Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Show and Tell

I don't get much chance to watch sunsets lately...they tend to happen during a busy part of my day. However, the other week I was able to capture this one.

Click to enlarge - as an added bonus, you can see our sage which is attempting to take over the earth in the lower left hand corner...

Now that the sun has set, head on over to Mel's to see what everyone else is showing

Monday, August 3, 2009

Au Naturelle Part III

My final thoughts on the natural vs the artificial are in relation to childbirth. Obviously, if you’ve read Part II, you know that I was unable to maintain a pregnancy naturally. I also had a c-section to deliver my daughter. To rehash my birth experience, my water started breaking on Monday morning. I’m fairly certain it had been leaking a little all weekend, but on Monday, there was a definite amount of fluid. I called the doctor around 10 am. I wandered in to labor and delivery at 1 pm – at which point the rest of my amniotic fluid decided to make an exit. I had no contractions. Little feet were still lodged firmly in my ribcage (I would go so far as to say little toes were wrapped around my ribs). I was at exactly 40 weeks. They gave me pitocin. Every hour they would come and adjust it because I didn’t have any consistent contractions. My husband was kind enough to read off the monitors that I was all over the place. After 8 hours of pitocin, I got my epidural, and I was a very happy girl. After 16 hours of pitocin, I had dilated to 7 cm. Actually, after about 11 hours, I dilated to 7 and never moved from there. At 7 am, my doctor called to suggest that maybe we should start thinking about c-section, due to the risk of infection. At 9 am, when nothing had changed, he said I could wait more, if I chose, but given that I wasn’t making any progress, I would probably end up with a c-section anyway. I told him that I was not opposed to the idea. At 11:45 am, my daughter was finally pulled out. I’m on the petite side, and I had an almost 8 lb baby. The doctor who did the surgery said that there was no way she would have made it through my pelvis regardless.

I’ve seen a number of posts in relation to the natural childbirth vs unnatural childbirth (so to speak). Frequently, the posts are in response to articles or comment trolls. I don’t really understand why any woman would condemn another woman’s birth experience. I can only conclude that it’s due to either ignorance or an attitude problem.

I admire women who can consider all of the risks of childbirth and decide that the best decision for them is to make it through without help. I also think they’re a little on the foolish side. While women have been having babies without medical intervention for centuries, women were also dying in childbirth and having their children die too. So, my view is always better safe than sorry. And, better less pain than more pain. But in the interests of fairness, I will try to consider all sides of the issue.

Natural Childbirth (i.e. unmedicated and possibly unassisted):

The woman has the control as opposed to the doctor. She decides all the
factors – how to position herself, when to move, when to push, when to hold

The woman has the power. She can have assistance or not. She can have a
doctor, a midwife, a doula, family, friends, neighbors, innocent bystanders…
or not.

The woman (supposedly – I have no experience here) gets an endorphin rush.

The woman is in better shape to care for her newborn immediately after birth.

Minor emergencies can become critical issues very quickly, and, depending on
the locale of choice (home birth, birthing center), response may be delayed.

Medicated Vaginal Delivery

The medical staff has more control. This can be a downside, depending on
how much you trust your doctor and nurse(s).

Movement is limited once you’re connected to IV’s

Sensation is reduced. Pain reduction allows for greater endurance, which
may be beneficial for long labors.

Recovery is still relatively quick.

In the event of an emergency, I believe that having an epidural already in
place means that general anesthesia is not necessary. General anesthesia is
something definitely to be avoided if possible, as it can effect the baby’s


The mother has ceded complete control to anyone and everyone.

Movement? Who needs to move?

In the case of a scheduled c-section, it’s a very short process. Check in,
wait, get prepped, wait, 15 minute surgery, Baby!

Pain is minimal during, but serious after. However, you do get the good
drugs. Recovery is much longer.

Emergency? That’s generally why you’re having your first c-section anyway!

I know enough women with children that I am pretty sure they’ve covered the entire spectrum of how to have a baby. The point is that there is no right way to do it. There is only what’s right for you at that particular time. I know in the ALI community, there are probably two main camps – the My Body Has Failed Me Before, But It Better Work This Time camp who chooses natural childbirth, and the I Don’t Trust My Body To Do Anything Right camp who just follows the doctor’s recommendations. I think everyone should belong to the I Would Prefer To Do It This Way But If It Doesn’t Work Out, So Be It camp. Be flexible, adjust as needed, and don’t be disappointed if your plan doesn’t work. Because really, the women who have vaginal deliveries, whether medicated or unmedicated, have less control than they think.

Here are some factors that can’t be controlled and are not usually considered:

Anatomy – do you know how wide the opening in your pelvis is? External
shape is no indication – therefore, your childbearing hips do not indicate a
wide pelvic opening, and your narrow hips do not mean you need a c-section.
Do you know how big your baby’s head is? Do you know how much the skull can
compress? How about the shoulders?

Biology – is your body producing the right hormones to make birth possible?
Will your uterus and cervix respond to hormonal cues? (I think, for me the
answers to these two questions were no and no)

Chance – where is that pesky umbilical cord, anyway? (free floating, around
the neck, over the head, wound round the toes, who knows?) How about that
placenta, where did it get to? Was anyone doing somersaults in the last few

Sure, every woman should be able to have an unassisted, unmedicated “natural” delivery. Of course, every woman should also be able to get pregnant easily enough and carry a baby to term. And, every woman with the right skills, knowledge and experience should make the same amount of money as a man in a similar position. But we know that life doesn’t quite work out that way.

Personally, I think the “natural” way is overrated. I like my modern conveniences. I’m not fond of my c-section scar, but I like it better than having a whole new anatomical landscape in the nether regions, if you know what I mean. I like having bladder control. I don’t like pain – I can live through it, but if someone offers me relief from it, I will definitely take it. What I will not do is judge someone for choosing differently than me (OK, unless I already don’t like them – then all bets are off).

My final thoughts: If you’re going to vilify someone for choosing a birth option other than unmedicated vaginal delivery, then I don’t expect to see you in the emergency room if you break your leg. Just get a couple of tree limbs and some rope. I don’t want to see you getting cancer treatments or bypass surgery – that sort of thing is definitely not natural.

Any way that a new baby comes into this world is a miracle, and no one should try to diminish that.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Au Naturelle Part II

I used to be a member of the American Chemical Society. Sometime in the mid-90s, it became apparent that "chemicals" had become a dirty word. This may be attributed to major awards from lawsuits, the advent of environmentalism, or even pop culture (movies such as Erin Brokovich or A Civil Action). The American Chemical Society helped devise ad campaigns to try to address the fact that chemicals are necessary to modern life. You've probably seen the Essential To... ads or the ads where all the plastics that are used in modern life melt away.

I realize that "chemicals" is just an easy way to refer to substances which may be harmful. I know it's just semantics, but I really object to this overgeneralization. Merriam Webster defines a chemical as "a substance obtained by a chemical process or producing a chemical effect." By that definition, almost anything you use is a chemical - from your food (chemical reactions produced by heat when you cook change the flavor) to your clothing to your carpet to your car. With chemicals so prevalent in everything that we do, connotatively equating "chemical" with "toxic" is quite a dramatic overstatement.

Much of the negative focus on chemicals relates to contaminants and pollutants from industry. Some of that negativity is even justified. The thing to remember about chemicals is that they have provided many improvements to life. From vaccines to make-up, where would we be without them? Without chemicals, I wouldn't have my daughter - drugs to suppress my immune response to pregnancy were the only thing that allowed her to survive the toxic environment that is my body.

The pharmaceutical industry is definitely chemically driven. While there are natural remedies to ailments, the refinements that science has given those remedies have enhanced the benefits. Unfortunately, the pharmaceutical industry is also profit driven, meaning that the more people there are who will benefit from a treatment the more likely research in that area will be pursued. The fact that drugs are subjected to major regulation here in the US and must undergo clinical trials is a benefit to consumers. However, covering all the possibilities in terms of side effects and negative interactions with people's systems is virtually impossible.

I've read blogs of many people who have mental health disorders who must undergo years of experimentation in order to find the proper combination of medications in order to make their lives more peaceful. I'm not sure what the solution to this is, since brain chemistry is so personal. I guess all that can be asked is for doctors to work as hard as they can to help their patients, and that pharmaceutical companies continue to conduct research in this area.

I also recently read a post about someone's bad experiences with birth control pills. Apparently, one of the side effects for this person was depression. She was suggesting, based on that experience, that no one should use birth control pills. I think it's a mistake to extrapolate personal experiences to the general public. Let me give an example. Splenda is a "natural" sugar substitute - calorie free, similar in sweetness to regular sugar. It is the ultimate replacement for aspartame or saccharine, because it is an actual sugar, rather than an artificial sweetener. However, for me, Splenda gives me headaches. Whatever particular combination of methyl groups and the hydroxyl group that makes up the sugar that is sucralose does not mesh well with my system. However, I do not go around telling people that it is poisonous because it gives me headaches. It is not a poison - it just disagrees with my system. Word of mouth is important to relay information about dangerous side effects, but it can easily slide into fear-mongering if you don't carefully consider your words.

As with everything, be your own advocate when it comes to pharmaceuticals. Read the package inserts, or ask your doctor or pharmacist about side effects. Pay attention to your system when you take a new drug. As another example, I once took a common antibiotic to treat a potential eye infection. Within a few days, I had developed a small, bumpy rash on my wrist. I showed it to my doctor, who told me it looked like poison ivy. I told him it wasn't poison ivy. He assured me that I must have come into contact with it, but didn't realize. I assured him that it wasn't poison ivy because I DIDN'T GO OUTSIDE (due to whatever eye problem I had, I could barely open my eyes in any kind of light, and sunlight was extremely painful). He finally just told me to see a dermatologist. By this time, it had been determined that the eye problem was actually an allergy, so the doctor prescribed steroid eye drops. When I went to see the dermatologist, he also prescribed steroids, even though I noted that I was already taking some. (I opted not to add an additional steroid to my system.)

I also find it amusing that after 9-11, biological agents became the newest form of attack, however, biological did not assume the same negative connotation that chemical has. Anthrax, sarin - both are derived from natural sources, with little processing. Other plant materials, such as tobacco or marijuana, are not exactly healthy. (Aside: Are any of the people who vilify tobacco smoking the same ones campaigning for legalized marijuana? Because, somehow, I doubt marijuana makes you immune to lung cancer.) Psilocybin and mescaline are both naturally occuring hallucinogens - are they really any better for you than PCP or LSD? I don't know much about Eastern medicine. Much of the philosophy behind it seems simplistic to me, and I hesitate to ingest anything when I don't know what's in it. Since I haven't tried it, I won't knock it; but, I'll probably take ibuprofen over herbal supplements any day.

I would like to see chemical become connotatively neutral, instead of negative. There are dangerous chemicals, to be sure, but even those sometimes play a part in forming compounds that are ultimately beneficial.

Part III: The controversial world of child bearing