“I am the sister of Chief Cream of Wheat”

Sally shaved off almost all of her left  eyebrow on Monday. Tom noticed it first, and from his worried tone, I thought she’d been punched in the face by the stairs on her way down from her room. But she was just “pretending” with daddy’s razor, and was as surprised as anyone else when most of her eyebrow came off. I laughed and said, “you’re lucky you didn’t cut yourself.” Tom told me to get an eye makeup pen STAT (he doesn’t know what they’re really called, and I don’t own anything resembling that anyway).

He was so concerned that she’d get teased by the kids at school. I told him I was teased daily for most of my school career, and I turned out just fine. (Anyway I’m not buying an eye makeup pen, or whatever they’re really called, to cover up a whacked pretend shaving job.)

Today he called to ask how her Biography Presentation went at school. I told him she did great, not to worry. It was simple enough to ambush the other kids in her class beforehand with a razor so she’d fit right in.


sacagawea from shannon johnson on Vimeo.

I feel super accomplished when I . . .

patiently explain (again) to Spot why flipflops are probably not a good idea on a snowy day.

teach Susan a reading lesson.

go to Sally’s school to record her presentation.

listen intently to Tom talk about work for more than three minutes.

make bread, yogurt, and strawberry jam in the same day.

write a post.

read a book.

go for my walk.

Your turn: “I feel super accomplished when I . . . “

No need to say you’re sorry

because I’m flush with oxytocin. (And happy.)

I’m thinking of names, and, since it’s easier and just as fun, her blog name: Scout.

After the ultrasound I had the best “doctor’s appointment” ever, with one of the midwives I see. It was my first time seeing her; she’s an older-ish lady. Comfortable, calm, confident, and what she told me was exactly what I needed to hear, exactly what I need to do mixed in with all the other preparation I’m doing. She talked to me (and Tom, who was wrestling Susan and Spot), for an unhurried twenty minutes or more, answering all my questions and allaying fears I didn’t even know I had. She thought it was nonsense (related to H1N1 fears) that AF hospital is no longer doing tours. Said she would look into it, and that in the meantime I should call them up some day when they are over there delivering and come tag along.

Sometimes when I talk to people (or even think about) my hopes for a more physiological birth this time, I get the impression (even hear voices in my head) that people wish I’d just go along, do what I’m told, not make this any harder than it has to be, be a good girl, why are you making a fuss,why are you being so difficult, just let the experts do their thing. It’s really disheartening, discouraging.

Talking with this midwife was the opposite of that. She was like a modern-day wise woman, a believer in women. She asked what books I was reading, nodded, said that I could take time to stop thinking, to meditate, to practice being in the moment, not allowed to think about the conversation I had that morning with my mom, or to think ahead to what I’ll make for dinner, but to listen, to feel, to be, right then. She thinks I can smile between contractions, because I’ve gotten to where I can rest, relax, enjoy the peace between when there is not a before or an after.

Maybe this sounds prescriptive, and maybe if I were in a different stage of preparation or experience it would’ve felt like “should,” but instead it felt exactly right, like something concrete I can do right now. I wish I’d thought to tape our conversation. (And that is not something I’ve ever thought before after time spent at the doctor’s.)

Waiting for the bus

For several years now, I’ve been worried that I’ll be hit by a bus at any moment. And die, leaving my three daughters and my husband who will marry some tall blonde thing forthwith and have seven sons with her.

All because of a phrase in his Patriarchal Blessing, that he will “deal with sons and daughters, in this life.” The daughters we have covered. Check. The sons? Not so much, and since this is definitely my last pregnancy, and definitely not a multiple pregnancy, the sons will always be a problem. Even if we find out tomorrow that we are having a son, finally (which we will, find out that is, tomorrow), we will still never achieve the plural in this life, unless some really odd combination of circumstances occurs in which we adopt or buy a basketball team, or something.

We tried to make it okay: “It probably refers to that time you were in Young Men’s or Scouts and had all those pseudo-sons.” Or maybe when we serve a mission as old people we’ll be in charge of some male-type missionaries. Or something.

Still, it started to really bother me. Because I believe in blessings. I believe in the literal fulfilment of them, though I’m flexible and open to alternate, plausible explanations. Especially when said alternate, plausible explanation does not include my being hit by a bus.

But the phrase in this life. It grated. It screeched in my spiritual ears like young girls competing for the highest high note before bedtime.

I’m not even sure I’d like to have one son. Having a fourth daughter would be so much easier. No pinewood derby, no fathers-and-sons outings, no sheets that have to be thrown in the washer at odd intervals. No extra, separate bedroom, no new bikes to replace the pink and purple hand-me-downs, no need to learn a defensive diaper technique.

Of course I’d take a son over being  hit by a bus and seeing my husband married to a hussy blonde with legs to her ears who likes to wear high heels. (I bought heels — wedges — exactly once in our courtship, and my legs were still stubby, so sorry, honey.)

Lately I’ve been feeling more and more called (I like that phraseology, “called,”  even though it’s not very Mormon) to re-read my Patriarchal Blessing. But it’s upstairs, in the filing cabinet, up all those stairs. I procrastinate. I forget. Then tonight we were reading in Joshua 21, right after the conquering and settling of Palestine, the land promised to Abraham. “There failed not ought of any good thing which the Lord had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass” (v 45).

I likened that to the Patriarchal Blessings that Tom and I have received and Tom ran up to get his (being unafraid of all those stairs). The kids were eager to hear the part about them, which he read. And then I asked him to re-read it, and again, then demanded to see it for myself.

And you are probably not surprised to hear that it doesn’t actually include the phrase “in this life.” I don’t know if I made that up, or what.

It sounds silly and stupid. (I am silly, and probably stupid). But this is such a great weight lifted off me. It doesn’t say “in this life.” It doesn’t say you’re obviously doing something wrong and God is gonna have to step in here to fix things.

Then of course I read this talk by President Faust, and turns out his father had a blessing about having beautiful daughters and had five sons instead. So they felt that their daughters-in-law were a good fulfilment (along with granddaughters, etc).

Duh. Why didn’t I think of that?

(But I’m still happy it doesn’t say “in this life.” Why did I think it did?)


We were having lunch with Chrysanthemum yesterday, after our walk, because they just got toys off KSL for their backyard. And because I like her, of course. Especially her food that appears magically on the table before me as I play with her chubby-handed baby. Dimples on the knuckles of a baby are maybe the best thing in the world.

The baby sat in his high chair while I ate my hot soup; he’s getting to the grabby stage and I didn’t want him burned. Then he got tired, and she took him up and laid him down for a nap. There was not even a peep from him. I asked if he always goes down for naps that easily. She has read the same sleep book I like, and said she just watches for signs of tiredness and lays him down, and he goes to sleep.

Mothers know it is not always that easy. And I said it makes me wonder, when you have a “difficult” baby, how much of it is what you do, how you act/react, and how much of it is the baby’s temperament and needs and developing stages. (And yours.)

I have always not co-slept with my babies. I might be philosophically attracted to the idea that babies can/should learn to self-soothe and go to sleep on their own, but I also like the idea — in the abstract — that babies and mothers are bonding even in sleep. Since both things seem good and sound, pragmatics decided it.

We started off with Sally’s crib next to our bed, but the first night I half-dozed while listening to her snurgle and then jerked awake each time the snurgle stopped. She moved to her own room the next day.

She still loves having her own room, now because her younger sisters can be locked out of ruining her stuff.

With this pregnancy, I can take a long afternoon nap and still fall asleep during scriptures at 8:30 pm. I stagger to bed and soon Spot and Susan are climbing into Daddy’s side. They know the rules: you can sleep in Mom’s bed as long as you hold still and don’t make a sound. And don’t touch the pillows that surround the grouchy queen.

They fall asleep quickly. Sometimes I have to warn gently: “Do you need to go to your own room?” Susan lies back, closes her eyes and they both forget the enormous amount of playing that has to be accomplished in their own bed before surrendering to sleep.

I rest my hand on Spot’s tummy and feel her breathing. (The fan from the bathroom and the fan at the head of the bed disguise any incipient snurgles). And we all sleep better, together.

Sometime in the night when I reach my hand over, it’s a harder, hairier body, and I know Tom has carted them off and taken their place. I plug his nose when he snores, or prod him to roll over. He is warm and big and fills the bed nicely. But . . .

I need a louder fan.

The trouble with epidurals

*for me. Just as each woman and birth differ, so do a woman’s reasons for choosing to prepare for birth the way she does. These are mine.

The trouble with epidurals is not that they take away pain — that is the good thing about epidurals. Choosing pain over pleasure is a sign of genetic defect in laboratory animals; it is not a good recommendation for humans, either. The trouble with epidurals is not that they take away from “experiencing” the whole miraculous thing, beginning to end, with no oblivious gap. (This is a drawback for many women about epidurals, but there are many painful aspects of life I would rather not subject myself to if I can avoid it, like shopping for a bathing suit.) Some women want to do nothing that would interrupt or change the natural order of things. This is an admirable motive for not wanting an epidural, but it is not one of mine. (I think.) (Actually, it is, but then I might feel differently about “nature” after experiencing “natural.”)

And the trouble with epidurals (for me) is not even the potential side affects associated with the epidural medicine or procedure itself, which can include (but are not limited to) 1) spinal headache, 2) sluggish baby, 3) prolonged or excessive inability to move one’s legs, 4)  cardiac arrest for mother and abnormal heart rate for baby, and 5) a numb patch on your right leg for months. Of these (rare to very-rare) complications, only the last has happened to me with three less-than-stellar epidural experiences. The most annoying part of my epidurals (so I thought) was that my spine didn’t cooperate so I still had pain on one side and then after subsequent doses, I had absolutely no hope of staying on the bed without help.

The trouble with epidurals is two-fold and relates to the requirements that go along with getting one. First: with an epidural you have to labor in the absolute worst position physiologically, a position (lithotomy/flat on your back) in which gravity works against you, and in which the pelvis/cervix are able to open much less (I have read, up to an inch less) than in a squatting or all-fours position. (Of course it would be even worse to be strung up by your toes, but not much.)

The second requirement is constant electronic fetal monitoring, which increases interventions like forceps and vacuum-extraction deliveries and c-sections, without improving fetal outcomes. C-sections may seem like no big deal for some women, but even when they are medically necessary (and thank God they are available when needed, right?), they are still major abdominal surgery that affect how the mother is able to conduct her life even months later, much less in the days and weeks following birth (a time that already strains a woman’s emotional, mental, and physical faculties).

If there were a magic pink pill that took away all pain sensation from the waist to the pelvis while retaining sensation of muscular positioning and contraction and all motor function of the legs and trunk muscles, with a one hundred-percent guarantee that there was no effect on or transmission to the fetus and no risk of side effect to the mother, of course I would sign up tomorrow. Of course.

The trouble with epidurals is that they are not that magic pill.

The trouble with much of modern obstetrical practice is that epidurals are too-often presented to the pregnant woman as being that magic pill. For my previous three births, I was given information regarding the very slight chance of spinal headache, etc, but no one told me, and I didn’t think to ask, that laying on one’s back was not only NOT the only way to give birth but actually the least-helpful, least-physiologically-indicated position, and that electronic fetal monitoring would not, in fact, make my baby safer.

Those are two hefty omissions.

Which is not to say that epidurals don’t have their place or that women who choose them are in any way “less” somehow than those who do not. For some, epidurals are close enough to that magic pink pill that they are only logical. For others, a very careful weighing of the benefits and drawbacks is necessary, and that weighing can only take place when ALL of the benefits and drawbacks are known and considered.

Now that I know (and am continuing to learn), I am still open to the possibility of getting an epidural; I am not so determined to “experience it all” that I would ignore the actual sequence of events that is this unique, fourth, birth. For example, if I have days of back labor that exhaust my resources without progressing, or if I realize that I’m not dilating completely because instead of being able to relax into, surrender to, or work with/through the contractions I’m instead reverting to my natural inclination — to tense against pain — and that an epidural at this late stage is the only way to get the baby out of me (this assumes I am stalled enough that there is actually time to get the anesthesiologist there), then I would choose to have one. Because in either of those scenarios the two drawbacks to an epidural would be of less concern at that point.

And in the end, epidural or no epidural (vaginal or emergency c-section) I will have succeeded in doing it my way, the way that seems best to me after learning all I can, which is all I ask of life. (Well, that and a trip around the world at some point.)