Primates on the Brain

Because of a book I read (The One and Only Ivan) and a recent visit to the zoo, I have primates on the brain and thought I’d share a few pictures from the Patas monkey exhibit at the zoo.

If you live in Idaho, you probably heard about the drunken idiot (there are stronger words I could use) who broke into Zoo Boise and beat one of our Patas monkeys to death. Our zoo is a small one, although a very nice one, and this random act of violence halved our population of Patas monkeys — an especially grievous situation, because they’re a very social species. Responding to concerns that the surviving monkey might not fare well in solitude, a zoo in New York donated two Patas monkeys to be companions.

The city donated $100,000 to create a new, more secure enclosure for the trio of monkeys.

And then, in the first week of October, the three monkeys suddenly became four.

And later that same week: five! Those monkeys got right down to business!

I was at the zoo on October 26 and went by the Patas enclosure, which had been reopened but wasn’t being cleaned as often in an effort to minimize disruptions and tension for the young family. I was so glad that I remembered to go by, because after a few minutes the two mama monkeys turned around and displayed their babies!

2 mother Patas monkeys with babies

I’m not going to lie; my heart melted. It’s pretty much impossible not to see the relationship between monkey-primates and people-primates when you see the way that these mothers cradled and nursed their babies, how the babies clung to their mothers and looked up at them wonderingly.

Of course, people-primates generally don’t trust that their babies will keep clinging to them as they gallop up rocks on all fours, but then again we have a lot less body hair.

After a little while, one of the babies stopped eating and looked around. It (they don’t know the babies’ genders yet) had such a dear little face, that sort of stereotypical Curious George monkey face.

A clearer picture (if you click on the links above about the baby monkeys, you can see some much better photographs than these I tried to take through thick glass):

Patas monkey mothers and infants

The protective father, Incus, stands between the audience and his family:

Father Patas monkey father Patas monkey

It was really a pretty magical moment. Not a particularly unique one, I’m sure; they didn’t seem concerned about hiding the babies from the public, and there were a LOT of people at the zoo that day. But as I stood there, holding my own little (hungry) baby, it definitely gave me a case of the feels. I’m not sure how much longer my body is going to let me keep up with nursing (I’m having a big drop in supply) but it is such a precious, good thing for H and myself. And look how we are connected to the world!

Then I read The One and Only Ivan, which is a beautiful addition to the genre of “using anthropomorphism to gain sympathy for animal rights,” and yeah. Primates.

What’s on your mind lately?

Next Time Around…

My OB is very nice, intelligent, and competent. It’s entirely obvious that he knows what he’s doing and is committed to having a strong professional practice. And judging from my own experience last winter, and from other peoples’ comments, I know he is very good at what he does: obstetric surgery. I was very happy to be in his hands when I needed obstetric surgery, and when we became pregnant again I knew I could trust him to take good care of me and my baby.

His is a very popular, successful, two-doctor office.

Translation: his office is BUSY.

Next time, I want a doctor (or midwife….) who has a little bit more time for me. I know that many of the prenatal checkups are intended to be quite brief, but sometimes mine seem almost ridiculously quick-paced. I often have little unimportant questions that never get asked (things I’m just curious about, because I’m the sort of person who likes to learn about things), because there’s a very clear sense that I’m using up valuable seconds on his schedule. He’s never rude, never checks his watch or anything… but there’s always this sense of nervous energy, as if he’s already got one foot out the door as soon as he walks in.

And I know what’s going on, of course. It’s just like the pro-midwifery books and blogs say: He’s a surgeon. My pregnancy is blessedly uncomplicated at this point, and as a result, I’m a boring case. He isn’t intellectually stimulated by my pregnancy (thank God). It’s like at parent-teacher conferences, when you’ve got a line of parents and the family with the A+ kid walks in. You’re perfectly happy to talk to them, and very glad that things are going so well for them and their child… but seriously, there’s a line out the door of parents whose kids aren’t gonna graduate. (And frankly, just as the perfectly normal pregnancy doesn’t necessarily need a surgeon, the A+ student doesn’t necessarily need school in order to learn….)

Next time around, I also want a doctor’s office (or whatever) that has more time for me. The receptionists and billing people, in particular, are awfully nice and I like them a lot. But when I call in with a question or concern, I never get transferred directly to a nurse (and the receptionists can’t or won’t answer even the simplest of questions). They take a message and say the nurse will call me back as soon as she’s available… and then the waiting game begins. Today, I wanted almost three hours (after calling in at the VERY beginning of their day, before any patients showed up) for my nurse to call me back and tell me that she didn’t want me to take an Advil for my arm.

That’s one thing; I mean, as painful as this is, it isn’t scary or anything. But early on, when I had a little bit of bleeding? I left an obviously-frightened message at about 10:30 in the morning, called back at 3, had to leave another message, called back at 5, still didn’t get an answer, and was two-thirds of the way to the office to ask in PERSON before someone finally called me back. It’s not because they’re being unprofessional (although, one could argue that not making time to call back a bleeding, panicky post-miscarriage first-trimester mom isn’t the most professional thing ever) — they’re just completely slammed.

There have been some pretty awesome perks with having this OB. For one thing, he really likes trotting out his ultrasound machine, so we’ve had more peeks at Kermie than we’d anticipated (or had to pay for). And I’ve felt very secure in knowing that if something were to go wrong, we’d have someone very capable to handle it.

But next time, assuming that things go as smoothly as they have this time? I want a more personal experience. A slower-paced experience. An experience where I can take a few moments to figure out if I have any questions before the caregiver has already moved on to the next patient, where I can learn about the process from an expert, where I feel like I’m important and even special even though I’m unexciting. Next time, I want a female practitioner who has had babies — someone who doesn’t try to hide a smirk as he says things like “Being uncomfortable or exhausted at work is not a medical condition” when I ask what I should do if it becomes too hard to continue working before the baby arrives.

It’s not that I’m unhappy; I’m not. I’m just not as happy as I could be, and now I know.

Being a Turnip; Or, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Gestational Diabetes Test


Yesterday was my gestational diabetes test (also called a glucose tolerance test), which I had to take after work, which meant fasting all afternoon, which meant killer indigestion and a stabbing headache behind one eye. It also meant chugging 50g of glucose in an ice cold, bright orange solution that didn’t exactly taste bad but which almost made me gag somewhere around the 40g mark.

(For my own memory, or for anyone reading this who will get the reference: my darling husband sang Fresno’s chugging song, the title of which I won’t put into print, at me as I knocked back the glucola. I think he’s probably a keeper.)

I didn’t like fasting, and I didn’t like the drink, but they were both fine and dandy compared to the actual testing. Why? Because, you see, I am a turnip. Or perhaps a stone. One of those things from which one cannot squeeze blood. I am the veinless wonder, astonishing phlebotomists and nurses wherever I go! (It’s good to have talents, I suppose. I’m “one of the hardest draws I’ve done in a long time,” apparently; when I get my trophy, I’ll put it on my shelf next to the “oh my goodness, that’s the worst UTI I’ve ever seen” trophies that I collect every time I go to a new doctor with an infection.)

Herein lies the saga of the blood draw. If you are Ryan, or of his tribe, stop reading now.

When they called me back from the waiting room, the first thing the nurse said sent chills down my spine. “We have a dilemma. The guy who comes to pick up the blood is coming at 5:30, and we can’t draw yours until 5:45. We know that one of the vials has preservatives and will be okay to be picked up tomorrow, but we may have to send you in to the lab to do a second draw for the test that can’t have preservatives in it.”

I guess I was convincing when I told her that I really hoped that wasn’t the case, because she called the pick-up guy and ascertained that the sample would be fine for up to three days, so they could get it taken care of at once. At this point, the nurse was still smiling when I told her what a hard draw I was.

After the OB listened to the heartrate (“sounds perfect!”), measured my bump (“looks okay” — seriously, who says “okay” to a pregnant woman and then doesn’t clarify? what was that supposed to mean?), and answered a few questions, I sent Ryan back to the waiting room and went with the nurse to the vampiricism room. While she set up, I gave her a quick history of my blood-drawing problems. I guess she finally believed me, because she put away the rubber hosing tourniquet thing and fetched a portable blood pressure cuff, calling it the “big guns.” She got out a butterfly needle (ah, overconfidence… as if this was only going to take one needle) and began the poking and prodding process.

She decided that the right arm was the best option, strapped on the cuff, and pumped that bad boy up to almost 200. I had no idea that an arm could fall asleep that quickly (or that painfully); as she dug into the crook of my arm with the needle she saw me wincing and apologized for hurting me. “It’s not the needle,” I assured her through gritted teeth. My fingers were buzzing like a hive of bees and my arm was cramping up… and, to top it off, the vein kept hiding and she had to give up on that arm.

She tried the same tactic on the other arm, and was just about to go in when she realized that what she thought was a vein was actually a tendon. I’m very happy that she figured that out in time!

She pulled back from the table and asked whether I thought we should try again on the other arm. I jokingly asked if we couldn’t try the femoral artery, but then told her that she might as well go for the hand — if she could get it in one try, I didn’t care where it happened, and the hand had been what eventually worked last time. She laughed and pumped up the cuff.

If you’ve ever had blood drawn from your hand, you know it is not an enjoyable experience. The poor nurse (who was awesome, by the way — much more compassionate and cautious than the phlebotomist from the lab) thought she had a vein and began the draw. I was looking away at this point (I’m not needle-phobic, but I really don’t like seeing the needle sitting there inside me or the blood coming out) so I don’t know precisely what she meant by, “Oh shoot, it’s blowing up on me”… but she and the needle beat a hasty retreat, no blood gathered.

The nurse apologized and asked how I was doing. “I’m fine,” I said, and I was telling the truth up until the last fragment of the word fine escaped my mouth, at which point suddenly I wasn’t fine. The combination of hunger, sugar high, stress, pretending I wasn’t freaked out, crazy pressure on my arms, and being stabbed hit me all at once. Fortunately, I recognized the dizzy, tingly hot feeling in my face and we didn’t let things get to the actual blacking out stage, but I ended up with my head down for the rest of the procedure. The nurse called for backup, and Nurse #2 put a cold compress on my neck and rubbed my shoulders for a few moments, and then they began hunting for veins again. They found a likely suspect in the same hand and then tag-teamed to draw two vials of blood as efficiently as possible.

Thing is… that second vein in the left hand? HURT. Like, toe-curling pain. But I was so thankful to be done that I didn’t even care, and by the time they taped the cotton ball on there, the dizziness had gone away and I was able to sit up again.

So. Three holes (one fewer than the lab!), two near misses, three butterfly needles, two nurses, a blood pressure cuff, and a cold compress. And I’d damned well have better passed the damn thing (yes, that’s worth two damns) because I do not want to have to deal with the follow-up test.*

Although Nurse #2 had encouraged me by telling me I could go have an ice cream afterward 🙂 I didn’t want anything sweet at that point, so I had a big ole cheeseburger instead.

The weird thing is, my hand didn’t stop hurting. I guess there was something sensitive in there next to that vein. I iced it against the side of my glass of water throughout dinner, and then coddled it all evening, but it still hurt badly all night long. It ached, and when I touched it along that bone/tendon of the ring finger, it felt very tender.

I thought sure I’d have an awesome bruise this morning. But no. My hand refuses to show evidence of my ordeal, and instead looks like this:

my hand

Photo-realistic illustration of my left hand post-test

Even though it feels like this:

bruised hand

Also: not gangrene. Yet.

Oh well. Boo hoo. 🙂

I’ll finish off this TOTALLY THRILLING POST by saying that I have only one more four-week appointment, and then I have two appointments at two-week intervals, and then they started scheduling weekly appointments that went straight up to my due date! Exciting! And terrifying! I have so much to do in the house and at work before then… yikes!

*To whit: “For the follow-up test, you’ll be asked to fast overnight and then have your fasting blood sugar level measured. Then you’ll drink another sweet solution — this one containing a higher concentration of glucose — and your blood sugar level will be checked every hour for a period of three hours. If at least two of the blood sugar readings are higher than normal, you’ll be diagnosed with gestational diabetes.”