Monthly Archives: August 2008

the incredible shrinking (baby) woman

Just when you think you’ve managed to swim in a new sea and its cycles, a wave comes from behind at lowtide, leaving you gasping.

As an official “high-risk” obstetrics patient, I’ve been put on a regimen of checkups with special features – ultrasound exams every 4 weeks, to check on both baby (presumed by mommy to be fine) and cervix for signs of early labor. From 16 to 28 weeks, Little one’s growth rate has been dropping. I’ve been asking why, and have been advised to increase protein intake, reminded not to smoke (not an issue) and to keep healthy. Measured in percentiles, she’s gone from 78th to 32nd in 12 weeks – a full quartile in the past 4 weeks alone. This was a tear-inducing shock. Not to mention a complete reversal of experience I had with my first, who maintained a 95th percentile size and still is near the top of his development curve four years later.

At the OB’s instructions, I have been protein loading until the cows come home, and even then, I hit them up for a pail of milk. I’ve been feeling bigger, and thought for sure we’d at least maintain her growth rate (90g or protein a day, minimum; dropping the OB-sanctioned coffee and white-knuckling my way through the days of migraine). But the sonographer said 32nd %ile for weight, and I gasped.

“She was 58th at my last exam.”

I had brought a chart I made from the last three ultrasound reports, showing the downward trends. I had noted that the placenta was evaluated at Grade 2 at 20 weeks – about 10 weeks too soon for such a grading. I had a list of questions, and now I had tears to blink back. H held my hand while I looked at the twinkling lights in the ceiling (all ob/gyn practices should consider such features for their examining rooms…)

The MD I had this time, my third in 5 visits, was the one who delivered my son in an emergency c-section, and he must have remembered what we were like – as he showed up with a set of charts for us. He explained that we were still in a safe spot, and went through each of the measurements, explaining to us what he looked for in terms of trendlines and when they saw a red flag. He explained the ratios and relationships they watch closely, and the range of error with ultrasound readings – up to 10% on weight, and even more on percentiles for abdominal circumference.

He told me that maybe the baby was figuring out where she wanted to be – petite and powerful, perhaps, based on her activity level. He told us what would happen if she took a big drop at the next exam, and what the next steps would be, including increased exams to determine if there was a particular issue getting in the way of baby’s growth, and the issue of discussing how early to deliver.

He told us that if there was a problem with the placenta, there would be little we could do to override that, save to keep the same high-protein, high-nutrition diet to get as much to the baby as possible.

He also told me I could come back at any time, regardless of appointment. “Just show up if you’re worried. We’ll take you.” It was kind and reassuring.

But on the way home, I couldn’t help but wonder, “What if what she wanted to be was a brief visitor? What if she decided this wasn’t the time or place for her to arrive?” I’m still wondering.


Filed under "getting ready for baby", children, mother, Motherhood, pregnancy, pregnant after 40, prenatal care

It won’t be your idea of change, but you should still vote for it.

Here’s another one that’s been stewing around for months. I hope it was worth the wait, though it may still be the equivalent of bathtub wine in terms of sophistication of thinking.

While I will be voting for Obama in the upcoming election, I’m not in the league of his acolytes. I’m choosing him because I think he is smarter – on the whole and politically – and that he will make better decisions, better appointments and better policies than any of his opponents, an admittedly low bar. In truth, I think he’s more likely to make good judgments and take actions that are constructive on their own merits. And because as a scholar of the good-old-boy school of politics, he’ll get things through without having to change DC, the very last task he’d take on once in office.

What? Isn’t Obama all about change? Isn’t that the mantra of millions of hopeful voters? Well, mantra, tagline, slogan, servicemark, it’s marketing. A close read of his rewarding, well-written books not only brings the reader through the narrative the senator has chosen to create, it also reveals more about his traditional positioning and why no one should be surprised that politically, there’ll be no new blisters on his hands, given his adeptness at hardball.

The conversation I’ve had with his supporters who feel that personal connection, that sense of promise for overwhelming change, has minor deflationary impact, but resonates with most of the feminists I know. It goes something like this:

“Y’know, I hear all about this change thing, but I have to say, after reading his memoirs and interviews – the majority of which lament the somewhat sainted father who left behind 4 women’s children and barely made time or resources for him and his mother, and noting the deliberate choices he has made in his own life – I think he longs for a traditional patriarchical model – of women in perpetual service. One where man exists to serve god, or country, or at the very least his own personal ambitions, justified in whatever way he chooses. And that woman exists to serve man. Is that change? To me, not so much.”

The feminist women who may be voting for him but who aren’t suffering from tinges of fanaticism – or sadly, the ones who still haven’t let go of the mundane misogyny of the primary race and thus claim to be staying home – nod knowingly.

(I didn’t have to support Hillary to know there was something truly ridiculous afoot with coverage. All I needed were eyes and ears. I think it’s interesting that Obama never said a peep about it – in fact, kept staffers on who made some of the most ridiculously sexist and personal accusations, while letting go of people who said unfortunate but not sexist things and yet who could contribute real leadership and intelligence to his campaign. Oh, until he reported that his grandmother told him she thought the coverage and treatment of HRC was unfair and obviously sexist, and that her remarks made him think there may have been something to it. Was it light dawning on marblehead? Nah. Hardball. Why waste cycles condemning the first and last acceptable public discrimination?)

The dudes are speechless, then try to tell me I must be secretly awed by his oratory.

“Oh, no, no secret that I admire him and his gift with language – especially in contrast to the last four years of unintentional Orwellian malapropism. But I’m 41, and I’ve heard enough smooth talking in my life to appreciate and enjoy it for what it is.” They’re left stuttering. I assure them I know how to vote, but I’m well aware of what I’m getting, and it isn’t change, unless you compare it to the criminal operations of the last 7.5 years. Which is welcome.

Why is it that Dems have to fall in love – blinders and all? Is it any better than the blinders one must live with as a Republican in order to fall in line? One doesn’t have to fall in love to make the best choice for office. Just make an informed choice. And given the freakish behaviour and position of Grampa this week in light of the Russian invasion of Georgia, you have all the information you need. Having an administration that is not warhappy and doesn’t break the law is the next necessary stage for our citizens and for those of the world. Vote with your brain, not your brain in love. Vote Obama.

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Filed under 2008 elections, accountability, ambition, Feminism, feminist, Politics

facebook, “friendship”

It’s funny how a fruitfly infestation can push other seemingly weighty yet related (ok, only to those on sleep deprivation) topics to the fore. Here’s one.

About a year ago, I registered for an account on Facebook. It seemed like a good thing to do, given I would be leaving my job soon, and I wanted a way to stay connected to friends from work and other remote places. I made connections based on this compound question – have I enjoyed this person’s company, preferably over a meal rather than a meeting break, or would I welcome the chance to break bread together? I did not think of it as a professional rolodex, an opinion only reinforced by the add-on apps. (Who is the most gorgeous? What are your favorite films? Who would you rather (fill in any blank) with? What are your chances of being hired by a new employer based on your responses, given that hiring managers are still, at the end of the day, people with their own biases and prejudices?)

While many of the people I connected with were people with whom I might talk patents, protocols, and policy, that was not the reason I would connect with the vast majority of them. After leaving my job, those personal connections became more important – and not only because I was becoming a pregnant hermit.

Now the “people you may know” box is filled with many I certainly do know (of), but wouldn’t accept an open container from (apologies for the dangling participle.) Some of the solicitations I receive are of a similar though not as extreme undesirability, given the presumption of friendship – “I worked with her, never contacted her after her professional services were no longer needed years ago, she must be my friend!”

As an example, I get repeat solicitations from someone who was in a related professional field who I have never met in person. He recognizes my name, though, and figures he should have me in his list. Unlike the career-oriented LinkedIn, facebook doesn’t allow you to send a mail to a connection request explaining why you might reject an enquiry. And honestly, on LinkedIn, I would accept an enquiry, as his profession is related to mine. So each month, when his request lands in my facebook queue (and always with a new photo) I hit ignore.

Yes, Facebook now permits you to categorize friends into different sub-categories or classes. I think I’d rather choose to ignore than go down that road.

Or maybe it’s the whole idea of debasing what a friend is that is getting under my skin.

The notion of community, largely abused by Internet entrepreneurs in the last decade, is now everything and nothing. Loose association is now open to people apart from their geography, even if economic status/access is still a predominant gating factor. It’s used to define and all too often aggrandize all sorts of self-identified groups of people, with no common requirement beyond an initial declaration.

The Web made it possible to mirror and grow social structures and interactions, but it didn’t implicitly say these would be second class interactions, that the worlds of atoms and bits were of equal stature even if they would be employed and explored in different ways. (Its inventor and early users would likely object vigorously to the notion that the Web exists as a secondary, auxiliary world.)

Yet, just as our fault tolerances for data appliances would be unacceptable for landlines, or cars, some think it’s ok to accept the essence or flavor of words online, instead of insisting on using them as they are meant.

And this is when I realize that my notions on language and meaning reveal that I am getting really old.

Michael Pollan writes about Chicken McNuggets in “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and his son’s reaction to them. In dismissing a lawsuit against McD’s, a judge nonetheless described them them as “a McFrankensteinian creation of various elements not used by the home cook.” McDs took a huge PR hit, and went back to the lab to make something closer to a piece of chicken simply fried, though without doing the obvious – like frying some chicken. Nonetheless, the improvements were registered by Pollan’s son, though when Pollan asked his son

if these new nuggets tasted more like chicken than the old ones, he seemed baffled by the question. “No, they taste like what they are, which is nuggets,” and then dropped on his dad a withering two-syllable “duh.” In this consumer’s mind at least, the link between a nugget and chicken in it was never more than notional, and probably irrelevant…..
Isaac passed one up to the front for Judith and me to sample. It looked and smelled pretty good, with a nice crust and bright white interior reminiscent of chicken breast meat. In appearance and texture a nugget certainly alludes to fried chicken, yet all I could really taste was salt, that all-purpose fast-food flavor, and ok, maybe a note of chicken boullion informing the salt. Overall, the nugget seemed more like an abstraction than a full-fledged food, an idea of chicken waiting to be fleshed out. (boldface mine)

I’d hate to see that devolution when it comes to “friend”. Shouldn’t it still mean something? Or, should I just accept the fact that the words we use to describe or represent our connections to other people, if online, should only be seen as abstraction, an idea of friendship waiting to be fleshed out, and not to be presumed as anything more.

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the no-fly list and a staycation

Every summer we test our collective patience with a 19h, door to door trip to Northern Denmark to visit with my in-laws. Weather permitting, it can work out as a pleasant vacation – not permitting, it can be a more challenging time, at least for the Danish illiterate of the family.

But this year was different. My OB put me on the no-fly list, with my complete cooperation, and I packed up H and Ben for a boys’ trip. I began preparing Ben for a mama-less trip as soon as I received the word, so we could minimize upset. We’d tell each other how we would miss each other on the trip, but that Ben would have a fantastic time – his grandparents, his cousins, and the sea was waiting for him, along with some hungry sheep and the cows in the pasture.

Of course, the flight would end up being the most eventful in our short history as a family – Ben diagnosed with a strep infection a few hours before the flight; an unrelated medical emergency forced them from the no-man’s land between northern Canada and Greenland, and three hours later put them on the tarmac at Montréal. Where they sat for 2 full hours while the flight crew tried to find a way to purchase more fuel. Then another 7 hours to CPH, and a scramble for the last flight to Alborg. When they arrived at my inlaws’, it was nearly 1am local time and Ben woke up, ready for action.
So, what would I do with all this time alone? MD appointments, ultrasound peeks at Little one, hosting friends from Spain, and sleep. A much more active social calendar, with dinner invitations and no curfew, save what my energy might permit. The photos of the perfect vacation only began trickling in yesterday, my little boy decorating a Danish kageman, climbing the dunes at Rubjerg Knude, and eating butter cookies with chocolate filling. H sounds soft and happy, tired, a little sad that we are apart on his birthday and our Danish wedding anniversary. (For the latter, it’s an echo chamber we made together.)

But in spite of all this, it’s been wonderful to make visits and share meals, just like in the old days, before motherhood, before west coast exile, when stories and laughter were the draw.

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Filed under autonomy, Friends, friendship, independence, Motherhood, women