23 July 2013

How to write a crappy book on childbirth, or, how to piss me off in six easy steps

I don't actually remember the title of this book, so I apologize for that. Some kind of guide to natural pregnancy and childbirth. I picked it up at the library yesterday out of curiosity (and because the Braxton Hicks contractions just keep getting more frequent, so part of me's wondering if Munchkin's thinking of making an appearance), and put it down in disgust, very tempted to take it to the librarian and demand they strike it from their catalogue. While I disagreed with some things in, say, Bradley's method of natural childbirth, his book's wacky ideas made me laugh. They didn't make me angry.

What was wrong with the book, you may ask?

1. The author had no medical credentials. Zero. Being a "natural childbirth advocate" is not the same as being a trained doula (here doulas have to be certified to practice--I think in the States it can vary), registered midwife, nurse, or OB-GYN. I'm sorry if you despise the culture of credentials, but there is a reason why I prefer to take medical advice from medical professionals. Even the doctor at the clinic who manages to make me angry and upset every time I talk to her makes me feel like she knows what she's doing when it comes to medical procedures (she's just bad at the empathy side of her job).

2. Right off the bat, the author ranted about pre-term labour and how bad it is for the baby and then listed a few things to hold it off (true, a full-term baby is preferable, but the causes of pre-term labour are complicated and many are not fully understood yet). This included reducing exercise dramatically in early and mid-pregnancy. Last time I checked, exercise was recommended--the body goes through many changes in pregnancy and not exercising is counter-intuitive. True, we pregnant women are supposed to avoid high-impact exercise (one book I read included sumo wrestling on the list of stuff to avoid), but not exercising at all, unless your doctor recommends it, seems like a bad idea. What happens when you get to having the baby and your stamina just isn't there because you didn't exercise at all?

3. She was so adamantly opposed to medical interventions during labour that she only listed the cons of various medications and treatments. I'd like to hear both sides, please. There are reasons why medical interventions are available. I'm also far more likely to respond positively to a balanced view.

4. There was a section in there about how ultrasounds are highly inaccurate and get most things wrong, which didn't seem to have much basis in fact. Ultrasounds, like any medical imaging technology, have a margin of error, but that doesn't mean they are a useless tool.

5. She was anti-vaccine. I'm sorry (actually, I'm really not, it's just a habit to apologize for everything here in Canada), but just because you think having measles would make my child less prone to eczema does not mean I'm going to not immunize my child. I think eczema is to be preferred to some of the more dangerous complications that can result from measles. Even chicken pox can have some nasty complications that are far more likely to occur than side effects from a vaccine.

6. Also, she had some anecdote in there about a woman whose doctor had recommended a C-section based on a previous labour and the size of her pelvis. The author said that this person should have a natural birth because C-sections are to be avoided as much as possible, because it's just ridiculous that the baby might not fit through her pelvis. Who is she to say that this is ridiculous? I may be planning to avoid a C-section if I can, but I'm glad that the option is there if it's needed. And who knows? I might need it. It might be the safer route. If so, that's okay. It's not what I would have preferred, but the scenario that gets me and the baby safely through labour and delivery is the one I want.

At any rate, I slammed the book shut and did not bring it home with me. The overall tone made me too angry to be able to read between the crappy stuff to see if there was anything decent in there. I mentioned the book to J. yesterday evening and he was still pissed off about it this morning. After experiencing near-constant Braxton Hicks contractions for a few days, together with a couple not-so-delightful rounds of pre-labour (or possibly false labour--different books use different names--the guide I was given at the hospital calls it pre-labour), I've had to come to terms with the possibility that my child might arrive a couple weeks sooner than I was hoping. Or not. She might decide that random contractions are awesome (she certainly moves around enough after them) and it'd be a great idea to stay in there until after her due date. It wasn't a good time to read a rant about pre-term labour when, at 36 weeks, me giving birth would technically be considered pre-term.

I guess the worst thing about the book for me was that it felt like it was calculated to induce guilt in the reader, and to create distrust between the doctor and their pregnant patients. Yes, there are poor doctors out there (in the pejorative sense, not the financial sense, though I suppose there are those, too), but assuming that your doctor's an idiot from the get-go is probably going to be counter-productive. And really, do pregnant women need to be guilt-tripped? We're stressed out enough as it is.

19 July 2013

a brief discourse on bras and some sewing

Well, the "making a new dress to wear to the wedding" didn't work out. I got it to a trying-on stage, tried it on, and realized it wasn't going to fit around the baby. If I'd been working with jersey knit, this wouldn't have been a problem, but woven fabric just doesn't have the same kind of stretch. So I went to the closet and found a dress in jersey that still fits me right now. It's chocolate brown and I like it very much (there may be pictures in a day or two, since J. wants to bring our fancy camera along tomorrow), but because I don't own a regular strapless bra (I do own a longline strapless bra, which isn't an option right now--it's not unlike a corset and babies and corsets just don't go together, despite what the fashions of the 1890s had to say about that), I have to go braless. Fortunately the bodice has some kind of reinforcing so I don't have to worry about making people too uncomfortable.

I'm going to be breastfeeding in about a month, so I'll probably be more comfortable leaving my bra off in about six weeks, but as of right now, this isn't something I do often (except at home, either alone or when J. is around, but never around other people). Hopefully I can refrain from adjusting things and drawing too much attention to myself tomorrow. I doubt I'll be the kind of breastfeeding mother who happily breastfeeds in public without covering up. In private, yes. In public, well, I've got a couple fancy cover-ups that were given to me, and we have so many baby blankets it's absurd. There are two mounds of baby blankets in the spare room right now.

I have managed to find some knit fabric that I can experiment with. That shirt pattern I picked up last week has a number of variations. I think I'm going with the short-sleeved scoop neck to start. Four pattern pieces, so only half a dozen seams and four hems to contend with. I'm still a little leery of knit fabric because I don't have a serger, but the only way to deal with this fear is to actually grit my teeth and give it a go. Plus it'll check off the "sewing with knits" goal.

In the meantime, I need to go to bed. It's only just past 9:30 and it's a Friday night, but I'm exhausted, which seems to be typical at this stage of pregnancy. Eight months. Tomorrow is officially one month out from my due date.

17 July 2013

Checking Off: Socks

 Now that I have a to-do list of crafty things on this blog (see that page next to my designs page), I thought it might be fun to do the occasional post on one of the techniques or materials. This may turn into tutorials for some things, but not for others. For today, I'm picking something that I've already done, but in the future, I will use this as an excuse to check some items off the list. Today, let's talk socks.

I love socks. I loved brightly coloured, interesting socks well before I became a knitter, so I knit a couple pairs of socks in my first year of being a knitter. Then I knit many more pairs. Obsessively. I'm on a quest to replace all my store-bought socks with hand-knit ones. My Ravelry library has over 300 sock patterns in it, and I currently own 4 books dedicated to sock knitting.

Socks can be as simple or as complex as the knitter prefers. They can be worked toe-up, cuff-down, or started somewhere in the middle (haven't tried that kind yet, but I will at some point). There are numerous ways to do the heels and toes. It's hard to get bored with something that is so simple and ordinary, yet has so many permutations that it's impossible to try them all.

I have a fondness for intricate sock patterns. One of my current sock projects is Hunter Hammersen's "Khotan" pattern from her book, Silk Road Socks. It's interesting and lacy and I love it. I'm using a nice yarn for these socks that's a mostly solid colour, because otherwise the stitch pattern will get lost. I love good solid and semi-solid colourways when I'm knitting the more complex socks.

But simple socks are also a favourite. They're much faster to knit, and they require less thought when being carried around in my purse because I don't have to bring a pattern to consult (although very, very simple pattern repeats don't usually require a pattern copy once I've knit through them a couple times). I'm knitting a simple pair of baby socks right now for my cousin's daughter. The only weird thing about these ones is that they're so small that it feels a little awkward to work them. These are perfect for self-striping sock yarns. There's the obligatory pink in the colourway, and it's pastel-ish, so it looks appropriately girly (my cousin doesn't seem to be too insistent on pink everything, so these look girly without being over the top).

Socks aren't for every knitter. For some, the thought of tiny needles and fine yarn puts them off. For others, they just aren't interested. For some of us, though, they become a favourite project, and we end up with many balls of sock yarn in our stashes (I've even heard it said, I believe by the Yarn Harlot, that sock yarn "doesn't count" as stash). We can justify this by pointing out all the shawl and mitt patterns that can be made with sock yarn--our sock yarn stashes don't have to be exclusively for socks.

But this is about socks. I think I'd better go cast on the second baby sock.

12 July 2013

strangers try to determine the baby's gender by the shape of my stomach

I wandered into a local thrift store yesterday that always seems to be having a major sale (50% off!) and ending up spending 50 cents total on two sewing patterns. I also had a conversation with two of the volunteers about the baby, wherein I got to hear what I'm pretty sure the medical community classifies as "rubbish" about how to determine gender.

First I got the, "How far along are you?" question, followed by the, "Wow, you're small" comment. Yes, I know. I'm small, the baby's small, I'm not gaining weight like the chart says I'm supposed to, but I'm eating something like half a dozen times a day, not unlike a hobbit (elevenses, anyone?).

Then they asked if I knew what it was, I said a girl, and one of them proceeded to tell me about how her daughter was supposed to have a girl, she'd had several ultrasounds, all telling them it was a girl, and it turned out a boy. Then they told me that I'm carrying like it's a boy because my stomach looks like I've swallowed a football (American) rather than a basketball, like some women do. Then they asked what the heartrate was. I certainly don't remember; I just know that the doctor's happy with it. Apparently a faster heartrate equals a boy, and a slower heartrate equals a girl.

These methods sound a bit better than the old dangling the wedding ring on a string above the stomach trick, but I'm fairly sure they don't mean much. My guess is that the way I'm carrying has more to do with my body type and build than with the baby's gender, for example. I'm still fairly certain that the ultrasound, and the subsequent one, were correct. As we didn't need an amniocentesis or anything like that, we can't be 100% certain until she's out of me, but that's okay.

But those sewing patterns look like they'll be useful. Neither has been used--the pattern pieces aren't cut out and the instructions don't appear to have been unfolded. Both are from Simplicity. The dress is Simplicity 2889 and the shirt is Simplicity 4076. I'm thinking of making the dress next week, actually, for a wedding we're attending next Saturday. The gathers beneath the bodice should make the dress fit over my stomach. It's not the best-written pattern in the world, but it's a fairly simple construction.

The shirt pattern is part of my quest to learn to sew with knit fabrics without fear. I like most of the style options. The pattern is, again, a little more poorly-written than I would prefer, but the patterns aren't too complex, so I should be able to muddle through. We'll see how it goes.

11 July 2013

that look

I'm pretty sure I got "the look" yesterday. The one where you can tell that someone is judging you. The one I try really hard not to give other people. I've gotten variations of it since I became more visibly pregnant, usually the, "Is she pregnant or just fat?" one. That one I don't mind so much. This one, though, I did.

I was walking through the grocery store parking lot, and an older gentleman gave me an askance look. The one that said, "You're much too young to be pregnant and that's bad." I didn't see a glance at my hand, but since I'm not wearing my wedding ring right now (my fingers tend to swell a bit in the hot weather), that wouldn't have told him much. He might have assumed that I'm unmarried and judged me even more.

I'm aware that because I am short and young-looking, people sometimes think I'm much younger than I actually am. Back in September (or maybe it was October), a guy in line behind me at the liquor store accused me of being seventeen. I sighed and pointed out that I was twenty-five. I had one person blurt out, "Were you a child bride?" when I mentioned that J.'s and my fifth anniversary was coming up this year. Yes, we got married young, but not that young. Honestly, I think most of the time it's the height. I'm so short that people think I'm still a teenager, even though I don't act like one.

A few weeks ago, I ended up chatting with another woman at the maternity clinic. We have a shared dislike of one of the doctors at the practice and do our best to avoid her--me because she gave me crap about my mental health and stress levels and then proceeded to stress me out at each subsequent appointment I had with her, and this other woman because the doctor gave her crap at her first appointment because she'd had a baby at fifteen (although given that she was in for her second pregnancy five years later, is really none of the doctor's business). I was surprised because she didn't look that young to me. I suppose parenthood helps with maturity levels to an extent, but from this, I reinforced my belief that age doesn't necessarily equal maturity or lack thereof. I've met teenagers with more maturity than forty-year-olds, for instance.

It's true that my demographic--North American, white, college-educated, female--tends to put off having children until late twenties or into their thirties. Or at least that seems to be the trend for a lot of people these days. I've already screwed with those statistics by getting married young, and having a kid in my mid-twenties, though not too far out of the ordinary, is still messing with the stats a bit. I'm okay with that. I didn't want to be having kids in my thirties if I could help it, and even though we'd been thinking a year or two in the future for having children rather than right now, we're at a transition time, with me finishing school, that makes it easier to jump into parenthood because we knew things would be changing anyway. Neither of us is terribly interested in many of the typical 20-something activities. J. has an entertaining friend who is really in to the party scene, and while his stories are funny, they aren't something we want for ourselves. The last time we went to a loud party that had lots of alcohol and pot, neither of us drank or smoked. We left early because it was loud and boring and we were tired.

I haven't run into much judgement for being young-ish and heading towards being a parent, so it confuses me a bit when I do. There are times when I feel much too young to be having a baby, but that's about where my head is that day, not about whether or not I'm actually capable of this. I'm glad that this person didn't bother to talk to me. I could have corrected his assumptions, but it's too hot and I'm too exhausted to be getting into arguments with complete strangers.

04 July 2013

ravens and other thoughts

Our upstairs neighbours have something that taps rhythmically on the floor. Or possibly a wall. I don't know what it is, I just know that it drives me crazy and makes me think of ravens. I just had to say that. I'm pretty sure it would annoy me whether or not I was pregnant, so I'm not attributing the irritation to pregnancy. That has enough irritations of its own. The tapping's been happening so frequently that there have been mornings when I'm about ready to storm up there and demand what to know what is rapping at their chamber's floor.

It's been one of those weeks where I don't get much done and then feel worse about myself because I didn't get much done. The hot weather and constant sunshine just makes it all worse. No wonder my thoughts have been dwelling on Poe.

I'd managed to get my childbirth-related anxiety mostly under control, and then we went to a labour and delivery class last night. The bit on massage was nice. The bits about epidurals, C-sections, babies accidentally inhaling meconium, and the potential for being group B streptococcus positive were not. I nearly ran out of the room to throw up during the bit about meconium, and thought seriously about crying when I contemplated epidurals. Also, I spilled my water bottle on the floor.

Overall, the class was helpful, but I really hate being poked with needles and so want to avoid an IV unless it's necessary (I've had an IV in before and it was not pleasant--I'm not about to add to the level of discomfort in labour unless I have to), and the thought of letting someone stick a needle in my spine makes me want to have an anxiety attack. That's another "only if necessary" thing, like if I absolutely needed a C-section. Which is another thing I don't want. 

And I hate this. I hate being scared, even though I know that a good deal of this is reasonable fear. Childbirth is a painful, messy, and potentially dangerous process, and that shouldn't be ignored. I want a relatively easy, simple birth, but I know I might not get what I want. It's not like pregnancy has been how I wanted it to go.

I'm tired of this. We have about 5-8 more weeks to go, providing she doesn't decide arrive early (God forbid), and between the weather and my general exhaustion and numerous other things, I just want the pregnancy to stop and the birth to magically happen so we can move on to the next bit. Of course, that's not what I get. I get 5-8 more weeks of backaches, heartburn, blood sugar testing, exhaustion, and Braxton Hicks, followed by a labour that may or may not be what I'm hoping for. Should be interesting. Maybe if I focus on the interesting side, I'll forget about the anxiety.

In other news, I'm tinkering with a book cover for my novel. The one I was going with requires someone else to modify it for me, and the person who offered to help doesn't have time to finish it yet. So I'm trying for a different look. Once I have that and I make a few more revisions, I can stick it up online and start advertising it. I really should have gotten this done last fall, but procrastination and I are on very close terms.