Pregnancy During a Pandemic

“…and god willing, everything will be fine.”  At 38 weeks pregnant, that phrase ranks pretty high on the list of things you don’t want to hear your doctor say.  I know this now, yet a mere eight weeks before, I thought the worst thing that would come out of my doctor’s mouth would be “episiotomy”.  Of course, we are all buried in worries now, which we would have never thought before. 

    One Sunday, at the end of February, I came home and suddenly felt crushed with exhaustion. Fever, chills and body aches were followed by a sore throat. I saw my doctor the next day. In retrospect I feel like there were subtle signs of concern, but perhaps that’s just 20/20 hindsight. I swear now in my mind’s eye that after my flu and strep tests both came back negative, that there was a look between the doctor and nurse. They certainly put masks on after this and requested that I do the same. No one said the word. I hadn’t been to China or Italy in the past 30 days and I knew no one who had tested positive. It was an upper respiratory infection, “there are many different kinds, it could really be anything. Give it a few days: water, rest, and tylenol.”    

Over the next two weeks I was admitted to the ER twice.  My feet and hands broke out into painful lesions: 

“Could be Hand Foot and Mouth”

“Maybe an allergic reaction”

“Sometimes your body just does weird things when you’re pregnant.” 

I was tachycardia.  Then my sense of taste and smell disappeared.  I felt like I had swam to the bottom of a deep pool and attempted to sharply inhale.  I had lost my breath and the tremendous pressure across my whole body, but especially my head, made me ache to grab pliers and rip my teeth from my skull.  Each night I sat with my hands and feet in bowls of ice water and my head under a towel over a bowl of boiling water. One night I dreamed my daughter asked me if I was going to heaven, I told her I didn’t know yet. 

    After my last ER visit, I followed up with my doctor. He came in wearing a mask, and unlike other visits, he didn’t shake my hand. I’ve never seen a man so eager to get out of a room with me. This was the first time a doctor said Covid to me. I was actually shocked. This rare disease, seemed still at this point, like something only Tom Hanks could get. He told me he wanted me tested. I waited alone for 30 minutes. When he returned, he was visibly frustrated, even through his mask I could tell. I didn’t qualify for testing, no one could unless they were in a “vulnerable” group.  So, at 8 months pregnant, I was told to quarantine myself. I have to wonder what that must be like for a doctor: to have to send a patient home when you fear they are critically ill, with the only advice you can give them summing up to “Make sure to come back if you are actually dying.” 

      For the next month I bounced between certainty that I was fine, and fear I might die.  I stayed inside and watched as the world began to shut down simultaneously around me. All the while, this little human I was growing continued to squirm and punch, completely oblivious to world which he would be delivered. The doctors told me to “Have a low threshold for going to the ER”, and that respiratory failure was “a real thing”. It was around that time I threw on the holy medal along with the crucifix.

    This unrelenting illness became an elusive enemy. There were days I woke up and felt I had turned a corner. I would relax only to find the next day I’d lose my breath while trying to brush my teeth. Just like that, I’d be on the nebulizer again. Fear did a funny thing to the people around me.  Suddenly my mother and husband were medieval witch doctors trolling the internet for any promising tincture: Gatorade, red reishi mushroom, vitamin D, green tea, honey, bone broth…everything short of drinking bleach. In the end, time served as the best antidote. Slowly, my taste came back, my mind cleared, and my lungs began to breathe again, only the cough remained. 

    Things change quickly. With the persistent cough, the doctor told me now, without a negative Covid test, I would not be able to deliver in the Maternity Ward, I would have to deliver in the ER and I would be alone. It had been over two months since the start of my symptoms,  my doctor assured me that it was highly unlikely that I could test positive at this point. This test was just my ticket to the birthing center. I drove to the the test site and waited in the parking lot for an hour. Apparently the test wasn’t secured and the doctors and the county spent time deciding if I should be swabbed. Finally I was called up to the back door of the Urgent Care clinic, where a doctor and nurse emerged in full ET gear. “Don’t get out of the car”, the doctor told me before plunging a q-tip into parts of my nasal cavity only god knew about before. I would have my results in four days. I waited.  In the mean time I was barred from all in-person doctor’s visits, which are typically once a week when approaching your due date. A week passed with no word and I began to question how long I could go through this without red wine. I discovered that though California finally had swab kits, results were bottlenecked with over 50,000 unprocessed tests. I was two weeks away from my due date and beginning to accept that the test would not be returned in time. I reminded myself that my grandmothers delivered their babies alone. The place didn’t matter, I insisted to my static brain, the baby would come one way or another. 

    11 days, another rainy Sunday, the phone rang and the clouds parted. The test was back, it was negative. The rush of sudden relief of stress so deep I didn’t even realize I had until it was gone. For the first time in over two months I thought about what the baby’s name might be. I delighted in realizing how uncomfortably pregnant I was. Knowing where, how and with whom I would deliver was bliss.

…”We just need to have the doctor follow up with you by phone today.” The nurse called to tell me the very next day. I was confused. My test was negative, I should be allowed back to my regular, in-person appointment, but now, I was being told that the doctor needed to speak with me first. The relief of the previous day was swiftly swatted by the reality of the times we are in. Yes, the test was negative, but they still “just didn’t know”.  I may have had the virus and if I had, there was too much unknown. “Information is changing every day”. Because of the persistent cough, I may need to be in the ER, “We wouldn’t want something to happen and not have what we need.” The doctor explained in that voice that’s so calm it immediately induces intense anxiety.  He said, in essence, that nothing was certain. “God willing,” he said “everything will be fine.” I hung up. A mix of numb resignation and futility floated around me. But even as I sat there, pushed again into ambiguity, the baby kicked. Strong kicks and wriggles. 

    In truth, this is the reality of every mother, in every time. The insisting unknown is the mother’s constant companion. Women bravely bear the burden of their unprotected love and the endless litany of “what if’s”. In the end, that’s all we can hold on to, that we will all be alright, “god willing.”

Playing House

((Prompt from …I took it in a bit of a weird direction))

He was a rich man, a man of class and influence.  Her? She wasn’t wealthy and she certainly wasn’t influential either but she was stuck in the gleeful ignorance of knowing none of this.  She waddled, flat foot, about the Georgian home, her hands cocked aloft, raptor like. He followed behind her, studying her splay footed gate, the awkward out turn of her right foot.  His eyes lingered at the quizzical bend in her spine. She moved through the home with the grace of a drunk marionette puppet.  
     She entered the light of the vaulted living space, supple sun shifted through the front windows.  She twirled like an I’ll flung dreidel. “Oh it’s just like the pictures!” She sighed. He smiled coolly, looking her up and down.  “I’m so glad you responded to my add” his voice was worn and warm like aged leather. “You’re exactly what I’ve been looking for.” She pressed the layers of her skirt bashfully, “Oh, yes I’m a very good house sitter.”  He arched his way to the vibrant red loveseat and sat, placing his ankle delicately over his knee. Like a magnet she skated across the floor and flopped down beside him, “and maybe,” her eyes like a doe, “something more?” She sat captivated by his pale yet ruddy complexion, his soft ruby lips.
    He stood up suddenly, stalking over to the window, “Oh no, Caroline.  No, that would never do. There are things…dark things.” He shook his head and swallowed the afternoon air.  She gasped, gazing deeply into the complicated soul she imagined underneath his brooding slate suit jacket. “Any who” he swiveled abruptly “here’s the key, it opens every door in the house.” Caroline reached her manicure towards the dainty skeleton key, just as he retracted his hand, “every door” he continued, turning back to the window, “apart from one”.  Her eyes swam again with whimsy. “So, do feed the cat and help yourself to whatever is in the fridge.” 
       That evening, Caroline found herself restless, with curiosity, with lust, with questions that needed immediate attention.  She ripped the sheets from her body and grabbed the key. Frantically she began unlocking door after door. Each springing open.  She stopped, panting in the corridor. She heard something, a low guttural giggle. She silenced her breath and stepped sideways on the floor boards.  Still she followed the sound. Her heart as a pill stuck sideways in her throat, she approached an ornately carved door. It’s lintel was cut criss-cross, like a Jack-o-lantern. The laughter was deafening now.  Hands shaking, she tried the key, no latch, no turn. The door remained locked. She couldn’t go to bed now. She slammed her full and substantial weight against the door, which burst off its hinges. Caroline collapsed into the mysterious room.  There what she saw, she couldn’t first explain. A plushy sky-blue chair gaped open mouthed, the floor splattered and slashed with polka dots and checks. Then, from the corner, he peeped his head, the man who’d appeared so charming before, suddenly…transfigured.  Caroline clawed towards the door. “You’re” she wheezed “you’re, you’re Pee-Wee Herman”, her eyes were swept away with tears, her throat dry, and body shaking. Pee-Wee walked towards her…”I know you are, but what am I?” 

Not All Dogs Go to Heaven – short story, writing

The house was sealed and cradled in silence.  Only the rhythmic chewing of the parakeet’s beak against the dry, deceased cuttlefish, churned the quiet; a slow, steady gnawing.  Barely intercepted Ted in the corner. His eyes were beet-bloodshot, or they would have been, if the whites were revealed, instead of the deep-brown saucers.  “How could you Teddy?” Barley hoarsed through a dry throat. When he spoke, even now, under distress, the echoes of eons of ancient Mexican ancestry rattled through time and space, leaving a subtle, yet unmistakable accent.  Perhaps it was the stress and fear, or perhaps it was the natural discharge synonymous with the breed, but his eyes watered. “You pooped in the kitchen, didn’t you Ted?” Ted emerged from the shaded corridor, his two bottom teeth penetrated out allowing his gingivitis to illuminate in the early evening sun.   “If I were you Barley, I’d forget what you saw.” Teddy’s voice was slippery yet raw, like a snake slithering over jagged gravel. Barley lowered his head and pictured the three glistening turds, piled like jenga pieces near the dishwasher. “I can’t” he choked “How could you Ted? She let us out right before she left, she’ll be home any minute.  Why couldn’t you wait? What you did to that kitchen…have you no soul?” Barley vainly pleaded. Ted tugged a Beggin’ strip from the pocket of his red polo, scratching the plastic lettering reading Stud Puppy, he drooled, pork grained slobber. “It’s about time you learned, Barley…” he paused ruthlessly “not all dogs go to heaven.” Ted turned his head away, not because he was too ashamed to bear Barley’s scrutiny, but because his head swam with the growls of the past; Ted had seen things.  

      Barley’s mind, wild with panic, searched desperately for a solution as the little golden latch clicked, a most heinous scrape.  Ted perked his folded ears and tilted his head, “I’m sorry, my friend” he chuckled. “Sorry? What for?” Barley cried, but it was too late, she was already inside.  She threw her bag on the couch, patted the dogs on the head, and sighed. She was so sweet, there in those last blissful moments before she knew, before her world had scattered.  Barley studied her, he wanted to remember her always, just this way, just this innocent. Then her voice raged from the kitchen, “Oh come on! Dogs! Who did this?” She demanded.  Barley turned his gaze towards Teddy, but before he reached his look, a squawk broke his focus. The bird called shrill and clear: “Barley pooped in the kitchen, Barley pooped in the kitchen.” Betrayal

Barley Dog

–this is my submission for #blogbattles . I hope you liked it 😀

Savage Toddler, short story, writing

Summer is, without a doubt, the worst season for parenting.  I thought as I wrestled my screaming toddler into her car seat.  The sweat from walking from the house to the car already drenched us both, rendering her more like a greased hog and I, some hillBilly circus act.  She slipped through my hands again and began bouncing on the seat, laughing like a maniacal Loony Tune. 

    “Show mamma how a big girl puts on her seat belt” I pathetically begged as an old lady and her apathetic basset hound tottered by.  The dog looked up at me through drooping eyes. Even he looked unimpressed by my amateur attempt at manipulating my child. I couldn’t be sure, of course, but I swear he raised a disparaging eyebrow.  

      In the winter months you can, at least, dress them like an anemic Inuit and send them to the park.  But there’s nothing you can do about heat. There’s no amount of clothes you can legally remove to remedy the hell.  Sure you can take them swimming, but applying sunscreen to a child is about as easy and pleasant as coating a cat in peanut butter.  Really, when it is this unbearably hot out, the list of activities outside of the house are few. So once my walls were covered in chalk and my furniture covered in kitty stickers, I try to take her to a secondary location.  The vision being that, somehow with the added, unpredictable element of a public setting and the judgement of of other, better parents, my child will somehow behave differently: parents might approach me saying “Wow, she is developmentally miles ahead of my spastic child.  What’s your secret” and I would smile and shrug and say, “Oh, we’re just blessed, I guess.” But they would know the truth, that I was simply a superior human being.

     As I was prying my child’s fingers from the frail ponytail of an unsuspecting blond toddler, I decided that the public library, perhaps, was not for us.  I apologized profusely while removing the delicate strands of blond hair from my child’s clutches, handing the girl’s parents a substantial handful of their daughter’s hair…

Millenial’s Silver Lining Guide

Feeling down and out?  Worn too thin? Over worked? Unappreciated?  Trying to build a career as a millennial is not without its perks.  So, if you are feeling undervalued, underpaid, even cheated by the circumstances of economics, here are 6 sliver linings to financial floundering.

1.  20 years from now you can be an intolerable martyr:

You’ll be able to assume a distant look of past pain, and recollect to your children, or your children’s children, the weeks you were so broke you were unable to pay for your iPhone data; “Do you know what kind of effect that has on your Instagram account? People went weeks not knowing that my rose made me feel #blessed”



2. The food:

Don’t deny it, you love instant noodles, everyone does, and there’s no reason to feel guilty! Ramen noodles? Yes please! Five dollar KFC bucket! Definitely! Pasta from a tin?  You bet your ass!  So sit in your dark apartment on the couch you picked up outside the retirement home, and eat those microwaved sodium bowls, you’re saving money, b*tch!



3. It’s not your fault your job sucks:

Feeling awkward when you run into people from high school and they ask you what you’re up to?  Don’t want to tell them that you clean the small animal enclosures at a lab, or brag about your recent promotion from stocking to cashiering?  Try this; look at the ground and shake your head, take a deep breath and say one simple phrase as you shrug “damn student loans, man”.

4. Mooching!

The exasperated sentence; “I have a degree, I studied in school!  Why can’t I get a good job?!” Almost always gets you a free meal from your family and loved ones.  But it’s more than just food, think outside the box, why not mooch off their air conditioning, internet, and Netflix account!

5. Costco:

Hungry for lunch?  No need to whip out your wallet, you can just troll the aisles of Costco for a good meal.  ”Would you like a free sample?” “Yes, and so would my 12 children, they’re on the other side of the store.”  On a good day you can hit all the major food groups along with a cup of juice, vitamins, and finish it all off with a few steaming Dixie cups of freshly brewed coffee.

6.  Scruffy is the new sexy:

It’s OK that at one point of the week or another either you or your partner look homeless.  Rock that messy hair, razors are expensive, go the all natural route!



7. Exercise:

Not only has your diet been cut down, but with you’ve got calves like Lance Armstrong now that you have to bike everywhere!

8. You’re a keeper and a saver:

Finally! Dont call it cheap, call it thrifty. You’re making shit happen in your own time. So feel no shame as you scour the racks of clothing from the recently departed! You got this gen y!

Happy hustling

5 Screen Free, Gluten Free Things to do With Your Kids This Summer

      You can tell by that sweet soup brewing in your pits, summer is upon us.  While there are many beautiful elements of summer (see our related article on Sun Screen Cancer Hysteria), it also means those poor parenting decisions we’ve made are no longer our teacher’s responsibility.  Indeed the vanity, insecurity and general negligence which makes up our own faulted personalities have come home to roost. I am, of course, talking about the time we must spend uninterrupted with our children.  So if you are looking for a list of activities you can post on instagram, which say “I am tragically addicted to seeking acceptance”, look no further. 

  1.  Go Outside

Between The Lovely Bones and regular, run of the mill bunker style kidnappings, going outside has suffered a bad reputation.  But this old school activity is back on trend. Be on the cutting edge of appearing engaged by going outside.

      2.  Buy a Rodent

Are you eager to have an impenetrable wall of stench in your home and teach the whole cycle of life all within a week?  Then buy your child a rodent. One of our reader’s children accidentally crushed his hamster to death and he grew up to be an enigmatic, agoraphobe, who preferences darkness, it’s like for him, the hamster funeral never ended.  This is the kind of emotional depth that will allow your child to not only major in Art History but also minor is German. 

       3.  Scream Hopelessly into the Abyss 

This one’s pretty self explanatory.

       4. Drink

Have you explained to your child, in detail, your flawed and painful relationship with your mother yet?  Are you desperate to show your child that you are secretly awesome at both singing and karate? Why not try getting drunk alone on the couch while your child does a puzzle as silently as they possibly can.  The best part of this activity is that it can be seamlessly rolled into an already existing daily routine.

         5.  Ignore Them

Last but not least, always remember that when all else fails, you can pretend that you do not have children.  Leave them alone and let them figure it out. Trust us, they’ll thank you for it. 

The Rats (100 word fiction prompt) – short story

Fiction Friday from:

Randy Mazie

Acute in his wicker chair, a stalk of alfalfa held tense between his incisors, he stared. Slumping back he massaged his whiskers with a skeletal finger.  The rusty taste of live wire, his nose twitched. It’d been a long time since he’d called a place…he hardly dared touch the word…yet. His mind drifted to that damp tunnel, the one with the asbestos drifts and the bits of tangled wire.  A palace, and he: a king without a throne. He stared at the cracking drywall. “Boys”, he said in a voice of steel cut oats “we’re home”. 

The Bell Jar ((writing prompt))

Thank you for the cool prompt!

The Bell Jar

       Theresa’s eyes rolled open to the crude oil night.  A crescent sliver of her mother’s face was illuminated by the blue glow of electric light.  Theresa knocked awake, becoming surgingly aware of the situation’s urgency. In the kitchen the sound of a shattering glass vibrated against the tile floor.  
      Theresa learned against the light wood cabinet examining her brother: drunk, again.  This was a weekly ritual, expected and foreseeable as the tides of the moon. He slumped down into a dining chair, his head resting on his palm.  This house had become a vacuum to his illness, a bell jar isolation where Theresa’s family could shelter him. Tonight, he pounded against the glass.  He lifted his car keys, a cocked trigger.  
     The pine scent of gin wafted off his soaking shirt as he pushed past the two woman.  Her mother collapsed on the couch, staring blankly into lamp light. Theresa’s feet moved swiftly and subconsciously as she chased her brother to the front lawn where he was wrestling with the car door.  
     “If you get in that car, I will call the police.” 
He turned, his toggling eyes coming to rest on the kaleidoscoping image of his sister. He was silent, she could see her stale breath against the frost.  Theresa sniffed and wiped her nose with her pajama sleeve. He smiled broadly, opened the door and turned over ignition. Theresa stood barefoot on the lawn holding her phone stagnant.

100 Word Wednesday Challenge ((Courage)) – short story, writing

Writing prompt from

The sun beat down on her little head as she grabbed nervously at her mother’s hand.  The noise of children playing, running and shouting filled her excited ears, but still she hesitated, kicking the dry grass with her light-up sneakers.  She turned two deep eyes up towards her mother’s face, her form a shadow against the bright day. Her mother bent towards her; her bowing head coming into slow focus.  A steady smile met a rapid heart. Her mom smiled, so she smiled. Their two hands slid apart and she strode towards the playground, rays glowing in her soft hair.

A New Song, Personal memoir, writing

 I was sure that the radiating pain would cause my teeth to fall out.   I told myself to allow the pain to move through me, the pain is coming through you, not happening to you, but even in my tortured state I knew that was some hippie bullshit.  “Don’t yell Kiersen, you yell you are wasting energy.” The doula’s face was pale and close to mine, noses nearly touching, “Ah, fuck you!”

 I sat in birthing class watching an informational video which mimicked well the aesthetic of Pulp Fiction gore.  The woman lay on the hospital bed screaming, clawing at the thin fibers of the hospital gown. She had planned a birth free of medical intervention.  All women of my generation aspire towards this. Truly the only medical procedure in which not being medicated is a point of pride. If you told someone that you were planning a drug free knee replacement, they’d have you committed.  I asked for anesthetic to have a cavity filled, yet here I was happily telling the group that I would not be having an epidural or any other sort of pain numbing drug. The big toothy smile was slowly fading as I watched the woman rithe on the birthing table like the fucking Exorcist.  Then the blood came.  The woman asked for a mirror to see the crowning head.  Another mother in the class sighed “Wow”, John leaned over to me and sweetly whispered “This is disgusting.”  I nodded. The woman’s breathing became slow, deep, and focused. Head, neck, shoulders, arms, body, feet, a whole entire human came out of another human, it was the most unnatural vision which ever painted my eyes.  I leaned forward, reaching my elbows around my belly towards my knees. I rubbed my forehead.  

    The nurse flipped the lights on as the screen went back to the DVD display mode.  “Any questions?” So many. I quickly decided that, while this would be happening to me, I wouldn’t concern myself about all that just yet. I filed the images and sounds away into a special box labeled procrastination and began fantasizing about family photos with the dogs.  

    Another contraction rose, with absolute panic I screamed, cried.  I knew nothing. I had no idea how to do this, and I couldn’t do it.  The hour plowed through my stomach, each passing minute scraping my insides like fertile fields. The nurse appeared clipboard in hand and sweetly pleaded with me to take the pitocin.  I looked from the nurse to my mother, to my husband to the doula and it landed on me, light as a feather, but with cardamom bite; no one knew the right thing to do.  “Kiersen, just remember what Bonita said in the birthing class. Once you start with medical interventions, it is very hard to not have an epidural.” Here face was light with hope. She had never actually seen someone give birth without epidural.  I wasn’t that hard core, I just wanted bragging rights. I remembered back to when a former school-parent floated towards me with her face serene as an angel, “May I touch your belly?” She cooed “Yeah, grab on!” I was quite proud to finally be eating whatever I wanted and still have people marveling over my shape. She looked me deep in the eyes and said expectantly “Home birth?”  It wasn’t technically a question, but she nodded in agreement with herself. My prideful smile twisted, “No” I stammered, “I’m not that brave.” I conceded. Bless her, she took great pains to hide her disappointment, but her face flushed the shade of crestfall. Who was I actually doing this for? I looked at the nurse, I couldn’t bring myself to look at the doula. “I’ll do the pitocin”.     

    “Get the blueberries out of my face and turned the goddamn music off!” The pitocin had definitely worked, things were moving much faster and I was in shocking, irritable, unrelenting agony.  I wriggled and readjusted like my body was an unsettled game of tetris; my hips were unhinged from my pelvis and my spine was no longer stacked above my coccyx. We ran through every birthing position, “You want the tennis balls again?” “Fuck the tennis balls.”  I whined. “Maybe try walking again” my mother said from behind her pink clad phone. I pushed aside the pain for one enraged moment to become stiff-still, my face fell and I raised my eyebrow “Are you serious? Are you seriously telling me to walk right now?” My mom looked up from her screen, unsurprised by my response “If this is about my weight again, I swear to god mother, it is not the time!”  My voice raised over my mother’s protest and we crumbled into bickering, my husband ate a few blueberries. “Fine!” she spat, “Fine, I can’t say anything right, I always say the wrong thing.” I moaned and she began filming with her phone again.  

Until now, the pain would rise and fall, this gradually stopped and within ten minutes life was a blur of cracking, rotting pain that shook and tossed my body like a ship at sea, wave after wave, all forte, crushing, interrupted only by staccato stabs.  The melody had been lost to me but was clear to the nurses and doula; the song had come to the bridge.  

After we had run through all the practice birthing positions, nurse Bonita had all the couples take a seat on the padded floor, “We are going to run through some labor breathing.”  She informed us. We copied her breath for breath for two or five minutes. It seemed easy enough. We finished and were told to take note of which technique seemed most comfortable.  “These are just ideas to use during labor,” she continued “however, labor will eventually reach a point, when all of this goes out the window, your body will take over, and you will just have to follow it.  Just keep breathing, however you can, keep breathing.” Everyone was quiet. We looked at our swelled stomachs, far passed the point of changing our minds. There was a moment of uncomfortable silence.  She gave a few conciliatory comments on different muscles one might utilize during so-called active labor, then thanked us for our time and wished us luck.  

Neither luck and life are in our control.  I was at ten centimeters, on all fours, screaming like a rabid animal, Kiersen proper had left the building.  To the bed, oxygen on, then faith, humility, pain, every human who ever was or would be, life, the past a future, moved through me.  I didn’t do a thing, it wasn’t happening to me, it was happening through me. The doctor apperated for the first time, and from darkness and pain: head, neck, shoulders, arms, body, legs feet, a whole person was born. They held her up and gave her to me. Her. My daughter. She cried out, for the first time taking in breath, life, a new song began.