Childbirth is a Feminist Issue

Now that I'm in my third trimester, the looming doom of labor and delivery is weighing heavily on my mind. I suppose part of that is simply fear of the unknown. The other part, I'm sure, has to do with our culture's portrayal of childbirth as painful and traumatic. Nobody looks forward to pain and trauma, least of all me.

Also, I have been in Research Overdrive mode. One of my coping methods has been to obsessively seek out and digest as much information about childbirth as possible. This is both good and bad. Mostly good. I try to be as informed a consumer as I can about most things.

Going into this whole pregnancy ordeal, I blindly had faith in my doctor's and the hospital's obstetrical competence and the sincere belief that they would both be doing everything in my, and the baby's, best interest when it came time for labor and delivery.

Then, when at a mere 20 weeks, my doctor casually mentioned that I may need to be induced due to a "big baby", my first red flag popped up. A tiny, but nagging, red flag. Up until that point, I hadn't done a whole lot of research and had been mostly convinced by mainstream media articles that becoming pregnant while I was overweight made me a "bad mother". My child isn't even out of the womb and already I'm a bad mother for not being in peak physical condition before conceiving!

This, of course, only made me feel guilty and insecure, and even though my doctor never once brought up my pre-pregnancy weight in any context - negatively or positively, I was feeling judged and ashamed.

But, when appointment after appointment, everything with me and the baby came back perfectly healthy in every way, I started to think 'Fuck That!' to those who use horror stories and scare tactics to shame large women. And that's when I began getting serious about becoming better informed.

I learned, among other things, that induction leads to a c-section the majority of the time. I also learned that the majority of inductions are not necessary. I learned that fetal weight estimates are just that, estimates, and they are notoriously inaccurate.

Daniel and I watched the documentary "The Business of Being Born" with eyes wide open. This is a great film produced by Ricki Lake and I highly recommend it to anyone - even those who are not pregnant or even never intend to get pregnant. It's just a really interesting look at our obstetrical healthcare system.

In 1965, the c-section rate in the U.S. was 4.5% of all births. As of 2007, it's risen to 31.8%. A lot of this insane increase has to do with unnecessary interventions during labor and delivery. I would say the rise in unnecessary interventions is three-fold: 1.) hospital profit (and that's a big one!) 2.) our overly litigious culture, and 3.) women's general lack of confidence in their ability to give birth.

Obviously, there are some instances where interventions are absolutely necessary life-saving measures and thank god we have them for those instances! But those cases are a lot fewer than we might think.

Doula what?

Pretty early on, I knew that hiring a doula would be a good idea. I had only ever heard of a doula about 4 years ago when the pregnant wife of one of my co-workers was talking about her labor and delivery preparations, her desire for an unmedicated birth and the role her doula would play. For the record, at the time, I thought she was NUTS to be preparing for a "natural" childbirth!

So, what's a doula? To oversimplify, she is a trained and experienced labor coach and advocate. She is knowledgeable and informed about all possible interventions and makes sure you know the pros and cons of them before giving consent. She guides you in developing a birth plan and makes sure it is followed by your practitioner. Perhaps most importantly, a doula provides continuous one-on-one labor and delivery support, guiding you through pain management techniques and just generally making sure you (and your partner) are comfortable. She brings confidence, peace-of-mind, and reassurance to the table.

After a slew of emails and interviews, Daniel and I decided to go with Dee. Dee the Doula. She spent an hour at our house (which flew by), and when she left, I immediately felt more calm and happy about labor and delivery, and my pregnancy in general, than I had felt up to that point. We hired her the next day.

Meanwhile, my doctor visits have been raising more red flags, and my trust and faith in my doctor and the hospital to allow and encourage an unmedicated, no intervention birth, has been waning daily. So, we are looking into perhaps switching care givers, from my doctor to a midwife. Tomorrow we have a consultation with the Midwives at Vanderbilt. I know this may sound kind of nutty, but midwifery isn't just a childbirth practice belonging to the Middle Ages.

For low-risk pregnancies (That would be Me! So fuck off fatty-haters!), midwifery is a safe, healthy childbirth choice that encourages and facilitates unmedicated, low intervention labor and deliveries. Also, while many midwives will do home births, the Vanderbilt Midwives only birth at the Vanderbilt hospital. This actually comforts me because if something were to go wrong and I needed a skilled surgeon at the last minute, one would be immediately available. I'm not brave enough or confident enough to attempt a home birth! So, we'll see how the consultation goes tomorrow afternoon. Fortunately, Dee assured us that she was comfortable and confident working with either care giver (although she did have a high opinion of the Vandy Midwives).

My point is, and I do have a point amidst this rambling post, is that I've done almost a complete 180 in my views of pregnancy and childbirth since first seeing that blue line on the pee stick. A LOT of women, especially women of size, are too often railroaded when it comes to childbirth. We are fearful and uncertain about our ability to give birth, we are underinformed about the drawbacks to many of the "routine" interventions, and we allow the system to bully us into, what are for many women, negative and traumatic birth experiences leading to post-partum depression, lactation issues, and a sense of failure.

Of course, having absolutely no experience with birthing a child, you may be thinking I'm talking out of my ass.

I'm aware that there are women who have been perfectly happy with the hospital care they received - c-section or not. I also realize things don't always go as planned, which is why I want to do everything possible to make sure we get the birth experience we want. As Daniel says, we're just removing obstacles - whatever happens, happens.

Remember my co-worker's wife who wanted the unmedicated, no intervention birth? She had the doula, she and her husband had taken natural childbirth classes, but their care giver was an OB at a large, prominent, for-profit hospital. After 30 hours of labor, it was recommended to them that she be induced with the synthetic hormone pitocin to speed up the process. At that point, the baby was NOT in any distress. The mother was tired, but not in unmanageable pain (they used hynotic pain management techniques). They trusted their doctor. The pitocin drip caused distress in both the mother and the baby, and an emergency c-section was necessary for a safe delivery, much to the tearful disappointment of the parents.

Was the intervention unnecessary? Possibly. My grandmother labored for 72 hours before giving birth to a 9lb.- 2oz. baby, and while that's not an ideal situation, I would take it over major surgery any day.


Food Homesickness

I will freely admit to having a love/hate relationship with my hometown of Erie.

Love: The lake and beaches.
Hate: The 7-9 months of shitty weather.
Love: The older urban architecture.
Hate: The careless urban dilapidation.
Love: The small town feel.
Hate: The pervasive small town mindset.
Love: The friends and family I grew up with.

The list could go on and on.

Lately, however, the "hates" have receded to the back of my mind and intense cravings for Erie food has been at the forefront of my brain. For some, Erie may not have a lot to offer, but it does have a very distinct and delicious food culture. Here in Nashville there is, of course, an abundance of Southern food but I haven't really found much in the way of a particular Nashville food culture. There's the Hot Chicken which I've been told is distinctly Nashville, but that's about it.

Erie on the other hand...

Well here's a comment I found about Erie on a thread over at ChowHound:

"For being a little hellhole in Pennsylvania, they sure do have their own little food culture, and I love it!"

Right on man!

Today, Daniel and I went to the Greek Festival for lunch and my mouth was watering anticipating the Greek Fries I grew up eating at the Greek Festival in Erie. Imagine my profound dismay when I was served a cup of french fries sprinkled with a few Greek herbs. WTH!?

Okay okay, I realize that the Greek Fries I was served this afternoon were probably more authentically Greek, but when I think "greek" fries I can only conjure up a plate of greasy fries piled high with the spicy "greek" sauce and melted cheddar cheese. Oh mama! Erie-ites, back me up here!

I could even eat a greek hot dog right now (which is unusual for me because I generally hate hot dogs and can't even remember the last time I ate one).

But let's not stop there.

How about Pepperoni Balls? ohmigod. Little fried tennis ball of dough filled with spicy pepperoni. I have never seen nor eaten these things outside of Erie. Speaking of Italian food...Erie has some of the best Italian food joints. I seriously have not been able to locate an Eggplant Parmesan Sub anywhere near equal to the one served by Valerio's. Makes my wouth water just thinking about it.

And for dessert there are at least two options. Morning dessert = Mighty Fine Donuts. Especially the chocolate cream filled donuts. I try and try to like the chocolate cream filled donuts that can be found around here, but they pale in comparison. Evening dessert = Sponge Candy from Romolo's (or any candy really). This is the food of the gods and I could eat a whole bag of it right this second.

Not sure where these cravings for my hometown foods are coming from exactly - nostalgia? pregnancy hormones? Or maybe I'm just hungry!

I'm going to go see if I can find a recipe for Daniel to make some authentic tasting Erie Greek Sauce!

What are some other distinctly Erie foods?

Smiling Through the Tears

Need a good uplifting cry? Got 20 minutes? Watch the short film below titled, "The Butterfly Circus". It's 20 minutes not wasted - I promise.

If for some reason, the embedded video won't play for you, or you want to view it on a larger screen, you can watch it HERE


Nursery Update

So, since repairing and painting the Nursery walls, not much else has happened up there. We still haven't put together any baby stuff like the crib or the changing table. We still have no window treatments. We still have fugly lighting, but if you look at the "before" and "after" pictures, you can kinda forget all about that and just revel in how far the room has come since we bought the house.



Can't you just imagine a white crib, lovely window treatments and a beautiful lighting fixture?

Retroactive Sick Day

I stayed home from work on Wednesday. Not because I was feeling particularly sick, mostly just because I felt OWED a sick day. Allow me to explain. I SHOULD have stayed home on Tuesday. Tuesday was a miserable, miserable day for yours truly.

It started Monday night. The pressure in my sinuses expanding, the nasaly drip down the back of my throat, the constant need to sneeze but then not being able to. Even under normal sleeping circumstances, this sinus condition would've made sleeping a challenge. I woke up tired, angry, weepy and stuffy (pregnancy hormones - they're a bitch!) So Tuesday morning started out bad. I knew it. Daniel knew it. He suggested I stay home. I told him he's not the boss of me and tearfully, resentfully, with a head full of pounding snot, got ready for work.

I got to the office late and plodded through reflected ceiling plans whilst nearly constantly blowing my nose (which was also making me wee) and feeling like a large, tired, slow-moving land mass with sinuses from a hell dimension. I made myself stay there the entire day because I'm stubborn (and stupid) like that. Finally went home. Ate chicken noodle soup. Met very briefly (thank god) with a doula candidate (more on that later) and went to bed early.

Without having taken any kind of medication whatsoever, I woke up (or rather Daniel woke me up) Wednesday morning with a clear head and a clean emotional slate.

But I stayed home anyway because I was mad that I didn't stay home the previous day when I SHOULD have. I know, my idiotic rationale kinda makes my head spin as well.

It was such a lovely "sick" day. I slept in and then had ice cream for breakfast. I played computer games. Talked to my sister. Cleaned the house (the "nesting instinct" is kicking in big time!). Put dinner in the crock pot. Took a nap. Took a bubble bath. It was one of the best sick days I've ever had and totally worth my miserable Tuesday.


Please Pass the Maternity Pants

Up until two weeks ago, my pants had all been rigged to stay on my ass and over my growing girth by means of rubber bands and one of those stretchy tube top thingys. I was totally in the McGuyver zone. But rubber bands only stretch so far. And pants that are completely unzipped and unbuttoned, being held in place by a thin tube top, is a situation just begging for a public wardrobe malfunction.

So, two weekends ago I finally broke down, after Daniel threatened to go buy me maternity pants himself, went to a maternity store and purchased three pairs.

First of all, I kind of hate going into "specialty" stores like that because the store clerk to customer ratio is always way off and I hate being fussed over. Alas, there was only one other shopper in the store when I arrived and she quickly departed leaving me with three helpful, smiling sales associates ready to take measurements, ask questions, and load up a dressing room for me. Oy.

And then I tried on my first pair of maternity pants and my life changed forever.

Dear god why are pants made ANY other way!?

Okay so maybe maternity pants aren't the most fashionable clothing item, but they are so wonderfully, so monumentally, so accutely comfortable, I'm tearing up with love and gratitude even as I type this.

When I went to work that week rocking out my inner Ed Grimley in my new maternity pants, I gushed like a tween with a crush to one of my female co-workers on my extraordinary new pants. She said, "you know those green pants I wear?" In fact, I did know those green pants she wears because everytime she wears them I comment on how cute they are. She leaned in and whispered, "those are maternity pants." Her youngest child is like four.

My future suddenly seemed brighter. You mean I could continue wearing these glorious pants even AFTER I give birth!? Hell. Yeah.

The world would be a happier place if everyone just wore maternity pants. Seriously.