The conversation turned to boys playing dress-up with female-oriented clothing, and the womens' opinions varied from protecting childrens' need for imaginative play (go Whoopee!) to how very WRONG it would be for a teacher to permit a boy to dress up in a princess outfit during dress-up play.
One of the ways people can understand others who come from a different point of view or experience is to try to put oneself in the other's place and see how it feels. Children intuitively know this when they try dressing up in mommy's or daddy's shoes. When a young boy puts on a dress during pretend play (not the same as insisting on wearing a dress to school or for regular daytime clothes), he is exploring what it's like to be something different from him. That's the whole point of pretend play - try something different. And, holy bejeesus, he's trying to understand what it's like for a girl to be a girl - give that boy a gold star and a huge hug! Hopefully he'll carry the same interest in understanding where the other sex is coming from well into his adulthood.
I would be very distressed if my boy came home from school with a story about how his teacher had stopped him or another boy from putting on a female-oriented costume during pretend play. Young children take their social cues from their teachers (remember the famous brown eyes v. blue eyes experiment from the '70's). By demonstrating to the class that there's something "wrong" and unacceptable about a boy playing pretend with female-oriented play stigmatizes the intuitive empathy-building play that the children otherwise would have engaged in and starts to build a wall between understanding between the sexes. At home I would do my best to dismantle the damage, but if the rest of the class goes along with it and adopts the teacher's point of view, as is likely, then chances are my child will go along with the group's view and limit his own pretend play along the lines of what's deemed acceptable by the group. This would be heartbreaking.
Since the point of the excursion was to stretch my legs and help cublette scoot down, I meandered through all of the shops and department stores from one end of the mall to the other.
Holy crap, there's a lot of stuff out there.
How did I shop successfully just mere months ago before I was pregnant, when presented with such a sea of options, 85 to 90 per cent of which is just plain bad?
Not only was I feeling overwhelmed by the dearth of well-constructed, tailored, tasteful clothing out there (and in a cut that's flattering for my shape), but I was noticing a new feeling of dis-entitlement to a pretty blouse (or skirt or blazer or dress or whatever). First, there's the obvious impracticality of investing in any decent clothes when I'll be spending the next year wiping various of DD's body fluids off my shoulder and chest that she will be freely depositing as I carry her, nurse her, sling her, etc. I know I can expect to be vomited on A LOT in the coming months (I'm including regular spit-up in this calculation), so there's no sense in wearing anything that's not machine washable. Plus, because I'll be either nursing and/or pumping, every day, several times a day, the clothes also need to provide easy access but also allow for the maintenance of modesty if I'm nursing in public. And no big dangly earings for awhile because - duh.
It was the second source of the disentitlement feeling that surprised me a little, although it makes perfect sense. I'm not working now. I'm on leave and therefore not contributing to the household cashflow. I really, really have a hard time spending money on myself when I'm not bringing any in. Particularly because, historically, I have been a significant contributor. On the other hand, I would have no problems at all with making sensible purchases for DH or the cubs right now. Getting things for them still feels okay to me.
Between the "lost at sea" sense I had flailing amongst the racks and racks of blah, the impracticality of investing in anything too nice right now, and my personal reluctance to spend money on myself anyway, I feel that I have walked up to the edge of the proverbial "rut" that women get into at a certain point in their lives where you end up wearing nothing but t-shirts, flip-flops and capris to go anywhere, your closet takes a total dive, you forget how to do anything with your hair other than a ponytail, and makeup consists of whichever lip gloss your kids haven't yet used to paint the shower curtain. It's called a rut because once you get into it, it's really hard to get back out. I have seen these women on t.v. getting royally admonished by the fashion experts for forgetting their own outer fabulous-ness. I live with, work with, laugh with, drink with, and commiserate with these women. I am one of these women.
It starts with the maternity clothes. Yes, there are many more options out there in much cuter styles now than even just 5 years ago. But really, when you know you're only going to be actually wearing the clothes for a matter of months, you aren't going to buy a maternity "investment" piece. Towards the end of your pregnancy, when you're just downright huge and small children point at you and people you've never met spontaneously offer to drive you to the hospital, you're lucky if there are maybe 3 or 4 bottoms and 3 or 4 tops left to you that fit and don't bind. And like hell you're going to buy anything else because you're about to have that baby so what would be the point. So you rotate out of your teeny wardrobe and you get used to it. You get used to the comfort of stretchy jersey cotton, the ease of t-shirts, the simplicity of only having a few things to choose from each day. And you're tired and frazzled so clothing becomes purely a matter of function. This becomes normal. The status quo.
Once the baby arrives, even though you may get your figure back in a few weeks (if you're a lucky bitch) or months - or hell, at least your body's mostly yours again, see above re tired and frazzled. If you're me, your first priority is sleep - getting the new person to the point that they have regular naps and can sleep for a decent chunk each night so that, gods be thanked, I can start to get some decent sleep again. During this first year, there is only taking care of the family and trying to balance your own needs for rest, socializing and intellectual stimulation. Oh yeah - and quality time with DH. Going back to work adds a whole other layer of complexity and logistical planning. Shopping? Fashion? Are you frakking kidding me?
I posted an entry several months after the cub's arrival wondering if I would ever get "it" back - my sense of identity, which includes a healthy dose of feminine sex appeal. I think, for a little while, that I did. I have to believe that I can do it again. I think the "rut" is inevitable, perhaps even necessary and practical. But there are some damn sexy heels in my closet waiting for me for when I'm no longer having to be cautious about carrying a little one in my arms, and a particularly lovely gun-metal silk sleeveless v-neck with bugle-beading around the neckline that will be waiting for my first dinner out without nursing or pumping on the agenda. I'll make it back out of the rut again when the time's right, but for now, it's actually kinda nice in here.
And FX couldn't even have the decency to fill the slot with something respectable. No, it's reruns of Malcolm in the Middle, which was a charming show and all, but it's no BTVS. I guess all that's left is to start to DVR the Angel reruns off of TNT.
Very, very sad.
Today was the cublette's due date. Tomorrow I begin Week 41. My OB/Gyn is Dr. Margaret Thompson, and I have utmost faith in her judgment to help me have a successful VBAC if there's any way at all for that to happen. I'll be delivering at North Austin Medical Center, which has a c-section rate of 30% - just a touch over the national average. Dr. Thompson's c-section rate is only 18%, god love her. At today's appointment we discussed my options and what our go-forward plan is. Basically, we treat this week like any other. We wait to see if anything changes. The cublette may have moved down a bit, but today there were no new developments. My cervix remains uneffaced, undilated, and way, way, way to the back of my body. Now, this doesn't mean that I couldn't go into labor at any moment and everything suddenly click into place. But it does mean that there aren't many things the doctor can do to help me get the ball rolling while my cervix remains so "unfavorable."
I clarified to her that although we went over my birth plan which could simply be summed up as "I'd like to have as natural a birth as possible", my number one goal was to avoid a repeat cesarian delivery because the recovery from the first one was so horriffic. She reminded me that it's possible that if I did have another c-section, that my recovery could be easier the second time around. Not wanting to sound like a negative-pants, I held the thought that, yeah, and it could be worse.
So, we wait patiently through this week. If nothing's going on by my appointment next week, we'll wait another week and start to monitor that everything's going okay with baby, and at the end of 42 weeks we start to try to get her moving. This could include breaking my waters, starting a pitocin drip, and anything else we can do to get her moving before finally going in to surgery. We don't want to start any of those steps now, because both of these measures put us on a path to surgical intervention if they don't work, so best to wait until we're staring at the likelihood of surgery anyway before we try them. My doctor understands that I mean to push her to the edge of her comfort level as far as trying everything and waiting as long as possible before we finally give up and head over to the OR, and she's willing to go for it.
On c-sections generally, CNN posted this helpful article last month on steps to take to avoid an unnecessary birth-by-surgery. The five steps are:
1. Don't get induced unless medically necessary (check)
2. Labor at home until you're approximately 3 centimeters dilated (check - I'll go for 5)
3. Choose your hospital, and your practitioner, carefully (check)
4. In the delivery room, ask questions if your practitioner says you need a C-section (check)
5. Get a doula (check)
The article goes into each of these points with helpful information. The scariest thing, though, is the statement from the Office on Women's Health at the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, that "many experts think as many as half of all C-sections are unnecessary ...."
As to how NAMC will be treating my appearance for a VBAC, they will have me sign a form waiver advising me of the risks of VBAC that my doctor has warned me about, because apparently it reads like a "what the hell are you thinking even TRYING to deliver this baby vaginally" manifesto. Unfortunately there's no similar document for women who are going in for elective c-sections warning them of the risks of long-term pain, infection, respiratory complications to the baby, and even death.
The other thing that NAMC does, which I may oppose because I don't think they have a right to do this, is to collect on my entire remaining insurance deductible prior to discharge - before they have filed their claim with the insurance company giving them a right to these funds. Because other providers will have likely filed their claims ahead of the hospital (the hospital's own billing coordinator confirmed this for me), it's likely that some of that deductible will be allocated to the other providers whose claims are filed first. So I'll have to pay the other providers as well, and then go back to NAMC to get them to refund the monies paid to them in advance that they, in the end, did not have a right to.
This "deposit" on discharge thing is a new practice that apparently most hospitals are starting to adopt for their maternity patients. Which means there are no laws addressing the practice, whether it's lawful, how and when the hospital must file its claims with the insurance company, how quickly the hospital must refund monies that it required to be paid at discharge that weren't allocated to it by the insurance carrier in the final processing, or even requiring the hospital to present me with an itemized invoice showing me that the charges are even in excess of my remaining deductible at the time that they tell me I have to fork it all over (NAMC won't - I have to specifically ask for it, and then they'll get it to me at some point later - whenever it damn well suits them, I guess.). Do they really have a right to force me to pay without presentation of an invoice, and without having obtained an EOB (explanation of benefits) from my insurance provider confirming their right to these funds? I've been going along with them on this because I don't want to have any problems when we show up to deliver, but I'm seriously considering telling them to file their paperwork like every other provider and I'll happily pay them after my insurance company approves charges and confirms their right to however much of the deductible is left to them.
I've started reading a new book, Setting Limits With Your Strong-Willed Child, that I hope will help. But I think he's probably still too young for the techniques covered in the book. And I think it's more than just setting limits. I've also read Playful Parenting but it's not just that, either. The guy just goes to pieces over the littlest details and becoming OCD myself about managing all of these details so that he doesn't get ruffled isn't an option because a) I'll shoot myself first, and b) what ruffles him is a moving target. I'm hoping that this is just a phase that's part of being two. And an intense personality just starting to get its sea legs. He's absolutely delightful at friends' houses, I see him sizing up situations and responding to other kids considerately and not aggressively or anything like what he dishes out to me, and his daycare teacher raves about how smart he is and how he's the best behaved kid in his class and she never has any problems with him and she's only ever heard him even fuss at all just once.
So if he does so well out in other social situations, then we must be doing something right. He seems to be generally happy, healthy, bright, outgoing - everything I would hope for for him. But I'm ending each bedtime cycle either in tears or on the verge of from the forty-five-minute nonstop screaming, crying, fussing and fighting. And 40 weeks pregnant on top of it all doesn't make it any easier to handle.
I wrote him a brief reply thanking him for his response and noting my satisfaction that the measure had passed in spite of his opposition, and letting him know simply that I disagreed with his assessment of the legislation concerned. As I was preparing my email reply, it occured to me that maybe there's an opportunity here. I have recently moved into Williamson County, although I am still within the Austin city limits. The political demographics of Williamson County are changing rapidly - with our household being a case in point. Every single elected legislative representative for my address, at both the state and federal houses, is a Republican. Not that there's anything wrong with that - some of my closest friends have been Republicans and they're all fine people ( ;-P).
I also poked around the site for www.congress.org, a website dedicated to supporting public involvement in the legislative process. They have a very interesting tool there where they display recent emails sent to congressional leaders via their site (they obtain the author's permission prior to publishing). I read the two that were flagged as coming from Texas, and found them to be full of threats (capitalized reminders that the legislator in question works for the author and they can just as easily see them out of office at the next opportunity), racial slurs (the phrase "wet backs" figured prominently), poor grammar, and one even appeared to have cut and pasted the "please write your representative now" language from an advocacy email and sent it to his representative under a title referring to a Senate vote and completely different issue. Just kooky.
So anyway, I thought it might be a good exercise for me, and maybe helpful for my neighbors if anyone actually reads this blog (Bueller....? Bueller....?) to specifically follow the votes and actions of my own legislators and publish what I learn via my blog. September 2007 is a lousy time to begin this undertaking, but hey - baby steps. The Texas Lege won't be back in regular session until 2009, and I'm not sure now how much longer Congress will remain in session - or have they already gone home? See? Huge learning curve over here.
I called back later to see what could be done for other moms who shopped at these places who DID NOT want to receive free formula, and this customer service rep said to make sure to instruct these businesses not to share my personal information. The problem, however, was that she couldn't give me a complete list of all of the businesses that Similac purchases customer information from. Moreover, she also confirmed that the mother's information could be picked up if someone else buys her a gift from one of these businesses. I explained that keeping her information from Similac was not entirely within a woman's control under these circumstances, and that I was simply looking for some means for a person to communicate in advance to the company that they did not want to receive free formula samples from Similac. She put me on hold for a couple of minutes, and when she came back she told me that mothers who wanted to make sure they did not receive formula samples from Similac could call the Welcome Addition Club customer service at 1-800-232-7677, and ask to be put on the "Do Not Mail" List.
So why all the fuss over receiving free samples of formula, you may ask? Why not just toss them? Well, actually there are several studies confirming that providing unsolicited samples and coupons for formula to women either through their "hospital discharge pack" or via their OB/Gyn office conclusively increases the rate of early abandonment of breastfeeding. As I've said before, breastfeeding is hard. It hurts; getting the latch right is hard; thrush, mastititis, engorgement, leaking through your shirt in inopportune moments, and painfully clogged milk ducts all add to the challenges. Lots of women unnecessarilly doubt whether their milk is "good enough" for their child (as the milk becomes higher in protein it takes on a more "watery" appearance that can be misleading, for example). So it's no wonder that studies find that thrusting formula into the hands of women who didn't ask for it will increase the rate and timing at which they give up.
Let me be clear - I have nothing against formula generally. Many women are unable to breastfeed, and it's wonderful that there is an option available for them that, while not quite as beneficial as breastmilk, is still perfectly adequate and safe. Many women simply choose not to breastfeed - see above re "hard" and "painful". That's their option, and they should have access to all the coupons and free samples they can get the formula companies to send them, because that stuff is not cheap. But if a woman is determined to breastfeed, she'll want every support and advantage on her side to help her be successful. Aside from picking doctors who support breastfeeding and will have resources available to help her deal with the challenges, finding lactation consultants in her area if they're available, and asking for the support of her family and friends to help her not feel the need to run and hide every time her child wants to eat (as is my own inclination, although I have nothing but admiration for my friends who manage it so effortlessly), she would also be wise to make sure that there isn't free formula getting put into her hands and mailbox - based on the information available about how this will diminish her chances of long-term success.
I hope this helps anyone out there who would like to not receive unwanted formula samples. I've forward this story to the Lactivist blog for wider circulation in case the author opts to pick it up. Ultimately it would be good to see something happen in the legal sphere prohibiting formula companies from sending free samples to women without first confirming whether they are interested in receiving them. Sheesh - there's a law against unsolicited emails; you'd think there could be a law against unsolicited formula for criminy's sake.
TomPaine.com has published a fantastic article by Ruth Rosen titled "The Care Crisis" describing the need for a public, political solution to the lack of support for the family, in particular in terms of childcare and elder care. The comparisons to the stats for other countries is plain embarassing. In any case, I would posit that women bloggers are indeed engaged in political discourse when they discuss what are characterized in our society as "private" problems. These problems are "private" only insofar our elected leaders have failed to act to address them. As she points out, domestic violence, date rape, economic discrimination and sexual harassment were once considered "private" problems as well, until the political will to address them finally crossed the tipping point and a public, political solution was advanced. Eventually, I have to believe, all those politicians advocating for pro-life agendas will start to follow-through with the rest of the solution: in a country where less than 1 in 4 2-parent families can afford to have one parent at home full-time, it's time to have some pro-family legislation helping parents to obtain safe, affordable, quality care for their children and for their aging parents, and while they're at it maybe some paid maternity leave and sick leave so that one bad fall, one hospitalized spouse, one parent suffering dementia - doesn't throw the precarious balance most families are walking into a complete tailspin.
I'm reading a lot now about the opinions people have about what sort of birth women are supposed to have. There are doctors who opine that women who seek an unmedicated birth are "odd" or attention-seeking martyrs. There are natural birth advocates who don't give equal air-time to the value of pain management via medical (as opposed to strictly non-medical) means. And lately there's a lot going on in the realm of expanding/limiting the birthing options available to women. The Rotunda, the largest birthing hospital in Ireland, recently announced a policy that birthing mothers would no longer be permitted to bring a doula (trained birthing assistant) for labor and delivery unless the doula was her designated "partner" - and she would only be allowed one partner (any person other than hospital staff) in the room. The "women's center" practice across the hall from my OB/gyn has stopped taking clients who plan to deliver using the Bradley method - a drug-free approach to pain management (this was our chosen approach). Hospitals are more than willing to make medical pain management available, but not so much the non-medical options (a birthing ball, a birthing tub, freedom to move around and change positions or walk around, the comfort of the presence of relatives and friends).
It got me to thinking about my decision, early on in pregnancy with the first cub, to seek a non-medicated birth, to hire a doula to assist during the birth, and then to breastfeed. I believe I'm making the best choices for my own and my family's long-term health and well-being. Having experienced a cesarian delivery and the prolonged, painful and extremely life-limiting recovery that followed and cast such a pallor of dull pain and suffering over the first few months of my first child's life, I am choosing the route that is less likely to lead me back down that road again, since available research indicates that medical interventions in birth have a way of spiraling to additional interventions that lead invariably to a surgical birth. This is one way of explaining the sky-rocketing incidence of surgical deliveries as opposed to vaginal deliveries.
More troubling, many of the "standard" interventions were adopted without studies to prove their effectiveness. A prime example is the practice of episiotomy - making an incision in the vaginal tissue down towards the perineum to reduce the likelihood of a tear and to present a cleaner wound for stitching. Recent studies found that when routine episiotomies were no longer given, many women actually did not tear, and those that did healed better from a rough wound than from a clean slice, which is more vulnerable to infection. So why was episiotomy adopted in the first place? Seemed like a good idea at the time, I guess. And although I have the utmost respect for the OB/Gyn profession, there are probably in reality only a small percentage of births that truly need a medical intervention, so that these highly skilled and trained professionals must actually feel a tad unnecessary at times. Hence the rise of interventions, and the subsequent rise of cesarians.
So that's why the non-medicated birth. And the doula? My chances of being successful in achieving a non-medicated birth are significantly improved with her there beside me. She has been in practice for 16 years and has assisted literally hundreds of women achieve exactly the sort of birth that I'm hoping for. She will be able to suggest things I can do to manage the pain that I wouldn't have thought of. She will be able to run interference with hospital staff to help keep intrusions into the room to a minimum. And she also frees up DH from having to manage these roles, so he can just enjoy being present with his wife for the miraculous birth of his daughter.
No doubt about it, breastfeeding is hard. It hurts of the toe-curling variety for the first couple of weeks, it puts me in the hot-seat for all of baby's wake-ups during the night, there's thrush, mastitis, and embarassing leaking to deal with, the anxiety over getting my supply up and bountiful during the first couple of months, and then once I start back to work I also start to pump 6 times a day, at 25 minutes each time to pump and clean the equipment for the next time, so that I have enough stored in bottles to send to daycare with DD the next day. And also so that my supply during the day stays primed so that on weekends there's still milk there ready for her to nurse directly. Lastly, there's the anxiety I have about nursing in public - or even in my home in front of anyone other than immediate family and very close friends. The cub was not a discreet nurser, and consequently I tended not to venture out with him when I knew he'd be needing to eat - which was a lot - unless I knew for sure that I could find a private place to go with him to nurse. Of course I could bring a bottle of breastmilk with, but then I'd become engorged from having missed the feeding and would still need to go pump somewhere, have a cooler ready for the fresh milk, and clean and dry the equipment. (I'm hoping DD will be one of those quiet nursers that can have a meal with no one who sees us even having an inkling.) But I do all of this for the superior nutritional value of the breastmilk. It's that much better. Plus, the bonding from nursing - especially now that I've experienced it once already - is sooooooo worth it. I'm not necessarily anti-formula, it's just that I'm fortunate enough that nursing is an option and I'm looking forward to doing it again, in spite of the difficulties.
I've arrived at these decisions through a rational and deliberate process, and it's simply odd to me that there are those out there who would oppose or judge or even refuse to be my doctor because of them. I don't think I'm doing anything all that radical, but in fact am being sensible and practical. So why are so many so invested in having not just opinions, but control over how women give birth and feed their infants?
1. Universal Healthcare
It's crazy and indefensible and inexcusable that we still have the antiquated, inefficient, and enormously costly private insurance-driven healthcare system that we have. The cost to the economy, corporate profitability (except for pharmaceutical companies and the health insurance industry), and the bodies and health of fully employed Americans and their children is staggering.
2. Public Education
No Child Left Behind - the right goals, the wrong methods. Penalizing a failing school by withdrawing funding only assures it's continued slow and painful demise. Ultimately who suffers? The children whose futures are wrecked and the communities who will have to deal with them as they turn into adults.
Seriously enhance programs to support the growth of domestic, clean (i.e., non-greenhouse-gas-emitting), sustainable fuel sources. Invest in infrastructure to support the widespread adoption of emerging alternative fuel sources. The beneficial impacts on expenditures to secure foreign supplies of oil, on the environment, and on creation of new jobs domestically will more than offset costs.
Has anyone noticed the creeping (and in some cases leaping) crime statistics rising around the country? Especially for violent crime? What gives? Spending to update police departments with current technology and equipment and training and to hire more officers for patrol is not enough. We need to invest in proven crime-prevention resources - after school programs, job development programs, substance abuse treatment programs, family violence shelters and education programs, and mental health treatment programs, for example. Also, increase controls around who gets access to guns, how quickly, after how much scrutiny. Require all current and prospective gun owners to obtain a license, just like driving a car, and to demonstrate a minimum level of proficiency in safety, judgement and skill. Again, just like driving a car.
Requiring a person who came here without a visa (and there are precious few of those available, even to highly skilled workers) to pay a fine, register, become a regular taxpayer, learn English and get integrated as a contributing member of society is not amnesty, people. Currently there is only a very narrow path to citizenship available to allows immigrants with basic (but not specialized) skills to work and contribute and become part of society while they continue to live here to meet the residency requirement to either apply for legal resident status (takes 10 years of residency within the US) or citizenship via naturalization (takes 5 years) - those are the "Diversity" visas, of which there are currently only 50,000 granted, by lottery, each year. And they are alotted primarily to immigrants from countries which are under-represented in current immigration numbers, so the visa "relief" is directed where it is least needed.
6. Government Accountability
Increased transparency to the lobbying activities of special interests. Higher penalties for corruption - perjury, accepting bribes, tax fraud, etc. For starters, members of Congress or any other elected official convicted of any of the foregoing automatically forfeit their pensions. Increased reporting of public expenditures - both forecast and actual.
7. Get Practical.
Allow gay marriage. Prohibit pharmacists from denying women contraception or other prescriptions ordered by their doctors. Follow evidence-based education programs to reduce teen pregnancy: abstinence-only education is not the most effective approach for reducing teen pregnancy - "abstinence plus" has a much higher success rate. Keep religious instruction out of public schools and textbooks. Improve family leave options and create deductions for childcare costs (including after-school programs) for working parents.
In the real Tibet, all public services, schools, place names, traffic directions, etc., are in Chinese. Traditional Tibetan villages have been razed to make way for Chinese-government style buildings and development. Where they have not been razed, they are a tiny, impoverished outpost surrounded by modern development. The wooden "traditional" Tibetan house visited by Tony was clearly recently built. The rooms were huge, the house had two stories, and the food was abundant. Most telling: the butter tea, which is traditionally meant to taste rancid and takes some getting used to (I grew to love it), was adjusted to suit a western palate. Tony braced for the worst, but found the light frothy beverage he was handed actually tasted good. He was not being given the real thing - he was being given something to make him feel good.
Tibetans are not permitted to have a photo of the Dalai Lama, whom they revere as their spiritual and political leader (Tibetan government does not separate church and state in the western way) on display in their shops or windows, which may not sound like a big deal to a non-Tibetan, but for Tibetans, the Dalai Lama is at the heart of their identity as Tibetans. In Tibet, the monasteries were the places of education and housed the vast libraries of ancient texts relating to law, medicine, and the dharma.
My admittedly speculative conclusion: the Tibetans that Tony visited are well-connected cadres in the communist party and are happily participating in the ruse in exchange for the lovely accommodations and assured futures for their children and relatives. The "Tibetan" village in Yunan is being put forth by the government as the "real" thing so that people won't travel the extra several hundred miles to the very remote actual Tibet and witness what in fact has happened to the Tibetan people there.
Tony, dude, you got used.
So this weekend I went to HEB because I didn't feel up to the expense of Whole Paycheck, and just figured I'd try to make the best food choices I could from what they had to offer. There are two food ingredients that seem to be ubiquitous in regular commercial foods, and that I have a strict policy against bringing into the house (even in blessed Blue Bell Ice Cream): high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils. HFCS because of the association with early onset type 2 diabetes and other health issues, and hydrogenated oils because that stuff just adheres to your arteries like cement and is a prime suspect in neurological disorders (the body needs good oils for healthy nerve and neuron myelination and function). Particularly because there is a little being in my tummy growing a brain from scratch, I'm very very obsessive about avoiding bad oils and supplementing with good ones.
So I was walking by the bakery breads on my way to the produce and longingly looking at the deceptively natural, no frills looking wrappers and labels, knowing full well that anything I pick up will have one or both of the two verboten ingredients. But just for the heck of it I picked up a package of garlic-herb breadsticks, and guess what? Natural sugar instead of HFCS, and no hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. I was stunned. To make sure I wasn't dreaming I picked up a few more bread items, and, as expected, there were the culprits on the labels. But not these particular breadsticks. How fabulous! They are now waiting in the fridge to be paired with tonight's chicken parmesan.
Buoyed by this tiny discovery, I continued checking labels that I have been ignoring for years to see if there was any difference. Guess what? Eggo whole grain waffles? No more HFCS or hydrogenated oils! And ten in a box for less than the fancy-label organic variety. Yes, I know, I'm still supporting the corporate-industrial food complex, but every now and then you gotta save some pennies when you can. And of all companies, Hormel now makes a lunchmeat ham with no nitrites. Unbelievable.
So I'm not doing handsprings for Archer Daniels Midland, and Monsanto is still (not so) secretly run by satan himself, but at least I have a few more options for those times that I need to not empty out my wallet at Whole Paycheck.
Before I tell you what yummy book will be my first read with these ladies, I'll fill you in on my latest read re childcare: How To Talk So Your Kids Will Listen and Listen So Your Kids Will Talk. I've been told I have a "been there, done that" attitude about a lot of things that can come across as alternately irritating and arrogant, so apologies if this is one of those moments, but I just didn't find anything earth-shattering in this book. This isn't to say that it isn't worth your $9.95 on Amazon - it's well written and organized with lots of helpful examples, and will be a helpful source for reminding me how I ought to be communicating with my kids and policing myself better in the controlling-perfectionist-fixer department. But if you have already had any sort of training in empathic listening, then there will be nothing really new for you here. Still, a lot of good common sense and practical pointers in one place, so it will stay on the bookshelf.
So, the first read is Stella Gibbons' Cold Comfort Farm. I'm so excited! Quaint English countryside cottage, dottery characters, not too heavy (my last two reads were Reading Lolita in Tehran and The Kite Runner - definitely time for something lighter). I have no idea when I'll have time to read this, but the anticipation is already delightful.
We were at a baby shower last weekend, and the couple are expecting their first child in two weeks. Like us, they started this later in life. They are both very laid back and apparently haven't picked up a single book yet on taking care of babies. And the wife was an only child, and the dad doesn't have any experience with babies, so they're both flying blind, which really blew me away and also made me a little envious of their ability not to fret. But, there are a few books that I found indispensable in the first year with the pooper, and I thought I'd share my brief list of most favorite reference books here. And I can't help myself, I'll include some copies of these from Half-Priced Books with their belated shower gift when we get around to delivering them. Hopefully this weekend. So that they can read them before the baby arrives (ha!).
1. Baby 411
Now I'm not just biased about this book because it's author also happens to be our pediatrician, although it was really great to have all of her care protocols and philosophies available and indexed at my fingertips so that she and I were almost always on the same page for what was/wasn't concerning and how to proceed treatment-wise. But this is really just a very accessible, no-nonsense, non-judgemental, highly comprehensive resource for everything from sleep cycle development to breastfeeding vs. formula (she is decidedly supportive of breastfeeding but also points out that she was raised on formula and is in great health and a graduate of Harvard Medical School so don't lose sleep if for some reason you end up taking this road) to hygiene and bathing to all types of illnesses and maladies and when to consult a nurse vs. make an appointment the next day vs. run to the ER vs. call an ambulance immediately. Her writing style is down-to-earth and reassuring and her care recommendations are consistent with current research. Plus, the index in the back is extremely helpful, in addition to the way the information is presented in bullet format in the text itself.
2. The Happiest Baby on the Block
In truth, this book could be pared down to a poster like the choking first aid poster that restaurants are required to have posted somewhere on the premises. The "gimic" of the book is that babies really have a "fourth trimester" that they have to pass through outside the womb because otherwise their big heads wouldn't fit through the birth canal, so to calm a baby during the fourth trimester (i.e., the first 13 weeks from birth), apply his 5 techniques for calming that are geared towards recreating the womb environment: swaddling (helpful how-to with diagrams is included), shushing (at least as loudly as the baby is crying), swinging (seriously - if you're standing in line somewhere and baby's having a meltdown in the carrier, pick it up and swing it - works like a charm), side-stomach position (hold baby so that they are tummy- or side-down because this feels more secure for them and the muscle reflexes they have during the early months), and sucking (pacifier, finger, whatever's handy). I still recommend buying the book because there are useful explanations and adaptations for the techniques in different circumstances that can be helpful.
3. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
This is written by one of the leading sleep researchers and experts in the U.S., and it is unfortunately not very well organized, important nuggets of information are buried in between endless case examples, and it is very ... very ... dry. If you can slog through it, however, the nuggets are worth it. Dr. Brown sums up the gist of the information where babies are concerned in about a paragraph in Baby 411, which is helpful if you're having trouble distilling what the "take away" points are, but I found the sections covering the development of sleep cycles in humans to be fascinating and also helpful context. Yes, we're wired to sleep in a certain way, but that normal development can be interrupted by any number of factors like health problems (we had a little of this early on due to pooper's severe acid reflux), incompatible family schedules, baby's temperament (pooper also would fight sleep until his eyes were actually rolling back in his head) and a difficult to accommodate early sleep cycle (pooper only napped for 30 mins. at a time and took up to 5 or 6 naps a day with just two hours in between - I went nowhere until he FINALLY started to consolidate his naps into fewer, longer naps as he got a bit older). Thanks to this book, by 4 months old I could lay pooper down in his crib for his morning nap while he was still awake and he would smile, roll onto his side, and happily fall asleep on his own while I finally got a small breather with a cup of coffee and conversation with a friend. The sleep techniques taught by the book are not necessarilly in keeping with the Attachment Parenting philosophies, if that's your preference, but I figured I'd go with the expert and pooper has generally slept solidly through the night, with a few exceptions for travel and teething, since he was about 4 months old. I give sleep the same priority as nutrition, so it's very satisfying that in spite of his rough beginning with the reflux and general disdain for going to sleep and missing out on all the fun that he's certain we get into while he's in bed, he is still a generally well-rested child, and for that I largely have this book to thank.
So I wonder now whether there were signs that he had given, little indications of how neo-everything his policies would turn, how thoroughly he would politicize his administration from top to bottom, how little regard he had for the rule of law if it seemed to stand in the way of his agenda, his contempt for state's rights, his preference for ideology and corporate profits over science, how he would push the Supreme Court so far to the right that Constitutional Law scholars will have ample fodder for decades in sorting out the opinions into something that still looks like continuity of jurisprudence. As someone who lived in Texas during W's governorship I can't help but feel a tad responsible for not being more vigilant in protecting the rest of the country - and the world - from him. I should have seen the signs and I should have done whatever I could to raise the alarm. Doubtful just me on my own would have had much impact, but at least I wouldn't now wrestle with remorseful guilt, wondering if there was something I could have done.
I saw a new bumper sticker tonight that said something to the effect of we're making enemies faster than we can kill them. Things had been going so well for so many years by 2000 that I don't think I could have imagined reading a bumper sticker like that and not being able to muster the usual logical critique to deconstruct the little word byte. I'm finding truth in bumper stickers, but not in the nightly news anymore. January 2009 cannot get here fast enough.
DH is out of town until so late Friday night that I won't actually see him again until I wake up Saturday morning - ditto for the pooper, who missed his daddy very much tonight during bedtime routine. We called daddy at the time in the routine when he normally stands at the top of the stairs and loudly summons daddy to come give a big night-night hug and kiss by yelling "DADDY! NIGHT-NIGHT! ... DADDY! NIGHT-NIGHT!" But tonight after we said "bye-bye Daddy" on the phone and hung up, he then looked around upstairs for just where Daddy had gone to so that he could get his night-night hug and kiss. It was sweet and heart-breaking, and tomorrow night I'll be prepared with a picture of Daddy that we can say night-night to after we get off the phone.
To the woman who was jogging in the road on Far West tonight at 5:30 p.m. and made me follow her in my car at her jog pace as I approached the intersection with Mesa rather than jogging on the sidewalk and then gave me a dirty look because she had to break her stride while I tried to figure out where exactly she was going so as to not hit her in case she darted out in some random direction, your perfect abs and clearly superb physical condition don't make up for your lack of road etiquette and if you are going to run out in the middle of traffic like a nutter at least have the decency to appreciate that people are doing all they can to not hit the unpredictable pedestrian running in traffic and shooting them dirty looks because you had to break your stride doesn't inspire the sort of concern for your well-being that you so take for granted.
Tomorrow is the big shebang at Pump It Up. It's a little over the top for a 2nd birthday, I know. (I have no memory of my second birthday, although I have clear memories of my third, which was spent at Peppermint Park with many friends and I got to pick out my favorite dress to wear even though it was really much too small for me - but mom humored me because it was my birthday, after all. That was probably the last time I wore that little navy dress with the embroidered ribbon around the waist. But I digress ...)
The Cub may be picking up on our stress a tad. We are moving to a newer, larger house in two weeks. It is, in fact, the newest edifice of any variety that I have ever lived in. Which means that this is the first time for me to live in a dwelling that is younger than me. This probably has as much to do with my getting older as anything else. We first laid eyes on the house two weeks ago. While DH was stoned on painkillers on account of the 2mm mineral crystal stuck in his urethra. But the house was perfect and so we were under contract by the following night. And DH has just started another job, and I just signed a new client, and the Cub? Not wanting to go to bed, having meltdowns way too easily, needing lots and lots of love and hugs and kisses.
He has a broader vocabulary now, probably around 30 words. They (the therapists that we were working with) say that 50 words is a sort of threshhold, that they then start to connect words more and before you know it you're having the semblance of actual conversations! I'm really looking forward to that. He still has an expressive speech "delay" by the standard milestones, but he's excelling in other areas. He really loves the alphabet right now. He is constantly pointing out letters and calling them out, and even pointing out shapes that resemble letters that he knows and calling them out, too. Practicing saying the letters has helped him enunciate the consonant sounds in words better. He's not so big on numbers yet - nine, six and seven are the only ones he knows by name. His absolute favorite word right now is "firetruck", which comes out more like "carhuck". He still loves his school, and runs to the door waving goodbye and saying "Bye Bye! Bye Bye!" when it's time to go with Daddy in the morning. I try to tell him that there's a baby in my tummy, that he's going to have a sister, but I know that the concept is lost on him now, and probably will be until she's about 6 months old, and he's about 3, and she's sitting up and he's really getting it that this is his sister.
I am really looking forward to being done with this process and settled in the new house and able to just focus on gestating.
So I'm feeling that this next one will be a pigtails and darker haired version of her big brother. They'll fight a lot - except for the times that they're conspiring together to do/get something they aren't supposed to be doing/getting. I also have a very different personality that comes to mind if I imagine this kiddo as a boy, but the girl image comes through stronger right now. It's fun to write this down now to see how far off or spot on I was when the time to find out about this little person finally arrives.
So for the last 4 weeks and three days I have been queasy, tired, moody, and waking up in the middle of the night to pee. I thought that didn't happen until the end of the last trimester? Part of me can't believe that I've voluntarily opted to put myself - and us - through all of this again. Having the pooper was wonderful, but the end of the pregnancy and his first few months were brutal, and I'm dreading going through that period again. My mom assures me that we had an especially hard time with the pooper and the next kid will be easier, but as another friend evenly reminded me, it could also be worse. Pooper was delivered by scheduled c-section, 9 days post-due date at 9 lbs. 4 oz. We didn't even try to induce because statistically it was more likely than not that I'd end up going in for a c-section, given the timing and his size and also the fact that my body had not even started to get a clue about transitioning from pregnancy to birth - cervix was high and firm, baby hadn't dropped - nada.
Supposedly a scheduled c/s is much easier to recover from because you aren't going into surgery exhausted and dehydrated. Not so for me. It was months before I started to feel okay in my body again. For weeks I could only nurse sitting up with baby propped beside me because the weight of his body on my abdomen was too much - which meant hauling a bunch of pillows around the house with me all day long and no nighttime side-lying nursing. And our poor little guy had severe acid reflux and, even after getting treatment to keep him more comfortable, never napped for more than 30 minutes at a time. He was a darling baby and was smiling by 2 weeks, but I still also remember being nearly catatonic with physical and emotional exhaustion during that time. So as excited as I am about bringing the pooper his little brother or sister, I'm also dreading the first few months.
I'm also having to find another ob/gyn. My original doctor, at my 8 week appointment, said, "so we're going to schedule you for a c-section, right?" Excuse me, doc? He then went on to explain that delivering VBAC was very risky, that there was a 1/100 chance I would experience a uterine rupture, and then even with an anaesthesiologist, surgeon and nurses by my side, there might be nothing that they could do in time and the baby would be brain damaged and possibly die. Technically, this isn't far from the truth, but the risk picture is very different from the way he has depicted it. A 2004 Kaiser study of close to 18,000 VBAC births found a uterine rupture rate of 0.7%, and of those that experienced a uterine rupture, about 5.5% resulted in brain damage to the baby, which comes out to an overall risk of brain damage from uterine rupture in a VBAC to about 1/2,550. Plus, in the study sample, there was no control for whether the VBAC patients were administered pitocin during their labor, which is significant because pitocin is known to increase the risk for uterine rupture - by up to 10x according to some sources. It's not unreasonable, therefore, to infer that the rate of uterine rupture for a natural childbirth would be even lower than the 0.7% found in the Kaiser study.
I don't want to stay with my current ob just to have him tolerate this silly notion I have that I'll deliver naturally, if at all possible, just to have him tell me at 36 weeks that I need to find another doctor if I'm still determined to try for a VBAC (which this doctor has done before to another patient). It may be that I do end up with a second c/s, but I need to know that I arrived there for the right reasons, not just because my dr. is a fan of c/s. I have my first interview with another ob next Tuesday, and I'm really looking forward to meeting her. I hear that she's also going to law school now, so I'm a little concerned about her availability, but we'll discuss that along with everything else. She's generously given me an appointment slot to chat without charging me for the appointment, which is a good sign. I have two pages of typed questions to go over with her, so I'll make the best use of my 15 minutes possible.
This morning I realized as I lay in bed on my back that I can feel the firm ball of my expanded uterus now just above my pelvis. The rest of my abdomen is characteristically squigy, but at the south end there's definitely something firm underneath taking shape. We're past the danger window for a miscarriage now, and in a couple of weeks we'll get past the screens for chromosomal abnormalities and spinal defects, and then we're pretty much in the clear. We'll find out the baby's sex as soon as it's visible (pooper's was visible at the 12-week appointment), and spend the rest of the pregnancy arguing about names. I'm very, very happy.
I thought I had hit the mother lode when I found the H&M in the Forum des Halles with the maternity department. Turns out, not so much. So then I got online and was only able to find one store that specializes in maternity clothes, and that was a chain, and from the online information, not that great anyway. I had read that the C&A next to Galeries Lafayette had maternity clothes, but when I got there, again, nothing special.
On a lark I tried out Galeries Lafayette, and hallelujah, finally something great. We had to go to the 5th floor (yes, my intrepid DH was accompanying me God bless him) which is primarily dedicated to very high-end clothing for kids. Who buys couture for toddlers? We had to walk so far to find the maternity section that DH was sure we were going to get jumped in some dark little corner and our organs harvested for science or something. But no - we found the maternity "nook", and it was so worth the trouble. I was only able to afford a darling gun-metal silk-looking (but washable polyester - how practical!) sleeveless blouse and some fabulous grey trousers for work. This time around dressing the bump, I already have all the basics, so I may get to splurge on the occasional frivolity. Like Nordstrom's maternity. Yummy.