Wednesday, March 31, 2010

from where we lived!

Fun to see the places where we've been or lived in the news. (Uh, in a good way).

Here's an article about animal rescue in Cali, Colombia, called "Through Cage Bars, an Exotic Peak Into Drug Wars."

And a related video link. If the video doesn't pop up, you can search for its title, "Abandoned Animals in Colombia."

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

doulas and doctors

A friend of mine here is also pregnant and sharing the same concerns as I regarding doctors. For her, it's a first pregnancy, but she is well read in birth and midwifery and knows that she wants a natural birth. We've been comparing doctors - running into similar vibes, at the same hospital - and talking about options we have.

She has been very encouraging to me, as have your comments on my previous doula post. With my first pregnancy, I did seek to switch doctors. At my consultation with the new doctor, I learned that he and my current doctor were good friends. "Dr. A is a very capable man," the doctor told me. And capable he was - but that didn't change the fact that I was only the second unmedicated birth Dr. A attended in his decade long career. I don't think he knew what to expect. At all.

So this time around, I'm thinking: make a switch. Do it now. Don't worry about Dr. S. He'll fill his appointments. There is a difference between shrugging your shoulders Sure, go ahead and have your baby your way and actually being supportive.

Finding a doctor who is willing to navigate a natural birth will be difficult. (Why is that, anyway?) But I will start calling hospitals and doctors and asking for recommendations. Spring break project.

I did find a woman who is willing to be my doula. She was a practicing midwife in Lebanon and misses that. Her primary concern right now is childcare for her school-age children if I give birth outside of the school day. So she hesitates to commit to being there for the birth, but wants to help me prepare throughout pregnancy. I'll be talking with her again about childcare options, and with the hospital regarding their policy of allowing birthing mothers only one other person in delivery.

That's where I am. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, March 29, 2010


I have a countdown until the end of the semester: ten weeks, after this one, and including our spring break.

And a countdown until spring break: three days now that school is out for today.

Justin and I counted down to our wedding day; it seemed we stayed in the nineties and eighties forever. Then we counted down our departure for Colombia. We couldn't totally countdown for Claire's arrival but I did start counting up after her due date came and went. I didn't count the days remaining in Colombia, because that made me sad. Justin kept track of our time before arriving in Kuwait, and then our trip to India, announcing the number at dinner.

There is always something to countdown. Days until vacation, months before the baby is born, minutes left of a meeting. Sometimes I wish I could be more surprised, forget to mark this week off the calendar and then the next couple until: wow, only seven weeks of the semester! Why, that's only another thirty-five days of getting up at quarter to four! Excellent! But I mark the days and months, staring blankly at the dayplanner I forget to use. I flip pages looking for the next thing to countdown.

Friday, March 26, 2010

a boy, a doula, and a next step

Justin and I went to my fifteen week appointment together. Saw the baby's ribs and spine, all parts measuring fifteen weeks. Dr. S told us we are having a boy.

"That is the femur. Here is the other leg...I can't quite see. I think something is there." He paused to press and roll my abdomen. He looked again, "There. See that? A little penis. See?"

"That white speck?" Justin said.

Dr. S gestured at evidence of our son. I saw black, white and gray fuzz. I didn't see a penis. Then again, he estimated the baby to weigh 125 grams, so I was looking for a very tiny manhood.

Justin pretended he saw it. Maybe he did.

"Yes, I am sure of it," Dr. S said, "A little boy."

Justin grinned. I was hoping girl. Just because I thought two little sisters sharing a violet room would be fun. Hand-me-downs and hair ribbons. The three of us going off on girls' days while Justin hammered away at something in the garage. But a sister and brother: that's nice too. I grew up with one of each and enjoyed them both.

Back at Dr. S's desk, I asked about a doula. I wished we had had one when I delivered Claire because neither Justin nor I knew what to expect right there in the hospital, and my doctor - as good a man as he was - was also impatient to deliver. When time came to push Claire, two nurses flipped me from kneeling to flat on my back and at each contraction, my doctor told Justin and a nurse to press down on my belly to move the baby down faster. At that point, I could have used someone to speak for me: I was tired and managed to tell Justin I was afraid my ribs would crack, but I didn't have energy to fight with my doctor over what seemed a ludicrous, uncomfortable birthing position.

I really don't want that kind of birthing experience again - I felt like a bit of an inconvenience for letting my body be in control of the delivery.

So I asked Dr. S if he was willing to work with a doula.

"What is that?" He scrunched his face; I explained what a doula was. He said, "You're allowed one person. Take your pick."

Hospital policy is that one person is allowed in delivery with the mother. Justin wins. But I'm making him read doula websites and birthing books all summer so he can be mine.

At my eleven week appointment with Dr. S, when I said I hoped for a second natural delivery - no epidural, and this time (please, please) no episiotomy - he leaned back in his chair and said, "If you like pain, great. I do not like horror shows, but if this is what you want..." So that's when I thought: doula, I need a doula who can speak when I'm too deep in labor to be bothered. After asking another expectant mom I know here, I learned that the other doctors share a similar philosophy, preferring epidurals. But after delivering Claire without an epidural, I gained a new respect for the female body and also our minds; I found both my body and mind were capable of managing the intensity of labor. I view birth as a natural, not medical process. (Of course I understand that medicine has brought babies into the world that would have died, has saved mothers from losing too much blood - I am not against medical advancement or necessary intervention. I just think that women have been fed enough scary birth stories and most of us need a renewal of faith in our own bodies).

So I said this to Dr. S at my fifteen week appointment. "I just want to make sure you understand that I think of birth as a natural, not a medical process."

He collapsed back into his chair, "How many times will you tell me this?"

Until I sense that you will not warp into some maniac in the delivery room, irritated if pushing takes longer than you expect. Aloud, I said, "My last doctor was impatient. I don't want that again."

"You want to do it on your own. I am there only if there is an emergency," Dr. S said.

"Yes," I said and added, "I am sorry if I am being rude. I just need to make sure."

But I'm not really all that sure about Dr. S. So at this point, I'm wondering if I stay with Dr. S or if I try to find another doctor with greater respect for natural birth, or if I should insist that I be allowed a doula present (in addition to my husband), or if I can trust Justin to be wise and fully supportive in the middle of my labor, or if I start seriously investigating a midwife and home birth. I am not jumping to a decision yet.

I can hear a chorus of voices saying, "At the end you'll get your baby, and isn't that what's really important." Sing-song. Well, yeah, of course that's what's really important. But I trust my body to deliver my son and I want a doctor that celebrates my strength and ability to labor and deliver. I want a midwife who knows how to reposition the baby in my womb, or move a shoulder at delivery, rather than a doctor calling for cesarean. I want a Red Tent. I want a bunch of women in awe of how we've been designed to bring babies into this world.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

pregnant pants

Well, tomorrow I mark fifteen weeks. Twenty-five to go before we meet this little one. Okay, probably twenty-six until he or she makes an appearance. And after tomorrow's appointment, I'll know: he or she.

My parents mailed us a box of my maternity clothes and some clothes I'd set aside for Claire's bigger days. Since we aren't going home this summer to collect what we left, they were kind enough to ship it to us. Bella Bands! Yes! And none too soon.

After reading Salty's post about pregnancy weight gain, I was trying to remember and compare my first pregnancy with this. I don't keep close track of my weight - I don't remember my starting weight with Claire, but I do know I gained eighteen pounds that pregnancy because I checked total kg with my doctor, curious. (I'm bumping that to twenty pounds because I know I must have gained in the last week Claire decided she needed before she was born). I don't know how much I've gained this time around; I guess I'll find out tomorrow, if I want. What I do know is that my pants are tighter, and not just in the waist.

With Claire, I was very active. Running, walking. I ate well. My belly didn't show much until close to five months along. I wasn't too concerned about weight. This time, my first trimester coincided with me going back to work for a semester and my energy was sapped. As the first trimester progressed, I cut my miles because I couldn't find the drive to run more than every other day. In the afternoons, I was too tired to go on a walk to the store for orange juice or bananas; those trips became Justin and Claire's time together, and my chance to nap.

Second trimester has arrived and I'm much happier. I have the energy to run two or three days in a row now, though my afternoons are still an illustration of: beat, tired, wiped. I'm just not as physically active this time around.

So that means: my thighs and hips are fuller. My upper arms are softer. My belly isn't just baby. I remember when this happened when I was a freshman in college. I looked at my soft arms in the mirror and thought of Renaissance paintings and liked them. (Then I proceeded to gain thirty pounds of Chinese take-out and pizza delivery that weren't quite as romantic as those curvy naked ladies). So my soft arms are here again and I have to say, it's nicer to know it's a baby backing this gain and not a midnight order of cheese bread.

But, oh, that cheese bread. Doesn't that sound good?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

about what? kuwait, that's what

I tell Justin I'm going to post to my blog and he says, "About what?"

"I don't know. Just a post. Let people know I'm alive and kicking."

"Oh. I thought you were going to do something Kuwait-ish."


"You know. Something about Kuwait."

Yes, indeed. I am working on a couple of different mini-essays (destined to be posted at some point) about life here in Kuwait. At some point, I'll tell you about the traffic here. We bought a car and take possession in June, so I've been keenly aware of frightening driving habits. One friend told me that you can't really look when you enter a roundabout here: you just have to drive in and hope for the best. And I've been noticing things like: paint scuff marks on the concrete medians, wrecked cars along the highway shoulders, a single red car door lying in the middle of an exit ramp median.

I'll also tell you about the concerns of some of my students: that Kuwait is losing hold of its traditional religious and cultural values, trading the old in for the Westernized. I have heard my students express opinions about other Gulf countries who have Westernized even more rapidly (Dubai, Bahrain), allowing alcohol purchase. There's a price to Westernization - one that perhaps even a few Westerners are beginning to realize - but there is also a greater challenge facing those who wish to return to tradition. Swimming against the current.

I'll also tell you about the contrast that stands up and waves its arms: great mansions lining littered streets; an astoundingly high diabetes rate among our host nationals when they have wealth to protect and care best for their bodies. I'll tell you about charities here extending help and hope to third country nationals who cannot afford groceries or proper clothing.

I think that it takes a long time to sort through a new culture. I have made some judgements already. I wait for some of my assumptions to be challenged. At some point, I want to try to put into words how living abroad has made me eat up stereotypes so that I'm always having to spit them out, blink to clear my vision. I keep asking God to help me to see people as people. Not lumped into this or that group. I think that teaching this semester has actually allowed me unique insight: teaching literature opens up discussion channels that other subjects don't always have time for; I've been learning a lot from my students - Kuwaiti or not - about life here.

And I also have to tell you about what I'm enjoying here: walks to the beach, looking out the window to see the Gulf. I have always wanted to live near a great body of water, and here I am. The food - my latest find is the shwarma, a wrap with chicken or falafel with lettuce, tomato, pickles and a sauce whose name I can't remember. I'll have to tell you about the malls, which I don't adore, but which give us places to walk in the heat and are beautifully designed. A friend who lived in the Kuwait awhile ago told me about the beautiful malls and I rolled my eyes: I'm not a mall person. But some of the malls here really are beautiful. And of course, I'll tell you about people watching, which happens to be my favorite thing to do at any one of those beautiful malls.

So this post promises more about Kuwait. Give me time to figure out how to say it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

up all night

Last week, starting Sunday, I had restless sleep. Awake at one in the morning sleep. Wide awake. Like third trimester get ready for the baby! awake. Then I got sick, sick enough to ask Justin whether or not he remembered if we got TB vaccinations when we moved to Colombia. (What didn't we get vaccinated for!?) Finally, I decided to go to the clinic where the doctor scribbled something-bronchitis on a letter excusing me from school. Instead of laying in bed with wild, unspent energy, I was coughing and gagging the wee hours of the morning. After a night or two of this, I suggested Justin move to the couch.

(Well, I wasn't going to move to the couch, was I?)

So he's been sleeping and I've been coughing and sputtering and snotting all over the place. After staying home (sleepless zombie with an itchy throat, watching too much tv and eating fish fillet sandwiches with lots and lots of pickles) on Wednesday and Thursday last week, I returned to school this week. I've only had one horrible coughing fit during class, but I've spent more time bent over the garbage can gagging until my eyes water than I really needed to.

(Number of times average person needs to bend over a garbage can gagging until their eyes water: maybe once. Maybe. Just so you can sympathize.)

Amazingly, Justin and Claire are fine. Wow. Hearty stock, those two. And I'm finally getting better - down to four or five rounds of uncontrollable, body-shaking coughing a day.

As for sleepless nights, I found this series of posts in the NY Times called All-Nighters. Perhaps next time I can't find sleep, you'll find me in the kitchen. Uh, not coughing in the batter.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

thursday litany: music!? while running!?

A couple of weeks ago, I sent my iPod shuffle through the wash. I now have a very cute little paperclip. I bought a new one, a third generation because the second generation wasn't available. It didn't work. I took it back. They gave me another, this one pink instead of blue. (I thought maybe changing the color would also help. I don't even really like pink that much). The pink one doesn't work either.

So I started typing in all these combinations into Google, trying to figure out what wasn't working why. (I now know how to uninstall and install device drivers). Then on the Sony Vaio site, I found this little blip about Apple iPod USBs not always being compatible because of their "unique" design. My third generation shuffle USB is ever so slightly shorter than the second generation USB. Hm. Maybe I'm seeing things. So I got a male/female USB extension to see if I could hook up the shuffle to my computer via that. Gak. Nope.

The entire time: Do you own your things or do your things own you?

I have spent hours - hours! - trying to get this tiny little pink brushed metallic thingy to eat my NPR show so I can listen to them on my morning runs. I've been listening to Justin's iPod instead. Sometimes I like the novelty of music on a treadmill run. An album I haven't listened to in awhile, an artist that reminds of another time when. But usually, I am not that great at listening just to music. I can't do a song on repeat. I can barely handle short songs at all while running. I like to know that by the time this BBC documentary is over, I'll be a third of the way through my run. I like to be learning something or laughing at Wait Wait or listening to a good interview and all of this one song after another is driving me nuts.

Yes, I do realize I am probably very much in the minority here.

So what to do now?

I'm gonna start erasing all the eighties billboard hits off Justin's iPod and load it up with NPR, that's what.

Edited to add: So on Thursday night, Justin went to hang out at our friends' place. He took my iPod shuffle along to see if it worked with one of their computers. Ian looked at it and jammed the charger connector end into the shuffle all the way. It worked. That. Was. It. Nothing wrong with the USB. Nothing wrong with my laptop. Feeling stupid was overridden by feeling relieved that my next morning run included Wait Wait and Fresh Air. I shoulda kept the blue one.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

yellow cupcakes

Justin takes the early teacher bus, leaving the apartment just a little after five in the morning. I take that late teacher bus which leaves - unforgivingly - at six o'clock. Sometimes I like to complain about these annoyingly early mornings - you wouldn't believe how many people start their day at four in the morning so they can go for a run or to the gym or walk the dog or, uh, actually have a morning routine that includes eating breakfast at the table. The rationale behind the (oh, too many adjectives to choose from) early school start is traffic. If school began even an hour later, we'd spend twice as long getting there. Twenty minutes or forty minutes? To get up at five instead of four every morning, for a late night to be nine instead of eight, I'd take the forty minutes.

Anyway. Three days a week Amanda gives me a ride to school if I need the extra five or ten minutes in the morning. The other morning I almost walked out the door without my head, but I remembered to take a thank you thank you thank you for waiting cupcake.

"They're amazing," I said, and then realized how that sounded. "Whenever I brag about my cooking, I'm just bragging about following a recipe that turns out." She laughed. It's true though. I don't experiment much on my own. I've tweaked or combined a few recipes, altered ingredients to fit what was in my cupboards - but I like to have an idea written out that says add this to that and you'll get yumminess.

So here's a link to yumminess. The Pioneer Woman's yellow cupcake recipe. I made them for Claire's first birthday, for Justin's soccer girls, and for his birthday just this past Sunday. They have yet to fail me. Enjoy!

My only alteration to the recipe is this: Since I cannot fine cake flour here, I put 2 tablespoons corn starch in a one cup measuring cup and then fill the rest with flour. It's a good substitute. Oh, and another alteration: I don't have vanilla extract here so I use vanilla sugar. I also up the vanilla flavor by adding the vanilla seeds from one quarter bean; I add those to the butter and sugar.

Also, something I've been doing when I bake: I fluff the flour before measuring. Keeps the cookies and cakes from getting too dense. I've served a lot of hockey puck cookies in my time, but no more!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

vbac birth article

I thought this was interesting.

Perhaps rethinking "once caesarean, always caesarean" is a small step toward rethinking medical birth, period.

Friday, March 5, 2010

claire fix: a few favorite things

Walks to the beach. Also, making Papa run into the waves chasing me.
Collecting rocks, shells, small pieces of plastic, more rocks.
Talking with family. My aunts are awesome!
Papa. And the Qatar soccer team.
Coloring with Mama. I just learned to draw circles. Loopdeloops, Mama says.
I won't fit this bidet for too much longer! I like to splash too much.

welcome, second trimester

See that belly? Here we go!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

two interesting articles from ny times

The first is about the psychology of moving. We may have "pulled a geography" when we left Wisconsin, but I don't think we plan on doing that again. Lately when we've talked about Kuwait, it isn't I wish this were different but more Let's see what we can do while we're here. I imagine that when the time comes for another move, it'll be sad too.

I've talked with a few parents raising their kids abroad and a few adults who were raised abroad. Justin and I both want the best for Claire and the new one, but we aren't sure what that best looks like. I'll let you know some of what I've learned about the benefits and drawbacks of living childhood and adolescence abroad in a future post.

The second article is about a German homeschooling family who sought and won asylum in the States. They moved here because homeschooling is illegal in Germany. Since I was homeschooled through middle school and my parents continue to homeschool my younger siblings, I'm interested in subject. Homeschooling has evolved over the years and I find it fascinating that a movement which began as a largely religiously motivated choice now includes parents of a wide variety of political, social, and religious views.