Thursday, December 27, 2012

Colors Are For Everyone, or "Will it make your penis fall off?"

              We realize that intentional gender neutral parenting is probably not very familiar to a lot of our friends and family. However, I have begun to notice that there might be some confusion about what exactly gender neutral parenting looks like. We have heard quite a few comments along the lines of “it’s so hard to shop for gender neutral things” and “it will be so much easier to pick stuff out once the baby gets here”. So the purpose of this post is to clear up any confusion. Feel free to ask questions if anything is still left unclear.

Gender 101
                People regularly misuse the word “gender”. Most of the time they actually mean sex. Sex is a biological category. Your sex is either male or female (or intersexed, in some cases, but we will stick to the basics). Sex is determined by your genitalia and/or chromosomes. You are male because you have a penis, testes, etc. and are XY. You are female because you have a vagina, uterus, etc. and are XX. Gender has nothing to do with biology.
 Gender is a social construction which in most cultures can be viewed as a spectrum ranging from masculine to feminine. By social construction, I mean gender is really not based on anything concrete. It is simply a compilation of attitudes and trends in a given society. Different societies define and value gender differently. For example, in Western civilization (i.e. us), masculinity is generally associated with power and strength while femininity is associated with emotions, communication, and nurturing. Masculinity is valued above femininity. This isn’t because it is the right way or “natural” (remember, there is nothing natural, given, or biological about gender, it is completely constructed), it is just because that is how our particular society developed. Others do things differently.
So we have determined gender is different than sex. Masculine does not equal male. Feminine does not equal female. Males can be masculine or feminine. Females can be masculine or feminine.  A lot of research and study in fields like anthropology and psychology have been conducted over the last 50 years concerning gender and sex. There is no link between the two. There is more variation between masculinity and femininity within sexes (between lots of men or lots women) than there is between the sexes (between men and women). This may seem counterintuitive. After all, when thinking about all the men and women you know, it’s probably easy to say that men do X and women do Y. Boys are rambunctious and girls are sweet. What most people don’t realize is that they are observing gender, not sex. These behaviors are taught and instilled in us by the society we live in (parents decorate the rooms, pick out the clothes, buy the toys- these choices made by the parents shape children’s preferences). We teach boys to be masculine and girls to be feminine. It has nothing to do with natural inclinations. When children are not pushed one way or the other, there is actually no difference between boys and girls.
Gender is not sex. It is also not sexual orientation. Your gender has nothing to do with what other genders or sexes you are attracted to. Masculine men may prefer men or women. Feminine men may prefer men or women. Same for women. So in review, sex is what is between your legs, sexual orientation is what you want to do with it, and gender is a social construction that guides your preferences and behaviors.
                Fun Fact: Prior to the World Wars, blue was actually the color for girls. It was calm and demure. Pink was reserved for boys because it was so robust and bright.
                Something to think about: For most of history, boys and girls were dressed the same (soft colors, ruffles, gowns) for most of their early years. By creating gender differences earlier, companies have expanded their markets.

So what does this have to do with parenting?
                In a lot of respects, children are a blank slate.  Each child is born with its own unique personality which if left alone would guide its behaviors and preferences. That leaves an enormously wide range of potential for emotional expression, interests, and everything else. We want that for our child. We don’t want to shape our child or force any preconceived expectations upon them. We don’t want to push them to do certain things or behave a certain way because it is what is expected of their sex.
                If this sounds weird or radical, just take a second to think about it. I think it comes easier in the context of girls. Thankfully a lot of women have worked very hard over the past century to expand our horizons. Whether my parents did it intentionally or not, I was raised pretty much gender neutral. My nursery was blue, as were a lot of my clothes (the hyper- pink/blue dichotomy is relatively new and in fact, simply a marketing ploy. If you say boys wear blue, girls wear pink, and then only make products in those two colors, you have a 50% chance of your customer needing to re-buy everything the next time around…but I digress). I had dinosaurs, Barbies, ligthsabers, Nerf guns, Polly Pockets, etc. I was never told that “that’s for boys” or I couldn’t do something. My parents didn’t want to limit me. But unfortunately this seems to come more difficultly to parents of boys. The same parents who don’t bat and eyelash at their daughter wearing blue or playing with trucks may flip out when their son tries on a dress or asks to take ballet. Or play with dolls or play kitchen. Because God forbid your son grow up to be…you know…a dad or know how to make a sandwich.
                The goal of gender neutral parenting is to remove these barriers so that the child can be led by their own personality. Gender neutral parenting isn’t about avoiding blue or pink and only buying yellow and green. Gender neutral does not mean androgynous. It has nothing to do with the actual objects/choices involved. It has everything to do with creating an open attitude about the fact that gender and sex are not equal and dichotomous and therefore allowing your child to develop his or her own gender regardless of their sex.  Gender neutral parenting is about all the colors (colors are for everybody). Gender neutral parenting is about providing blue AND pink, and all the other colors, as well as all types of toys, hobbies, and interest then following the child’s lead as to what he or she likes. Everything is gender neutral.

If this is still confusing, here are some helpful questions to ask yourself when trying to determine whether or not something is gender neutral (appropriate for both sexes):

-       -Does this object/clothing/hobby require a penis/vagina/other sexual organs to use appropriately?
If the answer is yes (an athletic cup perhaps?), then you might take the child’s sex into account. 
If the answer is no (toys, dolls, music, colors, extracurricular activities, etc.) it doesn’t matter and can be used by both sexes.

-    -Will this object/clothing/hobby cause the penis/vagina/ other sexual organs to shrivel, rot or fall off? If the answer is yes…well that just sounds dangerous and I’m not sure I can recommend that choice for anyone.
If the answer is no, congratulations! It’s gender neutral.

Ways you probably gender children without realizing it
                Maybe this doesn’t seem crazy to you. Maybe this seems pretty simple. But regardless, we all have a tendency to gender children and most of the time we don’t even realize it.

                We call girls with masculine traits “tom boys” and use other similar terms. Girls are just girls. They like all kinds of different things. Same for boys. Just because a child doesn’t like something that we associate with their sex or likes something different doesn’t mean they are abnormal or need  be labeled.

                We call things “girl stuff” or “boy stuff”. If a girl likes action figures, by definition they can be girl things. If a boy likes dolls, they are boy things. But let’s just make it simple. Toys, colors, etc. are for everybody that likes them. End of story.

                We steer our boys towards the blue side of the store and girls towards the pink side. Heck, we don’t even question why stores have two sides in the first place.

                When a child does something stereotypically associated with their sex, we say “oh, he’s all boy” or “she’s such a girly-girl.”

                I can go on forever. The point is, these subtle words and attitudes shape how we treat each other and how our children view themselves. The point of gender neutral parenting is to become aware of these things so that we can give our children room to develop to their full potential.

Questions and Concerns
This has been a pretty basic overview of the concept and gender in general. By all means, seek out more information. I have included some great links at the bottom of this post. But in closing, I will bring up a few common (or at least common to me) responses or questions about gender neutral parenting.

-Won’t that make your child gay? (As if this that is the worst thing that could ever happen) We have already determined gender has nothing to do with sexual orientation.

-Will that create an identity crisis? My question to that is, is your identity really that tied up in your gender? By taking the focus off of gender, you are allowing your children to develop themselves in other ways, maybe even discover something about themselves they would have otherwise been kept from.

-If this is how things are, doesn’t that make it right? There are many things that were once the status quo (slavery?). That doesn’t make them right. Isn’t it everyone’s hope for the children that they have more opportunities and a better world than the generation before them?

-You’re just asking for your kid to get bullied. This is one of my pet peeves, because I hear this statement in response to a lot of things. This is straight up victim blaming. If my kid gets bullied, it’s his fault for XY or Z or my fault for allowing him to do it. Newsflash- it is not my kid’s job (or my job) to make my kid bully-proof. If my child has big ears, should he get plastic surgery? What about a speech impediment? I understand that these aren’t choices, but the implications are still the same. No, it is YOUR (a general “your”, nothing personal) job to not be an asshole. Will my kid encounter general meanness in his or her life? Of course. But that doesn’t mean he/she has to accept it or that the onus is on them to prevent it. They can do everything in their power to make themselves as socially acceptable as possible and people will still be jerks.

-How will they learn their role in society? I would love to think that we are the sole influence on our children (well, maybe, that's probably actually a little scary and too much power), but I know that is not the case. We get a pretty important role in the early years, but by two years old, children's peer relationships begin to take an increasingly important role in their lives in proportion to caregivers. Society will get to our children, I promise. They will go to school. They will meet strangers in stores. They will be exposed to media and commercialism. The idea is not to prevent these things entirely. The idea is to give our kids a safe place in our home to go against these things if that is their desire and to give some balance to the messages they will receive.

                In conclusion, if it won’t make your penis or vagina fall off, it’s fine to buy for our kids no matter what their sex. They will have all types of colors, clothing styles, and toys so that they can decide what they like. So next time you hesitate getting something for a child, just remember- everything is gender neutral and colors are for everybody.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

First Trimester- Nailed It.

Well, here I am at 14 weeks. The first trimester is officially over! Woohoo! Only 6-ish more months to go. So I thought I would wrap up with a review of all the goings on over the past few weeks.

-We found out I was pregnant on Thursday, October 11th.

-I have thrown up 0 times. I had about a week and a half of nausea starting around week 6, and there were times I wanted to throw up, but nothing actually happened.

-My only other symptoms have been headaches and some sciatica on my left side that comes and goes.

-I have gained 3 ½ pounds so far and think I finally qualify as having a “bump.”

-According to all those pregnancy-by-week websites, baby is about the size of my fist, is furry, and can pee.

-We got to hear the heart beat Week 10, and it was pretty awesome.

-Our baby stash currently includes a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles onesie, socks with dinosaurs and monkeys on them, a pink homebirth onesie, and a breast pump.

- So far we have 6 votes for it being a boy and 0 votes for girl.

-Still looking at early summer (late June, possibly early July-ish) for the big debut.

-Still no detectable movement, but it’s really early. I’m just looking forward to the baby kicking Jiminy when he tries to sleep on me. That will be fun.

-I haven’t had a whole lot of “cravings”, mostly because I get sick of something after I’ve had it two or three times. I guess the mini cravings I’ve had have included pickles (though this was before I was technically pregnant, so that might have just been me), onion rings, cocoa pebbles (I prefer Koala Krispies, but can’t find them in Tucson), sub sandwiches, and cheeseburgers.

-Pregnancy dreams have been weird. So far I haven’t had a single dream about the actual baby. In some dreams I’m pregnant and some I’m not. They are mostly just very vivid, random sequences of events.

-I’m still keeping up with my yoga and physical exercise. So far I have had to cut out lower ab work (no more leg lifts), shalabaasana, and twists are getting slightly uncomfortable.

-I bought my first belly band, the first item of maternity clothing I own. I mostly need it because my shirts have been riding up over my tummy. Luckily the bump is staying pretty high and my jeans still fit ok.

So that is pretty much it. The first trimester has been easier than I dreamed possible. It still seems kind of weird to think I am pregnant, but since my belly is getting bigger it’s becoming harder to forget. One third of the way done! 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Consummatum Est

   We did it! We made it to the end of the semester. As of Thursday evening, Joey and I were both completely done. It feels good. There are moments when I sit on the couch and sip my hot tea without simultaneously trying to type or do advanced math.We sleep in until 8 o'clock.  It is strange and beautiful. I would love to come up with a wonderful ode to all we have learned and accomplished over the past few months, but I used up all of my brain cells on my papers and stats final (mostly the stats final).  But now we have a few magical weeks do some more exploring around the area, catch up on some house projects we have been neglecting (who needs insulation, am I right?), and getting ready to make a trip back to Memphis to visit friends and family. And grow a baby.
  But as you can see, Joey and Jiminy are already getting settled into Christmas break. Fender is asleep on the bed, because let's face it his entire life is Christmas break. And I'm curled up at the other end, sipping my tea and reading the Hobbit for the first time before we go see the movie. I'm sorry to say, Tolkien fans, I'm over a third of the way through and not that impressed. I also don't see how they are going to make this book last three movies. However, I am excited about the new Les Miserables movie that comes out Christmas day. I'm sure I just committed some type of fantasy literature mortal sin. Oh well. But that is my report for the entire semester. We survived. The end.

And when he is not beasting his way through Uncharted 3, Jiminy has found a new, second favorite hobby.

I have very little faith that the tree will be standing when we get back in town.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Illusion of Informed Consent

    I hadn't thought much about the role informed consent would play in my pregnancy and childbirth. I knew I would eventually make up a birth plan, including my preferences in the case of transfer or c-section, and that these plans would play a crucial role in establish what types of procedures I did and did not consent to. After all, I'm fairly informed on those topics. I had heard stories of women being dropped as patients for refusing to consent to certain procedures, or being bully or guilted into signing on the dotted line. But I figured I wouldn't have to worry about all of that. After all, those were some of the main reasons I was choosing to home birth. So in my limited conceptualization, informed consent was simple. You became informed, and then you either consented or you didn't based on that information. The fact that you informed yourself was all that was required by the establishment at hand. 
   Apparently I was wrong. Informed consent appears to mean they inform you, you consent. Period. I learned this today after a particularly nasty conversation with a CNM at the campus health clinic. Let me back up a moment. Contrary to what some may believe, my midwife requires me to get the usual pregnancy blood work done so we can make sure everything looks good and there aren't any complications that might affect my ability to safely birth at home (shockingly, she doesn't just bring over her ouija board and call it a day). She suggested I look into getting the lab work done through campus health because it might be cheaper rather than just going through an independent lab she normally uses. So I called campus health and after speaking with 7 different people finally got across what I needed done, and yes they could do it there. Then I got a call back from the one of the nurses saying that if she got the CNM who saw me for my pregnancy test to order the labs, insurance might cover a larger part than if I had the order from my midwife (because my midwife is out of my network). Ok, cool. I like saving money; go for it. So I get a call from the CNM. She gives me a nice little talk about how she will order these labs, but that if the results are funny she would probably handle things differently than my midwife, so I just need to be aware, mentions something about syphilis, do I understand? Well yes, in the event that something is wrong (I'm Rh-, protein in my urine, etc) I'm sure my midwife and I will both want me to seek further attention (you know, right after we do a rain dance and burn a wicker man as an offering). So I go in, pee in two cups and give 5 (5!) vials of blood. Sweet. 
   Well, this morning the CNM called with my results. She sounds serious. She needs to talk to me. Some of my results that came back need to be discussed. Now I know I don't have syphilis and I know my blood is O+. I have great blood pressure and no edema. So I patiently wait for her to tell what is so terribly wrong. She tells me I have...a urinary tract infection. Oh, ok. I'm not surprised. I have had them before and am usually asymptomatic except for having to pee a lot. And since I'm pregnant, it's not weird for me to pee a lot, so that makes sense. UTI. Sweet. Thanks for your time. But wait! There's more! She also says, in a very worried tone, that my white blood cell count is a little high! Oh the horror! Now, I know what white blood cells are and do. I know what having a lot of them mean. So I asked, isn't that because I have an infection? To which she replied, "Well, yes, it could be. But it could be something else!" Well, ok, on a metaphysical level the possibilities are endless. But since we know I have a UTI, it would seem likely that this is the reason behind the elevated white cells. Or maybe I'm just crazy. And I guess because I was obviously unimpressed with this tidbit, she continued " platelets are low!" Ok, I don't know that much about platelets. But considering the three ring circus she just pulled with the white cell count and the fact that I have no type of blood disorder symptoms (I do know platelets are in the blood), I take this information with a salt-lick. She tells me I must get rechecked within the next week and keep a close eye and inform my midwife immediately. Ok, I can do that. Sounds reasonable. And then she asks, can my midwife write a prescription? How will  I go about getting the required meds for my debilitating asymptomatic UTI? Now, I know darn well she is capable of writing a script, and because she ordered the lab work, it would not be outside her jurisdiction to call in the antibiotics to the campus pharmacy. But she is obviously not offering to do so. Not only that, she is playing coy asking if my midwife will be writing the script. She knows a CPM cannot write prescriptions. She is simultaneously creating a difficult situation and then calling attention to it as if it in some way validates her initial concerns about my choice of care provider. Nice. So she asks, how do I plan on getting the required antibiotics? 
    This ain't my first rodeo. I have had a few UTIs over the past years and have never taken an antibiotic for them. In fact, I can't remember the last time I took an antibiotic period. Normally I went to the campus health in Memphis, they confirmed I had a UTI, and then gave me a bottle of pills which I promptly dumped in a drawer in my bathroom and never touched. It was the path of least resistance. But here I'm not being given that option. She wants to know where I will get the pills that I will never take. So, I think for a moment then decide to go with honesty. I tell her I'm not worried about a script. I don't take antibiotics for UTIs. She. flips.out. I would have explained I have a drawer full of antibiotics that I can "take" if it means that much to her, but I don't get a chance. I'm going to get a kidney infection, my baby will die, I will die, the whole world will end. Plague. Disease. Destruction. And then, because she apparently detected it was my weakest link, she starts harping about the platelets. I honestly believed I had some very rare, very serious condition. For a split second. Then I remembered that this is the person who is audibly angry, on what appears to be a personal level, about a UTI. 
   Now this struck me as odd. I had expected the normal, "Well, I have to recommend antibiotics and can't recommend any other type of treatment. If you want to try something else, please check back next week and if your not better, you should seriously consider...blah blah blah." In Memphis, I went to a regular OBGYN for my well-woman stuff. Nothing crunchy or alternative about her or her practice. Because of a type of birth control I was on, I was getting recurrent yeast infections. I had read echinacea was a good treament. I tried it; it seemed to work, so I brought it up at my next check-up. I asked by doctor, was that okay if I just did the echinacea? "Hey, if it works, it works!" was her reply. In fact, she also said she had heard eating yogurt regularly could help balance everything out. Maybe I could try that too. And if they infections became a problem, just call the office nurse and she would call me in a fluconazole script. Everything was fine and dandy and she wasn't personally offended, I never needed the prescription. I was healthy, she was happy. 
   Not this CNM. She laid the guilt on thick. This was going to affect me and my baby. It was going to be terrible. And then, she told me while I had a right to refuse what I wanted to, she couldn't continue to see me if I wasn't going to get the treatment she recommended. Yep, she dropped me as her patient over a UTI. I was informed, I did not consent, and as a result, I was dropped. Her way or the highway. Which is fine, I'd rather not receive care from a provider like that anyway. And I realize it was completely in her rights to do so. No hard feelings there. I just couldn't believe that something so simple was such a big issue. So I got to thinking about it and I have come to a couple conclusions. 
1) The whole incident bothered me, because I don't like to feel as if people are mad at me or upset with me. That's how she made me feel. Like it was personal. Like I was being stupid and irresponsible. There was no respect or desire for understanding. She didn't even ask what kind of treatment I use instead. But as sucky as it was to feel like I "got in trouble", I have more important things to worry about. Namely my baby and my own health. 
2)She was making a lot of assumptions. She kept asking about my midwife, as if she was somehow the reason I didn't want antibiotics. Nope. Just me. A choice I have made for myself many times and will continue to make. She also assumed I was simply being pig-headed. If she would have calmed down for two seconds, I could have explained that I would happily consider antibiotics as a last resort. I always do. I've just never needed them. Why destroy my natural flora balance and contribute to resistant strains of bacteria if I don't need to? Seems silly to me. She was also acting like she was the only person who cared about me or my baby. Like those things weren't important to me or my midwife also. She couldn't pause and think that maybe my concern for my baby and I was WHY I am reluctant to use antibiotics unnecessarily. 
3)She was a bully. She lied and used scare tactics to try and get her way. I knew it when she tried to pull it with the white blood cell count. So when I got home and looked at my results, I did some research on the whole platelet thing and UTIs in general. UTIs are only dangerous in pregnant women if they develop into rampant kidney infections complete with high fever (which is never good). Obviously I'm not going to let it get anywhere near that point. As far as the platelets, my count was 133 and the normal range was 150-450. That is only 17 units too low on a 300 unit scale. Barely abnormal. So I did some research. Everything I found said as long as you were above 50 units, there wasn't too much need for concern and only 10 and below were truly dangerous. And you know what a common cause of thrombocytopenia is? Pregnancy. Well that explained a lot. So I looked into gestational thrombocytopenia. It's perfectly normal. Happens in quite a few pregnancies. Entirely asymptomatic and clears up right after birth. Nothing dangerous about it. No risks or effects for mother or baby as long as the count doesn't get too low. No treatment required. No. big. deal. 
   So this CNM was either unaware of this and incompetent, or she deliberately lied and tried to scare me into doing things her way. Lame. So I called my midwife, explained the happenings to her, and ask what she recommended as far as my UTI goes. She asked what I usually do. So I told her, I have a regimen of cranberry supplements, echinacea, and colloidal silver. Great, that is exactly what she would recommend. I can also try laying off sugar for a few days and soaking in a bath with baking soda. Super. I asked was she worried about the white blood cells and platelets? Not at all, perfectly normal. Well that was refreshing!
   Here's the thing. It took a lot for me to stick up for myself. If it hadn't been for the fact that I am pregnant and not about to start making health compromises to please other people, I might have just given in. I might have let her scare me. How many other patients has she bullied this way? And why? Probably because of liability. Because everyone in this medical system is freakin' scared of getting sued. Or maybe she is just used to working with irresponsible college students. But come on lady, have a little faith in me. She was impressed the first time I saw her because I had correctly self-diagnosed a corpus luteum cyst. I told her all about my doula stuff and how I was a birth junkie and my PhD program. She knew I was informed and cognizant. She could have given me the benefit of the doubt. But she pulled the patriarchy card. She has the coat, she has the degree, she apparently thinks she has control over my body. Sorry, it doesn't work that way. Not with my body, and not with my baby. 


Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Last Post from the Past

   The last and most complicated (time wise) post from the past. I am writing this post November 30th. I have already broke the news to the masses and posted the first Post From the Past. But I have a few more to get to before I can start writing in real time, and I want to go over the happenings of the past week while they are still fresh.
   At the beginning of the week I went to see the endocrinologist who will be taking over my thryoid stuff for my pregnancy. Since my levels will fluctuate so much, the general medicine people didn't want to deal with it. The doctor was wonderful and I got my schedule for how often I'll get poked with needles over the next 7 months. Yay. This past Wednesday we had our first official prenatal appointment. Everything went great. We got to hear the little heart beat. I was really nervous because I had been having dreams (oh, pregnancy dreams) for the last week that every time we tried to go to the appointment to hear the heart, something crazy would happen. Like, we got attacked by bears or Joey battled Bane crazy. So I was relieved when the first thing our midwife did was grab the doppler (This will be our only time using the doppler. We just really wanted to hear the heart before we started telling people and didn't want to wait until we could use the fetoscope).She found it pretty quickly and it was loud and strong! All of my vitals looked great. We went over my chart from  when I conceived (We used FAM as contraception for over a year before we used it to get pregnant) and she thinks I might actually be a few days farther along than I originally thought. However, because she is amazing, she didn't officially move my due date back. That way if baby takes a little longer to come, I have more time before I have to start dealing with red tape (thank you, State of Arizona). Then after our hour long appointment she busted open her amazing dried herb store and custom made me a giant jar of dried tea will all kinds of pregnancy-helpful properties. Have I mentioned how much I love having a midwife?
   So after the appointment we began calling close friends and family and Friday the information went "live" on Facebook and the first Post From the Past was revealed. Thursday I talked to a few key administrators in my department, just to give them a heads up about what was going on. Surprisingly most people seemed genuinely excited for me, which was a relief. It feels kind of odd having everyone know our "secret" since we have been working so hard to keep it to ourselves for so long now. But it's nice to feel the love and excitement from everyone!
  So that's it. I'm almost done with the first trimester, and I have to say, it has been much easier than I expected. I only had about a week and a half of nausea and while I can still sleep about 10 hours a night, I'm not dragging as bad during the day. The baby and I are both doing amazing, so I couldn't ask for anything more! Oh, and I managed to score my dream pump on sale for $100 off on a Black Friday online deal. THAT was really hard not to brag about, lol. But seriously, if you are ever in the market for a new pump, Hygeia has some of the best ones on the market. Not only are the pumps great, but the company itself is really awesome. They are WHO compliant (brands like Medela aren't), environmentally friendly, and you can send them used pumps to be refurbished instead of thrown away. Since it was on sale, I treated myself to the fancy set up with the tote and everything. Our first baby purchase! So this is it for the time warp. From now on, I will be posting in real time. So stay tuned!

Post From the Past #5

    I have been wanting to write a new post for a while, but my motivation/energy level these days is pretty nil.  I'm pretty much a full time pregnant zombie now. My nausea has let up a bit and now is much less intense and only sporadic (though a windy drive through the mountains today taught me that car sickness exponentially adds to morning sickness). The fatigue is still raging. I'm averaging 9-10 hours of sleep a night and it's not uncommon for me to take a nap during the day. But I'm seeing an endocrinologist soon since I'm hypothyroid and hopefully she will help me balance out my new preggo levels and some of the tiredness will let up. I'm also entering that lovely state of pre-bump pregnancy bloat, but luckily my wardrobe is predominantly made up of stretchy yoga pants anyway. Those and an investment in Forever 21's $4 sports bras (which are soooooo incredibly comfortable) have minimized my need for clothing adjustments so far.
   Other than the typical first trimester transitions, our biggest news is that we selected a birth attendant. I have a whole post about why we wanted to go with a midwife here if you are interested. Luckily we had already made some contacts at the Improving Birth Rally we were a part of in September. Through some of the cards I had obtained, we were able to contact and meet with most of the CPMs (certified professional midwives) in the area. It was very important to us to find a good fit. We knew we wanted someone who's skill level and experience we trusted, but more importantly, we wanted someone who trusted me- trusted my body to birth the baby. I'm birthing my baby. The midwife is just there to lend a hand if and when needed. We also wanted someone I clicked with. Feeling at ease, relaxed, and trustful is so so so important during labor and birth, which is why I highly recommend getting a doula if you are going to be birthing anywhere where these things are difficult to come by or you will likely be surrounded by mostly strangers. The body is hyper responsive to stress and anxiety hormones during labor and it's amazing how quickly labor will slow or stop when things like adrenaline and cortisol are pumping. So with these things in mind, we interviewed four different midwives. One automatically didn't work out because she was going to be out of town around my "expected due date" (more on that later). Another was incredibly skilled and experienced, but I just didn't feel like I meshed with her. We liked her, and she was definitely an option we highly considered, but there was something missing in our connection that I really wanted to be there during my birth. The third woman was incredibly friendly and we got along well with her right off the bat. Everything seemed to click. But one thing made me decide she wasn't the right choice *for us* (everyone should choose a provider suited to their needs and no one else's). The thing was, she had never had an emergency transfer to a hospital. Now most of you probably think that's a great thing, and for many people it is and that is something you want to hear. Not for us though. You see, she had had several transfers. But none of them had been in an emergency situation. If I am going to give birth in a white, cold, sterile hospital, surrounded by noise and complete strangers...if I am going to have to fight for the kind of birth I want and the kind of care I want for my better damn well be an emergency. You see, we only live 5 minutes from the closest hospital. That is WAY less time than it takes to prep an operating room. In fact, you would have to live about 30 minutes away from a hospital for it to affect the amount of time that would pass between the problem arising and you being put on the operating table if a c-section was necessary. I know some people have probably had an "emergency" c-section and were rushed in fairly quickly...almost like the doctors had planned on the c-section in the first place...but of course it was an "emergency", so.... But anyway. That was a stumbling block for us that we weren't sure we felt comfortable with. I wanted a provider who trusted my body 100% and who wasn't going to jump the gun on calling it quits while the baby and I were still perfectly fine.
   So we interviewed the fourth midwife. And she was perfect. Her own birth stories, her philosophy, her obvious trust in the process and in women in general. She had a lot of experience and was highly skilled (all of them were), but she also had a calm manner and perspective that was wonderful. I asked her all the hard questions about things that could go wrong and when she would "let" me continue to labor and when she would suggest a transfer, and the answer was always the same. As long as I was okay and the baby was okay, we would work through whatever came up. I even asked her about the due date laws here. In AZ, if you go past 42 weeks the law says a midwife cannot attend you, meaning I would have to transfer to obstetric care, even if the baby and I were perfectly fine. She told me though, that all we would have to do is get checked out by the OB at 42 weeks and have that person sign off, and as long as everything looked good, I could still birth at home. Fantastic. Nothing to worry about or stress me out in the event that my baby just took a little longer to cook than others (which is not that uncommon, here is one beautiful example). Her attitude was like this about everything. Whatever happened, we would work through it. We COULD work through. I am capable. She would help and support me. Those were the kind of words I needed and wanted to hear.
   If you want to browse the 35 questions we went over with the midwives (not a single interview lasted less than 90 minutes), just message me and let me know. I'd be happy to send them to you and include an explanation about why we asked what we did and what the answers were. I'd also be happy to go over some basic questions for other providers, such as birth center CNMs and OBs if you want. This is literally the most important decision you will make during your pregnancy. It shouldn't be taken lightly and nothing should be assumed as "given". If you don't like the answers you get, keep looking. There is not just one way to do anything and there are as many perspectives and philosophies about birth as their are providers. Find the one that works for you.

Post From the Past #4

     As we begin planning for the arrival of Baby, I have been thinking a lot about my preconceptions about pregnancy, birth, and parenting and how much they have changed over the past few years. I know my views tend to fall fairly crunchy of center. Nothing in this post or any subsequent ones is meant to be judgmental in any way. If you don’t like the way we do things, that’s fine. I’m glad. Do things your way. My purpose is simply to share information and provide a perspective that you may or may not have been exposed to before because I am so SO glad that I stumbled on to these things before we started having children.
    Speaking of which, a lot of people wonder how I stumbled into the whole birth-activist thing. I basically started with a few friends of mine with shared world views. However, unlike myself, they had children so they would post and discuss lots of articles and perspectives concerned with pregnancy and children that stemmed from feminist and crunchy perspectives not unlike my own. So I would read them. I like to read, and I like to learn, so if I become interested in a specific topic it can snowball quickly, especially considering my access to databases of research through the University. So I read everything I could find. I read opposing positions and found supporting sources and counter sources to everything I discovered.
    Let’s start with where I started. I always had a fairly typical “American” view of pregnancy and birth. I was terrified. I always said there was no way I would have children, not because I disliked children but because the idea of childbirth scared me more than anything I could imagine. After all, it’s a medical emergency! You have to go to a hospital for goodness sakes! There are IVs and a needle in your spine (contrary to what you may think given my tattoos and piercings- I despise needles), not to mention the monitors and catheters and beeping and people frantically running around. And this wasn’t just my perceptions based on movie and television. I was present for the birth of my two youngest sisters, start to finish. These beliefs, combined with an overall lack of faith in my body in general that seems to be epidemic in this country, made me positive that birth was something hard, and excruciating, and something to be feared.
     But then I started my reading. It started with my exposure to a book called “Taking Charge of Your Fertility.”  Women were raving about how amazing and empowering it was to learn how to monitor your own fertility for either birth control or conception purposes. Now this resonated with me because I HATED being on birth control. I hated the way it made me feel (I started anti-depressants shortly after starting birth control and I do not think that was a coincidence). I hated the fact that I was pumping my body full of synthetic hormones, and I hated the risks I was facing (cancer, stroke, etc). And I hated a slew of other random side effects that always popped up, despite the fact that I tried several different kinds. I also wasn’t super fond of the $30-$50 I was paying out of pocket each month (it being pre-Affordable Healthcare Act). So here was this book promising free, empowering, effective birth control! I ordered it off of Amazon and read it cover to cover and I was astounded by how much in the book I didn’t know. I literally had no clue how my own body functioned.
     So I kept reading. I read about normal pregnancy and childbirth. I learned about the delicate hormonal balance that occurs between the mother and baby. I read about the intricate process and how my amazing body was both capable of growing and birthing a tiny person all by itself. I learned that in over 90% of births, medical interventions are completely unnecessary and can often cause significant complications. I found out the only about 1/3 of obstetric practices in the U.S. are evidenced based. I learned that obstetrics was developed to treat high risks pregnancies which make up only about 10% of women in the U.S., and was never intended to be the basic care system for the other 90%.I realized that the medical model of care is just that- one model. And you weren’t going to get exposure or information about anything else from your doctors or nurses because that is all they know!  That is how they were trained and what their textbooks said, so that is what they do. I learned that there are other models- birth centers and midwives and home birth. I found out that home birth is just as safe for the baby as hospital birth for normal pregnancies and more safe for the mother. I learned so many things, more than I have time to cover in this post.
   This resonated deeply with me. I have always been a bit of a flower child. I never feel more complete or more spiritual than when I am surrounded by the earth. And this made sense! If every other being in creation can bring forth life on their own, why can’t I? What makes humans so different that they can’t perform the most basic of biological functions? Why wouldn’t I be perfectly and intricately designed, just like any thunderstorm or snow flake? No matter what your belief system-nature, God, evolution, wherever you think stuff comes from- why would it make sense that we are so poorly designed to not even be able to achieve procreation without a thousand bells and whistles that didn’t exist until a hundred years ago (which we preceded by a long, long lineage of natural woman centered child birth I might add. If anything “modern birth” is a social experiment at best)?
    And as I learned, I started to feel like I had discovered some big secret. I wanted to run out into the world screaming, “Hey everyone listen! You don’t have to be afraid! You don’t have to spend all this money and time and put up with all this stress and risk! Your body is perfect and works just fine!” I wanted to tell the doctors how they didn’t need to worry about all these women and use all these interventions, that pregnancy wasn’t an emergency or an illness. I was so excited because I felt like I was now holding information that could make a difference!
    But then I kept reading. And I realized it’s not a secret. This information has never been hidden or obscured. That it is well known and NORMAL in most of Europe, such as the Netherlands where 80% of births take place at home without an obstetrician. That it is well known in most traditional and indigenous societies. That is used to be known here, before the 20th century, and that the evidence supporting all of this information was still right there in the literature. And then I realized- I wasn’t uninformed. I was lied to. I was deliberately misled. By doctors, by media, by insurance companies and hospital policies, by our culture at large. I learned that the U.S. ranks 49th in the world for maternal mortality. Yet here in the U.S. we continue down this hypermedicalized path of treatment that causes more problems (and more infant and maternal deaths) than it fixes. Now don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place for all of these things. There are plenty of emergency situations where these high-tech hospitals and doctors are totally necessary. But those instances are few and far between and yet these procedures are considered routine and doled out to every woman walking through the doors. But people don’t know that. I didn’t know that. Our culture makes every birth out to be a game of roulette. Thank God the doctor did X, Y, and Z or we would have lost the baby! (Not realizing that U, V, and W led to the situation in the first place). No one person is to blame. In part, it’s our healthcare system. Pathology makes more money than health. Our homebirth services, which include all of my prenatal care, labor and delivery, and 6 weeks of postnatal care are going to cost $3,000  total. That’s it. For everything. Normal birth just isn’t very lucrative. And normal birth takes time. Your body is not on a schedule. But hospitals and doctors and nurses are. And most of them have never seen a normal, non-medicated child birth. A lot of medical staff have never seen a woman push in any position other than on her back. And the only time they do hear about homebirths and birth centers is when someone has to transfer, which is very rarely happens, but that means they are only seeing the ‘worst case scenarios’ (note: these really aren’t even worst case scenarios, the whole point of having competent birth support at home is having someone who knows enough to know when something is outside their abilities and needs further attention. These should be seen as examples of home birth working well). The list of things that people don’t know just goes on and on and on. And then, not often thank goodness, but sometimes…you have people who do know but just don’t care. You have the doctor who wants to give you a c-section so he can be home in time for dinner. Or so she can say “I told you so” because you were being a ‘difficult’ patient.
     I slowly began to learn and realize these things, and I realized there was no way I could give birth in a hospital. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t give birth in a hospital or that if you do you aren’t a good parent or mother or whatever. Believe me, the way I see it, I’m taking the easy way out! You see, I don’t want to have to deal with strangers while I’m trying to give birth. I don’t want bright fluorescent lights in my face or a freezing cold room with a stupid paper gown, I don’t my movement restricted by constant monitoring and being told I can’t eat or drink. None of these common hospital practices are based in actual research and many of them directly contradict it (like constant monitoring and limiting food intake). To sum it up, I don't want to waste my precious time, energy, and concentration while I am trying to push a baby out of my vagina trying to convince the people around me to just let me push the baby out of my vagina. Let me explain what I do want.
      I want to do what my body needs at any given moment. I want to go for a walk, move around, and change positions as needed. I want to be able to eat and drink whatever I want whenever I want to keep my strength up. I want to be able to get in a tub or shower. I don’t want needles in me or monitors hanging off of me. I want to birth my baby, not have it “delivered”. I want to labor for as long as it takes, not be rushed or augmented or threatened with harming my baby because I’m not meeting some made up deadline. I want it to be a quiet peaceful environment. And when my baby is born, I want him/her to be placed on me immediately. I want to start breastfeeding and not have to play defense trying to keep bottles and sugar water and pacifiers away.  No tests, no procedures. Just me and this person I have been waiting 9 months to meet. And then- I want to take a shower, and go to bed in my own bed with my whole family.
    Now I’m not saying this is impossible in a hospital setting, but it’s not likely and takes hard work (I told you I was taking the easy route!). Even if I found an OB who was up to date on evidence based care and agreed to support me, there is no guarantee that the hospital policy would be ok with it or that the rest of the staff would be supportive.  It could easily turn into an uphill battle just to let my body do what bodies have been doing for millennia. I don’t want to deal with that. I don’t need that kind of stress. So we will be having our baby right here in our house, attended by certified midwives. I know some people would freak out if they had to birth at home. To them, that would be the most stressful situation. That is why I firmly believe in supporting all women with all of their decisions- so that they can do what is best for them. The point is-everyone should be making that choice with all the available information. Not just some warped societal views or bad medical advice. So if you want more information- go find it. Start Googling the living crap out of everything you can think of. A wonderful place to start is  This website is pretty much nothing but birth stories. All kinds. Home, hospital, birth center, unassisted, vbac, cesarean, breech, you name it. Reading stories like these reveals birth for what it is- a normal, beautiful process. And you will be exposed to a lot of different types of the birth that you may not have even known existed. Watch “The Business of Being Born”, a documentary about the birth industry in the United States (this was Joey's first exposure to anything birth related, and as soon as the credits rolled, his first words were "So we are having our kids at home, right?"). Another resource I would recommend is the book “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth” by Ina May Gaskin. It has two sections- the first is a collection of birth stories, the second is an in depth look at the process of childbirth. I suggest reading the second section first. The birth stories may be a little too far on the crunchy side for some people, and I don’t want anyone to get turned off or dismiss the book entirely. Read the second section. See what a non-medical model of childbirth looks like. Most of us are least familiar with the hospital-pitocin-epidural version. Balance out your perspective. Then, once you have read the second section, go back to the first.   Realize that these stories aren’t your only option, but they are a legitimate option. You don’t have to be some crazy homeless flower child to give birth to your baby without an entire hospital backing you up. You aren’t broken. You aren’t inadequate. YOU can do this.
    I thought about waiting to write this post until after the baby came. I know plenty of you are rolling your eyes because I’ve never actually given birth so what the hell do I know? I bet I’ll change my tune once those contractions start (even though if you have never had an unmedicated birth, you probably have no idea what normal contractions feel like since the pitocin  you were given at the beginning of labor artificially augmented your contractions making them much more painful)! First, shame on you for being so snobby. Second, why is it so important to you how my experience turns out? If you made an informed decision about what was best for you, you shouldn’t care what anyone else does. And last, I am very aware that plans may change. That’s fine. I am open to change. Just because I have a very specific birth plan in mind does not mean I cannot recognize when something needs to be adjusted. I just refuse to go into one of the most incredible, empowering experiences of my life with an expect-the-worst mentality. Do you really think I would put myself or my baby in jeopardy? Of course not. No mother would. Each mother is just making the decision that is right for her at that point in time. This is our decision.

Post From the Past #3

    We are still several weeks out from breaking the news, but there have been a few going-ons on the baby front. We had a consultation with one midwife last week and and another one this week, and this next lady will give us contact information so we can meet up with a few more. That way we have to time to decide who is going to be right for us before the prenatal check-ups begin. These meetings have been exciting since it's pretty much the only time Joey and I have been able to discuss baby stuff with anyone else really. But other than that, the main development has been the sudden onset of some wonderful pregnancy symptoms like nausea and fatigue. For some reason I never really considered that I would get morning sickness. I think it's because I hardly ever get ill. I didn't really think about the fact that morning sickness has absolutely nothing to do with your immune system. As annoying as the sudden waves of day-disrupting nausea have been, the one thing I am thankful for is that so far it's really the only way I can tell I'm pregnant. On my mom's advice, I stopped the prenatal vitamins to see if that helps out my stomach at all. I was planning on asking the midwife about them anyway, seeing as I'm not too keen on vitamins period. But so far everything is going well. I'm having some random strong cramps that scare the living daylights out of me every time they happen, but since they aren't accompanied by any bleeding or anything I'm trying not to stress out too much.  I'm just amazed that something so tiny is already requiring so much room! But Baby is growing super fast right now, so I guess that's all normal.
    A few months back I had asked a friend about recommendations for prenatal yoga books for my doula repertoire, and she suggested "Beautiful Bountiful Blissful." It's based on Iyengar yoga, which I have never really done, but she said it was excellent so I went ahead and ordered it. So far I have only read the first trimester part and it focuses on different meditation exercises. I have been spending some time each morning doing these to prepare my mind in addition to my regular practice. It's a good book and you really don't have to be a proficient yogi to use it, so I highly recommend it.
   Speaking of doula stuff. You may or may not have heard that my classes that were supposed to start a few weeks ago for my doula training got postponed to February due to not enough people signing up. Well, that may have been a blessing in disguise. You see, once you take the classes and start the process, you only have two years to get all of your practice births done or you have to start over completely. It would have been hard rushing off at all hours of the night trying to attend births with an infant of my own! So I will probably be putting off the doula training for a couple of years. While I am sad, I am grateful for all the preparation I have done since it will be very beneficial for my own pregnancy and birth.
   Other than that, there is not much else going on with Baby. It's getting slightly awkward socially since I have been refusing coffee and alcohol for over a month now. I fake it when I can and lie when absolutely necessary (sorry everyone!). I have switched from beer to fruity mixed drinks (and have learned to depend on the discretion of waitresses and bartenders) to help alleviate some doubt, but I'm not sure how long it will last. Also, now that nausea is setting in, I find that pregnancy stealth may become slightly more difficult. But we are still going to hold out for as long as possible. Until then, I guess I'll just keep writing posts and not posting them!

Post from the Past #2

    It happened. Of course, by now YOU know it happened, because you read the first post-from-the-past. But today, October 11th, I know it happened. I have had a feeling that it might have, but I didn't want to get my hopes up only to be disappointed and I was worried that some of the "symptoms" I was experiencing might just be in my head. But this morning, I finally got up the courage. I took the test. And....nothing happened. The control line didn't even show up. And that was my only test. So I went to the store and bought some more, but wasn't sure I wanted to try again today. I mean, I used up the good first morning pee (if that is TMI for you, you may want to sign off this blog completely in the coming months). So I figured this test would definitely be a bummer. But I also just wanted to get it over with. So I did it. And as soon as I looked down at the stick, there they were. Two bold lines. I started giggling, crying, and shrieking all at the same time, running around the house like an idiot, scaring Fender half to death. Of course, it took Joey FOREVER to get home from the gym. As soon as he walked in, I told him- "I'm pregnant." The look on his face was priceless. It's that genuine, giddy grin he gets sometimes that I love. So there you have it! It worked! Our first time trying! If you want to know the nitty-gritty, message me or comment below and we can talk. But we did it. I went to the heath clinic earlier and they confirmed with another test, and I go for blood work on Tuesday of next week. We are so excited but also a little scared since it is still so early. I will feel more and more relieved with each week that goes by. Baby will be here in early summer. We can't wait. I feel like there is so much to do and plan, but right now it's still sinking in that I"M PREGNANT!!!!!  More to come soon. <3

This is me the day we found out.