Enjoying The Arts With Little V

This week, Little V danced to I Love You For Sentimental Reasons by Nat King Cole, a song I’ve loved since I was a child, and once performed at a close friend’s wedding. We breastfed to Snoop’s Drop It Like It’s Hot, and Nothing Better by the Postal Service. Afterwards, I burped her for a little while to the rhythm of a Strfker song on her back. As I am writing this, we are chilling out to Portions for Foxes by Rilo Kiley and Sprawl II by Arcade Fire, followed by Fake Plastic Trees by Radiohead.

I also read Chinese poetry from the Tang Dynasty to her when doing tummy time, and sometimes follow it up by playing Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptu and Etude Opus 10 No. 3, and Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata. My favorite is Waldstein, but I’ve let that lapse; it required quite a bit more upkeep than Pathetique. I’m just prepping her for her inevitable future in which she will likely play the piano (and/or cello or violin), and definitely memorize Chinese poetry.

At night, when daddy comes home, we’ve been reading Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother together and having a good laugh, though she might not find it as entertaining or funny as we do. I can only hope she will one day love reading as much as I do. Indeed, I’ve taken the hours spent late-night breastfeeding to do some reading. I’ve finished Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl; Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng; Carry On, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse; and am currently reading Dostoevsky’s The Idiot. 

Week 41!

Fetus is still in there, having a grand old time! She is 4 days past due now, and I’ve been having contractions for 3+ days. They are mild to moderate in nature, and not very painful, but enough to be uncomfortable and tiring. They started out spaced quite a bit apart, and progressed to every 30 minutes, then 20, then 10, and even 5, but varies and returns to a rate of every 30 minutes and/or 20 minutes with complete lack of predictability. I can sleep through most of them, but wake up to it 3-4 times a night.

I’ve been lounging a lot, but also doing some walking and yoga stretching. I did do 35 squats with a 20 pound weight after walking a short hill yesterday, but that turned out to be a big mistake because I felt grouchy and tired the rest of the day. Husband has been very patient and nice with massages when I wake up in the morning with a kinked spine and foot massages when we watch TV.

Also had my fair share of pineapple cakes. Bribing Fetus to come on out and join the human world of delicious treats. In fact, she’s been bribed this whole week, with Chinese home cooking, including tomato beef noodle soup, mapo tofu, zha jiang noodles, etc.

I had a doctor’s appointment today, and I’m currently 2 centimeters dilated and 80 percent thinned out, so I guess the last 3 days have not been in vain. The non-stress test results were fine, and the amniotic fluid still looks good, so my doctor did not think it’d be a problem to wait a little longer, though she wanted to have a game plan for potential induction if I went past 41 weeks. Potential induction would involve use of Cytotec, a synthetic prostaglandin. In the meantime, she offered to strip/sweep the membranes, which basically involves insertion of a finger into the opening of the cervix, and moving it around to separate the amniotic sac membranes from the cervix. This causes release of prostaglandins which may speed up labor. However, I did not recall what any of my classes and/or reading material had to say about this procedure, and I was undecided on it, so we held off.

After Husband went to work, I went home to consult some books along with Google. It seemed to me that membrane stripping was relatively benign, with minimal risks, compared with some of the horror stories one of my books seemed to suggest about Cytotec. I really hope to avoid being induced to begin with, and although I think some of the hippie set tend to overstate the risks of Cytotec, both Google and Expecting Better seemed to indicate there’s evidence membrane stripping is relatively safe and and up to 25 percent effective, so I called the doc’s office back to see when I could come in to get it done.

I went in basically as soon as I hung up the phone, and was seen within 5 minutes. The sweep itself lasted probably less than 20 seconds. She literally just poked her finger up in there and swished it around a little. The internet said it could be crampy and uncomfortable, but it was even less so than I imagined. It sort of felt like my bladder was being poked a little, but otherwise was entirely bearable. I felt like contractions began to speed up within the hour (after a pretty slow morning and early afternoon), but who knows if this is coincidence. Stay tuned.

Week 37

Things are escalating quickly. I am waking up 3 times a night to pee (ugh – for about a week now) and Fetus’s movements continue to feel like she’s rearranging my organs, or worse, kicking my spine from time to time. I beg to differ with whoever claims babies move less at this point because they have less space! She has plenty of space and is having a great time in there. It’s like the alien movies where someone’s body has been invaded by an alien and it starts trying to break out of their abdomen and you can see it wriggling and moving and poking underneath the skin.

I’m done with all the reading I intended to do (including Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, heh) and we also finished infant care and breastfeeding classes.  We took a CPR class over the weekend, which is the last thing on the schedule. I sort of feel like I’m cramming for finals here. A lot of the information is not at all intuitive and it’s a marvel what kind of education and learning is required when it seems most other animals can figure all this stuff out by instinct.

Still continuing to exercise:

Monday:  I walked the hill by our old house twice, but had to pee like crazy the entire time. This is not a long exercise, and I went to the bathroom right before we left the house!

Wednesday: Walked the stairs at the beach 5x, did 3 sets of 24 lunges, and a couple of wall sits. My knees are irritated at me so I might cool it on the squats for a little bit.

Thursday: Prenatal Yoga

Saturday: Yoga at home

Sunday: Walked the hill and did three sets of squat jumps.

???

As I near the end of pregnancy, I feel the old doubts of having children surfacing. I’ve spent the last several months treating this entire experience like an important project, with plans, research, classes, books, etc., so I thought I’d resolved such anxieties, but I suppose that is not the case after all. One would think the last 7 months of preparation would have served as a gradual transition, but it seems the impending due date only highlights the severity and certainty of this decision.

I used to be utterly freaked out by the idea of giving birth; that’s still somewhat the case but infinitely overshadowed by the fear that I won’t enjoy being a mother. I’ve had to make many lifestyle changes and compromises since December 23, 2016 but of course none of it can compare to what lies ahead. It seems like having to rebuild an entire life from scratch (mine).

I think my husband and I have built a special life together. I don’t mean “special” in the sense that we’re particularly unique, interesting, or superior compared to others, but 12 years together necessarily results in something irreplaceable and I could easily live another 12 years like this, or the rest of my life.

We met on a rainy night in February painted by the haze of alcohol. The friend who introduced us accidentally set something on fire at a party, after which we quickly made our departure, and I was so drunk I spelled my own name wrong when I entered it into my husband’s cell phone. We didn’t start dating until a year and a half later, because only Fools Rush In.

When I first moved in with him, the living arrangements could best be described as a small fraternity house nestled in the heart of suburbia, inhabited by gamblers and students who drank too much, joined by unruly dogs, and then our equally recalcitrant cat.

During my first year of law school, my husband quit his engineering job and became a professional poker player, so the summer after my first year, we leased our room in the house, and left the country for two and a half months. We rented an apartment in the suburbs of Barcelona, and he funded our trip with poker while I promised to undertake some domestic tasks while he worked. The “tasks” were an adventure in and of themselves, as I enjoyed every moment of Barcelona, including regularly walking 25 minutes to the grocery store (we did not have a car), where I could buy unfamiliar foods and practice Spanish. We fell in love with the city, but moved on to Prague, Milan, Rome, Tuscany, and Yellowstone National Park the rest of the summer.

For the duration of law school, I packed all my classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays so I could have 4-day weekends every weekend, and there were many trips to Vegas with free hotels, compliments of my husband’s card-counting days. When I unexpectedly was notified I was the recipient of a $32,000 merit scholarship I hadn’t applied for, we took tequila shots all night at a bar in Cardiff-by-the-Sea that now longer exists, and I jumped into the ocean with all my clothes on.

Eventually, we moved into a two-bedroom apartment by ourselves, in a neighborhood characterized by beach bums, dirty hippies, quirky stores, and drug use. Our complex was built in the 1970’s, and rumor has it the communal hot tub was built of an epic size because the complex used to be a swinger’s colony. The neighborhood has since gentrified and I miss some of its formerly bummy, disheveled, and unpretentious elements.

After I took the bar exam, we celebrated with an Asia trip to Taiwan and Thailand. We scootered through the canyons of Taroko Gorge and indulged in decadence on Thai beaches. In the first couple of years after I started working, we traveled to Kauai and hiked Mt. Whitney with his family, and I started paying down substantial amounts of law school debt.

We got married in 2013, 2 weeks after our 8-year anniversary in a ceremony officiated by a dear friend. We wrote our own vows and exchanged them in the glow of the southern Californian sun, and at the reception, through a series of small mishaps, many guests got unbelievably drunk. Two weeks later, we honeymooned in Bali, Macau, and Taiwan.

In 2014, we went to Colombia, where we ate ceviche on Cartagena beaches, hiked a beautiful national park, and walked the romantic alleys of Santa Marta at dusk. I took a picture outside the former residence of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and constantly had a Colombian beer in hand to counter the Caribbean heat. We spent one night in some of the worst accommodations I have ever experienced, and when I was awoken at 4 a.m. to roosters, cats, and dogs brawling in the streets amid human yells, 90 degree heat/90 percent humidity with a broken fan, and a broken bed, there was nothing to do but laugh at the outrageousness of the situation.

In 2016, we picked Vietnam over Greece and had a dream vacation at beach side resorts, daily all-you-can-eat buffets of Vietnamese breakfasts, luxurious city hotels, lush jungle retreats, and scooter rides in Saigon, Hue, Hanoi, and the Vietnamese countrysides. We took the longest cable car ride to the highest peak in Indochina and enjoyed the view as lone passengers in a car designed for 30 people with a 360-degree view of the valleys, rice terraces, and mountains of Sapa.

We drink, cook, hike, exercise, and laugh together. We’ve taken painting classes, dance classes, and played on a soccer team. We own a house and a condo together, refurbish old furniture sometimes, save for early retirement, and spoil our cats. We are very different in some ways and have been at each other’s throats yet are fundamentally so well-suited for each other that if I weren’t an atheist I’d chalk this up to fate.

Our years together have not been extraordinary in and of themselves (plenty of people hike, drink, and travel), but for me, the last 12 years has been characterized by little pieces of magic here and there, and everywhere.

When I was little, I was prone to impractical daydreaming. I would daydream of being a rock star or sprouting wings and flying, for instance. On the other hand I rarely contemplated much in detail about the specifics of my future life. My eleven-year-old self didn’t care to think about what kind of career, husband, house, kids she’d have, or vacations she’d take, beyond assuming that there would eventually be a job, a dude, and an abode in the mix on an abstract level, because that’s what adults do.

So what I mean by “special” is, it’s special to me, and if my eleven-year-old self was given a glimpse into this future, she’d be pretty damn smug and content, implausible fantasies of growing wings and flying across oceans aside.

Having a kid is supposed to be the “next” step, a higher level or deeper stage, but sometimes it feels more like we’re tearing parts of a great creation down and rebuilding it to be something completely different and unfamiliar.

So, what will the next 12 years be like? Stay tuned…

 

Lunch Break at the Public Library

I was feeling uncomfortable yesterday (heavy and stiff), and decided to go on a short walk to the public library during lunch break. It was less than a 10 minute walk, but the steep hill was no joke. However, it was worth it. The library near my office sits on top of a small hill and has a great ocean view. I have not frequented libraries in some time, and was surprised to find the parking lot completely packed. I browsed the bookstore and found some neat children’s books for 50 cents (pictured above).

In addition to the ones pictured, I got another Magic School Bus book; a short story about Helen Keller and the power of determination; a book called Big Al about a big, ugly fish who wants friends; and The Gingerbread Man. I thought Meet Samantha of the American Girl series was a particularly good deal, though many years will pass before Fetus can read it (or the Beatles/Bob Dylan biographies for that matter). I had described the American Girl series to my husband previously and indicated that while the historical fiction stories were fun, the dolls marketed alongside these books were unreasonably expensive. I remember them being approximately $80 when was a kid; Samantha as an example, is now $115.00. This price includes one paperback book, and of course, there are plenty of other doll accessories dolls sold separately. A hairbrush for Samantha costs $8.00, which is probably twice the price of what I pay for my hairbrush. Jesus.

Husband had the foresight to flip to the back of Meet Samantha and suggest we rip out the form requesting monthly American Girl catalogs to head off any future pleas for absurdly priced dolls and accompanying accessories. I could not have been more in agreement.

I also found a little treat for myself, also for 50 cents:

This is an exceedingly nerdy book about Mozart’s operas, which frankly, reads a bit like a textbook at times. It analyzes the music, plot, and history behind Mozart’s 5 most famous operas. I’ve read the first 30 pages so far, and it’s interesting, but a bit dense, and I probably won’t get around to finishing it. At the very least, I’ll have to pay a bit more attention to some of his operas. I have not heard of The Abduction From the Seraglio at all, so maybe it’s time to check that out.

The Week

Monday she woke up still drunk at 11:30 and called people to confirm her friend’s brother had indeed showed up at her ex-boyfriend’s door and together they finished the Johnny Walker Red, spiked a carafe of orange juice at Denny’s with cheap vodka, the color of light sunshine for a heavy heart, bottled oblivion. They stumbled around the lake until the sun came up and she would not see the brother until her friend’s wedding over a decade later, when she was slower and less angry. She was not old enough to have hangovers but the day was restless and heavy and she let it slip by at Vincent’s house in the form of a horror movie; 10 years later the plot would suddenly surface in her mind, while the name of the film remained elusive.

Tuesday she complained of transience, and dreaded Los Angeles’s siren song of hazy nights and rushed minutes. She declared selfishness a virtue some 12 years before she read Ayn Rand’s so-titled essay. Ex-boyfriends fed her conceit and let her talk up storms of emptiness as cigarette smoke floated by on the cafe patio. The day was gray, and the skinny blond on telly condemned the rest of the week to rain. Her friend came by wearing an expensive pea coat and she vaguely felt she would like a boyfriend who favored pea coats.

Inner Senses.

Wednesday, she wore angora and hoped it had not necessitated the killing of rabbits. She misplaced her journal and thought she might die without it. She was frantic and tried to steal books at the bar, but Chad stopped her. A Georgian told her Southern Californians were cold, suspicious, and self-involved. She laughed and told him to get used to it. She left the bar with Tuesday, put her hands around his neck, and afterwards her hands smelled like boy.

Thursday, she skipped Astronomy class because whether the white-haired, bearded man’s description of burning blue stars and fiery planets was fascinating or painfully dull was always a gamble. She watched Tuesday sleeping next to her and imagined swift irrationality stirring and boiling over like coffee. She slipped out of his bed. Her temporary preoccupation paired well with the pulsing in her head and she walked slowly to work.

Friday, her ex-boyfriend lectured her about being devious and self-centered but she only cared for her coffee and bagel. He left her on the patio in the rain and her prideful, clear nights opened the skies and gave way to the heaviest deluge, despondent clouds, and wet wretchedness. A stranger, a Geology major, shared his umbrella with her and she was grateful as she watched the sloppy crystals fall out of the sky, blurring her vision. When the kind Geologist and his umbrella left, she considered her numbness and her alcohol-based romance: 3 parts booze, 1 part unspecified attraction, drowned in slate.

Saturday, she ran in the rain while thin shadows of trees chased her. The city was drowned in the angry tears of some heartbroken god and it came down so violently she could barely see. At night, after the torrents receded, she sat on a large rock, hiding under a tree, and waited for him, her toes grazing a pool of ivy. He came stumbling around the corner shortly, and she remembered that when she thought she’d lost her journal she felt she would die, her trite thoughts floating among the unknown, abandoned in the corner of a bar, pages disintegrating and burning in golden whiskey, but her friend had sneered.

She blinked, she melted, she slept soundly in his bed, and it was Sunday again.

Books for Children: Reviewing the Moral Lessons of the Giving Tree

I’m going to a baby shower tomorrow, and I actually remember what I bought off the registry. Typically, when I browse a baby registry to decide what to buy, my head starts swimming at the unfamiliar, and admittedly boring, products: bottle warmers, bottle brushes, diapers, nipple cream, butt cream, baby shampoo, drying racks, other products I could not even begin to explain if I tried, etc. This has not changed since I became pregnant. I can feel my eyes glaze over as I scroll through these items, and I vaguely dread the day I will have to make a list of my own. How do you know what you really need? This shit is hard!

Except, for the baby shower I’m attending tomorrow, there were some items that got me excited: Books. There were many fantastic ones listed, and I ended up getting The Giving Tree, Where the Sidewalk Ends, and Where the Wild Things Are. Aside from these books, I also bought one other thing. A mat or seat or tray or something that might go in a car possibly. I have forgotten already. But that is of less importance.

Seeing children’s books had me contemplating what messages these books actually convey. While I love both The Giving Tree and Where The Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein, the contents of these books differ drastically. Where The Sidewalk Ends is a collection of short, fun poems that serve as a lovely introduction to poetry for children. My own father, who writes poetry, bought me this book when I was 7 years old.

The Giving Tree is where things get a bit more complicated. It’s wonderful in terms of illustration and story telling, but I do have reservations about the message it imparts at times. I remember being 15 years old and loitering at a bookstore with my best friend (one of our favorite pastimes), when I came across this book after not having thought about it in years. She told me she loved it and that it always made her sob. “Really?” I asked incredulously, because I literally had never cried from reading a book, much less a children’s story. She must have thought me equally strange, because she looked at me like I was the weird one for being skeptical of anyone crying at this book.

“I don’t believe you,” I insisted, and I opened the book and started reading aloud to her in the middle of the bookstore. Sure enough, to my genuine surprise, by the end, she was in tears and her face was red and puffy.

“Dude, fuuuuuck you,” she said. I looked around the bookstore awkwardly and felt pretty bad.

The Giving Tree is compelling because it is a tale of unconditional love and giving on the part of a tree, over the lifetime of a boy who eventually becomes a man. The boy/man takes everything the tree has to offer, until the tree has been stripped of her fruit, her branches, and her trunk, and she has nothing else left to give. Her love is apparently unrequited, because he never gives her anything in return. Seriously, he is sort of an asshole. I don’t think the book so much as depicts him watering her or providing fertilizer or anything.

When he is old and decrepit, she is nevertheless happy to see him, but laments she no longer has anything left to give. He states he does not need much at this point, and simply wants a place to sit and rest, to which she cheerily offers the only part of her left – the stump of her trunk that remains.

The ostensible moral of this tale is one of giving love without keeping tabs, which no one can deny is a positive way to go about life. Yet, something about the story never sits quite right with me, perhaps because the cynical part of me thinks this story glorifies suffering, martyrdom, and maybe even victimhood.

We are moved to tears until our hearts ache when we read stories or watch movies about unrequited, unconditional love, whether on the part of a lover or a parent, but the way it plays out in the real world is sometimes painful and ugly. Healthy relationships cannot endure an insistence on rigidly or constantly keeping score, but I would never want my child to be on the giving end of such a one-sided relationship. It’s not a recipe for a happy or healthy relationship of any sort. Letting someone constantly take without reciprocation at some point becomes a form of emotional abuse, doesn’t it?

Of course, this does not remotely mean I won’t buy this book for my child. In fact, I probably will, because it is stories like this that make life a bit more colorful. But as far as moral lessons go, it does leave one something to think about…

 

Preggo Book Review

Expecting Better by Emily  Oster

This was the first pregnancy-related book I read. My husband picked it, and I loved it (not pictured above because he bought it for us in Kindle form). Emily Oster, an economics professor at the University of Chicago, describes her motivation in writing this book:

“When I got pregnant, I pretty quickly learned that there is a lot of information out there about pregnancy, and a lot of recommendations. But neither the information nor the recommendations were all good. The information was of varying quality, and the recommendations were often contradictory and occasionally infuriating. In the end, in an effort to get to the good information… I tackled the problem as I would any other, with economics…”

Faced with numerous studies on what to/not to do, drink, and eat during pregnancy, some of which seemed questionable or unduly restrictive, she decided to pore through the medical literature herself and undertake statistical analyses on a variety of studies. Her analyses included reviewing study reliability, sample size of subjects, and actual risks pertaining to everything from gardening, litter box cleaning, eating sushi, eating deli meats, drinking alcohol, sleeping positions, and weight gain, to c-sections, epidurals, continuous fetal monitoring, and beyond. Her goal was to paint a better picture of actual risks, advantages, and disadvantages, so women can make informed decisions, rather than subject themselves to discomfort and displeasure for 9 months based on faulty science and/or over-restrictive recommendations based on fear-mongering.

She wrote the book to provide women a better source of information to be able to reach informed decisions as an individual, and likened this approach to her teaching philosophy:

“…making good decisions – in business, and in life – requires two things. First, they need all the information about the decision – they need the right data. Second they need to think about the right way to weigh the pluses and minuses of the decision… The key is that even with the same data, this second part – this weighing of the pluses and minuses – may result in different decisions for different people.”

Oster’s book was immensely helpful to me, as I loathe the idea that a woman is a vessel for reproduction whose duty is to abandon her personal preferences and joys for over nine months with unquestioning obedience. If you are one of those so inclined to lecture others, as an example, in the following styles,

  • “It’s only 9 months of your life.”
  • “The health of a human being is at stake; don’t be so selfish.”
  • “It’s better safe than sorry.”
  • “Is it so much to ask?”

This book is not for you. Enjoy your 9 months of misery devoid of the smallest pleasures of life, in blind adherence to every single one of the absurd rules that blatantly treat pregnant women like children, idiots, or worse, objects. If you truly want to be safe rather than sorry, you are free to lock yourself in your house for 9 months, and become a prisoner in your own home and body. The rest of us would like to live in a more reasonable manner.

I read this book and decided I was fine with eating sushi occasionally (excepting fish prone to higher mercury concentrations), along with other foods associated with potential, but unlikely, food poisoning issues. On the other hand, I decided to forgo deli meats (I did slip up once at a party), hummus, and other foods linked to listeriosis, a much more serious condition. Oster’s work has generated some pretty severe criticism in the medical community, as she is not a medical doctor, much less an obstetrician (nor does she claim to be). However, it is also worth noting that most physicians, while experienced and knowledgeable in their field, are not statisticians. The beauty of this book is that it largely avoids telling you what you should or should not do, but provides the information so you can make an informed decision suited to your lifestyle and needs.

From the Hips by Rebecca Odes and Ceridwen Morris

My husband bought this for me. It is a self-described “Comprehensive, Open-Minded, Uncensored, Totally Honest Guide to Pregnancy, birth, and Becoming a Parent,” which is fairly accurate. It was indeed a good overview to the entire parenting process, and I read the bulk of the book while 3 months pregnant, then stopped when it came to issues of selecting an appropriate daycare, as I felt these issues were becoming too remote at my particular point in pregnancy.

This book covers everything from body changes to doctor’s visits, birth and delivery, etc. It is rife with personal anecdotes from numerous women, along with the practical pointers, such as what to pack for the hospital. This book was obviously less scientific and data-driven than Oster’s book, but it was a nice follow-up to my first read.

The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy by Vickie Iovine

This book honestly did not provide a wealth of memorable practical advice in terms of how to go about your decision-making in terms of pregnancy, labor, delivery, and parenting, but it was nevertheless useful in that it was hilarious and fun to read. The title says it all: this is a book that provides the gross, gory, and awkward details of pregnancy that only your friends would be willing to discuss in detail with you, including hemorrhoids and what Iovine describes as “pregnancy insanity:”

Keep this Girlfriend rule of thumb in mind as you read this chapter: CRAZY PEOPLE ARE OFTEN THE LAST TO KNOW THEY ARE CRAZY. Therefore, if you are tempted to skip to the next chapter because you don’t see how this one applies to you, think again; you may be crazier than you look… In fact, ask around, because you may be surprised to learn that you, too, are a victim of the Body Snatchers.

To illustrate,

You may spend the entire day fantasizing about wild animal sex with your husband…Then when he finally gets home, and he starts to go through the mail instead of studying the ultrasound Polaroids of the baby that you have taped to the refrigerator door, and you start screaming about how this is just one more sign that he is indifferent to you and your baby. By the time you have calmed down and might be able to think about sex again, you have fallen asleep in the bathtub.

It’s genuinely funny and entertaining and brings a much-needed levity to the whole pregnancy business. Yes, she emphasizes her love for pain killers and medical intervention a little too much, and I entirely disagree with her recommendations on exercise, but she is neither a doctor nor a statistician, and the point of the book is not to help you make medical decisions, but to emotionally cope with pregnancy and the accompanying changes in your body and life.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin

Gaskin has serious qualifications and experience as a midwife, and her book focuses on presenting the labor and birthing process in a positive, comforting light. She emphasizes birth as a natural process that should occur without fear. Unfortunately, the first 80 pages of the book did not appeal to me at all and after reading the first 20, I skimmed the next 60 before I got to what I considered the more useful information. The first portion of the book is composed entirely of personal birth stories and anecdotes told in exaggerated, one-with-nature, tree-hugging, pseudo-psychedelic terms. For instance, one woman shared her experience thus:

I wanted to connect deeply with her and share my recent experience to help her relax and open. Pamela was naked, propped up on pillows on the bed, holding on to her knees. I took my clothes off… and crawled up on the bed with her. I laid next to her—head to head, breast to breast, womb to womb. I told her about my cave and ocean and the great rushing, swelling, and opening. I told her about surrendering over and over and letting go. We began experiencing her contractions together. We held each other and rushed and soared together. My womb, though empty, was swelling and contracting too. I could feel blood rushing out with the contractions, but not too much—I knew it was okay.

In retrospect, I wish I had seen this Amazon review, which was right on point: “To each her own, I suppose . . . but this is a little much for me. The thought of one of my BFFs coming to be with me during labor, stripping down, and telling me about her oceanic ‘yoni’ while I’m having contractions is, frankly, laughable. Call me unenlightened if you must.” I felt the exact same way while flying through the first 80 pages and wondered if I would gain any value at all from this book. “We held each other and rushed and soared together”? What in the actual fuck? Could I help myself to some of those mushrooms as well?

That being said, the rest of the book was quite informative in terms of anatomy, biological functions during labor and birth, and contained excellent advice for keeping focus, maintaining calm, and getting through the birthing process with minimal medical intervention. She provides a lot of detailed examples and explanations regarding the importance of the mind-body connection during the labor and delivery process that are unrecognized or ignored by the mainstream medical community (e.g. The chapter on “Sphincter Law” – it is as interesting as it sounds. Read the book!)

While the focus of this book is on home-birth and midwife-operated birthing situations, this is an excellent read for women seeking to give birth without medical interventions such as epidurals and c-sections, even if they choose to do so in a hospital. Gaskin has some harsh criticisms of the medical establishment, many of which are valid, but some of which may be a bit over-the-top and warrant further investigation. I also wholly disagree with her support for various state-sponsored interventions as it pertains to medical care and healthcare policy-making. That being said, overall, this book is a good complement to the information you will receive from doctors and nurses if you are hoping to avoid an epidural and c-section.

I am currently reading Mindful Birthing by Nancy Bardacke, based on a friend’s recommendation. I am not too far in, but it contains useful meditation exercises and tools for relaxation and mental regulation during the birth process. This is particularly good for me, as my thoughts can be fast and erratic, and my tendency to play out worst-case-scenarios could use some regulation. So far, so good. More on this one later.