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Friday, January 15, 2010

A song in which to weep

So, in an effort to make myself update this poor little blog a little more often, I decided to introduce a Feature! Once a week or so, probably on Fridays, I'm going to pick out a song I like and post it here so you all can like it too. I'm going to do this via YouTube videos, because that way I don't have to worry about file storage or bandwidth, and you don't have to go to the trouble of downloading anything. If you like the song, you can obtain it via the method of your choice, and everybody wins!

The introductory song is "The Weeping Song" by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Two summers ago, Mr. Canuck and I went on a road trip to upstate New York, and while we were on the road he decided it was high time I got acquainted with this fine band. I'm still not sure how I feel about them in general (I find Nick Cave about equal parts fascinating and terrifying, if we're being honest here) but there are a few songs that I really love, and this is the best of them.

So give it a shot and see what you think. The video is ridiculous, don't pay any attention to that, but the song itself is fantastic. Ominous piano lines, complicated percussion, slightly creepy vocals, and most of all the syncopated handclaps, which (I am not even kidding here) make the song. Happy Friday!

Friday, January 8, 2010

(I've already posted it elsewhere, but I think it's important so it's going here too. My apologies if you've seen it before.)

The Cancer Chick is dying.

For those of you going What? Who? which is probably all of you, the Cancer Chick is Mary Herczog, a writer in L.A. who is dealing with her third round of metastasized breast cancer. One of the sections on her website is what she calls the Merry Maladies, which are the emails she sends around to her friends to update them on how she's doing. I highly recommend reading them. She is hilarious and positive and cheerful, and the kind of person you wish you could be friends with. Even though this episode of cancer just refused to go away (she referred to it as Cancer: The Extended Dance Remix), she never lost her optimism. I've been rooting for her for about two years now.

And now her doctor has told her that there is nothing more he can do, and all that's left is to wait for the inevitable. And I am sitting here crying for a complete stranger, because it is so unfair that this wonderful woman should have to die because there is nothing left that modern medicine can do for her.

So I am taking this opportunity to plug The Breast Cancer Site. Go there every day and click their little pink button, and their sponsors will donate money to ensure that uninsured and low-income women can get mammograms. There are lots of other good causes linked to that site as well, so I'm sure you'll find something that floats your boat. Go and click. It will do the world some good, and perhaps prevent a few future Cancer Chicks from experiencing what Mary has.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Baby, you can drive my car

O Faithful Readers (all three of you), I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to Mr. Canuck. There are two important points you should know about him:

1. He is a banker and wears suits and ties to work. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of literature and classical music, especially opera. He votes Conservative.

2. When he was in college, he crowd-surfed in the mosh pit at a Nine Inch Nails concert and someone bit him.

I adore this man.

And one of the many reasons I adore him is because he is very open-minded and is always willing to consider new ideas, even if they seem wacky at first. Ages ago, when I first brought up the idea of having a home birth with a midwife rather than a hospital birth with an obstetrician, he was extremely skeptical, to say the least. But we both researched the topic pretty extensively and thought about it quite a lot, and now we're both convinced that this is the way we want to go.

Now, home birth has gotten quite a lot of bad publicity, but that is (as usual) due to the crazy minority rather than what actually tends to happen. I am absolutely not planning an unassisted birth, or "freebirth." In my opinion, that is nuts. Yes, giving birth is what women's bodies were made to do. Yes, plenty of women around the world give birth unassisted every day. But you know what? A LOT OF THEM DIE. I think it is naive at best and downright insulting at worst for women in the first world to compare themselves to third-world women who have no other choice. And I think that deliberately choosing to give birth with only self-administered prenatal care and no professionals of any kind in attendance is child endangerment. There, I said it.

So I'm not doing that. The other thing I am not doing is hiring an unlicensed, self-trained midwife. I am lucky enough to live in a country, and in a province of that country, where midwifery is not only strictly regulated but is covered by the provincial health care plan, including home births. It's downright mainstream! Practically.

There are a lot of reasons why I chose to go this route. Mostly it was because the very idea of a medicalized birth in a hospital scares the bejesus out of me. From what I've learned through reading and talking to women who have done it, it seems to be just a slippery slope of one intervention after another. You go into it expecting to have a natural birth, but the OB decides that labor isn't progressing fast enough so they put you on Pitocin. This makes the contractions so powerful that you can't stand it anymore, so you get an epidural. And so on and so forth until, about 30% of the time, you end up with a C-section. (Those statistics are for the United States, but Canada is similar.)

And besides all that, a hospital is a stressful environment. Nobody likes being in a hospital. It's full of activity and bright lights, you've got people bustling in and out of the room all the time, your actual OB may or may not even be there for the birth, and the nurses might be awesome and supportive or they might be rushed and impatient. Not to mention the high risk of infection that comes with any hospital stay, and having to follow hospital protocols, and getting conflicting advice from the assorted maternity staff. None of that sounds the least bit attractive to me.

Now, I know that it doesn't have to be that way, and quite often isn't. I know that an awful lot of women have had very positive experiences giving birth in a hospital. It's just not what I want to do.

On the other hand, giving birth at home is a very attractive option for me. And the statistics support me on this. Infant and maternal mortality and morbidity rates are both slightly lower for home births than for hospital births. Interventions of any kind are of course drastically reduced, and unnecessary C-sections just plain don't happen.

Being in a calm environment is also important to me. There is some evidence that being in a stressful place like a hospital can actually slow down labor. (I could try to explain the physiological reasons for this, but I wouldn't do a very good job of it, so I won't. Basically it's all down to the autonomic, specifically the sympathetic, nervous system - the "fight or flight" response.) At home, I'm in my own comfort zone, I can wander around and contort myself into whatever weird positions I need to in order to make myself feel better, I can get in the bathtub to relax, I can even have something to eat if I want. Everything can proceed as nature intended it to.

As for safety, I'm not even a little bit worried. We live very close to a major teaching hospital, so should anything go seriously wrong, we can be there in less than thirty minutes, and the midwife will of course have called ahead so they'll be ready for us. And for most situations, she's perfectly capable of taking care of it herself. For example, when Mr. Canuck was born, he had aspirated some amniotic fluid and needed resuscitation to get him breathing. That is something the midwife can do with no trouble at all. Should anything at all happen that is outside her abilities, she can recognize that and call in the big guns.

All this, of course, is assuming that nothing goes wrong during the pregnancy itself. If should develop, say, gestational diabetes or (god forbid) pre-eclampsia, home birth ceases to be an option. It's just not safe, and a good midwife will recognize these conditions and hand me over to an obstetrician.

Of course, there are all kinds of other people out there who can explain this far more convincingly and eloquently than I ever could. Here are a few of the books I've read that got me to this decision:

Your Best Birth by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein
The Doula Guide to Birth by Ananda Lowe and Rachel Zimmerman
Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin

Basically, like all parents, we want what we feel is best for our baby and ourselves. Mr. Canuck and I believe that, given our own personal preferences and beliefs, a home birth is our best option. If something goes off the rails and we end up in the hospital anyway, and even if I end up having a cesarean section, we will know that we did everything we could before that. The main thing is that we come out of this with a healthy baby, and we're convinced that this is the best route for us to take to get there.