June 28, 2008

I had a thought

So, I keep meaning to write down some tips about how to have a "natural childbirth." I may still do that, but I haven't yet, because I feel like I will have to have so many caveats ("not that I believe in the category of the natural!" "not that I think 'natural' childbirths are necessarily better!") that I might never actually get started on the advice. I dunno.

But I was just thinking that one piece of advice I would give any expecting mother, regardless of her attitude towards "natural childbirth," is that you should STRONGLY CONSIDER having a midwife-assisted pregnancy and labor.

Get a CNM--that's a certified nurse midwife, who has all the relevant obstetric medical training, and who (in most states) will be associated by a doctor who is available to provide all surgical medical proceedures, as needed. Most midwives work in hospitals, where you will never be far from any needed medical care.

I suspect getting a midwife seems like some major lifestyle choice--certainly the idea was radical to me when I considered it myself, especially as someone who is very mainstream in my medical ideas and choices. But it's really not. CNMS are medical professionals. They just have additional training, less corporate pressure, and a different idea of what counts as sufficient prenatal care.

I'm sure that if you are pregnant you have one big goal--to have a healthy baby. Both midwives and OB-Gyns will do their best to meet that goal. Most OB-Gyns are completely committed to both healthy babies and healthy mothers, and while disasters happen, most OB-gyns will get you that healthy baby.

But I suspect that most pregnant women have a second, if somewhat less important, goal, and that goal is to have a pregnancy and childbirth that feels special. I did. I wanted, when I was pregnant, to have my world think that my pregnancy was an interesting and exciting event, a milestone worth attention. I wanted my pregnant days to feel accomplished, like Mary's, and I wanted to feel like what I was doing was an accomplishment. Because it was; I was making a person.

In this department, midwives as a group stand far above OB's as a group (I'm sure there are execptions). Midwives go into midwifery because they think that birth is not only a physical event but also a major life transition, for both the baby and the mother, and thus deserves to be treated that way.

Midwives, in general, give you longer pre-natal appointments, are more sympathetic to a wider range of questions, and will treat you like an adult and a peer. They will be on a first-name basis with you, because they are less interested in having authority over you and more interested in supporting you.

As the health-care industry becomes more concerned about money, more scheduled, and more compressed--in general, more industrial--the pressure on OBs to make obstetric care more and more time-efficient and less personally attentive will only increase.

So: midwives. Regardless of what you hope your birth will be like, I would encourage you to consider a midwife's ability to make that hope a reality. I think it will make your pregnancy and birth more fun.

June 27, 2008

An Aside about food

We care about food, & the earth. If we had some land, we would like to maybe plant a garden, as Michael Chabon Crichton Graves Pollan recommends. However, local-food-ism, as a way of (imagining we are) doing something about global warming is not something I (B) have much patience for, since "food miles" are not any kind of real proxy for carbon emissions.

By contrast, here's a concrete way to shrink the footprint: cut down on red meat by about 1/4.
As a thought experiment, the authors examine how an “all local” diet — i.e., a diet that has zero emissions between producer and eater — compares to shifts in diet in terms of greenhouse emissions. Since that is nearly impossible to achieve, they found that one could achieve equivalent reductions through the following changes:

  • Reduce red meat expenditures by 24% and spend the savings on chicken
  • Reduce red meat expenditures by 21% and spend the savings on a nondairy vegetarian diet
  • Reduce red meat and dairy expenditures by 13% and spend the savings on a nondairy vegetarian diet

On Timeouts


Timeout has nothing to do with justice, repentance, or authority. Rather, it follows a simple logic: Attention feeds a behavior, and a timeout is nothing more than a brief break from attention in any form—demands, threats, explanations, rewards, hugs ... everything.

June 24, 2008

On Motherhood

Actually, this is not about "motherhood," per se. It's about the exhaustion that motherhood+isolated nuclear family life+a 40 hr. work week often inspires.

About the conjunction of those three things, this post is RIGHT ON.

June 23, 2008

An Action that Leads to an Emotion

This is also a "happy" story.

Elliot likes to play "tennis" in 2 forms. One is Wii tennis (seriously, he does play. I should admit that he plays poorly. But remember he will not even be 2 until September).

The second tennis is batting a big bouncy ball around the living room with a green badminton racket that he calls "tehball wrackit".

He asked for tennis activity this morning while Sarah was out, and I said, I don't know where your tennis racket is (which was the truth), we'll have to find it. He really understands & gets into the game of finding at this point (if he knows that you're serious and not faking), and we began to go from room to room.

The badminton racket could literally have been anywhere. We checked my bedroom, and then the bathroom and the front room, and then down the hall to the back of the house. As we passed his bedroom, he must have spotted it in there; he disappeared around a corner. He emerged into the hall brandishing the racket and grinning, and I said, "You found it! Good job," and he crowed, "I happy."

June 21, 2008

We speak fluent Elliot

We were realizing that, tonight. At least, we are as fluent speakers of Elliot's nascent language as anyone but him: we understand his patterns and references and connections and connotations. We parse him, and we do it better than anyone. Because we are his parents. That's what parents of toddlers do.

Of course, eventually we will not speak his language so well. That is good and normal, if a little sad--but his language is moving forward, and it will go on without us. And he won't, I'm sure, always be fluent in Brandon and Sarah--our own little relational in-language. Which is also good.

Still. Tonight we put him down to sleep while we ate dinner at my brother's house, and when we carried him later to the car he woke up enough to be interested in the late night city environs around us. "Green!" he said, pointing to the street lights. "More green!" He gazed at the world, arms around his favorite stuffed sheep. "Sheepy happy," he said. "Da happy. Mama happy." I looked at him, a little afraid to ask the question in my mind, because as a speaker of Elliot I know that if you ask him a direct question, whether or not it's "Elliot, are you happy?" the answer almost always is no. So I knew it was special when, cheek to cheek with his sheep, he turned his full eyes to the window and answered the question I hadn't asked. "I happy," he said, and I knew just what he meant.

June 20, 2008

Elliot has learned to be conniving

Here are two examples.

1: Elliot often wants to play MarioKart on B's new Wii, and by "often" I mean "pretty much always, indeed, right now, right now he is wanting, wanting to play MarioKart." I'm sitting here and he's plaintively demanding: "kart? Kaaaaart???" He gazes at Brandon with beseeching eyes. Now Brandon is saying, "No, Elliot, no Kart." Elliot, pausing to consider, wants to emphasize the benevolent nature of his request. "Kaart? DA's turn! DA's turn."

2: If Freud had pondered the question "What do toddlers want?" his essay on the subject would have been very short, because all he would have said was, "When toddlers are down, they want to be up, and when they are up, they want to be down."* Elliot has a new strategy to get up when we want him to be down. I'll be walking along with him in the stroller and he'll start saying "up? up? Uuuup?" and because I am cold-hearted and in a hurry, I won't let him. So what has Elliot concocted as a way to melt my cold cold heart and convince me to get him out of his stroller, and at least part-way on the path to freedom? He stops asking "up?" and starts asking, "hug? Mama? Hug? Mama hug Elliot? Hug?"

He is clever, this one.

In other news, here is a picture of Elliot wandering around in Brandon's boxer shorts, which he pulled out of a (clean) laundry pile and decided to wear around for a bit. Note how both legs are in the same leg hole.

*There might also have to be a section of the essay on how toddlers want goldfish crackers, I don't know.

June 18, 2008

Elliot has learned how to unlock the screen door

So if you're looking for him, make sure that your first thought is that he's gone running loose out the door, onto the porch, and down our forty-six steps.

Not that he's done this (the down the steps part, anyway). But the idea of it is really keeping us on our toes.

June 17, 2008

Moving on? Moving off topic?

So do all ya'll parents of small sons out there have opinions about this new MoveOn ad about the Iraq war? It's about how thinking about her infant son growing up to go fight in Iraq makes a mother very sad and trembly and mad at John McCain. We are its target audiences, I'd guess, and I'm interested in what people think.

My response was mixed. On the one hand, I totally had a visceral "ugh, elliot in iraq" stomach churn. But on the other, I felt sort of manipulated and pissed off and--worst--unpersuaded.

One thing it is trying to convey is this, which I agree with: foreign policy has a human cost for families, and people should act and vote and think as if that's true.

Another thing I agree with is that Iraq is not a place I would be happy to send my child to fight.

But...you know, it's probably unlikely that we will never have war, or never need soldiers. And the fact that it makes us, as mothers, sad and trembly to think about that--about our sweet babies turning into big endangered and dangerous soldiers--doesn't mean that it's not true. Feeling trembly is not an argument against Iraq. Or at least, it's not a complete argument.

It's a weird thing, right? Elliot is so sweet and charming, and yet in not very long we're going to have to go register him for the draft, and UGH. I hate to think about it. But the fact is, that I HAVE to think about it. Because there are some wars that have to be fought, and that means someone will have to fight them. "I am not opposed to war," Obama once said. "I am opposed to dumb wars." This is not an ad about why Iraq is a dumb war. It could be, but it's not. And I think that's really too bad--what a missed opportunity.

I completely disagree with McCain's Iraq policy. But I don't think he fails to recognize the human cost of war (and I'm not very sympathetic to the effort to paint him as such). What I would fault him for is his policy, not his ethics, which I (being charitable) imagine to be this: protecting a nation has tremendous cost, and sadly, some of that cost is born by soldiers and their families. It's not nice, but it's true. And if we have the conviction (which, again, I don't) that we need to stay in Iraq for a long time in order to protect national security, then we have to stay there, even if it makes us sad and trembly.

I think that maternal feelings matter, and should be part of the conversation. Our feelings are part of how we "know" about the world. But they are not all we know about the world. (Don't get me started on the intersection of sentimentality and politics, but if you're interested, I'll send my dissertation your way). What's more, I would be super irritated by a sentimental ad making the reverse argument, in which a woman clutched her infant son and said, "we have to stay in Iraq to keep my baby safe" or "those bastards tried to hurt my baby so let's go get them." Feelings--they sometimes make us do dumb things.

So I disagree with that part of the ad. But I also just think it won't be effective. Because if you are someone considering voting for John McCain, you are probably--in my imagination--someone who has a healthy respect for the military, and who thinks that it's an unfortunate but proud thing to share in the burden of protecting America. So will a mom feeling trembly change your mind about that? Or will it just make you think: ah, well, here's another ad from that liberal group who doesn't think military service matters.

I just watched it again, and here, I think is my main problem: this feels like a subtle sort of swiftboating. John McCain is wrong, but that doesn't mean that he's bad, or that he doesn't care about my baby. What's good about McCain, when he's at his best, is that he is willing to make hard choices. I like that about him, even if I think many of his (particularly recent) choices are bad ones. So I think we should honor that, and then ARGUE with him about why this war is bad, why this choice is needlessly and uselessly hard, rather than tremble, and cast him as some unfeeling villain.

June 16, 2008


It's Bloomsday!

Today I feel sad for Leopold Bloom. It's sad about Rudy. "I could have helped him on in life. I could," is what Leopold Bloom says.

It's OK if you have no idea what I'm talking about.

June 11, 2008

General Activity Level: High

Just wanted to mention that we've been on a whirlwind tour of the people we love. It's been a very concentrated burst of good stuff. Now we're resting.

Mimi and Baba came.

Socks, cup, brush

We went to New York for a wedding.

Sarah and B in Manhattan

We went to Boston to see Whit and Jen and Graham.

Nana & Grandad came to see us.

Now it's June, the good weather has finally arrived, and we're going to be grilling. If we don't answer the phone, look for us in the back yard.


I second Whitney's post about the value of YouTube for a crankly toddler. Elliot has a bad cold which is really slowing him down. Here are some things that cheer him up.

June 09, 2008

Lucky Penny

Penny is lucky because a) she is lovely and b)her parents are awesome. She was born during all our recent travels and excitement and so we didn't get a chance to welcome her here, but we want the chance to say officially: CHEERS TO PENNY! Cheers to Brit and Katie! Cheers to a new daughter to be welcomed to the world with love and spirit and and good humor. May you all sleep in at least four-hour segments. We send you much love!

June 03, 2008

pretty much what we've been doing

details to follow, hopefully, but this sort of sums it up.