Monday, September 24, 2007

Gotta' Be Kidding

At the risk of turning this into a lactivist blog, I simply must tell this story.

I went to Nashville on Sunday to see my best friend from seminary who was in town for a meeting. Her commitments ended at noon on Sunday, and since I wasn't going to arrive until mid-afternoon, she got together with another family member who lives in town. We decided to meet at Wild Oats since it's one of the only places I can find anymore in Nashville. It turned out to be extra-convenient because someone's dad forgot to put his shoes on his feet before we left home, and I remembered that Wild Oats sells Crocs. (Joshua is now required to wear them 24/7, which is the only way I can justify having spent $25 on a pair of shoes that he will probably outgrow next week.).

I met D, we loaded her stuff into my car, went into the store, found the Crocs, and I decided to pick up a "just in case" bottle of More Milk (it increases milk supply, as you may have guessed). We checked out, put Joshua's new shoes on so he could walk around, and then I figured I should probably feed Clare since she was cranky and hadn't eaten in a few hours. So we all settled into one of the booths at the front of the store and I started to feed her.

As I'm looking around I notice that one of the baggers, a young woman, maybe in her teens, is looking at me. Then I see her turn around and say something to the checker in her lane, and I hear the checker say, "Well, the baby's gotta eat!" Apparently this isn't the reaction that the bagger's looking for, so she moves along to the next lane, leans close to the checker, and says something to her. The checker looks over at me, and then the customer in the lane gets in on the conversation. I have no idea what they're saying, but I'm acutely aware that no one would have paid a lick of attention to what was going on if Bigmouth Bagger hadn't decided to announce it to the whole world.

And really, I'm astounded by the irony. Wild Oats boasts a "complete selection of the highest quality natural and organic food, helpful supplements and gentle, environmentally friendly household and body care products." Um, what could be more natural, organic, gentle, and environmentally friendly than good old momma's milk? And where's the logic in making a big deal over breastfeeding in a store that sells breastmilk supplements? Seriously? You're gonna take my $25 for a bottle of breastmilk supplement and then make a big deal that I'm breastfeeding in your store?

My respect for them is waning...quickly.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Red Pill

I finished reading this a few weeks before Clare was born and, even more than Fast Food Nation, it made me think really hard about what I eat. Jay has wanted a hobby farm for a long time, but I was surprised when I discovered that he wanted to try raising and eating our own meat. I was appalled to think that we would actually kill and eat something that had been walking around in our yard only days before. But this book really changed my mind.

Pollan shows how the products brought to our grocery stores by "big organic" may be a little better for our bodies, but not much better for our environment, than non-organic products. Eating locally is the best way to care for ourselves and our creation, and it's not terribly hard to do. So while we were patting ourselves on the back for shopping every week at our farmer's market, we realized that we need to be better about eating local, clean meat. We're not ready to put a cow in the backyard, but we'll see how we do with the chickens.

The book was great motivation to be much more thoughtful about how and what we eat.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


I've been following the story of the woman who was told she couldn't breastfeed in her local Applebee's in Lexington, KY (so much for "eatin' good in the neighborhood"). You can read the whole story here (the story is in the first post by "amhky"), but the gist is that the woman began breastfeeding her seven-month old at a table when she was approached by a server and told that she would need to cover herself with a blanket. The mother informed the server that KY law states that she has a right to breastfeed in public without covering up and that she hadn't even brought a blanket with her. The interaction continued with the server and the manager until the mother and the rest of her family left the restaurant. When the mother's attorney finally received a reply from Applebee's Corporate headquarters (it took two attempts), the letter stated that, in the future, all Applebee's restaurants would stock blankets to give to nursing moms so that they could cover up.

Talk about missing the point.

As a result, nursing moms staged nurse-ins at Applebee's restaurants all over the country this past Saturday. Our glorious town is not blessed with an Applebee's, so Clare and I did not participate. But I saw this cartoon at another blog and had to share, not only because it's funny but because I'm still feeling a little like a dairy cow.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Next Time

I won't be so alarmed when my husband tells me he's going out to pick up some chicks.

He went in with a colleague to buy these little guys and gals, but the hatchery shorted their order by eight chickens. The hatchery isn't sure which ones were left out so we have no idea what kind these are. But here they are, three days old and requiring much less maintenance than the other new creature in our house.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Birth Story, Finishing Touches

On Saturday morning Clare had her hearing test. They insisted on doing this in the nursery and we relented. Jay went with her to the nursery and stood outside while they did the test (which took longer than normal because she kept tearing the sensors off of her head). I took a short nap and then walked down to see what was going on. As I was standing in the nursery window watching my twice-as-big-as-the-other-babies baby in my pajamas, I saw the other of my two favorite doctors from my practice.

"Hey!" he said, "What're you doing here?"

I thought he was being funny so I said, "Watching my kid's hearing test. What're you doing here?"

"Oh!" he said, "You had the baby?"

"Yeah! Yesterday at 12:56! Can I go home after lunch?"

"Oh! I thought maybe you were just here looking at the babies, hoping for some inspiration!"

Had I been in a less chipper mood I might have said, "Yeah, because I always come to the hospital nursery at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday in my pajamas!" But I didn't, I just asked again if I could go home after lunch.

He asked about pain--I said I was fine. He asked about bleeding--I said it was normal. He asked if I wanted any prescriptions--I said that I didn't. This was quite the departure from my doctor in Chicago who felt the need to poke, prod, and otherwise inspect before giving me the OK to go home. This time the doctor just congratulated me, laughed and patted Jay on the back when I told him that natural induction had done the job, and went to write a discharge order. We were home by 2:00 p.m. My mom had kicked out all of the family that had been there (except for my dad) and we settled in.

A note about her name:
Both Elizabeth and Clare were on my short list of names. Jay had no short list, so I kept nagging him to look at mine. One day at lunch he relented and said that he liked Clare.

I had a friend in seminary named Clare and I always liked that spelling better than the French version, 'Claire,' mostly for aesthetic reasons. Also, Clare is the English version. Since we knew we were going to use Elizabeth (very English), we decided that it would be nice to use the English version of Clare as well.

Elizabeth was pretty much a given. It's my middle name and my grandmother's name.

Several days after she was born my friend Jason called me from the road. I told him her name and the spelling of Clare. "Oh," he said, "like St. Francis and Clare." (Jason's a former Franciscan brother, so he'd know).

"Sure," I said, clueless..."Whatever you say."

After a little research I discovered that St. Clare was one of the first followers of St. Francis of Assisi, that there is an order of Saint Clare in Memphis, and that our little Clare was born the during the novena for the Feast of St. Clare.

Howd'ya like that?

Sunday, September 09, 2007

A Birth Story, Part III

The moment my back hit the bed, I felt it...

Let me first say that the phrase "urge to push" is malarkey. I've read over and over about experiencing the "urge to push" and I can now say, without a doubt, that it is not an "urge." Calling it an "urge" implies that a I have some choice about whether or not to push. It implies that I have some sort of control, that I feel a sensation that causes me to want to push, but that I can also ignore that sensation.

That is completely not the case.

Calling it an "urge to push," is like saying that when you have food poisoning you have an "urge to throw up," as though you could choose not to. And throwing up is exactly what it felt like, except that the sensation was coming from the other end. My body was expelling the baby, whether I wanted it to or not. It was about 11:45 a.m.

When I caught my breath, I hollered to the nurse, "I'm pushing!" She ran over, checked my cervix and said, "You're complete!" Jay came back to the room, the nurse broke down the bed, and we all worked to get me into position to push. Unlike Joshua, this baby didn't show any signs of distress when I was leaning back, so we decided that I would push that way. Unfortunately, though, the epidural had started to take effect and it was really strong. Pretty soon I wasn't able to feel contractions at all and had to watch the monitor to see when they were happening. It was really difficult to push because I couldn't feel anything. Not surprisingly, my pushing wasn't terribly effective and I was getting pretty aggravated. To make things more interesting, the baby kept moving around and the fetal monitor kept losing the heartbeat. So Jay began playing triple-duty...he held one leg for me, checked my progress with every push, and chased the baby around with the fetal monitor to keep track of the heart rate (the nurse threatened to monitor internally if we couldn't keep track of the heartbeat with the external monitor).

About fifteen minutes later the doctor came in. I was thrilled to see that it was one of the two that I liked and trusted most in the practice. This particular doctor is very calm, very amenable to limiting medical interventions, and very personable. As soon as he walked in I asked if he could please turn down the epidural. "Sure!" he said, and walked over to the machine. The nurse was documenting all of this on computer and asked him what he was turning it down to

"Zero," he said.

"You're turning it off?" she asked.


God bless him. I don't know how he knew that would be OK with me or even that that's really what I wanted, but he did. And suddenly pushing became infinitely easier. I was making pretty good progress with every push, and pretty soon Jay and the nurse were taking turns trying to determine if she was going to be a redhead or not. A few minutes later the epidural had worn off completely, much to my relief.

And as I sensed that that enormous head might be ready to do some damage, I remembered to ask the doctor...

"You're not an episiotomy guy, are you?"

"No," he said, and began to explain that he used to perform them until research showed that blah, blah, blah. I had my answer. And the nurse reassured me that, "Dr. S. is really good at saving bottoms." Although I was pretty sure nobody would be able to save mine, I was relieved that there would be no cutting involved.

I really don't remember much of what happened next, but I remember that I had to stop pushing a few times so that the doctor could try to ease out the head with as little tearing as possible. And I remember really wanting to push anyway to get that stinking head out because it didn't particularly feel good where it was. And I remember the doctor telling me that I was going to tear. And I remember asking him to be sure to use a numbing agent before he stitched me up since the epidural was quite gone (like he was going forget).

And suddenly there was a head and a really long body and a wail and there she was! There was slight meconium staining, but they were satisfied with a few good suctions and suddenly she was on my chest! We cuddled for a bit before I handed her to Jay. I delivered another fabulous placenta and was stitched up. The nurses took footprints, weighed her, expressed their appreciation for my enormous child, and gave her back to me so that she could eat. I forgot how tiny that mouth can look next to a full-and-ready-to-feed breast, but she ate like a champ! She was very content, unlike Joshua who didn't stop yelling the whole time we were in the hospital.

I avoided catheterization, and since the epidural had long since worn off I got to walk to the bathroom by myself. When I got back I took Clare again and she managed to poop all over both of us. After awhile the nurses came back to clean us all up. Jay went with Clare to the room where a pediatric nurse was waiting to take her temperature and blood sugar (required for babies over ten pounds). I followed with another nurse and we all got settled in.

Clare's temperature was low enough to concern the nurse and she made us keep her in the isolette to warm up for thirty minutes. There was also some concern about her blood sugar, but it went up quickly (poor girl had to have it checked every hour for the first five hours of her life) so they left us alone.

Food was bad, nurses were good. We only stayed 24 hours before heading home, thanks to my great doctor and the great doctor from our pediatrician's office.

One more part to go...

Friday, September 07, 2007

A Birth Story, Part II

By the time we arrived at the hospital, I was pretty uncomfortable. I had to stop walking during contractions and was close to the point of being unable to talk. We were taken up to Labor and Delivery where I changed into a lovely hospital gown and provided a urine sample. Sitting on the toilet was not an option, however, due to my size and the discomfort of my contractions, so I pulled a beautiful "straddle the bowl" move that I'm sorry I couldn't share with everyone else. The nurse checked my cervix and declared that I was 3-4 centimeters dilated. I have only been more disappointed in my life once--upon hearing that I was only 1 centimeter with Joshua after being in labor for 14 hours.

The nurse talked to the doctor who said that I could walk the halls for an hour (until 11:30) and that he would admit me if I had made sufficient progress. "But," the nurse said, "you look like you're really in labor. I can tell by your breathing." I was a little annoyed that there was some doubt about whether I was really in labor but relieved that they weren't going to start strapping monitors on me right away.

Jay and I wandered into the hall and started walking--because walking for six hours straight (minus a 15-minute car ride) wasn't enough. Had I known, I would have brought tennis shoes, because the $9 flip-flops just weren't cutting it anymore. So off we went, up and down the halls for what seemed like an eternity. It was really about 20 minutes. I was stopping with every contraction, doing my best to imitate a lowing cow, making the best horse lips I knew how, and generally trying not to just sink to the floor in agony. It didn't help that the hallway we were provided was populated with several men in ties who appeared to be architects. My attitude in the beginning was, "They're in my space. They should expect moaning, laboring women." But by the time I was in serious pain I started to get a little self-conscious. After all, I'm the one who's supposed to make people feel comfortable. I can't really do that when my body's trying to make a 1 centimeter hole turn into a 10 centimeter hole.

After about 30 minutes I was done. I wanted medication and I wanted it now. Jay wasn't going to convince me otherwise, and he wasn't going to fool me with his, "Just one more lap" routine. And if he tried to stand in front of me I was going to knock him down. There was one place I wanted to be--on a bed in Delivery Room 3 with an epidural jammed in my back.

Despite pleas, threats, and tears I made my way back to the delivery room and paged the nurse. When she arrived I told her I wanted the anesthesiologist as soon as humanly possible. It was only then that she informed me that I would have to have blood tests to determine whether or not anesthesia was safe, and that it would take an hour to get the results. She offered narcotics in the meantime, which I refused. In preparation for the epidural she placed an IV and hooked me up to the fetal heart monitor. I tried to make my self as comfortable as possible but I was in utter agony. Each contraction racked my body and the "downtime" between contractions was very inconsistent--sometimes I had several minutes between them and sometimes I had less than 30 seconds. I knew that I was in transition, but that didn't make the pain any less manageable.

What made things even less than optimal was the fact that the nurses had absolutely no training in helping a woman through labor without medication. Jay had given them the quick and dirty on the Bradley method when we arrived, but they were so unused to unmedicated birth that the requests and information he provided were quickly forgotten.

One of the most troublesome/annoying/disturbing moments was an exchange between one of the nurses and Jay. He was on one side of me and she was on the other. Despite the fact that I was in utter agony and wanted desperately to be left alone, she decided that it was a good time to ask Jay questions about Bradley birth. It went something like this: "So, I don't know much about Bradley except the little bit we learned about in nursing school. But I was just asking someone about it and they said that sometimes in Bradley birth the man and woman want to be naked together in the delivery room. Are you all going to want to be naked together, because I don't think that's something we can do?" Jay very quickly told her that, no, we both intended to stayed clothed. She continued, though. "Because, wow, I mean, that's like, I'd be like, I don't think I can handle that..." And it took every ounce of my being not to scream, "Shut the #$%^ up, lady!" So you can see what we were dealing with here.

When the blood tests came back an hour later Jay requested that the nurse check my progress again. I was at 7 cm. When the anesthesiologist showed up about 10 minutes later, I was still at 7 cm. Jay asked me one last time to forego the epidural but my mind was made up. He was summarily dismissed from the room while the anesthesiologist went over the risks and obtained my consent for anesthesia.

I sat up with the help of the nurse (not the "Do you want to be naked?" nurse) and whimpered to her that I was having a contraction and that I wasn't sure I could be still. She held my hand and stared into my eyes in what was by far one of the most intense connections I've ever had with another human being. She breathed with me and squeezed hands with me, and finally it was over. She instructed me to lay back down and told me that the epidural would start to take effect in about 15 minutes.

You won't believe what happened next...

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A Birth Story, Part I

*Warning: This post contains references to bodily fluids, body parts, and gross stuff that happens during labor and delivery. If you can't hang, this post may not be for you.

On July 19 I went in for my regular weekly checkup, knowing that the nurse practitioner would want to do an internal exam. I was shocked when she told me that I was a whole centimeter dilated and 50% effaced--shocked because I never dilated at all before going into labor with Joshua, and I assumed (from discussions with the doctor and anecdotal evidence) that things would be the same with this pregnancy. The NP was unable to determine the baby's position, so she recommended an ultrasound. The ultrasound showed that the baby was head-down, that my amniotic fluid was at a normal level, and that the baby's head was enormous. None of these things came as a shock.

I was excited to go to my appointment the following week to see if I had made any progress. I hadn't. But my doctor was very encouraging, understanding how aggravating things can be in the last few days. He sent me on my way with a pat on the back and a great pep talk.

The following Tuesday (the day after my due date) I lost a good bit of my mucus plug while in the shower. This came as a shock, again, because I didn't lose my mucus plus at all with Joshua until I was already in labor. I got out of the shower and dried my hair, waiting for every ache and twinge to turn into a full-blown contraction. Nothing happened. Joshua and I went to our regularly-scheduled playgroup at the park where the other moms were surprised and a bit disappointed to see me. "But!" I cried triumphantly, "I lost my mucus plug this morning!" There was much excitement.

The next morning I lost more. But by then I knew better than to be excited. Everything I read said that, after losing the mucus plug, I could go into labor within the next few days--or the next few weeks. I went to my appointment the next day and gave my doctor a desperate look. He pulled out the pep talk again. Before I left I shared with him that I was somewhat concerned about the baby's movement. Sometimes her movements were seismic and sometimes I could barely feel anything. He decided to do a non-stress test right away and scheduled an ultrasound for the following Monday. The non-stress test went fine and I was sent on my way, but not before I asked the doctor if it was still safe to try "natural" induction even though I'd lost my mucus plug. He highly recommended it, which makes him quite the hero in Jay's book.

That night, after enjoying pepperoni pizza with Jay, Joshua, my cousin David, and his girlfriend Amanda, we tried natural induction. It wasn't fun, but my goodness did it work. By 11:00 p.m. I was having regular contractions at six minutes apart. My only concern was whether I would be able to stay at home until my mom could get here at 7:00 the next morning.

I couldn't sleep, so I sat in the living room and read Children of Hurin until about 2:30 a.m. Then I went back to bed, thinking I might be tired enough to sleep. I slept between contractions until about 4:00 a.m. when I felt the need to walk. I showered, I dressed, I finished packing our hospital bag, I did some laundry, and as soon as 5:00 a.m. rolled around I called my mom and kept walking.

She got to the house at about 7:30 and went right to work playing with Joshua so I could--you guessed it--keep walking! I ate some breakfast and finally at 10:00 a.m. Jay checked my cervix. He made a pretty good guess that I was somewhere between 4 and 6 centimeters dilated, so we decided to head to the hospital.

Monday, September 03, 2007

My How We've Grown!

Here's our big girl the day after she was born, on the way home from the hospital.

And here she is exactly four weeks later! Hard to believe she's the same person!