Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Up, Up, and Away!

Van Owen with his characteristic burp cloth/bib. If he spits up while swinging, we just root for it to happen on the backward motion!
A few weeks ago, my mother-in-law Susan and I were preparing to take the boys to get their portraits done at JCPenney. Silas and George were each specific about hats they wanted to wear and favorite toys they wanted to be photographed with, so we went in with practically a wheelbarrow of goods. When Susan asked what props we should use with Van, we both paused to think about what he had grown attachments to. Just as I was about to say that his Glo-Worm is his favorite toy, Susan jokingly pointed out that he could pose with his most familiar object of all...the burp cloth. The thought of Van wearing a grin and cozying up to his spit-up shield is hilarious for me to envision, but the lady speaks the truth. That kid is no stranger to burp cloths, which in our house are actually receiving blankets because ain't no burp cloth big enough to cover his messes.

The travails of Van's spitting up are well-documented. While BJ and I are perfectly aware that bigger problems are to be had in the world, we can't exactly say that this spitting-up business has been a walk in the park. We're talking two loads of laundry a day just to maintain a pathway in and out of the laundry room, lest the piles accumulate so high as to block the swinging door. Even his two older brothers calmly inform us, with no surprise or freaking out, of upchucks as they occur, with the exception being the time that George was the recipient of such tidings into his open, wailing mouth.  Van has ruined our favorite clothes, splashed floors in every establishment that we have patronized, and kept us on a first-name basis with Paul and Regina at Freeman's Carpet Cleaning. Despite our best efforts, carpet is hard to clean now that Van is eating so many bright colors.

Following is the record of the downward slope of Van's weight percentage through the first seven months of his life:

Date: Weight Percentage:
Day of birth, December 17: 95%
January 6: 82%
February 17: 74%
March 10: 61%
April 18: 45%
May 19: 37%
June 18: 27%
July 18: 21%
August 22: 32%

Artistic interpretation of Van's recent climb
Those numbers stink. The last line is what we're focusing on now though, and it says it all: something is finally working and he isn't losing ground anymore! We've increased his oatmeal in the morning (at his demand), and we put olive oil in many of his veggies and coconut oil in many of his fruits. A friend shared a recipe for pancakes that consist of a banana and two eggs in a food processor, then fried up on a skillet like pancake batter. He loves them and needs no teeth to consume whole baby-handfuls at a time, which is good because the little stinker still doesn't have any teeth. Spitting up can still be frequent, as many as 25 times a day or so, but nothing like before we met our good friend Zantac. It also invariably happens after breastfeeding, which supports our pediatrician's theory that solid foods will stay down better.

So I thought I would share our good news. On Friday, BJ and I took Van in for his umpteenth weight check, and this time there were practically whoops of joy when our favorite nurse declared a jump of 11 whole percentage points in the span of one month's time! We were thrilled to be heading in the right direction for the first time. What's also great is that we left that appointment within ten minutes, rather than our usual letdown of seeing that percentages have dropped and then waiting for Dr. Harmon to come in because the nurse is concerned, and then spending another 20 minutes talking with Dr. Harmon about something new to try. All in all, a thrilling day at the office of Betty Harmon!

Friends, enjoy your Tuesday. May you eat, drink, and be merry--and may all that you eat and drink not come back up for all to see. But if it does, may you be like Van and still be merry. If you'd bestow the same positive thoughts for our youngest son, we'd be tickled. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Guest Mama: Jane's Birth

I have a dear college friend named Brooke, who now lives a few hours south of me. Everyone needs a Brooke in their lives; she's cool as a cucumber, witty, a great listener, and she's feisty as all get-out. She's one of those types of friends that I haven't seen in a long time, but I know if I needed her she would be right there. I feel in a sense as though our lives are still in parallel, that she's doing the same things as me, gets me, and is living up life, even though we are doing it just out of sight of each other. When Brooke agreed to share the birth story of her first child Jane, I was thrilled. In reading it, I saw that Brooke and I had some things in common during our labor experience, particularly the use of self-talk to get us through. Brooke and I unabashedly spoke aloud to ourselves throughout active labor, and I also spoke aloud to Van a whole lot, negotiating with him, reminding him that I loved him, and asking him to help me so that I could help him. Please enjoy Brooke's story, told in her own clever words, of the birth of beautiful Jane, born on May 8, 2010:

I knew from early on I would want to have a natural birthing experience. The first time I ever thought about it was in high school during a clinical rotation class observing three different women as they were given their epidurals; I almost passed out each time. Why in the mess would anyone purposely put a needle that big into her body?! I think the thing that sealed the deal was my college pastor who had four babies, induced, unmedicated because she believed her body was made to work that way. I thought that sounded pretty good. God made it to work, and I figured there’s no need to interfere with the design. When I actually did become pregnant, I read books about the history of childbirth and natural birthing methods, and I searched for birth stories and research to support my decision. My husband Steve and I attended a 12-week-long Bradley method class to learn techniques to get me through labor. I did all the exercises to get the baby positioned properly and to get my muscles strong so I could do the work of birthing. It was commonplace for my husband to find me on all fours or in a modified yoga child’s pose. Most people who knew my plan thought I was crazy, and two of them, who happened to be men, even went so far as to say that it couldn’t be done. Well, game on, sirs.

My pregnancy was pretty uneventful other than feeling just disgusting for the first half of it. My due
date was a Wednesday, May 12th, and I was convinced I would not have a child until well after that. Both my mother and mother-in-law had babies two weeks late, so I was bound to have the same fate. I think I let my doctor check me one time at 36 weeks. Of course, I was, like, a centimeter. After that I didn’t want to know. I wanted as little intervention as possible, and I didn’t want to be thinking about how much or how little I was dilated. I didn’t want her offering opinions on when she thought I would go into labor. I pretty much tried to pretend the whole thing wasn’t going to happen to keep my body relaxed and allow it to do what it needed to do to get the child out as quickly and efficiently as possible.

May 6th, a Thursday, was my last day at work. I was looking forward to spending the next week or so doing some things around our new house, sleeping in, and just generally relaxing before the baby came. First thing the next morning, I had a doctor’s appointment; I did not get to sleep in. “You want me to check you?” she asked. “Not if you don’t have to. I’m fairly certain nothing is going to happen for a while. See you next week!” I had had contractions periodically throughout the pregnancy but nothing consistent or that made me think I might be in labor. I happened to be going in to work to complete some paperwork and attend a lunch party of some sort before meeting my sister in the afternoon. Sitting at the computer my back was hurting, but that happens when you sit for a couple of hours doing computer work, right? I met up with my sister. We had a cookie and a soda. I’m sure we talked about my appointment and my plans for the next several days and planned on meeting again the next week some time. I remember telling her I was tired and thought I’d just go home and take a nap. Why not? I’m not working, hubby’s at guys night out, and I’ve got plenty of time the next few days to do the things on my list: clean, pack a bag, make sure the laundry is done, watch a movie, etc. I chatted on the phone with a friend and discussed my day, my back pain, fatigue and the nap I was about to take. Little did I know, she was formulating the theory that I was probably in labor but, thank goodness, said nothing to me about it because that would have ruined my nap!

I slept from 5pm till 7pm and woke up with the vague sensation that I had cramps. “How strange,” I thought to myself. “Why on earth do I have cramps? And why is my underwear damp? I haven’t had any issues with bladder leakage. Surely, I’m not in labor. That’s crazy. But just in case, maybe I better pack that hospital bag. Oh crap. Some of the things I need are in the laundry. Better run a load. Why are those cramps coming back? I thought I got rid of them.” I continued this internal dialogue for a bit continuing to assure myself that this couldn’t be labor because it wasn’t even my due date yet but working on the premise that it could be labor so I should probably be at least a little prepared. You’d think with all the planning I put into the preparation for labor, I’d be more…um…prepared.

Maybe around 8:00pm, I decided I should call Steve just to tell him how I was feeling and to be prepared to end guys' night early if needed. By this point, the cramps were coming in waves, and nothing I did changed them, not sitting, laying, walking, nothing. I was still calling them cramps because that is exactly what they felt like. I did not time them; there was no stopwatch. Didn’t even occur to me. My level-headed husband said, “Maybe you should go ahead and call the doc, just in case.” “No, I don’t think that’s necessary yet, but I gotta get off the phone, I can’t talk during this cramping.” Um, hello?! You are in labor! I was in complete denial because there were so many things I had wanted to do that I hadn’t done yet.

I did call the doctor eventually (8:30ish), the on-call doc, not mine, and, she told me it maybe sounded like early labor (I may not have been as forthcoming with information as I should have) and to keep tabs on it and let her know of any changes. I remember as I was getting off the phone with her another contraction hit, and I had trouble talking. I phoned Steve (8:45ish) to come home with some food so I could have some energy to get through this. Steve got home around 9:30, packed his own bag and tried to help me as I finished up some laundry, pausing periodically to have a contraction. Nearly every contraction ended with me saying, “That is REALLY uncomfortable,” or “This is a terrible idea,” but I could still do things in between contractions. When I called the doc the next time (10ish), once I finally had accepted this was probably happening, she said, “Yeah, when I got off the phone with you last time, I could hear it in your voice. You better come on in.”

Off we went to the hospital, and let me tell you, worst car ride ever. No traffic--thank goodness-- but the only comfortable position I had been able to find right before we left home was on all fours, hands and knees, so riding buckled in was the worst. It was during this ride that I started my self-talk. I didn’t know that I would do that. All those Bradley method things? Out the window. During every contraction I would talk myself through it saying things like “It’s okay, it’s okay, relax, just relax, it’s okay.” If Steve had said anything to me, I probably would have punched him in the face. I wanted him there, but I didn’t want him to speak or touch me, which is very different than how I thought I would be. I guess I had sort of pictured me being the strong silent type with a very calm presence. I was quite the opposite, in fact. Looking back, I think I had to talk to myself in order to relax into the pain and let my body do the work it needed to do. If I hadn’t been talking, I would have been clenching and slowing everything down.

We got to the hospital about 11:00. I had done pre-registration, but I still had to sign things, and they weighed me. Are you freaking kidding me? Is that really important at this point? I was very clearly in active labor and needed to be in a room. That’s how I felt about it anyway. I got to a room, and my nurse, who looked to be about 15 years old, told me to change into a gown and come back to the bed so she could check me. I don’t know how long I spent in that bathroom, pooping, losing my mucous plug, having contraction after contraction, but she did have to come back several times to tell me she “really needs to check me and get the baby monitor on.” I got in the bed and got to all fours as soon as I could, but I was not prepared for what this young nurse told me after she checked me. 8 centimeters. 8 centimeters! Pretty sure there was an expletive and also relief that I was close and had achieved my goal of laboring at home as long as possible. Some might say too long, I suppose.

After that, things happened. I got an IV put in because I was Group B strep positive so needed the antibiotics. Unfortunately, it didn’t really matter because there wasn’t time for it so the baby got the extra blood draw after the fact anyway. It seems like there were a lot of people around. My sister came at one point but didn’t even get in the door before I said, “It’s not really a good time, but I love you!” I was fairly certain I didn’t want her seeing my bare rump up in the air. I apparently didn’t care about all the other people in the room seeing it for some reason.

There were some things that stood out distinctly but there was also a kind of fog in my mind with only one focus, and time was sort of non-existent. I know we got to the hospital about 11pm, Jane was born at 2:28am, and I pushed for an hour and a half so I must have labored on all fours for between 1-2 hours. Steve was awesome. Every time I had a contraction, he did this hip squeeze thing we learned in our class that really helped (I think it was the only thing we used). If he wasn’t doing it right or didn’t do it when I told him to, he heard about it. Through the whole time, I was talking to myself, to Jesus asking for help, which seems odd to me because I’m not generally inclined to call upon the name of the Lord, out loud, in front of people. Every time a contraction would start up, I started to freak out and cry because it hurt so badly, but just as quickly I would talk myself down and let the pain do its work. I just kept reminding myself that if I didn’t relax, it would hurt more and take longer. I think one of the reasons I was able to get through it was the brief reprieve between contractions. Each contraction brought the fear that I wouldn’t get through it, but as the contraction subsided, and I had a few brief moments of relief, I was able to tell myself that I could do it…when I wasn’t saying what a terrible idea it was to do this to myself! Ha!

It took some convincing to get me turned over so the doctor could help deliver the baby. The thought of being on my back terrified me, but Steve was very gentle and said, “Honey, let’s try it and see if it helps.” Poor guy was stuck between what the doctor was saying needed to be done and what his wife was willing to do, but he handled it wonderfully without getting punched in the gut by his adoring wife. As I got positioned to push, it took a couple of attempts to get the position right so I felt like I could push. The doc said, “It’s not too late to have an epidural if you want one.” I can’t even begin to write the number of things that came to my head to say to her. Ultimately, it boiled down to I had come this far, there’s not that much left to do, why would I get one now after I’ve done the hardest part? All of the things I thought came out as an exasperated “No!” I’m just glad I didn’t kick her in the face. Evidently, I am a violent laborer.

So I commenced with pushing. And it was such a relief! It didn’t feel good, but it certainly felt better to be bearing down into the pain than to just be lying there helplessly. The other happy side effect of transition is the slowing of the contractions a bit. It’s like it was built in to help women have the strength to get through the final leg of childbirth. I had more time between contractions so I was able to fully relax, close my eyes, and rest. I’ll be honest, there were times where I even skipped pushing during a contraction because I was just too tired and needed the rest. Finally, it was really time for delivery, the doc returned because she had left at some point during pushing, and things got serious. You could see a head. Someone asked me if I wanted a mirror so I could see. Um, no! Are you crazy? Do you even know what’s going on down there? Steve made a comment he likes to think was funny after he got his first sight of the head. “I think there’s something down there.” He kind of whispered it and pointed a little bit. I’m pretty sure I said, “Not now, honey.” He is certainly a joker, and I appreciate his desire to lighten the mood, but come on, full-on childbirth is not the time.

I remember the doctor saying my name and to listen to her and do exactly what she says. I was so tired I couldn’t even keep my eyes open most of the time. She was trying to keep me from tearing, but I knew from the look on her face that I did as the head came out. After the head was out, it felt like an eternity waiting for that next contraction to get the body out. I’m fairly certain I let loose a “Get it out!” once or twice. I pushed one last time and out came the baby. Steve said “Honey, it’s a little girl!” We hadn’t known the sex of the baby prior to delivery. They put her on my chest, and all I could think was “I’m so glad that’s over.” They took her and weighed her, and I got the second shock of the night. 8 lbs 10 oz! No wonder my belly was so giant! 

I’d be lying if I said I was instantly in love and connected to the baby. In fact, after my sister visited and left, Steve laid down to sleep a bit, and I was holding Jane, I remember thinking, “Who is going to take care of this baby so I can get some sleep?” It dawned on me that I was that person, and I was so mad. I didn’t get to sleep in, fix up the house, go to the movies, or do anything I had planned because she came early. I was just at work yesterday! I was grateful to no longer have heartburn, though. She was really cute, and I did want to take care of her, I just wanted to do it after a full night’s sleep. Ultimately, all was well, and I did and do love my sweet Jane. I wouldn’t change anything about giving birth naturally, but to be fair, I was fortunate to have a fairly short first-time labor of about seven hours and can’t imagine if it had taken longer than that. I would do natural childbirth again, and in fact, already have. And if we have a third, that one will be unmedicated too.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Meet George Jetson (With Fresh Eyes)

The other day, an argument over music selection ensued from the backseat of the van. Silas, always the proponent for Wee Sing Dinosaurs, was duking it out with George, who was arguing in favor of Truck Tunes. When I say argument, of course, what I really mean is each boy shouting his selection louder than the other ad nauseam. Ever the mediator, I suggested the solution of Truck Tunes on the way to the grocery store and Wee Sing Dinosaurs on the way home. This was met by cheers from George and wails from Silas, who loudly grumbled, "I'm not even going to listen!! (pause) But I have ears so I have to."

This was the exact sentiment that I felt a few weeks ago when I made a poor decision and allowed my kids to watch an episode of The Jetsons. It all began earlier that afternoon at a public library, where we happened to be looking through the Children's DVDs with no particular selection in mind. It was easy enough: Silas wanted something to watch, and I happened to spot one of my favorite cartoons as a kid, now on DVD. I picked it up and asked, "How about this?" I explained to Silas that it takes place in the future, and that all of the houses are high in the sky, the cars fly, and the Jetsons employ a robot. Sold! We checked out the DVD and I walked out of the library happy to have the chance to show Silas what cartoons were like in my day---that is, the good ole' days.

Wow. In case I had forgotten, those good ole' days were the early 1960's (not my day, just to be clear), which held some really antiquated views on things. First of all, I think they were racist. Absolutely everybody in the future is white, according to The Jetsons. Second, the gender stereotyping was absurd. I'm really not sure what I expected from a cartoon made so many years ago, but it seems to be prevalent through the entire cartoon. Beginning with the opening credits, George is depicted as a career man, and "Jane, his wife!" is a compulsive spender of George's earnings. He offers her a few dollar bills to placate her, and she grabs the entire wallet. So much for financial planning and budget-making together as partners. I knew that what was to come was probably not great as soon as BJ and I met eyes, and we were literally 15 seconds into the episode!

I wish I could tell you that it didn't get any worse than this, but it did. The episode we watched was titled "Las Venus," and is based on George and Jane celebrating their wedding anniversary with a getaway to the space-age equivalent of Las Vegas. After they arrived, Jane left to, of course, go shopping for what she termed "a Saturn bikini." She demurely offered George the description of a swimsuit that has "rings in all the right places." What?? I'm letting my kids watch this? It obviously went right over their four-year-old and two-year-old little heads, but good grief! I wasn't expecting sexual innuendos from this enterprise.

The sexual innuendos continued, sadly. George was confronted by his boss via satellite, and he insisted that George visit with a potential client who was also vacationing in Las Venus. He promised George that the account was a big one and would result in a promotion for George and a personal secretary who, the boss indicated, had been referred to by many as "Heavenly Body." The writers apparently thought that George had no brain and no self-control, because he became ridiculously google-eyed over the possibility of scoring such a prize!! A secretary with a hot body! The look on his face was disgusting. As the episode unfolded, George did in fact meet with the client, who apparently happened to be a good-looking female. Time after time, George's character was dumbed down to be an ogre who could not articulate a single sentence while in the presence of this woman. He ended up looking like a blathering fool.
George made plans to meet with this woman for dinner, even though he was on vacation with Jane. The problem, really, was that he neglected to tell Jane about it. That evening, as he was dining with Jane, he seemed to have forgotten about his appointment and then suddenly remembered that he was scheduled to meet with this client. I'm not sure how he forgot, but okay. Because he felt he couldn't be honest with his wife, he made an excuse to leave her and he hurried to meet his client, who was in another restaurant. As he was blathering with the client, he again seemed to suddenly remember, "Oh! I have a wife! Better hurry back!" And so back and forth he went between women, each time with the sudden remembrance that he was supposed to be somewhere else. Object permanence, not achieved.

The episode, and I am assuming the entire cartoon, is an insult to women and to men. Women made no valuable contributions to anything in this episode and were generally viewed as sexual beings. Men were made to look like dumb oafs who are incapable of speaking in the presence of beauty, incapable of remembering simple plans, and guided by their sexual impulses. People of color, apparently, don't even exist! I couldn't wait for the episode to conclude and wished that I didn't have ears. I suppose that we could have stopped the show in the middle of it, but our children would have reacted as though we had thrown their dessert into a litter box. Probably. Maybe I don't give them enough credit. We could have turned off the show and explained to our children that The Jetsons aren't allowed in our home because we don't appreciate the objectification of women. Surely they would understand that, right? Somehow, though, that didn't seem like the best idea at the time. So we finished the episode and then quietly returned it to the library. The next time The Jetsons came up in conversation, we told them it had been due back at the library. Someday we can have that conversation, but not today.

Some people would say that we're overreacting, but the truth is that kids pick up a lot more than we often give them credit for. If BJ and I allowed our kids to continually watch examples that endorse these kinds of stereotypes, exclusions, and objectifications, then we risk this becoming the norm that our children think is acceptable. The ideas may gradually implant that women are good for shopping, that men become foolish around women other than their partners, that white people are the only ones that matter. I don't think so. Why even introduce those notions, just to combat them? I think we'll stick with PBS Kids shows like Wild Kratts. My kids learn valuable information about animals and their habitats while observing teamwork, kind brotherly interactions, an African-American presence in the cast, and tons of cool scientific inventions that are masterminded by a female named Aviva. This seems like a much better idea. In the meantime, I'll stop reminiscing about how things were better in the days of yore.
Wild Kratts
Brotherly cooperation in action