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The Business of Being Born

I watched The Business of Being Born last night.  Every woman that is pregnant or may become pregnant should see this documentary.  Seriously.  Here is an excellent article on the film.

What this documentary is NOT about is suggesting all births should be done at home in a pool of water.  It is also NOT about saying there is no place for C-sections.  What it IS about is having truly informed consent about your own birthing experience.

CS and I went through lamaze classes and initally intended to have a vaginal delivery with all the drugs legally allowed.  Then through the course, I began to realize that those drugs, though sometimes necessary, are very serious and can themselves have permanent devastating effects to mother and/or baby.

So then CS and I (really the decision was mine) decided to go natural and try NOT to have the pain meds (epidural, etc.) unless I was truly NEEDING them.

Then we discovered Sun was breech and my placenta was “old” and there was NO WAY my pregnancy would go 40 weeks safely.  So a C-section was planned for 3 weeks before my official due date.  And two weeks before that, my water broke and my doctor performed a C-section six hours later.  Not emergency.  But still horrifying.

I WAS NOT prepared for having my arms strapped down like Jesus on the cross.  I WAS NOT prepared for the nurses counting scalpels and sponges to be sure all were accounted for once I was sewn up.  I WAS NOT prepared to have the Spinal without having my husband present to comfort me.  I WAS NOT prepared for the continous shaking I encoutered from the anesthesia.  I was never so scared in all my life.  And I WAS NOT prepared not to have Sun placed on my chest but instead whisked away for five hours before I would hold her for the first time.

But do not get me wrong, Sun’s birth went just as planned and as well as to be expected.  From being wheeled into and out of the OR, it lasted 20 minutes.

And a lot of what I was not prepared for was because I didn’t ask more questions.  I, honestly, chose to pretend Sun would arrive like a pizza–quick and effortless.  I refused to prepare myself for major surgery whilst wide awake.

The Business of Being Born highlights shocking statistics–in America, in 1900 more than 95% of births were at home.  By 1955, less than 1% were done at home and that statistic remains the same now.  In European countries, 1/3 (30%!) of births are currently done at home.  And yet the infant mortality rate is HIGHER in America than these same European countries.  What’s going on here?

It seems as though there are several things going on:

  1. OBs are trained surgeons.  “Normal” pregnancys don’t warrant an OB. So, to make themselves necessary, they “require” the birth to be in a hospital.
  2. Once in a hospital, that hospital wants mothers in and out of the beds ASAP.  So, if that birth doesn’t come soon enough, start the pitocin to induce labor.  Pitocin makes the contractions more painful.  Because it is more painful, now comes the epidural.  When enough time has passed and still no delivery, because you’ve started all these drugs, mother is now exhausted and baby is in potential trauma.  Time for an episiotomy or forceps.  Or, time for a C-section.
  3. Doctors and insurers realize that patients think C-sections under the above scenario was “necessary” and are less likely to sue.
  4. C-sections have become a status symbol among Hollywood (ala Brittany Spears and Posh Spice).

The point that got to me is that women have been conditioned to believe they cannot manage birthing their babies any longer without intervention.  And those that decide to do home births are considered granola-hippies.  Doctors and insurers (mainly of the male variety) facilitate this low opinion women have of their abilities because it is easier for THEM and means in the end more money earned by the doctor and less risk of lawsuits by the insurers.

Why isn’t this about the mother?  The baby?  Why aren’t mothers and feminists all over this issue?  If a mother fully understands the manipulation and reasoning of her doctor and insurer and decides she wants a C section, that is her choice.  But I will tell you, you tell your typical doctor you want a natural birth or a home birth, and he (or she) will try to talk you out of it.  And it disturbs me that this talking out of is NOT likely to be for your best interest.

Another statistic, doctors across the board think home births are “bad,” but almost NONE of them have attended one to know what the real experience is.

It’s clear I have a lot to say on this topic.  And this post is long enough so I am stopping here.  GO WATCH THIS FILM and give me your thoughts.

Anticipation Building

I have begun a list in my head, not even on paper yet.  I have gotten a haircut and bought a bathing suit.  Today I will go to the library to check out Sue Grafton’s “T is for Trespass” for the flight and I will get a pedicure.

Although this upcoming trip isn’t technically a vacation, I have allowed myself the indulgence of thinking of it as one.  How could I not when we are certain to be dining at La Strada, one of my all-time favorite restaurants?  Also, it will be Sun’s first trip to the beach.  And as far as U.S. beaches are concerned, they don’t get much better than Coronado Island.

Considering I just had to convince my husband that in fact today is NOT Sunday, I’d say we’re all in need of a change in latitude.

I cannot say enough how much I like love crawfish bisque.  It may well be my all-time favorite dish.  Growing up, my mother never made it, not once.  The first time I had it was at my best friend’s aunt’s.  That bowl set the bar very high.  My grandmother would make it every couple of years.  Maybe.  Sometimes less.  The reason you see it so infrequently is that, done correctly, it takes a lot of time.  All together, it probably takes a full day to prepare.

First, you need to boil crawfish.  Then pick them.  Then clean the heads.  Cleaning the heads is the worst part of preparing this dish to me.  Not because it is as gross as it sounds (it isn’t much more weird than peeling the tails) but because you have to snip off the noses of the crawfish.  This rips my fingers to shreds.  Here’s what four look like cleaned and ready to be stuffed:

Only 146 more to go.  Yes, the recipe I use (from Marcelle Bienvenu’s “Who’s Your Mama, Are You Catholic and Can You Make A Roux? A Family Album Cookbook” –great title, eh?) calls for 150 stuffed heads.  That’s a lot of heads!  Now, the next step is to stuff said heads.  To do that, you chop bell peppers, celery, onions, garlic, and crawfish tails and mix that together with stale french bread crumbs.  You then mix in more tails you did not chop and saute in oil with lots of salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper.

Cooling crawfish head stuffing.

Let the mixture cool.  Then stuff the heads and roll them in a mixture of seasoned and plain breadcrumbs.  They will look like this:

Bake them until golden brown in a 375° oven (about 20 minutes).  At this stage, go crack a beer.  And give yourself a high mark for Effort.  You have come far and done well.  You are clearly at the point of no return and the rest, as they say, is a cakewalk.

Okay.  Now, the recipe calls for sauteing more crawfish tails (the recipe calls for a total of four pounds of crawfish tails) with salt, cayenne pepper and paprika.  The recipe suggests 1 tablespoon of cayenne.  That will blow my mouth apart.  We used 1/2 tablespoon this time, and that seems juuust right.  Then you add warm water and roux to the pot.  Well, damn. If I hadn’t read ahead, I’d have been in a pinch because I make roux and don’t buy it.  So before I get going on this step, I make that roux first so that I can add it without having to take my cooking pot off the stove.

Pontchartrain Pete doing the work of the sous chef.

In yet another pot, saute green peppers, onions and celery until they are tender then add them to the main pot along with more water.  Cook vigorously for 2 minutes.  Add more water and cook for 15 minutes at a lower heat.  Then add green onions and parsley and let cook 10 minutes more.  Use this time to also cook a pot of rice.  Your hard work will be rewarded with a lush pot of this:

Everyone you know, and some you don’t, will invite themselves over for dinner.  Seriously.  It IS that good.

And the best thing is that this is one of those dishes that tastes better the next day after the flavors have had time to meld and relax.  So leftovers are as decadent, if not more so, than the first eating.

Bon appetit!

On Having the Blues

After a big excursion, be it a vacation or Mardi Gras, or in this case, two solid days of French Quarter Fest, I am always left blue.  Add to that the very little sleep I got last night (we are attempting to use the Ferber method to get Sun to omit that 3am bottle-feeding) coupled with the stress of tax time, and I have been reduced to a sappy mess.  This afternoon, I read a post on the blog of a new internet friend that literally brought me to tears.

I know New Orleans has a lot of things that are negative about it.  But on a weekend like this it is hard to believe someone can be sad here.  The weather has just been perfect–in the 70s with breezes blowing, the city is lush in green everywhere you look.  And with good food and drink (without over-imbibing), and pleasant time spent with friends and family, the blues snuck up on me unawares.

I spent part of my day at the mall.  I hate, HATE, H.A.T.E. the mall.  And I was there to return stuff I bought on sale earlier in the week.  I got sucked into the ole “the more you spend the more you save” routine.  And living with buyer’s remorse sent me back today to set things straight again.  I don’t like how much emphasis this country (the world?) puts on clothing and labels and buying the latest fashion.  And to find it in a store selling baby clothing really set me even further in a funk.  And to tip the scales to assure my misery was that while I was there returning $60 worth of baby clothes that may or may not fit Sun in a year, the mother in front of me was buying $350 worth of stuff for her five-year old daughter: dresses, sandals, tops, pants, shorts, bracelets, sunglasses.  Really?  Do you need the matching bandanna AND bracelet AND sandals to go with a sundress for a five year old?  If so, Sun will not be popular.

Once done with the mall (and I was outta there pretty fast), I went to St. Henry’s Church.  The New Orleans Archdiocese has made the decision that it will be closing this church along with several others soon.  Not because of Katrina.  But because the Archdiocese is a business and these churches aren’t turning the profit they want to see.  St. Henry’s is where my great-great-great-grandfather’s funeral was out of; it’s the church where my great-grandparents as well as my uncle were married.  It is walking distance from property that has been in my family for over a hundred years.  Its closing is very symbolic to me.  And of course, very sad.

See, I live and thrive in New Orleans because I do not like change.  And neither does New Orleans.  For better or worse, we both like to keep on keeping on.  And when we do change, that change is slow.  S.L.O.W.  But I do not attend St. Henry’s Church (I currently attend church very rarely).  I feel I have “no dog in the fight,” that it is only for sentimental reasons that I want that church to stay open.  But for St. Henry’s 300 parishioners, it’s not symbolic nor sentimental, it just plain sucks.  Maitri does a much better job articulating the feelings of New Orleanians about these church closings.

So of course, getting to St. Henry’s and finding it locked really bummed me out further.  I’ll be going to mass there next Sunday.  At least it will afford me the opportunity to ask my family members if they’d like to accompany me.  I think they will.

I know I will come out of this funk, and probably sooner on account on all this nice weather NOLA is having.  And all the spring cleaning CS and I are doing in the house.  It is helping just to have our windows open right now.  And out one of those windows I can see a bloom on my hibiscus bush.  Because that punch of red admist all the green that abounds really keeps a gal like me from staying blue too long.

I mentioned in my last post my being a patient of Dr. Socks and then sleeping with a lesbian and getting pregnant. I am sure The Google will send all sorts of disappointed visitors to my site with this post, but here’s the rest of the story.

If you did not evacuate your home, your life, for a month or more following Hurricane Katrina, you cannot understand my sense of community upon my return. We had little actual damage ourselves, but the devastation was so vast that all of us were deeply impacted in many ways. And for me, like many of us, I looked for unity, community, continuity.

When I learned my OB/GYN wasn’t returning to town, I was really upset. He worked out of Memorial Hospital and that whole situation was quite distressing. I am not one to just pick any ole doc to be my OB/GYN, so losing my doctor, the doctor I’d used for over a decade, really wigged me out. I asked girlfriends who they used and whether they liked their doctors and I got a lot of lukewarm responses.

One day, I went to my favorite local yarn store. Think of “Cheers” but with yarn instead of beer. I opened the door and heard, “Noooooola!” The shop owner was helping the sole customer in the shop–a man. The one thing you see little of in a knitting shop is the male customer. You will see sad male friends and husbands looking bored silly but few actual male customers.

They were in the needlepoint section of the store looking at the needlepoint canvases and threads. Their conversation, which they included me in on, was about the sad state of medical affairs in the post-Katrina NOLA; the lack of doctors and the high need for care. I mentioned my situation with needing a new OB/GYN. And the proprietor said, “Well, Dr. Socks here is a gynecologist!” [If I told you his real name, you'd pee your pants. Trust me.]

It was a sign.

Here I was struggling to find a gynecologist I could trust and feel comfortable with. And here he was–a fellow customer of the yarn shop! It was meant to be.

So I made an appointment with him. As soon as he saw me he said, “You’re the girl from the knitting store!” His remembering me filled me with confidence in my decision. We talked about his current needlepoint project and my current knitting project. He wore pink argyle socks. Always.

At that first visit, he saw the Anthony Trollope novel in my hands and commented about his love for his work and his disapproval at Trollope’s descendant’s (Joanna Trollope’s) less high-brow work—I hadn’t know Joanna and Anthony were related! [It was at this point that I began to suspect that he was gay. Yeah, I'm slow like that.] Needle arts and Trollope? Really, it was too good to be true.

You can click here to read more of the specific details of things going wrong. Suffice to say, things went really wrong. And against Dr. Socks’ advise, I ended up seeking the help of a local fertility specialist.

Skip ahead five months later.

We were scheduled for our second in utero insemination. CS and I drove in separate cars because afterwards I was driving out of town for an overnight convention. I got to the doctor’s office first and signed in. They called my name; CS hadn’t shown up yet. I went to the exam room and CS showed up about one minute before things got underway. Four minutes later, I was lying on my back giving CS’s guys a fighting chance. CS had brought me a lemon Hubig’s pie (part of the reason he was late).

I munched and watched the clock. After 20 minutes, I jumped up and hit the road. Then I sat in a conference for the next eight hours. No lying around all day for me like I’d done the first time.

That night, I met a fellow attendee of the conference—a very good friend of mine who is also a lesbian—and one of my oldest friends. The three of us had drinks and a rich dinner. Then I went to my hotel room, the room I was sharing with my friend also attending the conference. We had asked for two double beds; we got one king. We were confident enough in ourselves, our sexuality and our significant others to know nothing would happen. So we shared a bed.

She warned me that (1) she snores loudly and (2) she has the tendency to have women who are trying to get pregnant that are near her find themselves pregnant. “One night with me, you’ll be pregnant,” she exclaimed.

That night, she did not snore. But I DID get pregnant.

co·in·ci·dence (koh-in-si-duh ns) –noun

1. a striking occurrence of two or more events at one time apparently by mere chance.
2. the condition or fact of coinciding.
3. an instance of this.

syn·chro·nic·i·ty (sĭng’krə-nĭs’ĭ-tē, sĭn’-) -noun

1. The state or fact of being synchronous or simultaneous;
2. Coincidence of events that seem to be meaningfully related,
conceived in Jungian theory as an explanatory principle on the
same order as causality.

* * * * *

I was watching a murder mystery show the other day and one of the detectives said about clues, “I don’t believe in coincidence.” And that got me thinking. Do I, really, believe in coincidence? In synchronicity?

This past Monday and Tuesday, I posted about a senior partner that died over five years ago. He isn’t mentioned much at my firm these days. Wednesday, while at the office, one of the attorneys I work with brought him up—he’d gotten a piece of mail addressed to the deceased partner on Tuesday.

Or the day of the deceased partner’s funeral, when I was stuck recalling to the IRS how I had calculated this crazy tax loss deduction for a client and after eight hours of not recalling it or being able to get my math to work, I asked the deceased partner to give me the answer and within minutes the answer came.

Or post-Katrina when I needed a new OB/GYN (mine fled to Atlanta never to return) and I found myself in my favorite knitting store and was introduced to Dr. Socks, an OB/GYN. I saw this as a sign. I became a patient of Dr. Socks, and it was the biggest mistake of my life. Or was it? He misdiagnosed me (or the radiologist did and my doc didn’t actually look at the films himself to realize the radiologist was wrong) and sent me down a spiral I wish I never see the depths of again. But that led me to the fertility specialist that gave me Sun.

Or the first date I had with Captain Sarcastic. He saw Hunter Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” on my bookcase and asked me to marry him. I said no. Two years later he’d ask again and I’d say yes.

Or the night I slept with a lesbian and got pregnant.

As a student of law, you learn to look for the “but for” in strings of events. As a genealogist, you look for things to ring a bell: a name on a gravestone, a date on a ship’s log. As someone who is logical and methodical, I tend to look for threads. But, to be honest, as I get older I tend not to give meaning to coincidences. I tend to be of the persuasion that if you look for some “deeper meaning,” some “sign,” you’ll usually think you see it. But that doesn’t give things independent meaning. Sometimes two roads intersecting are just two roads intersecting and not a sign to take a turn.

And I also think that believing in synchronicity discounts a person’s ability to discern. Like that dead partner giving me the answer? A miracle? Or just me finally giving my mind a rest from the stresses of that crazy week for me to refocus and see things clearly? Or my journey with getting to the fertility doctor? I’d already been referred to that doctor and even been to his office but I hadn’t been ready to accept that I had an “infertility problem.” By the time I had dealt with the aftermath of Katrina and the debacle of Dr. Socks, I was in a different mental and emotional state. I was ready to be rational and seek help for a physical problem. CS asking me to marry him on our first date? Frankly, it creeped me out and made me think he was a bit desperate. But I liked that he at least liked HST and I kept an open mind about him. Me sleeping with a lesbian and getting pregnant? Well, that one really is just a coincidence as I’d had an in utero insemination earlier that day. Don’t get worked up—we shared a bed, not sex, at an out of town conference. But.

But what do you feel? Do you believe in coincidence or synchronicity? If so, what’s the coincidence that convinced you they have meaning? If not, why not? Post about it and leave a link to your post here with Mr. Linky so we can all read about it. Don’t let me hear the crickets on this one! I’m really curious.

Not Now; Maybe Never

CS and I are talking about whether to do fertility treatment again for another baby. He reminds me of the stress I endured the first round; the pain with ovarian cysts; the emotional highs and lows.

The fertility treatment we went through, looking back, was not a bad experience. Ok, that first vaginal ultrasound was, er, unexpected. And all modesty ends up checked at the door. But it was all handled very professionally. And the results! We conceived a singleton in five months and had no miscarriages or other negative doings.

But do it all again? I still can’t get behind the idea. Here’s my problems:

1. It is a huge commitment of time. We were in that doctor’s office at least twice a week (sometimes far more than that) and each visit was at least an hour. And he saw patients trying to conceive in the afternoon (and the pregnant ones in the morning–conscientious, eh?) but not after 2:30. I was leaving work early all the time. It was not easy.

2. It is expensive. We went from clomid to the injectables, and did two intra-uterine inseminations (IUI). We spent several hundred to a few thousand dollars each month. And each step, I’d say, “This, but no more.” Clomid, but not injectables. Injectables but not inseminations. IUI but not in vitro fertilization. We got pregnant before I actually had to decide on an IVF. Knowing what I know now, I’d probably have done that too. That is serious coin. At last count, an IVF through my doc was in the neighborhood of $15,000 a pop. None of these expenses were covered by insurance.

(As an aside, if you don’t like needles, don’t consider fertility treatment. They take your blood every visit, and the injectables are just that–shots you give yourself, or in my situation, shots your husband gives you.)

3. The fear I have already discussed about multiples.

And then, add to that list my new concerns:

1. Being pregnant again. I worried so much when I was pregnant. Far more than I do as a mother. Plus, I ain’t getting younger and it gets scarier as I get older. And maternity clothes and back pain again? Not interested.

2. Delivering a baby was no walk in the park. Anesthesia and me, not friends. And the odds are that I’d need to do another c-section. Sliced open like a fillet-o-fish whilst awake. I shudder thinking about it.

3. Re-adjusting to getting a newborn to nurse again? Enduring those sleepless first three months? I love Sun. I cherish every experience I have with her. From her umbilical cord falling off to the countless problems we had getting her to nurse. Her first exploding diaper while Daddy was away for the first time, dealing with her hemangioma. All of it is a gift. I wouldn’t trade one minute, one memory, for anything.

But the stress of fertility treatment, the concern of multiples, the worry of a pregnancy, and the sleeplessness of a newborn really make me stop in my tracks. I know CS wants another child. He’d be okay with multiples. So it’s really up to me.

For now, all I can tell CS is, I’m not ready.

What Shall I Knit Today?

I can barely contain myself as I write this: I have finished knitting my blanket. Finished! Even my last thread has been woven in. It is complete. To get an idea of the monster of this thing, I cast on 182 stitches (just under four feet wide) on 52″ size 9 needles–and knit for six feet. Plus I messed up and ripped back about a foot and re-knit it. So by my math, thats 6.5 (feet) plus 1 (foot ripped and redone) times 12 (inches) times 4 (rows per inch) times 182 (stitches per row), or 61,152 stitches. Holy crap, that’s a lot of knitting!

It took a year to knit it. And in that year, I discovered I was pregnant, went through my entire pregnancy, delivered my first child, and enjoyed her first four months of life. All that is knit into this blanket. All the joys, all the worries, all the discoveries, all the love. That is the gift of knitting. Oh, and having a cool blanket when you are done, too. Here’s a picture of a small part of it:

Wonder what I’ll start next. . . . Booties? Socks? A scarf for a friend’s child? Another blanket? HAHAHA! Maybe in another 37 years I’ll knit another blanket. A baby blanket. For my grand baby. Oh, the possibilities are endless. . . . But I think I’ll start with these Baby Mary Jane booties for Sun:

A Day of Discoveries

Having a small baby has its benefits. My wedding and engagement rings fit again and I even was able to fit into a pair of non-maternity pants today. These pants are usually a tad too big for me and today they were tight, but I got them to zip up and I actually wore them out of the house!! It gives me hope that I may actually one day return to my pre-pregnancy clothes.

Today was also the day I decided that my bedsheets had to be washed. We put clean sheets on the bed on Monday and I promptly spilled breast milk all over them (who knew pumping required such skill?!). After three days, I’d had enough. Pre-pregnancy, the sheets would have been cleaned the day of the spill; now, I have learned it will take three days for me to work up the energy to clean them. Good to know. And a shower? Yep; three days there too. Apparently I have some three-day cleanliness thing that I did not know about until I became a new mother.

And finally, today is the day that Sun started to smile even when she wasn’t taking a poop.

It started with my wedding ring. It stopped fitting about six weeks ago. At that time, I started to wear a ring usually worn on the middle finger of my right hand on the ring finger of my left hand.

Then it was my shoes. My shoe size is now an entire size larger than I usually wear. This means that only sandals and shoes that tie with laces fit me. And seeing as how I am due to have this baby in three weeks, I am too cheap to buy new shoes at this stage of the game.

So that means when I go to work, I can no longer wear dresses or suits with skirts. I work with a bunch of older men. And walking into the office in flip-flops–with my toes showing for God’s sake–is enough to send some of those men over the edge. And I am not woman enough to wear laced shoes with skirts. So that means I am all-pants at the office these days.

Now, I only have two pairs of maternity dress pants. I wore the black ones on Tuesday and was going to where the khaki ones today. CS ironed them for me (girls, find yourself a man that will iron for you–it is better than a man who cooks!). Then I slipped them on, zipped them up and went to button them. They wouldn’t button. Hmmm. Well, from my vantage point, I couldn’t see what the hold up was. So I asked CS, “Are they zipped all the way?” This was his response: “BAHHHAAAHAHAAA.” (Girls, find yourself someone who won’t laugh when you get too fat for your clothes, especially if the reason for that fat is really not fat but a baby inside you.)

So now not only is it my wedding ring and shoes, but my MATERNITY PANTS? I didn’t think it was possible to outgrow maternity pants! They fit last week. Why would they make pants for a pregnant woman that will stop fitting five weeks before her due date? Don’t they know how vulnerable she is at that stage? Are they that sick?

So it was back to the black pants. Poor folks at my office will have to endure seeing me in the same pair of pants two or three times a week for the next three weeks. Because if I won’t buy shoes that won’t fit in three weeks, I certainly won’t buy super-big maternity clothes.

Oh, and to top the morning o’ feeling fat off, the ring I’ve been wearing to replace my wedding ring? Yeah, it stopped fitting today, too.

So I am now down to three pairs of shoes that fit, one pair of work pants and no rings. It is a SAD DAY when your fat girl pants stop fitting. Indeed.

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