Thursday, March 29, 2012

Currently reading

Sorry for the long absence! I haven't been out of town, but the busyness of everyday life has kept me off the computer. We've had some unwanted excitement (Eric falling off a 24' ladder while using a chainsaw--he escaped with just a few bruises and scrapes) and amazing summer-like weather even though it's still early spring. I've been gardening and landscaping and dreaming about this season's vegetables and fruits that I hope to grow.

So here's a brief rundown of what I've been reading lately:

Choice: True Stories of Birth, Contraception, Infertility, Adoption, Single Parenthood, & Abortion by Karen E. Bender and Nina De Gramont. This book blew me away. I can't recommend it highly enough. Some of the stories still haunt me months after reading them.

Bearing Right: How conservatives won the abortion war by William Saletan. This book was written by a journalist, so I expected it to be a compelling narrative. But it actually read a lot more like a dense academic work. While it was well-researched and carefully written, it wasn't exactly something I'd sit down and read at the beach. But it's a great resource for learning more about how abortion groups consciously fashioned their messages and their rhetoric.

This I Believe: On Fatherhood edited by Dan Gediman. A lovely collection of short essays on fatherhood, from the This I Believe project. It would make a great Father's Day present.

Simplicity Parenting: Using the extraordinary power of less to raise calmer, happier, and more secure kids by Kim John Payne. I really liked this book, and much of it resonated with what I already do as a parent.

Hold on to your kids: why parents need to matter more than peers by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate. Even though I enjoyed this book, I didn't make it through to the end. I got interrupted and just never finished it. I might check it out again and give it another go. Once I get through my current pile of books!

The Green Hour: A daily dose of nature for happier, healthier, smarter kids by Todd Christopher. This is a "how to get your kids" outside book. I laughed at so much of it, because hello! Do you really need a book to tell you to go outside and dig in the dirt or collect leaves or look at bugs? Evidently some people do.

I thought I was checking out Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, but I ended up with The Nature Principle: Human Restoration and the End of Nature-Deficit Disorder by the same author. Interesting but nothing all that new (humans need to be outside more).

The Case Against Fluoride: how hazardous waste ended up in our drinking water and the bad science and powerful politics that keep it there by Paul Connet, PhD, James Beck, MD/PhD, and H. Spedding Micklem, DPhil. I only got to read the first chapter before I had to return it. It's written by an academic researcher and looks to be really fascinating. It's a compelling argument against adding fluoride to drinking water, because the practice is not supported by science (although it is heavily politicized). The author notes that fluoride in toothpaste or topical fluoride treatments are a different matter altogether and actually more empirical evidence for their efficacy.

SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an elite Navy SEAL sniper by Howard Wasdin and Stephen Templin. I enjoyed immersing myself in a world that I had never before known existed. The writing was so-so. The parts where the author's voice came out were better than some of his rambling detours, some unrelated to the subject at hand.

The first and second Hunger Games books. They're fun, fast reading. I was a bit disappointed that the second book rehashed much of what happened in the first. But I still can't wait to read the next one.

Book of Mormon Girl by Joanna Brooks: amazing, funny, heartbreaking memoir of growing up Mormon in southern California. A fantastic read for Mormons and non-Mormons alike. Seriously. (And it's only $3.99 on Kindle!)

Bound on Earth by Angela Hallstrom. Fantastic read. A multi-generational, non-linear novel about a Mormon family. Made me cry at the end (and I.don't.cry)--not in a cheesy way, but because the stories were so real, so honest, and so raw in their characters' flaws and vulnerabilities.

Flunking Sainthood: A year of breaking the Sabbath, forgetting to pray, and still loving my neighbor by Jana Reiss. Jana sets out to master 12 spiritual practices--a new one each months--and manages to fail every single on. In the meantime she laughs at herself and learns more about God than if she'd succeeded. A fun, easy read.

And now the last on today's list: Life Before Birth: The hidden script that rules our lives by Arthur Janov, PhD. I received this book from the publisher and was asked to review it. I hope I can do it justice; it deals with enormously complex, important factors: how mental illness, chronic disease, and many other seemingly inherited maladies are tied up in a baby's life in the womb, from its birth experience, or from its early infancy. Let me try to summarize his main points.

Janov argues that a person's basic physiology is calibrated during their time in the womb and during early infancy. If a fetus lives in a stressful environment (i.e., if its mother experiences high levels of stress or anxiety, for example), the baby's basic physiological functions adjust accordingly. The baby doesn't know that abnormal levels of hormones are abnormal; its body adjusts accordingly and resets its basic physiology to adapt to its womb environment. Experiences in the womb and in early infancy can affect a baby its whole life. More and more, we're finding that diseases or conditions thought to be genetic are actually epigenetic--activated by certain prenatal or postpartum triggers. In Janov's words,
A pregnant woman's mood and physiology can produce long-term effects on the offspring...During pregnancy and the first critical months of the baby's life, the mother is downloading a good deal of her neurochemistry into the fetus. Her state of being produces alterations in hormone output that will affect the baby, perhaps for a lifetime. If the mother is depressed, hormones change; if the mother is anxious, hormones change; and the expectation of the fetus is that it will meet the same kind of environment after birth as before. The fetus's whole physiology and neurology changes to adapt to the mother's alterations.
Janov has been a clinical psychologist for many decades and has developed a new kind of therapy that helps people reset their basic physiological functions. This he achieves not through talk therapy, not through words at all, but by helping his patients relive their early formative experiences in the womb or in early infancy--when their bodies adapted to the environment without knowing how to differentiate between normal and abnormal, health and unhealthy. Now, as adults with fully functional and developed neo-cortexes, they can allow their bodies to relieve these basic pre-linguistic experiences and thus "reset" their body's physiology to normal, healthy levels.

If this sounds a bit confusing, it's my fault, not Janov's. I found his book compelling and easy to understand. One of the most fascinating things about his research is that he tracks key physiological markers (including blood pressure, heart rate, and core body temperature) both during therapy sessions and over time. He has seen astounding changes in his patients undergoing his "primal therapy" and has tangible data to back his observations.

I wish I had more background knowledge about psychology and therapy to be able to evaluate his arguments more in depth. It was very convincing to me, although I did feel uncomfortable with how this key arguments could easily turn into mother-blaming. (Diabetes? Chronic anxiety? Depression? ADD? Cancer? Blame it on your messed up mother!) On the other hand, he offers compelling evidence that the maternal environment does have enormous impact on how successfully babies develop into healthy, well-functioning adults.

I still feel like I haven't articulated Janov's key points as well as I 'd like to. My suggestion is to read his book. It's accessible without being overly simplistic and complex without being unnecessarily dense. I think you'll finding fascinating and eye-opening. If you do read it, please send me an email or leave a comment below. I'd love to hear your thoughts!
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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Weird search terms

Over the past few weeks, I've complied a list of the weirder search terms people use to find this blog. The most common "normal" search terms are things you'd expect: what does giving birth feel like, breech birth, pregnant belly photos, etc.

Now onto the strange/funny ones. There are a lot of questions regarding poop and/or butts as they relate to childbirth.
  • when constipated does passing a stool feel like child birth
  • i feel like i have to poop, is that the babies head
  • pooping while giving birth
  • im birthing a child from my a$$

Odd things in the vagina...
  • can a baby push down so much that it will be born premature?
  • 31 week fetus head felt bulging in perineum
  • is it normal to feel da baby move and something warm in my vagina area
  • letting my child to play with my vagina

Other pregnancy & birth-related sensations
  • labour feeling of bowling
  • giving birth feels like you're dying
  • why does childbirth burn
  • what does my baby feel when i orgasm 

This falls into the "I really don't want to click on your search results" category
  • lactation lust

  • flexible Japanese babe
  • sensual armwrestling

Good idea:
  • effect of epitocyn on the baby (We now offer epidurals and Pitocin in one convenient injection, the "Epitocyn")

Bad idea:
  • Successfully self inducing at 35 weeks

  • placenta phasia 
  • stand and dilver (wanna dilver with me?)

These made me laugh:
  • Pregnant women getting caught eating while in labor
  • ridiculous birth plans (flattered to be #1 in google search for this one!)
  • how 2 deliver d baby (#1: stop texting)
  • closest feeling to labor for a guy
  • why do i feel like i need a baby (I don't know, why do you?)

And my all-time favorite from a while back:
  • can a vagina pickle a cucumber?
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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Water + child = hours of fun

All three kids spent a good 2+ hours this afternoon playing with buckets of water, measuring cups, and soup ladles. Don't believe all of the glitzy toy marketing; your kids will be happiest with things that cost the least.
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Monday, March 12, 2012

Why dads are the best

I love it when Eric comes home early enough to take the kids outside while I finish dinner (it's my day for our dinner co-op). We're eating country tomato bisque, artisan bread with caramelized onions, and dark chocolate brownies.
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Friday, March 09, 2012

New arrivals

I just purchased lots of gorgeous new fabrics for my linen ring slings and infant scale slings. Hop on over to Second Womb Slings to see my collections!

Ring sling linens:

Infant scale sling fabrics:
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Thursday, March 08, 2012


While Eric is doing book tours over spring break, I'm visiting his sister in Ohio. She's a CrossFit trainer, and I've been going to her classes every day.

CrossFit kicked my trash. I can't walk up or down stairs normally. I can't sit down or stand up without grabbing onto something. And yet I keep going back for more.

If you want to take your fitness to a new level, try CrossFit. It's high-intensity, fast-paced strength training and conditioning.

My SIL has 5 kids ages 3 to 13. Thanks to CrossFit, she has a 6-pack for the first time in her life. Maybe some day I will get my abs back...Okay, who am I kidding? Abs back? Maybe someday I will get abs for the first time.
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Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Dominant Traits

My husband Eric--a writer & professor of English & creative writing--recently published his first collection of short stories, Dominant Traits. It's published in the US by DuFour Editions and in Canada by Oberon Press.

Here's a review of his book from Booklist:
A husband struggling with guilt over his infertility, a mother revealing to her son his father’s true identity, and a college student working a labor-intensive summer job figure in just three of the dozen excellent stories in this collection. From the convenience-store worker to the high-school teacher and basketball coach, from a young man facing his Hutterite relatives to a Mormon father confronting a group of goth-style teenagers, the collection spans a wide variety of ages, occupations, and religions, making each story unique. Freeze’s focus isn’t on his characters’ jobs or belief systems, though, but on the way that their fears shape them; for example, the stage actor who becomes increasingly introverted the more he believes other cast members dislike him, and the mother who is scared that her son will have no better a life than his parents’. With clean description and great attention to detail, Freeze produces realistic, believable people and delves deeply into their psyches to create truly enjoyable character studies that really make the reader think.— Cortney Ophoff
He's been away a lot this semester on book tours. It's been a bit crazy being a single parent so much, but I'm happy that he's been able to promote his book. He has readings tonight in Salt Lake City and Friday at BYU-Provo. If you're in those areas, come on over to his readings!

Wednesday, March 7, 7:00 PM
City Art Reading Series at the Salt Lake City Public Library w/ Pam Balluck
210 East 400 South, Salt Lake, UT 84111

Friday, March 9, noon
Brigham Young University English Department Reading Series
1080 HBLL Auditorium, Provo, UT, United States 84604

Copies of his book are currently on sale at Amazon. Buy one now!
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Friday, March 02, 2012

Inga is 1 year old!

We had a low-key birthday celebration today, since Eric is out of town (I decided not to go to Chicago with him after all). Low key = cut a slice of leftover cake, light a candle, and sing Happy Birthday. If you haven't read her birth story, here it is.

We celebrated earlier this week with her cousin who was born 2 days before Inga. I made 4 little cakes, each one decorated to look like a different fruit. My favorites were the kiwi and watermelon. Yes, the insides of the cakes were matching colors!
 Blurry and fuzzy, but one of my favorite pictures of Inga--very much her personality:

Right after she hit 11 months, Inga began walking all of the time. She won't crawl now, except to extricate herself from underneath a chair or table. She loves to hold one or more toys when she's walking around the house, preferably a stuffed animal in one hand and a doll in the other. I see her starting to mimic our sounds and actions. She nods yes and shakes her head no. When Zari and Dio are singing, or squawking like birds, or roaring like dinosaurs (or whatever else), she tries to join in.

Remember Inga's missing neck? She found it, finally!

I just started teaching Zari Suzuki violin lessons. My mom gave me an old 1/8 size violin. We're working on posture, bow & violin holds, and basic rhythms. Mississippi stop stop and Wish I had a motorcycle are favorites. Dio especially likes the motorcycle one. Whenever we do the Run Zari, run Zari rhythm, the kids run circles around the house laughing like banshees.

space cadet Dio
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Thursday, March 01, 2012

Birth Around the World: Dr. Beatrice Tucker and Chicago Maternity Center

I just came across a must-read article about Dr. Beatrice Tucker and her work with the Chicago Maternity Center, which provided prenatal care and home birth to Chicago's working class for over four decadies (1932-1973). Dr. Tucker trained with Dr. Joseph DeLee (infamous for his "giving birth is like falling on a pitchfork" analogy). I admire her tireless work to provide safe, humane care for people who weren't usually seen as worthy of consideration. I love how she kept meticulous records and analyzed every poor outcome to find ways to improve her care.

A few excerpts to whet your appetite:
The Chicago Maternity Center was not located on the grounds of a prestigious medical school like Harvard, Johns Hopkins or University of Chicago. It was not a wing of a world famous hospital or a clinic like Mayo, the Cleveland Clinic or Mt. Sinai. Instead the Maternity Center was located at 1336 South Newberry Street in the heart of Chicago’s West Side. When Dr. Beatrice Tucker became the Maternity Center director in 1932, West Side Chicago was a desperately poor immigrant working class community.

The diseases of urban poverty like tuberculosis, anemia, rickets, & syphilis stalked the lives of the residents. Housing was miserably hot in the summer and icy cold in the winter. There was unemployment, labor exploitation, malnutrition, street violence and domestic abuse. All of this combined into a perfect storm of mental and physical stress to further weaken human immune systems. Yet the dogged physicians, interns and nurses of the Center who went into these homes to deliver babies had better success rates than some of the finest private hospitals. Tucker respected the competent midwives and doctors that she met in the course of her work in the Chicago slums, but was contemptuous of those who did not share her passion for constant improvement. All patients deserved only the best....

Tucker and Benaron set an example of calm compassionate caring for their Center medical workers. Their patients were human beings and deserved to be treated as such. The pseudo-science of eugenics was popular among the moneyed elite before the Nazi Holocaust made those ideas unpopular. Eugenicists questioned why any money or resources should be directed to the "subhuman" population who lived in the urban slums of cities like Chicago.The Center had no use for those ugly racist, class biased ideas. All patients deserved respect and all life was sacred. Period....

Today a gleaming ultra-modern medical complex overlooks the Eisenhower Expressway not far from where the Chicago Maternity Center dispatched its medical workers. The Illinois Medical District is the largest medical center in the USA. Its gleaming towers are a testament to corporate medicine in all of its glory. You can take the Pink Line of the CTA from downtown Chicago and be there in a few minutes.

Just a short distance away from the Illinois Medical District are Chicago neighborhoods where the maternal and infant death rates are worse than in some 3rd World countries. There seems to be a historical amnesia about the medical advances that the Chicago Maternity Center made in its Fight for Life. Corporate profit has triumphed over the deeply personal and highly effective medical procedures practiced and taught by Dr. Tucker.

The original article has several photos and videos. Read the rest here--it's worth your time.
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