Sunday, December 31, 2006

Catching up on Christmas, what Princess Leia did with a wookie, a new blog, and some new pictures

Disclaimer: I wrote this before Mama and 3B returned--safely yesterday, both with snotty colds, thank you very much--but somehow missed posting it. That explains some of the slightly dated references. While they snort their way through snuffly slumber, Barky and I are out here in the living room, doing laundry and sneaking in a little blogging to catch you up on some of our Christmas trip, during which I was the snotting, snorting, snuffling one.

3B makes crepes at MLTU's house!

Sitting here in NoVa with Barky--who's on the bed, licking himself in the midst of our down comforter, if you must know--while Mama and 3B are still up on the farm has me missing them and the Christmas spirit a little bit. I'm trying to help myself out by eating some comfort food--ramen noodles with some homemade spicy peanut sauce--and catching up on what I missed while living outside the online world for a week on the farm.

Turns out I missed some fine Christmas treats, including a Hasslehoff-as-peeping-tom Christmas greeting and a Run DMC encounter with Santa (let's hear it for the old school), but there's one that I'm glad I missed because it would have ruined my Christmas. In fact, this thing may ruin next year's Christmas, even if I never watch it again. This thing is so bad that it stinks upwind. Let's all pray for Princess Leia--er--Carrie Fisher that she was so stoned that she doesn't remember doing this with a wookie.

MLTU's parents, who are mildly obsessed with Star Wars, probably already have that entire Christmas special on DVD. Now that I'm again safely trapped in the clutches of the web, I can catch up on MLTU, who is destined to fall in love with Mark Hamill before she's three, through her dad's blog, Tao of FAU. Mama went to school with FAU and MLTU's mom, who recently moved from Park Slope to the Albany area, which means that it's much easier to find parking whenever we visit--yo, they have a driveway and a garage. FAU is funny, opinionated, scotch-loving . . . or is that whiskey? oh, who the hell cares, pour another round . . . and he's a recovering Republican, which means that he can accurately skewer both sides of the aisle effortlessly. But more than all of that, he's a great dad--Joe Bob says check it out.

Despite being offline, Christmas did come this year, and we did catch a few treats from Santa, such as
Why 3B loves Christmas . . .
  • Some great gifts from my siblings, including some posthumous gifts from my mother that Sister #1 and Brother #2 found in the attic at Mom's house. Two were for Mama and two were for me. Mom had told me that she was waiting to buy things for 3B until after she met him, which explains why there were no gifts for him in the attic. She didn't need to buy him anything; her entire life, from her first entries in my baby book to the most recent photos she took of me and Mama, is a gift from Mom to 3B.
We wish all of you a happy new year--see you in 2007!

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Saturday, December 30, 2006

Everyone is a f**king Napoleon


they told you your music
could reach millions

that the choice was up to you
you told me they always
pay for lunch

and they believe in what i do
and i wonder
if you miss your old friends
once you've proven what you're worth
yeah i wonder
when you're a big star
will you miss the earth

and i know you would always want more
i know you would never be done

'cuz everyone is a fucking napoleon
yeah everyone is a fucking napoleon

and the next time
that i saw you
you were larger than life
you came and you conquered

you were doing alright
you had an army
of suits behind you

and all you had to be was willing
and i said i still
make a pretty good living
you must make a killing
a killing

and i hope that you are happy
i hope at least you are having fun

'cuz but everyone is a fucking napoleon
yeah everyone is a fucking napoleon

now you think, so that is
the way it's gonna be
that's what this is all about

i think that that is
the way it always was

you chose not to notice until now
yeah now that there's a problem

you call me up to confide
and you go on for over an hour
'bout each one that took you for a ride

and i guess that you dialed my number
'cuz you thought for sure that i'd agree
i said baby, you know i still love you
but how dare you complain to me

everyone is a fucking napoleon
yeah everyone is a fucking napoleon

--Lyrics by Ani DiFranco

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Friday, December 29, 2006

What is a human life worth?

What good am I if I'm like all the rest,
If I just turned away, when I see how you're dressed,
If I shut myself off so I can't hear you cry,
What good am I?
--Bob Dylan
I'm eating lunch in a Subway (Why? Because I work in a land of strip malls, so it's either McDonald's, Subway, or the dry cleaners. Not too many choices for a vegetarian.) and they're playing "All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth."

All I can think is that what I'd like is to tape that kid's mouth shut. But then I think of how cute 3B is with his two tiny, razor-sharp teeth, and I think that I'm pretty Grinchy for wanting to tape some kid's mouth shut. But then I remember that shrill voice, and that it's some adult making himself sound like a grating pipsqueak, and I'm back to wishing for a roll of packing tape from Santa.

So it's that time of year, when everyone's wishing for something, like front teeth or packing tape, and trying to see into the upcoming year and reflecting back on the past year and what I really want for this upcoming year is to figure out how to need less. I try hard to need less throughout the year, but sometimes my inner gear geek gets the best of me. Sometimes I'll assuage my guilt by giving to those who need items like clean water, food, or an education that are worth more than whatever geek toy I want. This year, with all of our attention focused on 3B's first holiday season, it's been easy to ignore any needs that I had, although I have to admit that we didn't get 3B anything for Christmas day, figuring that his new Casino Royale was our pre-Christmakwanzukkah gift to him, that everyone else would shower him with gifts (which they did), and that all he would really want is some shiny paper to play with anyway.
What good am I if I know and don't do,
If I see and don't say, if I look right through you,
If I turn a deaf ear to the thunderin' sky,
What good am I?
Also, Mama and I decided early on that we weren't going to buy anything for each other, partly because we were too far behind to confront the prospect of more shopping and partly, I believe, because we're both too emotionally drained by what the end of this year has become to shop for each other with as much enthusiasm as we would like to. Neither of us wants shopping for the other one to be a chore. Perhaps it's because we're so emotionally strung out that small things started to have larger than usual effects on us, like the photo on the Sunday NYTimes front page a few weeks back of a girl who is roughly 3B's age crawling through an abandoned village. She was left behind when her parents, along with the entire population of her village, fled approaching aid vehicles, fearing that they were the local militia, come to kill them.

I can't imagine the abject fear that would allow me to, for even a second, leave 3B anywhere to fend for himself, much less fend for himself against a marauding militia. Honestly, I couldn't even look at the picture after reading the article, because it just made me cry--for the girl, for all the children like her whose parents never return, for our good fortune that 3B is (knock on wood) healthy and happy, for her parents, and honestly, out of total futility. I knew everything I could about her situation, but I was powerless to help her.
What good am I while you softly weep
And I hear in my head what you say in your sleep,
And I freeze in the moment like the rest who don't try,
What good am I?
As it is wont to do, serendipity struck and we immediately found the charity that we're donating to as our gift to each other that is trying to spread a solution to problems like this, particularly problems that girls face. (Read more about them.) But the next question was, How much should we give? Just in time, came this article in the NYTimes magazine, by one of Mama's favorite philosophers. The first sentence gets right to the point, asking, "What is a human life worth?"
What good am I then to others and me
If I've had every chance and yet still fail to see
If my hands are tied must I not wonder within
Who tied them and why and where must I have been
As a new parent and one who strives for compassion for all those who I share this world with (something that I generally fail at a few times a day--you know, it would be easier to be compassionate for everyone if nobody would cut me off when I'm driving to work), my inclination is to respond that a human life is worth whatever it takes to save it. But if you look at my actions, that's not entirely true, as the article makes clear, because I'm not giving whatever I can to save lives. But what about 3B? Or Mama? Wouldn't I give anything to save them? Yes, yes I would, without even thinking about it. And does that make their lives more valuable than the life of that little girl, abandoned in her village to face a marauding militia on her own?
What good am I if I say foolish things
And I laugh in the face of what sorrow brings
And I just turn my back while you silently die,
What good am I?
If I don't give anything to save that girl, then yes, I'm saying, through my actions, that some lives are more valuable than others. But how should we define "anything" in this context?

How about you, dear six loyal readers--
  • Do you feel this conflict?
  • If so, how do you resolve it?
  • If you don't resolve it, how does that affect you?

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Moving Pictures

I'm going to cross-post some of my own pics here from Flickr, because I figure that most of you are as lazy as I am and won't go over to Flickr to see the full set.

3B takes what's his

The pictures aren't great quality, since Mama still has our real camera at the farm, so these are all from my phone, which is interesting (to me anyway), since cell phones are essentially radios, and it was approximately 100 years ago that the first audio radio transmissions were made--and not by Marconi, smartypants.

Mmm...Christmas...3B enjoys his first stocking

Interesting how far we've come in 100 years--to the point that we've married up portable radios and the wires and fibers of the internet to allow each of us to connect to each other and transmit audio, photos, video, and text. And we can all have that without having to haul around either our own radio tower or a 3,000-mile long phone cord.

Then again, is it really progress that in 100 years we only went from dot-dot-dot, dash-dash-dash, dot-dot-dot to "LOL"?

3B's first highchair meal

As I'm doing this, I'm also trying to catch up on my blog reading, and I couldn't help but watch Heather from Dooce on CNN because although I feel like I know her voice and vision, I've never seen her speak:

A few points of interest

  • Other than Soledad, Heather's the only woman on camera.
  • Heather's the only one who proposes a woman as the person of the year.
  • Heather's the one whose guess--when she talks about how blogs have "empowered our nation"--is closest to who TIME actually picked when they wussed out and picked everyone.
  • Everyone agrees that YouTube has had a large influence, which is timely, even though this video is days old by now, since today is the anniversary of the first film screening.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

50,000 words or so

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, I captured 50,000 words or so while we were at Grandma's farm. As I wrote before, Blogger won't accept email posts with photos from me, so you'll have to head over to Flickr to see them. (You can also use the Flickr link in my right sidebar.)

Barky and I are back in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, outside of Binghamton, New York, headed home, rocking to the English Beat. Mama and 3B will follow in a few days, after spending as much time as possible with his Grandma and Great-Grandma.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Some favorite signs

We make this trek at least twice a year, so we know certain landmarks well by now:

The Spankey's billboard south of Harrisburg. I don't know what the business is, and I don't care.

The road sign for the Central Leatherstocking Region. Do I really need to say anything about this?

The road sign for the Endless Mountains Region--Next 6 Exits. if they're endless...why are they confined to a region? ...and why only six exits? Shouldn't it be every exit?

Yeah...we've got spare time on this drive.

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We just passed Frackville...

...does that mean we missed Frickville, home of the Frickers, while I was arguing--again--with Blogger about why it won't post photos that I send to it?

Ever tried to delete a post using your phone? at 75 mph? (And you wonder why Mama flies?)

And I gave up on the pics, so I can listen to my podcasts--Manic Mommies, Pediacast, the Writer's Almanac, and Coffee Break Spanish (taught by two Scots, so they're trilingual lessons)--if you want to see the pics, go over to Flickr; they accept my emails, unlike Blogger.

Bah humblog.

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Uh...what now?

We just passed a billboard for a store at exit 223 on 81:

Ho Mart

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A few parting shots

Mama and 3B flew to Albany today, so as to avoid a repeat of the Screamapalooza rides to and from Boston. They're staying with our friends who just bought a new place with land. Land! Who knew that some houses still come with that? Then again, they all got ticks when they went on their first walk through their woods, so it's a mixed blessing--but still a blessing.

Barky and I pack up early in the morning--which means in just a few hours--to join them. It'll be a long day for us since we're up so late--er--early, but I wanted to get the house cleaned up so that Mama didn't come back to a pig sty that I left behind. Plus, I wanted to show up at Grandma's wearing some clean underwear, so I did some laundry.

I had started writing a longer post about the holidays, but between loading audio books into the iPod for the long Pennsylvania hours (anything to avoid Jersey), doing laundry, picking up piles of disassociated papers and trying to sort them, and making sure that I've mailed the mortgage payment, I sort of lost focus. Perhaps I'll come back to it after I return. In the meantime, here are some newish shots that I finally posted on Flickr.

I'm packed for Boston, when are you two slackers going to be ready?
I'm packed and ready to go to Grandma's farm, what are you two chumps doing?
(Actually, he's on his way to Boston, but he doesn't know. And with the Carhartt's he looks like he's going to the farm, which is where they came from--thanks, Aunt Jeanne.)

Mommy is a rock star, and so is Kofi Annan
OK, we're going straight to hell, or an international mediation session, for naming 3B's UN bear Kofi, but what else were we going to call him? Blue? Of course not. This was the shot that Mama included in her farewell e-mail when she announced that she wasn't going back to work. Oh, did I forget to mention that until now? See what you find out when you read the small type? I suppose I should write something about that--her becoming a SAHM, going back to one income, and all that.

A family dinner
A family dinner at the Bradsteins. We don't let Barky clean 3B's hands anymore, even though it made 3B chuckle his adorable little chuckle. The problem was that 3B would then take his hands from Barky's mouth and jam them back into his own mouth. But Barky does get to clean up everything else. Mmm. Rice cereal.

When Mama dresses me all my clothes match
If you missed it the first time, here's a better look at 3B's new sweater from Olivia, as he's on his way to the farm. Why is it that when he's on his way to Boston, he looks like he's going to the farm, but when he's going to the farm, he looks like he's off to Boston? I've started to notice that when Mama dresses him, all of his clothes match, but when I do . . . not so much. Actually, I noticed it because Mama pointed it out. Maybe I can get an intervention from Queer Dad for the Straight Dad?

Unless our neighbor who's looking after our place decides to post something, this is probably our last post until after Christmas, since Grandma's farm is beyond cell service and has no internet connection.

So, from all of us to all six of you loyal readers, have a Happy, a Merry, a Joyeux, or whatever else you're having. We'll see you on the other side.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Holiday Traditions

Tis the season and all that, so we're celebrating some favorite traditions: procrastinating, cursing the high cost of overnight shipping, and listening to some traditional holiday music.

Growing up, there was some debate in our house about what was traditional holiday music. This came up after we told Mom that we were looking forward to trimming the tree while listening to traditional holiday tuneage: the music from the Peanuts Christmas special. She was thinking more along the lines of "White Christmas" or "The Christmas Song" or even "Santa Baby."

No, Mom, that's old music, not traditional music.

Yeah, it was a fun debate like that, but we--Mom and I at least, I can't speak for the other kids--eventually agreed on traditional holiday music in the only way possible. We selected a new song that we both loved: Santa Claus and His Old Lady by Cheech and Chong. So that's been playing along with all of the other (mostly) worthwhile traditional music from Dr. Demento's Greatest Christmas Novelty CD and, of course, the tunes from A Charlie Brown Christmas, which Mama and I will probably get around to watching sometime in January.

The other kids did inherit our parents' love of music. Over on his blog, Brother #2 has put together a nice Christmas photo with a sorta' traditional Christmas song that I'd like to believe Mom would have liked, since getting everyone together was more important to her than any other holiday tradition. There are some new traditional tunes, however, that I'm digging on that Mom might not have found so amusing, like the ones Boutros likes so much. (You Macophiles might have to find the SNL clip on YouTube--the NBC site played the ad but not the clip for me.)

But I do think Mom would have liked this charming tale of a child setting up and filming a creche that demonstrates his deep understanding of the true meaning of Christmas. For as many good laughs as Mama and I have shared over the Christmas pageant scene in A Prayer for Owen Meany, you know that we love that tale . . . "RUN, BABY JESUS! RUN!"

Yes, run, because if you don't get to the post office tonight, you'll have to pay for overnight shipping tomorrow.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Am I an absentee dad? Are you?

But what defines "absentee"? If you see your child once a month, does that make you a nonexistent father? Once a week?
There was an interesting article in this Sunday's WaPo, entitled Dad Redefined, which is one part of their recent series on black men in America. This article focused on absentee black dads--their description, not mine--and it got me to wondering just who we consider absent in a child's life.

Let's calculate my waking hours with 3B in a typical week at Casa Bradstein and compare it with a typical week for Tim Wagoner, the dad profiled in the story:

24 x 7 = 168 hours/week
  • subtract 40 hours for work, plus 45 minutes commuting each day = 124.25
  • subtract eight hours a day for sleep (strange, but true . . . as much as 3B sleeps, it's been getting us to sleep more too) = 68.25
  • subtract half an hour a day for dog walking and typically an hour a night that 3B and Mama are down while I'm cleaning up the kitchen and fruiting around, like now = 57.75
  • subtract at least four hours on each weekend day for 3B's naps = 49.75
That means that I've got just over two waking days every week with 3B, scattered in short bursts throughout the week. That's not much more than Wagoner has, and his comes in a similar fashion--little bits here and there.

Granted, there are some fundamental differences--while 3B sleeps at night, he's with me and Mama. The big similarity is that Wagoner and I spend a large amount of time each week away from the house trying to improve our families' lots in life. My time is at one job and his is at a part-time job and GED classes.

Why is it, then, that an article profiles him as an absentee dad, but not me or someone like me? Is it because he's working part-time and studying for his GED and I have a steady gig, making it more acceptable for me to be gone for most daylight hours during the week? What's the difference between our absences to our two sons, however?

All of this raises the question that is repeated throughout the article:
What does a daddy do?

There is a pause. Wagoner doodles his index finger around his son's hand. Zyhir is tapping it.

"Just be there," Wagoner says, not looking up from Zyhir. "That's the most important thing. You can buy them all the clothes, all the toys, and it don't matter. Most important thing is that he knows my voice, knows me when he sees me."

There are other things, too, of course: Nurture. Shelter. Love. Protect. Those entail a lifetime of decisions and sacrifices; fatherhood isn't a job with a time clock where you punch in, punch out.

I have the same feelings and the same priorities. And those things that Wagoner lists, he is providing and working hard to continue providing, as I am for 3B. For Wagoner, as for me, doing so requires being away from his baby for extended periods of time during the week, but it doesn't mean that he's by any means absent from his child's life, even before Zyhir was born:

He lives about a mile from Children's Hospital, where McDaniel [Zyhir's mom] went for her checkups, and he could walk to the appointments. He was there when Zyhir was born: "He had the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck." There's a picture on the mantel in the living room, Wagoner in his white scrubs, holding his son after the birth.

I can't tell you how many times I was the only man in the waiting room when Mama and I went in for prenatal (ante-natal, for you Brits) appointments. Based on that, by the time his son was born, Wagoner was miles ahead of all the dads who were absent from our waiting room in knowledge and experience. So why is he called an absentee dad, but there's no parallel series on middle-class, suburban dads who didn't go in for prenatal visits?

And then there's the elephant in the room: race. Is it OK to call Wagoner an absentee dad because he's black, but it's not OK to call someone like me an absentee dad because I'm white? As far as I'm concerned, that's bullshit, but I suspect that race is behind much of this labeling. I'm not saying that there aren't also working black dads who are out of the house as many hours a week as I am, but I am saying that the assumption that married white dads who live in the same house as their kids and the mother of their kids are fully present in their kids' lives is a dangerously shallow view of the world.

We need to get beyond these monetary measures of achievement and superficial racial separations and get down to determining our success by understanding the true meaning and worth of our lives:

"Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product ... if we should judge America by that--counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

"Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans."
--Robert F. Kennedy Address, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, March 18, 1968

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Casino Royale

A view from the Eye in the Sky

It was a busy week last week here at Casa Bradstein: I was stumbling in and out, going to work and coming home to collapse; Mama was tearing up the keyboard shopping; and 3B was teething and learning to walk before he knows how to crawl. Seriously, what is this kid's deal?

Does he think that the end of the year is some sort of deadline, by which he's supposed to have reached as many milestones as possible? It's not that I want to delay his development, but how many teeth do you need for rice cereal--or for most American food, for that matter?

But I digress . . .

3B was also busy all last week with his latest developmental aid, toy, diversion, ADHD inducement--his personal Casino Royale, the exersaucer. It's a bit early for a Christakwanzukkah gift, but it's in the family tradition of James Bond distractions before the holidays.

Dad loved Ian Fleming's James Bond books so every year that a new one came out--typically right before Christmas, I believe--Mom would buy it for him. Every year, being the nice person she was, Mom would make the same mistake and give it to him on Christmas Eve. Dad would then spend the rest of the evening reading the whole book while Mom helped Santa's elves wrap gifts for all six of us.

About when I was in junior high, I discovered the cache of Bond books at the back of the top bookshelf in the room we somewhat ironically dubbed "The Conservatory" in our Eichler tract house. I too was hooked. I blazed through all of them in a week or so, then moved on to the new Bond books, penned by John Gardner, which I tore through as they came out. Much as Dad had fallen in love with Aston Martins by reading Fleming's Bond, I fell more deeply in love with SAABs as a result of reading Gardner's Bond.

Just before I got into Bond, our new neighbor across the street had bought a SAAB 900 Turbo, and took me for a drive in it. Along with my left-handedness, I inherited an abiding interest in cars from my father, so when our neighbor took me for a drive in his SAAB and opened up the turbo a few times to show me how it did really push you back into the perfectly contoured seats, it had the same effect on me as giving Imelda Marcos a platinum Nordstrom card.

So I was fully versed in the capabilities of a regular SAAB 900 Turbo when I read about Q taking Gardner's Bond through all of the added features of his special edition SAAB, and I drank it all in. Right up until GM bought SAAB and started turning out Saturns with SAAB nameplates, it was my dream to someday own a new SAAB 900, courtesy of my future well-to-do son, just as my Dad counted on me to do well enough to buy him an Aston Martin.

As it turns out, the best things in life remain constant, so I'm now back to counting on 3B buying me the Aston Martin that I owed my Dad. I feel that his new personal Casino Royale gets him off on the right foot in his journey. Next year I'll continue the tradition and put some James Bond books at the back of our top bookshelf to wait for him.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

3B and I are the Time magazine people of the year!

Then again, so are you:

3B wrote these comments about receiving this honor:

;mo,]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]L8M,;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; . ≥≤å.o12DE , MMJKL; L'
I'm not sure that he's too fond of sharing the award, however; immediately after he drafted his comments, he barfed in my lap. At least he missed the keyboard.

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Starting 3B's Christmakwanzukkah Season

Look, a shiny thing!

We took 3B over to D&D's house last night for the first night of his first Christmakwanzukkah season. When it comes to teaching him all the proper ceremonies for holidays, I'm afraid that Mama and I won't be of much use unless there's a Peanuts special that explains them, so it's fortunate that D&D know what to do when it comes to Hanukkah.

Apparently, the only thing you have to do is light the candles, but we took the opportunity to have a Shabbat dinner. Olivia, who had knit 3B a sweater before she even met him joined us and gave him the sweater.

Score! My first Hanukkah and I've already got a gift!

3B and Olivia hit it off right away. He even fell asleep in her lap during dinner, and I'm pretty sure that if we'd put the car seat in her car, he would have gone home with her. "Mama and Papa who?"

It was a fun night with good friends, which is what the holidays are about for those of us like Mama and myself who aren't devoted strictly to Christianity or Judaism. But it did raise the question that we've asked ourselves before about 3B: how do we raise him spiritually?

Because of our lack of singular devotion and our wide and deep interests in spirituality, my guess is that he'll be raised in a somewhat typical suburban-American salad bar spirituality, but is this inch-deep-and-mile-wide approach useful? If there's anything that Mama and I believe in deeply, it's Buddhism, but we're too busy or lazy to practice, or even to decide on a school to follow--Hinayana, Mahayana, Tibetan, Zen, Nichiren?

Clearly, Mama and I have found some happiness without deeply held and regularly practiced beliefs, and without a spiritual community that we identify and hang out with, but is that what we want for 3B? Is that what he wants?


Perhaps we'll send him up to Anthromama's house for some spiritual tutoring. In the meantime, since Buddhism doesn't preclude celebrating holidays and traditions from other religions, we'll keep the Christmakwanzukkah season rolling, but if you have any insight, suggestions, resources, etc. about raising a kid at the spiritual salad bar, please let us know.

Lord knows . . . YHWH knows? . . . Mohammed knows? . . . Buddha knows? . . . to whom it may concern? . . . we need all the help we can get.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Hard Day's Blog

After a month of posting every day, I'm now struggling to post once a week. Perhaps it's burnout, perhaps it's spending two weeks hawking, hacking, and heaving every ounce of mucus out of my body 24/7, perhaps it's having a teething--we're up to three teeth now people . . . stop him before he cuts another one!--five-month old baby in the house.

It's something.

To my credit, I've started writing two posts this week, but life keeps interfering. Doesn't life know that I have a blog to update, damnit?

Apparently not.

So I'm going to do what always works when confronted by superior opposition, like life or time: I'm going to cheat. I'm being helped in my efforts this morning by Liberal Banana, who just completed her move out of our building, which was sad for all of us. Barky is waiting for her to return:

What does cheating entail in blogging? Stealing a post from someone else. However, since Auntie Banana's not blogging anymore, I prefer to view this as acting as her proxy, passing on her good writing and humor to you in her stead.

In this case, she wrote about a serious topic that I agonized over greatly before 3B was born. I doubt that the debate will ever end on this topic, but there is some new information on it, as LB explains:

As I stood on the Metro platform this morning reading my Express newspaper, I almost laughed out loud.

The main story was titled, "Circumcision May Limit HIV". As I read through it, there was a quote by an official at the World Health Organization.

His name?

Dr. Kevin De Cock.

Seriously. Check it out (at the very end of page 1).

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Barky Is a Calendar Cover Boy

We got a few early Christmakwanzukkah gifts here in Casa Bradstein. 3B cut his first tooth last week (bottom left-center for those of you keeping score at home); it came through on Thursday and more of it has been emerging ever since. Mama got a long visit with her mom while I was attending my geekfest conference in Boston, and I got a cold that's left me feeling like someone jammed sweaty jockstraps into my sinus cavities, then hung me upside down and beat me with telephone books.

Yes, I finally went to the doctor yesterday, after spending most of the last five days either passed out, whining about the joint aches and the headaches, or spitting quivering pats of lung butter into the sink. She said I was infected in at least one place and gave me some antibiotics, so health is on the march in my body. Somewhere. I'm still pretty wiped and highly infectious, so I'm staying home through the end of this week, which should give you an idea of how bad it was--I've been home all week and not one blog post. Not even a narcissistic plea for pity.

But, although it appears otherwise, this post isn't all about me. This post is all about Barky, the calendar cover boy--that's him in the 7:
Barky is enjoying his first modeling success for two reasons: he believes in supporting a good cause, and his cyberaunt dared him to. Oh, that and because he's the cutest dog in blogville, of course. Barky believes deeply in this particular good cause, being an adult rescue dog himself.

Before we got him, he was in the pound in Pennsylvania for six months. They were going to put him down, but called BREW as a last resort. They took him in, of course, and he was with a foster family for several months before he found us at an adoption day in Baltimore. He was so cute on that first day that he just stole our hearts. We can't imagine how anyone would let him get away, but we're so glad that he did find us and that we could give him a new home--especially one full of brownies, cookies, and trash cans.

We had certainly thought about getting a puppy, but we're so glad that we got a full grown dog; he came fully equipped--er, sort of: he'd been neutered, he was housetrained, he was quiet, and he rode well in cars. OK, so walking him on a leash was like walking the stripe on Charlie Brown's shirt, but he's a hound--that comes with the dinner.

So all of us here in Casa Bradstein encourage you to help out a worthy cause this holiday season by giving great holiday gifts to everyone you know. And let whoever you give them to know that Mr. November says thanks.

(See Barky in all his splendor.)

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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Blop, blop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is

16,200 words (give or take) later, it's over.

What I learned from this daily grind--other than that I could do it

  • A favorite playwright of mine observed that people generally don't have that much to say, that 90 percent of the time people spend together, they spend in silence. "If you're going to put characters on stage and make them talk for two hours, you have to give them motivation to do that--they have to be on drugs or under pressure--or nobody's going to believe it." I've learned that while I can type words every day, I'm not sure that I have that much to say.
  • Having a daily writing assignment during a month with a major holiday that involves cross-country travel is either a special challenge or a sadist twist, depending on your perspective. Especially when you're traveling with a four-month old.
  • It's possible to create a blog entry on a phone while stopped in traffic.
  • While it's all about the journey, not the destination, nobody remembers Moses for all the miserable, flea-ridden, sandstorm-scoured campsites along the way--they remember the arrival to the promised land. I imagine that Moses remembers the arrival most fondly as well. So, should I choose to take a journey like this again, I think that I'd like to select a destination before embarking.
While we return home to Barky, who is being spoiled rotten--as he deserves--by his Auntie Bananarama, I'm going to take a day or so off. When I return, I'll have an inside tip for a Christmakwanzukkah gift that's going to be hotter--and easier to get--than bootleg Elmo TMXs.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A full night's sleep in 20 minutes

I’ve spent the day engrossed in such fascinating topics as DAM, CMS, and DRM. While I’m sure that most of what I heard would put most of you to sleep, it was fascinating and engaged me for several hours. None of it was nearly as rewarding as what happened on my lunch break, however.

After collecting my generic grilled vegetable wrap lunch, I headed up to our room to see if 3B, Mama, and Mama’s mom were still around. It’s a gray day here in Boston, which made me think that maybe they’d be in the room rather than out running around. That’s in part because while 3B’s cold cleared up a bit during the day yesterday—seems that he got more rest on the car ride than his squawking marathon led us to believe—his nose was pretty congested last night and this morning.

Sure enough, the little sniffler was there with his Mama and Grammy. He was sporting one of the cute new outfits that his Grammy brought for him, laughing up a storm, practicing standing, and generally enjoying hanging out with the big kids—which, of course, means staying up all day, without naps. So 3B was a little punchy, and Mama and Grammy were a little hungry, so I bundled him up in a blanket and sung "Forever Young" while I swayed him to sleep as they headed down to grab a bite.

Once 3B was asleep, I lay down with him on my chest, and finished up the final 30 or so pages of St. Albans Fire. Those 20 minutes or so, with 3B slumbering peacefully, head tucked against my neck, arms draped across my chest, with hands loosely curled in the folds of my sweater, were the most rewarding moments of my day by far. When I slid him into Mama’s arms and got up to return to the conference, I was more relaxed, happier, and thinking more clearly than after a full night of sleep.

Or at least how I remember feeling after a full night of sleep.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Don't You (Forget About Me)

We survived the drive, getting here just before midnight last night, which meant that morning came far too early, especially the part where the booby trap alarm clock sounded off at 5:30 a.m., a full two hours before my wake-up call.

I did manage to get a shower and some coffee before shuffling downstairs to the conference, where, despite this being Boston and it being the last week in November, the air conditioners were blowing hard, keeping the temperature in the session rooms hovering around 30 below. That kept me awake for the first five minutes, after which I fell into a hypothermic catatonic stupor, until I came up to the room during lunch to steal the eiderdown from the bed to wrap up in for the afternoon sessions.

After the day's sessions were over, I returned to the room to find that Mama and her mom had found a cute way to payback 3B for the seven hours of crying in the car yesterday. He loves it now, but the payback comes when he brings those prospective girlfriends or boyfriends over and we bust out these adorable pictures--and if you think this is the only one of him in this hat, you underestimate me.

"Yes, that's a dog on his head. Isn't he cute? Don't you just love the little dog ears hanging down over his ears? Aren't they adorable?"

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Monday, November 27, 2006

It's a long way to Tipperary

And longer to Boston at this speed with a screaming, crying 3B in the back seat.

No we weren't in our driveway when I shot that picture; we were on 95, as we still are.

Pray for us.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Jiggety jig

When I was younger, I would wander the house, collecting possessions like keys, wallet, coat, backpack and shoes before heading out the door. After I had assembled myself, I would head for the door, announcing loud enough for anyone at home to hear, "I'm off." To which Mom would inevitably reply dryly, "I know."

Now that we've been home for a whopping 24 hours, it's almost time to turn the place and the dog over to Auntie Banana for another week and head out the door to a conference in Boston. Mama and 3B are coming along and Mama's mom will be heading down from Maine to visit with us for a few days. It's all going to be great fun--well, maybe my conference of geeks isn't everyone's idea of a good time, but I'll have some fun--but I'm still feeling a bit off.

There are plenty of reasons for that:

  • spending our first Thanksgiving without Mom
  • spending the rest of the week living in and going through my childhood home, beginning the work on her estate
  • spending two weeks away from home and Barky
  • shifting gears from a working vacation and a work trip
  • shifting gears from spending all day with Mama and 3B to spending all day at work
  • spending most of today sleeping, eating, or napping
The cause of that last one is likely a bug that I figure I picked up on our last trip, and which I may be sharing with 3B. I've been feeling a bit drained, perhaps mildly feverish, congested, and somewhat scratchy throated. So either I'm coming down with something, or I've been stressed out and traveling.

3B's symptoms seem to confirm that it's probably a bug, since he's been a bit congested--although we haven't had to resort to sucking his brain out through his nose with the big blue snot sucker--and developed an occasional dry cough. If he does have a bug, it would be his first. Not as exciting a milestone as first teeth or first steps, but a milestone.

I guess if he was more congested, we would have heard about it on the flight home, during which he was more active than on the way out west--or perhaps we just noticed more since the flight coming back was too full for him to have his own seat, so we were holding him the whole way. Also, I figure that if he was draining more that his cough would be more productive. As it is, we're performing our "this is not an ear infection developing" ceremony every 20 minutes, just to be on the safe side. Or just because we're off.

On a trip, that is--I meant "Or just because we're off on a trip."

Never mind.

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

I can't help it if I'm lucky

We're winging home today, so I thought that I'd share this video that I shot on the plane on our way out to California. It's not really fair to the other parents who were on our flight on the way out that 3B was on the same flight. His calm demeanor through the entire six-hour flight made it seem as though they were doing something wrong for having a baby that cried occasionally, which isn't the case. And while it may have made us look like good parents, let me be the first to say that we have had nothing to do with the ease with which he flies. He just came that way.

If we could control how much he cries in a particular mode of transport, we wouldn't be so terrified of our upcoming drive to Boston, which will be fun if he treats it like another plane ride. However, if he treats it like another car ride, it will be like eight hours in the Psycho shower scene, and it will be one car trip that Barky will be glad he passed on to chill on his Auntie Banana's couch.

The nice grandmotherly woman who sat behind us knew what the deal was. As we were getting off the plane, she said, "What a nice baby--so pleasant. You're so lucky."

Let's just hope that our luck holds.

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Friday, November 24, 2006

3B's first Thanksgiving

My guess is that 3B was thankful that his parents weren't all up in his grill with their camera all day long. To ensure that we wouldn't have time to be fluttering shutterbugs, he kept us busy by puking or pooping his way through at least three complete outfits between noon and dinner time.

I'm sure that he was also thankful for all of his cousins, who took better care of him than we ever have, giving him all kinds of love and all kinds of lessons in DVD players, GameBoys, and IMing, to give him a good technological head start on his parents. Mama and I owe them all a huge thank you for making his visit so much fun and for making our vacation so much more relaxing.

For that, we're thankful to 3B's cousins. For all the pictures that he took of 3B while we were cleaning up after 3B, we're thankful to Brother #2. Head on over to his blog to take a gander at how 3B's first Thanksgiving (and the days before that) looked.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

What we're thankful for right now

We've had much to be thankful for this year. At the top of our list, of course, is the arrival of 3B.

However, rather than tiring you with a litany of all those people and events that we have to be thankful for from the entire year, I thought I'd give a shout out briefly to those things that we're thankful for right now:

I walk, Ergo he sleeps
Our Ergo carrier. We love it; we're thankful for it--all three of us.

California Dreamin'
All the leaves were brown and the sky was gray when we left NoVa. Out here, the sky is still gray in the mornings--burning off to beautiful, warm, sun-soaked days, but the leaves out here that aren't still green are displaying spectacular autumn colors, and the Mexican food is authentic. And big.

And for that, we're thankful.

However, Barky is thankful that we didn't box him up and pitch him into the luggage hold of a plane . . .
Walking through Whole Foods, we found this, which Barky would be thankful for, if only he were with us. Instead, he's chillin' with Auntie Banana back home.

And no, this doesn't mean we're going to start calling him Mister Barky. Or making him wear a Panama Jack hat fergoodnessake.

However, we'd be thankful if they'd recognize that Barky was the model for their product and start paying those residuals that he's due.

Mr. Barky

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Just in time for Thanksgiving

Here in the States, Colonies, Estados Unidos, we're celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow, which we Bradsteins celebrate traditionally, gathering for a festive family dinner where we eat enough food to pop a few buttons, which we hope don't fly across the room and put someone's eye out.

Just in time for that happy cacophony, we've started 3B on solid food. Those of you who are parents know that "solid" part refers to the few rice flakes that are suspended in the several tablespoons of water in the bowl. These meals are solid as much as his solid waste is solid at this point, although much less green. Oh sorry, were you eating?

Anyway, just like it takes a village to raise a child and a nation to raise enough money for a political campaign, it takes a family to feed a child. What you can't see in this picture is the crowd gathered around 3B, restraining and soothing him while I scraped the spoon across his top gum, causing the thin gruel to run across the roof of his mouth in a beeline to his gag reflex center, causing him to pitch forward and spit the entire spoonful back out onto his chin, from where I scraped it back over his lower lip into his mouth. There was at least one aunt, two parents, and one cousin participating with another aunt documenting the event and several other relatives gathered around for moral support.

And of course, 3B was there. As you can see from his pleading expression in the picture, he enjoyed every minute of it. So while he's not quite ready to hoist a turkey leg tomorrow night, as a vegetarian, his menu doesn't include the tryptophan trip anyway. If we didn't have him on this milk and gruel regimen, 3B would be getting acorn squash stuffed with wild rice, harvest couscous, ginger snap peas, and sesame tofu.

Maybe we'll let him off the hook for one day, and then he can be thankful for the same thing that you all are: nobody's going to gag you with a spoonful of gruel. Or maybe we'll feed 3B and be thankful for the eight hours of sleep during which he doesn't move at all that result from his sating himself on a few thimblefuls of gruel.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Midwifery diaries, part 4

This is part 4, the final part, of the midwifery diaries. It's the original email that Mama's midwife friend sent out that inspired me to ask her if I could share her birth stories here. Unlike the previous posts, which were homebirth stories, it's a clear window into the world of a midwife working in a busy urban hospital, and I think that it's a good reminder that being a midwife doesn't only involve delivery of healthy babies to happy parents. There's a lot more to it than that.

I've gotten some comments and messages about various readers' experiences with midwives. Some of us have had good experiences, some of us have had bad experiences, and some of us have had both kinds in the same day. Each of us has gotten something different from these moments; from our experience, I was reminded that just because someone is a midwife doesn't mean that she'll automatically have a great bedside manner or a personality that's compatible to mine or Mama's.

These glimpses into the life of a midwife also remind me just how much a midwife is dealing with and prepared for when she steps into the room--be it a bedroom in a mother's house or a labor and delivery room in a hospital. Being a midwife takes compassion, perserverance, and tremendous strength, and these entries from Mama's friend has demonstrated that she has all of these characteristics as well as great courage.

In this week of thanks (here in the U.S.), I'm thankful to her for sharing this view from the other end of the bed with us, and I'm thankful that she's working as a midwife, because she's exactly the kind of person who I would want to catch our baby as he or she came into this life with us.

[Note: All of the names and initials have been changed, and any identifying characteristics have been omitted or modified, to protect everyone's privacy.]

I'm back from my first call at the hospital--which is where I do triage, labor, delivery, and post-partum care. It's totally different than working the health clinics doing prenatal visits--so it felt like a whole new world today--with an entirely different set of rules, parameters, clinical skills, and people to meet. Gah, I'm exhausted.

Just a little update, though--to share a little of my life as a midwife.

I did a 12-hour shift--to ease me in, as I'll normally do 24 hour shifts. I worked with another midwife (Michelle) as I will during my 2+ months of orientation. We moved nonstop from 8-3pm--not a break or moment to decompress, breathe, or eat--then got a little space, then kept moving again until I left at 8pm.

Amazingly, it was considered slow there, as we were doing lots of paperwork stuff, consults, management, pager calls. Still--for me it was intense and not slow at all.

My first woman was 21 weeks pregnant, diagnosed with a closed myelomeningocele, a neural tube defect--NTD (which can cause paralysis and lots of other problems--can be genetic or due to low folic acid consumption at conception), and was terminating the pregnancy. The fetus had already received a potassium chloride injection, which stopped its heart--and then she was receiving medication to dilate her cervix. When I got there, I checked her cervix and she was almost completely ready to push. Immediately after her water broke, Michelle and I came into the room to do the delivery; the woman pushed while we were setting up the cart, out came the fetus, which was wrapped up and taken away.

The client seemed okay--not very emotional, but I think that's more cultural expression than anything (at least from my own experience with West African culture--she's from West Africa)--and she was given some IV pain meds right before delivery--so she was also pretty out of it when things were happening. As for me, I've delivered an intrauterine fetal demise (IUFD) before--but never so early in pregnancy--so I was learning as I went along. It felt super overwhelming--but Michelle and the nurse got me through the skills and helped me when I needed help. We later examined the fetus, and it was intense to see the NTD, already obvious in its pathology at such early fetal development.

After this experience, we did rounds in post-partum and discharged a woman. We then spent a lot of time consulting on another woman I saw yesterday in the clinic--who has high blood pressure and could possibly develop preeclampsia. After much back and forth, we transferred her to our high risk docs for care.

Another woman came in at 16 weeks pregnant, bleeding profusely from her vagina--passing clots, as well. She still had a viable fetus with heart tones, and no obvious etiology for the bleeding--as she wasn't cramping or contracting, making us think she might be having a miscarriage. I did a speculum exam, saw tons of blood in the vaginal vault, and blood coming from the cervical os (the opening of the cervix). I then did a digital vaginal exam, but found her cervix to only be open a fingertip. When we ran her blood work, she was shown to be severely anemic. we consulted again with the high risk docs and transferred her to their care for a blood transfusion and to continue managing the bleeding. Still not sure what was happening--but at that point, if she were to miscarry, there was nothing we could do to stop it, so it was a lot of expectant management regarding the pregnancy.

Another woman came in with abdominal pain at 34 weeks--turns out she's an uncontrolled gestational diabetic who had been missing appointments and came late to prenatal care. Another doc consult . . . as well as my doing an exam to see if she was in pain from labor. No contractions, no bleeding, cervix was open a little, which--while not great--can be normal if she's had a baby before (which she had). She was transferred out of our care as well. I did a lot of discharge teaching her her and her husband before she left--trying to strike a fine balance between trying to create more compliance regarding her care, and not being patronizing, of the "I know what's good for you and you don't" variety.

Finally--a 23 year old came in for induction of labor due to being past her due date. she was all alone--no longer involved with the father of the baby, and didn't want any other family/friend support. Her cervix was super ripe and ready for induction--so we got that started and she responded with great contractions. All seemed well with her when I left--her last cervical exam showing good progress. Just sad to see her all alone, comforted by an epidural and the television. That's an enormous part of my job--working with people who have so little support in their lives. It's hard to not want to work miracles . . .

So, anyway--that was the day in a nutshell. Not to mention a bunch of pages to return, so many new details--where to get billing forms, how to use the computer, where the charts are kept, room codes, where the cafeteria is located, new names and faces, new politics. There were moments when I felt like melting down and just asking if I could go home--that I was done learning for the day. Other moments, when I was singing my midwife song--just so amazed that I was there, and no longer a student.

Anyway--so here i am, a midwife.

The incredible thing is how unique each day will be. Today was heavy on the abnormal--lots of high risk, and my only "birth" an IUFD. Friday (my next call) may be 5 births in a row--all lower risk, all within the realm of "normal" that I believe pregnancy and birth to be. Or maybe something i've never seen before. Who knows.

Much love.

I'm a midwife!

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Midwifery diaries, part 3

This is part 3 of the midwifery diaries. You can read the beginning of this diary entry in part 2.

[Note: All of the names and initials have been changed, and any identifying characteristics have been omitted or modified, to protect everyone's privacy.]

Overall, AK and her husband were really happy. AK felt great about the birth--which made me really happy--especially given how intense she is, but I'm very upset with myself from when I was checking her vagina for tears.

She was really uncomfortable and asked me to stop. I'm so used to women being uncomfortable during that stage, that I kept going for another second just to get it over with--and her husband put his hand up and said really forcefully (and protectively) STOP! I did immediately--and then was completely mortified that I hadn't stopped a second sooner.

One of my main goals as a practitioner is to allow women to feel empowered and in control of their healthcare. I had been so focused on getting it over with that I hadn't listened to what she really needed and had disrespected her because of it. I felt totally totally awful and apologized profusely and then gave her all the time she needed. I was really aware of it afterwards and was trying to be sensitive toward AK's and her husband's interactions towards me. I wanted to ensure that they still felt comfortable--which they seemed to--so I didn't bring it up again.

I did, however, talk about it with Sally later--because it was still really bothering me. She suggested that I apologize when we went for the postpartum visit. I was worried about bringing it up again--and also about making it about my need to be forgiven, versus her need to talk about it. However, when we went, it felt right to say something. So, I said, "I just want to say that I'm sorry that I didn't listen to you completely when you asked to stop. I didn't mean to disrespect you in any way and I should have stopped when you asked me to." Her eyes got a little moist and she thanked me for apologizing and said that she didn't feel any trauma from it--and had actually really appreciated how protective her husband had been of her at that moment. She forgave me.

I was so glad I said something. I'm still angry at myself about it--because it violates everything I believe about women's healthcare. But, I'm definitely using it as a learning experience.

Part 3

The next birth was the next day – and was a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) at the hospital. No real long story from it – except that the baby was 9#12 and she didn't need stitches and she had been sectioned in the past as a prime (first baby) for malpositioned twins--so she essentially VBAC'ed a 9#12 baby as a primip without needing a repair and without any meds. I kept saying afterwards, "YOU'RE A VBAC!" And we would high five and she'd say how psyched she was to add to the statistic of women who had had VBACs. It was a fun, inspiring birth with a very beloved client. A lot of fun.

So, that was my week. Intense and long and tiring--but great and a lot of learning. I also had two days of office visits--and got do to a Spanish visit with a 70 year Peruvian woman. I'm really missing using my languages and working with immigrants and the cross-cultural piece.

Find out what a day in a busy urban hospital is like for a midwife tomorrow . . .

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Midwifery diaries, part 2

This is part 2 of the midwifery diaries, a series that started yesterday.

[Note: All of the names and initials have been changed, and any identifying characteristics have been omitted or modified, to protect everyone's privacy.]

Sally slipped the lip and AG quickly thereafter had her baby, which I caught. Beautiful, healthy, no repair. Very smooth and easy. Her whole family came it for it--and everyone was celebrating. AG, being a multip and a supermom, was quick to get up, shower, eat, and then settle down in the living room on the couch to be around everyone. She was already tandem nursing within the first 1⁄2 hour. In the meantime, her father was cooking a huge meal in the kitchen and everyone was milling around, taking it all in. I was loving all of it--having come from a large family, too--and was so excited about the upcoming meal and the festivities of the evening. I was hanging out, talking with people, soaking it in for about a half hour. And then it suddenly occurred to me that I wasn't doing any work. I was totally caught up and had forgotten I was the midwife and had to do this whole postpartum thing--and that we weren't staying for dinner--we were leaving so they could HAVE dinner. It was quite a blow--and made the postpartum period a little disorganized for everyone, because I took so long to get my act together. It made me laugh, though--and certainly made me super organized with every PP after that.

That night we had another birth--which again went smoothly. Another multip (a woman who has had a baby before), at 9cm when we checked, and no problems.

The next night, I was called for another multip birth. This woman was fairly new to the practice--having just moved to the area. She (HT) is very intense and vibey. Everything has meaning to her--and her needs are very specific. I was sort of dreading her birth--only because I worried about how intense it would be for her and for us. When I got there, Sally and I gathered around her and the three of us supported her for awhile through what appeared to be an early labor.

Finally, after about an hour--she asked to be checked, though again was nervous as to what she would be. Sally and I talked about it right before I did the exam and we both agreed that it would be a blessing if she was 6cm. She had just been LCP at the office and her contractions still seemed pretty mild. So--I did the exam in the tub and felt nothing but head. I was totally put off by this--expecting her to be half that. Given the story that Sally had just told and the confusion I felt at AG's birth--I was so nervous to say she was fully. Not to mention, she is such an intense person and I DID NOT want to ruin her vibe. So, I said that I thought she was fully, but felt unsure and did Sally want to recheck? Sally said no--let's wait and see.

HT said she felt like that was higher than she expected. But then immediately after the exam her labor got super intense and she started to panic. I worried that my ambiguous exam was affecting her and tried to get her to focus on being in the present again – letting the exam go. But things had kicked up so much--and she was definitely FD, with a baby on the way. She had been laying in the tub, but got frantic as the head descended and grabbed onto us to squat.

The head came down fast and was huge when it was born. We tried to help her stay calm as much as possible--by guiding the head with her hands and by reminding her again and again that everything was normal. She was moving around a lot and I noticed that the head came out of the water for a half second before being submerged again for the birth of the body. The baby--possibly from this--was pretty stunned.

When he was born, he didn't come to right away. We got HT out of the tub immediately and onto the bed--then cut the cord and worked on stimulation. Sally then grabbed the oxygen tank and started to bag and mask the baby. It only took a few puffs--but the baby was definitely slow to come around and to get color. It was a lot of stimulation, bulb suction, then bag and mask, then stim, bulb suction, etc. But finally he came to--and then regulated without problem. It was the first homebirth resuscitation I had seen--and I learned a lot from it. I was sort of frustrated that Sally hadn't let me do more--but I also understood that you have to move fast and she wasn't thinking a lot of teaching at that moment.

Overall, AK and her husband were really happy. AK felt great about the birth--which made me really happy--especially given how intense she is, but I'm very upset with myself from when I was checking her vagina for tears.

Find out what upset her so much tomorrow . . .

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

This just in...if he feeds, it leads

3B gets the news about ZB

Last time we flew to California, I had no good news to report, except that 3B was a rock star on all of our flights. He's laughing (and now sleeping) his way back to Cali, but this time I think his good mood has been helped by the happy news that he's got a new friend--Zbaby was just born to his happy, kind, and loving parents, Zygote Daddy and Dear Wife. Although we've never met, I've gotten to know both ZD and DW through their pregnancy and ours, and they are compassionate, supportive, and creative. Zbaby is as lucky to have them as they are to have him.

All three Z's appear to be doing well, with Zbaby and Dear Wife snoozing as they should be and Z Daddy having enough time during labor and delivery to whip up a whole new blog template. Head on over and congratulate all three of them:
(I'd embed the link, but I'm sending this post in from the phone, which is why I'm a little late with the news, since we've spent all day on the go or in the air.)

We're all waiting to hear how it went and how it's going, and 3B's anxious to know how soon we can meet for a cross-country playdate.

Midwifery diaries, part 1

In late August, I wrote:

It's been a busy week for all of us for various reasons. I went back to work for the first time since 3B was born, although for only three days. On Thursday, we all took a day trip to Philadelphia to help out a friend of Mama's who is a midwife, which was our first time traveling more than five miles from our house since 3B was born.
. . .and then life intervened and I never finished the post. I was going to write about how strong and wonderful Mama's friend is, but I haven't had the chance until now. I feel that this is an appropriate time to get around to it, however, since (here in the U.S.) we're going into the week of Thanksgiving, when we traditionally look around us to find those favors, large and small, that have come into our life that we're thankful for.

Mama and I, of course, continue to be thankful for everything that 3B has brought us. Sure, appreciate the grinning good morning greetings more than the lake-of-fire diapers, but we are genuinely thankful for all of it. Of course, we wouldn't have made it this far without plenty of help, starting even before he was born. Back then, in what Dad-to-Be calls the "ante-natal" days, which we call the "prenatal" days here in the colonies, also referred to as "back when I had a brain," we wrung every bit of information we could out of our midwives.

And when it came time for birth, we had one dud midwife, but the rest of them were wonderful partners. Although she wasn't with us for 3B's birth, Mama's midwife friend is just such a person, and then some. We're thankful to have her in our lives, and that we get to visit with her the week after Thanksgiving. We'd love it if you all could meet her, but we figured it would be bad manners to invite you to come with us to her house, so I'm going to do the next best thing and invite you into her world--the world of a midwife.

The world of mommyblogs and dadblogs is full of birth stories, including my unfinished tale, but I found it fascinating to read birth stories told from the other end of the bed, from a midwife's perspective. After her first day at work in a hospital, Mama's friend sent out an account of her whole 12 hour shift. Just reading it exhausted me. I immediately asked her if I could share part or all of it here and she thoughtfully replied
My only concern is that most people who aren't familiar with birth tend to pathologize the process and rely on medical interventions very heavily, rather than trusting that it's a normal process that can deviate from normal more rarely than is seen and discussed in this culture. So--my concern is that my email was from a day that was heavy on pathology and light on normal labor and birth.
She offered to share some journal entries from some of her more normal, pre-hospital days, when she was in midwife school. I'm going to start with those, so you can get a sense of what normal days are like for a midwife before moving on to the hospital day, which as she says, was full of "many non-birth related things," but which also showed just how much midwives have to be prepared for--not just, as she says, normal labor and birth.

I'll spread these out over a few days, so it's not so much reading all at once, and I'll pass along any comments to her, since I think she's probably still too busy to read our blog regularly. I hope that you enjoy this visit to the world of a midwife, and that you parents out there remember to give thanks this week to all those who supported you during pregnancy, labor, birth, and beyond.

[Note: All of the names and initials have been changed, and any identifying characteristics have been omitted or modified, to protect everyone's privacy.]

It was one hell of a week--four births in three days and I am tired. They were all fabulous births, however. The first made me laugh--not because of the birth, but because of the postpartum period. The woman (AG) laboring is so fabulous and sweet and I have been really looking forward to supporting her during her birth. She has this incredible family--one of her sisters also had a homebirth with Kathy and Sally, her other sister was going to a birth center, but had a precip birth and AG caught her baby at home for her. AG does childbirth education. She embodies kindness and love, as does her husband. Her whole family was planning on being at her birth and it just sounded like fun (for us, anyway).

She had a long latent phase (about 2 days of irregular contractions) and finally hit a point where she needed us there. When we arrived, she was just getting out of the tub and it was obvious that she was well into active phase and soon to deliver. She was nervous about being checked because she didn't want it to be a discouragement, but after a time, she felt like she wanted to know where she was. It was interesting, because Sally was heading into the other room and I asked her if she wanted to be there while I checked her and she said, no, she knew I could do it. I said, yeah, it's not hard. Then I put my fingers inside her and had no idea what I was feeling. Well, not exactly--but I couldn't immediately find her cervix and, intuitively, I knew that she could not be long, closed, and posterior (LCP) from the way she was laboring. I didn't want to dig around looking for it--because her own childbirth education knowledge would tell her she wasn't dilated. I didn't want to say she was LCP because it sounded so awful and discouraging. But, her cervix wasn't immediately obvious to me--which was distressing.

So, I took my hand out and said I wasn't sure what I was feeling and I wanted Sally to check instead. So, Sally did and she was fully dilated (FD) with a bulging bag of water (BBOW) and a slight lateral lip. What I thought was anterior vaginal wall was the BBOW and I hadn't recognized it. AG broke into tears she was so excited and I sort of burned up with embarrassment. I couldn't believe I didn't recognize that--especially after I had been so confident about it to Sally only minutes earlier. Later--when we talked about it--Sally was really supportive, telling me it was great that I recognized that I didn't know and asked for help. She recounted a story about a student who checked a woman and said she was FD and encouraged her to push. Quite awhile later--after no apparent progress/descent--the student checked again and turned bright red in the face. Apparently her first check had been wrong and her cervix was only 6cm dilated. I suppose this made me feel better--but it is still awful to make mistakes and to be so unsure--especially in such intense moments as labor and during such invasive things as a cervical check. I know I'm allowed mistakes--but it doesn't make them feel any better when they happen. And--ugh--LCP versus FD? Seems pretty obvious, no?

Anyway--that wasn't the part that made me laugh (obviously).

Find out what made her laugh tomorrow . . .

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