Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Currently reading

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah E. Harkness. A fun read in which an American witch and a French (well, now he's British 1000+ years later) vampire, pursuing an ancient manuscript, fall in love. Oh, and there are daemons too. It's written by a history professor, so keep your eyes open for historical references to various medical and alchemical personages. The book ended right when things were getting really interesting, so I certainly hope there's another book in the works!

The Witch's Daughter by Paula Brackston. A 300+ year saga of an English witch, pursued through time by her warlock tormentor Gideon. The story spins the tale of the dueling forces of good (the witchcraft practiced by the narrator) and evil (the sorcery and Devil worship practiced by Gideon). Lots of  details about paganism & Wiccan practices sprinkled throughout the book.

The Proviso and Stay by Moriah Jovan. I read a book review of Jovan's most recent novel Magdalene and was hooked: a recently-widowed Mormon bishop who marries an former high-end prostitute? Too fun to pass up! I haven't been able to get my hands on Magdalene yet, but I did read the first two novels of the Tales of Dunham series. Her books aren't for the faint of heart--there is a lot of swearing and a lot of sex. I found myself very intrigued by the characters in her books, especially those in The Proviso. Many of them are, for lack of a better word, "Mormon misfits," the kind of people I would love to spend time with. These books are definitely not Mormon genre fiction, though; while several of her characters are Mormon, their religion isn't the central focus of the story. I liked The Proviso more than Stay, which was more of a romance than anything else. I'm less than patient when the central drama is "will they or won't they finally admit that they love each other?

Arms Wide Open: A Midwife's Journey by Patricia Harman. I expected this book to be a memoir about being a midwife, but instead it's mostly a memoir of her evolution from a back-to-the-land anti-war hippie living in a commune (who, on the side, became a home birth midwife) to a nurse-midwife married to an OB/GYN three decades later. Even as it questions the utility (futility?) of the counter-cultural movements of the 1960s and 70s, Harman's book also celebrates that hopefulness and optimism that led people to deliberately abandon their possessions and educations and live lives of voluntary poverty. I was hoping for more stories of her life as a midwife, but I'll have to read her other book, The Blue Cotton Gown, for those tales.
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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Either/Or into And/And

Life as a parent is full of either/or's: either I let my baby cry while I shower, or I hold my baby and forego personal hygeine. Either I get dinner made on time, or I spend the afternoon outside with the kids (and then deal with hunger-induced tantrums).

But sometimes you can turn an Either/Or (either I paint the porch ceiling or I hold my baby) into an And/And situation:
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Friday, September 23, 2011

The Mermaid's Muse felted wool dolls

Several months ago I was browsing through Etsy and came across The Mermaid's Muse. I fell in love.
I never knew that wool could so beautifully express emotion and relationship.  Don't you just love these pieces?
The store's owner, Kate, has two children. She writes:
My daughter sees mermaids in every body of water we pass. Her glorious imagination and bright interest in life provides fuel for my creativity. From the simplicity of Waldorf-inspired toys to the profoundness of a parent's first embrace, I have the chance to see the world anew through her eyes. She is my muse.

As of November 2010 I am blessed with yet another muse! A new baby reminds me of the fast fleeting nature of childhood as she grows and changes everyday. Through many of my newest pieces I relish motherhood and the bond of love for a child.
Kate sent me "Dandelions" to review: a mother and child discovering the beauty of an everyday  flower. The set of dolls is about 7" high and solidly felted.
Look at these incredible details--the curly hair, the silken scarf...
If you love her work as much as I do, please visit The Mermaid's Muse. Her pieces would make the perfect gift for a new mom or mother-to-be; for a midwife, doula, or physician; or of course for yourself!
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Thursday, September 22, 2011

TriLight giveaway winners

If you are one of these winners, please get in touch with me!
  • llamaofdoom (BOLD giveaway)
  • Still standin' (BOLD giveaway)
  • Rosemary (BOLD giveaway)
  • Alisha
  • Abundant B'earth
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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Lamaze Conference, Fort Worth TX

I'm back from another Lamaze conference. This year seemed to be "all about the baby." Almost every presentation I attended (and the talk I gave) was about breastfeeding, skin-to-skin, or other post-birth baby care. Last year Linda Smith, in her plenary address, urged us: "If you want to change birth practices, get on the breastfeeding bandwagon." It seems like people have taken her advice seriously!

Thursday's plenary session was about elective late pre-term and early term inductions (before 39 weeks). The presenter, Dr. Rebecca Ewing, showed the video RISK: Consequences of a Near Term Birth, aimed at discouraging parents from choosing inductions before 39 weeks because of the risks involved. I have some serious concerns that the movie will just foster more fear and guilt in parents, rather than motivating them to avoid an early induction. It told the story of two mothers who had late preterm/early term births at 36 and 37 weeks and whose babies had serious complications from being born early. But these mothers went into labor spontaneously. The film really should have featured women who had elective near term inductions, not spontaneous preterm births!

Friday's first plenary session was by Debra Pascali-Bonaro. She heads the International MotherBaby Childbirth Organization and has helped implement Mother-Friendly birth practices in hospitals and birth centers across the world. Her presentation "IMBCI: What Does an Optimal MotherBaby Model Look, Feel and Smell Like?" showed IMBCI hospitals from high, medium, and low-resource countries. It is amazing what these hospitals have been able to do, even with extremely high patient volumes and very little money.

I spoke during the first breakout session about "A Proactive Approach to Breastfeeding." I had an aha! moment while preparing my presentation and realized that learning how to breastfeed (in our culture) is like learning a foreign language. Sure, breastfeeding is natural and instinctual and almost all women can breastfeed successfully--but only in a culture where breastfeeding is still the "native tongue." But we don't live in that cultural context any more. We are fluent in bottle-feeding, not breastfeeding. So we have to learn (re-learn) the language of breastfeeding--how to hold a breastfed baby, what a good latch looks and feels like, how often and how long to feed the baby, how to know when a baby is hungry or is satiated. These are all things that women who are breastfeeding natives might not even be able to articulate; they would just know through observing it everywhere, day in and day out.

Next, I attended Ann Grauer's presentation "Seeing is Believing: Building Breastfeeding Confidence from the Start." Fantastic. So fantastic that I am dying to have her write a guest post and explain how breastfeeding really can be so easy to learn and to teach.

The last session on Friday was a research updated on labor management, fetal well-being, and induction of labor. Liz DeMaere, who used to work as a L&D nurse in Canada and now works for Salus Global Corporation implementing safety & quality measures, explained the newest research based on the SOGC's MORE OB program. Did you know that the ACOG has approved MORE OB? That means that (in theory, if not in reality) all low-risk laboring women should received intermittent auscultation as the standard of care, that primips should not be admitted until they are at least 3-4 cms dilated and having regular contractions (no admits at 1 cm and no effacement!), and that induction of labor should occur unless the reasons are "convincing, compelling, consented, and documented"?

On Saturday morning, I watched the new film The Magical Hour: Holding Your Baby Skin-to-Skin in the First Hour After Birth. Dr. Kajsa Brimdyr (love her name! pronounced "KAI-suh"), who produced the film, led a discussion after the film. This is a companion film to Skin to Skin in the First Hour after Birth: Practical Advice for Staff after Vaginal and Cesarean Birth, which I reviewed last year. So many parents and childibrht educators were using the practical advice film (which was aimed towards care providers and more technical and pragmatic) that Dr. Brimdyr decided to produce a more parent-oriented version. It's fantastic and at less than $40, an amazing value.

Following the film showing, I attended "Listening to Newborns: What Babies Have to Say About Transitions to Life" by Linda Jablonski. It was a research update about bulb suctioning, cord clamping, skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth, and self-attachment. She works at Baystate Franklin Medical Center and helped implement the practices supported by the latest research (no routine bulb suctioning, even after cesarean section; delayed cord clamping, at least 3 mins and/or when cord ceases pulsing; immediate S2S; and self-attachment, rather than actively helping the baby latch on). Her hospital, located in western MA, has a fantastic track record with the lowest cesarean rate in the state (21%) and a VBAC rate of 42% (80% successful). Her hospital really tries to be on the front line of offering innovations. They were the first hospital in the state to offer waterbirth and PCEA (patient-controlled epidural anesthesia). I came away with a thorough bibilography of the latest evidence base for these four practices.

Next, I went to three brief research presentations about chiropractic care in pregnancy (definitely underwhelmed by the quality of both the evidence and of the presentation), about prenatal care in home birth, and about the relationship between epidural anesthesia and childbirth outcome.

I was so tired by this point that I skipped the last session of the day and had a relaxing dinner & evening at home with Inga.

Sunday had one last set of breakout sessions. I attended "Whys and Hows of Supporting Newborns: 9 Stages During Skin-to-Skin" by Jeannette Crenshaw and Kajsa Brimdyr. I told you that it was all about the babies this year!

The last plenary session had nothing to do with childbirth. Instead, it featured a motivational speaker trying to get us to "Fire Up Your Life!". I'm just not into motivational speakers. I really want to hear about pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding at a Lamaze conference, not how to set goals or find balance in your life.

The journey home was long. I spent 8 hours in the DFW airport (I hoped to go standby on an earlier flight, but no luck). I graded papers and kept Inga amused and somehow we survived. We got home at 1:30 am; Eric had to wake up the kids and drive everyone to the airport to pick me up, so we were all pretty tired the next day.

Inga was the star of the show at the Lamaze conference. She was a total angel and stayed happy and quiet the entire four days of the conference. She loved all of the attention! In fact if people aren't paying attention to her, she will practically yell at them to catch their eye, then smile and preen once they look over.
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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Don't mess with Texas

I'm in the lone star state for the annual Lamaze Conference. I'm staying with Desiree of Hitting My Stride. Our babies are hanging out together, we're in our pajamas, and life is good.

I was really emotional leaving my other kids yesterday--and if you know me, I almost never cry. It doesn't help that they were both crying at the airport and that Dio said all the way home "where's mama go? where's mama go?"

Yesterday Desiree introduced me Dude, Sweet Chocolate. Amazing. Their store has a lot more than what's offered online. I bought dark chocolate & blue cheese truffles and a 100% cocoa bar with sesame seeds and balsamic vinegar (yes really, they're delicious).
I need to work on my presentation. Come say hi if you're at the conference!
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Monday, September 12, 2011

TriLight Health giveaway

Interested in trying a product from TriLight Health? I am offering a giveaway to two more lucky winners! Each winner will receive their choice of any of TriLight's best-sellers.

How to enter:

  • Submit a comment about which TriLight product you'd like to review
  • Contest ends Friday, September 16 at 5 pm EST
  • Open to US residents only
  • Winners agree to write a review of their product within 7 days of receipt.
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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Labor Day Weekend

Before this next weekend comes to a close, I want to write about my Labor Day weekend in NYC. First off--going somewhere with just my husband and one baby made me feel young and single again! We could watch movies! Go from Brooklyn to Manhattan and back several times in a day! We could stay up late and meet famous people! Seriously, life is so easy with just one baby. I hadn't realized how much I had adjusted to three small children until I spent three night away. It's the first time Eric and I have ever been away by ourselves (little Inga doesn't count!) since we started having kids.

We didn't even do anything super crazy. The whole fun was having so much freedom and quiet and discretionary time.

On Saturday night, we watched Midnight in Paris in lower Manhattan. My sister gave me a Fandango gift certificate, so the tickets were free. The film was fantastic--if you've ever studied the writers & artists in 1920s Paris (Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Dali, Stein, Baker, Porter, Picasso, etc), you'll absolutely love it.

We were the only people there with a baby. I didn't see anyone else under the age of 18, so we certainly got lots of stares. While the previews were running, I heard a very loud comment from a man a few rows back about "somebody bringing a baby to the show." It was totally obvious the comment was aimed in our direction. But I knew my little Inga. As soon as the movie started, I nursed her and she was out for the entire show. Not even a little squeak. So there, rude Manhattanite who assumed his evening would be ruined. I got lots of glowing comments on the way out of the theater about how angelic my baby had been.

On Sunday, I had a lovely breastfeeding moment. We attended services at LDS Park Slope Ward in Brooklyn. It's full of young families with small children. (Seriously, everyone was so stylish and hip-- pixie hair cuts, chunky glasses, slim 1960s-style suits...definitely different from my home congregation!) Anyway after the meetings were over, I was sitting in the lobby breastfeeding Inga with my top unbuttoned. No cover, of course. One of those uber-hip guys (late 20s, probably a father, skinny pants, closely cropped beard, thick-rimmed glasses, screaming "graphic designer") came up to me and said, "I'm so glad to see you breastfeeding openly!" He chatted about how he wants women to feel welcome to nurse openly, rather than having to hide in the mother's lounge. He said a lot of people still feel they have to use a nursing cover, even when they're in the mother's lounge. Crazy, huh? So that was a lovely moment.

I had a not-so-lovely moment on the metro, though. A man sat down next to me and started chatting amiably about Inga, throwing her smiles and getting her to laugh. He asked, "Is this your first?"

"No, she's my third?"

"Planning on having any more?"

"Hmmm, probably."

Then he turned from nice baby-cooing man to evil you're-what's-making-this-country-go-to-pot man. I got a lengthy tirade about how I should not have any more than three children, how if I had more than three, pretty soon we'll end up on welfare and our kids will be messed up and we will be miserable, since we obviously will not be able to provide for more than three children. This continued for about fifteen minutes. I just nodded and said yes and waited until we came to our stop. I mean, what can you say?

On Labor Day, we met at Karen's parents' apartment in the Upper West Side with other VIPs, including producer Elizabeth Mangum-Sarach (director of BirthFocus and blogger at BIRTH...from the backseat), Debra Pascali-Bonaro, and Kirsti Kreutzer & Anna Van Wagoner (from Where's My Midwife? and creators of Pregnant Mayhem). I had a nice talk with Ina May Gaskin, whom I've seen several times at conferences but never had the opportunity to meet in person until then.

Now, onto the BOLD event at the Museum of Motherhood--the reason for our NYC adventure. I arrived a bit frazzled, since the Metro ride from Brooklyn to the Upper East Side took quite a bit longer than it usually does. I nursed Inga as fast as possible (which is when this picture was taken), put on my high heels, and slipped into my seat just in time for the show to begin. It was a reading of Karen Brody's play. It was fully choreographed, except the actors had scripts. Several had memorized their parts, so much of the time it didn't feel like a reading.

I loved the play--full of real stories from real women from all walks of life. Women who chose elective c-section and loved them, women who had inductions and loved parts and hated other parts, women who had traumatic births and chose something different the second time around, women who stayed with their doctors even though they knew they should switch and women who switched providers to get the care they deserved.

I met Jill from The Unnecesarean ("Hey Rixa, I never realized you were so tall!" Jill is even taller, BTW), ICAN president Desirre Andrews, and more. Abby Epstein was there, but I never got a chance to introduce myself. I got to say some fun blurbs about my reaction to the play for the DVD they're producing.

During the play, Eric and Inga strolled around the neighborhood. Eventually he found a couch sitting on the curb--perfect place for Inga to nap. (Of course he hadn't worried about bedbugs at the time; let's hope they didn't pick any up from the abandoned couch!) After the filming was over, they joined us for the 5th anniversary birthday celebration. We got home a bit after 1 am and Inga was amazingly cheerful despite the late night and being dragged all over New York City.

Special thanks to chou and husband for letting us sleep in their living room!
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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Breastfeeding at the Museum of Motherhood

Nursing Inga before the BOLD 5th Anniversary Event at the Museum of Motherhood in NYC. More details coming later about the weekend...
(I thought about photoshopping the nursing bra out...but I love the juxtaposition of the mundane bra and the fancy dress. Inga kept trying to pull the beads off.)
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Sunday, September 04, 2011

BOLD giveaway!

Don't forget to register to register to view the BOLD's free webcast of BIRTH! It will be shown live tomorrow (Labor Day) at 7pm EST. If you can't watch it tomorrow, you can view it at several times throughout September.
To entice you to watch Karen Brody's play, I am thrilled to offer an interactive giveaway from TriLight Health. Here's how it works:

5 winners will receive their choice of any of TriLight's best-sellers.  Each winner will submit a review of the product, which I will then post.

How to enter:
  • Register for the BOLD event
  • Submit a comment letting me know you've registered and which TriLight product you'd like to review
  • Contest ends tomorrow at 7 pm EST
  • Open to US residents only
  • Reviews must be submitted within 7 days of receiving the product. 
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Friday, September 02, 2011

More than one but not quite two

Today my freshman composition students are discussing what it means to be a man or a woman, in preparation for their first major writing assignment. In honor of Inga turning 6 months old today, I decided to do the writing assignment myself. I'm sharing it with my students to give them ideas for their upcoming paper. Inga is coming with me to class today; I hope she will add something tangible to our discussion!

What does it mean to be a woman?
Dr. Rixa Freeze
September 2, 2011

In kindergarten math class, I learned that 1 + 1 = 2. In grade school, I learned to conjugate verbs. I am. She is. You are. In high school biology, I learned about meiosis and mitosis, how our genetic code divides and recombines like great spiral zippers. In college, I learned about the political theory of individualism, about Cartesian dualism, and about feminist theories of the body. Yet none of this prepared me for the seismic shock of becoming a mother and suddenly discovering that I was more than one, but not quite two.

When I was pregnant for the first time, I felt a strange sense of recognition for my expanding body. My belly stretched, my breasts swelled, my skin tightened. I felt, for the first time, entirely myself. This, I thought, is what a woman’s body really is. It was a great discovery, as if I had circumnavigated the globe and split the atom and solved global hunger in the course of an afternoon.

Still, I could not ignore the little being inside of me. It first felt like champagne bubbles, then a school of minnows, then finally, like an actual baby. I could feel head and legs and butt. It hiccuped at predictable times. It kicked and punched, stretched and rolled. (It? She? He?) There was a person inside me, hidden behind skin, muscle, and water. This person was half me and half my husband, completely reliant upon my body but entirely its own self.

We think of birth as the great dividing moment that separates mother-fetus into mother and child. I’ve heard parents and doctors say “You’re on your own now” when they cut the umbilical cord. But I think of my third child’s birth and I can’t point to a definitive moment when I (pregnant woman) became me (mother) and her (baby). When did we become not-one-but-two—was it when her head emerged from my body? Was it when her legs and toes slipped out? Was it when, a few seconds after her birth, she lost her color and I gave her the first breaths of life? Even those breaths were not hers. They were mine, passed from my lungs to hers in the most intimate and urgent embrace either of us had ever known.

So I am not convinced that the act of birth marks the line between one and two. After birth, when our bodies were no longer tied together by umbilical cord and placenta, my babies still relied upon me for survival. My breasts were literally their lifeline. My youngest baby, six months old today, is still only nursing. I cannot leave her for more than a few hours at a time. Her rolls of fat, her dimpled bottom, even her hefty double chin came directly from my body.

We are more than one, but not quite two. I haven’t discovered the calculus to describe where one self ends and another begins. I can only notice when the boundaries of personhood blur: how I can’t stop kissing the soft folds of her neck, how I wake at night moments before she does, how my body turns blood into milk into baby.
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