Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ruminations on pregnany and delivery

This is a pretty important blog post because it's my first since giving birth to my son, Robert James (man that still sounds weird). It's been more than two weeks and I'm not sure it's completely sunk in that this kid is mine and that he's going to be around me like all the time, for like, forever. Well, that may be an overstatement. But you know what I mean.

In any case, bringing Robby into this world has been an amazing, scarey, painful, joyous experience. Through the nine months (41 weeks and two days, but who's counting) until today, his 19th as an ex-utero being, I've learned a lot. Here are some of the highlights:

Our health care system stinks. I've written about this before, but here it is again in a nutshell: Insurance companies have painted doctors into a corner so that they are forced to play medical defense as opposed to really caring for patients. The result is that most of us patients are left with competent, but less than compassionate care. What a bummer.

Too much of having a baby is political. Do you use a pacifier or not? Do you have your son circumcised or not? Do you breastfeed or not? Every professional involved with helping you have a baby clearly has an opinion on these topics, but they've been brow-beaten by the PC club so much that they feel obligated to play it completely neutral, giving you the pros and cons of every little decision. The result is that no one with a degree experience in childbirth actually tells you their honest advice. They give you both sides of every debate and allow you, the one with absolutely no experience, to make ill informed decisions. I wish we could live in a world where a doctor or a nurse could just say, "In my opinion, you should do X, and this is why..." Wouldn't that be nice?

No matter how prepared you are for delivery, you'll never be prepared. I'd like to think I had some sense of what I was in for, but boy was I wrong. And my guess is that every delivery is so different that it's virtually impossible to be prepared for what faces you once the labor process begins. My labor came on a lot faster than I expected. And that delivery playlist that I slaved over creating? Well, it never got used. The only thing you can count on is that the baby will come out, one way or another.

Nurses rock. I was blown away by the nurses at Windham Hospital. I wish I could have visited them once a month for my prenatal checkups rather than my doctor's office. They actually took the time to educate me and my husband about this new life form that was now our responsibility. The labor and delivery nurse who coached me through active labor was amazing. I don't know how she does that job day in and day out. It's like going to war every day. Truly incredible. The doctor arrived for the last two pushes and got to collect her fat paycheck without even breaking sweat. Meanwhile the nurse coached me through delivery like a pro and stuck around to help me afterward.

Babies smell good. I could sniff my son's head all day long.

iPhones make 4 a.m. feedings bearable. I don't know how parents of newborns survived pre-iPhones. I have an app that tells me when to feed my son and I can keep myself entertained (as long as my eyes are open) at all hours of the day while I'm nursing. God bless the iPhone.

Hormones are crazy. I have never felt the level of emotion that I felt in the days following the birth of my son. It was pretty wild. I've since come back down to earth, but boy, hormones sure are powerful.

I have the world's greatest husband and my son has the world's greatest dad. All throughout my pregnancy I was struck by how special it was to share the experience with my husband, Bobby. But I wasn't prepared for the joy I felt in caring for our newborn son as a couple. I'm lucky to have someone like Bobby to be by my side through this journey and Robby's lucky to have him for a dad.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

An impressive lack of will power

I heard a story on NPR’s “On Point” about the science of willpower. Interestingly, I heard it while I was driving home from Buell’s Orchard in Eastford with a half peck each of honey crisp apples and peaches in my back seat. In the front seat next to me was the opened carton of apple cider doughnuts. I would have let out a grown of dismay over my own lack of willpower, but I had a delicious sugary piece of baked goodness shoved in my gob. And despite my efforts to portion out the doughnuts, I managed to polish off all eight (well, seven - I let Bobby eat one) before the sun went down.

The premise of the NPR show was that willpower and self control are important traits that help people succeed in life. In theory it makes perfect sense. People who act irrationally or with no regard for the future are likely to get themselves into trouble. People who can exert a little self control are more likely to be level headed and make sacrifices in the near term for the promise of spoils in the long term.

And I’d put myself in the category of having great willpower. As long as a box of cider doughnuts aren’t within reach.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A trip to the country

Yee haw! Here are the sights and sounds of the Woodstock Fair:

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Worst delivery room playlist ever

So NPR did a story (don't ask me why) on delivery room playlists. Shockingly the song, "Push it" of Salt-n-Pepa (yes, that's Pepa) fame made the cut.

Of course, as everything with pregnancy, this story immediately made me think, "Oh, crap. Here's another thing I need to worry about. I don't have a playlist. Do I need a playlist?" Then, I thought, "What kind of moron would want 'Push it' played while they were giving birth? That's just gross."

So here's my take on the top 10 worst songs for the delivery room ever:
1. Push it, Salt & Pepa
2. Waterfalls, TLC
3. One, Metallica
4. I'll make love to you, Boyz II Men
5. Anything by Barry White
6. That Dawson's Creek song by Paula Cole
7. Bridge over troubled water, Simon & Garfunkel
8. Janie's got a gun, Aerosmith
9. Jeremy, Pearl Jam
10. Mother, Danzig

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My screed on the health care system

I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time in doctors' offices lately. Luckily, it’s for a good reason, but my monthly visits to the OBGYN to get my blood pressure checked and weight documented has brought to the foreground my seething distaste for the health care system. So here’s my rant about it:

Why do doctors' offices refuse to act like normal businesses? Why is it okay for a doctor’s office to say, “Sorry. You can’t call us between noon and 1. That’s our lunch break.” What other business does that? None. Because any business that did that would be closed after a week when their customers stopped showing up and paying money.

And why do they all have to take lunch together anyway? Can’t one person cover the phones while the rest go eat? Aren’t they all getting free meals from pharmaceutical reps anyway? It’s not that hard to have a staggered lunch schedule people. Give me 15 minutes and I’ll have it all plotted out.

But the lunch break isn’t the only thing that gets on my nerves. There’s the whole appointment scheduling thing. I have yet to find a doctor or dentist’s office that actually offers reasonable hours. God forbid anyone with letters after their name work past 4:15 or before 9 a.m. Why is it that offices that treat our pets have better hours than offices that treat humans?

Oh and don’t get me started about doctors cancelling appointments. In my line of work if I called someone five minutes before an appointment to cancel it, I’d be in big trouble. If I did it more than once, I’d likely be out of a job. But for some reason, doctors pull that charming maneuver all the time. And they don’t have the nerve to call you themselves. No, sir. They make their dim-witted front desk person call you and do their bidding. And then they offer you the least convenient time to reschedule.

I ask all these questions even though I know the answer. The problem with doctors’ offices is that they are built around serving the insurance companies and the bureaucracy of the system and the needs of the doctors/staff. They aren’t built around the patient.

I’ve written about health care and I’ve read enough hospital mission statements to know that they all claim to be “delivering patient-centered health care.” But in reality there’s nothing patient-centered about the majority of our health care system.

And I really think this feeds into our society’s general avoidance of preventative health care. I am loathe to make a routine physical appointment because it’s such a giant hassle, even though I have health insurance. I bet there are plenty of people just like me. And that’s bad. Because I get intellectually that annual physicals are where you find problems when they are small and before they get big. But emotionally I can’t get over the hurdle that I’m going to have to settle for a 1:15 appointment on a Tuesday when I have a big project at work and then I’ll have to thumb through a six-month-old issue of Car & Driver in an uncomfortable waiting-room chair for 30 minutes and then sit in the boring exam room just to get five minutes with a nurse practitioner who has the bedside manner of a household mop.

What’s the solution? First, doctors offices need to start behaving like businesses. And to get them to do that, I think you have to rework how doctors are paid. The whole insurance/Medicaid/Medicare system really incentivizes doctors to put their focus in the wrong direction – away from patients – and towards paperwork and red tape. In some ways you can’t blame them. The system grew into an angry beast and it’s hard to fight it. But it’s time to take our health care system back. And that process starts with the patients and the docs.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Don't mind the mosquitos

We made it to a scenic vista at Wells State Park in Sturbridge, Mass. Here's a panoramic shot of the view, taken with our new camera:

And here's some perspective on my growing belly:

It would have been a lovely easy hike except for the mosquitos that swarmed us on the way up. Luckily they left us alone on the way down.

Here's one last photo for the road:

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Complexions Contemporary Ballet: After ‘Mercy’ Comes Sweet Relief

Author's Note: I attended a performance of Complexions Contemporary Ballet in Boston and decided to try my hand at a review. The result is below:

Everything about “Mercy” – the opening number of Complexions Contemporary Ballet’s performance at the Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston – was big: the skirts, the extensions, the lifts, the lighting and the anguish.

It’s easy to see the connection between a powerful, and sometimes disturbing, piece like “Mercy” and the work of Alvin Ailey. After all, Complexions’ artistic directors – Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson -- were former Ailey dancers. They founded the company in 1994 and have taken their Ailey roots to a supped up, angular level. Where Ailey movements are liquid and fluid, the movements of a Complexion dancer are sharp – all elbows and dagger-like legs. The company members – who come in all shapes, sizes and yes, complexions – are some of the most physically fit athletes to leap across an American stage.

The kickoff number also seems an extension of Ailey, particularly the “Sinnerman” piece within the seminal “Revelations,” which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. The dancers in “Mercy,” accompanied by a range of aggressively religious musical interludes, writhe across the stage, clearly imploring relief from some oppression.

While the movement and execution is beautiful, the dance is far from such. But beauty was clearly not choreographer Rhoden’s goal. With the heavy religious overtones, he’s driving at some deeper point about the human condition. The performers’ struggle reaches a crescendo at the end, with members of the company shoving their faces into buckets -- a gut-wrenching mime of vomiting. While visually striking, “Mercy” is far from a feel-good piece. Witnessing its performance is more like donning a hair shirt that leaves the audience member nearly as anxious for relief as the dancers.

Thankfully, things got easier for the Boston crowd. The nearly two-and-a-half hour performance became increasingly cheerful, moving next to the sensual, “Moody Booty Blues,” where five dancers (two women and three men) flirt across the stage, exemplifying youthful exuberance and energy. Next up was “Moonlight,” a solo by the Richardson, who is accompanied only by a simple red chair and bouquet of red houses, and “On Holiday,” where three couples act out the ups and downs of love and infatuation.

Rhoden and Richardson save the best for last in “Rise,” which is set to favorites from U2 including, “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” While the opening number, “Mercy,” was all angst and anxiety, “Rise” was all energy and exaltation. The dancers – who had run several marathons by this point in the show – looked no worse for wear as the soared to the vocals of Bono and the guitar riffs of The Edge. And the audience was buoyed as well, brought to their feet, hands clapping and eyes shining. While the show began with a bit of medicine, it ended with a bit of candy that left anyone who witnessed ready to bop out of the theater and onto Tremont Street.

Friday, January 7, 2011

What's with all these Flash Mobs?

You've no doubt heard about or seen a Flash Mob by now. The first one I saw was on Oprah, when an entire audience learned a dance to a Black Eyed Peas song. Since then Flash Mobs seem to be popping everywhere. In fact, a co-worker of mine participated in a West Coast Swing version at a local mall.

The latest Flash Mob to catch my attention was one originating from the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts, where (spoiler alert) a couple used a singing Flash Mob as an intro to their nuptials... at a mall. Now the mall part may seem a little, well, commercial, but it's actually quite lovely. Don't take my word for it, watch for yourself (thanks Kate Longo for sharing this on Facebook):

Okay, so I've share some fun links and videos. But the reason I decided to blog about this was... I'm bored on a Friday night... No, not really. The reason is because I think there's something interesting driving the Flash Mob phenomenon. Allow me for a moment to muse.

Why would someone want to participate in a Flash Mob? Perhaps it's about getting 15 minutes of fame in a relatively painless and anonymous fashion. Or perhaps it's deeper than that. I've recently begun to appreciate the power of groups of people coming together with voices raised and limbs flailing in unison. There's something primal about it. Something central to the human condition.

Okay, so people like to get together and sing and dance. Not really a deep observation considering we've been doing that kind of stuff for centuries.

But I wonder if the popularity of Flash Mobs is a symptom of our times. It's not news that we're living through a particularly challenging era. And I'm not just talking about a terrible economy. Our lives are shifting rapidly thanks to the wonders technology. And while being able to watch movies on my iPhone while waiting in line at the DMV is a pleasure, it's also a burden. Technology is isolating. We have to work harder to have real face-to-face communications. Families are spread out. Friends are half-way around the world. Video conferencing can only do so much. So maybe the Flash Mob phenomenon is a manifestation of this need to connect, to be together with our fellow man, raise our voice to the skies and jump around like an idiot.

So in the immortal words of Lady Gaga, the true poet of the 21st Century, Just Dance...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

60 Days, 60 Recipes

As some of you may know, we're a two-blog household. And over at Ashford Living, we've announced a crazy new initiative. Check it out!