Thursday, November 5, 2009

How it all went down is my birth story. It didn't quite play out the way I imagined, but got my healthy bundle of joy nevertheless! Not upset in the slightest because our wishes were respected. After rereading what I wrote, I realized that the way I write is very systematic and not touchy feely at all, so this may read more like something from a textbook.

The morning of Sunday, October 18, I woke up to find that my water was broken (slow leak). However, I didn’t have any contractions. I called my midwife to let her know. She recommended taking the cohosh herb combo to stimulate labor. I started the herb combo at 9PM and took it for two hours before going to bed. Contractions started at 1AM Monday morning. By 4AM they lasted about a minute each and were spaced between 6 and 10 minutes apart so I texted my midwife to give her an update. I had no trouble sleeping between contractions the entire night.

The next morning my contractions fizzled out. I started doing all different things to get things started again: walking, stairs, squatting. Nothing. At 4PM I started the herbs again – this time for a three-hour stretch. Around 8PM, my contractions started again. They were mild still, and about 15 minutes apart. Around midnight they started to get more intense. They were about 2 minutes each with 6 minutes between them. Darren filled the birth pool to get it ready and the midwife told us she would get ready to head over.

A little before 3AM, I got the urge to bear down and push. I fought the urge and my midwife arrived a bit later to check on me. Turns out I was only about 4 cm dilated, but baby’s head was really low, which was creating the need to push. The midwives checked me sparingly (because they didn’t want to risk infection since my water had broken two days before), and each time my stubborn cervix refused to thin out. They couldn’t believe that the baby’s head was so low, but yet the cervix refused to move out of the way (even with the midwife trying to move it aside). For the next 12 hours, I alternated between the shower, the toilet, the bed, and finally the pool fighting the urge to push. Darren really worked with me to breathe through each contraction. I’ve never wanted to push so badly and the pain was getting unbearable. As one last final resort, I was told to push while the midwife worked on pushing the cervical lip aside at the same time. She couldn’t pull it back though, so we decided to talk about plan B.

I had been seeking shadow care from a CNM at North Fulton Hospital. We talked about going there, but it was a good 40-minute (without traffic) drive away and I didn’t think I would be able to make it. My contractions were so strong and they were 2-3 minutes apart, so I knew I would be even more miserable in the car. South Fulton Hospital is only one exit away from us; we decided to head there. The plan was to tell the L&D staff that my water had broken that morning (so as not to alarm them into giving me a C-section). My midwife recommended that since I was so exhausted, I should consider the epidural to ease my pain, and also get pitocin to hopefully get that last piece of cervical lip out of the way. I agreed. My midwife’s assistant went to the hospital with us as our doula.

I got to the hospital around 3:30PM, and when the on-call OB finally arrived to check me, she was surprised that the baby was so low but I wasn’t fully dilated, but at least I was about 8 cm by that point. We presented our birth plan (which my doula had written up while waiting). One of the items was the delayed chord clamping. The OB had never done that before and was confused. I told her that I just wanted a few minutes with the baby on my chest with the chord still attached. After much persuasion she agreed to a 3-minute delay. In the meantime, my contraction pains were still strong as ever. I received the epidural around 7:30. I have to say that the anesthesiologist had incredible bedside manner and I felt really comfortable with him and his expertise. About 15 minutes later I was hooked up to the pitocin. At that time, the OB came in and told me that she would give me two hours, and if nothing happened, then they would have to C-section me. We were all in kind of a shock as she said this. After she left the room we got a game plan together on how we would refuse the section if it came to that. We are so lucky that our doula was so involved and this helped us tremendously in our courage to speak up.

Over the next two hours, the pitocin-induced contractions got stronger and stronger and I asked the nurse not to increase the dosage anymore. The OB got caught up in another birth and was delayed coming back to me by about 30 minutes. This may have been the break we needed, because when she checked me, she said that I was just about fully dilated and she thinks I should push while she pushed the remaining cervical lip aside. Four contractions later, I pushed our baby girl out and the doctor put her on my chest. What an amazing feeling! After four minutes of cuddling with her on my chest, the doctor clamped the chord and Darren cut it. Darren kept a close eye on Kora during her examination and made sure that she didn’t receive anything we didn’t want.

Even though this wasn’t the birth I had planned for, I know that sometimes medical intervention is necessary in extreme situations. I trusted my midwife and her assistant to offer the best birthing guidance and they delivered.

On a side note: after the birth the OB said, “I am so glad you didn’t have to have a C-section. I really want to get home and watch The Amazing Race that I Tivoed.” This just reaffirms my belief in the home birth model.

And...presenting our cute little one:

Thursday, September 10, 2009

What kind of birth do you want?

So I admit, I had no idea there was any alternative to hospital births before I got pregnant. Then somehow I found, and my world opened up. There are birth center births, water births, home births, unassisted births, taxi-cab births (well maybe not intentionally). This forced me to ask myself, "what kind of birth do you want?".

To be honest, the image of a woman lying down on a hospital bed with a needle in her spine, an IV in her wrist, her legs hoisted up high and a doctor peering in her hoo-ha waiting to catch the baby was never appealing to me. It looked unnatural. Why do women give birth this way? And then you have the whole C-section thing. Turns out Piedmont and Northside hospitals have the highest C-section rates in the state - both almost 40%! WTF? That is major surgery...for childbirth!

Now, I'd always loved my gynecologist. It was a pleasant office to go to once a year for my annual exam. I liked my doctor and the P.A. However, during my first OB visit, I timidly inquired about midwives and if I would be able to have one. My doctor rolled her eyes at me (towards the med student sitting in on our consultation) and said, "no. We only have doctors deliver babies." Basically I would have to leave their practice if I wanted a midwife!

I couldn't believe it. I wasn't sick; I was only pregnant.

So, after a lot of searching, I found a practice that had a very highly recommended midwife who would do waterbirths (the midwife's epidural, I've heard it called). I started seeing her and was pretty happy the first few visits. Now, I'm not going to get into all of the OB vs. Midwife politics in Atlanta, but there was some stuff brewing and I knew my midwife was not happy at her practice (which is run by a doctor). Her attitude reflected this, and my pre-natal visits were pretty short, which is more typical of an OB, not a midwife. This didn't seem like the right choice for me, either.

At that point, I really started thinking about giving birth at home. My two main constraints were my age (ripe old 35 - "high risk"), and money (since insurance won't cover the home birth). I realized that my age has nothing to do with a healthy birth as long as my body is healthy. The second constraint was a bit harder to overcome. It's not like we don't have the money; the issue was that I had already decided to leave my job prior to the birth and we can't just be throwing our savings out the window. My very loving husband gave me the "out" I needed. He told me that having the birth I wanted is more important than money, and to pursue a home birth.

We interviewed a few home birth midwives, and decided on one that is capable, experienced, convenient, and just happened to be a few hundred dollars cheaper than the others (and comes with her own birth pool!). We now have our one-hour pre-natal visits at our home. I continue to do shadow-care with my hospital midwife so that insurance will cover any additional lab work that needs to be done. I'm super excited.

So far only D's family knows about the home birth. I've composed an email that I will send out in the next couple of days. Text is below. I would recommend the resources below to everyone.

Dear Family,

We want to give our family an update on the pregnancy. We are due towards the end of October and beginning of November. We’re getting excited about meeting our little one!

Some of you may know that we are planning to birth at home. We interviewed and selected a professional midwife that has 17 years of experience, mostly in Michigan. She is very capable and we feel very comfortable with her. We are doing pre-natal visits with her, but in addition to that, M is continuing her pre-natal visits with a certified nurse midwife that is affiliated with a hospital. This allows for all lab work to be covered by insurance, and also ensures complete monitoring of this pregnancy, which so far has been healthy!

No doubt some of you may feel concerned about the safety of a home birth, so we would like to allay your fears with some suggested reading and videos. Please rest assured that M has put in no fewer than 50 hours of research (reading, going over statistics, talking to mothers who had homebirths, etc.) prior to making this decision.

Suggested Movie/Videos:

The Business of Being Born – available on Netflix. This is a very good documentary.

Natural Born Babies Part 1 -

Natural Born Babies Part 2 -

You Have a Choice -

Suggested Reading:

Born in the USA: How a Broken Maternity System Must Be Fixed to Put Women and Children First by Marsden Wagner

Pushed by Jennifer Block

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin

Recent article that came out about the safety of home births.

If for some reason the pregnancy ends up not being completely normal, then we will deliver at North Fulton Hospital, where the hospital-based midwife is. If there is an issue during labor, we will transfer to South Fulton Hospital, which is a 5-minute drive from our house. We are preparing for a possible hospital transfer, while hoping that it doesn’t happen. If anyone has any questions about our decision, please don’t hesitate to call and ask.

As for birth-day, we feel that this is an intimate time for our family, and we would like to preserve a very calm and relaxing atmosphere to allow for an easier birth. We will contact everyone as soon as we’re able to receive visitors.

Thank you for being supportive!

News and such

Gosh, it’s been a really long time since I’ve updated. Since my last post there have been some very important milestones in my life that need to be mentioned, in, of course, a list fashion.

  • I got pregnant.
What? Isn't that enough?

Just kidding. There's more.
  • I found out I was pregnant about two weeks later, after having consumed enough alcohol in the prior two weeks to do some severe damage to my liver. I mean, I drank a lot for even me. Yikes.
  • Like clockwork, immediately after finding out I was pregnant I was sick every day for the next four months.
  • Went to Maine on vacation with my hubby during the brief time I actually felt okay during the pregnancy (my glorious second trimester only lasted 3 weeks).
  • Like clockwork, immediately after coming home from vacation I started to feel really fat and tired.
  • Quit my job (yeay!!)
And here I am, with less than two months to go until EDD (estimated due date for you novices). Baby is pounding away on my bladder, ribs, and anything he/she can get a hold of.

If I sound a bit negative about the pregnancy, it's because it sucks. I'm sorry I'm not one of those women who feels healthy and sexy during their pregnancy.

So far, I have lost the ability to do the following: cut my toenails, shave my bikini area, sit still, stand still, lay on my back, go for longer than 3 hours without peeing, go for longer than 10 minutes without yawning, bend over, pick something up from the floor without straining, and once in a while, I lose control of my emotions and my eyes tear up with a vengeance over something trivial.

Now, I do appreciate the fact that I am pregnant, as there are so many women who try and try to become pregnant and would gladly trade places with me. I am extremely blessed by the Gods in this regard. That doesn't mean I have to be fake and pretend like it is the greatest feeling in the world, does it? Hey, I tell it like it is (for me).

I have to mention D has been really amazing throughout this ordeal, uh, pregnancy. He even cut my toenails yesterday! The biggest thing he did for me was to not give me a guilt trip about quitting my job. He's been so supportive. Of course, he does expect me to make some money selling insurance from home at some point. I'm committed to not letting him down.

So that's what's been going on.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

keeping up with the joneses

I've noticed a new trend: keeping up with the Joneses.  I know, this has been around for a while right?  

Well, not the kind I've seen recently.  

A: We've been living off one income for the last year.  I feel sorry for people who need two incomes to stay afloat.
B: We haven't had much work lately, but thank goodness we have six months of emergency savings to hold us over.
A: Yeah, we accumulated nine months worth, just to be safe.
B: Our mortgage is pretty low; we've been paying it down so that we don't have to worry too much about paying it.
A: I know what you mean.  I would hate to be one of those families who have two mortgages on their house with housing values dropping like they are.
(and so on and so on)

People are no longer under pressure to have the latest and greatest to be the envy of your neighborhood.  It's become hip to be cheap.  

Of course this is a good thing.  But when did it become so common for people to discuss money and their financial situations?  Why are Americans so competitive with everything?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

No matter where you stand politically, you have to admit that it is amazing to think that, beginning today, we will have a Black first family in the White House. How far we've come.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Sadie Pence 7/3/2000 - 12/1/2008

Some of you may have known that our sweet Sadie was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer almost 4 weeks ago. The cancer had already spread to her other organs and we knew she only had a few weeks left. The last few days proved to us that the pain she was suffering was overwhelming, so we made the decision to put her to rest today. We miss her so much already.

The pictures below were taken 3 days after her diagnosis. Such a sweet brave girl.

This is how we'll always remember her.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A semi-intelligent political conversation

An email to my coworker after an earlier conversation:

I decided to do some research on what you said about Barack being Arab. I could not find anything except for a few blog posts about it. Where is your source? I would like to read it. In my mind, he is still African-American. His father (who more than likely is of Arab descent) was born in Kenya, and is Kenyan. Barack's mother is white, and he has never denied this, so your comment that he doesn't acknowledge that he's half-white completely blows my mind.

Anyway, I am more than happy to review any reading material you can provide. It's not going to change my mind about my vote, but I know that you would never expect that anyway. Just know that I will not engage in any war of words about the candidates with you. It is not the environment in which I want to work, and you never seem to talk about issues anyway.

His response:

He’s African-American in your (and many other people’s) mind, but he does not have one single drop of African-American blood in his body…and precious little African blood. To me, it’s dishonest for him to proclaim he’s one thing when, in fact, he is something else entirely. Yes, he does acknowledge that he’s half white (frankly, how could he not); that was a poor choice of words on my part. In fact, he grew up associating mainly with whites and even choosing to go by the nickname Barry. It wasn’t until college that he chose to abandon his whiteness and become black. I find this change interesting at best, deceitful at worst, but suspicious most of all. Why did he choose to be black when that’s the smallest percentage of his ethnicity? I could care less what color someone is, but it’s strange to me when someone tries to change it. Then I have to ask why. I believe his change was to further his own cause but I’d be happy to be wrong about that.

I like to discuss multiple “issues,” mainly out of the office (frequently, there’s not enough time to discuss serious issues in the office). I don’t discuss them with you because you’ve repeatedly said you don’t want to discuss them; however, I’d be happy to any time you’d like. I consider you an intelligent, thoughtful person and am always willing to hear such people out. For example, I’d like to hear why it is that you are a proponent of the Fair Tax.

My response to his response:

You know my mom is Vietnamese, and my father is white. You may not know, but I went through an identity crisis also. It is very very hard to grow up in many American towns if you look different, act different, and are named differently. I don't think you understand what it is like to grow up mixed. I'll give you some examples:
  • When I was 8 I lived in Southern California for about 3 months (my mom was about to give birth). We lived in a poorer neighborhood in Westminster, CA. One time some Vietnamese boys at school found out that I was half-Vietnamese, and they followed me home, taunting me. It really scared me.

  • When I moved to Louisville after living in Taiwan for 5 years, I tried to change my name to Melissa (actually I went through a baby name book and circled a few names, but Melissa was the one I eventually chose). I saw how different I was from everyone in the school and I just wanted to be the same. Luckily, the name never stuck. I was 14 at the time, just starting high school.

  • I had a friend in college who is half black half white. I noticed that most of her pictures were of friends who were black. I asked her about it, and she told me that while growing up she had some white friends, the black community accepted her more easily than the white community. That's where she felt most comfortable.

  • After living in Taiwan for so long, I identified more with Chinese people than with Vietnamese people. After I moved to the states, most of my Asian friends have been Chinese, and not Vietnamese.

  • In the early 1990s, I lived with my mom and siblings in Marietta. Our next door neighbor's sons would take any opportunity to make fun of us. Once my mom and I were in the driveway doing a perfectly normal American thing - washing our car - and they stood there the entire time calling us names (chinks, gooks) while we tried to ignore them. I'm surprised with my mom's temper that she didn't turn the hose on them. Eventually the neighbors moved away. Once again, this was East Cobb in the 90s.

I can probably come up with more examples, but I am pretty tired right now. My main thing is just to let you know that growing up different (15 years ago and even further back, especially) is not easy. Now I see my uniqueness as an asset. But know that I did not always feel that way.

What I can say with certainty is that many people of multi-cultural backgrounds did not have an easy time growing up. I am not going to pretend to know what was going through Obama's head as he made certain decisions, but people change and grow with their environment, especially in their formative years. Have you seen his H.S. basketball team photo? He was the only black guy there! No wonder he wanted to fit in and change his name. And I'm sure you remember in college how segregated blacks and whites were. Why wouldn't you think that it is the same for him at his college, 10 years earlier? If blacks were willing to accept him, why wouldn't he embrace that?

I appreciate your compliment. I know we don't agree on quite a few issues. I tune you and Paul out most of the time just to stay sane in the office. You may have noticed that I've been working from home more often. That'll probably continue into November.

My reasons for supporting a consumption tax may differ from yours. I think that it might help curb the over-consumption in our society. I don't know though..I have to finish that damn book. When I do read it, I'll talk it over with you.