Things Not To Do: Fiction Writing Edition

Well, I was really hoping to write a nice long post for the What I’m Reading series at Modern Mrs. Darcy, where Anne and her readers talk about the books they’ve read recently, on the 15th of each month.  I’ve read a whole lot of new-to-me books this year, because having viral bronchitis for the entire month of January, then having a new baby in May and doing lots of breastfeeding, gave me plenty of time for reading–and it seems that a new baby makes me want to read books I haven’t read before.  But now that I’m back to work at my full-time job, as well as taking care of my baby and 9-year-old when I’m at home, I don’t have a lot of time for writing!  Maybe next month…

Meanwhile, I’m going to rant about two things that happen far too often in the novels I read.  (I won’t rat out specific books, though, because both of these are late-in-the-plot twists, thus spoilers.)  If you are an aspiring author, please avoid these irritating cliches! Read more…

The Towel Pull: A Helpful Childbirth Technique

Our daughter Lydia is now ten days old! She had a nice natural birth at the Midwife Center. The most difficult part was getting her head out, and for that I used a technique that also was very effective at that stage in the birth of our son nine years ago. Both times, one of the nurses was familiar with this technique while the other birth attendants were not–so I am spreading the word!

It’s called the Towel Pull or Tug of War. You, the mother, hold onto one end of a towel twisted the long way to form a sort of rope. Someone else holds the other end, or you tie it around a bar over the bed if there is one. You rest lying on your back with knees bent. When a contraction comes, you pull on the towel, curl your back forward, and pull your knees back and apart as far as you can, so you are making a C shape curved around your uterus.

It sounds like a lot of extra effort that could divert your energy from pushing. It sounds like ridiculous gymnastics. But it really works!

Read more…

Why we didn’t have a Gender Reveal Party

This post is not meant to criticize parents who make different decisions, just to explain our point of view.

“Do you know what you’re having?”  I am in my last month of pregnancy, and oh, how tired I am of that strangely-phrased question!  I just smile and say, “It’s a baby!”  Of course that doesn’t stop the interrogation, because what people want to know is whether it’s a boy or a girl.  The more reasonable way to ask this question, in my opinion, is, “Did you find out the sex?”

This time around, my answer to that question is a bit more complicated than it was in my first pregnancy, when we did not know our baby was a boy until he was born.  My policy is still the same: If I am having testing for medical reasons that also happens to reveal the sex of the baby, then I want to know what it says.  I don’t like the idea of hospital personnel knowing when I don’t.  But I would not have a test primarily so that we can know the sex before birth.  In my first pregnancy, the only medically indicated ultrasound was too early to tell the sex.  I did not have any further testing because there was no reason to think anything was wrong.  This time, because I’m 40 and therefore at higher risk of some birth defects, I decided to have a 20-week ultrasound and non-invasive genetic testing.  So we know the sex, but we’re keeping it a secret from most people.  Some people like the suspense, and others are badgering us, hoping to get us to slip up. :eyesroll

Why not find out, and why not tell everyone when we know? Read more…

Wearing a stretchy tummy band instead of maternity pants: A review

Soon after my first pregnancy, it became fashionable to wear a top over another top that is longer and sticks out at the bottom. Soon after that, I heard about a garment called the Bella Band that is simply a wide band of stretchy fabric worn around the abdominal area, such that it looks like a longer undershirt but serves the function of holding up one’s unzipped pants. This innovation enables expectant mothers to continue wearing pants that no longer zip over the expanding tummy. I saw several bloggers raving about it, and it sounded plausible to me.

Ten weeks into my current pregnancy, my jeans–which are high-waisted and relatively close-fitting on my non-pregnant body–could still zip but gave me a feeling of pressure that really bothered my queasy stomach, especially right after a meal. However, when I tried on my old maternity pants, they were too loose. I went looking for one of these stretchy bands.

The brand I bought is the Tummy Sleeve, sold at Motherhood Maternity stores. It was $17, which seemed a bit steep. (However, the store gave me a free baby bottle and a packet of really good coupons!) It is made of nylon spandex and available in several colors.

I wore it every day for 7 weeks. Then I started wearing my slimmest maternity pants some days and the band on other days, for a few weeks before I began wearing maternity pants all the time. At 24 weeks, I can still get into my jeans with the band, if I want to. It looks like this:

Read more…

Planning, Parenting, and Perfection

Welcome to the December 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: The More Things Change . . .

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and wisdom about life changes.


As a teenager, I went through several phases when I spent a lot of time daydreaming about my adult life.  I “planned” which neighborhoods I would live in at each stage, chose homes from architecture books and decided where I would put all the furniture, and selected names and birthdates for my child(ren) and their father(s).  Some of the details changed as I experimented with different possible futures–one child or two? Would I really be happy with just one man for decades?–but I was certain about a few things: I would become an architect, I would live in New York City, and I would give birth to a daughter within a few months of my 30th birthday.

Why 30?  Well, my parents are 30 calendar years older than I am and 30 years ahead in school, and that’s really neat!  It’s always been easy to figure out how old my parents are now, what year they were my age, and when they were in which grade.  It just feels right.  Also, 30 seemed to be a good age for parenthood: old enough to have experienced some adult adventures without kids, young enough to enjoy plenty of adventures with kids.

I was 20 when I admitted that I could not become an architect.  I changed my major to psychology, finished college, worked at a few assorted jobs, and eventually became the data manager of a social science research study–a career I’d never heard of when I was in high school that turns out to be very well suited to me.  Meanwhile, I’d decided not to move to New York, because I really love Pittsburgh–a city I’d never even considered visiting until Carnegie Mellon University sent me a recruiting brochure.

So I’d totally failed to meet my goals for my twenties, but I was very happy.  Also, oddly enough, I’d managed to do something that my cynical, depressed ninth-grade self had discarded as a dream too painfully impossible even to think about: I had found That Guy with the red curly hair and the beard who actually loved me in all my weirdness and understood and agreed about the kind of relationship I wanted to have with a man!  Daniel isn’t always in every way exactly what I wanted, but he’s much, much closer than I thought I would ever find.

We started trying to conceive shortly after I turned 29.  I knew that, with my long and irregular cycles, it would probably take several months to get pregnant, but that was perfect: I would be 30 when our baby was born!  It was all working out just as I’d planned!

But it didn’t.  Months passed, and I got more and more agitated about tracking everything precisely, trying to make my body do what I desperately hoped it could do–what if it couldn’t?  What if I could never be a mother, or if I could do it only with scary technologies that I wasn’t sure were really quite ethical in this crowded world?  I diligently prayed for pregnancy and was rewarded by getting my period on my 30th birthday–gee, thanks a lot, God!  I got more and more bitter and desperate.  Finally we started getting the tests to determine just how infertile we were, and I gave up on conceiving naturally.

That lasted two months.  Is it because I gave up control, or because the right time just was not quite when I thought it was?  I was 31 years 7 months old when Nicholas was born; he is 32 years behind me in school.  And he’s a boy.

Yet the timing was perfect!  He was conceived on 04-04-04, obviously a lucky day, and then my baby boy emerged into the world on Christmas Eve!  I was joyful and triumphant!  I completely forgave God for all the delay and worry (it took me much longer to admit what a jerk I’d been about it and to forgive myself) and accepted that this was the child who was meant for me, arriving at the right time. Read more…

Easy Fresh Apple Yogurt

I’m finally beginning to feel a lot better and get back into being able to think about food! I’ve actually cooked several meals from scratch, without collapsing, in the last couple of weeks.

One of the oddities of this pregnancy is that I’m sometimes having a hard time with raw apples: Either they give me an acid stomach ache, or they make the back of my tongue sting.  However, our farm share gave us a lot of apples, and local organic apples are among the lowest-priced fruit in stores at this season, so we’ve consistently had apples sitting around the kitchen.  One evening I got inspired to make myself a delicious snack, with protein and calcium and fat to help me stay full overnight, that enables me to eat an apple without problems–and it’s ready before I can get excessively hungry!

To make one serving, you will need:

  • 1 large apple, or 2 small apples
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ginger
  • dash nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. butter or coconut oil
  • 1 tsp. sorghum syrup, honey, or maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt

Remove the apple core and any weird rough sections of peel.  Dice apple into bite-size or smaller chunks.  Place in a microwave-safe, large cereal bowl.  (If you don’t want to use a microwave, you can cook the apple in a small pot on the stove and then put it into your bowl.)

Add all other ingredients except yogurt.

Cover the bowl with a plate or other suitable cover.  Microwave on full power for 1 minute.  Stir thoroughly.  Make sure apples are soft; if not, cook it a bit longer.

Add yogurt.  Mix it in.


Visit the Hearth & Soul Blog Hop for more autumnal recipes!

Tips for Surviving Pregnancy Nausea

I am almost 14 weeks pregnant, due in early May 2014!  I’ve been struggling with nausea since the 5th week, but it’s finally, gradually beginning to abate.  Now that I’ve gotten through this phase of pregnancy two-and-a-half times (my second pregnancy died at 7 weeks; the only good thing about that was ending the queasiness!) I feel qualified to share some advice on how to cope with the horrible experience of feeling sick to your stomach for at least part of every day for two months straight.

Every mother is different.  Every pregnancy is different, even for the same mother; some details of my experience were different each time.  But I hope that my tips will give you at least a few helpful ideas.

The most important thing to know is that almost everything you know about how to react to queasy feelings and vomiting is wrong.  Probably most of your experiences with stomach upheaval have been caused by illnesses or food poisoning.  In those circumstances, you want to get the bad stuff out of your stomach and then leave it empty so it can rest; when you start eating again, you need to choose very simple, quickly digested foods; you shouldn’t eat more of the food that made you sick.  This is all very wise when your queasiness is caused by germs.  But when it’s caused by pregnancy, these behaviors will make it worse or just won’t help.  In fact, when you’re pregnant, a queasy feeling usually means you’re hungry.  It took me weeks to learn this in my first pregnancy, and I didn’t feel hunger that felt like hunger until about the sixth month.

Eat like a hobbit.  Start by putting some kind of nourishment–even if it’s only a few bites–into your mouth every hour while awake.  Within a couple of weeks, you’ll learn at which times of day you can eat larger amounts less frequently.  Develop a routine of frequent meals and snacks, adjusting as you find out what works best for you.  This is my basic routine:

  • First Breakfast.  Eat something before you even get out of bed.  A lot of pregnancy books recommend saltine crackers or pretzels for this purpose.  However, these starchy foods are difficult to eat if your mouth is dry, and in my second and third pregnancies I got a horrible aftertaste from all bread-type foods.  (My mother told me this is an amylase reaction.  I’m apparently just more grossed-out by the sweet taste of it when pregnant.)  Almonds are really good for easy eating in the dark, triggering just enough saliva to help you swallow them, and providing some protein which may settle your stomach better than simple carbs.  I bought organic, steam-pasteurized almonds in bulk at the food co-op.
  • Second Breakfast.  As soon as you get up, eat a smallish portion of an easily digestible food.  My favorites are organic cornflakes with milk, or warmed-up leftover rice with butter and either seaweed sprinkles or nutritional yeast flakes.  (B vitamins, found in both nutritional yeast and seaweed, may help with nausea.)
  • Elevensies.  After you’ve been up and about for a while, eating feels more feasible.  Do not make yourself wait until lunchtime.  Don’t even wait until 11:00 if you feel hungry/queasy earlier!  Try to get in some significant protein and/or fat at this point.  Some days I’ve ended up walking Nicholas to school and then going back home for my “elevensies” at about 8:30 before I go to work.  Some things I like to eat at this point are yogurt, scrambled eggs with toast, or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
  • Lunch.  By this point in the day, I’m usually able to eat much the same kind of thing I would when not pregnant, but I have to be careful not to eat too much at once.  If going out to lunch, bring a container to save leftovers.
  • Tea-time.  Eat at some point during the afternoon.  It’s especially crucial if you work outside the home and go home at dinnertime–and even more crucial if you don’t have a Daniel making dinner ready around the time you get home, like I do–that you don’t ignore late-afternoon hunger thinking you’ll soon be eating dinner.  It’s not “soon” enough when you have an embryo draining away your nutrients!  Especially if there is any delay in getting home, you can get dangerously hungry, and that often leads to throwing up the first thing you eat.  Practice pre-emptive snacking!
  • Dinner.  Like lunch, this should be a normal meal, but don’t over-eat.
  • Nighttime Snack.  I’m often surprised at how quickly my dinner seems to disappear.  Two to three hours later, I can eat another full meal!  This should be something nourishing, not dessert.  If you do feel like eating sweets, also eat some protein that will digest more slowly.  This prevents you from running out of calories so completely during the night.

– Read more…>

How our thrifty, green lifestyle makes it easier to cut ourselves some slack

Longtime readers may have noticed that I haven’t written much lately and didn’t write an article about what I learned during Lent like I have most years.  Well, that’s because this year, I was pregnant for Lent.  No, of course that wasn’t the Lenten discipline I planned!  It was a surprise (not a mistake–we all were happy about it) and I fully intended to continue with it through November, but on Maundy Thursday my ultrasound showed that the embryo might be dead, and 12 days later it was confirmed a few hours before a Tuesday church potluck.  In future I am going to try to schedule all possibly-worrisome medical procedures for days when I can go to church in the evening, because that “peace of God that passes all understanding” that we’re always talking about was really there for me, and my pastors and church friends (as well as my family and other friends) have been so loving and caring!  I’m really pretty much okay now, so let’s get on to the real topic of this article:

For 4 weeks, I was not functioning normally.  Read more…

Important Information on Blood Types of Parents and Children

There are two important facts about the blood types of parents and their children that are not widely known.  One of them caused an unexpected health problem in my family, and the other could have caused a much more serious problem but didn’t.

Please read the facts in red text, and click on the red links and read the information there, before asking questions in the comments.  I am not a doctor or any kind of expert on blood types, just an ordinary person who wrote an article to publicize information that I felt was not clearly enough presented to the general population.

UPDATE: Since I posted this article, I’ve seen that many of the people who read it are looking for information about which blood types can have children together.  Aside from rare mutations, a woman of any blood type and a man of any blood type can have a healthy baby together.

If the mother’s and father’s blood types are the same, this does NOT harm the baby.

In repeated Internet searches over three years, I have never found any report of any problem caused by parents having the same blood type–I have only seen people worrying about this possibility.  There is no reason to worry! If you want to know what blood type your baby might have, or if you are wondering how your blood type can be different from your parent’s, look at these handy tables. Now, back to our story!

No, I’m not talking about Rh factor.  The issue of “positive” vs. “negative” blood and how it affects pregnancy is well-known and mentioned in most books about pregnancy.  Here is a typical article about Rh factor.  Notice how it mentions antigens–the “letter” aspect of blood type, A, B, AB, or O–but then moves on, as if antigens aren’t important. What most people know about antigens is that they are important if you are receiving a blood transfusion.  Putting blood with A antigens into your body, if your own blood does not have A antigens (Type A or AB), will cause an immune response that can kill you.  The same is true for B antigens.  If you are Type O, both A’s and B’s are dangerous, so you should not receive a transfusion of any type other than O.  It is pretty quick and easy for medical professionals to determine a person’s blood type, so we don’t need to worry a whole lot about being given the wrong kind of blood, but just in case, it’s a good idea to know your blood type. These are the two things I didn’t know until after the point when it would have been medically useful to know them: Read more…

Are you pregnant and dizzy?

[UPDATE: Editing this article to fix a link, I cannot prevent it from being re-publicized on Linked In, so I want to reassure readers that at this time (February 2014) I am pregnant.  Dizziness and low blood pressure have been less of a problem for me this time around, probably because I followed my own advice from the beginning this time!]

I’m not–but when I was pregnant, I was dizzy much of the time.  At every prenatal check-up, my blood pressure was lower than the time before, and I have lower-than-average blood pressure normally.

My midwife was unconcerned, and all the pregnancy books agreed that it’s high blood pressure that is dangerous.  Some of the books confirmed that my dizziness was caused by low blood pressure and explained that the low blood pressure was caused by my body making the placenta and transferring water to the baby and thus spreading my fluids through a larger circulatory system than before–but they didn’t tell me what to do about it!  My midwife kept saying that all I needed to do was be grateful that baby and I were in no danger.

In the fifth month, I began to have spells when my vision would go black, my ears would ring so that I could hardly hear, and sometimes I’d completely lose consciousness for a few seconds. That seemed dangerous to me! Read more…

My Secret Journey

This is just a little story from my life.  I can’t think of a good reason to post it, except that it keeps tugging on the corner of my mind and wanting to be told.  I hope that somehow, it makes a difference to somebody.

Pregnancy made me very sick.  The nausea hit suddenly on the first day of Week 4, and for the next two months the yucky taste in my mouth went away for only a few minutes after eating or brushing my teeth, and I vomited several times a week, sometimes several times a day.  All the rules I’d ever learned about how to behave when nauseated were wrong.  I felt weak and shaky a lot of the time.  I was so tired that sometimes I’d lie down a moment to stop a dizzy spell and then awaken hours later.  I spent an entire day during Week 7 thinking about sitting up for a sip of water from the glass on the bedside table. Read more…