Silly me, I thought we’d just set up the camera and start shooting whatever we were cooking.
Okay, maybe my husband would get out the little photography umbrellas and some lights, but that’s it.
We are really in it now.
This is how we started out.
I thought this was kind of a lot of equipment.
Oh, sweet naive me.
Here’s where we are at now.
What you’re looking at is the second version of this handmade mounted mirror (much lighter than the first one.) You’ll also notice that we’ve added more lighting on the countertop… and around the cook top in general.
That pot is about to undergo some intense interrogation.
(Not pictured: We also have a fan mounted to the cabinet while recording–to keep steam from condensing on the mirror.)
Why a mirror? The idea is to record the cooktop from above, without getting steam and gunk in the lens of the camera. Thus, the mirror. Then, once I import the video into our video editing software, I can flip the image vertically so that your brain doesn’t feel like something is off as you’re watching us cooking.
All this rigging has taken a lot of trips to Menard’s, Lowe’s, and Home Depot. (And sometimes back to Menard’s ten minutes before they close.) He’s really put a lot of time and effort into this.
But anyone who knows my husband knows that when he does something, he really does something.
That’s the joint garden that we share with our neighbors–all built in the last few months.
Because. You know. He wanted to have a garden.
Notice the gate on the right side. And where he’s standing, there is a removable portion of that fence–so the truck can back up to it and dump the wood chips directly into the garden.
Hey, it makes him happy. And Felicity loves, loves, loves getting in the dirt.
So it’s taking some time.
In the meantime, I’ve been figuring out and articulating our workflow for making the videos.
I’ve also been building my video editing skills (I’m using CyberLink’s Power Director–a solid program.)
Which leads to this conversation that we had last Thursday night.
Me: “I don’t know why but the preview of the video is really choppy.”
Him: “Once you render it, it should smooth out.”
Him: “Your computer probably isn’t fast enough.”
Then Friday, I call him at 5:00 to see if he’s picking up the kids.
I hear him giving someone his name and address.
Me: “Okay. Where are you?”
Me: “Um, okay.”
Him: “I just bought you a computer.”
Me: “Right. I think I saw that coming.”
Him: “It’s so badass.”
Then later, after the kids are home and dinner is finished, we pick up the conversation again.
Me: “So when is the computer getting here?”
Him: “Already got it.”
Me: “Oh. Where is it?”
Him: “In the car. I still have to put it together.”
Me: “What? I thought you said you bought a computer.”
Him: “Yeah. The parts. It won’t take long to put together.”
Then later, he starts bringing in the boxes.
Me: “Two monitors? You bought two monitors?”
Him: “You got to have two monitors.”
Me: “Oh my God…”
Him: “Go big or go home, Sweets.”
Kid in a candy store.
So when can you expect to see some videos?
I think in the next two weeks.
We have some good footage of making steel-cut oats (although we’re figuring out color balance and how to filter background noise). We wanted to produce some egg videos, but we’ve got to wait until our egg supplier is back from vacation. We also ran into some problems with our lighting. Apparently, we’ve been using too much light and it’s washing out the color of the food. So we’ve got to re-shoot everything. Bargh…
Like any creative project, this one has thrown us some curve balls.
But it’s still been fun.
It has given both of us chances to work in our favorite creative roles.
Him: Woodworking, cooking, photography
Me: Writing, storytelling, video editing
And I guess I can add “directing” to that list now.
(I shouldn’t have to, but I know how quickly the mind jumps to conclusions…)
I think breastfeeding is awesome.
My love of formula feeding in no way diminishes your breastfeeding experience.
Infant feeding isn’t a zero-sum issue.
(And by the way, when did it become one?)
Formula feeding, one week old
As I’ve written about extensively in my book and in other blog posts, breastfeeding was so much worse than childbirth for me. (And I gave birth without drugs).
With my first baby, I was overcome with feelings of guilt (This shit might actually keep her brain from developing as much as it would if I were breastfeeding…) and shame (If I were a better mother, I would have kept pumping, even just a little bit. Every little bit helps.)
In my mind, I wasn’t allowed to openly love formula feeding. Proclaiming how much I loved formula feeding would have been akin to saying that I didn’t particularly care about the health of my child.
That’s what I thought.
When I try to trace back where those thoughts came from, I realize how much of my own insinuations were responsible for the guilt and shame that I felt. I read four or five credible books about breastfeeding when I was pregnant. (The Breastfeeding Book by Martha and William Sears was particularly good.) My takeaway from this and the other books was that, as long as I stuck with breastfeeding, my chances of success were very, very high.
I just needed to buckle down and commit to the process.
Because, let’s face it, breastfeeding is better for me and the baby.
I LOVED THIS MESSAGE.
Because if there’s one thing my friends and family know about me, it’s that I CAN BUCKLE DOWN AND COMMIT like no other.
I’m like a dog with a bone when I move something to the top of the priority list.
And in those first weeks after my first child was born…
Let’s just say, Ruff, ruff.
There’s a difference between loving the way that you feed your child and doing it simply because you hate the alternative.
I had to learn this the hard way with my first child.
Because, I confess, I didn’t love formula feeding her.
I just hated the alternative of breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding made me absolutely miserable. It brought me no joy. It only brought physical and emotional pain. Feelings of inadequacy and resentment. And days and days of being awake for 22 out of 24 hours (and that brings you to the brink of psychosis, let me tell you).
So I quietly switched to formula feeding when my daughter was 12 days old. Every time, someone saw us feeding her tiny bottles of formula, the mental tape of guilt and shame ran its course in my mind.
I bit my lip and hoped no one would say anything.
Most people didn’t.
But some did.
And then I was prepared with my boilerplate speech that grew increasingly awkward as I tried to figure out on-the-fly if this audience really needed to know the shape of my nipples or the amount of milk that I was producing. (Does anyone really need to know that?)
It was agonizing.
But this post isn’t supposed to be about how hard breastfeeding was for me.
It’s supposed to be about how awesome formula feeding has been for me.
I’ll admit, I didn’t automatically switch to loving formula feeding after having my second baby simply because I had done it before.
But once I realized the absolute deluge of work that having a second child heaped upon us, I was ALL ABOUT FORMULA FEEDING.
With no grandparents living nearby to constantly stop by and help out, we bear the full load by ourselves. (Read: full-time jobs, daycare drop-off/pick-up, hours of housecleaning every day, lawn mowing (a HUGE yard), shopping, doctor visits, dentist visits, blah, blah, blah…)
So trying to breastfeed when my body wasn’t cooperating?
Breastfeeding even if my body were cooperating would have been a challenge.
I think the only way I would be breastfeeding right now is if…
1) I truly loved the experience of breastfeeding
2) I could hire outside help to pick up my share of the household chores.
Barring those two crucial factors, breastfeeding would just not happen.
Because now, the day is doubly full of responsibilities.
Now, there are no simply no free moments to wade through the quagmire of the Internet and second guess everything that I’m doing and compare this product and that product and this method and that method.
I no longer run Google searches like “infant formula obesity” or “does formula cause diarrhea?” or “comparison of intelligence breastfed and formula fed” or “mother child bonding only breastfeeding?” And then get sidetracked into a discussion board where self-righteous and insecure young mothers tear each other apart.
So unh-uh. Ain’t nobody got time for that any more.
If you’ve gotten this far, perhaps you want some specific reasons that I love formula feeding.
Here are my top reasons, in order of importance to me.
I know exactly how much my baby has eaten (This always helped put my mind at ease in those early weeks when your baby is trying to regain their birth weight.)
I know exactly what ingredients my baby has eaten.
I don’t have to worry about how my diet affects my baby. (After ten months of pregnancy, this is a huge relief, I can tell you.)
My body starts to feel like it belongs to me again, much sooner.
I can more easily share night feeding responsibilities.
I don’t have to pump at night or at work, just to keep my milk supply up.
Actually, just, I DON’T HAVE TO PUMP. (Those machines are like a form of torture, I swear to God. And of course, they were invented by a dude.)
I don’t have to scrape the bottom of my soul for the willpower to endure a baby’s incessant need to nurse all day, for several days–just to get my baby through a growth spurt.
I can get a babysitter and leave the house–without wondering how soon I’ll need to pump or nurse before my boobs explode.
I will never run out of food for my baby–even if my body isn’t cooperating (a statement of middle-class privilege, I acknowledge. Although… so are a lot of these reasons…)
If I get sick, I can take time to recover without having a baby attached to me all hours of the day.
I can exercise without worrying about diminishing my milk supply.
Actually, I can just live life without worrying about diminishing my milk supply.
I only spend 2 hours per day feeding my child (20 minutes X 5-6 feedings), rather than 4.5 hours per day (45 minutes X 5-6 feedings–that was about the fastest I could ever nurse).
I didn’t have to worry about whether my baby would take a bottle at daycare.
I don’t have to confront the frustrating situation of wondering if some nut job is going to find my breastfeeding “inappropriate.” (IT’S NOT. GET OVER IT.)
I’m sure I could go on…
I write this post specifically for mothers who are formula feeding.
Because I know what it’s like to be sitting in a group of moms and overhear someone refer to infant formula as “garbage.” Or hear another mom say, “Well, if that’s how you want to feed your baby…”
It ain’t fun.
And, if you were raised to be “ladylike” like me, you didn’t stand up for yourself. (Instead, you just pretended that you didn’t hear… and then complained about it later to an accepting audience as a means to let off steam. Being female is a bitch, isn’t it?)
What I want to say to you is this:
There will be sooo many times in motherhood when you can’t please everyone, no matter what you do.
This truth hit home hard just a month ago when another daycare mom who was considering withdrawing her baby (who had started just weeks earlier) called our daycare center a “dirty”, “expensive,” “baby factory.” (Expensive, sure, but dirty? Uh, have you been to other daycare centers???) After I told her that I liked our daycare, she said,
“Huh. I just thought my baby deserved better. But you’re fine with this, right?”
Ick. I couldn’t get out of the conversation fast enough.
Trust me. There will always be someone who will try to make you feel badly about how you’re raising your kids. No matter what you’re doing.
And if you need even more assurance that everything’s going to be okay, here’s Adam explaining why baby formula isn’t poison.
Press on, moms.
There will always be someone who is sure you’re not doing the best that you can. (And for some reason, it’s their responsibility to let you know about it.)
What if I told you that my first thought when I heard him crying in the night wasn’t, You poor thing, are you okay?
What if I told you it wasn’t my second thought? Or even my tenth thought?
It was probably more like my thirtieth thought.
After, Oh my God, what is your problem?
After, Look, we’re not doing this all night. We’re just not. I’m serious.
After, What the f**!?! Go to sleep!
After, I swear to God, if you wake up one more time after I put you down, I’m going to make you scream it out.
After, Why tonight? Really? You could have done this any other night. But now? Really.
After, I’m serious. I’m so f***ing serious.
And on and on.
After eight times of rocking him to sleep and trying to transfer him to the crib over the course of an hour, I relented. I let go of the plan that I was going to get up at 5:00 a.m. to exercise. I let go of the plan that I would even get one hour of sleep before work started.
I just let it all go and embraced the exhaustion.
If I was going to be tired, I didn’t also have to be stressed and resentful the whole day about being tired.
So when I handed the baby over to my husband at 5:45 that morning, I didn’t yell or swear. I just told him what the night had been like and asked him to stay home with the baby while I took the three-year-old to daycare.
Grocery shopping? Okay. I’ll do it. And I’ll pick her up from daycare. I said.
And would you stay home with the baby while I go to work? I asked.
I showered. I made my coffee and drank it while I put on enough make-up to cover up the night. Then I dressed my daughter while she was still waking up and still like a wet noodle. Then, I coaxed her into eating her vitamins and drinking her milk. I put her lunch and my lunch together and made formula for the baby.
I loaded F’s lunch bag, her backpack, my work bag, my lunch bag (but not H’s bottle bag or H’s diaper bag since he was staying home). (If you’re keeping track, it’s usually six bags in and out of the car. Seven on Mondays and Fridays.)
I drove fifteen minutes south to her daycare.
Then I drove twenty-five minutes north to work.
I got off the Interstate with another car.
We both followed the same route until it was clear we were both going to the same university. We parked next to each other. I looked over and saw that the driver was a guy, probably my age. He sprang out of his car holding only a set of keys.
Just. A. Set. Of. Keys.
I saw very plainly in that split second what it takes for me to get to work now versus what it took for me to get to work before I had children.
Now, the morning is a whole orchestrated production. A delicate ballet of exercise, showers, wake-up calls, second wake-up calls, third wake-up calls, Oh-my-God-get-out-of-bed-already! wake-up calls, vitamins, lunch bags, baby bottles, Get-your-shoes-on, Go-potty, Get-your-shoes-on, diapers, Are-your-shoes-on, teeth/hair-brushing, For-the-love-of-God-get-your-shoes-on!, breakfasts, carseats, strollers, kisses, conversations with teachers, punctuated with a deep, satisfying sigh that yes, finally *I* can go to work now.
I wasn’t at peak performance on Friday, May 12th, but I pulled through. I recovered.
Thankfully, most nights have not been like that lately. Most nights, he sleeps through the night. Sometimes, he has a night feeding. And then he goes back to sleep.
And by the way, don’t ask if someone’s baby is sleeping through the night.
Unless you know them pretty well.
It’s just not good manners. I mean, really, it’s not a great topic for small talk. The only way that question is small talk is if the answer is clearly “yes.” And the likelihood of that is… meh…
A more likely situation is that you send the parent into a fury of jealousy as they imagine you sleeping on a billowy, undisturbed cloud of silence for eight, God, maybe even twelve! extravagant hours. Only to wake up to the luxury of you strolling to your bathroom and taking a hot, steamy, uninterrupted shower, and then magically emerging from the bathroom, just moments later, completely dressed to the nines and made completely over, from your hair down to your nails. And, lo, breakfast is already made. And it’s cinnamon rolls and waffles and bacon and sausage and the most delicious coffee you’ve ever had in your entire life–all 0 calories! And the only thing that you have to do is climb into your brand-new Mercedes and drive to work in completely, inexplicably empty roads and highways until you are work. Where everything is already done. And the only thing you need to do is drink more coffee and catch up on House of Cards, which you still haven’t gotten to see one blessed moment of and it’s driving you crazy (even though the reviews for Season 5 aren’t very good). But still. You binge. All. Day. Long.
Jealousy makes you crazy.
Do you really want to drive the person crazy?
Getting through the tough nights without completely losing your mind is an exercise in long-term thinking.
It’s easy to think, I really can’t do this again. I’m going insane. No. I’m not doing it. I refuse. He’ll just have to scream it out tonight.
It takes some effort to reshape your thoughts into,
It’s not always going to be like this.
There will be an end to this.
You’ll live. Oh, you’ll be tired. Way tired. But you’ll live.
For six weeks in the summer, we continue to send the kids to daycare and I finally have time to sink my teeth into a big, creative project.
In 2014, that project was writing my first book.
In 2015, it was publishing my first book.
2016 was a bit weird. It was mostly riding the roller-coaster of early pregnancy, dabbling in writing a short young adult novel, and (admittedly) watching a lot of Netflix.
This year, the big creative project is a new YouTube Channel, featuring instructional cooking videos.
Not recipes. Think techniques.
For years, I’ve watched my husband make simple, delicious, and healthy meals. And he can do it without covering everything in butter, cheese, and ranch dressing. He cooks a large meal on Sunday night. It’s usually a huge pot of rice, some vegetables, and grilled, baked, or roasted meat. Then, he portions it out into containers that we take to work.
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heated up a meal that he makes and my co-workers have been like, “Mmm… What’s that?”
This guy is talented. The food is delicious. And he understands food chemistry and can give the best advice about how to prepare food. (And did I mention that another one of his hobbies is photography?)
But he’s not great at the storytelling aspect (although, I think he’ll learn easily).
Oh. And he detests social media.
So that’s where I come in. (And did I mention that I’ve got experience with video editing?)
I remember one night when we had a group of Doug’s friends over at our apartment for a dinner party, probably six or seven years ago, and someone said, “Doug should have his own YouTube channel!”
Our response was mostly, “Ha ha. Someday, maybe.”
“No seriously. He should have a channel.”
“Yeah, okay. Not right now.”
But have you seen YouTube lately? It’s integrated with Google now. It’s getting incredibly easy to get started.
I don’t think we can put it off anymore.
So that’s what I’m working on this summer. I have never done something like this before.
But hey. That’s never stopped me before.
Also on the summer dockett:
I’m hoping to release Henry’s birth story as a Kindle single, probably for $0.99 to help me recoup some of the time spent on writing it. It’s a powerful story, but nothing book-length. Stay tuned for more on this.
I also have three academic publications that are in the works right now. All of them are related to an intercultural communication program that I helped design and facilitate with our university’s Department of Teacher Education. One will be published on University of Dayton’s eCommons. One will be in the TESOL Intercultural Communication Interest Section Newsletter. And the last one will (hopefully!) be with the on-line, peer-reviewed journal, Dialogues: An Interdisciplinary Journal of English Language Teaching and Research.
I seriously need to go through some boxes of old photographs and letters that my mom gave me two years ago. I’ve been dubbed the designated family chronicler, so I’ve got to make some decisions about what stays and what goes. I know the boxes are sticking in my husband’s craw.
And hey, Henry is now officially in the sweet spot of babyhood: post-newborn and pre-mobile.
June 2017: Baptism (Doesn’t look too thrilled)
It was Splash Friday at daycare. Thus. the swimsuit.
While jogging in the dark, my foot must have caught on a piece of raised sidewalk and I fell forward and hit the concrete just as a minivan was passing me.
Left knee, right knee, left hand, right hand. I saved my face. (At least physically.)
The minivan kept going.
For a moment, I just lay there against the concrete, gauging my pain.
I hurt. But I didn’t think I had broken anything. I couldn’t see how badly I was scraped up, but I felt it mostly on the outer edge of my left hand and my right thumb, which was warm and wet. Blood, for sure.
What else to do but keep jogging home with bleeding hands?
I’ve only had a few dreams of my dad since he passed away three years ago, but they’ve always come around this time of year.
In the first dream, I walked into a convenience store and was looking for a jug of milk to buy. (Who knows why. I hate drinking milk.) After I pulled it out of the refrigerator case, I saw four men sitting at a small booth, playing a card game. All their heads were lowered, studying their cards.
I walked over and even though I couldn’t see their faces, I just knew that one of them was my dad. I don’t remember what I said to him, but we talked like we always did — our eyes looking at other things, words passing between us that didn’t really resemble anything like what we really wanted to say.
Like, I miss you.
Like, I love you.
Still, whatever we said was comfortable and familiar enough to make us feel like all was well.
It was then that I realized that my ride was leaving.
“I have to go, Dad.”
“Don’t leave,” he told me, still not looking up. Still staring through his cards.
I kissed him on the head, complete with his bald spot, and I told him that I would come back.
“It will be too long. I don’t want to be alone,” he said.
“I swear, I’m coming back, Dad.”
He didn’t lift his head. He just sat there, sad and withdrawn, just as he did for the last few years of his life. Completely alone, even in the midst of company.
I kissed his head again and walked toward the door.
When I got to the door, I turned around and told him, “This is where we can meet, okay? This is where we can find each other. I’ll come back. I promise.”
I woke up feeling empty.
I’ve never been able to get back to that convenience store.
A few nights ago, as the anniversary of his death approached again, I dreamed again of my father.
It was a scene I’ve lived a thousand times before — riding in the car next to my dad, his left hand balanced casually on the steering wheel, his elbow resting on the edge of his open window. He was talking a mile a minute about everything and anything, the way he did when he descended into periods of mania. At first, it was normal. Just dad talking and talking and talking while I was looking out the window.
Then, it started to snow. And snow. And snow.
The drifts piled up around the car as we drove. But then he veered into the parking lot of the K-Mart in the town where I grew up. He started driving in a circle, talking faster and faster, the tires kicking up snow around us. I told him to slow down, but he wouldn’t. As the car picked up speed, we spiraled once, twice, three times, four times.
With each pass, I tried to keep my eyes on a fixed point outside of the car. The McDonald’s. The apartment building. The ATM. Anything that would keep me anchored to reality.
Maybe, if I could keep my eyes on something, I could slow us down.
Maybe, this time, I could be the one to anchor both of us.
Maybe, this time, I could keep the world from spinning, keep him from sliding into depression, keep him from falling and breaking his neck.
But we kept spinning and spinning and spinning.
In my dream, I started screaming.
And then I was beside my mother, and we were looking at a calendar. She wrote down her birthday, May 9th. But then she crossed out the 9th and wrote in dark letters, May 10th and underlined it.
“What year?” I asked.
She wrote “1” and “9” very easily, but then struggled to write the next number. It came out looking like a gigantic “9” and then a “0.”
“1990?” I asked.
She shrugged. “Sure. It all kind of blends together.”
And somehow, I understood that we were deciding when we would go back in time.
We were trying to get back to a time when Dad was Dad.
I woke up a few hours later and went for a morning run in the dark.
Because I’m a glutton for punishment? Maybe.
I prefer to say it’s because I refuse to be beaten by a bad experience (although, there are plenty of times when I am).
It was beautiful that morning. The moon was full and still high in the sky at 5:00 a.m. I watched the sidewalk much more carefully than before and walked for a few minutes before I started jogging.
The Head and the Heart played on my Pandora station.
Darling, this is when I met you.
For the third time not the last
Not the last time we are learning
Who we are and what we were.
You are in the seat, beside me.
You are in my dreams at night.
it’s easier to run with bleeding hands than it is to run with tears.
I’m like a lot of people — I only want to believe that dreams mean something when they’re good.
I don’t want to believe that the bad dreams mean anything more than the emotions that I’m working my way through when I have them.
American women are more likely to die from complications in pregnancy and childbirth compared to women in any other developed country.
At 1:27 p.m. on February 2, 2017, I gave birth to an 8 lb. 10 oz. boy.
Because there was meconium in my amniotic fluid, a NICU team was paged to be present at the birth to make sure that the baby’s lungs were clear.
Those first minutes after birth were very blurry. There was just too much going on to fully appreciate everything that was happening. From my perspective as the birthing mother, I remember my son turning his head upward and looking me in the eyes (that really happened). I remember seeing that he was a boy. (A boy!?! Really!?! What?!?!)
I remember dropping my head back against the bed and crying in relief that it was over. I remember thinking, “Well, that’s the last time I’m doing that.”
I was euphoric and so, so grateful. We had made it. We had survived that. Both of us. That was what I was thinking.
I did not know that I was hemorrhaging.
This is the thing about hemorrhaging: It happens so fast.
It happens while mothers are crying from happiness that their baby is alive and breathing. It happens while they’re trying to get a good look at their baby’s face. It happens silently as the room’s atmosphere turns from the intensity and suspense of the pushing phase into joy and excitement of the delivery phase.
No woman wants to believe that it’s going to happen to her. I had none of the risk factors associated with postpartum hemorrhage.
But it still happened to me.
While we were celebrating and crying and basking in the joy of the birth, my midwife was tracking my blood loss. I remember looking down and seeing her furrowed brow every time more blood poured out of me. But I didn’t think anything terrible was happening. I was flooded with joy and gratitude that labor was over.
But in the first ten minutes after birth, more and more nurses entered the room and the treatments started. My midwife told me each treatment that she was doing to stop the bleeding. By this time, I had lost about 1200 mL of blood, about 2.5 pints of blood. In other words, I had lost about 25% of the blood in my entire pregnant body.
Surviving postpartum hemorrhage requires a medical professional who quickly realizes what is happening and starts treatment immediately.
In my case, the midwife tried a shot of Pitocin. When that didn’t work, she gave me Cytotec. When that didn’t work, she gave me IV Pitocin. She kept massaging my uterus. She was on her last treatment before starting a blood transfusion: a shot of methergine.
That’s how close we were to a true emergency.
My heart rate during labor. You can see exactly when the hemorrhage begins and how my body responded.
Hemorrhage is one of the leading causes of death in childbirth.
Let me be clear: postpartum hemorrhage isn’t caused by a lack of care. This would probably have happened to me if I had given birth anywhere else.
But women die from hemorrhage when doctors and nurses don’t quickly recognize the amount of blood loss and begin treatment. Some states, like California, have codified and implemented standardized procedures and training for nurses and doctors so that teams can quickly and efficiently follow protocol to prevent postpartum hemorrhages from killing mothers. Instead of “eye-balling” how much blood a mother loses during delivery, nurses were taught how to collect and measure postpartum blood loss to help them quickly identify hemorrhage.
“Hospitals that adopted the toolkit saw a 21 percent decrease in near deaths from maternal bleeding in the first year; hospitals that didn’t use the protocol had a 1.2 percent reduction.”
But not all states have such standardized protocol.
A joint investigation by NPR and ProPublica found that more women are dying of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth compared to any other developed country.
In every 100,000 births in the United States, 26 women die. In other developed countries, the numbers range between 5 and 9 births. And those numbers have climbed from 17 to 26 deaths from 2000-2015.
It seems unimaginable. Really? In the United States? But we have so much technology. We have some of the best hospitals in the world.
What the hell is going on?!?
There were several major findings from this investigation.
The U.S. is spending more money on research, equipment, and training for improving infant outcomes. Think of how much progress we have made in helping premature babies and treating newborns born with previously fatal deformities and diseases.
Decreased education and training about caring for birthing mothers, for both doctors and nurses. This leads to a lack of knowledge that is passed on to the mother when she is discharged from the hospital.
Lack of standardized best practices for caring for birthing mothers among the states. Unlike other developed countries, there is no nationwide effort for reducing the maternal death rate in the United States. Responsibility has been left to individual states to decide if and how they investigate maternal deaths.
America has not conquered maternal mortality. We like to think that because we have advanced technology and highly trained medical professionals that tragedies like a woman dying in childbirth just simply don’t happen anymore.
At least not nearly as much as it used to.
It’s a kind of hubris, really. To think that we have mastered childbirth. We have tamed it and told it who’s boss. In fact, we’re so good at childbirth that we should just focus most of our attention on the infants. They’re the ones that are the most vulnerable, right?
But the truth is…
“In recent decades, under the assumption that it had conquered maternal mortality, the American medical system has focused more on fetal and infant safety and survival than on the mother’s health and well-being.”
~Nina Martin & Renee Montagne, “The Last Person You’d Expect to Die in Childbirth”
If there was one major takeaway from this report that I want to share with everyone it’s this:
Women still die in childbirth.
Giving birth in the United States does not guarantee that both mother and baby make it out alive.
I completely agree with the report’s observations that labor and birth put women in the most vulnerable position in their entire lives. They don’t know what’s going on. They’re immersed in the pain and process of labor. Birthing women depend on everyone around them, doctors and nurses alike, to notice the signs that an emergency is unfolding.
If you or someone you know will be giving birth in the United States in the near future, I strongly encourage you to read ProPublica’s full investigative report on this topic.
American women are not immune to maternal mortality.
For the women who die every year from pregnancy and childbirth from preventable or treatable conditions, let’s raise our awareness of this problem and insist that we study this at the national level, not just the state level.
We can do better than this.
The death of a new mother is not like any other sudden death. It blasts a hole in the universe.
~Nina Martin and Renee Montagne, “The Last Person You’d Expect to Die in Childbirth“
In the picture, Jocelyn was balancing on one foot, as if in the midst of dancing. She was posed proudly with her baby brother. Smiling. Blond and smiling. Happy. Just like my daughter.
There at my desk, I cried.
Britney was me. Her kids were my kids.
And my heart was broken for her.
All of this happened just days before Mother’s Day.
It was too cruel and unfair for one person to bear.
How could Britney face life and the world, now knowing, now feeling every day, that horrific things like thatcan happen?
Just like that.
How could she keep going?
But of course I know how.
We all know how.
She’s a mother.
This is stuff that mothers are made of.
Loving through pain.
Living while part of you is dying.
Believing through despair and doubt.
Resiliency beyond measure.
Pure grit and strength.
Britney has already undergone several surgeries to repair her broken bones, including her pelvis. She has been moved out of the ICU and into the trauma unit. (And let’s not forget the fact that she’s just three months postpartum.)
Her newborn son also suffered extensive injuries. Two broken femurs and a broken arm.
He is currently being cared for around the clock by his grandmother, Lanae, who works as a surgical nurse. He couldn’t be in better hands while his mother is recovering.
I made myself imagine what I would do if I were living Britney’s reality.
What would I do?
I would sob and ache and grovel and resent and rage.
For a Long Time.
I would lash out and blame and despair.
I would be out for blood. I would crave Revenge. I would want to hurt and crush and obliterate. I would want to empty the life of the person who didn’t think first, who would rather take a risk, who thought the laws didn’t apply to him.
(Because I think first. Because I don’t want to take the risk. Because I don’t think the laws don’t apply to me.)
And while I would be going through this, I would still have to Get Back Up.
Although I would want to take time off from Life to mourn and process and make meaning, I would have to immediately Get Back Up.
For my son.
Because he would still need to eat and sleep and grow.
He would still need my arms to tell him that he is safe, even though I had just seen how unsafe the world can be.
I would need to decide every hour to keep on practicing the appearance of Love even though I’d be simultaneously steeling my heart from the possibility of Future Pain.
Because Love would have just killed off a part of me.
Love had created a trove of beautiful moments of my little girl — but now there would be no more. And the more time that would pass, the more those memories would lose their clarity. And if I forgot any part of those memories, it would be like losing her all over again.
All I really would want to do is climb into the ground with her so she wouldn’t be alone in the dark.
I would be like this for a Long Time.
But I also know that One Day, through the crisis and search to find meaning, I would finally choose Love again.
I used to pray that Life Would Be Okay and Get Better. But I’ve stopped doing that.
Because that’s not what Life is for. The life worth living isn’t a life without pain because the pain is what shows us life’s worth.
When I say prayers now, it is in moments for others who are in pain.
And the prayer is that they keep moving
And keep walking through the pain
And that if they fall, that God will reach a Hand down to help them get back up.
Our hearts ache with yours in your time of hurting and grieving. My prayer for you is that you keep walking through the pain. Keep moving. And keep believing that there is good in the world even though it is also so very bad at times. In fact, perhaps the world is good because it is bad.
Years from now, I hope that you can look back at these dark hours of your life and see all the light that people are shining on it. It’s always the people who have suffered and cried and walked the Path of Pain that will be the first to reach out their hands to you. Take those hands. Let them help you get back up. And don’t feel guilty about it. You are not a burden.
Because Some Day, it will be you who is the one reaching out and saving someone else.
You are not alone.
And you are Loved.
If you would like to help this family financially as they cope with medical and funeral expenses, you can contribute through their GoFundMe fundraiser here.
No gift is too small and you can give anonymously if you prefer.
If you would like to provide financial assistance to Lanae as she takes care of Jonah full-time, you can donate here.
Some women tear up as they leave their children at daycare for the first time.
I practically skip inside.
Grin from ear to ear.
I. LOVE. DAYCARE.
Last Monday was Henry’s first day of daycare. Another daycare mom saw me taking him inside and asked if it was his first day. After I nodded, she jumped out of her van and gave me the biggest hug and said, “Isn’t it great!”
“YESSS!!!” I yelled.
“With the first one, you’re bawling about it and then the second, you’re just like ‘have fun!'”
She gets it.
It’s true. The first time we started daycare was much more involved and made me a little nervous. We spent about 20 minutes going through the list of critical bits of information that the infant teacher needed to know to feed, change, and soothe our baby to sleep.
She likes to be rocked to sleep while being held sideways. Like this. And try to put her down 90 minutes after she wakes up. We haven’t started solids yet. How do you heat the bottle for her? She likes it just lukewarm. Not too warm. If she starts crying and she’s not tired, she might be wet. Sometimes. Just check. You’re going to check every hour or so, right? Okay. She’s really pretty easy to take care of.
But after two days, I’m pretty sure we thought daycare was a Gift from God. (Thank you, Ms. Cathy!)
It was like, Wait… We just drop the baby off at 7:00 a.m. and we don’t have to be back until 6:00 p.m. at the latest????
Here’s some money.
Here’s lots of money.
I love you. Here’s some cookies.
Do you like Panera? I got you a gift card. Happy Valentine’s Day.
Thank you so much. You’re wonderful.
Daycare pretty much taught our daughter about hand-washing, drinking from a cup, and sitting in a chair for meals. They helped us potty train her. They taught her how to sit in a circle for storytime, how to cut with scissors, how to hold a crayon, and how to fingerpaint. They provided an atmosphere full of dress-up clothes, kid’s kitchens, and books, books, books. (We didn’t have to buy any of it! And I’m not responsible for cleaning up the toys!) They taught her how to walk in a line and take turns. They showed her that a room can be stunningly decorated with the artwork of little hands.
And oh so important… They introduced her to the concept of sharing.
They used the classroom to teach rules. They modeled politeness and respect for others. They reinforced the lesson that actions have consequences.
This does not make me sad.
It doesn’t make me feel like I’m not doing my job as a mother.
I don’t regret sending my kids to daycare.
I wholeheartedly embrace it. I even embrace it to the tune of half of my salary.
On the surface, it’s easy to see why some moms love daycare as much as I do. It gives women a break from the role of being a mother.
This is huge.
Mothers in particular are constantly carrying around a mental list of things to do that just grows longer and heavier with each child.
Daycare allows them to put some of that down.
And pick something else up.
But my love of daycare goes beyond that.
Daycare, I believe, is an expression of feminism.
For those of you who are completely turned off by the term “feminism”, stay with me for a minute. Because that word gets a bad wrap in some circles. Feminism doesn’t mean “man-hating” or “female victimization.” (I do not blame men individually for the culture and structure of our society. I blame patriarchy.)
Feminism is about sharing power. It’s about making sure that everyone has a voice. It’s about making sure that when important decisions are made about policy (both in government and business), the people who are making those decisions don’t all come from the same background (White. Male. Native-born. Able-bodied. English-speaking.).
Millienials are the first generation to kind of get feminism. Not all of them do, but from my anecdotal observations, it seems like some of the assumptions that we had about gender and power are finally not assumptions anymore.
One of our former teenage babysitters told us that when she was catcalled in the school hallway, she turned around, went up to the guy, and told him in very clear terms,
“You don’t treat me that way!”
When I was growing up in the late 80s and early 90s, we were taught in school to imagine our futures. What would we like to be when we grew up? Doctors, astronauts, teachers? Athletes? Superheroes? Dinosaurs? Robots? We were encouraged to let our imaginations run wild.
Like many women in their 30s, I truly do not ever remember an adult — teacher, parent, or family friend — telling me that I couldn’t do whatever I wanted to do. No one told me that I was expected to get married and have kids right away. (Although my grandmother did ask me when I turned 18 if I was interested in any good boys…)
I was like many of my female friends. In high school, we all worked hard and earned good grades.
We went to college.
We got good grades there, too.
Maybe we went to graduate school.
And we got good grades there, too.
We followed the rules. We were doing fine.
We got jobs. We didn’t negotiate salary (because that’s not what good girls do, even though they should, we just couldn’t imagine drawing a line in the sand. That’s not who we are.)
And then we had children.
And everyone looked at us and said, “Are you going to stay home or return to work?”
No one asked our partners if they were going to stay home.
And there you have it.
The message is clear. It’s your baby.
It doesn’t provide any economic benefit to this company. It’s even costing us productivity. Make up your mind. Do you want to work here or not? Six weeks is a lot of time for you to be gone. You don’t want to make that kid dependent on you anyway, do you?
What about all the things that I could be now that I’m an adult?
Was it all just empty promises, fueled by good intentions and a dream of equality?
Because, I’m here to tell you, access to affordable (!!!) quality daycare is critical for keeping women’s voices at the table. (Side note: The United States was a hair’s breadth away from free universal preschool for all in the 1970s. Here’s what happened to that awesome, bipartisan bill.)
The tide is turning, though.
Almost all of the dads that I know assume as much responsibility for their kids’ lives as their mothers do. When they take care of their kids, they’re not “babysitting.”
I mean… duh.
They’re being dads.
When they take their kids to the grocery store, it’s not some miraculous event that comes around only once every few years.
My husband knows how to swaddle a baby better than I do. He was the one who made the baby food and showed me how to make smooth formula without all the clumps. He can change a diaper in the dark and he’s even yelled at me for making too much noise while he’s trying to put the baby to sleep.
Regardless of how you define “life,” at 3 months old, a baby has officially been a growing organism for a whole year.
In 365 days.
A. Ma. Zing.
This child was conceived four months after a miscarriage. We could have tried sooner, but, you know. Closure. Time. Space. All of these things are good and healing.
Because I was charting my basal temperatures every day for months before all of my pregnancies, I had a pretty good idea of when I would ovulate.
Day 14 is ovulation day for a “typical” 28-day cycle. Mine was usually Day 16, but sometimes, it was as late as Day 22. This meant that I had short luteal phases, which can make it difficult to get pregnant or to keep a pregnancy. (I often had a nine-day luteal phase, and sometimes as low as six days. Not good.)
When we conceived our first child, it was Day 18. So, based on past experience, we decided to aim for Days 14-18. You know. Cover all our bases.
I put vacation in quotation marks because we were traveling with a 2 1/2 year old.
So, yeah, it wasn’t really a vacation that was very conducive for baby-making. But that was the timeline.
So be it.
Three days before we left for that trip, our daughter went to bed early and this beautiful window of an hour with nothing to do opened up.
It was Day 11. In the 22 months of data that I had collected, I had never ovulated before Day 14. But whatever. Let’s just have a good time, we thought.
As it turned out, that was my ovulation day.
We officially started “trying” on Day 14, but of course, nothing we did at that point would have gotten us pregnant.
The best laid plans sometimes, right?
It would be easy to write this story as destiny. That because our baby is so beautiful and perfect, we were just meant to have sex days before we had planned. God just knew that we needed to get together then in order to make this beautiful baby. Or something like that.
Believing in destiny is all well and good when it’s going your way.
But for all the healing that believing in destiny can do, it can just as easily bleed you dry.
When we miscarried, were we just meant to have sex at the wrong time?
Was that destiny?
Or is destiny just a comforting idea that we hold on to when it helps us?
If there is no destiny, is it all just chaos and luck?
Or do we call it chaos so we don’t need to acknowledge the real consequences of our actions?
Although I’ve been thankful for this child that made his way from cell to zygote to blastocyst to embryo to fetus to baby…
I sometimes wonder about the two pregnancies that didn’t get this far. What would they have been like? Were they boys? Girls? One of each? Did they have chromosomal problems? Would they have been perfect if my body could have held onto them? Would they look like my two living children, who both look more like their cousins than they do their parents?
What alternate course of events may have played out if those pregnancies lasted?
When it comes to conceiving a child, it feels like a bit of both.