Why I’m Having A Home Birth

Warning: Long post, and medical/ birth jargon ahead.

I’ve been thinking about how to write this post for months, and I’m still not quite sure I’m going to get it right. So here goes: In about two months, my husband and I will hopefully be welcoming a baby girl into our family. We’re choosing to do this via a home birth (versus in a hospital).

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31 Weeks

This past week was execrable. Third trimester is going okay, except I think the hormone floods are wreaking havoc on my emotions and causing some interesting mood swings (bursting into tears as you fold your laundry for no apparent reason would generally be categorized as a mood swing, yes?) Work was stressful, J. had a stressful job interview, I was exhausted, chores seemed to loom larger than usual, our cats are fighting constantly and making our lives a living hell, and oh yeah, on Thursday morning — right as J. had to leave for a doctor’s appointment — I discovered that his cat (note how I don’t say “our” cat) had peed all over my purse and its contents, including my wallet, work I.D. badge, checkbook, and miscellanea. It was a total loss, so I just threw away the purse and wallet and tried to get rid of the smells by running my credit cards under hot water before I had to get out the door. At least my phone and tablet weren’t in it. BTW, it’s the second purse she’s ruined in 18 months, and that wallet was one of the few possessions I’ve had since 2003 that I haven’t lost or trashed or had stolen. I bought it when I was in Bologna, Italy for a few days and losing it to cat disaster had me weirdly emotional for a bit.

All this, and I started feeling really woozy and getting heart palpitations, feeling like my blood was pumping REALLY LOUDLY throughout the day, but a call to my midwife reassured me that it’s totally normal because of all the new blood I’ve got circulating (30-40% extra compared to pre-pregnancy, which, if you stop to think about it, is kind of gross in a sci-fi way).

And my job, man! It’s normally really pleasant and tolerable, but these past several weeks have been filled with pointless meetings, and me being bombarded with phone calls, e-mails and guest appearances of the one co-worker that I truly can’t stand (who thinks he’s my boss but is in fact no such thing nor anything close to it). On Friday things calmed down and I no longer felt like my head was spinning.

My due date is in 2 months, which can’t be right, can it? We still have so much to do, like: Learn How to Take Care of a Baby, and Set Up A Nursery. Here’s to calmer days ahead.

Spirited Away

I did something for you, dear readers. I booked and took flights on Spirit Air so that I could come back and give you an unbiased opinion as to whether it’s ever worth flying them. Spoiler alert: Never. No. NOT. Don’t ever, EVER give this airline your money. Don’t. Won’t. Shouldn’t. Shouldn’t have.

You’ve probably heard about Spirit’s awful reputation by now, but I had to see for myself. We flew to Dallas over Labor Day to to get family-reunited and birthday-celebrated and baby-showered.  Normally I fly one of the big legacy carriers to DFW (American, Delta or United/Continental), but this time Spirit popped up in my ticket searches and their tickets were stupidly cheap. Their business model is simple: undercut all other airlines by an obscene margin, take airports’ cheapest, least-reliable gates (that would otherwise go unused), target customers that would otherwise be taking Greyhound buses (not flying), assess gigantic fees on everything from bags to drinks to seat reservations (!), treat said customers like dirt, PROFIT.

The true brilliance of this model lies in the hundreds of thousands of chumps just like me who looked at the ticket prices and said, “Huh, it can’t be that bad, can it? It’s just a few hours in the air, and I’ll save so much money!”

In the end, you might save money, once you take into account all the fees. But you will definitely lose your mind and want to cry. Spirit was the only flight I’ve ever taken where police had to escort passengers off the plane for a verbal altercation that had happened between some parents of screaming children and the, uh, not-too-understanding young gentlemen who sat in front of them. But they only removed the parents and the kids, not the guys who threatened the family and the flight attendant! So that was strike 1. I’m all for removing problem passengers, but be fair about it.

And then there were the old-as-shit planes with tiny busted seats, the total lack of refreshments (literally, they charge you $3 for a cup of water, and by the way did I mention how delightful it is to be 7 months pregnant and dehydrated on a red-eye flight?) On the day we were to fly back to Portland, their website wasn’t working, so we couldn’t print our boarding passes. We got to the airport and the Spirit area was so chaotic that when I got to a kiosk to print out the passes, it told me I’d missed a cutoff to do so, and would have to pay $5 a pop to get them at the front desk. I mean, WHAT THE WHAT? Luckily, the front desk lady was either exhausted or incompetent or both and didn’t charge us.

Spirit requires you to pay $13-16 per person, per flight to reserve an actual seat; otherwise they’re randomly assigned when you check in, with no guarantee that you sit next to your traveling companion. She assigned us a few seats and they weren’t together. When I asked if they could be, I think she took pity on my pregnant ass and re-did the seating so we could sit together.

And then the flight was 2 hours late, with no notifications on the monitors or by the gate staff. They did hustle us between 2 gates several times, though.

I have friends who have told worse tales about being trapped on the runway for hours, having flights delayed or canceled with no notice, totally clueless flight crews and gate staff, refund hell, and more.

Let my experience be a cautionary tale to you: It isn’t worth it. It just isn’t. I saw the fares that were 40-50% below all the other airlines and I was seduced! Don’t you make the same mistake! You’ll pay that 40-50%, just in insane fees and time and hassle instead.

Post-Adulthood

I guess I’ve been an adult for awhile now, whether the criteria is legal (18+) or emotional temperament (I’ve been getting a good night’s sleep for years). But the baby-prep process has thrown me into this strange netherworld where it often feels like all my time outside work is about doing adult-like things. The moment when I really felt like I had achieved Peak Adulthood was when I found myself researching 529 plans for my unborn daughter. This kid isn’t even born yet and I’m still paying my own student loans and I’m already planning for her college expenses which won’t even be incurred for another 19 years.

Researching and touring day cares, monthly midwife appointments, working with an agent to buy life insurance (a nightmare I should detail in a separate post), trying to chase down rent from our new tenant, hiring a doula, procuring items for the baby, mustering up the will to finally get our cars titled/registered/licensed in Oregon (next week, I swear!), not to mention the usual laundry/cooking/grocery shopping/cleaning chores. DAMN, so this is adulthood. It’s exhausting and annoying.

The worst part is, so much of the stuff I listed above has forced us to use the phone and make actual calls, which is an affront to my generation. Wake me up when literally everything I could ever need to do, buy, research or handle is online.

Placebo Medicine

This just in! Hippie shit works wonders to reduce excruciating back pain! In the past 5 days I got a massage, had a chiropractic session, and went to acupuncture. I can’t pinpoint whether one of these sessions was responsible, but overall my back pain is much improved since last week. No more sciatica and walking around is no longer hugely painful.

A few thoughts on so-called “alternative medicine”:

  • A number of studies show that certain types of alternative medicine can be effective in treating certain intractable physical and mental conditions. However, many of these studies also show that the placebo effect might be in play.
  • The placebo effect is perhaps the strongest and best-tested hypothesis in modern medicine. Recent studies have shown the placebo effect to be even stronger when the patient had to pay more for a placebo. Maybe the placebo effect works best when the patient not only wants to believe that the medicine/treatment/etc will work, but when he or she is heavily invested (time, money) in that outcome.
  • People who routinely denigrate complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) or “Eastern” approaches to health care treatment would do well to learn a little bit more about how much of Western medicine is not evidence-basednot well-vetted, ineffective, and sometimes downright dangerousHint: It is a lot, though we don’t know exactly how much. This is particularly true for conditions that still do not have well-defined physiological origins, i.e. low back pain or chronic headaches.
  • Even if you don’t “believe” in CAM or mind-body approaches, you might try them anyway if nothing else seems to be working for a given complaint or condition you have. Just make sure that you a) want to feel better and b) pay a decent amount of money.
  • Homeopathy is still bullshit.

Now go feel better.

Trente Ans

I turn 30 on Friday and I can’t goddamn wait. No, for real. My 20s were good to me and for me but I’m ready to ascend to the next level in the video game of life. I am grateful, in a weird way, for all of experiences I had in my twenties that helped make me who I am today, like:

  • Graduating college
  • Living in Paris for a year
  • My first real, long-term relationship, which was mostly a disaster but taught me oh-so-many important things
  • Moving about a million times (builds character!)
  • Finally settling in Portland (found my home)
  • Making a lot of friends and losing or letting go of a few
  • Grad school? I’m glad to have gone, I guess.
  • Adopting a cat that, it is universally agreed, is pretty much the best cat ever
  • Getting my career, such as it is, off to a pretty solid start
  • Awful awful awful stupid stupid stupid dating and hook-ups that made me truly appreciate a) being alone (which I was, for most of my 20s) and b) finding the right person
  • Finding a wonderful partner and marrying the crap out of that guy
  • Growing a baby

I’ve also gotten older, wiser, a little healthier, a little mellower, and a lot happier overall. Getting drunk no longer really appeals to me. Going out just because I’m afraid of “missing something” is a thing of the past. Having a squishy baby and a fat 401(k) account and an occasional really nice bottle of wine are more my speed, and my risk-averse ass ain’t gonna apologize.

Here’s to my 4th decade.

Pain, Pain, I Know Your Name

Well, that was fun while it lasted. (My relatively easy, healthy pregnancy, that is).  I’ve been hit with low back pain since second trimester, and it seems to have morphed into sciatica, which sounds like a scary skin disease but is something much worse. Basically, the baby positions herself in some ungodly way that presses down on the sciatic nerve, and the result is pain, pain, and additional pain — mostly in the low back but shooting down my leg occasionally. Fun times!

It’s not that bad — it only hurts when I sit, stand, lay down, shift positions, walk, or move. And there apparently isn’t a lot to be done. Preggos can’t take any of the good drugs, so occasional Tylenol and frequent grimaces are my only coping mechanisms.

Honestly, it could be worse. But I’m now realizing that certain ideas I had to address this, like yoga, were disastrously wrong-headed. Yoga’s fine if I only do “standing” poses, but the second I sit Indian-style or lay down, I’m in searing pain. So no more of that for awhile. Over the next week I plan to shell out a lot of money to treat this or engage the placebo effect, or both. Pregnancy massage today, chiropractor Monday, and acupuncture Tuesday. (For the record, I’ve never been to a chiropractor, but desperation and all that…)

The worst part is the fear that, although pregnancy-related sciatica is totally normal and typically goes away once the baby’s born, I might have this back pain for-ev-ever, and ever. I realize I’m aging and all that, but I just don’t want to be a 50 year-old chainsmoking invalid addicted to Oxycontin, you know? If nothing else, this episode has been a nice reminder that I’ve been extraordinarily lucky to be so healthy my whole life. I will never again take that, and sleeping on my stomach, for granted again.

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