cold. That can’t be very pleasant.

Anyway, that’s really all for today. You can look forward to a post about apple pie tomorrow (if I get around to making it, though if Geordie has anything to say about it, I will).

Until then, please take this day to reflect on Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and all he gave to this country. His vision of hope continues to live on.

Also, enjoy a picture of the cats.

The kittens taking a nap on my lap. Wonder how much longer they'll be able to do that. I'm hoping my lap isn't big enough to hold two grown cats.

The kittens taking a nap on my lap. Wonder how much longer they’ll be able to do that. I’m hoping my lap isn’t big enough to hold two grown cats.

Sara

I am a daughter and a sister, a wife and a friend. I am a reader and a writer, a dreamer and a realist, a teacher and a learner. I am the mother of a baby born sleeping. I am on a journey of healing, walking a path paved with tears and grief and hope.

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