Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Let's Make A Deal

So it seems that the billing departments of the various hospitals and doctor's offices we use are sexist. I know. Weird, right? Here's the skinny.

Dave and I are trying to use whatever disposable income we have right now (extra money in our savings and my royalty income) to pay off as many medical bills as possible. If we can clear most of them by the end of the year, we can claim them on our taxes which will be a huge-o help. Anyways. Talking to these people has been, um, interesting, to say the least.

Our pediatric cardiologist is with this massive children's practice attached to the Dell kiddo hospital in Austin so all the billing is, of course, done out of Dallas. Uh, okay. So I ring them up to see what we can do and the lady tells me she can't put us on a payment plan until we have no more insurance claims pending. Uh....what? I explain to her that my baby sees her pedi cardi every four weeks, more often if needed, so there are ALWAYS going to be insurance claims pending. She became very quiet and then told me to wait until I received our next statement to try again. What? Like our baby is the only baby in the entirety of that practice who sees the doc every month?

We had some radiology bills from Nyx's time in St. Jo's NICU. I called a few weeks ago and asked if we could pay it off in installments over the next three or four months. I was told no. Well, tough titty, lady. You can take my payments or stuff it.

Dave called last week because he felt bad that I was handling the financial nightmare that was our kiddo's $300,000 (actually a bit more than that) hospital stay. Guess what? This same woman was super quick to make a deal with him. What the crap? Same thing when he called TCH. They offered him half off of our surgeon's bill (a doozy, that one) and we jumped on it.

So what's the deal? Why were these folks so helpful to Dave? Is this yet another case of weiner privilege?

I guess it doesn't really matter. We're clearing the medical debt. We're broke as smoke but we're clearing that friggin' debt. Of course, we'll be right back where we started in, like, four weeks but whatever. I try not to think about how much this next trip to TCH will cost. Just the room and board for the kiddo's CVICU stay (doesn't count meds, doctors, surgeons, tests, or the three or four days she spent in the step down unit) cost us $120,000.

Yeah. Ouch.

Luckily, once our insurance company finally sorted itself out, things didn't look quite as bleak. I mean, we're still on the line for the out-of-pocket maximum which, I've discovered, is really high compared to most people. It works out to about a tenth of Dave's gross income or just about every penny I've ever earned from my writing. :( Yeah. Sad that, huh?

And now we get to start all over with a new company on the first. Yay!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Back On The Wagon

So I'm thinking about my New Year's resolutions. I try to make career goals this time of year so I have some kind of plan for the upcoming months. I did rather well in 2009 as far as my writing was concerned. Here are my stats.

6 Short Stories
7 Novellas
2 Novels

I've sold six novellas and one short so far. The rest of my work is still in submission or awaiting final word from an acquiring editor. I'm very pleased with my output this year and hope to do just as well in 2010. It will be a bit rough juggling writing and editing with the kiddo but I'm doing okay so far.

My other resolution is to finish this weight loss business. I lost 50 pounds in 2008, gained 25 during the last few weeks of my pregnancy, lost 35 in the week or two after the kiddo was born and then gained another ten once we were home from TCH. Yeah, that kind of yo-yoing is hell on a nursing mama's body. I was actually back in pre-preggo jeans and cargo pants by the tenth day after Nyx's birth. Is that effed or what?

Today I'm sitting at 6 pounds below my pre-preggo weight. I'd like to lose another fifty or so pounds by the end of 2010. I also want to bring my 5K time down by ten or so minutes. I'm a huge-o slow poke runner but if I work at it, I can shave off that time. I think these weight loss goals are totally doable. I've already proven to myself that I have the willpower to lose fifty pounds and keep it off (pregnancy weight gain doesn't count) so I know I can do it again.

The weight loss has to be a lot slower than last time though. It's not really safe for a nursing mom to burn enough calories to shed 8 or so pounds a month. The risk of ketones in the milk and all that. I'll settle for 4-5 pounds a month.

I realize I'll probably have a setback or two while the kiddo is at TCH after her open heart surgery. When I stress, I make bad food choices. It's not something I'm proud of but there it is. I also won't be able to run or do cardio while I'm sitting at Nyx's bedside. But whatever. I'll make up for it once we're home.

So those are my resolutions this year. I thought about throwing in some resolutions to be a better housekeeper but then I just laughed and rolled my eyes. Yeah. Right.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

This is our first Christmas as a family but we decided not to go all out this year. Nyx isn't even four months old yet so it's not as if she's going to remember that Mommy didn't bake her usual cookies or string up decorations. We put up the tree, bought presents and that's about it. We'll do our Christmas dinner tomorrow but no homemade pastries this year. I just didn't have the time or, quite frankly, the inclination.

Dave and I have discussed what new traditions we'd like to start. Marrying together the traditions of our families should be interesting. Dave's family tends to have very quiet and simple Christmases. My family is loud and busy. There's a smorgasbord of food at Ama's (tamales, bunuelos, cookies, cakes, snacks...I could go on and on) and lots of fun. We do bingo, trade gifts, tell stories and catch up. Then it's off to Midnight Mass and then home to open presents.

Back in the day, Dad would sneak out of the living room while we opened gifts, slip into this big red coat, and run out to the front door. He'd drop our Santa gifts on the porch, ring the door bell and then rush back inside the house. While we oohed and ahhed over the beautifully wrapped gifts, Dad would come into the living room (huffing and puffing from his run) and act put out that he'd missed Santa yet again. What can I say? We were easily fooled!

I'm going to have to find a big red coat for Dave, I guess. I think we'll compromise and do gifts on Christmas morning. I still want Nyx to have bingo and bunuelos and all that though. Dave is really keen on the idea of an Advent calendar. I think it's a fab idea too. I know a pretty nifty Advent song in German to teach the kiddo.


I'm off to finish this chapter and then I'm turning in for the night.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Thursday, December 17, 2009


So Nyx learned to blow bubbles a few weeks ago. Now she's learned to make this hilarious motorboat noise. Brrrrbbbblllliiiiibbbrrrrr. You can imagine how slobbery she gets doing that!

I'm kind of surprised at how far ahead she is developmentally speaking. Nyx has already hit most of her four month and higher milestones. She's been rolling from her back onto her belly for the last two weeks or so. I didn't know that wasn't normal until other moms gave me this terrified look and told me it's dangerous for someone so young to roll over on her own. I'm not really convinced of that though. She can pick up her head and turn her neck to either side so I don't think she's at risk of suffocating. We co-sleep (against our will but I'll get to that in a later post) so she's never alone while sleeping.

The rollover thing is only a problem in her bath hammock doohickey. She tries to roll onto her side on the hammock which sends me into hysterics even though I always have one hand on her at all times. She also likes to plant her feet, arch into a bridge and slam down, splashing water everywhere. No surprise she giggles and squeals while we sputter and blink away the sudsy baby bath water.

Obviously Dave and I are thrilled she's hitting her milestones ahead of time. She's going to be out of commission for a few weeks after her open heart surgery. She doesn't qualify for one of those "pretty" open heart incisions so she'll be cut from neck to navel which means no crawling or tummy time or other activities for a few weeks. We're hopeful she'll level out and not fall behind.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Best Laid Plans

Its funny. I was just sitting here taking a break from a late night writing session and my mind just sort of wandered to what I was doing this time last year. I was probably sleeping or writing downstairs or in Killeen with The Ash, all the while completely unaware of the fact that I had just conceived Nyx.

That cycle I had completely given up. I'd been charting something fierce but had no signs of ovulation. No temp changes. No cervical fluid changes. I was still high, tight and closed. I hadn't taken Clomid or Femara or Follistim or Gonal-F or Menopur injections or an HcG trigger. I was fairly certain December was just as unlucky as November, etc. Fortunately we deal with stress in one way: red hot marital relations.

It would take 11 weeks before I would realize that I was pregnant. During that time, Dave and I had chosen our adoption agency. We were filling out forms and trying to figure out where the hell we would get the twenty or so thousand dollars to adopt an infant. Christmas was particularly bleak for me. I sat there, surrounded by Christmas decorations, and cried. I had worked so hard to lose weight and get healthy. I'd done everything possible to ovulate. We'd privately dealt with a loss. Would we ever have enough money to adopt? Would there ever be a sweet little munchkin in our house?

And then we had the best morning of our lives. That positive test. I was ecstatic and terrified. I knew the odds of miscarriage were high. I'd already had some heavy, bright red bleeding and cramping that I'd assumed was one of my random periods. (I tend to have one every 3 years or so without medical induction.) That bleeding would make sense after Nyx was born and diagnosed with ToF. Then we would learn that most heart defect babies are early miscarriages. But not Nyx. She managed to hang on and grow and thrive.

As we adjusted to the idea of finally having a kiddo, Dave and I discussed whether or not we would do any sort of prevention after Nyx's birth. For some reason, women who struggle with infertility seem to become fertile myrtles after giving birth. We agreed we would rely on exclusive breastfeeding as our contraception of choice and leave it up to Fate.

But then Nyx was diagnosed with ToF and it became painfully clear that we had to make some ugly decisions. First and foremost, we have to consider Nyx's current needs. She absolutely needs my undivided attention right now. Secondly, we have to think about finances. We're doing okay now but we still have at least one open heart surgery to go in a few months. And then there is the very real chance we could have another baby with a heart defect. The odds of two parents without a family history of congenital heart defects having a ToF baby are, like, less than one half of a percent. Well we won that genetic lottery. The odds of having a second baby are double that. Considering we won the first jackpot, can we risk it again?

And that's where we are right now. As much as it kills me, I'm taking the mini-pill and continuing to breastfeed exclusively. In a month or two, I'll probably switch over to Desogen as long as it doesn't affect my milk production.

I know to a lot of people this probably doesn't seem like such a big deal but when you've faced your ovaries shutting down completely due to early menopause or losing them to rupturing cysts, it's just so unnatural to interfere. I'll confess that I sobbed all the way to the Kroger pharmacy the afternoon I went to have that prescription filled. Logically I know it's the responsible thing to do but what the heart wants and what the head knows to be right aren't always one and the same.

Will we give this baby business a try again? Maybe. Probably. Who knows? We'll revisit the question once Nyx is fully recovered and thriving. One way or another, we'll have another kid or two or three. Who knows? Maybe our next son or daughter is already waiting for us in some foster home.

Whatever happens, I'm learning to go with the flow. The best laid plans of mice and men and all that.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

An Early Christmas Gift

So Nyx had a cardiologist appointment on Wednesday and it went really well. She weighs a little over 10 pounds now. She's gained 4 pounds in 3 months. Not bad considering her broken heart, three weeks in the hospital and whacked out metabolism. Her O2 sats have leveled out and seem to only dip down to the 70s and 80s when she's crying. She does get a little winded when she's playing but that's normal for now. As long as there are no changes, she'll have surgery in late February or early March.

Dave and I were so relieved to hear this. We postponed decorating and gift buying because we weren't sure whether or not Nyx would spend her first Christmas in the hospital. We'll bust out the Christmas tree and lights later today. Gifts are on their way too.

The only snag in our holiday is the upcoming insurance changeover. Nyx's next dose of Synagis won't ship out until the 7th of January...but we won't have approval from our new insurance company yet. Yep. You guessed it. She won't get the injection in time--if at all. (It has to be spaced every 28 days to be effective.) Also we won't have hit our deductible yet so we'll be expected to pay for the entire $3000 dollars for the injection unless our new company covers Synagis differently than the old one.

Head. Desk.

I've tried multiple times to get a straight answer from Dave's HR rep but it's proving to be an exercise in futility. It took three weeks or so just to get a response. We were told to check out the prescription list but that was a complete waste of time because Synagis is one of those special category meds so it's not on the list. I can't call the company directly because we don't have the group plan number. I don't have the group plan number because someone doesn't respond in a timely manner. And so on and so forth.

Thank goodness it's the holidays. I'm feeling a bit charitable so I haven't lost my shit on anyone.


Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Detroit Rock City

So the kiddo has discovered her tongue. She is fascinated and spends most of the day trying to grab it with her fingers or sticking it out at us while squealing. I'm hoping the Gene Simmons phase passes soon. She hasn't quite learned cause and effect relationships so the idea that snatching her tongue with her slobbery fingers makes her gag hasn't set in yet. Fingers crossed she'll make the connection soon. I'm not so keen on being splattered by booby milk and propranolol or whatever other med she's just taken.

Until she figures it out, I suppose we'll just keep pretending we're a KISS cover band around here. Nyx as The Demon. Dave as The Spaceman. Me as the Starchild. Bosley as the Catman. I mean, we might as well get a little amusement out of this bizarre stage, right?

I'm off to change and nurse this kiddo and sing her back to sleep. Flaming Youth seems apropos...