Thursday, February 25, 2010

To intervene or not?

A friend of mine gave birth today. She planned to be induced, so she was at the hospital before the brunt of the winter storm and knowing the time and date meant she had care ready for her two year old. I believe she got the epidural shortly after being induced. And seven hours later, she had her baby, and looked a lot less stressed than I did after birth.

Part of me says, why intervene? Why not let the baby come naturally? In her case, the answer is that this was her second nine-plus pounder and the doctors didn’t want to go past her due date knowing how big the first one was.

But another part says, man, that’s convenient to know exactly when it’s coming and to get pain relief before it’s overwhelming. Imagine labor pains coming on in the midst of the storm, trying to find care for her toddler, trying to get to the hospital, and dealing with pain. Neither she nor her baby seem any worse off for avoiding all that trouble.

I want women to have choices and I believe a birth should be done in exactly the way the woman wants it done. But I’m doing a lot of reading about maternal health overseas and I think the natural birth people in the U.S. have romanticized the concept too much. There are a lot of women in other countries who die, whose babies die or who suffer serious complications for lack of medical interventions, including c-sections.

I don’t want unnecessary interventions used on me for the sake of the hospital’s or doctor’s convenience, which I think is the risk in the U.S. But boy, am I glad they are available if needed.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The desire to be a good mom

When I was talking to my mom last night, I told her I was making my first batch of homemade yogurt.

“I used to do that all the time,” she said. I couldn’t remember her making regular yogurt. But I did remember her making yogurt popsicles and I associate them with very positive memories. 25-30 years later, I still remember this homemade treat she took the time to make. I also remember, with the same or greater vividness, the horrible powdered milk we grew up on and the terrible lumps it would leave on top of the cereal. I want to gag just thinking about it.

In every decision, there is a tradeoff. Decisions as small as what type of milk to use, what to serve to eat, what to do together and what to do as an individual all have tradeoffs. I’m not going to be a slave to my child or society, sacrificing myself so that he can have everything perfect. But I also want him to have the best I can reasonably provide. Most of all, I want all of use to be able to look bad fondly on these times. I want to remember a life as a mother, a professional and an individual. I want River to recall feelings of safety, warmth, exploration and happiness. Unfortunately, negative memories make a stronger impact on the brain and they are more likely to be remembered than the positive ones. But I want to limit his gag reflexes decades down the road. I want him to remember treats, activities, moments created for him with love.

Basically, I want him to think I’m a good mom. I want him to be happy he ended up with us. I want him to believe that I did my best and that the best was good enough. I worried about this a lot before River was born, due to my own rocky relationship with my mother. While I was rather removed from the developing fetus during pregnancy, after his birth the connection happened naturally. I leave him with ease and frequency, but I return to him happy and ready to spend quality time with him.

Right now, I know I’m a good mom in his eyes. He loves me, he idolizes me and I can see and feel it in our interactions. Sometimes I feel undeserving. Other times I feel it’s only natural, because I love him with equal force. Other than his scary fall into the pool last summer, I don’t think he has any negative memories so far. His life has been a vale of happiness. He laughs and smiles and intently observes the world around him for most of the day.

I try not to think about it too much, but a little nagging sense tells me it won’t always be like this. What will happen when he ventures out more into society and meets the moms of other kids, moms that for a variety of reasons he might think do a better job? Will he then be disappointed in me, dissatisfied? He will have frightening, troubling, perhaps horrific experiences as he moves on in life. Will he blame me for not protecting him adequately? If something happens to me, will he blame me for not protecting myself adequately?

I can only do my best. But I want to be a good mom. I want him to grow up and tell his kids about a happy and secure childhood. I don’t want to screw up.

Homemade yogurt

After seeing a couple of movies that made me rethink how I want to buy groceries, I started to think about the possibility of making my own yogurt. The yogurt I love most, Fage and Siggi’s, is very expensive. While typical yogurt may or may not be cost effective to make at home given the cost of the machine, for Greek-type yogurt, I think it will be cheaper in the long run. Especially now, when River can easily eat an 8 oz container a day and so can I.

After much research and thought, I bought a Yogourmet, which arrived the other day. Over the weekend, I made my first batch. It wasn’t all that hard. You boil milk, let it cool, stick it in the yogurt maker for a few hours, stick it in the fridge overnight, then strain it if you want a thicker variety (as I do). The only thing that’s a bit inconvenient is you really have to be around the house for at least two hours and you can’t forget about it, because it needs to be boiled to a precise point, then cooled to a precise point before putting it in the maker. Some people have found shortcuts – like microwaving the milk instead of heating it on the stove. Perhaps with time I’ll figure some of these tricks out.

I used Fage as my starter, used a half gallon of 2% milk, and when the yogurt was finished, I took out about half a cup to use as the starter next time. It cost me $2.25 to buy the little cup of Fage at the expensive local health food store. But people tell me that as long as I put aside a little part of each batch, I won’t have to buy any more yogurt or starters.

My instruction book says that they whey that drains out when I make the thicker Greek version has a lot of vitamins in it. So I hang on to that and mix it with River’s milk. He doesn’t seem to notice and I’m glad to give him the vitamins and not let any of the expensive grass-fed milk go to waste.

The one thing that is not very convenient is that my current straining device (a coffee filter) is not very big and only strains a cup or so of yogurt at a time. I’d love to be able to strain the whole batch at once. So I’m still working on that challenge.

The jury is still out on whether or not this process becomes burdensome over time or even on exactly how much I’m saving. I’m definitely saving the waste of all those plastic yogurt containers I used to buy. I like knowing that the milk is from grass-fed cows and there is nothing in there besides milk. And to a certain extent, I like the challenge of finding the right texture and process that gives me just what I’m looking for.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The new potty vocabulary

We have a new means of speech in our house, and it starts with caca, Spanish for poo but we use it for anything done on the potty. It started with cacaSprout, which means going to the potty while watching a show on PBS Sprout (our usual pre-bed routine). The other day, coming home from the gym, River asked for bread when we got home. When I said yes, he asked if he could sit at the table.

“No, we don’t have time,” I said. “I’ll give you bread while you are going potty.”

Cacasproutpan?” he asked. Sure.

This morning, he asked for cacasprout. I try to limit the TV watching to the evenings, so I said no. “We’ll do cacacoches instead,” I said, placing his potty in front of the chair that holds his vast collection of toy cars. We had a bit of friendly back and forth. Cacasprout? No, cacacoches. Even my non-Spanish speaking husband uses these terms regularly.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A bonus of potty training

It’s been about three weeks since we ditched the daytime diapers. By now, his using the potty is completely natural. I haven’t seen an accident since the first week. I take him out in public (though I do carry the Bjorn little potty if we’ll be gone over 1.5 hours). And I still ask frequently if he needs to go, relying on him to agree when he feels the need. It feels natural now. Similar to when I had Lasik surgery and quickly forgot what it was like to have glasses, it’s now hard to remember what it was like using diapers.

One great bonus of ditching the diapers has been that his clothes are suddenly much looser. Maybe this isn’t as much of an issue with disposables, since I think they are thinner. But the cloth diapers are pretty bulky and add a few extra inches to the butt. Without those extra inches, pants that once seemed ready to be passed along now fit loosely. We’re able to get a lot more life out of our clothes.

While he still wets during his nap and at night (and the fact that we still put him to bed with a sippy cup probably doesn’t help that), he seems to be less soaked than he used to be. After 12 hours sleep, he used to completely soak his diaper, pants and sheet. Now I can often keep the same sheet there. That’s making me think that he’s holding something back – perhaps the pee when he first wakes up, waiting for the potty instead.

It’s great to know that he is now capable of managing his needs during waking hours. I consider the elimination communication experiment to be a success and I’d do it again if we have another child. But just recently, I realized that River is only awake for 9 hours of each day. Realizing it’s only 30% of the day that he’s in control of tempers the achievement a bit. But I’m still proud of him.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Back to school

These are the notes my husband scrawled as he tried to help me understand the one page handout our professor passed out on why the mean minimizes the sum of squared deviations.

The numbers and symbols have a way of simultaneously freaking me out (and making me want to tune out) and making me feel strangely accomplished and fulfilled when I understand what they mean. By the end, I think I did understand the handout and I may even have identified a mistake on the professor’s part (or perhaps I’m still not understanding).

I’m taking an undergraduate statistics course. It’s a little below what I could handle, since I took both stats and econometrics in grad school. But it was what was available right now and will hopefully serve the purpose of just getting me reacclimated to this subject and to its practical use. It also has a very quantitatively able professor and a bunch of students who recently graduated high school with 5s on their statistics AP tests and brains 15 years less aged than mine. So I think there will be plenty of challenge.

I have to admit that I enjoy being back in the classroom. I’ve already accepted that I’m a lifelong student. I think back on what I wish I could do over. I really wish I’d paid attention to calculus in high school and in college. The fact that I didn’t is hard to make up for and has been following me around for years. Now, I sit in the third row, arrive on time, do all the reading, make every effort to not miss lectures (unfortunately, I have to miss some for work), and take the time to make sure I understand a handout full of numbers and symbols.

The professor says he’s an ubernerd. He definitely outdoes me, as I know he can whip around pages of odd symbols and he does it with aplomb and glee. But I’m feeling like a pretty good nerd.

Worldmomma is going to Africa

I found out just a few days ago that I will likely be going soon (as in two weeks from now) to Africa for work. It’s a two-country trip. One country is kind of freaking me out. In my research, the words horrible, prostitutes, corruption, shakedowns, credit card fraud and cockroaches keep coming up. The other is a country I’ve wanted to go to for some time. I hope I may be able to take a couple of days vacation while there to see some sights.

I’m really excited to be going. I’ve been craving an international trip for a while and I was starting to despair as our budget doesn’t really allow such trips these days. Thinking back on the time since River was born, I’ve been overseas four times (to Mexico, Panama/Costa Rica, Russia and Iceland). That’s an average of once every six months, which is know is more than the average mom of a two year old. But I think I have a higher than average need for adventure and I’m very internationally oriented. Also, in the past ten years, I’ve been overseas on average much more than once every six months.

So the craving for the different culture, scenery and lifestyle set in a while ago and I can’t wait. Most of all, I’m looking forward to the sounds and the smells. I love the smell of any new place, but particularly the smell of Africa. And I love the combination of sounds, which comes across to me as exotic, but is the sum of the life and activity that reverberates in that place.

Of course, it won’t be easy to be away from River for two plus weeks. Mark is being incredibly supportive. He’s practically pushing me out the door and telling me to go for as long as I need. I think he recognizes how important it is to my wellbeing.

I hope we can use skype this time and that the ability to see each other live will help bridge the distance. I know I’ll appreciate the evenings in a comfortable hotel bed alone. I know I’ll appreciate being able to listen to people as they tell me about the place they live, and not being interrupted by having to chase after a toddler. But I also know that I’ll miss him deeply. I’ll long for his voice, his hugs and his bright, loving eyes. I also fear something happening to me and leaving him in the world without his biggest fan.

Tonight, when I got home from work, I ran upstairs to change, planning to take River with me to the gym. He loves going there, but at the moment, he wasn’t thinking about the giant drawer of cars in the gym childcare room. He wanted to show me two of his little cars. When I ran upstairs instead of taking the time to look, he stood at the base of the stairs and started to cry.

I felt bad and came back down. I wasn’t giving him the attention he deserved. Mark tried to get his attention, but he pushed him away. He was only interested in showing mom.

“He loves you too much,” Mark said. I know that and I’m so very grateful.

Will American children learn Chinese (or another foreign language)?

Will American children learn Chinese (or another foreign language)?

En masse, I doubt it. But I think there are a lot of good reasons to do so. Several of them are brought up in this interesting debate.

Yes, much of the world speaks English. But only certain people who have had certain educational opportunities (ie. biased towards the privileged) are able to obtain English fluency. Language skills are so critical to showing respect for a foreign culture and for being able to truly know and understand people. By making people more comfortable navigating a foreign environment, languages help them to explore, and therefore to better understand and to open their minds. Recent history shows us so many examples of the financial and human cost of mistakes due to not understanding other cultures or worldviews.

I don’t set a lot of absolute expectations for River’s future. But I do expect he won’t be among the 93% of Americans who don’t speak a language other than English. I believe it is critical that he be equipped to be part of the world, not just the American or English-speaking, community. I believe it’s my job as a parent and a concerned citizen to enable him and other children to have that opportunity.