Thursday, May 23, 2013

the art of pathologies

Ask yourself, “What role should those affected by a diagnosis have in defining that diagnosis?” Recently I posed this question to several doctors and therapists. With minor qualifications, each answered “none.”

One of my students (and friend), Blake Charleton, penned a thoughtful opinion piece in the New York Times on how dyslexia should be defined: as a disability, as an asset, or something in the middle.

[My favorite essay of Blake's on this subject is actually this one, in which he discusses being denied accommodations for the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1.]

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


One moment, Linnea was playing with my plastic water bottle, and the next moment she was not. One moment I was pulling her pajamas out of my suitcase, and the next moment they were flung to the floor. One moment, my nine-month-old daughter was sitting up on the bed, and the next moment she was sliding headfirst to the ground.

I did not catch Linnea before she hit the floor. I saw her falling in my periphery, and I reached my arms out too late to prevent the thud. Her mouth formed a wide oval, her eyes closed, and she tried to push air out through her shock. And then, the crying. The desperate, bewildered, frightened wailing that continued as I pulled her to my chest and rocked her back and forth.

My mind ran through all the signs of intercranial trauma that I knew. Remarkably, I had a penlight in my backpack, which I pulled out to check her pupillary reaction. Direct, consensual. Direct, consensual. PERRLA. I feel gently over her skull to check for swelling or fractures. Her anterior fontenelle is still not closed. I check for brain bulges. I check for hemorrhaging in the eyes. I check for any neurological asymmetry. I do this to stem the panic clutching at my throat. She is crying less frantically, although doing that post-crying breath catch that hurts my heart. I nurse her, and she falls asleep. I gently lower her into the crib, and then spend the rest of the night creeping up to check her breathing, feel that her hands are warm, silently begging forgiveness.

She is fine. She has a bruise on her forehead where she landed (it looks like lipstick marks). And she is still trying to peek over edges (but this time, we are holding her tight).


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

day 288

"I laugh in the face of your order."

Sunday, May 12, 2013

mother's day

Mother's Day 2013

For Mother's Day, Linnea woke us up at 5 am and wouldn't go back to sleep until 7:30 am (and then only for 20 minutes). I celebrated with a large coffee and by baking muffins. One day soon, I will get macaroni and glitter craft flotsum, and I will love it.

Mother's Day 2013
Mother's Day 2013
Mother's Day 2013

Monday, May 6, 2013

nine months

Dear Linnea,

For your nine month day, you are experiencing another first: your first work conference. You did awesome. You conquered stairs, letting other people hold you while I did my presentation, and understanding effective feedback models. Your dad was able to come with us for half of the time, for which I am totally grateful.

You are spending almost all of your time crawling around, trying to stand up, babbling. You are trying to walk before your muscles will support you. You are trying to talk before your mouth can form the words.

One day, when I picked you up from daycare, Fernanda told me that you had been trying to pull yourself up to standing, and falling. "Some other babies give up," she said. But not you. You kept pulling up, pulling up. You do the same in the bathtub, holding on to the smooth edges of the tub, slipping and falling. You sometimes smack the water in frustration. But no crying. Not giving up. This tenacity will come back to bite me in the ass someday soon, but for now, I just gawkingly admire it.

We are trying to keep you out of the kitchen and bathroom, mostly because those are where all the cleaning supplies are. Also, there are nooks and crannies that we can never possibly babyproof. You know you are not supposed to into those rooms. I know this because you'll gallumph quickly over to the carpet-linoleum boundary between the allowed-not allowed space, stop abruptly, and turn to look at me. Then you'll slowly inch your way into the space. Sometimes, you'll turn yourself parallel, almost as if to gloat, "I'm not in here!"

You start to cry if I leave you in a room all by yourself, and try to crawl after me. You eat everything we give you. You are doing a great job picking up Cheerios and snack puffs with your thumb and pointer finger.

Your smile lights up my day.

Happy ninth month, kiddo.

nine months