Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Last Day of School

Hard to believe, but Addison's last day of school was Thursday. I know! It seems wrong somehow to be in school past Memorial Day, but this was the price to be paid for such a late start this year. The last day of school was actually "Country Fair Day". Trey, the kids, and I stopped by briefly to enjoy the festivities with Addison and popped into the school office to find out when his class would be out on the adjacent school field. I inadvertently called it Field Day and got a big correction from the secretary, "You mean Country Fair Day?" Yeah, whatever.

Davis and Genevie enjoyed the playground while we waited for Addison's class to come outside.

For the sake of privacy I'm not including any pictures with his classmates, but in this one you get a glimpse of the kiddie pool they used to wet the sponges for the sponge toss. Good game on a very humid day!

His shirt says "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten".

All the kids were treated to a Philly summer special, water ice and soft pretzels. It was a great school year in which he was really challenged to grow and mature. He learned so much and is even reading now! Best of all, he is incredibly eager to continue working on reading and math this summer. His teacher sent home a folder of worksheets and exercises and he knows that if he completes them all by September there is a prize in store. This one is very motivated by incentives.

Monday, June 20, 2011


Genevie walking with us over to graduation.
We've had a lot of graduations in our lives over the past decade, but this was one I never anticipated -- a preschool graduation. Two Fridays ago (forgive the delay in posting this), Davis graduated from preschool. He'll be attending there next year, even adding an additional day, and he'll be joined by Genevie. Even though he's not leaving them just yet, graduation was an opportunity to celebrate all that the students had learned and accomplished over the course of the year.

The theme was Hawaiian, hence the leis. I was so proud of him standing up there, doing hand motions, singing robustly, and looking so grown up. As I've mentioned before, the school has a policy about showing pictures of other children online or via social media, so I'll just share this stage close-up of Davis.

He even got a diploma.

He was very proud of that diploma and toted it around for several days, unrolling and re-rolling it to gaze proudly at his work.

Davis learned so much this year and is even writing his name all by himself now. He loves school and has made a couple of friends independent of his brother, which I think is really good for him. He's already had one without-mom-or-dad-or-Addison playdate at a friend's house and has a pool party coming up at the end of the month. I am so proud of our little D!

Father's Day

Just like Mother's Day, Trey got gifts from Addison this year for the first time thanks to school. His was a custom CD and case.

Daddy, you rock!

This was Trey's card.

And on the inside it details great things about Trey, like his humor, his love of painting (not so sure about that one) and that he's good at writing books. I think I may have even seen a little tear in the corner of Trey's eye. It was very touching. You should have seen Addison's beaming face. He was so excited to give these treasures to Trey Sunday morning.

I took Trey out for dinner and we enjoyed some lovely uninterrupted adult conversation over delicious Cuban food and wine. If you too have small ones at home, you will understand what a luxury and a gift such an opportunity is.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Business of Being Born

I had heard vague rumblings about a documentary that Ricki Lake was producing on natural childbirth a few years back but had forgotten all about it until last week when I got an excited email from my sister urging me to watch the documentary The Business of Being Born before she and I met up for a lunch date. Ample fodder for discussion. It's a free instant view on Netflix, for all you subscribers out there whose interest may be sufficiently piqued after this review.

The Business of Being Born outlines the intriguing history of childbirth in the US and shows how and why it has become so medicalized and interventionist, especially compared to the rest of the developed world. Some of the information is downright disturbing, like how women used to be given scopolamin during childbirth, which put them into a twilight sleep and they would remember nothing. The drug would cause many women to become crazy and so they would have to be restrained in bed. The hospitals would use lamb's wool restraints because they wouldn't leave any marks. Scary. The documentary follows several midwives with their clients, showing in contrast how they approach childbirth and promoting the idea that in most circumstances a woman's body is perfectly equipped to handle the birthing of her baby without the need for IVs, medication, pain killers, forceps, etc. In fact, the documentary goes on to assert that one intervention tends to lead to another, which has given rise to the skyrocketing rates of unnecessary cesarean sections in the US.

As someone who has experienced a range of child bearing situations I felt I had some knowledge to bring to the subject. I would consider myself a more-informed-than-average person. During my first pregnancy I did extensive reading on the subject of childbirth and between my own study and personal experience, I come to the topic neither naive nor jaded. In no particular order, I have been induced, experienced long labor and a precipitous one, gotten epidurals, received vacuum assisted delivery, had a baby on my hands and knees in my living room, pushed for two hours, delivered one baby blissfully numb, torn and not torn. So here is my take on the documentary, what I agree with and what I thought was unfair.

It is not about the birth experience. It's about the parenting afterwards.
In my opinion, this is a common mistake that is made in our culture and one that is explicitly stated and promoted in the documentary. We put so much emphasis on arbitrary dates, such as graduation, the wedding, birth and then tend to forget that the really important part is what comes after. I believe it's all in the journey and that the actual birth is just one step in that long, long journey. It truly doesn't matter how the baby comes into this world. It's just one day. What really matters is how you rear the child and the person he or she becomes. At the end of your life, I guarantee that you won't still be smarting over that emergency c-section. You'll be looking back with pride and deep love at the fulfilled person your child has become.

Childbirth is an industry and a serious contributor to our current American healthcare crisis
The documentary does a fair job of pointing out how broken our current maternal health system is. Malpractice insurance rates continue to force good obstetricians to close up shop in droves because nothing screams lawsuit like an injured or dead baby and ambulance chasers know it. I personally saw one of the doctors in my practice leave over the rates. Three-quarters of obstetricians have been sued at one time or another. Are we really to believe that three out of four are incompetent? In addition, an uncomplicated vaginal delivery can cost $13,000. I know that one does of 800mg of Ibuprofen on my hospital bill when I had Addison was charged at $100. These are outrageous costs and are symptomatic of a healthcare system in crisis.

More expensive does not mean better outcomes
Ironically, although the US outranks all nations in the amount of money spent per birth, our infant mortality rate is the 2nd worst in the developed world. Despite all the interventions and technological advancement, babies die in the US far too often, something we need to take a long hard look at. Obviously something has to change and throwing more money at the problem isn't necessarily the answer. I suspect the overall US statistics are affected by higher infant mortality rates among minority groups, which is, I suppose, a whole other ball of wax.

Natural childbirth is not always glamorous
This was the part of the documentary I struggled with the most. Almost all the women shown delivering naturally were floating around in pools in their living rooms making nary a noise and seemingly off in a far away happy place. A few grunts and out pops the baby. This came across as an overly simplistic and glamorized view of natural childbirth.

My own experience with natural childbirth has been less than thrilling. When I had Addison, my epidural wore off three hours before he was born just as I entered into transition. So I got to experience the worst part with no pain relief, including two hours of pushing a kid out who, to this day, still has a 95th percentile head. It hurt a lot and the only thing that got me through was my mother's voice telling me over and over again, "You are doing this! You are doing this!" every time I said I couldn't do it anymore. I will never forget her strength during those hours.

My second experience with natural childbirth...well, let's just say that The Business of Being Born doesn't address the trauma of a precipitous delivery. I used to have anxiety attacks after Davis was delivered recounting the story of his birth. Nothing will traumatize you like being sound asleep and then delivering a baby less than one hour later. The pain was paralyzing and isolating. I remember clutching an end table in our living room for dear life trying to gasp for breath between contractions that doubled up my entire body. It was the single most terrifying experience of my life, and I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.

Pain is not a virtue
While I do believe that women survive the pain of childbirth (heck, I'm living proof), I don't believe the pain is necessary or virtuous. Look at it this way. You wouldn't have a tooth pulled without novacain. If you did, people would think you were stupid, not heroic. Why do some women buy into the notion that the more they feel and suffer, the more legitimate the birth experience is? The way I look at it is, God has given us all this medical knowledge. One of the great uses of it is in pain relief. Why shouldn't a woman enjoy the most pain free delivery possible? What is the inherit benefit or virtue of suffering? Having delivered two children without pain relief and one completely numb, I can categorically say that numb ROCKS. My experience was only enhanced by my peaceful, comfortable body. There was no trauma or agony.

Doctors do listen
The documentary leaves you believing a bit that all doctors just want to slice you open because it's more interesting. I'm not sure I'm buying it. The doctor who delivered Addison was an amazing man. He also attended to my pregnancy with Genevie and would have delivered her had she not come a week early. He told me during one office visit that he had kept an emergency birthing kit in his car for years in the secret hope that some day he could help a woman in the grocery store or wherever, like me, who was having a baby too quickly. This whole notion that most obstetricians don't even know what a "normal", natural birth looks like just seems implausible. I know that he acted in my best interest when he recommended induction at 5 days late with high blood pressure. I know he acted in my best interest when after 14 hours of labor and 2 of pushing, beyond spent and exhausted, he opted to use the vacuum to help me deliver Addison. Thank goodness he did. Addison was a giant kid.

The most important thing to remember when having a baby is that you are in control. It took me until my third child to learn this. When I spoke with my doctor about my fears of a repeat home birth, he took me seriously and we put a plan in place to avoid that. I was adamant from the minute I got into the hospital that I wanted my epidural as soon as I got into my room. And guess what? They complied. You must advocate for yourself and make it happen.

If you want natural child birth, great. I think you're crazy, but more power to you. It's your choice. I don't think it makes you a better mother, as the documentary implies. I think it makes you someone who has elected to deliver one particular way. What really matters is the business of child rearing. Now that would be worth a documentary.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Painting Project

The recent silence and absence of final DC photos has been largely due to a massive painting effort to get ready for a dear friend from Aberdeen who is arriving on Sunday. While our wall colors were fine and fairly neutral, for a long time Trey and I have wanted to make the rooms our own. We both like bright, even daring, colors and wanted to bring some real visual interest to our upstairs. Not to mention the permanent marks left on the kids' rooms' walls by stray metal matchbox cars and wooden food from the kitchen set that needed to be hidden.

So we've been doing a lot of this...

...and this...

...and choosing cans and cans of this.

We went with some pretty bold and beautiful colors. Blue Lapis in Genevie's room. Southern Belle in the boys room. Currently we're painting the bathroom Persian Violet and the hallway is going to be English Hyacinth. I promise pictures by the weekend.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Dinosaurs in DC

Friday morning we made our way down to DC for our longest stay to date, a three night weekend. We stopped first at the Museum of Natural History. Although we've been there before, we'd not yet visited the dinosaur exhibit, and, well, you know how the boys feel about dinosaurs these days.

They were incredibly excited.

But the best moment of the day was the line that tripped off the lips of Genevie. Upon walking into the dinosaur exhibit and spotting the unmistakable skeleton of a tyrannosaur, she pointed and said, "Look! T-rex, Mom!"

I quickly discovered that museum lighting, while dramatic for the displays, is horrible for photography. Every photograph vacillated between the shadows of flashless pictures...

...and the overexposure of a point and shoot flash.