Monday, April 30, 2012

The soon-to-be-new-mom freak-out hour

We're moving the induce-by date up to the weekend of May 19-20. The weekend is more convenient for everyone, and if the baby is delivered Sunday afternoon between 4-7:30 there will be a ring-of-fire (annular) solar eclipse occuring over the Bay Area. Pretty cool.

I had an appointment with my primary care physician this morning per my obstetrician's recommendation.  I'm experiencing some mild angina-like symptoms along with the occasional flutter (arrythmia) and given that I've had hypertension since Hell Year 2008 and pregnancy adds extra work for the heart, it's probably a good idea to get a cardiac check-up prior to the delivery marathon coming up in 20 days or so. The EKG showed mild sinus tachycardia -- not unusual during pregnancy, so that's good. Next time my heart races and my BP drops I'm supposed to drink water as my doc suspects my blood volume is getting low.

The fact that we're counting down in days now, rather than weeks, has me on the edge of freaking out. This pregnancy has happened very fast seeing as I didn't know I was pregnant until I was nearly 16 weeks. So that is part of it. It also seems like there is so much left to do, and I'm really impatient with my physical limitations right now. I'm bringing someone in on Thursday to clean the bathrooms and the floors, especially since we're having workmen in this week changing out the HVAC system. New furnace, new ducts, new A/C this week.

Fortunately, I've had some friends step up to help me figure out how to organize the baby gear and determine what is still needed. I'm normally a very organized person but all the tiny little baby clothes look alike to me. Now they've been sorted into bins for newborn, 0-3, 3-6, 6-9, 9-12 and 1 year +. After a lot of hunting around, I'm pretty sure I'll be heading to Ikea this week to pick up some Trofast frames and bins for organizing all the baby stuff. Once he's off on his own in his own room, the bins will be great for toy storage and the like, but for now, I'll use them for storing diapers, ointments, clothes, even as a changing table. So much STUFF.

Everything is going to change very soon. I've lived a mostly tetherless, responsibility-free life for the past 25 years, and now, at a time when my friends are becoming grandparents, I'm having my first and only child. All my adult life I avoided even having pets because I wanted to be free to go places and do things without having to worry about who was watering, walking, feeding, and paying attention to pets. I avoided getting married because it didn't make sense if I wasn't having kids. I even avoided accumulating much in the way of things (except books) because it seems to me that people become owned by their things and tied to a place because things need space.

And now there is a baby coming, and I can't return him to the store if he's too much bother ;) I can't just make a quick 10 minute trip to the grocery store anymore. Every move is going to have to be planned, every moment of the baby's time accounted for so that he's not unaccompanied.  I've never minded being tied-up, but the knowledge that I'll soon be tied-down is freaking me out. 5 years ago someone I was dating told me I was commitment-phobic, and at the time, I thought that was rubbish. But CW was right about a lot of things, and it looks like he was right about that, too. I should send him an email and let him know. Men do love it when women tell them they're right :)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Got extreme nipple pain?

Welcome to the world of nipple vasospasm and/or Raynaud's of the nipple.

I am writing this as a public service, because I thought I was being a whimp about nipple pain and losing my mind, and I think there are more women out there like me than the medical community realizes.

Note: It appears that the anti-hypertensive drug Labetolol can cause extreme nipple pain as a side-effect. A lot of women experiencing hypertension during pregnancy are put on this drug. See my comment below dated 11/01/2016 for NIH and journal articles.

When we are pregnant and nursing (breastfeeding), women are told to expect a certain amount of breast-related discomfort. When we complain about extreme pain, we are sometimes diagnosed with mastitis. If treatment for mastitis fails, then we're told it's probably a fungal infection, like thrush. If treatment for fungal infection doesn't relieve the pain, mothers are told to grin and bear it, or give up breastfeeding. Thousands of women choose to suffer through agony because they know that breastfeeding is what is best for their children. Thousands more give up on breastfeeding entirely, feeling inadequate as mothers and unsupported by their physicians. I recently learned that nipple vasospasm, and particularly Raynaud's of the nipple, are leading causes of breastfeeding failure -- and no one knows about it.

Really. I first started experiencing it at about 5 months in to my pregnancy, when I started taking Labetalol for hypertension. I finally spoke of the throbbing, burning pain, I was told some women experienced that as their milk came in, and that it would fade. I knew that this level of intense pain just couldn't be 'normal', so I started researching online.  It took me several hours of digging to turn up the information on Raynaud's/vasospasm of the nipple. My OB had never heard of it. She talked to another OB and that doctor told her she'd had a few patiednts with it over the years, but it was rare. I was referred to a lactation consultant who said my symptoms were characteristic of Raynaud's and recommended a medication(nifedipine) that I can't take while I'm pregnant. I have to wait until I'm breastfeeding. Meanwhile, I suffer.

What are the symptoms of Raynaud's or vasospasm of the nipple?
1-Extreme burning pain, the kind of nipple-on-fire pain that has you crying hysterically, wakes you up at night, doesn't respond to Tylenol, and makes you wish you could take drugs, drink alcohol, or knock your head against a wall until you find oblivion.
2-Extremely hard, puckered nipples and areolae, as if you'd been exposed to intense cold.
3-A blanching (whitening) of the tips of the nipples.
4-The areolae turn a very dark reddish, purplish, or bluish hue.
5-The edges of the aureolae sometimes turn a bright, angry red.
6-The pain lasts anywhere from just minutes, to over an hour.

If these symptoms are triggered by exposure to cold, it is called Raynaud's, otherwise, it is called nipple vasospasm. Whatever they call it, it is maddeningly painful.

I've tried Tylenol, sunburn gels, nipple ointments and numbing sprays, my hairdryer, warm washcloths, etc. The only thing that helps is a long, hot shower. The problem is, being pregnant, my tolerance for long, hot showers is pretty low. The other night I got out of the shower after 20 minutes, still with pain but bearable, and crawled into bed. 90 minutes later I was awake again. It took 30 minutes in a hot shower, with me feeling lightheaded and my knees about to buckle, before the horrid fucking pain abated.

I've experienced this for 5 nights running. I'm exhausted. I'm cranky. I'm dreading breastfeeding. As I emptied my dishwasher this morning, I was actually tempted by steak knives: I contemplated sawing off my nipples.

Several causes and treatments of nipple vasospasm are hypothesized. Causes could be too much caffeine, not enough B6 vitamins, exposure to cold, etc etc. Treatments recommended are heat, avoidance of vasocontrictors like caffeine and nicotine, ingesting vasodilators like nitrates, alcoholic beverages, niacin, and certain herbs. Based on the feedback I've been getting from other women, hypertensive meds, particularly Labetalol, may be causing this.

Ibuprofen helps some women, and Nifedipine usually works within days, and requires no more than 6 weeks at a low dosage to prevent recurrance. So the literature says.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do, especially on those nights when the pain outlasts my endurance of hot showers. Perhaps a bit of alcohol. This late in my pregnancy I'm not turning to ibuprofen and I'm not very tolerant of NSAIDs anyway. I might hit my doc up for prescription-strength topical lidocaine or procaine. Or maybe I'll get lucky and it will just disappear. I just know that I can't take another 23 days of this. 

I hope that my research helps other women out there who are going crazy with nipple pain.

I was at my doctor's office for a routine fetal monitoring when this hit again. I sat in the chair and cried silently until the RN came in to check the tape and saw me. My pain tolerance is legendary so she was shocked. She asked what was going on. I showed her my breasts. Dark purplish aureolae and nipples, with the tips a shocking grayish white. She went and grabbed my OB. She examined me, gave me lidocaine cream and hot towels but they didn't make much difference. She asked me if anything helped. I defiantly told her about 1/2 ounce of scotch or Bailey's Irish Cream worked within a few minutes and I figured such a small amount wasn't going to affect the baby. She said I was right. She said that the stress hormones I was pumping out due to that level of pain was much worse for the baby than a small amount of alcohol. So now I've got doctor's orders to drink next time I have one of these vasospasms. Whee!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Childbirth. Must I?

I had a high pain tolerance once. I could function well enough at level 10 that one of the paramedics didn't believe me when I told him it was that high. I offered to scream and projectile vomit for him (which I was trying very hard not to do) at which point his partner guided me onto the gurney. In the emergency room it took 3 doses of morphine to bring my pain-level down to a point that my body would lie still for an MRI of my internal organs. That's pain.

Nearly four years ago I was admitted to the hospital with a wound that had gone septic and beyond, to septic shock. I apparently came within hours of dying, had a couple of surgeries, weeks of hospital and home health care, and ended up with an 8-inch long & 4-inch deep open wound that had to heal up from the inside out. Endless bags of antibiotics until my veins were exhausted and I cried through IV pumps rather than admit it was time to change the IV site and invite even more agony (lesson learned: demand a PICC line if I'm going to be on an IV for more than a few days).

Talk about pain. The memory of the pain is still with me: it brings tears to my eyes. It cut through my dilaudid-on-demand; it made my whole body tremble and jerk, even in my sleep. I spent 10 days checked-out from my body, burrowed deep into some remote place in my mind. Those 10 days are lost to me, just pained haziness punctuated with moments of extreme agony. I vowed that I never, ever wanted to experience that kind of pain again.

Childbirth. On a scale of 1-10 it's just over 11, I've read.  I am assured that the memory of labor pain fades with time. And of course, it does. It must. It's the thought of that in-the-moment gut-wrenching pain that freaks me out. I just don't know if I can muster the courage to face that kind of pain again, even with the help of an epidural. Sometimes I think about scheduling a C-section just to avoid it. And I probably would if I didn't want to have to deal with recovering from major surgery.  I also know it is better for the baby to experience vaginal birth. Its like a full body massage--it gets the blood and lymph flowing, stimulates the muscles, etc. And that matters to me more than the memory of pain.

Childbirth. Never intended to go through it, feel completely unprepared to handle it. But it's how human life begins, so... meh. I'll keep trying to pysch myself into it. Perhaps the Labor & Delivery Tour at the hospital next weekend will help take the edge off some of the anxiety.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Letter #4 to my unborn son

So we're at 34 weeks today, you and me. I was pretty confident we'd make it all the way to the 39 week mark, but today, I'm not so sure. I had another breathless and lightheaded episode at the doctor's office when I was laying on my back for a few minutes for heartbeat monitoring. It took me 30 minutes to recover so I could drive home. I'm waking up at night with tingly arms and that breathless feeling, usually because I've rolled over onto my back in my sleep. You're getting on my nerves and my veins, apparently.

The monthly ultrasound looks normal (still no sign of your super-powers) and our obstetrician says that babies delivered by storks is a myth. I was wondering why it wasn't an option on the birth plan! My goal right now is to get through week 37, when you're considered full-term. So far I'm not experiencing any of the serious symptoms that women tend to experience in the last final trimester, and that's really good news for us both. I lost 3 pounds in the last 4 weeks, somehow. I'm not really trying to lose weight, just maintain. You're taking up so much room inside me I figured I'd gained another 5, but nope, I lost three, so we're at 9 pounds net gain, five of which is just you. 

We've been accumulating baby gear from family and friends, the baby registry, and Craig's List. Boy, babies are expensive endeavors! It helps that I'm naturally frugal and love second-hand and home-made gifts, but I know you're going to have a significant impact on our household budget. We really need to get a family car, since the two-seater won't fit the three of us, and my old GMC Jimmy is on it's last legs. Let's hope that promotion your father applied for comes through this month, since the increase in salary should more than cover your baby-related expenses.

You're going to be a fidgeter like your father, I think. You're wiggling all over the place. I'm doing those fetal NST's twice a week now, and sometimes you squirm off the monitor. Unless we were up all night, in which case all you want to do is sleep and the test takes an hour instead of 20 minutes because you won't move.

I'm reading all these birthing books and parenting books and what to expect books and, well, I'm saturated. Babies don't come with instruction manuals, so people try to help each other out with all sorts of advice, but I'm at the point now where I recognize that so much depends on you, and the kind of baby you're going to be. Are you going to be demanding and colicy, or quiet and beatific? As a newborn will you have a healthy constitution (like your father), or will you be sickly (like I was)? So many questions -- but they'll be answered soon enough.

I'm looking forward to you joining us next month. I should get around to packing the bag for the hospital soon. Just 5 more weeks, at most!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Will he be born-gay or born-straight?

I've been reading about parental reactions to news that their children are homosexual, and more importantly, about young people's fears of their parents not loving them anymore because of their sexual orientations. I'm pleased to say that this is a non-issue for me. I believe that human sexuality is incredibly nuanced and I will do my best to raise my son with the understanding that his sexual self-expression -- whatever it looks like -- is fine with me.

I defy sexual pigeon-holing myself. I've dated men and women, people a decade younger and two decades older than myself, people incredibly straight-laced and incredibly kinky, chosen periods of celibacy and sexual voracity -- all depending on factors such as my internal landscape and who I found attractive at the time. The bottom line is that I am attracted to people, not gender, and more specifically, to people with interesting minds.  If I have an orientation, it is toward intelligence.

Ironically, I find that homosexual friends have been as intolerant of my sexuality as conventionally straight people supposedly are. Lesbian friends have told me outright that I am "confused" rather than bisexual or pansexual or sapiosexual (or pick-a-label-you'all). They believe people are born-straight or born-gay but not anything in-between.  I think that such insistence on stereotyping marginalizes and excludes people who need acceptance from others more than anything else. While I agree that there are people who are very strongly oriented toward one gender or another, my experiences and observations have lead me to conclude that sexuality and sexual identity is not binary -- it is a continuum.

When I was a little girl I liked dolls ok, but what I really wanted was Tonka toys and Legos. Dressing up in clothes out of my grandmother's rag bag and wearing floppy hats and sloppy makeup was fun, but so was climbing trees and wrestling with boys and playing chess. I chafed under the pink lace dresses and tights, and stripped down to my undies as often as I could -- which greatly disturbed my maternal grandmother's calm. Fortunately for me, my mother wasn't too keen on gender stereotypes (she became a lesbian later in life) and my father, lacking a son, liked having a daughter with an aptitude for tools and building things. Likewise, I'm hoping to raise my son in an atmosphere that allows him to indulge in whatever interests him, regardless of gender stereotypes, so if he wants to dress up as the Little Mermaid instead of a Power Ranger, that's ok with me.  He's a lot less likely to develop identity issues that way, I think.

So as for that gripping question: Will he be born-gay or born-straight? I don't care what my son's sexual orientation will be. I just hope to raise him in such a way that he won't feel the need to feel ashamed of or repress his sexual identity -- and won't try to make others feel that way, either. Being human is hard enough as it is.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Hosting guests and other things

We had guests this weekend: a friend of mine since childhood and her partner.  Both of them are pet people, and both of them fell in love with our 9-month old male Ragdoll cat. He took the adulation and worship in stride, of course. Most cats seem to know it is their proper place to be admired, but our cat, while fairly typical for his breed, is unique in most people's experience. Playful and puppy-like in ways, he loves having his belly rubbed, for example. He's extremely good-natured and uncomplaining. If he gets overstimulated by petting, he'll push or pull hands to places he does want rubbed, rather than swiping at you and flouncing off. He handles two or three people loving on him at the same time with aplomb. And he's just the most gorgeous beast with the softest, rabbit-like fur. He's a treat for the eyes and the hands, and when he's purring, you can hear him across the room. He's just a great little guy.

Our friends left this morning, with a half-joking threat to smuggle the cat out in one of their bags. They'll be back in a month or so, once the baby is born. I told M that we're going to have lots of visitors in the months after the baby is born, and I'm not sure who is going to be the bigger hit: our son, or our cat.

I think highly-introverted M is a little anxious about the upcoming flood of visitors, but I don't think it will be much of a problem.  Our house is large, with a lot of outdoor living space, and we live in central San Mateo, within walking distance of all the amenities that downtown offers. We introduced my friend to dim sum at our favorite Hong Kong-style dim sum parlor, a short 6 block walk from home. We feasted and left with full bellies for under $8 a person, then walked two blocks to the Central Park. We took a stroll through the Japanese garden, the rose garden, and the horticulture center, and watched families playing on the big lawns and jungle gyms. On the way back to our house, my friend was talking about getting a pedicure, so we dropped her off at a place across the street from Draeger's Market with a big sign offering foot massages.

M and I walked home alone, leaving her to enjoy her pedicure and massage. She arrived at our place a couple of hours later, glowing, with bags in her hands. She'd gone inside Draeger's, which is an upscale Foodie Disneyland, and brought home pastries and chocolate and wine. What a great location, she told us. Everything in walking distance, and our place so easy to find. We sat out on the patio, where it was nice and sunny, and enjoyed the cool breeze coming off the Bay not a mile away.  We didn't have enough time to show them the amenities at the string of city and state parks along the shoreline, but there is something for everyone there, be it fishing, sail boarding, kite-flying, or dog-walking.

Since the baby is coming at the end of May the weather will be gorgeous and our flood of visitors will have lots more to do than coo over our cat and our son. Which, upon thinking about it, might not be such a great thing after all. They might never leave ;)

Friday, April 13, 2012

I'm blessed.

In my preoccupation with my unforeseen shift from comfortable infertility to unintentional motherhood, I've forgotten how many women out there only wish they had my problem. So many of the women my age who know I'm pregnant assume I worked hard to get pregnant. I've forgotten how many women struggle with infertility. But I know they're out there. I know women who've worked for years to get pregnant or adopt a child. I know many who succeeded, and many who failed.

When my sister was diagnosed with the same fertility problems as me, she was devastated. Her dream of raising a family and living happily ever after withered. It died with her, unfulfilled, at a time in her life where she probably could have afforded the infertility treatments that might have made a child possible. Me, on the other hand, I was ecstatic when I got the news from my infertility specialist that I couldn't get pregnant without intervention. In my early 20's, it meant I didn't have to be on those maddening birth control pills any longer and didn't have to freak out every time I skipped a period when I was using condoms instead. I found infertility incredibly freeing, but I recognize that there are thousands of women who find it agonizing.

That isn't to say that there haven't been times that I was sad I couldn't have kids. I just might have gotten married in my mid-20's if the man I was with hadn't wanted a large family. Parting ways was difficult for both of us, but now he has the children he wanted and to this day we're still very good friends. And as recently as a year ago I was sad because M was sad that choosing me meant no children for him. I suppose I could look at this and consider myself lucky that I got pregnant by accident, instead of going through months (even years) of fertility treatments.

So when I can't sleep at night, or when I want to cry because I'm exhausted half way through trying to accomplish something, or when I'm peeved I won't be able to make that awesome event this summer because I'll be wearing a newborn, I'll try to remember that I'm blessed.

I'm blessed. How strange for me to think of being pregnant as a blessing, but a good way of thinking, too. Life's weird ;)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Physical discomfort and cognitive dissonance

Discomfort is the umbra of my existence: leaning forward, walking, sleeping, digesting a meal, even my thought processes -- all are impacted by the entity occupying my womb.

I admit there are times when I feel occupied rather than, oh, I don't know, pregnant. My body is no longer wholly my own. Sometimes that bothers me on a deep, barely conscious level. I think it has something to do with the fact that gestation and motherhood just aren't part of my identity. They never had been. Yes, I am a nurturer, but I am not a mommy. The whole mommy-identity is foreign to me, and still uncomfortable. I know that when the time comes I'll step into that role, and that in being a mother, I will become one. I know this, and I'm not worried. I'm just uncomfortably aware that a disconnect is still there, and I'm doing my best to be okay with that.

The part of me that never wanted to be a parent wants validation, I think. This surprising miracle pregnancy has changed everything, and that part of me doesn't welcome the changes. There. I've admitted it.

I never wanted to be a mother and I'm not 100% certain I want to be a mother, but I'm carrying this baby and a larger part of me wants to experience this whole new realm that I never thought would be open to me. I've been rapidly playing catch-up, emotionally, mentally. Most females are indoctrinated to see baby-making as part of their identity, a prerequisite for being a "real" woman. They dress baby-dolls and pick out names and fantasize about weddings and nurseries. They evaluate the males in their lives as prospective providers and fathers. They ask themselves, "Would I want to make a baby with this man?" Many, if not most, women do this, I know. But not me.

I love being an auntie. I love solitude and serenity. I love the solitary pursuits of writing and voice-over recording. I love sleeping in and dining out and haring off on crazy adventures. I like riding motorcycles a little too fast and making love a little too slow. Someday... Someday I hope I'll say "I love being a mom." Even though I won't love waking up all hours of the night, even though I won't enjoy cleaning up vomit and poo. I hope I'll be saying that I love being a mom even after I've had to cancel much-anticipated plans because the baby is sick or the sitter fell through for the nth time.  I think I will.

I'm an all-in kind of person, and when M and I decided to proceed with this pregnancy, I committed myself to doing whatever it takes, to being whoever I need to be, in order to fulfill the imperatives of our child-to-be. Including being a mother.

I am grateful that the baby's father and I have such a strong connection. M and I have been each other's closest friends for years. Becoming lovers seemed natural, if accidental. Love flows this way, sometimes. I'm hoping we'll succeed at being parents together, succeed in building a family life together. He, at least, has always wanted a family, and in this, I'll follow his lead.

Soon. The baby is coming soon. I'm looking forward to the day he arrives. Even if he isn't being delivered by stork.

Week 34 Insomnia

The cat is curled up on my breasts
his belly resting on the pronounced curve of mine.
As he purrs, the baby moves
moves again
pressing some part of himself upward
against the furball draping the roof of his world.

The cat stops purring.
His ears perk.
I think he feels the movement, too,
and waits curiously for another.

But the baby inside me stills.
It is not the weight of the cat
but it's purring which my son responds to.
So I stroke the pale fur
and the kitty-cat purrs
and the baby moves.

Sometimes being unable to sleep isn't so bad.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Climate Change and Christians as Stewards of the Earth

I grew up a native Californian Reagan Conservative with strong fundamentalist Christian values. At the same time, the terrible air quality, acid rains, and pollution which spawned the 1970s Green Movements were embedded in my childhood memories. I can remember the dirty brown smog in the LA basin rolling by, entirely obscuring the mountain ranges for months at a time. When I came of age in the 1980's, acid-rain and pollution were waning thanks to regulation, but the Cold War was still raging. Things were so bad that I took perverse comfort in living in proximity to both an air force base and a nuclear power plant because I knew that if there was a nuclear war I'd likely die early so I wouldn't have to live in the hellish aftermath.

It was the documentary film "Broken Rainbow", which launched me from complacency into activism. The forced relocation of Navajo Indians for the purposes of making the land accessible to mining activities, the visuals of children playing in uranium tailings, the high rates of cancer, and the knowledge that our treatment of the Navajo people had been models for Nazi concentration camps inflamed me. I learned about the pollution along the Mississippi River corridor, of watersheds so compromised that poor mothers were nursing babies with toxic breastmilk. I worked with inner-city children who grew up in extreme poverty and drug abuse and sexual abuse. It was the death of one of "my kids," the mistaken-identity shooting of a bright young single mother who had still managed to finish high school and college and climb out of the ghetto that broke me and ended my activism for  nearly a decade.

The re-election of George W Bush and the marked failure of compassionate conservatism to address the very real needs of the American people brought me back to activism. In despair over the national political scene, I sought community and responsibility on the local level. And I found it. I also found myself. I discovered that I could maintain a balance between advocating for others and caring for myself. I felt called to become an ordained minister, and to pick up the sex-education efforts I'd put down years earlier. I wrote extensively. I joined a community that focused on heart-centered connection and intimacy. I cared for the dying and the living as my family entered a period of one catastrophic illness after another, and then I took a much-needed break to rest and determine what I wanted to do next in my life.

I care passionately about the world I live in. The Snowmass Wilderness and the Big Sur coastline were my backyard when I was a child, and I experienced God through joy in His Creation. I was taught to love God and the works of God, and to love my fellow man as Jesus loved me. As such, I've tried to help people in need, especially children and the elderly, I've tried to be environmentally responsible, and I've tried to make a contribution to each community I've been a part of.

Now that I'm bringing a child into the world, everything feels different, like everything I've done isn't enough. It's still globally encompassing, but more personal somehow. I evaluate the-world-as-it-is and I find myself despairing over the-world-as-it-will-be when my son comes of age. I feel frustrated and angry that we've been such poor custodians of this planet, and that so many people feel justified in ignoring the cumulative consequences of our actions. The dominant ethos of America appears to be one grounded in Greed and Apocalyptic Vision:  God set Man in dominion over the world, so exploit it for all it's worth. Then God will take care of what is left -- with Fire. 

But does the command in Genesis 1:28 to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth and subdue it really give humanity license to recklessly exploit the planet? I think not. Genesis Chapter 2 describes God's creation of the garden of Eden, and His placement of Man in the Garden to dress it and to keep it (Genesis 2:15). What does "dress it and keep it" mean? Cultivate it and care for it. God put Man into the Garden of Eden to be it's caretaker, it's master gardener.

Now, After Adam and Eve's fall from Grace, God was pretty upset. He basically said cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life (Genesis 3:17). This would seem to set mankind up in an adversarial role with our environment. No longer would the ground readily sustain us, we'd have to work hard to find and grow food -- we'd have to work harder at subduing the planet. But what people seem to forget is that if God initially gave us dominion over the earth, the earth is still His. Even after granting Adam and Eve stewardship of the earth, even as he created the Garden of Eden for Adam to care for, He retained ultimate authority and ownership -- as demonstrated by His choice to curse it so we'd have to work hard in order to survive. (Jeremiah 27:5 I by my great power and outstretched arm made the earth, land and animals that are on the earth. And I can give them to whom I please.)

I can't help but feel that this was a test of sorts, a God-given opportunity for mankind to prove ourselves worthy of the role he'd given us as sovereigns and caretakers of the earth. I can't help but feel that we are once again failing in our charge.

The Bible tells us that even as humanity slipped into sin and depravity, and so lost our connection with God and Creation that God felt it necessary to wipe the works of Man from the face of the earth, God found one man, Noah, and charged him with building an ark to save not only those who kept faith with God, but also the creatures of the earth. We'd slipped so far from our sacred beginnings that God wanted to cleanse the earth of our taint, but not of His Creations. Once again, he reminded us of our responsibility as stewards of this planet. Even so, we continue to fail in those responsibilities, and have for thousands of years:
Leviticus 25:23-24. The land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants. Throughout the country that you hold as a possession, you must provide for the redemption of the land. 

Jeremiah 2:7. I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce. But you came and defiled my land and you made my inheritance detestable.

Luke 16:2,10,13. And He called him and said to him, "What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward. He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous in much. You cannot serve both God and mammon. 

James 5:5. You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.
When public figures like politicians and ministers say that catastrophic global climate change can't happen no matter what Man does because The Bible says the world will always be here -- they miss an important point. The Bible doesn't say Man will always be in the world, nor does it say that our way of life will always be sustained.  We've gotten so caught up in serving up heaping helpings of the earth's resources that we've lost sight of he fact that the world doesn't exist to serve us. God created Man to serve as caretakers of Creation, to love it and take joy it as God Himself does.

So I'd like to ask all the Christians out there, and indeed, all people who believe that the world was created by God, to think before they snicker or roll their eyes at those darned environmentalists who warn of the dire consequences of our current way of living on the earth. They could be the Noah's of our era, and if we ignore them, who is to say that they aren't prophesying the destruction of the world by fire (2 Peter 3:7. But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men)?

And if we willfully ignore their warnings because of inconvenience or political or ideological differences, and continue to be poor stewards of the earth, what world are we leaving to our children, and to the creatures of this planet, and how will God judge us when that time comes?

I feel it is time for those who consider themselves righteous or godly or God's Chosen to embrace the mantle of environmental stewardship. It is time for everyone to love what God has created, to dress it and to keep it as God charged us to do, and to stop wasting time on judging others when we should be loving them as Jesus also charged us to do. I think that we should unite to protect and preserve this planet all of us live on, because, really, if we fail in this, who can be smugly assured of their place in Heaven if everything does go to hell?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Preliminary birth plan

I'm not sure what my birth plan is going to be yet, but I'm compiling notes about what I do and do not want happening over the course of the main event.

1-None of that fasting during childbirth crap. Bring on the clear liquids and light snacks. Athletes don't fast before and during endurance events, so why should laboring women?

2-If inducing labor, under no circumstances is Cytotec (misoprostol) to be used. It is not FDA approved for obstetric use and the obstetric effects can be horrific. Use Cervidil instead of PGE1 or PGE2 for better control of dosage and fewer side-effects. Avoid oxytocin if possible.

3-If labor is incredibly painful, administer epidural only once the baby is in the anterior position -and- dilation is 7cm or greater. Epidurals delay labor if administered too early.

4-If doing epidural, NO glucose IV -- use saline only -- and make sure they give at a max of 150ml/hr to prevent fluid overload, anemia, ketonuria, hyperbilirubinemia and blood-sugar issues, as well as site inflammation. Nutrition by mouth is better for mother and fetus.

5-Make sure someone attending the birth knows how to administer sterile water injections for back labor pain. Mid-wives are very familiar with this practice even if doctors aren't.

6-No forceps or other instruments are to be used for delivery.

7-No episiotomy unless it will prevent emergency use of instruments for delivery.

8-Absolutely no circumcision -- or there will be a madwoman administering castrations.

Anyone want to chime in with other recommendations?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Introvert or Extravert, which will he be?

What makes human beings introverted or extraverted, I wonder? I've read statistics that 25% of people are introverts and I find myself pondering about what type of personality my child will have. Some say that people are born with that trait, others, that it is forms in childhood. The heritability of introversion and extraversion appears to be polygenic, much like intelligence, and I find myself wondering if this child of two introverts will be introverted as well.

The baby's father is extremely introverted. He was shy and contemplative as a child, and while not really shy anymore, he's a thoughtful, almost reclusive, adult. He has a big, beautiful mind, one that fascinates me, and he's constantly feeding it. He prefers his own company and that of a few good friends, and often cannot wait to get back home, even if it is only from a day at the office. Being social is a big stretch for him, and usually requires not only recovery time, but prep-time. He will turn down social engagements well over 90% of the time if they are sprung on him last-minute. He's not even interested in internet-based socializing, even though he's worked in the internet-realm for over a decade. To him, things like internet messaging are tools for achieving an end-goal, rather than a way to keep in touch with people -- he has an analytical, transactional view of social exchange. He can enjoy social interactions while they are happening, but rarely misses relationships much when they are inactive. In fact, with him and some other introverts I know, a relationship doesn’t really exist when it is inactive.

I am either an outgoing introvert, or an introverted extravert. It is difficult to say. I score nearly 50/50 on the Myers-Briggs tests, with a slight edge given to 'E'. Reports from adults who knew me as a child state that I was a solemn child, but I could also be quite talkative. I recall being a bookworm -- I preferred my own company or the company of books to social interaction, unless I was interacting with adults. Adults were interesting. I had few friends, mainly because I had little in common with children my age -- I lived on a completely different plane, mentally and emotionally, from my peers.  As an adult, people who know me socially sometimes argue with me if I claim to be an introvert. I can be quite social as long as I have time to prepare and meet my minimum required amount of me-time. I have a handful of deep, intimate friendships and a wide circle of more casual friends. I am uncomfortable being the center of attention and feel anxious speaking to groups -- for example, the thought of a baby shower makes me nervous. I've had to learn how to actively maintain relationships with people I don't interact with on a daily basis, because most of my friends are introverts as well, and their internal lives are so rich they don't notice when relationships go dormant.

In many ways, life is easier for extraverts (or extroverts, as some people like to spell it). In our American culture, people tend to think there is something wrong with a person who is quiet rather than social, and introverted children are invariably given a hard time at school. But introverted children tend to be better behaved and self-entertaining than their extraverted counterparts. I worked with kids for years, and I can't say I have a favorite personality type. I expect that which ever trait our son exhibits, we'll be fine with it. I'm just hoping that if he does end up being an introvert I can teach him how to be social while still respecting his inner needs for solitude and social down-time. If I learned how, so can he. I hope.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Have infant, will I travel?

I find myself wondering how much having a child will impact my enjoyment of traveling. 

Three years ago I was on holiday in Japan with M. It was a great vacation, timed perfectly with the cherry blossoms. I particularly loved Kyoto. We stayed at the Hiiragiya Ryokan (Japanese guesthouse) and explored Kyoto, Himeji, and Nara from our base there. I call myself a wordsmith but I find it difficult to put into words what it is to experience Japan in the Spring. Fortunately for me, every time I look out my windows and see the cherry, peach, or plum trees in bloom, memories rise, making me smile.

Six months ago we were vacationing in Bali. What a slice of paradise that island is! The sights, the scents, the ever-present ocean, the food, and of course, the people. We spent the majority of our time on the eastern coast of Bali, at a lovely little resort called Puri Bagus Candidasa. Expense-wise Bali is a very reasonable place to vacation -- it's the 20+ hours of travel time that are daunting.

Birthdays in Monterey and Calistoga. Weekends in Vegas and Santa Barbara. For much of my adult life I've been able to just take off and go somewhere -- anywhere -- at a moment's notice. Even as recently as a year ago it was not uncommon for me to hop into a car at midnight and drive three hours to spend a few days with friends or family. I'm notorious for my spontaneity.

And now I'm 7 months along in an unexpected pregnancy.

I planned to drive south to spend some time with my parents next week, but it is a trip of over 200 miles, and M reminded me that I can't even sit for an hour without getting cramps somewhere, and much of the drive is through a very sparsely populated part of California, so if anything happened... I felt a small flash of irritation, but had to admit his objections were valid.

Road trips and long flights, I fear, are going to be a thing of the past. At least for a while.

In December we intend to go to Canada to see M's family. I expect that will be our first major travel-related undertaking. The baby will be nearly 7 months by then. I dread being that couple everyone hates for bringing a screaming baby on a long flight. I'm hoping that eventually we'll get air-travel with a child down to a fine art. It would be wonderful to be able to share our love of travel with our son.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Letter #3 to my unborn son

Little One,

In 7 weeks you'll be joining us, and your father and I are getting ready for your arrival.

A friend loaned us a book regarding childbirth, called A Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth.  I thought reading it would help alleviate my anxiety, but it hasn't -- in some ways it's made it worse. There are so many pros and cons with things like epidurals, inducing labor, episiotomies, obstetricians, midwives, etc. Everyone has an opinion. Some opinions are even based on facts. But the more I read about childbirth, the more I realize that modern medicine has interfered so deeply with women's reproductive matters that we've lost or come to distrust thousands of years of knowledge of something that is innate to us. Childbirth is a natural event that is treated more like a medical emergency waiting to happen, and I guess that is what has me so nervous about the birthing process. Honestly, I'd like to skip over that part and just have you delivered via stork, ok?

We've bought the infant car seat and the stroller for you -- we found a great, gently used Chicco Cortina travel system on Craig's List for 1/3 the cost of new. Your Grandpa Stan went with me to pick it up from a couple who are at Stanford University.

The gifts are coming in from the baby registry we set up on, and we've been getting wonderful items second-hand from friends, some with the tags still on them. Your Great Aunt Marsha sent a bib with a power-tie printed on the front, and a cute little sailor suit, and of course, a little golfer's outfit. My best friend from Junior High days sent a big box of toys and clothes, and two baby carriers. Your father's friend, David, and his partner, Lynn, brought over some of their favorites from their son's infancy, too. Their boy is 18 months and growing so fast! I know you'll be doing the same. I have some friends who are wonderful at knitting and crocheting, so we've got some beautiful little jackets and hats made with love just for you.

Meanwhile your, Grandfather has really been working hard with us to finish up the landscaping projects we've had going, especially the side-yard gravel-to-paver project. When you're walking around next summer I won't worry about you falling and getting hurt on that sharp-edged gravel anymore. The exterior of your home is shaping up very nicely, though the interior is in a minor state of disarray, thanks to a leak in the master bath. The good news is we've discovered a closet that was abandoned during a renovation. We've just got to figure out how we're going to make it useful and aesthetically pleasing once again.

You're going through your growth spurt right now, and for the first time in my life, I'm anemic. Your expanding circulatory system and red blood cells require lots of iron, so I'm having to supplement my prenatal vitamins with additional iron. I'll probably be doing that for several months, while you're nursing, too.

You're starting to crowd my lungs. I can't take deep breaths anymore, but I'm not feeling short of breath so far, so that is something to be thankful for. In addition to my lungs being crowded, so is my stomach. A lot of food just isn't agreeing with me these days, and vomiting hurts, so I'm eating a lot of yogurt and cottage cheese and blueberries and protein drinks and protein bars. My weight gain so far is at about 10 lbs, but I'm noticing that while my breasts and belly are growing, other areas are shrinking a bit. So far, there are no signs of gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia, and my blood-pressure is very good. Sleeping for more than 3 hours at a time is nearly impossible now. I suppose it's one way for me to get ready for napping between feedings.

Jasper the kitten isn't very kittenish anymore. He's 8 months old now and weighs 9 lbs. We're hoping he outgrows his adolescent phase before you arrive, because he's a bit aggressively playful. He's fun and sweet and cuddly and he'll be a good companion animal for you when you're both older. I'm not sure how he's going to deal with competition for my breasts, though. They seem to be his favorite place to curl up for a nap.

Your father is being very good to me. I can't wait for the two of you to meet each other. He's such a wonderful, gentle-hearted man, and I think he's going to fall for you pretty hard. He's planning on taking all 7 weeks of his paternity leave so he can spend as much time with us as he can. As it is he's doing everything he can to help me with my physical discomfort right now, and he's great about joining me when I lay down for a nap so I can snuggle and rest. Snuggling up with him is like coming home. You'll understand what I mean some day soon, I'm sure.

Time for bed.

See you in 7 weeks, maybe sooner.