"You will be a better mom because you are a theologian, and a better theologian because you are a mom."

Is it true? In this blog, I explore the interplay and intersection of motherhood and theologianhood.

Friday, April 30, 2010


(Above, baby Eva trying to wake up her Uncle John Mark during his vacation in the U.S.)

My awesome younger brother is in Peace Corps in Benin. His teaching service is almost ending, but over the summer he has a project involving a large summer camp for girls. They are still raising money for the camp, and looking for donations. Visit his blog, and you can reach the Peace Corps donation site through his latest post. They could all really use the funds!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Birthday Bonanza

Maia's birthday always seems to stretch out over a week, which is fine with me so long as it doesn't overtake my own birthday, which is three days later. :) Maia opening birthday gifts at 6:30 a.m. Four and proud of it! Madison and Gia came over for a tea party. Maia helped me plant some herbs during her birthday week.
Birthday cake, take 1.
Scenes from a birthday tea.
Maia (finally!) blows out the candles.

Flying her new kite (from Lou and Rob) with Daddy on the beach.

Maia at 4

Four... "I have more plans on my birthday than anyone ever!"

Three... "Ok, I'm going to go play now."

Two... "Where did the birthday party go?" (asked after the party was over)

One... A non-verbal, "What's the fuss about?"

Birth... Jeff does a great imitation of Maia's first cry, with pleghmy cough in the middle of it. We'll certainly never forget the first sound she made.

Life...and Prenatal "Care"

(Above, Maia, at a few days old.)

My last post was on my quest for good maternity care, and I mentioned my first and last appointments at a traditional OB practice. This particular practice had a packed waiting room - one that felt like a doctor's waiting room. Like most, it was not particularly homey, and it was papered with ads and pamphlets for drugs. Of course, in this case, all of the ads and pamphlets were for various forms of birth control.

When I met with the midwife, one of the first conflicts we had was that their practice required a first trimester genetic screening. This screening would "detect" Downs Syndrome and neural tube defects... or at least it would make people paranoid of the possibility or, "risk factor" as they called it. Of course, I objected, and asked point blank if this test was offered for any purpose other than to encourage abortions. The midwife seemed offended and explained to me (as though I were a two-year old) that you'd want certain specialists available at a delivery if you knew the child had certain problems. Well, that may be true, but you wouldn't have to figure this out in your first trimester.

And the fact is that here in the United States, 9 out of 10 babies that appear to have Downs are aborted. It's a kind of sickening fact. I don't know the stats on neural tube defects, but my husband has a colleague whose son has spina bifida. At a doctor appointment for his son, the parents brought up the possibility of traveling to France, and the doctor warned them that there wouldn't be any doctors who would know how to deal with spina bifida there. Why? Because in France, there aren't any children with spina bifida.

My husband and I were both a little taken aback by the story of the doctor who aborted the "wrong" fetus. He meant to kill the Downs child and instead killed the normal child. So the mother went back and had her other child aborted too, and the doctor has lost his medical license.

It's strange here what passes for prenatal "care." My sister was a little shocked that an OB practice could require you to get the first trimester screening. Her practice, which works primarily with poor Latinas, doesn't even offer it, and they discourage the second trimester screening as well. In some ways, these Latinas get much better care than the upper-class white women here. One difference is the insurance coverage; my insurance company will pay for all these screenings (and I guess if it results in an abortion they ultimately save money, too). But this population also has a different attitude toward life; my sister says they have a beautiful saying in Spanish, which she's heard countless times when she brings up the option of the screening. It's something to the effect of, "We'll receive our child however it comes to us."

"Receive." It's an interesting word, isn't it? It implies that there's something else involved besides the two who conceived the child. It also implies that the parents didn't "choose" to have this child, so much as to accept the child as a gift from God. And who would refuse the gift as its given?

The Quest for Good Maternity Care

For the last few months I've been musing on the difficulties of finding good maternity care. My journey with this began even before I was pregnant, when I called our new insurance here in Jersey to figure out what the coverage was like. I was practically ecstatic: a $10 copay for the first office visit, and then 100% insurance coverage of all care, including labor and delivery. Given that we were still paying off Eva's delivery when we moved here (at 10% coinsurance, plus the day in a children's hospital for jaundice, we ended up owing about $1600 for her - and that's with a natural delivery.), it just seemed amazing that we would only have to pay $10 for our next. More good news: our new insurance covers birth centers, midwives, hospitals, etc. It appeared to have a lot of options.

It seemed fantastic, and I was already joking with people about wanting to get pregnant as soon as possible (of course, I wasn't actually fertile when I was joking about it...). Then, I got pregnant, and I had to make the next move of selecting my care providers. Since my sister is a midwife, I'm prejudiced toward midwifery care, so first I did a midwife search, and I was pretty astonished at the lack of midwifery care available. Most midwives here work in OB practices, rather than midwifery practices. So basically I would end up with four OBs and one midwife, which was not what I was looking for. There was one midwifery practice that came up on my insurance website, but it looked to be at least a thirty minute drive. Out here in Jersey, no one thinks twice about driving thirty minutes for anything (especially if they can do it every day). But as someone from a non-commuting small town in Iowa, an hour in the car just wasn't appealing to me. Not to mention that particluar practice wasn't in a very safe area.

I also called the insurance to identify where the birth centers were, since I'm covered for them. As it turns out, there aren't any within a 75 mile radius of where I live, for which I'm covered. Hmph.

Who would have guessed that in such a highly populated area there would be so few birthing options? It was actually much more limited than in Ohio.

My next object was to see if I could get a homebirth covered by insurance. This was kind of our first choice all along. But to make a long story short, the answer was no on the homebirth. It took a few weeks of arguing on this to ascertain that homebirth was not an option, unless I wanted to pay $6,000 out of pocket for my care and delivery (this was for a CNM, not an LPM, which would be about $3,000 out of pocket). My husband was willing to do it, but, my inner utilitarian could just think of a lot of ways I'd rather spend $6,000 than on a delivery I could have for free.

Finally, I started asking around to get some names of potential caregivers. The first three friends I asked had all had C-sections (two for very weak, i.e. not medically indicated, reasons). I didn't really want to go to their providers. The fourth person I asked had had two vaginal deliveries and really liked her doctors, and the office was closeby, and they had a midwife on staff.

Of course, by this time, I was already 10 weeks along, and when I called to make my appointment, they insisted that I come in that same week. The only appointment was for a Wednesday morning, so I told them I'd have to bring my kids. They said it was no problem. But when I showed up on Wednesday with Maia and Eva, they told me I needed to have a stroller for Eva. So I went out to the car and brought the stroller in. Then, after taking my blood pressure and weight, they informed me that they just really couldn't do the appointment with children present and they'd like me to reschedule. This was immediately a red flag for me, but I agreed to come in later that day. Jeff had to leave work early and take Maia to gymnastics.

Within about five minutes of meeting with the midwife that evening, she informed me that I would not be happy with their practice because they are so medicalized. She went through all the details - things like continuous fetal monitoring, a clear liquid diet during labor, no waterbirths, etc. In other words, all things that have NOT been shown to improve birth outcomes, but which, nonetheless, the OB community seems wedded to.

So I transfered care to the midwifery practice she recommended, which, of course, is a good forty minute drive from where I live. On the day of my first appointment there, my kids spent about an hour and a half in a car and an hour at an appointment. That'll wipe out an afternoon for you. It also almost wiped out our lives. There's no time that I have such a keen sense of my mortality as when I'm in the car on the road, especially here in Jersey. This time, we escaped in tact, and possibly the drive will seem easier when I'm more familiar with the route. Until then, our four guardian angels will have to be working overtime to ensure our safety in the car.

Now I will be delivering in a hospital that is about forty minutes away, as well. Because, it's oh, so much fun to be in heavy labor and immobilized by a seatbelt for forty minutes, let me tell you (I did this with my first delivery, actually). But, this place does have waterbirths, my midwives seem nice, and it probably will be a better birth experience. And, hey, it's free.

God bless America's healthcare, where you can get the expensive ($15,000+ for a C-section), interventional hospital delivery for free, but you can't get a homebirth without going into debt. Or in other words, see my sister's earlier insight on this.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Into Mischief

Little Miss Eva has started really to delight in causing mischief. She likes to follow directions and be affirmed, but she also likes to tease us by NOT doing what we ask. For example, "Eva, come back in the kitchen with that banana" is usually met by her sprinting as fast as she can toward the living room. If she finds the gate open, she likes to get up on the stairs just a few steps, so that we'll notice her. We ask her to come back down and instead she climbs up as fast as she can. Ooh, and if she can somehow find the bathroom door open, she'll definitely try to get her hand in the toilet (even if the lid is down).

But this morning her mischief went to a whole new level, although, in her defense, Eva wasn't trying to make trouble.

I was on the treadmill, Maia was still asleep, Jeff was doing some light reading while watching Eva when... the doorbell rang twice, followed by some heavy knocking. Jeff ran down the steps with Eva and opened the door to... the police. Two officers, to be exact. And they insisted that someone in the house had called 911. They had been hung up on when they made return calls. Jeff said, no, impossible. No one has made any phone calls here this morning, and the phone never rang, either. The officers came in to have a look around, and then Jeff said that MAYBE the baby had done it. So he went upstairs, grabbed the phone and brought it down. Sure enough, a recall showed that the number 911111111111111 had been dialed. Eva also must have hung up on them when they called back.

That phone is now out of her reach. But no doubt the mischief will continue.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Truth About Sisterhood

I bought these shirts for Maia and Eva. They were on clearance ($1.99 each!) and were cute, and, well, don't sisters need shirts like these? But what's the truth about the shirts? I asked Maia, video below.

Hmm... well, then, maybe the shirts were just a waste of $4. False advertising anyway. But then, the video below might just contradict my little interview with Maia. They sure look happy to be sisters in this video.

Little Swimmers

Above, Maia jumps into the pool. She's doing a great job improving on her swimming!

Above, Eva jumps into the pool (and resurfaces, but not quite all the way).

And one last video of Eva "swimming."