Tuesday, January 31, 2012

New blogs

My blogroll is in serious need of updating. Part of the problem comes from me constantly discovering new blogs that I have to follow. Like the wickedly funny Labor and Deliverance, written by an OB practicing in the South. His recent post Is a Cesarean right for you? Of course it is! was spot on. Then there's The Many Colors of Changing Woman written by a Native American CNM. It's as serious and reflective as Labor and Deliverance is irreverent. (Recently many of her posts have been disappearing; they show up on my Google Reader but are gone from her blog. What's up?)

I read a lot of things besides birth blogs. I just added Design Seeds and the affiliated fresh news for color inspiration. I like Little eco footprints for ideas and inspiration about living more lightly on this earth. And Mother Wheel for the fun to seeing what happens when you mix Paganism & Mormonism.

So tell me, what blogs have you recently fallen in love with?
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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Baby #4 is on its way!

It's coming some time in March!
I've been involved with this book project since the 2009 Lamaze conference in Orlando, where I met two LDS childbirth educators: Beth Day and Katy Rawlins. We talked about the intersection of LDS spirituality and birth and agreed that someone needed to write a book about it. When we returned home, we connected with Felice Austin and other women, and eventually this book project was conceived.

The Gift of Giving Life: Rediscovering the Divine Nature of Pregnancy and Birth is a book written for LDS women and families. It contains collections of essays and stories connected to childbearing, including infertility, adoption, breastfeeding, prenatal/postpartum depression, pregnancy, and birth. (I contributed an essay about Heavenly Mother and a birth story about Inga's resuscitation.) The twelve chapters address these topics:
  • Our Legacy
  • The Importance of Giving Life
  • Personal Revelation
  • Patience
  • Preparation 
  • Meditation
  • The Spirit-Mind-Body Connection
  • Fear
  • Pain
  • The Atonement
  • Unity
  • The Fourth Trimester
My favorite part of the book are the incredible stories we received from hundreds of LDS women. We received so many stories that we could only accept a portion of them; imagine how difficult that task was!

To get a feel for the book's content, you can read The Gift of Giving Life blog. You can also read excerpts of the book here.

This book would be perfect for LDS women and families in their childbearing years. The book's release date is scheduled for March. In the meantime, the publisher is accepting discounted pre-sales here. If you order now, you can save 10% off the list price.
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Thursday, January 26, 2012

New CDC report on home birth

The CDC's National Center for Health Statistics just released a report on home birth (PDF) . Filled with graphics and easily understood language, this report is visually appealing and accessible to the lay public. This report, titled "Home Births in the United States, 1990-2009," has spurred a NPR report and CNN news article.

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Home school or public school: What if you don't like either option?

Zari is 5 years old and will be kindergarten age next fall. Ever since she was born, I've been telling myself that I'll do whatever schooling option is best for her needs and best for our family. The problem is, the  right option hasn't become any clearer in the past five years. I'm just as undecided now as I was then. To be honest, I don't really want to home school and I don't really want to send her to public school. But I live in a small community with only one school system--no charter schools, no alternative schools, nothing but One-Size-Fits-Most schooling.

I find myself resisting arguments for either type of schooling. Home schooling advocates can seem so...evangelistic in their enthusiasm for home school and their implicit (or explicit) critiques of public school. I just can't buy into the "public school as prison" mentality that gets passed around. I also have serious reservations about how I'd be able to find the time and energy to home school when I have a baby and a toddler to look after (and hopefully one or two more babies down the road). I believe in having a balanced life, and adding home school would seriously skew the lovely equilibrium I have right now. If I added home school, I don't know what I could subtract to keep my commitments at a doable level.

I also get the feeling that Zari needs something more. Honestly, she's bored and antsy a lot of the time and then starts acting up in subtle ways because there isn't enough for her to do at her level. Much of my day is taking care of necessary tasks: getting children dressed and fed, walking around town running errands, cooking meals, and tidying up. As mundanes as these tasks are, they still need to be done.

There's a Christian homeschooling association in town, which could offer Zari opportunities for interacting with other children. But I'm not super enthusiastic about the Christian part (even though I am Christian, I'd prefer to keep education and religion in separate spheres).

With my hesitations about home schooling, you're probably thinking "then just send her to public school!" But I am not thrilled about that option either. Our school district moved to full-day kindergarten before we moved here, and half-day isn't even offered anymore. In addition, the district closed all of the neighborhood elementary schools. Even though we live kitty-corner from an elementary school, Zari would have to ride the bus to the consolidated mega-school that serves our entire city. 

I have other misgivings about public school, some specific to our town and others in general. Like I mentioned, we have just one district so there aren't any other options or alternatives. There is one "high ability" classroom from kindergarten through high school, which Zari would likely be placed in. But that also means that she'd be with the same group of peers her entire time at school!

My general hesitations about public school stem from the inefficiency of classroom learning, from peer culture, and from the lack of time for free, unstructured play. I am reluctant to put my children in a classroom for 7 hours a day, when they could easily learn the same amount of information in just a few hours with one-on-one instruction. When I was in elementary and middle school, I was bored much of the time. I'd finish my homework in a few minutes and spend the remainder of class time reading or drawing. In middle school I'd read one or two books every day during school hours.

A common concern voiced about home schooled children is their lack of "socialization." (And I'll admit it, I've met some very, very strange, awkward home schooled children. Of course who knows if they'd be just as odd if they went to public school...) But I don't like a lot of the socialization that goes on in an institutional school setting. Besides the Big Bad Things that children learn from their peers (sex, drugs, alcohol), there's a lot of Little Things that bother me just as much: learning from peers how to be catty, to be a picky eater, how to form cliques, how you're supposed to only interact with those your own age.

I also firmly believe that children need plenty of time to just be children. This means free time to play, to wander around the neighborhood, to ride bikes, to climb trees. The 7-hour school day encroaches on this enough as it is, but then kids are sent home with homework. It's enough to ask little bodies to sit at desks for hours a day. But to send them home with even more work? Criminal.

I'm also really hesitant about having to adhere to an institution's rules. We travel a lot and I want the freedom to take our kids out of school when I want to. The public school does not coordinate its schedule with the university, so fall, Christmas, and spring breaks do not coincide. If Zari goes to school, then suddenly I am not in charge of my day anymore; I am tied to an institution's routines and hours. I resent that loss of freedom.

My ideal situation would be a school that met only in the mornings, that spent much of the time outdoors doing hands-on learning, and that never had homework. Alas, that does not exist here.

I seriously need advice.
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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Brand Baby

From Adbusters, a spoof ad titled "Brand Baby":

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Upcoming conferences of interest


February 3-4, 2012
University of Utah, College of Nursing Auditorium, Rm. 2300

Sponsored by:
This conference will be of interest to all women's healthcare professionals. Local and regional midwifery and women's healthcare providers and researchers will present on a variety of topics, including:
  • Clinical approaches
  • Evidence based practice
  • Research
  • Theory
  • Philosophy
  • Community, public and educational projects
Click here to register.


Transforming Pregnancy Since 1900

29–30 March 2012
Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge
Expecting? Get the right advice from the right sources: your doctor or health bureau
Poster promoting prenatal care, c.1936. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, WPA Federal Arts Project Poster Collection (LC-USZC2-5511).
Around 1900, few pregnant women in Europe or North America had any contact with a medical practitioner before going into labour. By the second half of the twentieth century, the hospitalization of childbirth, the legalization of abortion and a host of biomedical technologies from the home pregnancy test and IVF to obstetric ultrasound and prenatal genetic diagnosis promised unprecedented control. New regulatory frameworks, changing relations between expectant mothers and medical practitioners and technologies for diagnosing, monitoring and intervening in pregnancy offer rich histories to explore. With scholarly writing predominantly dispersed among local studies of maternity care or focused on specific innovations, we lack a synthetic account of transformations in the management, experience and understanding of pregnancy across the whole twentieth century. This conference aims to break new ground by investigating the making, organization and communication of knowledge around pregnancy among experts and laypeople in Britain, France and the United States since 1900.

This interdisciplinary conference will bring together scholars with expertise in the history, sociology and anthropology of reproduction. Talks will be 10-minute summaries and commentaries of pre-circulated papers, followed by discussion in 50-minute slots in such a way as to promote dialogue and critical engagement between fields and approaches.
  • Salim Al-Gailani (University of Cambridge): Folic Acid: Making a Technology of Pre-Pregnancy
  • Caroline Arni (University of Basel): The Psychic Life of Pregnant Women: Early Twentieth-Century Prenatal Psychology
  • Tatjana Buklijas (Liggins Institute, New Zealand): Fetal Physiology, Nutrition Research and the Origins of the Barker Hypothesis
  • Angela Davis (University of Warwick): 'Heroes and Stoics': Women's Narratives of Maternity Care, c.1945–1990
  • Rose Elliot (University of Glasgow): Abortion, Miscarriage or Criminal Feticide? Medical Understandings of Early Pregnancy Loss in Britain, c.1900–1967
  • Ofra Koffman (King's College London): Temporary Crisis or Life-Long Disorder? Adolescence, Unwed Motherhood and Mental Pathology
  • Ilana Löwy (CNRS, Paris): Looking for Malformations, Looking for Risks: Fifty Years of Prenatal Diagnosis
  • Aryn Martin (York University, Canada): 'Something there is that doesn't love a wall': The Elusive Placental Barrier in Medical and Popular Health Discourse
  • Deborah Nicholson (University of the West of Scotland): 'Unseen Citizens': Ultrasonic Fetal Images and Narratives of Life Before Birth
  • Jesse Olszynko-Gryn (University of Cambridge): Diagnosing Pregnancy in the 1930s
  • Amanda Raphael (Independent Scholar): Deep Breaths and a Nice Cup of Tea: Antenatal Education Since the 1950s
  • Leslie Reagan (University of Illinois): Avoiding 'Monstrous' Babies Through Prenatal Care: Rubella, Girls, and Vaccination
The registration fee of £30 (£15 for students/unwaged) includes lunch and tea/coffee on both days. To register, please fill in the registration form and send it with a cheque for the registration fee (made payable to 'University of Cambridge') to:
Salim Al-Gailani
Transforming Pregnancy Conference
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
University of Cambridge
Free School Lane
Registration form

Organisers: Salim Al-Gailani (Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge), Angela Davis (Centre for the History of Medicine, University of Warwick) and Jesse Olszynko-Gryn (Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge).

Supported by a Wellcome Trust strategic award in the history of medicine to the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, and the Cambridge Interdisciplinary Reproduction Forum.
For further details, contact Salim Al-Gailani .
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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Life imitating art imitating life

A reader sent me this photo of herself nursing her baby at the Fountain of the Four Seasons. Located at Iowa State University's Memorial Union, the fountain was created in 1941 by artist Christian Petersen.

More information about the fountain (source):
Placed around a circular fountain the four seated American Indian women represent an Osage chant of thanksgiving. The four women face north, south, east and west, each demonstrating a line of the prayer: The first women is planting the seed, “Lo, I come to the tender planting.” The second bends close to the earth, “Lo, a tender shoot breaks forth.” The third holds a harvest basket of maize, “Lo, I collect the golden harvest." The forth nurses her newborn baby, “Lo, there is joy in my house.” These four sculptures are carved from bedford limestone and are placed around a circular base of terra cotta which is sculpted with a corn relief. Artist Christian Petersen took these notes during the sculpture's early stages:

Full water display symbolizes the fullness of the elements . . . arch of the sky . . . the lifegiving rains . . . the calmness of the Indians in the face of the turbulence. . . tranquil water . . . tranquility of the Indians. . . much water symbolizes elemental turbulence.
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Sunday, January 08, 2012

Currently reading

Sometimes I come across a topic I want to know more about and start reading everything I can get my hands on. One recent interest was abortion providers. I wanted to learn why someone would choose this line of work given the violence and persecution they face. I first read Suzanne P. Poppema's book Why I Am an Abortion Doctor, followed by Susan Wicklund's book This Common Secret: My Journey As an Abortion Doctor. The writing in both books was so-so, but the stories were gripping. During my searching I also read a lecture by Dr. Garson Romalis, also titled Why I am an Abortion Doctor. I just finished the book Dispatches from the Abortion Wars: The Costs of Fanaticism to Doctors, Patients, and the Rest of Us by Carol Joffe and am still wanting to read more.

I have to say that the more I read about abortion debates in North America, the more incensed I become at the whole mess. In the past, I'd never strongly identified with either of the two ideological camps. I had understood abortion as a morally complex issue laden with shades of gray. It wasn't something I would have chosen for an unintended pregnancy after consensual sex (I've never been in that situation, so it's easier said than done), but definitely something I would have considered for other situations--rape, incest, threats to my health, etc. I've  never felt that abortion should be illegal or inaccessible. There are so many reasons, so many situations, that bring women to that decision and I find it incredibly arrogant that some people want to take away that option across the board. Abortion won't go away simply by being illegal or inaccessible.

As I've been reading more, I find my feelings intensifying. I dislike how both pro-life and pro-choice rhetoric victimizes women: Pro-life groups portray women as victims of their abortions ("abortions hurt women"); pro-choice groups portray women as victims of their pregnancies and of the lack of access to abortion. Is there a way to talk about abortion without casting women as victims?

The hypocrisy of many pro-life arguments, which glorify motherhood (by wishing all women to become mothers, however unwilling) yet do nothing to actually support mothers or babies, incenses me. I'd much rather see that energy focused towards helping women avoid unwanted pregnancies; securing universal health care, paid maternity/paternity leave, affordable quality childcare, and flexible work arrangements; and ensuring that all babies are wanted and that women can become mothers willingly and joyfully. That is pro-life. Not the hateful rhetoric that values an embryo more than the woman whose body carries it.

Overall, I find the North American obsession with abortion puzzling and troubling. It distracts people from more pressing issues. It's focused on symptoms, not on underlying problems. It's like nit-picking over whether or not a bandaid is the right shape while the patient is hemorrhaging to death.

Iknow that discussing abortion will bring out the crazies, but I had to get this out. I cherish my children and my babies. I love being pregnant and giving birth. I also want abortion to be safe, legal, accessible, and, ideally, rare*--not because I don't value life, but because I value it so highly.

[Deep breath]

I remember reading a book during my graduate student years by a sociologist (or maybe anthropologist?) who spent time with both pro-choice and pro-life groups and explained the worldviews and values of both camps. I can't remember the title but it was really interesting. Any more recommend readings on this topic? 

Note to commenters: Keep it civil and on-topic otherwise I will employ the Almighty Delete Button. 

* Dr. Wicklund mentioned that, ironically, one goal of abortion providers is to work themselves out of their job by helping women avoid unwanted/unplanned pregnancies in the first place. But the challenges are immense: lack of access to health care and contraception, partner sabotage of birth control (including threats of violence for using birth control), our hyper-sexualized yet hyper-prudish culture, etc.
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Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Christmas Craft #1: Felted wool sweater blanket

My family likes to make things. When we get together for Christmas, we usually have a large family project. In past years, we've done silk painting, soap making, jewelry making, book binding, and fishing pole making. This years' family project was handmade wooden marble runs, one for each sibling with children. More about this in an upcoming post.

We also have lots of individual projects going on during the holidays. This year I went 100% natural and 100% recycled using felted wool sweaters. After I saw this tutorial for a felted wool sweater blanket, I started collecting wool sweaters. I've fallen in love with Goodwill Outlets, where everything is sold by the pound! Once I had enough cream and gray sweaters, I made this:
It was my Christmas present to my family. We use it every day. And it probably cost me $5!

Fine print:
  • I straight-stitched all of the seams, then went over them with a wide zig-zag stitch. Some sweaters felted better than others, and I didn't want anything to unravel. 
  • I made sure that all the outside edges and corners had finished edges. Because of that, I didn't put a backing fabric on or do anything else to finish the edges. 
  • My blanket was made of 9" squares (except for two double-sized pieces): 6 blocks wide and 8 blocks high.
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Monday, January 02, 2012

10 months old!

I was looking through similar posts from Dio's babyhood and getting really nostalgic. I love the baby stage so much and feel sad when it's over. I don't know how I'll ever be able to decide that I'm "done." But I don't think I'll keep on having children indefinitely, either. I'm 33 so one or two more children seems about right. Plus finding a vehicle becomes really tricky once you have more than 7 passengers!

So, let's talk about what Inga is up to: she's cruising the furniture all the time, and a few nights ago I caught her standing up all by herself for about 5 seconds. I wouldn't be surprised if she walks fairly soon. Zari did at 10 months, while Dio took a bit more time and walked right before his first birthday.

Other new skills: pointing, clapping her hands, saying "mama mama" (it may or may not mean anything, though), pulling books off the shelf, "jumping" on the designated jumping bed, fast crawling, can climb up & down one stair.
Those little pointers. Picture by Zari.

Sleep: Most nights she goes to bed at 7:30 pm and wakes up to nurse twice around 3 and 6 am. Then she's up for the morning around 8 am. Because she's sleeping in, she's starting nap only once per day about half the time. It's been nice being on break from teaching an 8 am class. All of us sleep in until 8 am--lovely!

EC/diapering: Like with my other two kids, I potty Inga at regular intervals, either after naps or during diaper changes. She'll often pee for me, but lately she's been so busy that she doesn't want to sit down long enough to go. No big deal. Poops are more tricky since she usually goes in the early morning before she wakes up. Dio's been out of diapers for a while now (except for a backup one at night, but he's mostly dry at night, too).

Food: I've started letting Inga have tastes of food this month. She usually gets a handful of Cheerios and frozen peas when we're eating breakfast, then bits of fruits or vegetables during other meals. She's not a big eater, so most of her nutrition still comes from me. She likes to grind her top and bottom teeth together, just like my other two children. Sounds like she has a mouthful of rocks.

Now & Then: birth to 10 months
1 week old

10 months old
Lying down is for babies!
2 weeks old
10 months old

Those pesky legs kept coming up. Zari tried to help.
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