Wherein I Make a Case to Mother Nature for Long Overdue Gestational Process Improvement

Dear Mother Nature,

I am filing this petition on behalf of women who suffer through pregnancy. Surely, you’re aware of my recent suffering. Now that my long ordeal is over, I’ve taken the opportunity to collect some empirical data on the pre-natal versus postpartum state of my person and I’m proposing some changes to current gestational processes. These overdue improvements are designed to maximize comfort and minimize the more troubling aspects of procreation and provide some uniformity of experience for all women, thereby maximizing interest in reproduction, something of obvious interest to yourself.

Data

I’ve organized the data into a side by side comparison of some major well being indicators in the pregnant vs. non-pregnant state.

Well being indicator: Sleep

It’s a well worn cliche that new parents get little sleep. However, I submit that being pregnant is even worse.

Pregnant sleep: As my bladder became smaller and smaller, my stretches of sleep shrank in direct proportion, with no hope of increasing unless I dehydrated or delivered the baby taking up my bladder’s valuable real estate.

Postpartum sleep: Suddenly, I can go for hours without peeing again! Which is great, because I’m likely pinned under a feeding or sleeping baby. I’m still waking in the middle of the night, but for different reasons. And now I have an excuse to wake my partner along with me and take a long whiff of a newborn head.

Well being indicator: Eating

Since eating is necessary to sustain life in both mother and fetus, some barriers to proper eating during pregnancy need to be addressed.

Pregnant eating: The first trimester, I could barely eat from nausea, yet nausea was the only thing that could curb the nausea.  By the third trimester, even applesauce causes heartburn. I needed rest, but lying down caused even more reflux.

Postpartum eating: Breastfeeding provides a blank check to increase my calories by another 200 over the recommended pregnancy levels, heartburn is but a memory, and people will now bring food to my door in one of the best cultural customs ever created: the meal train.

Well being indicator: Exercise

Exercise is recommended for most pregnant women and all non-pregnant women once healing from giving birth has completed.

Pregnant exercise: No data available.

Postpartum exercise: No data available.

Well being indicator: Mental Health and Relationships

Close, healthy relationships are the cornerstone of human existence and crucial to successful raising healthy happy offspring. The data suggests important relationship bonds are compromised with the hormonal and behavioral changes associated with pregnancy.

Pregnant relationships: My gestational state of mind can be easily summed up in the following three words: crazy as fuck. This imposed a considerable burden on my loved ones, who were used to my usually stable, jovial nature.

Postpartum relationships: In my own case, all symptoms of cray, cray resolved within hours of delivery. However, it must be noted that experiences of other women may vary, and sometimes the crazy descends once the baby comes.

Well being indicator: Physical health

Pregnant physical health: My body was a shit-show. Moving from head to toe, the data shows suffering caused by headaches, heartburn, breathing restriction, gas, ass-kicking anemia, back pain, constipation, hip pain, vulvar varicosities, hemorrhoids, bleeding cervical polyps, spider veins, swollen feet.

Postpartum Physical health: Improvements were noted in all areas except lady bits and adjacent areas. Options to address discomfort through basic pharmeceuticals is increased. Long soaks in the tub are also beneficial, with the added advantage of being able to enter and exit the bathtub unassisted.

Proposal

 Given the difficulties associated with gestation that serve as a barrier to procreation, I propose the following as a starting point for discussion by a committee of women appointed by yourself. Invariably, opinions will differ, but I offer my own experience as a catalyst for long overdue change.

Revised gestational phases:

The following offers an abbreviated version of human gestation, with a focus on alleviation of pregnancy related difficulties yet preserving some adversity as a necessary preparation for the travails of parenting:

Conception –> Epidural (optional) –> Pushing/deliver –> Breastfeeding (optional) –> Child rearing.

Please let me know your thoughts as soon as possible. I’m certain I can easily scare up some grant money to address this important biological retooling.

Please note:  A subcommittee to address some basic anatomical changes may be beneficial. Reports show that forcing babies with 25+cm heads through 10cm openings is proving detrimental to lady bits.

Thank you for your attention and rapid action in this matter.

Best,

Sue Campbell

Alma Bea is Here

Alma Bea Campbell, Born March 19, 2015, 6 pounds, 5 ounces, 20 inches

 

We’ve passed the point where she was delivered by a nice hipster doctor in skinny scrubs. We’ve passed the “Oh, keep that, we can use it to reseal the driveway” phase of poop. We’ve passed the mild case of jaundice.

The dog is accustomed enough to five-day-old Alma that he will occasionally sleep through the screaming of a diaper change, instead of running to check that we are doing things right. “No, you’re supposed to LICK her butt,” he seemed to be urging.

We’ve suffered our first diapering-related injury: Ben got a snappi shoved under his fingernail in the middle of the night. And our first breastfeeding related injury — poor Ben again — while cleaning pump supplies. “Ouch! Good god, steam just doesn’t stop being hot!”

We’re at the part where her periods of alertness — searching our faces with brown eyes camouflaged gray-blue — are increasing.

We are surprised with the strength in her six pound body — seconds at a time of practicing to hold her head up. We can see and feel her trying to control her body movements. “How did I just do that? I want to do it again. Oh yes, I move this fleshy bony thing to my mouth.”

We’re at the part where breastfeeding is effortless, we both know the drill: root, root, root, open real big, insert huge nipple, suck, suck, suck.

We’re at the part where one of my breasts is twice the size of her head and all naps are taken on my chest or daddy’s.

We leave Nora to watch her while we pee or get a refill on water and we hear fussy squeaking and then Nora cooing, “Alma Bea, your big sister is here for you.”

We’re at the part where we stare at her endlessly with love and fascination. And we always will be.

Honest Pregnant Lady – 3 Week Countdown Begins

I’m laying in bed on my left side. I’m so sick of laying on my left side I plan to never lay on my left side again just as soon as the baby comes out. My left ear is in agreement with this plan. It is sore and sick of being laid on.

My primary goals for today were to get muffins for a team retreat, get Nora to school, survive the team retreat with the help of adrenaline (and muffins) and somehow get back home. I managed all that. Go me.

My secondary goal is to attend a photo gallery opening for my dear friend, Gemela this evening. That goal is seriously in doubt.

Tuesday’s IV iron infusion has yet to show any effect except a nasty bruise on my arm — my perinatalogist says it will take a week to make any difference in my energy levels. This is bullshit. People who shoot up heroin would never stand for this. A needle in your arm should equal instantaneous results. I am outraged.

My hemorrhoids are out of control again. I’m tackling the problem with sitz baths, Tucks, colace and a magnesium drink. And lots and lots of pinto beans. Pooping should not be traumatizing. This should be a fundamental human right. Sadly, this issue is not on the UN’s radar.

Despite all of these complaints, I have much to celebrate. An epic string of appointments yesterday confirmed the baby’s heartbeat is strong and she has finally flipped into the head down position. I’m beginning to dilate and my blood sugars and insulin needs have stabilized for now.

Three weeks from today, I’ll be induced, but I have a feeling she’ll come of her own accord a bit sooner than that.

DO YOU HEAR ME, ALMA? MAMA HAS A FEELING YOU’LL COME A BIT SOONER THAN THAT. HINT, HINT.

Art or Craft?

In high school, I wrote a fan letter to John Irving, my favorite novelist at the time. I must have asked for some type of writing advice because he wrote back, in part, “Writing isn’t an art, it’s a craft.”

When that shit shows up in your mailbox at age sixteen, you take notice.

I was so grateful to hear it because “artist” has always been a scary label to me.

The word “art” feels out of reach. Being an artist implies one was given a heavy dose of natural talent, originality, and refined sensibility at birth which has no choice but to burst forth throughout one’s life. And you might go crazy or become a drunk from the sheer burden of it.

The thought of making Capital-A-Art paralyzes people (well, people like me anyway) into non-action. Dreams of being an artist stay dreams for so many.

But “to craft” means you pick up a set of tools and work your ass off to learn how to use them properly and create something of use. As a knitter, I get this.

As a beginning knitter — almost twenty years ago — I would never have expected to simply pick and yarn and needles and make a decent sweater with no practice, study or training. The same should be assumed for writing.

But once I got going — both with knitting and with writing — I progressed more quickly than I imagined possible. Soon I could make something pretty serviceable, be it a sweater or a book.

Being a crafter, I need not come up with something new and astonishing. There are no new stories, anyway. Only freshened up stories. I can look around and give myself permission to work with what’s already out there. I take things that feel relevant to me, pull them apart and build something that feels new, satisfying and useful.

Commitment to craft is all that’s required.

A Plea to Those Wading Into the Vaccination Debate

The point of this post is not to get you to change your opinion on whether or not to vaccinate your child.

I’m not even going to tell you whether or not my kid is vaccinated.

The minute I do that, I lose half the people I want to reach. I will become an opponent.

Because this debate has become toxic.

I get why. We’re talking about our kids. We’d do anything to protect them. Including fight. Especially fight.

And what better place to fight than on the internet? We can get all wound up while sitting comfortably on our couches, and not see the effect we’re having on each other.

We can rant. We can insult. We can moralize and demonize.

And we can shut down when the other side starts talking.

So why bother to talk about it at all?

Have you ever changed your mind in the face of someone shouting you down?

In the last week, I’ve read proclamations from both sides that explicitly say: you’re a bad parent/citizen based on your choice.

Here’s the thing — and we all know this — when you start hurling insults at the other side, it’s not going to do any good. In fact it’s doing damage.

The people in your choir will nod their heads and everybody else will turn their backs.

You’re better off not even opening your mouth.

Battling breaks down any trust that exists — or has the potential to exist — between two people. And when there’s no trust, there’s no changing hearts and minds.

The fact is, we don’t have any control over the choices of others.

Everyone makes decisions based — at least in part — on their biggest fears.

So what to do?

I believe the way we talk about this matters.

Remember: you have far more in common with other parents than you have differences. Everybody is making the best decision they can with the information and values they have.

I have friends on both sides of the debate. They are all good people and good parents. I love and care about all of them. I value those relationships.

What we need to do is figure out the best way to move forward with the circumstances we have in place.

Right now, I worry that’s not happening. Can you picture a group of parents from both sides sitting down and talking about what to do during a school outbreak without any vitriol?

It’s not realistic to think the pendulum of public opinion is going to swing to one side or the other during a toxic debate. There are no winners.

Here’s what we can do:

Listen with compassion.

Speak respectfully.

Reflect on our own opinions and choices.

Change our own minds on the issue, or don’t.

But above all, keep our hearts soft and take our armor off.

All over the world, everybody always strikes out at the enemy, and the pain escalates forever. Every day we could reflect on this and ask ourselves, “Am I going to add to the aggression in the world?” Every day, at the moment when things get edgy, we can just ask ourselves, “Am I going to practice peace, or am I going to war?” — Pema Chodron