Wednesday, June 11, 2014

what we're reading wednesday: don't you forget about me

A few weeks ago I was contacted by a lovely blogger/author (Erin McCole Cupp) spreading the word about her new book, Don't You Forget About Me, which she described as a "Theology of the Body Murder Mystery." Naturally I was intrigued. I checked it out on Amazon, read the preview, and immediately bought the Kindle edition. And then read it in, um, two days.

The story starts with the main character, Cate, a successful-but-still-a-little-insecure author, about to head back to her hometown for the funeral of her old principal-- a place where her growing-up years were, shall we say, difficult. But the visit home, which starts out only as awkward as expected, takes a turn for the worse when strange things start happening, including a mysterious death. Cate and her grade-school crush, Gene (now an OB/GYN) find themselves investigating and getting drawn in deeper than might be good for them. What is the Curse of '87? How did Sister Thomas Marie really die?

This book was great because it worked on two levels. The "murder mystery" part can stand on its own as an exciting story with intrigue and unexpected twists. The characters are interesting and easy to identify with. But there are also interesting "theology of the body" questions brought up-- what happens to women (not just physically, but emotionally) who are put on contraceptives, even when it's for totally licit, non-contraceptive purposes? And why are such treatments so prevalent, even when there might be better options out there? The questions aren't answered in a trite way-- they aren't even really answered at all, but I think that's a good thing (especially for a novel). It's sometimes enough to just ask the questions. The great thing was that the "theology of the body" bits were woven into the story so that they didn't really seem at all unnatural or tacked-on.

Have I piqued your interest yet? Read some more reviews here, then go read the book! Plus-- guess what! There's a promotion running on the Kindle version through June 12... call me crazy, but I just clicked on the link and it looks like it's free (as in ZERO DOLLARS) for the moment!

Forgot to add this link at first... See what others are reading over at Housewifespice.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

answer me this: awkward bookish introvert edition

1. Do you have a land line?

No. I'm thinking as the girls get older though, we might get one of those land-line-that-hooks-up-to-your-internet things, both for emergencies and for the kids to use. They're less expensive than standard land lines, generally.

2. What is your least favorite food?

I honestly can't think of any food that I absolutely detest and Will Not Eat. I'm not a big fan of beans all on their own, I guess, though I don't mind them in soups and things.

3. What's on your summer reading list?

I'm finishing up Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking, and Style, Sex, & Substance, then next on my list are Simplicity Parenting and The Ocean at the End of the Lane. My more long-term reading projects are On Food and Cooking and A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms. Oh, and the Catechism. (I'm doing that read-the-Catechism-in-a-year thing.)

My bedside table a few months ago. Several of the books are now gone, but they've been replaced by others. The height of the pile has only increased. Do you think I have a problem??

4. Is there something that people consistently ask for your advice on? What is it?

Well, yes. People ask my advice about medical stuff, particularly regarding their kids. (Not just at work, but obviously there especially.)

5. What's the most physically demanding thing you've ever done?

Aside from giving birth? Working in the PICU during residency. 28-hour shifts, no sleep, nonstop work, stressful environment. Just crazy.

Only tangentially related, but oh-so-true.

6. How do you feel about massages?

Well, I like them in theory. And I definitely like them from my husband. But I feel like getting a professional massage would just be AWKWARD. Am I supposed to talk? Or just lie there in silence? If I am supposed to talk, what would I talk about? Or would it be super-weird to talk and I should just shut up? I'm an INTJ, you guys. Even thinking about small talk stresses me out. I chopped off all my hair yesterday (pics to come!), and I was more nervous about chatting with the stylist than I was about chopping my hair! I think (going back to the massage) I would have too much trouble relaxing, which would kind of defeat the whole purpose.

Click back over to CatholicAllYear for more folks' answers!

Friday, June 6, 2014

seven quick takes friday - ed. 22

1. I finally signed up for Spotify and it. Is. Awesome. I spent way too much time yesterday trolling other people's playlists and shamelessly stealing their ideas for my own.

2. I read this article the other day: The day I left my son in the car. Very interesting take on how parenting has changed to be much more supervisory of our kids than it used to be. Is it so bad to let kids out of your sight? Or rather, the question is really-- why is it SO MUCH WORSE than it used to be?

3. I'm really doing it-- tomorrow I'm going to chop my hair short. Shorter than I've ever gone before-- the shortest I've ever gone was a jaw-length bob at the beginning of med school:

 I'm scared. But excited. But scared. I don't want it to end up looking mannish or old-lady-ish or like a frizzy mop. Pray for me. (After a quick Google search, I've learned that St. Martin de Porres is the patron saint of hairdressers. Who knew? St. Martin de Porres, pray for us!)

4. So after years of refusing to watch, I'm finally hooked on The Walking Dead (I'm only on Season Two, but I'm moving fast). I know I mentioned once that I kind of have a phobia of zombies... which is why it took me this long to start watching. (I watched the first episode a long time ago but ended up in tears from terror when Rick was under the tank.... gah!!!) I still find zombies to be fundamentally upsetting-- a point I maintain is objectively true if you really think about them-- but I've managed to realize that they're just a trope for the show. They're good for startling you and making you jump, and they're pretty gross, but really they're kind of silly. They're like the baddies in Pac-Man-- they chase you around trying to chomp you, but they don't hold any malice toward you, they won't gain your trust and then betray you, they're not plotting against you. They're not immoral, they're just dangerous animals who are horrifying because they're corpses. They're not even the point of the show; they just create a situation for the real bad guys-- the humans-- to reveal themselves. It's a good show. (It still can't be the last thing I watch before I go to bed though, or I will have nightmares. My subconscious doesn't acknowledge my reasonable arguments about zombies.)

5. Here's a blog post you should read: To the lady ashamed of being pregnant with her fourth. I know this topic has been discussed by many much more eloquent than I (cough*simchafisher*cough), but it's always worth re-addressing. When did having a lot of kids (whatever "a lot" means) become something horrifying to our society? And why, especially when the family in question is happy?

6. Two serious takes in a row?! What the heck?! Here, have a science comic:
Source: Beatrice the Biologist
7. And look! COOKIE SCIENCE! The science behind baking the most delicious cookie ever.

I think these findings demand extensive confirmatory research. In my kitchen. And my mouth.

Click back over to Jen at Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

pediatrician psa: why i am not in favor of home births

When I hear a pregnant woman say she plans to give birth at home, my heart rate starts to go up-- not in anger, but in worry. During my training in pediatrics, I spent three months working in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit), and more than once I saw the outcomes of home births that had gone horribly wrong. Healthy moms, healthy pregnancies-- but something happened and the baby needed something that couldn't be provided at home-- oxygen, medication, IV fluids, a blood transfusion. Some of them were "neurologically devastated" (basically the medical term for severely brain-damaged) as a result. Some died.

This is not to say that bad outcomes don't happen in hospital births, too-- of course they do. And it's not to say that healthy babies aren't sometimes born at home-- of course they are. But if even one baby born at home could have been saved by quicker access to medical intervention, that's serious, isn't it?

Yes, it's true that women's bodies are designed to go through labor and delivery-- "pregnancy isn't a disease," as they say-- but just because it's natural doesn't mean it can't go wrong. Too often, it does. (Even rarely is "too often," in my opinion.) Humans are pushing the limits of what's possible, biologically speaking. Compared to the size of women's birth canals, our babies' heads are HUGE to accommodate our large human brains. This is presumably the reason our babies are born so immature, compared to the rest of the mammals in the animal kingdom, who are often walking within hours of birth (aside from marsupials, who have a second gestational period in their mothers' pouches). If human babies developed and grew any more before birth, they simply wouldn't fit!

I think it's wonderful that women want a good and memorable birth experience-- it is a very meaningful event, something sadly trivialized in our modern culture... but the outcome-- the child that is the result-- is really what counts. I see so many similarities to women who get preoccupied with having the perfect wedding, when it's the marriage that really matters. Instead of bridezillas, we have mamazillas (birthzillas? laborzillas? you know what I mean). Women who have The Perfect Birth planned out and typed up, with no thought to the "what-ifs."

I often hear home-birth advocates cite the need to avoid unnecessary medical intervention. Of course we should avoid unnecessary medical intervention. But we should have ready access to possible necessary medical intervention-- which isn't always foreseeable beforehand. When I was in labor with my oldest daughter-- a totally healthy pregnancy-- her heart rate dropped suddenly and we were taken to emergency C-section. She was fine, but her blood-gas readings at birth showed that she had been getting dangerously low levels of oxygen in her blood for the short time before the C-section. If she had continued getting those low levels for however-much-longer labor would've lasted (hours? I was only dilated to 7cm at the time), she could have had permanent brain injury.

Clearly one anecdote isn't proof. But numerous studies have shown that, generally speaking, giving birth at home is related to an increased risk of bad outcomes for babies. (Note I said "increased risk." Obviously plenty of babies are born at home without any complication. Riding a bike without a helmet increases your risk of head injury but plenty of kids never wear helmets and are totally fine.) See here, here, and here. (Yes, there are some studies that show there is very little difference in outcomes. That's what meta-analyses-- such as in the third link-- are for. Here's an explanation of meta-analyses for the curious.)

Find an OB or midwife you can trust, who knows your preferences, but please please understand the medical reasons for something before you dismiss it. With few (unfortunate) exceptions, medical personnel aren't out to undermine your birth experience for selfish reasons. They just want you and your baby to be safe. And the safest place to give birth is in the hospital.

(If you do decide to give birth at home, please make it as safe for your baby as possible and follow the recommended guidelines for planned home births.)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

answer me this: pretty church pictures edition

1. Do you have a smart phone?

I do. It probably says something bad about me that I feel like I couldn't go back to life pre-iPhone. How else would I solve the argument about "That's the same actor who was in ____" without bothering to get up from the couch? In all seriousness, though, I use it as my planner, timer, reminders, music, primary camera, I look up medical stuff when I'm at work, etc.

It's kinda crazy though, right? Ten years ago we were all "la-di-dah, I'm out on the town, I'll find a payphone if I need to call someone" and now we're like, "OMG WHERE'S MY PHONE DID I LEAVE IT AT HOME I WILL DIE WITHOUT IT."

2. Which is your favorite meal of the day?

Dessert. Once the babies are in bed and I can eat ice cream in peace-- HEAVEN. Or maybe coffee. That counts as a meal, right?

3. Shower or bath?

Shower. Bathtubs are generally too short for me to be able to stretch out comfortably and relax. Oh, the woes of being a tall girl.
#tallgirlproblems (no, these aren't my legs.)
4. Think of a person you love. How many days have you been in love with that person?

2,788 days. Our first date was on October 13, 2006. I guess I don't know if I was "in love" with him then... but I think it counts, seeing as we've been together ever since!

5. What's the best church you've ever been inside?

The most beautiful church I've ever been inside is the Our Lady, Queen Of The Most Holy Rosary Cathedral in Toledo, Ohio. Yes, Toledo!! It's the church we used to attend when we lived there, and it's where I became Catholic-- Easter Vigil 2009!

Jack, me, and Fr. Singler after Easter Vigil
My favorite church, community-wise, was the parish we left when we moved to Guam-- St. Bernadette's in Silver Spring.

6. Happy Feast of the Visitation! Has anyone ever come to help YOU?

Yup. Right before Josie was born, we learned our au pair was going to be leaving a little earlier than we thought, which left us with no one to watch Faith when I went into labor. My parents drove down from Ohio and spent a couple weeks on the sleeper sofa in our guest room to help out. (My dad even sneakily vacuumed the whole house-- which we hadn't done in way too long-- while Jack was at work and my mom and I were out with Faith!)

Click here to head back to the linkup at Catholic All Year!