From the category archives:


Operating Instructions

by Milton on Mon, Apr 26th, 2010

in Books,Week 38

Penny told us not to get too excited too early in labor.  That, half the battle is relaxing and giving yourself time to rest during the early parts so that when it gets to the difficult part you haven’t been up for 2 days living on Gu and granola bars and coffee.  Because who can do their best work then?  But then there’s the uncontrollable excitement, and second guessing, and wondering, When will it start?  So I can see how it will be a problem when the time comes, to force rest.  To be cool.

What is calming me, today, is this great book that a friend of Esther’s sent us the other day, a signed, uncorrected galley of Anne Lamott’s “Operating Instructions.”  I haven’t been very good at reading lately, and only trust myself to finish a book if I don’t put it down for more than a couple hours until it’s done, but this book is pretty amazing.  Esther hasn’t read it yet but she send a “Letter to a pregnant friend” by her from about 10 years after the book was written.  The whole letter is good, even if some of the advice in it isn’t really totally in line with the home-birth thinking, but that’s okay.

Anyway, read the book. Read the letters. She’s awesome. I also love her other book, Bird by Bird, which is a great book about writing.  Of course, it resonates with me that she believes that writing and raising a child require pretty much the same  strategies.  Ha.

Here’s a poem called “Deteriorata” that she included at the end of the letter:

Gracefully surrender the things of youth:
The birds, clean air, tuna, Taiwan,
And let not the sands of time
Get in your lunch …

You are a fluke
Of the universe.
You have no right to be here.
And whether you can hear it or not
The universe is laughing behind your back.

Therefore, make peace with your god
Whatever you conceive him to be –
Hairy thunderer, or cosmic muffin.

Give up!



Sunlight and shyness

by Milton on Fri, Sep 25th, 2009

in Books,Studies and rumors,Week 08

I’m reading a fascinating book called What’s Going on in There? : How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life.  It’s satisfying all of my obsessive need to know as much as possible about what’s happening, how we can make the baby healthier, happier, etc.

On page 82, I just ran across mention of a very strange study indeed:

One recent study, for instance, suggests that a child’s shyness is determined, in part, by maternal hormone fluctuations during gestation.  Researchers who interviewed several thousand preschoolers in both the United States and New Zealand noted a significant relationship between the incidence of extreme shyness or inhibition (children who seem particularly fearful, anxious, or withdrawn in the presence of a stranger) and the amount of daylight their mothers were exposed to at midpregnancy. Thus, in the United States, only 12% of children born in October-November-December were rated as highly inhibited, compared to nearly 18% of those born in April-May-June. In New Zealand, where daylight hours are reversed, children showed the opposite pattern, with more shy children born in October-November-December than in April-May-June. Because the production of certain hormones, like melatonin, is known to fluctuate with the amount of daylight in each season, the researchers propose that such substances may subtly alter brain development during a critical period at midgestation, when massive numbers of neurons are migrating to form the basic architecture of the cerebral cortex. (It is also possible that other seasonal differences, like changes in women’s diets, physical activity, or exposure to colds and flu, mediate this relationship.)

Is this when science starts telling us that astrology is true?  That would be pretty funny.


Pushed, page 100

by Milton on Fri, Sep 11th, 2009

in Books,Week 06

I’m about 100 pages into a fascinating book called Pushed. The best way to describe it is as a Fast Food Nation or Omnivore’s Dilemma of the field of obstetrics.  The enemy in the book is not necessarily the doctors and physicians, but rather the strange dance between hospitals, insurance companies, and the “malpractice crisis”.

It has turned me from a casual “yeah, it would be nice to avoid an epidural, induction, and Cesarian if possible” to a more emphatic “we should probably try to have the baby outside of the hospital system”.

It doesn’t seem like anyone is really at fault.  Everyone is trying to make the business of having babies as safe and efficient as possible, but there are just some pretty glaring conflicts of interest when a doctor needs to pay $900,000/year in malpractice and therefore has to race through births as fast as possible, sacrificing care and patience for fast, risk-adverse, insurance-friendly planned Cesarians.

And then there’s the self-reinforcing loop of wanting to control everything.  Inducing a pregnancy that isn’t even to term yet, rather than sending someone back home, for example.  The fact that inducing a pregnancy seems to lead to a more painful birth, therefore increasing the need for an epidural.  The fact that a failed induction often encourages a Cesarian.  All of it could be avoided by simply not going to the hospital until you really need to be there.  Or, not going to a hospital at all and having the baby in a birthing center or at home under the care of a licensed midwife.

I’m really coming at this as a complete newbie, so please correct me if I’m incorrect in any of my statements.  Esther and I talked about it a bit this morning and think that using the hospital for ultrasounds and all those checkups seems good, and then having the actual baby at a birthing center or under the guidance of a good midwife.

We just need to figure out how much each of these options cost, which things are covered by our minimal maternity insurance, and also talk to our yet-to-be-chosen doctor about some of these things to see where our local hospital is on the spectrum of overly aggressive birthing.


Books purchased so far…

by Milton on Thu, Sep 10th, 2009

in Books,Week 06

Now, all I gotta do is read them, right?