Archives for category: ranting

It’s 12:09 and Amanda is writing.

She just watched the first episode of “Newsroom” after two beers and is well on her way through her third.

Why? She doesn’t even know.

But some post on Facebook made her start googling her ex-bosses at Outward Bound, and it’s a depressing scene. Something about youthful idealism? Optimism? Who knows.

Meanwhile, another ex-colleague she knows and loves from Outward Bound is raising 3K at fundraisers for non-profits that support schools for girls in Nepal and other developing countries. Cool. But why can’t Amanda’s own chosen (created) non-profit  in Denver do the same for Denver kids? Yes, most Denver kids have running water and some basic hygiene and even occasional internet access, but why not help those in your backyard before those on the other side of the world? Especially when Amanda has watched as three of her own students have died, ate it, at the hands of stupidity and lack of knowledge?

Amanda feels the same way about adopting kids from Russia, and China, as opposed to those born just down the street from you. But then again, Amanda was lucky enough to be able to conceive the coolest, smartest, most amazing baby herself. We are all lucky for that. Go, E!

Not that I begrudge the girls of Nepal, all of whom will capitalize on their educations and help change the world for the better.

Why is it so damn hard to change your own backyard, though?

Again — three beers for a still-lactating mum– this is all excusable.

love to you all.


So much has been happening lately, I can’t keep up with it. This is a rambling post. I’ll try to put some pictures in to break it up. Did I mention that Elinor is full-on walking? Yep. It’s awesome and exhausting.

Iza, my dear kitty, has diabetes. It’s totally treatable and we caught it early (when they start peeing like crazy, something’s bad. Thank goodness she’s so particular about her litter box), but it’s a significant expense. We changed her diet and are monitoring her ketones, but haven’t yet started insulin. It’s like we’re holding our breath to see if things will work themselves out, which sometimes happens, but is rare ….

Elinor and I took a trip to Siesta Key, Florida, with my mom’s family. My grandma turns 80 this year and it’s her and my grandpa’s 60th wedding anniversary this year, so they wanted one big family hurrah. I’m impressed, because we did get the entire family down there — except for Chad. This first year of work at the firm precluded any week-long vacations for him. So El and I walked into the Gulf of Mexico, and El loved it even more than I did. She’s a beach baby, loving the water and the waves. And she had such an amazing time with her cousins, both Peyton and Harper (babies everywhere!) but also Spencer’s awesome step-children, Tyler and Maddie. It was a good week, though I missed Chad like crazy and have vowed never to take another vacation without him. Pictures to come — we forgot our camera (!) and are relying on grandparents and aunts. They’ll supply soon.

And then Chad’s big bad firm did some computer upgrades, shutting down their whole system for Memorial Day weekend, which meant he COULD take a short vacation. To Kenyon it was, then, for my 10th-year reunion. I had debated going due to the timing and expense, but Monica and Rhoda and Marc were going to be there, and I so wanted to see them …. Brittany and Joe, Chad’s sister and basically brother-in-law, drove up from Oxford, Ohio, and joined us for a day and a half, and Jeff drove up from Pittsburgh with Sarah and little Emmett, and we spent a nice afternoon with Juan DePascuale, whom Chad worked with one summer at St. Olaf, and then we drove to cute, perfect Hudson, Ohio, to spend one night with Matt and Monte and their little ones, Finn and Willa, two good friends of Chad’s from his college days. It was a packed vacation, but a good one. Oh yeah — and Kenyon!

El and Em love the dog on Middle path ….

Monica and Rhoda look normal — parenthood makes for goofy posing. Ah, kids.

All of this to say that it’s been an expensive spring. We’re doing OK, but we have a fair amount of debt and it bothers Chad. He’s vowed to work at the firm five years or so just so that we can manage that debt down and have some more freedom, but that’s still a hefty goal. We constantly debate the weight of that goal’s importance, especially compared to Chad’s health and El’s time with Chad. And my time with Chad!

And my first day in Florida, my school district called to say that they were denying my request for one more year of unpaid maternity leave since they were closing my school and had reduced my position. It’s a little weird, and they sure could have told me much earlier, but that means that I either need to resign or find a job in the district by August. This was not in the plan — but that means more money?

MDPL is swinging along, too, with paid opportunities to run some contract work, and I miss teaching a whole bunch.

A friend from college offered me some contract work writing for online sources ….

Let’s take a break on those uncomfortable but imposing chairs in Nu Pi Kappa. And yes, there was a current Kenyon student napping while El ravaged the room.

My head is aswirl with options for our lives. I’ve begun babysitting Blaise, Erin’s awesome 2-year-old, once a week, and I’ve dedicated all of those earnings to paying for our two mega-vacations. But I could go back to work. I could contract with MDPL. I could write for some online sources. We could make some more money, meet those debt goals earlier, and maybe have some freedom sooner, together. But in the meantime, that means finding and paying for childcare for El, which is a whole ‘nother headache.

Who am I, and how important are these cash flows compared to being here for Elinor and making sure that Chad’s quality of life meets some basic standards?

Going back to Kenyon didn’t help clarify any of this. Education came up everywhere, and I do feel so committed to those causes and to that mission. The Amanda from Kenyon days is different from the Amanda now, too, and living with both of them was strange. I feel so much more ME now than I did then, but my life is strangely larger and more sprawling now, too, way less focused and way less constrained.

El was ready for long conversations in Peirce as she waited for high-quality local foodstuffs.

I don’t know what to do. My crunchy Mama podcast that I love (Mama Natural Show 43) just reported on study that found that stay-at-home moms (SAHMs) have significantly higher levels of depression than other moms, most likely due to isolation, aimlessness, and a lack of feeling any accomplishments. I don’t think isolation is a big issue for me (thank God for my family and some good friends), but I suffer from aimlessness like you wouldn’t believe (she’s sleeping?! What to do first? clean? yoga? eat? sleep? make stuff? MDPL? aieee!), and that lack of accomplishing anything (another load of laundry left, another load of dishes, and El’s crying yet again …. rinse, repeat) drives me mad.

But I love being with El.

All of this just to get some of the things in me head, outta there and somewhere else. I will figure it out. We will figure it out.

So, now the nitty gritty stuff, the stuff that even now recedes from my memory in some ways and sits constantly in others. As such, I am interspersing what I remember with our doula’s birth report. That birth report might be the single best thing Sherri ever could have done for us, because there was no way that I could have saved all of those thoughts while going through it all ….

At my last prenatal check-up before giving birth, they checked my blood for Group B Strep (GBS). It’s a common virus that some people just carry in them, and usually does no real harm. But during birth it can be passed to the baby through fluids, and babies cannot handle it yet. It can be bad. So common practice is to check moms soon before birth. If positive, hospitals will often put you on an IV of antibiotics during labor to ensure that the baby doesn’t get it.

I was GBS positive. This shouldn’t make much of a difference in theory, but for me it was a type of devastation. I had spent months reading books and thinking about labor, working with our doula and reading all I could, about labor. Knowing myself a little, all I could picture about labor was movement — me walking, me kneeling on a balance ball, me stretching, me in a jacuzzi tub …. I had already compromised so much of my ideal birth by just being with Kaiser’s HMO and giving birth in a hospital, and now I would have to be attached to an IV? Yes, it was only for thirty minutes every four hours …. But I was anxious. I came home crying to Chad that night. It bummed me out.

At least Gorb was head down and in proper position. That was a huge relief.

But things moved forward.

So, twelve days before Gorb was due, Saturday morning, Chad and I had sex. 🙂 It was becoming more and more difficult to do so, so we joked about it being the last time before the birth. Some people had been saying that I had dropped, that Gorb was soon to be on its way, but people had been saying that for a month, and Jo’s kids had both been late (Jo had Harper by then), so I figured we had some time.

But that night I noticed some weird leaking, only now and then when I moved. I called Jo to ask what it was — could it be amniotic fluid? I consulted all my books and smelled the liquid — it didn’t smell like anything, and the books said amniotic fluid should smell sweet. Perhaps it was just a ripening cervix? Jo had no idea (poor sister, my constant go-to for all things pregnancy) and told me to call my doula. I did, and she had no idea, either. I decided to wait until the morning.

Still leaking that snowy Monday morning, I confronted Chad just a few minutes before he was going to leave the house, dressed in his suit. “I think we have to go to the hospital. I don’t know if it’s amniotic fluid or not, but we should find out.” Chad laughed, we grabbed the packed bags of clothes and other necessaries, half thinking that we would be back, half thinking that this was it. We called Sherri, our doula, and drove to the hospital

March 28, 2011

7:33 am – Amanda calls and relates that she and Chad are leaving for the hospital. She has been spotting with small gushes of fluid since yesterday and is worried that her amniotic sac has broken. She is also experiencing some crampiness, but not having any consistent contractions. Amanda assures me that they will phone when they know more.

Again, I had planned on staying at home as long as possible, until I couldn’t talk through contractions, and then going to the hospital. But if I had been leaking amniotic fluid for nearly 24 hours, that could be bad — another potential infection zone. More antibiotics. DAMN, I kept thinking. This is not how I wanted it. This is not what I had envisioned. And even though so many crunchy granola momma websites and books will tell you it’s not a big deal, the thought of endangering your baby makes you err on the side of caution.

It was all so anti-climactic. You know those movies and shows with people driving desperately to the hospital, getting there just in time, contractions all over the place? So not my experience.

But we got there, and The Baby Place — what they call it at St. Joe’s — had little to no room for us. They put me in a check-up room, not one of the swank birthing rooms we had been impressed with.  Of course, it was amniotic fluid. I still had a decent amount left. Apparently Gorb’s head was right down there, and though the sac had broken, only little amounts would leak through when I moved and Gorb’s head broke the seal.

9:35 am – Amanda calls and says that the fluid was indeed amniotic fluid and she will be admitted to Labor and Delivery soon. Currently she and Chad are in the triage for Labor and Delivery, waiting for a room to open up.

10:00 am – I arrive at St. Joseph’s Hospital. Amanda and Chad are still waiting in triage. Both are in good spirits. Amanda is waiting for her first intravenous antibiotic dose per her diagnosis for strep B. She is feeling some tightening occasionally in her abdomen, but still nothing that seems like labor. Since it has been nearly 24 hours since she believes her water first broke, she is worried that the doctors will insist on artificial induction.

Thus began our quest to jump-start labor. There are all sorts of ways to do so, according to all sources. One of them is to — ahem — have sex. Check.

We discuss our options and decide to try some natural induction techniques while waiting. Amanda sniffs oregano oil

Our room smelled like pizza.

while I massage her feet and press on acupressure points above the ankle that are known to encourage labor. Chad does the same on Amanda’s hands. Chad then cheerfully suggests we should also try nipple stimulation, which is a great for labor induction. Amanda does try this for a short while before the nurse arrives with her IV bag of penicillin. Shortly thereafter, the nurse informs us that our room in Labor and Delivery is ready. We collect our things together for the short trip upstairs.

On the way to our swank room, the hallway was so silent on the way in, though we were surrounded by birthing rooms in every direction. I remember feeling in awe that so many moms were having so many babies in our near vicinity, and that we wouldn’t leave until we, too, had a baby ….

Nipple stimulation was like a magical key or something – an awkward, nervous-laughing type of key, for both me and Chad. I can’t remember the exact feeling of that first contraction, but they slowly began coming, once in awhile. Thank God for nipple stimulation.

11:40 am – Amanda’s cervix has been checked. She is 2 cm dilated, 70% effaced, and the baby is station -1. After talking to the obstetrician on shift, Dr. Pam Campbell, Amanda and Chad decide to help the labor along by applying prostaglandin to the cervix. The prostaglandin will hopefully help Amanda’s cervix to ripen and kick start her labor. This seems to be the least invasive option and still allows Amanda to see her plan through for a natural childbirth. She needs to stay in bed for two hours after the administration of the prostaglandin and decides that she is going to try to rest during this time.

Prostoglandin seemed like the least invasive intervention we could manage. The other option was pitocin, which was like the big, scary baddy in all the books I had read. Pitocin mimics oxytocin, a natural hormone that stimulates labor and all things birthing, but it does so without regard for your other bodily functions. Contractions tend to be too strong, which often leads to an epidural, which can lead to a c-section …. It’s called the waterfall effect in doula and midwife circles, and I just didn’t want to go there. Compromises.

Napping didn’t really happen. I kind of dozed and dozed, feeling occasional contractions, and, to be honest, frustrated that few things were happening the way I wanted them to. I tried to stay upbeat around Chad and Sherri, but I distinctly remember crying while they were gone getting lunch.

1:30 pm – After lunching on sandwiches Chad brought for everyone, Amanda is back on the fetal monitor. Baby is doing great, maintaining a steady 135-145 heart beats per minute. Amanda is now experiencing something that feels more like labor contractions. These contractions are lasting about 25-30 seconds and are around 6 minutes apart. She can still talk easily through them, but it is a good sign labor is moving forward. Chad determines now is the time for him to trade his work attire for more casual wear. He retreats into the bathroom and eventually emerges as the new and improved “Birthing Chad” (aka B.C.). This is yet another natural sign that things are moving forward. We take a walk around the second floor and lobby.

Chad is amazing. Have I ever mentioned that? I should.

2:30 pm – Contractions are remaining a consistent 5-6 minutes apart, 30-45 seconds long, and increasing in intensity. Amanda is back on the monitor. Vitals for the baby are still excellent. Amanda is still in an upbeat mood, joking often with Chad, but talking through the contractions is beginning to become challenging. She requests some Johnny Cash.

3:15 pm – Antibiotics are administered again.

3:50 pm – We decide to go for a walk again, this time visiting all floors of the hospital. We take the stairs and meander down some odd hallways, mistakenly walking by doors marked with “Danger: Radioactive Free Particles.” Amanda and Chad are still maintaining their great senses of humor, despite the fact that Amanda’s contractions are increasing in intensity and pace. Amanda has only about two or three minutes between each contraction. She is managing them by leaning into Chad and breathing easy, relaxed breaths. They are a great team—much like George and Gracie Burns. Chad is very supportive and encouraging.

The three of us walked around the entire hospital, talking and looking at some of the beautiful photography that St. Jo’s has on its walls. It was fun, in a way, just as Sherri said. Along the way, contractions began to get stronger and more frequent. I had to stop when they came, and would just lean into Chad’s chest and sway through it, the way they taught us in birthing classes.  I can’t describe the feeling; I can’t quite remember the feeling. I do remember the intense focus it would take for me to survive it, though. It was as if I had to surf my own body’s reorganization in massive wave of demolition, or construction.

When we finally got back to the swank room, the doctor was waiting for us.

4:45 pm – Dr. Campbell checks Amanda’s cervix. She is now at 3 cm and 80% effacement. Although labor is progressing, she asks that Amanda and Chad consider Pitocin as an option in the near future.

No way. I was so dead-set against it. I had either a stupid faith in my body’s ability to do this, or just a serious case of stubbornness. Nothing was going wrong; Gorb looked great on the monitor and things felt RIGHT. We let the doctor leave and I said stubborn things behind her back.

Chad was supportive. He was like a smart little boy in some ways. The room had a white board with a pre-printed chart for effacement and dilation marked on it, so the doctors, nurses, and your loved ones could monitor your progression. Chad labeled the whole thing “Mount Gorb” and drew a stick figure Amanda with a huge belly climbing the line. It was great.

Amanda is back on the fetal monitor. Baby still looks great with a heart rate of 140-155 beats per minute. Amanda is gushing amniotic fluid off and on. We decide to try more nipple stimulation as we have been doing off and on over the course of the afternoon. This seems to kick labor into gear. The contractions have increased and strengthened. Amanda is still handling them very well. She seems to retreat into her herself and has a deep, inner focus. She also declares to Chad that she intuitively knows this baby is a girl.

I just knew it. And things were happening so much faster; it was like there was nothing else beyond what was happening in my body.

5:00 pm – Amanda’s regular obstetrician, Dr. Rossi is now on duty. She states that labor seems to be moving along and, with respect to the birth plan, believes that Amanda should just continue as she has been. 

All that worry about midwives and doulas and I manage to get my OB? Amazing. And she ended up being completely supportive of my own beliefs about my body. Rock on, Dr. Rossi. I was so grateful for that support, albeit passive support.

And now yoga came to me. Contractions were for real now. I had spent so much time in yoga in cat/cow, on all fours, swaying. I had felt completely stupid when the instructors first told me to move my body in whatever way was most comfortable, but as pregnancy progressed, I felt less stupid — and it felt good. That ended up being my go-to position for most of labor. Cat – cow – cat – cow – sway – sway – sway …..

Amanda is now managing the contractions by going to the hands and knees position and swaying her hips. This seems to be the most comfortable position for her and works well. Chad is still assisting with nipple stimulation in between contractions as we have noticed that the contractions slow down when it is stopped. He is constantly by Amanda’s side, massaging her back during contractions and providing loving (and humorous) support and encouragement. Contractions have intensified and increased. They are now lasting anywhere from 1-2 minutes and are still spaced only 2-3 minutes apart, not allowing Amanda much of a reprieve. However, Amanda is a force to be reckoned with and powers through them with amazing resolve and stamina. Amanda does shed a few tears after a particularly tough contraction, but still manages to smile and remain somewhat jovial. As the contractions increase in pain, she is becoming much more vocal, which is a good sign that labor is striding along.

6:30 pm – Amanda and Chad are in the jacuzzi. Contractions are still very productive. Amanda still prefers the hands and knees position with Chad massaging her back. Chad has wisely tapered his jokes to a minimum, but remains a constant support to Amanda, offering words of love and encouragement.

I had been so excited about the jacuzzi, but when you are most comfortable on all fours, a jacuzzi is not so helpful. Ah, well. Nice try.

7:00 pm – Amanda and Chad are out of the tub. Amanda’s contractions are continuing to last a good strong minute at two minutes intervals. Amazingly, she is still in good, although weary, spirits. She is effectively using her voice to help her cope with the pain, inhaling deeply and exhaling the tension with strong, audible moans. She has wonderful focus and unbelievable energy reserves. Amanda does try moving to the bed, where she continues to stay on all fours, but attempts to rest on her side in between contractions. She doesn’t have too much success with this. She decides to stay on all fours while being monitored as well. The nurse is a bit disgruntled by this as the belts keep slipping.

Disgruntled? The nurses were awful about this. St. Jo’s is forward thinking in some birthing ways, but would it kill them to get some wireless fetal monitors? This was what I had been most worried about, and the only really difficult (in an emotional way) part of my whole birth experience. I was in the groove! Things were coming along, and Gorb was coming, and I was focused, and Chad was with me, and Sherri was with me, and then the nurse would barge in and demand that I leave my groove so she could check my baby. And it would take TWENTY minutes to do so — meaning I was stuck on the bed twenty minutes, trying to survive at least five to ten contractions without moving. I was so mad. Chad was mad.

9:00 pm – Amanda is on the monitor again. Contractions seemed to have temporarily spaced out a bit – 5-6 minutes apart. Amanda is still on all fours on the bed.

9:20 pm – Cervix has been checked and Amanda is at 6 cm! Dr. Rossi is okay with continuing labor as is. Amanda and Chad practice nipple stimulation once more to get labor moving again. The baby’s vitals are a healthy 125-135 beats per minute.

9:40 pm – Amanda throws up a good amount of water and juice. At Amanda’s request, Chad and I remove the fetal monitors.

Damn nurses.
10:00 pm – Amanda is walking figure eights around the room, dropping to all fours when a contraction hits which is again about every two minutes. These contractions are very intense and Amanda has added some growls to her moans.

So, this is the most vivid memory of all labor, beyond the actual birth. I would close my eyes, being in this labor zone, and I could see this wolf mother. She was tearing up a mountain, over talus and over scree, howling, and she was looking for her little pup. As I would move through a contraction, the wolf would run up that mountain, and at the top the black little pup waited. As the contraction slowed down, down the mountain the mother would go.

The vision was so vivid. A lot of it was just probably because my vocalizations were becoming those growls, and then they were howls. For someone so inhibited in even yoga class, I was becoming very, very loud.

11:15 pm – Antibiotics and fetal monitor administered again. Amanda really wants to get off the bed and back on the floor. We call the nurse and Chad explains that they believe five minutes on the monitor is sufficient. Resident Dr. Hall arrives and discusses with Chad how they need twenty minutes on the monitor for proper reassurance that the baby is doing fine. As the baby is moving down, it becomes increasingly difficult to apply the monitor in the proper position to pick up the heartbeat. We decide to humor the doctors and Amanda endures the contractions on the bed.

I remember some swearing and being angry with those damned nurses and their stupid monitors. We asked them to take them off and the nurse said, “We can’t ensure the safety of your baby without this.” It’s like the worst of fear-mongering. “You take this risk, and if your baby dies, it’s not our fault.”

I know, I know. My husband’s a lawyer, after all. But damn.

11:55 pm – Amanda is up and walking, moving to her favored position on the floor for the contractions. She is beginning to feel lots of pressure in her bottom and the urge to push. We call the nurse and ask that Amanda be checked.

Around 12:15 am – Dr. Hall checks Amanda and reports that she is 8½ cm dilated and 95% effaced. She says there is a bit of a lip of posterior cervix remaining. The nurse suggests that Amanda try a different position during contractions, reasoning that the baby’s head will be allowed to push more on that lip of cervix and stretch it out of the way. Amanda moves to the bed and uses the squat bar to stand and crouch during contractions. This is a very intense period for Amanda as she is going through transition. She almost seems to be rowing through the contractions as she circles her hips, shaking the squat bar with each turn. She moans and yells with the rush of each contraction. She is incredibly strong in both body and spirit.

Maybe I seemed that way, but that HURT. It was awful. It was so freaking hard. I thought I might die, but I wanted Gorb OUT of me. So I did it.

Amanda is feeling the urge to push again. The nurse asks her to lie back to check her cervix and reports that she sees the baby’s head! The delivery team is immediately assembled, lights are turned on, Amanda’s knees are drawn back, and the pushing begins. Again, Amanda displays her formidable strength and stamina.

Yeah, this was actually the worst part. Nobody tells you about pushing and how utterly difficult it is. Well, maybe it’s different for every momma. But it was painful and hard and I was so worn out by then. I just kept looking at Chad and Sherri and Dr. Rossi and nameless nurses and SCREAMING. Some of the nurses commented on the screaming with smiles, I remember. I think I was a spirited screamer, to say the least.

The baby’s head begins to crown and we see long, dark hair.

My favorite part of our entire birth story: Chad and I have always had difficulty with our cats, particularly gluttonous Iza. Iza wants food when she wants it, which is often around three in the morning. She will just moan and cry outside our door for what seems like hours. One night I had a dream that my baby ended up being a cat. When Chad saw Gorb’s hair, for one split second he said to himself, “Oh crap — it’s a cat.”

After about 25 minutes of pushing, the baby’s head emerges with one hand alongside the face. At 1:21pm the entire baby is out and Chad announces to Amanda they have a baby girl!

Chad told me that she had her left hand on her cheek. I pushed her out with that hand on her cheek …. That feeling of her leaving my body was incomparable — complete relief and yet this emptiness, as well.

And then I had to push the placenta out. Whew. Another slide and losing a large part of my body. The placenta was cool. I had toyed with the idea of preserving it for pills or eating, but thought maybe I had gone over the crunchy line into crazy. I regret that now. If I have another baby, I am keeping that placenta. It’s such an amazing organ, so specialized, and part me and part baby ….
Chad cuts the cord and baby Eleanor is placed on Amanda’s chest. She is a beautiful, big baby with a voracious appetite. After a short introduction, she latches onto Amanda’s breast and has her first breakfast. Amanda and Chad are understandably besotted with their new daughter.

She was beautiful. So aware, just looking around even then. I don’t think she cried at all — just looked at us with theses dark blue eyes. Black hair, blue eyes, red skin, and that hand …. And her smell! It was the best smell in the entire world, coming right from the top of her head. It was like heaven — and vanilla? Ponderosa pine sap? Everything I like best in the world?

After a good half hour of breastfeeding, Eleanor is weighed and measured.

She has always been a good nurser. I’m lucky in that.

It was so amazing to hold that little body and to imagine that, just minutes beforehand, she had been inside me. Watching her as Chad held her, in this rush of adrenaline and relief from having delivered that huge thing, I was content. It was eerie and wonderful.

She tips the scales at 8 pounds, 1 ounce and measures 19” long with a head circumference of 13¾”. Chad gets some special time with Eleanor while Amanda cleans up and prepares to move to their recovery room. Although somewhat sore, Amanda experienced minimal tearing that needed no stitches and is mobile and still awash with adrenaline and oxytocin.

But it was really really hard to pee. The nurses were great help then. I felt bad about cursing them behind their backs. Blood everywhere. Wowsers. Birth is messy.
Despite the slow start to labor and having to resort to artificial (although minimal) induction, I count this birth as a complete, unaffected success. Much credit goes to Amanda’s determination and resolve and Chad’s unfailing support and devotion. I believe that this same strength, love, and humor will continue to carry their family through the many years ahead.

Sherri’s sweet. But birth is a big deal, too.

This is getting to be too much.

As Dad dozed and Elinor ate kale with cottage cheese, I opened the paper. One of my students was shot in a drive-by shooting Monday — De’Quan. I started crying at the table, Elinor curious as she paused in her eating.

I don’t even know what to say. He was a good kid with a good family and a high-strung temperament. He would ask me to bring in a book like _The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles_ one day, and then storm out of the classroom another day. The only time I probably  should have been actually scared for my physical welfare while teaching was one day when De’Quan was frustrated with the world and tried to storm out of class, yet again. I blocked the door and he hit the door to the side of me, kind of blinded by rage. Yet I knew he didn’t want to hurt me; we had a good relationship. He was a deep thinker, that kid, and hypocrisy pissed him off, as it should piss off all 14-year-olds. He was sensitive, too, which is difficult for boys at that age.

He had such a good smile. He was so kind, so often.

The reality of what life is going to look like for my students hits home when things like this happen. I would have thought that De’Quan would calm down, mature, and do well — and it sounds like he had, obtaining his GED and transferring schools by choice. But an apparently random shooting from a green Honda as it drove past him ended all of that.

I am so pissed and so sad. It makes me cry.

I’ve been grumpy a good portion of the last two weeks. Elinor has been less grumpy than I have been; I don’t understand how a little baby can survive on less sleep than a 31-year-old mom.

I think the following is a universal parent experience: you listen to parent educators warn you about never shaking the baby, and you turn to your partner with eyebrows raised, certain that you will never even think about doing such a thing. But there comes a day when the baby has made a whiny, grumbling, high-pitched noise nearly continuously for most of the day, indicative of extreme fatigue, and you will do everything in your power to help the baby sleep, but sleep will not come, and you yourself will wish to make such a noise, and instead you will cry out in frustration and make your baby cry, and then you will comfort said babe, and then the babe will whine again, and you will set the babe down in her crib and walk away because you have an overwhelming urge to shake that baby and make her tell you what she needs and wants.

Because all you want to do is provide her with what she needs and wants.

But after leaving the baby in her crib for five minutes, and praying to God that she will sleep, and calling your sister in Albuquerque, and whining to her, and then going back to the baby, and walking with her, and bouncing her on your lap while shielding her from the computer screen as you desperately search for emails that remind you that you are an intelligent, functioning adult, only to read about what you consider to be a corporate takeover of the school board election, you feel your blood boiling in your capillaries. And you call your friend Erin who still gets to vote in Denver, ruing your decision to live in the ‘burbs, to lecture her on who she should vote for, and you rant and work yourself into a relative frenzy over the school board election, and as your rant subsides you realize that, though irked and dismayed by the school board election, you are really just exhausted, and very very very tired of that whining noise that your baby is making.

That was last Tuesday.

Since then, life has been a little better. It is good to rant, and to have many people graciously willing to listen to your rants. But yesterday, though Elinor was in a fantastic mood, she wasn’t sleeping again. And instead of obsessing over the school board election (results are in; corporations win, again), instead you obsess over whether or not you will have to go back to work so that your husband will not have to work those corporate hours for a corporate law firm anymore. And you spend too much time cruising CANPO’s job postings as your baby bounces in her bouncy swing, and you are now dismayed that, though possessing a MEd, five years experience in a classroom, and many competent life skills, on paper you are not qualified for most jobs. And teaching takes up as much time as a corporate law job, and your baby should have at least one parent around for dinner time consistently, and you are worried that you have wasted your life.

And then your friend Janice sends you a link to NaNoWriMo (, and as you rant to your mom about not being qualified for 9-5 jobs that pay more than teaching, she tells you to write, and when your husband comes home, grumpy from his corporate day, he tells you to write. And you want to yell at all of them, but instead you finally get the baby down again at 11, and instead of curling up next to your husband’s lovely furnace-y and sleepy body, you sit down, sign up for National Novel Writing Month, and write two pages of what you are sure will be a crap novel.

At least you didn’t shake the baby.

Chad always wants me to read the newspaper, since we pay a pittance every month to receive it. This is a wholly respectable wish, and so Elinor and I did so this morning.

Elinor was intrigued by the Post’s reporting about a DPS school board candidate who blasted the mayor for meeting with former President G. W. Bush about education and NCLB, all during a fraught and highly politicized election season.

But she was truly disturbed by the Denver Post’s continued use of the term “school reform” when talking about organizations whose agenda is primarily to turn neighborhood schools into charters, willy-nilly.

Or is that just me talking?

Facebook, of all places, let me know that another one of my former students is dead. She was only a junior in high school, and she overdosed, and the student who messaged me on Facebook said that the other people at the party didn’t do a thing to help her. That could easily be high school outrage rearing its head at an opportune moment, but knowing the people this girl hung out with, it could be the truth.

Oh, Jessica. You were so full of life, and anger, and attitude. And yet a burst of enthusiasm and girlish laughter sometimes bubbled up. I wasn’t worried about you in the way that I worried about Omar, the one who took his own life. I wasn’t worried about you in the way that I worry about so many others, the ones who fight obvious abuse or learning disabilities or neglect. Yes, you fought other girls outside the school, and yes, you wore red with so much pride to broadcast your affiliations, but there was that girl deep-down, the girl who liked to read and write, the girl who was whip-smart, the girl who brooked no hypocrisy, the girl who wrote poetry to emulate her favorite rappers, the girl who navigated that ocean of middle school so well most of the time. Even when you didn’t want to, you would pay attention and watch me as I tried to teach you. We shook hands most days. You would smile, which didn’t happen as often as it should have.

Should I have worried more? Should I have done more? Someone should have.

More than a little melancholic and perhaps melodramatic tonight with this news. But, really — of all times to be melodramatic, the loss of a vital 16-year-old is worthy.

And yet I am angry. I am angry at you, Jessica, for being at the party, for taking whatever you took, for leaving your smarts behind. I am angry at you for wearing red with pride. I am angry with you for neglecting your homework and for hanging out with those kids.

But I don’t want to be angry with you. I want to direct my anger at your family, and your friends, and your school and your teachers, and whatever circumstances directed you down this path. I am sure we are all culpable.

I don’t know what those circumstances were, and I don’t know who those others are. I knew you.

Since Elinor’s birth, I’ve been reading like a maniac, which I love. I read while I nurse, mostly, which is often. When Elinor is finicky and doesn’t want to nurse, I sometimes miss my reading time. But that’s OK.

BUT I just finished a book and it has me all riled up: _Born to Love_ by Bruce Perry and Maia Szalavitz. My review:

“I have a bias toward things that deal with empathy — it’s a very Christian (and generally religious) concept, and I stand by it. This book was great b/c it approaches empathy from a scientific perspective, using biological, sociological, economic, medical, and psychological studies to state that 1) empathy is biologically rooted in our bodies through our stress response (or the mediation of that response) and 2) that empathy must be triggered by our social relationships, most often in early childhood. There is much more to this book, but it is a quick, easy read and it kept making me harangue Chad about all of the interesting, great, and terrifying facts and theories that it brought up. Especially useful for a young parent like myself, but also for anyone who gives a damn. I would compare this to _Outliers_ by Malcolm Gladwell, though it was much more research- and experience-based (Perry is a renowned child psychologist). Highly recommended and it makes me want to work to change the world for better. Huzzah!”

Anyway, I was indeed haranguing Chad about the book, and three things really got to me. I will go in order from least important to me at this time, to most important.

1) Part of the reason I love our neighborhood is because it really is in a zone where a bunch of different classes could interact. We are solidly middle class, but down the block are some skeezy apartments and down the other way are some bona fide mansions. [NB – skeezy is a made-up word for my lower-income neighbors, while bona fide is a fancy foreign word — ohhh, language!] _Born for Love_ advocates more social interaction in our lives, period, as that triggers and allows for empathy. But the authors also stress more social interactions with people not “like” us, be that due to race, economics, political leanings, etc. They advocate this because, though we do biologically benefit from our tendency towards being empathic, we also rely upon our dear old “us versus them” tendency, as well. The more we interact with others who seem to be “them,” the less they will seem like “them” and the more they will seem like “us.” I’ve seen the need for this in the kids I teach, and I see it in my own life. I wish that there were more options for the folks in our neighborhood to interact more.

1b) The polarization of our political scene stems from this, as well. I hang out with more Republicans than most of my fellow Liberal friends, just because of my family ties, but the more we did associate with people from the other party, the less we might be at each other’s throats, which seems to be very important for this country right now …..

Which leads me to:

2) I went to grad school for teaching because of the Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound (ELOB) schools, which are charter schools (run by small groups for a purpose, run with public funds, accountable to their own charter, but not to much else). All through grad school I advocated for Choice in schools, which would mean that students have the ability to choose from more schools based upon specific ideas, like ELOB, or Math & Science, or the Arts, instead of just attending their neighborhood school. I thought this was a good idea since people seem to benefit from choice in their lives and control.

But then I taught in a public school, which also happened to be one of the worst public schools in our state. And now Choice to me is scary. Not only does it allow us to self-select into our own safe little groups, but it takes away chances for us to interact with those unlike us. This could easily lead to less empathy, according to Bruce and Szalavitz. And I agree with them. My school’s neighborhood was being gentrified and is probably at least 40% white, but our school, the local neighborhood school, is 95% minority. All of the white families have “choiced” their kids out of the local neighborhood school, which is the modern-day, politically correct equivalent of white flight, in my mind. Have it both ways — live in the city, but benefit from upper-middle-class education since you have the time, resources, and know-how to work the system and get your kid out of there, while the parents who lack the know-how, the transportation to get their kids to other schools, or the ability to even care about their kids’ education, send them to our school, which becomes, quite thoroughly, segregated by class, which so often correlates to race. Choice is segregating our schools by necessity and correlation. No wonder kids are lacking empathy.

I could (and should) say much more about this. Someday. It is complicated greatly in my own life by our own neighborhood, because Choice is an option here and our local elementary school is, truly, the worst elementary school in our district b/c parents like me choice their kids out of it. And Chad’s former boss was eloquent: “I don’t vote with my kids.” I do want to ensure Elinor has a great education. But I also want her to be empathic and exposed to different lives, and I worry about losing that if I choice her outta here. I am torn. And she is only five months old!

Which leads me to:

3) Chad began work at the high-falutin’ law firm this past week, and I was torn apart about it. He’s already working his ass off for me and Elinor, which allows me to stay home with her. I have been incredibly grateful for this opportunity, and staying home with Elinor is not all creamcakes and lollipops — it IS work. But it is work that I am privileged to enjoy. But, needless to say, I was feeling guilty about being able to stay home with her. Most of my friends cannot afford to do so, and I worry whether it make me less committed to my career and the rest of the world to do so. Since I worry so rarely about anything …..

This book actually made me more comfortable with the choice to stay home with Elinor, especially this first year. Empathy is triggered, according to the authors and their impressively noted studies, by consistent attachment to a primary caregiver, be that person a mom, dad, grandparent, or daycare provider, especially during the first year of life. But all babies benefit from as much individual attention as they can get, as their stress responses will be appropriately managed and empathy developed with that consistency and reassurance. I really, really wish I lived in Iceland, where all parents receive NINE MONTHS of parental leave, at 80% of their salaries, to be split however they wish between parents. (Chad: “You really are becoming a little socialist, aren’t you?” And YES — care for new mothers and babies in our capitalist society SUCKS. My school would not be in its current straits if we provided for those kids from the start.) But I live here, where the reality is that either Chad works so I can stay home with her, or we search for day care and spend most of my salary on it. I am really, really glad that I get to stay home with her, and hopefully I don’t stress her out too much.

Whew. I highly recommend this book. I love it when books get me all riled up, staying up late into the night typing up rants on my blog.