It took me a long damn time to look at pictures like this without wincing, so it says a lot about my emotional development that I’m able to post them for the world to see and proclaim that they make me giggle.
These pictures are from late 1999. The twins were around 15 months old and Finn was almost four. I was nearing the end of my year of treatment for hepatitis C, but it wasn’t getting any easier on me physically, as my doctor had said it did for some patients. I took the interferon on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and spent Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays wracked with chills, vomiting and headaches.
The medicine affected my memory. I remember leaving a friend’s baby shower and trying to call Bill to tell him I was on the way home. I couldn’t remember our home phone number and resorted to calling information to get it. Between feeling like crap and the memory lapses, I feared that I was missing some fun months with the boys, so I grabbed the camera every time I felt able to hold it without puking. And I’m so thankful I did.
Today I deal with back talk, science projects that spring from nowhere, anti-girl weapons, and pleas for American Idol. But any problems can usually be solved with fines, banishment to a room, or extra chores.
Not so back then. We were covered up in boys every moment– boys who had to be watched or they’d drink out of the toilet, eat dog food, and pull all the books off the bottom shelf of the bookshelf. If Bill wanted to eat, he had to wallow on the floor and be the playground to divert everyone while I fixed dinner. So he did.
I don’t know what Drew is holding, but he’s coming straight at Bill’s eye with it. You can tell Bill’s an experienced father because he’s prophylactically squinching his eyes shut. Or that expression might be caused by Porter’s ankle grinding into his scrotum; it’s hard to tell.
This shows all the furniture we had in the den at the time, with the exception of the changing table in the corner. No lamps, no sharp-cornered coffee table for boys to jump off. I chose the rug especially for its color, which was a fantastic boogery/bloody/fecal combination guaranteed to hide all spills and accidents. For the same reason, the boys didn’t wear clothes unless someone was coming over. Actually, we didn’t put clothes on them unless we needed to impress that certain someone.
Every mom has those hours in the late afternoon when you suffer through the kids’ crankiness and pray for someone to come home and be the playground and offer up his scrotum for a footrest. Here’s a picture that captures the way I remember those hours:
The part that makes me giggle here (actually I snorted) is Finn’s shirt. Finn thought it would be cool to go to Harvard because his aunt was in business school there. He changed his mind once he found out that doing so would require him to spend the night away from home. Ten years later, now that I’m more familiar with Finn’s study habits, I’m thankful he abandoned the Harvard dream early to avoid an emotionally scarring disappointment as a teen.
Porter was generally a happy kid, so I’m guessing he’s crying because he’s starving and my hands are too full of boys to do anything about it. Drew’s plugged up pretty well, but let me tell you– he developed such a pacifier dependency that he’d crawl around the house with three in each hand, and he’d stash another five or six in his bed in case he needed one. Pacifiers were his heroin, and Bill and I stole them all one night and left a battery operated toy train in their place. It was a successful intervention.
There were many pictures from 1999 that made me giggle, but the fact I was able to smile at these under the circumstances is quite an achievement.
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The Tiny Kingdom has tons of clubs you can belong to, but in general, I’m not much of a joiner. I declined invitations to the Junior League and the Twins Club. The idea of the latter was especially perplexing to me. I could see a club for Moms With Well-Behaved Children Who Baby Sit Each Other, or perhaps the Moms With One Extremely Still and Quiet Child Who Requires Virtually No Care and Feeding at All, but even when I had only one child I could see that it would be impossible for a mother of newborn twins and a two year old to get to the bathroom, much less a meeting outside the house.
I don’t sew or smock, so I’ve never been invited to join the club where mothers hand make outfits for their children and then put on a fashion show to raise money for the arts. After I heard a rumor that one mom knit matching bikinis for herself and her daughter and pranced down the runway in the ensemble, I came close to asking someone to sponsor me for membership. I would have paid big bucks to see such bravery.
But I do belong to one special club. No one had to write me a recommendation or bring a bottle of wine to a meeting and then stand up and tell everyone I was a “cute girl” from a “good family” with “an impeccable reputation” who would “be a valuable addition” to the organization. In fact, membership in this club is involuntary.
Here are some of the more well-known members:
It’s a varied lot, yes? Musicians, sports figures, actors, writers… I’ll give you a minute to identify them and decide what we have in common.
Left to right: Allen Ginsberg, Phil Lesh, Ken Kesey, Anne Glamore, Evel Knievel, Naomi Judd, Dusty Hill, Pamela Anderson, Mickey Mantle, Jack Kevorkian, David Crosby, Larry Hagman, Steven Tyler
What unites us? Here’s the story.
In the spring of 1997, Finn was a little over a year old and I was practicing law full time. I started losing weight and my head felt buzzy. I got dizzy when I stood up, and I slept whenever I could. Something was wrong, so I went to the doctor.
“You are a tired working mother,” was his diagnosis.
I’m sure that was partly true, but I knew that something else was going on so I sought a second opinion. This doctor performed some blood tests which revealed I had elevated liver enzymes. An ultrasound showed that all was well with my gallbladder, and my doctor advised me that she was ordering a test which she guessed would show that I had hepatitis.
I remember sitting in her office and looking at her blankly. Although I’d practiced medical malpractice defense law, I’d never had a case involving hepatitis, and I knew nothing at all about the disease.
Once I’d been definitely diagnosed with hepatitis C and scheduled for a liver biopsy, I learned a lot about the virus. It’s transmitted by contact with tainted blood. I’d received blood transfusions during my original surgery for scoliosis in 1980, before the blood supply was tested for hepatitis C (or HIV, for that matter).
My biopsy revealed that my liver had suffered some damage from unknowingly living with the disease for seventeen years. My physician advised me to finish having children before undergoing treatment for hepatitis, and Porter and Drew were born in August of 1998. (The disease is a slow one, so delaying treatment for a year or so wasn’t likely to affect my liver much given the amount of damage I had sustained thus far.)
When the twins were six months old, I started a year-long treatment. Three times a week, Bill and I would put all the boys into the bathtub where they’d be out of the way, and he’d give me a shot of interferon. I took ribavirin pills each day. I had thought having one kid and a law career was exhausting. Adding twins, a scary disease, shots and a feeling of general uncertainly about the future showed us what stress really is.
I suffered most of the side effects associated with the treatment and had to stop working for a while. At the end of a grueling year, I had a negative hepatitis C test, which still hangs on our bathroom wall as a reminder not to take good health for granted. Last October I celebrated my fifth year of remission from the disease. I wrote about it here and here. My mom heard the good news a couple of weeks before she died.
October 1 is World Hepatitis Awareness Day. I wanted you to know that anyone can have the disease, and the “silent epidemic” can be quietly destroying your liver while you feel perfectly fine. Most patients find out accidentally that they have the disease, when they are being treated for another problem, having an insurance test, or being screened to give blood. My story of seeking help for symptoms is the exception.
Each of the member of the club pictured above has or had the disease.
Please click HERE to see if you may be at risk.
As you can see, all of my children were at risk because I was HCV positive at the time I gave birth to them. I had them all tested last summer, which involved taking blood from trembling arms, sopping up tears, and large scoops of ice cream. It was a huge blessing to find out that they are all negative. I’ll just worry about buck teeth, scoliosis, acne, and other childhood traumas for them.
If you haven’t signed up to be an organ donor, please consider it. Lots of people could use your liver when you’re through with it. These days, you can even donate part of your liver while you’re still kicking, as doctors have had great success with living liver donation. (Your liver is as large as a football, and you have plenty to spare). I have a good friend whose nine year old son is doing great with a chunk of his uncle’s liver.
Plenty of other people have written eloquently on this topic. Here are some places to check out if you’re interested in learning more: