Thursday, August 25, 2011

On Respecting Your Body

Yesterday I went to the doctor.

I should preface this with a bit of explanation, something to make more sense of the situation: I am morbidly obese. Although I've lost 10 glorious pounds in the last couple of months, it's nowhere near enough, and I have over 200 more to lose before I can plop myself contently back into the "obese" category and live out the rest of my life knowing that while I may be big, at least I am no longer threatening my own health with my weight. Right now, I weigh 375 (the doctor's scale tacked on .6 to the end yesterday but I am choosing to gleefully ignore that addition). My all-time heaviest was hovering near 400, which I was told time and time again I did not LOOK like I was carrying, but my body was reacting to that weight I didn't look like I had. My knees are a disaster and I was recommended that if after losing 100 pounds or so that if I do not see a marked improvement I should begin specific physical therapy. I was told I can likely expect a knee replacement before I turn 40 if I do not get the weight off and do so quickly. My back hurts almost constantly, it's hard to breathe, I have exactly one pair of fitted pants that actually fit me, I cannot purchase clothing in normal stores, and I have gastric issues related to my weight. I have obstructive sleep apnea because of my weight; it's a condition that didn't exist until last year when I finally hit my heaviest and began waking up feeling more exhausted than I had before bed, had horrible headaches that started when I woke up and lasted most of the day, and needed to nap for hours to even feel as though I'd rested. My weight has controlled my life for some time thanks to my obsession with food, and my unhealthy relationship with it. I do not respect food and appreciate and enjoy it, I LOVE it, I crave that which is most unhealthy for me. I use it to fix my problems, to fill me in ways I feel my life often doesn't. I use it to cure depression, to sate anxiety, to "fix me" as it is.

But I've been having a problem I'm going to be pretty blunt about: my monthly cycle is completely haywire.

It was getting progressively longer, and occasionally throwing two periods out a month, basically doing whatever it pleased. I had been charting as a form of birth control to try to avoid having to subject myself to more hormones that my body has proven before it HATES. And we were doing great until my body stopped being predictable, and my cycles went from around 30 days to this last one, which was a whopping 45 days.

45 days with no period, no signs of one, nothing. And I knew I wasn't pregnant, and tests had confirmed such, but there was something desperately wrong - further confirmed when I had two days of what might have been a period, and then two days of something that was a poor, pathetic excuse for one, and then nothing. So I called my doctor's office and begged to get in ASAP, and found myself with this darling little blessing of a woman who might be 30 named May Kim. She has a thick accent, she's a good foot shorter than me and might pass 100 lbs soaking wet (but that's a lot of water). She's absolutely the sweetest person I've met in a doctor's office, and for the time being is my new family practice doctor. I adore her.

I had what amounted to a LOT of stuff done yesterday at this appointment; some of it was done because I haven't had an actual check up appointment in two years (oops) and some out of concern for my health. I had blood drawn to re-test my thyroid, to check my cholesterol, and for my blood sugar (which I'm fairly sure is the only thing that will have relatively normal numbers). I had a PAP smear and breast exam. I talked to her about my weight, about the problems it has caused, about my hypermobility and about how that is likely also contributing to my knee problems.

But there were some things that made me nervous, maybe too much so. I got asked things, things like, "Have you ever had an abnormal PAP?" Which is pretty typical except that during the exam it became, "You're sure you've never had an abnormal PAP, or gotten any high results..?" And then, "I'll want to see you back after you get your PAP results." And I guess, all in all, those shouldn't really be fear-inducing questions but to me they are, because I am terrified of anything I can't control and to me having such similar but more pressing and urgent things said to me makes me fear and wonder and concerns me.

Of course, there are people I haven't shared this with yet. Like my lovely husband, and my mother, and basically everybody else I know who doesn't read this. I haven't shared because I don't feel like it's necessary until I know for sure if something's wrong or if I'm just reading too much into things. I don't want to set off panic where it isn't due but I might ask if you have time, if you won't consider lighting a candle for me tonight just to make sure.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

On Days Like This

It's these last few days of summer that really make me wonder about whether or not we're going to survive all this; if we'll actually make it to when G starts school and if somehow we'll manage to not all strangle one another. It's days like this where G and A are chasing one another through my mother's house - or at least through the rooms they can safely be in without A immediately breaking or disassembling something - with lightsabers and blocks and whatever else they can find that might be used to cause harm to someone else, trying to destroy one another. And G becomes "Starkiller" as he has dubbed his heroic self, and A yells out, "Superhero!" and the two of them go at it, and I go a little stir-crazy.

The problem is that it's hot outside, so hot and humid that your clothes feel like they're going to stick to your body the second you step outside, so warm that it takes your breath away and you have to spend a minute trying not to gasp in shock at the idea that it can be this inhumanly hot so many times in one summer. The heat index has soared back into the triple digits, hovering somewhere between 105 and 110, and in the very center of the Midwest, this is inexcusably hot. It's so hot that even Dante, who has often braved the heat in her fur-covered glory (she's a Malamute/Shepard mix .. We think) has been refusing to lounge outside in the shade for more than a few minutes, even though this has become her method of choice for avoiding these two screaming heathens that have come to invade her previously quiet existence. It's so hot that going anywhere or doing anything for any length of time is somehow difficult; precautions mean nothing in this world of heat. Carseats are hot enough to fry tender skin, the air conditioning could never cool down the whole car fast enough for the likes of everyone within, and even outdoor activities are nil - playground equipment is scalding, the pool is far too expensive, and even the "waterpark" is just too darn hot and doesn't have enough shade.

So the kids and I hunker down inside, enjoying the air conditioning and for once appreciating my mother's vampiric habits. We build with blocks and make horrible messes and try desperately to keep from wanting to destroy one another, and bide our time until G starts school next week. He was supposed to start today, but apparently the federal funding that allowed the Early Childhood Center to reopen their preschool program requires that all students must have a dental exam BEFORE attending; having one scheduled for two days after school starts is not enough. Thankfully, he doesn't know any better, and will be starting school what will end up being only two days late, next Monday. He'll be going for a few hours in the afternoon four days a week, will ride the bus, and I am SO EXCITED about this potential for only having one child around the house for a while (though granted, it will be the inarguably more clingy child). I never thought I'd be thrilled about the kids finally going to school, but I am - and to think that next year will be kindergarten and thus all day is even better. With any luck, A will start preschool next year and I will have some quiet time all to myself during the day.

Of course, I know I'll cry when G goes that first day, even knowing he'll survive it all and be fine and will be home in a few hours.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Drawn to deliver

I've gotten a lot of questions recently about my push (no pun intended) to become a midwife and its relevance. I think a lot of people who ask me why on earth this is something I would want to do see it through the same scope of scrutiny that the majority of the public in our country does: that a midwife is a glorified nurse, someone who tries to do the job of a doctor with less pay, less education, less experience, and in a more dangerous setting with far more things going wrong. And to a degree, I can't fault them, because that's really all the general public ever hears about midwives. The media throws around all the horror stories, tales of home births gone wrong, of midwives who abuse their position of power over a patient, or of (and this in my opinion is the worst) otherwise fully trained and accredited midwives who try to practice in a state where either their entire profession or their chosen route is somehow illegal and although nothing bad has ever happened, they're turned in for practicing medicine without a license.

When that's all anybody sees or hears, who can blame this country for having such a negative view of midwifery?

The sad thing is, I can't. And believe me, I'm not looking at this from a completely rosy perspective; I understand that things can and do go wrong during otherwise normal birth processes. I understand that no two women or births are alike, and that a woman's supposedly low-risk status isn't a reason to stay on my toes and listen to that voice in the back of my head that wants me to be ready for any possibility. I get that there will be some patients, unfortunately, that I will have to turn away - not because of an inability on my behalf, but because for whatever reason the information they've presented to me or that I've gathered through examining them indicates to me that they might be safer in a more medical setting where the potential care they would need is readily available. I know those things and I've come to accept them, whether or not I want to.

And I know, too, that even the accreditation process carries some inherent risk. I'm a part of a Yahoo group for new and student midwives, and there has been a discussion going on recently about an unfortunate woman who was working as a student (as-of-yet unlicensed) midwife who showed up to a birth before her preceptors (teachers/more or less the women she was apprenticed to). She had everything set up and was ready to go, waiting for them to arrive, but while they were waiting, the baby crowned and showed up a bit faster than anticipated. The parents insisted that despite not having the birth attended by a licensed midwife, that they not transfer (this is where, perhaps, some things were questionable, but without all the details it's hard to know for sure why the parents decided this, and why the student agreed). Afterwards, there seemed to be some pieces of the placenta left over in the mother's uterus, and she was beginning to hemorrhage - so the student, thinking fast, did what was medically necessary to stop the bleeding. Mom and baby were fine. After the fact, a doula at some point discussed the happenings with other midwives, and the student ended up reported to the authorities and was charged with several felonies, including - you guessed it - practicing medicine without a license. Because of this charge, she'll never be able to finish her schooling and become a midwife, and will never be able to hold any state license for any medical field.

Now, working off of core facts, there is a HUGE question here: should the student have continued to honor the parents wishes and acted as she did, or should she have taken a step back and refused to provide any care and called 911? Obviously the choice has already been made, but there are a lot of technicalities here that I think would make this decision difficult for anyone, experienced student or new. It's one of the many problems that I may or may not personally face, and it's impossible for me to say for sure what I would have done (I'd like to think I KNOW what I would have done, but we always say that about ourselves without likely ever finding out the truth). I may face worse problems, bigger problems, along the way. May every god and goddess in every pantheon forbid it, I might well face the death of a client and/or her child. I can't even begin to process that concept, because it's just too "out there" for me, but it is a possibility, however unwelcome and tragic and horrifying.

But it's part of the job. Doctors face the same thing, only they rarely have to worry about consequences from a family because, if they've proven themselves competent and they've done everything they have to to satisfy their insurance and hospital policy, then most of the time, they're off the hook - even if a bunch of medical interference is what might have contributed to the death in the first place.

And it's something that I'll have to accept, something I'm working on accepting even now, when I haven't even been accepted (that's a lot of accepting) into the nursing program at the college I'm at. I'm still taking prerequesets and applying. I'm not even a quarter of the way there yet.

So why, despite all of these horrible things that could or might happen, do I still feel called to become a midwife?

Because I know how beautiful and amazing birth can be. Because my experiences have been not-so-great, because I've learned the trauma of having someone by your side who has pledged to help protect you from the unnecessary who then steps away at the last minute and chooses to be less than supportive. Because I have been bullied into decisions and interventions that I know (thank you, hindsight) were unnecessary or potentially harmful. Because even after making up my mind and setting my jaw and telling my OB what I would or would not allow, I was still told that in the long run my wishes were secondary to hospital policy, or "what was allowed". Because I know that my experiences and the experiences of so many other women who are now completely jaded to the birthing process do not have to be the experiences of EVERY woman. Because I know birth can be better, happier, more relaxed, and can be allowed to progress on its own without inherently risking the safety of anyone involved. Because I know and believe that women and babies deserve better, and should have better, but that it will take an entirely new generation of midwives who are able and ready to fight the system of heavily medicalized births that have become so common in so many areas.

Because I can, and I want to, and I think it's right.

Isn't that the biggest reason that anybody does anything they believe in?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

On the Matter of "My Parents ___________ and I Turned Out Fine"

I hate that phrase. I hate it because it insinuates that whatever we learn about life, parenting, or existence is irrelevant, somehow invalidated by the fact that our parents or relatives did things differently while we were growing up, and since we were fortunate enough to not suffer any ill effects that we're aware of, the way things were done for us must be good enough. The logical fallacies here are insane, and to me painfully obvious, but many parents may as well be wearing blinders to this topic.

So why doesn't anybody seem to understand why this reasoning is faulty? Let's consider a few things that often seem to factor into a person's usage of this defense.

First, people typically hate implying that somehow their parents raised them in a sub par way, or that their parents - despite not knowing any differently - were taking a potentially life-threatening risk while raising them. And I understand that need to believe, because most of the time, to a point, the reasoning is true: our parents did the best they could, and usually they didn't have the information or access to information that we have. Their choices were informed to a fault. Today, though, we're lucky enough to have the ability to research almost any choice or option, and there is no end of accessible opinions, either online or in books. So where do we draw the line and decide what is a choice made out of ignorance, and what is a choice made of WILLFUL ignorance?

For me, the line is drawn right here, right now. There is no excuse anymore, no excuse for not knowing or wondering - no excuse for accepting tradition. And why should we, when tradition means cutting off parts of our sons, or allowing doctors who are notorious for not disclosing all of the necessary information to make a truly informed decision as to our medical care inject us with harmful substances, then lie about or neglect to mention their potential effects on ourselves and our children? Why should we allow tradition to be the early forced evacuation from the womb of babies who otherwise have no medical need to be born early? Why should we risk the lives of children, of mothers, of families everywhere by ignoring the blatant, obvious benefits of breastfeeding and breastmilk, benefits that have been proven time and time again through numerous studies, while we tout formula as being somehow equal, if not better? Why do we do all of these things?

Because it's easy. Because the idea that somehow our parents might have made mistakes is beyond us; because we want to imagine we were given the BEST, instead of labeling it as what it truly is: the best that was POSSIBLE. That does not make it the best of all circumstances, or the absolute best option regardless of other choices that could have been made. It is almost legitimate to say that the parents of a boy circumcised  in 1978 made that decision because at the time it was simply something that wasn't discussed in any circle, medical or otherwise, it was just an accepted truth; today, only 55-65% of newborn boys are circumcised for secular reasons, and it's figured that this number is dropping sharply every month. The difference, of course, is that now people are openly discussing circumcision and its harmful side effects; men who were circumcised as children are willingly coming out and explaining the pain and trauma they've experienced throughout their lives thanks to a choice made by someone who assumed control over their body. Mothers are being ASKED if they wish to circumcise their sons; while this is far from perfect, it's better than the previous assumption that it would be done. There are forums discussing it, websites and books and magazines and organizations dedicated to the idea that the ability to circumcise should be the choice of an informed adult, and not a choice made for a helpless newborn.

The idea of bodily autonomy is becoming mainstream, and is edging its way into becoming a legitimate, accepted topic of conversation among parents and medical professionals.

So is the fact that circumcision used to be so common that it was often performed without permission or informed consent a reason to continue to do it? Is the fact that a majority of the adult (18+) male population of the United States circumcised (likely at birth), completely unaware of what they lost through circumcision, and thus willing to speak out and say that somehow circumcision at birth is "okay", a good reason to continue to advocate for it?

Of course not. What worked for our parents - our grandparents - our ancestors ten or twenty times removed - is not necessarily the best choice for us. It is no reason to accept that the previous generation's "normal" should be the "normal" that our children grow up with; no reason to willingly blind ourselves to the truth because we don't want to consider the idea that maybe, just maybe, the choices of our parents were not the BEST choice. Best POSSIBLE is no excuse for us now, in the information age; if we are able to provide the BEST, it is our duty as parents, as mothers, as fathers, as caretakers, as those who have given birth and witnessed birth, as those who assist and those who deliver, to make sure that if we are CAPABLE of providing the BEST that we do so - and that we ask every possible question along the way.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Getting back on track - a homebirthing post

Well, we're finally about as settled in as we're going to get, minus some unpacking. The kids are working on regulating their schedules again, for all the good it's going to do; in less than a week I'll be starting fall classes at the local community college, and at the end of the month G will start his first year of preschool. My babies are growing up so fast; G is learning to cope and we've been given an idea of just how smart he is, and A is following right after his big brother in picking up on skills, verbalizing, and generally learning to express himself. We're still struggling financially but we haven't been here long enough to really see the fruits of our labors, and I'm hoping that it won't be long before we really get an idea of just how good for us this move really is (even if it's just a financial good and not an emotional good).

On my list of things to rant about today is something I'm realizing is truly becoming a very big, very dangerous problem: The attempt by a relatively large grouping of people to eradicate a woman's right and ability to give birth at home, regardless of her choice of prenatal care. I'm finding that the vast majority of the people behind this push to end homebirthing have either never had a child at home (or perhaps haven't had any children at all), or have experienced a traumatic homebirth with extreme repercussions, up to and including losing their child. While the former group I mostly ignore (because I'm horrible like that), the latter I do give some credence to. These are individuals and families that have been through something horrifying; if they didn't lose their child (or perhaps Mom), what they went through was at least enough to make them think twice about their experience. Whatever happened was enough for them to want to quantify all homebirths as identical, with the same risks but no real plausible benefits, as an inherently dangerous situation that could have been avoided if it had been a law that a purposeful homebirth cannot happen.

And to that, I say, bullshit.

Please don't get me wrong. I am a rational person and while I have not even remotely experienced the same trauma and loss and pain as these families, I have felt a similar sensation and I admittedly wondered to myself if what I had been through only could have been avoided IF. That's a big word right there, and it carries with it a LOT of suggestions and hindsight. It implies that someone could and should have looked into the future to predict the outcome of a single, individual birth experience, and that the one person capable of doing that had the responsibility of informing the parents from the outset so that a totally different set of decisions could have been made. It implies that somehow every birth SHOULD be the same, and that even though seasoned medical professionals agree that every birth is completely different and progresses differently, somehow, every birth should be predictable and identical. That mindset is why so many women are pressured into birthing in hospitals under the care of OBs, when they would be likely in better hands with a midwife, and why so many women experience identical interventions and outcomes. It is why OBs are trained to expect certain events to occur within a certain subset of time, and when they don't, the interventions begin. It's why interventions are almost guaranteed to lead to the same path, and why all of those paths either end at or dangerously close to a c-section.

The truth is that a woman who is considered low risk and who is otherwise healthy, with an otherwise healthy baby, regardless of how many children she might have had previously, is better off at home. The fact that there are individuals who exist who have unfortunately lost children is irrelevant; there are as many, if not more, babies who are lost during or because of interventions and medications while in hospitals. More mothers pass away during unnecessary surgeries. More women are stripped of their fertility and womanhood during surgeries or procedures that go wrong, things that would otherwise not occur in a home setting where an educated attending midwife could manage any "normal" problems in a number of ways that don't involve knowingly causing trauma to mother or child. More babies and mothers become ill while in hospitals because of the inherent transfer of diseases, be they airborne or through hospital staff who do not properly cleanse themselves. More mothers and babies experience stress because they are outside of a familiar setting, because they cannot calm down and properly continue their lives because they know that they will be heading home instead of already being there. Breastfeeding relationships are strained and put in danger. More women experience postpartum depression.

There will be more to this rant, given time - I am not as lucid right now as I'd like to be when making such an important point. Eating will help. Meanwhile, I have a request: if you see fit, I would greatly appreciate any applicable donations to my PayPal account so that I may reactivate my subscription for at least one month. A month of the information I would need access to is $29.99 and it would give me an opportunity to do a LOT of work on my family tree that has gone untended for some time now. If you see fit to donate to me for this purpose, I'd love you forever. :P My PayPal email address is skiefangor[at]gmail[dot]com (obvious replacements necessary).

Much love to you all! And a far more coherent post coming soon, I promise.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Crayola Slick Stix

I. Hate. These.

They're just wax, surprisingly enough, with absolutely no other hazardous chemicals regulations - unusual for a children's product in this day and age. I've checked them out. There's nothing particularly hazardous about them, but they piss me off.

They don't come off of vinyl linoleum.

There's a PDF file available if you search for these things, and I suppose Crayola thinks they're being useful by providing it, but let's face it: their suggestion of some Soft Scrub and patience is really not all that helpful. I've taken several cleansers to the floor to no avail; I'm about to just break out the baking soda and call it good. I feel like I'm running out of options as I stare blankly at these happy little blue streaks across my mother's white-and-cream linoleum floors, because I can see her coming home in half an hour, likely grumpy about all the stuff that hasn't gotten properly moved in or adjusted yet - never mind the mess in the living room thanks to the boys who decided that "time to clean up" actually translates into "please dump out another bucket of blocks, that sounds like a great time for all" - and finding these lovely, darling streaks across her floor. The funny thing is that every time she has colored with them, there hasn't been even the tiniest speck of those evil, soft, squishy crayons on the floor. The first time I color with them, this happens. I suppose it's a guarantee; Murphy's Law, and all.

Meanwhile, on to money.

Oh, yes, money.

I've found that a good way of earning some cash on the side - either to add to bill payments, use as spending money, or to help out with gifts at holiday times - is to utilize sites that offer monetary payouts. One of those sites I'm coming to like quite a bit, and it's the SuperPoints Network.

Just thinking about it makes me drool.

Watch a few videos, maybe complete a couple of offers, and click that darn SuperLucky Button as many times as you're able and earn points - then use those points toward things as huge as a MacBook Pro or as small as a $5 gift card to something silly like Jamba Juice. What I really like, though, are the options to get $10 or $25 deposited into your PayPal account. I have to admit, it can become really addictive to do, and once you get that first payout, it feels like you're legitimately helping yourself in a way that a 9-5 job never could.

So if you want an invite to this exclusive network of awesomesauce, I highly suggest signing up here! If for whatever reason that code doesn't work (for instance, if it says it was already used), try clicking here instead. I have other codes I can offer out if anybody else is interested and these two go. :)

Speaking of 9-5 jobs, or rather ANYTIME jobs, I'm going to go clean up after the boys, do some dishes, clean up the remainder of Alex's lunch, then work on assembling some of our belongings appropriately in the rooms they belong in. Once Mom's home and gets a chance to relax, I'm hoping she'll watch the boys a bit so I can go down to the house and work on grabbing some more stuff to bring up here - like my crafting stuff, and maybe my plants. Err, what's left of my poor plants - my tomatoes are managing but just about everything else is dead, my chives included. :(

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

When my brain explodes, it'll make this sound


That's pretty much all I have going for me right now. The house still isn't cleared out enough to say that we're on the right track, but we're getting there. We only have our UHaul truck until 8AM tomorrow, so we're kind of running at a frantic pace right now, desperately trying to get as much out right now as possible. We've had help off and on all day - watching kids, moving things, and generally being as helpful as possible. It isn't ideal, but then again, "ideal" would be having a whole slew of people out here all at once and having the entire moving process only take a few hours. That would also require us having absolutely everything already packed, and we certainly didn't. As with most of our moves, the last of our items have been put into bags, and will no doubt spend a good couple of weeks in the storage unit until we're at a point when we can head out and re-store some things. It's generally a huge disaster, but we can only do so much right now. Hubby is doing all the hard work, moving things and transporting them, so I've pulled him inside after our last bout of help has left so he can sit, rest, get a drink and cool down. It's horribly hot outside - the actual temperature was 102 last we checked, and with the heat index we've been sitting between 110 and 115 all afternoon. It's too much, but I'm wondering if this is better than rain. Maybe it is - maybe it isn't. I don't dare say rain would be better, because we've moved when it's pouring, and that's no better in the long run.

Also, a big congrats shout-out to an awesome person and an amazing woman in general, Raven - who is expecting an equally-as-kickass bundle of joy at the end of January! I couldn't be happier for her, and I'm so thrilled that I have yet another reason to crochet some adorable animals! Of course, obviously my biggest concern is the pictures, because I looooooove new baby pictures. Hopefully next summer if (when?) we head up that way we'll get to meet the newbie! (And finally Raven - I've never actually gotten to meet her for any length of time!)

Back to some Thundercats, then off to Nana's house to move some stuff at her place, then back to the insanity of trying to move things. Wish us well; we need it. Love and blessings to everybody.