I'm sitting on my couch while my daughter squirms around inside and makes breathing feel much more necessary than I'm comfortable with. I just returned from a three week "forced" vacation (which was pretty nice, I'm not complaining!) while the 3-week extermination process for bed bugs took place in our apartment. I've been back two days now and I'm overwhelmed and exhausted. Here's the short and fat of it:
Since we got home, both Ike and I have had a reaction to the chemicals used by the exterminators-- sore throats, itchy eyes, upset stomachs, headaches and diarrhea. It turns out the last application of the chemicals was done by a different exterminator than the first two applications, and this last guy sprayed the place voluminously. I waited 6 days longer to return than is suggested for pregnant women and young children, but that doesn't seem to be enough time.
It is hard to know how to even begin cleaning this place up. All our clothes and bedding (all things we own with threads in them) are up in our storage space in Yonkers. I counted on Alba--Ike's babysitter and our housekeeper--helping me bring everything back, but it turns out her doctor just told her she needs to take it easy because of a spike in her blood pressure and blood sugar. She has been coming anyway, but I don't want her working too hard. (Kirsten, Dario and Christopher, my back-up plan for help, are in the middle of a move right now themselves and need our help with moving and babysitting.) The literature provided by the bed bug exterminators say you're not supposed to clean the chemicals off for two weeks to help ensure the bed bugs don't return, but seriously, I've had to nix that plan. I need these chemicals gone. We've rolled up the rugs because they are so coated with chemicals I don't want Ike to play on them until I can get them professionally cleaned. We are leaving the windows wide open to air the place out, but without our warm blankets and clothes (up in Yonkers!)--and without any control over the heat--we are freezing. This all makes our apartment feel like we moved into it last week and not three months ago.
Meanwhile the leak caused by the construction on the apartment above us (the apartment from which the bed bugs came in the first place) seeped into the bathroom and then my closet--causing me to lose a lot of clothing in boxes. Silly me, I didn't realize that the curious smell of sewer water in my bedroom was coming from my closet! The nasty water had already soaked two boxes of pre-pregnancy clothes and dried, leaving lovely yellow and brown stains, before I realized what had happened. Clearly I'm not being vigilant enough! This happened before I left for vacation, but when I came home two days ago I found the leak had spread to my office and a wet spot had formed on the ceiling above my computer, not to mention all along the wall adjoining the bathroom. Dampness in the wall had ruined some artwork I'd hung above my desk. Did I mention that the electricity was out in the room due to the water damage? And because there is no electricity I cannot check to see if the water dripping from the ceiling has affected my computer. Nonetheless when the plumbers came today to look at the problem they said they could find no leaks and we'll just have to wait until new tenants move into the apartment above us and see if the leaks continue (more patience and vigilance required!). This on top of the fact that the pounding from the construction had knocked off one of the glass light fixtures on the ceiling and broke all over the floor.
Because of the last exterminator's generous spraying technique, our Chinese lacquer cabinet is probably permanently damaged. He doused it in chemicals, leaving streaks all down the front. We looked up how to repair damaged lacquer, and all the hits recommended not ruining your lacquer in the first place since it's so difficult to repair. I found a book about how to restore antique Asian lacquer furniture, but it turns out it costs about $500 on Amazon. Luckily the NY Public Library has a copy, although it's in the research library that doesn't allow people to actually check out the books, in-house use only. Helpful.
And although this may seem like a small thing, dripping from the upstairs apartment's a/c units have literally covered our windows with dried-on drywall-dust marks from the construction, and I'm at a loss to know how to clean the outside of windows on the third floor. Did I mention the view is one of the reasons we moved here? Too bad we can't see much anymore!
In order to keep the bed bugs from returning, I need to caulk up every crack in this whole apartment. But of course, we need to wait until the wet ceilings dry (which, by the way, still smell like sewer water)--and for the construction to stop pounding and making new cracks--before we can begin this process. And then of course we have to wait for new tenants to move in to make sure the leaks don't return. Hopefully this all happens before the bed bugs return!
So far the bed bug situation has cost: $380 for dog inspection, $175 in laundry, $750 in dry cleaning, $200 for bed-bug-proof mattress covers, $750 for two tickets to Seattle, and about $600 in help (i.e. Alba) prepping for the extermination, and letting the exterminator in while I was away, and in the ongoing regular vacuuming that has to happen all the while. We are already at nearly $2000 in costs, I am not yet including the cost of the caulking and cleaning up of the chemicals.
Also, in the last two weeks we've learned that the suspicious protein showing up in Charles' urine is the sign of an incurable kidney condition called IgA nephropathy, which may eventually require dialysis or a kidney transplant. He is luckily in the "not inflamed" state at the moment, but with all the problems in our apartment I can't help imagining that his kidney is inflaming. Meanwhile, his best friend and indispensable co-worker Valerie, who was away on a trip to Peru, is now stuck in the hospitals there on dialysis because something (probably returned cancer!) has blocked her bladder and caused her kidneys to shut down. She is in too precarious health to undergo a CAT scan to find out what really is going on, much less an airplane ride back to the USA where better doctors could look into it. Perhaps in sympathy with both of them, my bladder has stopped working as well, and I'm hobbling cross-legged to the bathroom every 10 minutes or whenever I hear water running. Although I suppose this is really the result of my daughters increasingly large head pressing down on my bladder.
The good news is that for the moment the bed bugs are gone and I haven't seen a roach since I returned. Also, my doctor appointment went fine today and the baby seems healthy (although I am of course worried that these chemicals could be affecting her!). Additionally, the 2nd glucose test I took (the three-hour one where they force you to drink and nasty bottle of sugar water and then draw your blood every hour in the process of checking for gestational diabetes) came back negative, so at least I don't have that to worry about. And Kirsten, Dario and Lola are moving into our building today, so we'll be neighbors again. She is expecting her second in February, which is awesome timing!
I'm sure we'll get back to a routine in say, a few weeks or so.