Wednesday, March 31, 2010


*UPDATED: I fixed the broken link!

So a lot has been going on over here at Team Lev Headquarters. I have decided not to go back to teaching next year. I am going to focus on writing and, to make up the difference in income, I had to seek out an endeavor that was lucrative and yet allowed me to work in short bursts when Miles was either in a good mood or asleep.

So, on the employment front, I started doing transcription. As it turns out, I don't have the time right now to really pursue the types of writing activities that would be lucrative enough to cover my nut. But I do have short bursts of time to type what people are saying. I have some wicked fast typing skills (mostly from years of typing my own research interviews) and I had a really good friend (the owner of Yarnia!) who sort of shepherded me through the process of getting some gigs.

Then I had to take some tests from various companies. And I failed one. Let me tell you how well I handled that! Me! Type A, control freak, perfection nazi. I failed a damn test. It was like my world exploded. I pretty much ate 11.5 cupcakes and buried my head in the sand. (actually, I ate 11.5 cupcakes as part of a spring cupcake party...more on that later I guess) As it turns out, my problem was technological and not physical. I just didn't know the Word shortcuts necessary to type fast and accurately as people are talking. But I learned them!

And then I passed a couple of tests and got paid $75 to transcribe a test file, which I also passed (take that, shitty-paying magazine gig!). And now I'm doing some captioning and transcribing and it's been great. I stick Miles in the jumperoo and type for 20 minutes while he pushes buttons with his face and jumps up and down. Or then he falls asleep and I do some more work. It's all been pretty snazzy.

On the other issue, my writing, I have really been working to sort of streamline what I want to do as a writer. I have been, you might have noticed, very transformed by the birth of my son. It has affected everything about me and I find he's all I want to write about. Him and mothering in general and birthing in general. So I am reinventing myself as a mom/birth writing specialist. I don't see my writing about ecological sustainability as separate from this, so I'm still doing those gigs, too. I mean, who wants their baby to eat bleach or succumb to CO poisoning? So I keep writing about the earth.

Which brings me to my very exciting piece of news. I totally revamped my website, with help from my brother-in-law, and included a blog on there. Check it out here: I will, from now on, do most of my blogging over there on my own site and I'll pretty much be only writing about mothering and birthing. Am I a mommy blogger now? Probably. And I'm down with that.

I like to think I have a unique voice out there. I'm not scared to admit that motherhood is hard and often sucks a fat nut. I'm not afraid to admit it was really unenjoyable for large portions of the first four months. And I know I'm not alone in thinking so and I hope that my voice can somehow offer validation to other moms who share my experiences.

So you'll find me over there, where I publish my other work and will now publish my independent ideas. I've started out with a bunch of posts from this archive.

New stuff to come soon!

See? Isn't it all very exciting?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


I went to rugby practice last night! I was nearly as nervous walking to the field as I was the first time I walked to a rugby field...perhaps in some ways this was scarier because I knew what was coming and I went anyway.

I was kind of indifferent about the fitness portion of practice--I've never been what you might call a speed demon. Finishing last on sprint drills was ok with me (though the bent-over wheezing afterward was a teeny bit embarrassing, only because we practiced on Pitt's campus and PEOPLE COULD SEE!).

It was the contact I feared. Oh, the contact. When our captains announced we would work on 2 vs 1 drills, I got sick, nauseous. I had this giant swelling of fear inside me. I really and truly almost cried, I was so scared.

I kept playing out these scenarios in which someone tackled me wrong and I ruptured my uterus. Or else maybe my bladder would migrate and switch places with the uterus again, like it did after my surgery? Or, dear lord, what if I peed my pants or leaked breastmilk during the moment of impact??

I went through a couple rounds of the drill, sort of avoiding contact at all costs. And then KP let me tackle her. I would like to say that suddenly everything was better and that I was instantly the rugby player I was before. That would, of course, be a lie. But I did discover that I wasn't going to crumple like a piece of peanut brittle.

When I was feeling a bit blue about the whole exercise, another wise teammate (back in the game herself after a hiatus...she says her being long of the tooth equals my being saggy of the pelvic floor) told me that everything I did last night was more than I had done before. Isn't that wise?

So I did it. I finished practice and got more exercise in that 90 minutes that I have for months, unless you count squat thrusts holding an 18# baby and a few walks around the block, which really, really, really do not match the intensity of a rugby practice.

Corey asked me later if I had fun while I was there. I don't know if fun is the right word (because most of it was so painful and awful). But I was there, immersed in my friends and teammates and thinking only adult thoughts. Rugby practice had the marvelous affect of giving me tunnel vision, focus. While I was engaged in practice, I was only thinking about practice. My mind didn't have time to worry; I wasn't simultaneously doing laundry and mopping a floor and cooking rice cereal. I was just doing one, super hard thing at a time. So yeah, it was pretty outstanding, despite the agony.

At the end of it all, by some miracle, Miles hadn't gone to bed yet (perhaps his Dad overstimulated him?) so I found myself zooming home, shedding muddy layers in the car. I rushed in the front door, washed my hands, and got to nurse him to sleep. My favorite part of the day.

And then the little pea pod slept straight through the night for the first time! Which was good, because when I heard him meowing this morning, my post-baby body was barely able to drag its bones over to pick him up.

Welcome back to the game, Katy.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Liquids I Was Not Prepared For

I knew to be ready for many things as a mother. I got ready for a lot of things that turned out to be pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things. But then, my baby spewed forth a handful of liquids I just never, ever expected. These include, but are not limited to:
1. Biscuit juice--the liquid goo that squirts out of Miles' face as he eats one of those teething cookies. The juice is not quite spit, not quite solid food, but filled with enough gluten to make a brown, gluey mess of everything in the house. Biscuit juice is gritty and could be an exfoliant. What I should do is just give my son a few biscuits and stick a cup under his mouth to catch the biscuit juice. I could then sell the juice to either Elmers or Sephora.

2. Laundry Leachate--similar to landfill leachate, only involving streams of milky, barfy liquid that sinks down through the clothes in the wicker hamper and pools on the hardwood floor, sometimes dripping down into the space below the hardwood floor. Anything the leachate touches needs to be doused in Borax-treated soaking water. Often, leachate contains biscuit juice particles.

3. Mucous--I knew my baby would make mucous. I can prove I knew this because I obtained one of those blue squeezy bulbs with which to suck the mucous from his various drain-holes. But I didn't know what the mucous would feel like, sound like, taste like as it sprayed all over my person and my home. (See leachate, above) Let me tell you, nothing beats a morning spent using your legs to pin down all the baby's limbs, your calves holding his head immobile, finagling the damn squeezy bulb up his nose and drawing out the mucous, only to have it slip and plop directly onto your crotch. Of your only clean pants that button.

4. Fruit juice--did anyone know that fruit juice is sticky and makes a mess? Even when it's super diluted? Why the heck didn't I know this? My floors are covered with dirty spots that were once juice spills and then got dusty or covered in cotton when someone decided to crawl right on through the spills. Then, frequently, I will step barefoot in one of these dead zones and need to use some sort of razor to get the grime from my foot.

5. Dried up barf--no longer a liquid, but a former liquid. Miles has this habit of barfing sort of secretly. When he is playing contentedly under the dining room table, say, then crawls into the living room, we'll notice his face and hands are barfy. Which means he barfed at some point, but didn't tell us! Then we need to hunt the barf. If we are unsuccessful and too much time passes, we have set ourselves up to find a clump of dried up barf, which is not quite as bad as fruit juice tar traps, but still requires a chisel, dish soap, and an old cloth diaper for cleanup. I just always assumed the baby would make a big production of barfing, we'd clean it up, and my worst problem would be the leachate in the hamper...

I'm sure there will be many more surprise liquids I haven't seen just yet, and I already know there are some new habits I am learning (i.e. always wear some sort of shoe or foot protection). In the mean time, I have a kid who has dragged himself through a puddle of something (dishwasher water? Spilled laundry detergent?) and I need to mop him up before he creates a new hazard.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Take Your $75 and Shove It!

Update: I have secured $75 for this month. I will be earning it as a training exercise for a new endeavor. Corey and I have been discussing the conundrum of our finances. We want one of us to be home with Miles, we want each of us to have work/life balance, and we want to have enough money to pay our bills.

If Corey took an accounting job with a for-profit company, he'd make way more money, but we'd never see him. So, I am trying something new. It will still allow me to work from home and will require less immersion than writing, should I succeed in the training.

I don't want to go on and on about details because I might not be a good fit for this new form of self employment! But, suffice it to say that the $75 I could have earned slaving for one magazine article has been recouped in a way that could potentially improve quality of life for Team Lev!

Wish me luck on my training. Join me in feeling smug about the $75, no matter what happens!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pondering My Bosom

My bosom is on my mind again of late (not that it hasn't been ever-present in my thoughts since July 17). This is because I will be leaving Miles in 2 weeks to attend the AWP conference in Denver. I'm speaking on a panel there! I should be excited! I'm on the program! But yet, I am terrified.

My poor, defenseless baby will be home alone with his father (and Ninny) while I am off gallivanting and pretending to be a grown-up. What will he do when, every few hours, he wants to nurse? I know he'll be getting nourishment from a bottle while I'm gone and won't starve to death. But what about his emotional needs? That boy loves him some nursing time.

He sits down at my breast and pats it with both hands, kneads the extra flesh like a baker. He rubs my bosom, pats it with his little (sometimes-ice-cold) fingers, and looks up into my eyes as if to say, "thank you for letting me be near this wondrous bosom, fountain of all that is delicious and good for me." He makes oinking sounds and slurps.

Then his eyes roll up in his head and he falls asleep.

Will he forget how to do this while I am gone? Will he stop wanting to do this? Worse, will my bosom forget how to offer this experience? I spend many hours each day wondering what will happen to my nipples while I am away (will my hard-earned tough skin chafe while I'm gone?) or whether my milk ducts will explode and I'll die of engorgement.

I think about what bra I should wear while I'm out and about. On one hand, I have no need to wear a bra that flaps open with the flick of a finger. I'll get to keep my shirt securely fastened for, like, 8 hours at a time if I want. But what other choice of lingerie do I really have? It's not like I have a heap of F cup bras sitting around! And, really, F cup is me in denial and not wanting to purchase a better-fitting G cup brazier. I might as well leave my nursing bras at home and just bring a bucket truck.

Sidenote: I was out for a walk today with some friends and I possessed the smallest bosom of our party. Boy, did I feel dainty!

Among all this anxiety over what will happen to my bosom during this adventure lies the need to express my milk. I am going to have to use that damn breast pump again, many times each day. I spent a long time on the phone and internet securing a plan of action to get my milk back home with me (thanks, TSA!). But the bottom line is that, even though this trip will afford me uninterrupted sleep and the freedom to wear a turtleneck, I just cannot escape the constant presence of breast thoughts.

I'll have my insulated lunch box and ice packs with me at all times, my bag of pump parts, baggies of milk, and always the worry about weather I'll get mugged and someone will steal my liquid gold. I won't need to rush home to a hungry babe, but I'll be waiting in line for the lactation rooms both to relieve my exploding udders and to remind my bosom that it's not off duty yet.

I'm at a stage in my nursing experience where I think the process is awesome and totally rewarding. But I am still slammed to my knees at the tremendous power of Miles' need for me. As much as I want to pretend I am still sort of the same person, can still engage in lively discussions of pedagogy and networking and contract negotiations, it all slides away every few hours when my body reminds me of its main duty right now.

I know I say this many times every day, but I just had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Now, off to ice my armpits. I'm having a supply surplus this evening because someone went to bed early.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Strong Opinions About Writing and Money

I just passed on a writing assignment because it paid crap. Bottom of the barrel crap. My reaction is very visceral and complicated, and I should probably wait to be less angry before writing about this. But I have a lot of feelings to work through.

For starters, I am insulted that the editor was insulted that I should ask for more money. She ranted about her overhead, her limited budgets, her bills to pay and then suggested that my putting a value on my craft, a specific per-word or per-assignment value, was somehow selling out. Why should writing not be a paid skill?

Why should I settle for the joy of having written for this magazine, for the joy I will bring my readers or the joy of seeing my name in ink?

If I applied this same logic, I would have to tell my babysitter she could also earn pennies on the hour for watching my child while I research and write--isn't Miles a joy to behold? And then I could tell the mortgage company I will only pay pennies per month for the space I use to write and the phone company, internet provider, grocery store, etc. because I am pretty cool. Isn't it a joy to support my efforts bringing joy to the world? Let's just set up a barter economy!

The implication here is that because my craft is writing--an art--I should do it for nothing. I should be a starving artist and maybe dumpster dive or go on food stamps to preserve the integrity of my work. Have I sold out in fixing a monetary value to my craft? Is my work less artful because I ask to be compensated for it? So be it.

Sidenote: If writing were not a valuable skill, why do universities charge many thousands of dollars to teach graduate students how to do it better?

There are not many people who can do what I do, and I should be compensated for my time spent doing this complicated activity. This is not opinion. I am continually flabbergasted by people who balk when writers demand a nice wage. If I were a plumber or mechanic, nobody would speak to me harshly or claim I am somehow mentally unwell for asking to be compensated for my work. In my imaginary scenario, I am the plumber. I ask for $40 for repairing a toilet clog. The client balks. I say, "Ok. Fix it yourself then. See ya!"

This morning a magazine offered me $75 to craft a mid-length feature article. The last feature I wrote took me about 20 hours of documented time, including research and drafting. It took me untold hours of shower-time-drafting, before bed pondering, dinner-time aha! moments and other subconscious wordsmithing. Can you imagine doing this for $75? I asked for much more than this. They balked. I said, in essence, "Ok. Write it yourself then." (Actually, I spent a long time thinking of a way to say this politely and came up with, 'I am going to have to pass on this assignment.')

I believe that people think they can offer these piddly amounts of money because people have begun taking this in exchange for writing. Craigslist drips with these sorts of offers because people take them. I hear the following argument all the time: well, I can churn out writing so fast that I end up getting $10 per hour or more!

To this I say, writing should not be churned. $10 per hour still blows.

Many people also imply that any money is better than no money. This bristles my feathers, too. I have a stack of bills on my desk, too, but I would rather pay them with snow-shoveling labor or working at Starbucks or bagging groceries. To do the work of writing for so little money sends the message that this is what writing is worth. The people who take those jobs slowly chip away the bottom of the barrel for the rest of us.

Today, someone knocked a hole in my sub-floor, monetarily speaking. I feel proud that I stepped around the hole. Yeah, I'm out $75 this month. I feel confident that I will find it elsewhere and for less labor.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Whine Me a River

I have started letting Miles "whine it out" when I put him to bed. It occurred to us recently that we feel ok not responding immediately when Miles whines. We know that nothing is wrong because, for four months, we heard what noise he makes when something is wrong. Everyone on our block heard it. For 100 days. Without stopping.

So now, when he makes this whining sound, if we are mid-cup of tea or nose-blowing or almost at the end of an episode of the Office, we feel pretty forgiven for not running at high speed to see what's going on.

When we put him down for bed or for a nap, he often is asleep at the breast or over the shoulder and then, somewhere in the transfer to his bed, he wakes up and starts whining. We pat his back a bit, tell him everything is ok, that it's time for lovely sleep, and if he's not done whining yet, I'm going to go ahead and admit that I walk out the door, close it, and let him whine it out for a few minutes until he falls asleep.

I wonder if this is what people thought was going on when they would suggest I let Miles cry it out earlier in his life? Because this is totally bearable. I suppose it might sound like crying to some folks, who haven't heard what it sounds like when Miles ACTUALLY cries. There aren't even tears involved in this new whining, let alone stiff back arching and vomit-smearing. This is just limp-bodied, face buried in the hands, tired whining. He usually stops within three or four minutes, becomes totally asleep, and everyone wins.

Every now and then, the whining will turn into actual crying and we get our butts in there before it becomes screaming. But we've learned to tell the difference between the two sounds--or rather Miles has learned to make different sounds.

I think that in teaching us the difference between his desperate need for comfort and just plain whining, Miles has actually set himself up for a tougher path as a toddler or teenager. He showed us his good cards right away, so we know exactly what it sounds like when he is having an emergency. Which means we know what it sounds like when there is nothing actually wrong, too. For the rest of his life, he is totally effed if he is seeking any sort of urgent response from whingy little sleepy sounds.

Free of Phlegm

Still isn't too sure about this grass stuff

Thinking about liking the swing

Liking the swing a little bit

Watching Daddy make a weird face

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Whip It

*Spoiler Warning*

I was disappointed by Whip It. Perhaps I had unreasonably high expectations because the film got so much hype in Bust magazine, but I just had this overall sense of "this could have been better" when it was finally over. Maybe I was angry that it wasn't a film about rugby?

My main problem with the movie was that it included a love story. Why was this necessary? I realize all the great sports films contain love stories on the side, and I was glad to see that the relationship was truly a side element to the larger theme of developing oneself through team sports. But I just felt like the Oliver thing was a distraction from some of the other really juicy plot elements. Were the conflicts with the mother character, Blue Bonnet pageants and the former best friend not enough? Was the drive to escape the small town not enough? I didn't need Oliver.

I also absolutely hated everything to do with Drew Berrymore in that movie. Her character made no sense. Name me a stoner who has a penchant for violence and unchecked rage! Why wasn't her character just a stoner or just an aggressive bruiser? In rugby, we have both types of person. But I can't think of a combo. Not to mention, Drew Berrymore couldn't act her way out of a pair of rollerskates. If her character threatened to beat up Bliss' mother one more time, I was going to hip check her into oncoming traffic.

I also was upset that many of the roller derby teams had male coaches. Based on my experience obsessively following the Steel City Derby Demons a few years ago and my knowledge gained watching the series Rollergirls, about the actual Austin roller derby circuit, I know that many teams are actually self-coached or coached by former female derby athletes. While it was great to see a male coach of a female team NOT in a romantic relationship with his players, I would have loved to see a female controlling the strategic reins of the team. Women need to see role models in coaching positions--the movie was based on a fictitious novel, so why not just make the coach character a woman?

Finally, I was disappointed with the characters' response to the male coach. When Bliss is first learning to skate, her coach takes her aside and tells her to basically get tougher; this is a contact sport. She becomes enormously upset and Maggie Mayhem has to intervene and soften the blow, tell her not to take it personally. Scenes like this are, I think, part of the reason women do tend to take constructive criticism personally. He was not being mean and he was not getting personal--this was not in-your-face, angry coaching. He was offering Bliss a real bit of information that was going to improve her game. I wish the writer or director would have just let Bliss absorb this message, learn from it, and then go on to improve her aggressive athleticism.

Many of these issues were handled fantastically in the series Rollergirls. The show featured women who were tremendous athletes, bruisers, stoners, just plain bitchy, super competitive, had the sport change their lives and alter their romantic relationships, etc. There were tattoos and disappointed mothers and lives adjusted to not only accommodate roller derby, but to revolve around that activity as the central focus. That series, I felt, did women's team sports everywhere a great justice. I wish it had gotten more attention. Stick it on your Netflix, queue. You'll be happy you did!

Anyway, there were some things about Whip It that made me really happy. For starters, I liked that the mean, dominant team won in the end. They were a competitive bunch of winners and it would have been a way crappier movie if the Hurl Scouts won the big tournament. I like when women are shown in roles that are ruthless and super competitive, because women are capable of being both.

I also liked that the villain character (even though I hate Juliette Lewis and will always picture her as mentally disabled a la The Other Sister) wasn't evil, just sort of bitchy and really wanted to win. I didn't understand why Bliss called her out for "outing" Bliss's real age--the film showed scenes of her telling her own team her age and Posh's parents are the ones who told Bliss's parents. What was that about, Bliss? I like that Carla Tate, I mean Iron Maven, pretty much just said she wanted to eff with Bliss's head and then just beat her where it mattered--on the track.

In the end, the film made headway in that it showed the transformative power of team sports, specifically full-contact team sports, for women. I just had an overall sense that it could have been better, perhaps with a different director behind the camera.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Pesky Front Garden

For three summers now, I have fretted about my front lawn. Each year, I say ENOUGH! I will just plant food out there and be done with it. I suck at everything else. Then I cave and try to plant batches of flowers, which I neglect or hate or can't really afford. I've managed to kill a handful of hostas that were allegedly going to grow wild and look good year round.

I killed perfectly lovely fire bush.

I may have killed the lavender plant my friend stuck in the yard for me.

There are perhaps six tulips that have survived to grow again this year, and they look sprouty and lovely among the grass and weeds taking over the front bed.

This is the year where I say enough for real and I am planting food out there. Judge away, neighbors!

It was so gorgeous outside that I figured even my sick baby could benefit from helping me in the garden a little bit:
Look at his sad little water eyes! He breaks my heart.

I trucked him up front while I got the soil ready. Perhaps you can see in the background the brick border buried under gross grass and weeds? It looks like that year round, so we just hoed some compost into the soil and planted the vining peas along the trellis. Miles obviously just supervised and offered instructions.

Provided I can revive the lavender, I'll have that up there along with other herbs. I'm sticking mint, sage, basil, oregano, thyme, and rosemary in my front plot. Those are things I know how to grow, they are things that are useful, and they fit our budget for landscaping. Plus, most of them are perennial!

I know, you are thinking, but mint is invasive! It will take over your whole front lawn and eat the neighbor children! To this I say, good! Less for Corey to not mow, more for me to make tea.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Where Does All This Guilt Come From??

One thing that has surprised me about parenting is the amount of guilt involved in seemingly innocent decisions. Choose wrong, and you are forever on the wrong side of some binary. You have to face every food decision, every outfit choice, every toy purchase with conviction, because at every turn there is someone (real or perceived) asking you to defend that choice.

For instance, Miles is sick right now. I have been putting off calling the pediatrician because I don't want to be one of those moms who calls the pediatrician all the time. We have taken him in probably four times in his life so far for illness, and each time were told he'd be fine. Nothing to worry about!

I feel this huge force pressuring me not to call the pediatrician because then I'll be one of "those people." There is this discussion on my mom's email list right now about the evils of pediatricians, how they are pawns for the pharmaceutical companies, little better than drug pushers with lollipops. I also know quite a few hypochondriacs who know their physicians better than they know some relatives. Why not pay them for the peace of mind that everything is ok?

In general, we choose to let him cough and snot and poop and grump for awhile. Watchful waiting, etc. Except that on Saturday, his cough turned into really raspy breathing and his eyes just poured junk. I wanted to take him to one of those pharmacy clinics, but settled for paging the pediatrician.

As I waited for Dr. H. to return the page, I chided myself for overreacting and paging my doctor on a Saturday. I did this a lot more after we had a chat and decided Miles was probably just suffering from a bad cold.

Then, this morning, he coughed to persistently and wheezed so mightily I decided the guilt of being one of "those people" was less horrible than the guilt of being one of those people who lets her baby succumb to pneumonia or similar, so I put the pediatrician on speed dial and called every 4 minutes until I got through (it's rough on a Monday morning!).

As it turns out, he has an ear infection. "On a scale of one to ten, with ten being worst, this is about a 4.5," our doctor said. What does this mean? It meant, first, that I wasn't one of "those moms" and that it was ok to call the doctor! One layer of guilt eliminated! But it also meant another choice to analyze: He wrote me a prescription for antibiotics, but left it up to me whether I filled it. Oh great!

If I give him the meds, I could be setting him up for a resistance to antibiotics. I might be one of "those moms" who is all drug crazy and just medicates every single problem. If I don't, he'll get better on his own eventually, but he will suffer through several more days of discomfort, crappy breathing, and shitty sleep. I'll be one of "those moms" and give up my own rest to spend the night soothing my poor.

Surprisingly, I came to a conclusion on this one relatively quickly. Corey is picking up the amoxicillin right this minute. Which leaves me free to fret about all sorts of other decisions.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Time Change

I have located perhaps the lone benefit to having a baby who refuses to maintain any sort of routine: spring forward day means nothing to my family. For the first time in my life, I remain completely unaffected by the change to daylight saving time. Am I tired today? Of course! But that's because I was up every 3 hours overnight, same as I've been every night for the past ten.

The "good" thing about Miles is that he doesn't give a crap what time it is or what is on schedule for the day. If he's tired, he wants to be asleep and if he is not tired, by God--he will be awake. He has no regard for weekend vs week day, company vs just family, time to watch Lost vs sing Music Together songs. Every few hours, that boy will be awake and then, once he has licked everything in the room, pooped, and jumped around for awhile, he will become asleep.

Most days, I find it very difficult to surrender to the unschedulability of this life. I find I can accomplish things, like going to the store or cleaning the bathtub, only when they are not attached to specific time frames. As soon as any sort of deadline or coordination is involved, forget about it. There is an equal chance I can be available or that I'll be counting to ten in the hallway before I try to nurse the crying baby to sleep for the fourth time that hour.

This represents such an utter and complete reversal of the life I once knew, where I could map out a day coordinated to the very minute, with things like "relax" and "eat cereal" penciled into the agenda at set times. I have had to change my way of thinking to focus on specific objectives, prioritized by importance, rather than view my day as chopped into specific slots. Heck, I used to mentally prepare for an entire week as a unit. Now, I can't do that any more and I'm learning to let go of the urge to try.

It's strange, though, that as we approached this clock changing weekend I realized time matters not one lick. It's totally arbitrary. Do you know how trippy that is for me? Yesterday, Corey and I just went about our day, went to bed as soon as Miles did, and knew he would wake up when he woke up. Our Sunday would be what it was going to be. It was strangely calming to just be in the moment because there was no alternative. It's hard to explain, but evening became just evening time, rather than the set of hours between 6pm and our 9pm bedtime...

For most of my life, I have dreaded daylight saving day because it meant I lost an hour of sleep. I'd inevitably have to be up for work or errand-running or have been out late the night before (or maybe I spent the evening before mentally reciting my schedule for the next week to make sure I hadn't left a single moment unaccounted for). I can't get over the fact that this year was so different.

Want to know when MW was up for the day today? 8:30am EDT. Want to know why that doesn't matter? Because he was also up from 12:00am-1:00am and 4:30-5:30, snotting and coughing and generally breaking my heart with his little chest cold.

Everyone assures me that I will be able to rejoin the world that rotates around a clock, one day be able to again say, "Sure! Let's have lunch at 12:30!" Today is the first day in a long time where I don't care--maybe my rigidly scheduled life wasn't that great anyway. It was like this shattering, delirious revelation. We'll eat when we're hungry, sleep when the baby sleeps, and spend the time in between doing what we need to get done.

In this case, what we need to get done is a top-to-bottom scrub of our snot-covered germ den, but that's a story for another day.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Beware the Ides of March

I had to cancel the last leg of Levapolooza. That's what I have been calling this week, which was supposed to include a visit from Corey's parents, overlapped by a visit from Corey's brother, finished by a visit to NJ to say farewell to Corey's childhood home and introduce Miles to the fine arts of good bread and road rage.

Levapolooza quickly turned into just a visit from Jordie as Mom-mom went down with sciatica and, yesterday, Miles woke up with a head full of sick. The poor kid just can't seem to catch a break, healthwise. We spent 6 days working through some pretty torturous teething issues, which had MW waking up every hour or two in pain and riding out a low grade fever. The day the tooth finally broke through the gum, he wound up with a head full of snot.

All of this is to also indicate that I have not had more than 2 hours' sleep in a row for 8 days now. Perhaps Wednesday night I got 3 hours in a row? At this point, who can remember. I certainly didn't remember to brush my teeth today. Or change my underwear. I would say I am walking wounded, but I am not walking at all. The sleep deprivation finally caught up with me and I find myself flat on my back, unable to move. When I try, I am overcome with nausea and dizziness.

Corey had to stay home from work today to take care of us. I got toast with butter in bed. Miles got salted steam, the blue nose snot-sucker, and a squirt of saline. All certainly much less fun than a visit to Mom-mom, Peppy, and Aunt Dina.

I find it very sad that these woes should befall us just as the world is waking up from its lengthy, white nightmare. Just as I find myself able to escape the house and the neighborhood, just as we find plants poking through the soil and head outside without jackets, we are struck down. Beware the Ides of March, the Bard warns us. Beware indeed.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Pittsburgh Gets ICAN chapter

A press release to share:

The International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) now has an on-the-ground presence in the Pittsburgh region. As the cesarean-section rate climbs past 31% (according to 2007 data from the Center for Disease Control), ICAN provides peer-based support for women interested in recovery and prevention. ICAN aims to provide factual information and evidence-based information regarding choices in childbirth.

The group’s next meeting will be held Tuesday, March 30, 2010 from 6:30-8:30pmin the office of Patrick Thornton, 1900 Murray Ave, in Squirrel Hill. Contact Amy Farr, 724-297-3221 or for more information or search for the group via facebook.

ICAN is a worldwide nonprofit organization devoted to improving maternal-child health by preventing unnecessary cesareans through education, providing support for cesarean recovery, and promoting Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC). Their website ( offers community forums and informational webinars covering topics ranging from scar care to homebirth preparation. For more information or to join, visit

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Bubble Up

My cousin had her baby on Friday. I found out she went into labor in the morning and waited by the phone all day, anxious to hear news of her progress. I was totally unprepared for how M's experience would stir up undealt-with emotions from my own birth experience. When, as it turns out, her labor mirrored mine down to almost every last detail, I went a little crazy.

Every text message or relative seemed to deliver worse news: medical interventions, dangerously low heart rate, cord wrapped around the baby's torso (this was not something I experienced with Miles), and an eventual emergency c-section. My response to her delivery was so complex: I was a little jealous of my cousin because she got to the stage of pushing, but then was totally not jealous that she pushed for three hours before the doctor "called it" and rushed her to the OR. I was delighted to hear I have a new baby cousin, with red hair no less! But I was truly sad thinking about the way he entered the world. I am not saying that my cousin was devastated by what happened to her at all. I was devastated just thinking about that whole process.

I am heartbroken that another mom had to have major abdominal surgery, had to have her organs moved around and placed on her chest, that another mom can't get out of bed for a week (at least!) to tend to the needs of her crying newborn and change diapers in the middle of the night. My heart just aches for all these damaged bodies with staples in their skin. My cousin is allergic to Demoral...they had to find a nursing-friendly alternative pain medication to ease the burning she felt around her incision. I can't imagine that.

What is going on that more than 30% of babies are born until extreme conditions like this? Why do I feel so powerless when faced with news of such happenings? I need to work through these feelings and find an outlet for my political childbirth energy. This month's ICAN meeting (the first I'll get to attend!) can't come soon enough.

Friday, March 05, 2010

The Office Baby

Spoiler Warning

I have been so nervous to watch NBC's The Office episode where Pam and Jim have their baby. In general, I hate how labor and birth are portrayed in pop culture. There are either shots of women flat on their backs, gasping in pain, demanding drugs (see Friends, Waitress, Knocked Up, etc.) or birth itself is totally erased as a male OB announces the sex of a baby and we cut to a mother, elated, holding a wrinkle-free, totally clean baby bundled in a blanket.

There was, I felt, a great opportunity for The Office to do something new with the portrayal of labor, and I wasn't totally disappointed. Even though they made it into a joke, the episode showed Pam trying to "hold the baby in" until midnight because their insurance would give them more hospital coverage that way. This is a very real and very problematic scenario. Women with limited insurance or no insurance find the prospect of birth terrifying. What if something goes awry and they are faced with crippling medical bills? I have seen the statement of benefits for my C-section. The bills were not insignificant. I have to sense that Pam putting a time stamp on her delivery had to hit home with many women in the audience.

The episode also showed Pam laboring on her own terms. She ate food with Kevin (she's allowed only ice chips at the hospital), found her own way to focus through the contractions, and didn't stereotypically strangle her husband or tell him it was his fault or other unfunny antics. She just breathed, changed her clothes, and ate recipes featured in the Twilight series.

I also liked the reference to Pam having pubic hair as Michael invaded her privacy while she was pushing.

What struck me as most important in this episode was the accurate portrayal of breastfeeding as something that is tricky for some women. This show just *might* make up for the horrendous depiction of Nancy's nursing escapades in Weeds. In addition to actually featuring some scenes where babies are held up to mothers' bosoms, The Office (while not showing any areola) demonstrated how support, or lack thereof, can affect breastfeeding success.

The nurse in last night's episode encourages Pam and Jim on many occasions to just let her give the baby a bottle of formula. Pam expressed a need for lactation support and instead of offering it, the nurse suggested taking the baby to the nursery and giving her a bottle if she cried. How many mothers are talked out of breastfeeding in this way, by someone in a position of authority discouraging them instead of showing a new technique or saying, "I know it's tough! Why don't you try once more while I take a look?"

How many other women are discouraged from trusting their instincts when they express, as Pam did, that something just doesn't feel right? I was so fortunate to have great lactation support. Based on what I have read on mothering forums and seen in last night's episode, the nurses I had are rare gems. Thankfully, Pam gets a visit from a lactation consultant later in the episode. The joke of the scene is that he is a male lactation consultant. But neither Pam nor I seemed to care about that as the more pressing concern of nourishing baby Cecilia took precedence and Pam is taught some techniques to help with let-down.

My favorite thing about the episode, and the image I am glad to take away, was the scene where Pam and Cecilia were alone on the bench outside, with that ridiculous cape of a Hooter Hider. Pam nervously puts the crying baby to her breast and finds, to her joy, that Cecilia finally gets the latch. It was a moment that reflected many of the things I felt about breastfeeding--that it is both "natural" and impossible, that it is both beautiful and stressful, sometimes painful, and wonderful when you both figure it all out.

I am so curious to see what the series will do once they show Pam returning to work. Is it possible, I wonder, to capture in a sit-com the paralyzing stress of pumping, fixating on whether the baby has enough to eat, and trying to let-down in an invasive environment? I can't wait to find out.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Road Rage

I ran over a parking chair today. I don't feel badly about it at all. Some of you might be thinking, "What the hell is a parking chair? Did she mean to say rocking chair?" That's because not everyone lives in a place where people stake claim to public roadways by abandoning porch furniture.

After the big snow, it at first seemed totally justified to claim your 10 feet of shoveled space. I mean, it took upwards of 2 hours to dig out a hole big enough for a car. I know because I did it twice. With a baby! So people in the city started putting out things to mark "their" turf while they went to work or the store or wherever. A lawn chair here, a garbage pail there, every now and then a sawhorse. If you have brief business to conduct on that street and need to park on the public roadway there, tough beans.

Every now and then I can have pity on people who do this and think it sounds acceptable. Sometimes people live on Negley, for instance, where parking is hard to find in the best of times. Some people get home from work late at night and don't want to march for twenty minutes when they finally find a space to stash their coffin/car/giant SUV. Others live in neighborhoods that didn't get plowed out until, like, yesterday, making driving and parking a treacherous endeavor.

Most of the time I just feel like this is silly. It's a city street. Anyone who pays taxes, and technically anyone who doesn't, is free to legally park there. Should you have a true medical need to park in front of your house, you probably have a yellow line on your curb and a handicapped sign outside your house.

Also? I talked to our mail carrier. She can't find anywhere to stop her minivan while she does her job because all open spots are filled with lawn furniture. I have been letting her block the bottom of my driveway. Sure, she could double park and get out, move the furniture, park the van and repeat when she's done. But she doesn't have time for that crap. Recent cuts have doubled her route and she doesn't get paid overtime right now. Parking chairs impede the postal service!!!

I digress. It's been weeks since the last big snow and we had a string of melty days that took care of many of the heaps of snow between spots, freeing up lots of curb for easy parking again. I, myself (sufferer of parallel parking anxiety), parked on Centre twice this week without difficulty. If I can do that, you can park near your house without a wicker loveseat to guide you home.

IT'S TIME TO PUT AWAY THE PARKING CHAIRS. Here is what happened today. The streets are filled with potholes. They resemble the bombed out dirt roads I saw in a video of street conditions in Gaza. There's a bit of wind on this gray day. Miles and I were heading along Black Street, home from the Toy Lending Library.

A big gust thrust a bag chair into the air. It tumbled end over end and landed in the middle of the road, skirting a sinkhole. My choices: drive around the chair, through the pothole, possibly sinking through to China; continue onward and crush the chair, which is just a big piece of litter in my opinion. I cursed and drove right over it, smashing its legs to bits. I should have stopped the car and stolen the chair, abandoned as it was in the middle of the road. Next time!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010


Miles slept straight on through until 5am today, ate some milk, then went back to sleep. Since I had gone to bed at 9 last night, I felt totally energized and decided to stay awake while my family slept on. What a great idea!

I had the most delicious morning. I sat around and slowly sipped tea, read smut on the internet, ate cereal that I could chew and swallow before it turned to mush in my bowl. I think this is the secret to a long and happy life--private morning time.

Could there be anything more amazing than sitting on the couch in a bathrobe watching the sun start to rise, just listening to the silence of my often-noisy house? If everyone keeps being asleep, I might even get in a workout before 7am. A girl could get used to this sort of thing...

Monday, March 01, 2010

Back in the Saddle

I am coaching again. My god, it feels good. I maintain that coaching is way more satisfying than playing a sport, at least for me. I am coaching a select side team, which means low commitment in terms of time. An ideal situation for a mom struggling to get back into her life. Because it's an all-star team, it means that a lot of the girls I coach are better rugby players than I ever was or will be.

Which is totally fine, because I am a better verbal communicator and organizer than they ever were or will be. Which is why I like to coach!

Yesterday, I coached the girls in a scrimmage against Penn State, my alma mater. It was so surreal to drive onto campus, pull into the parking lot of Holuba Hall (in a car! Alone! Without 8 other teammates on my lap!) and pull rugby jerseys out of my hatch back. I had a total Twilight Zone moment as I walked in those front doors and went to the bathroom.

Then I started to get nervous--not because my girls might lose the match, but because my former coaches were going to watch me coach! For those who don't know, Penn State has the best collegiate rugby program in the country. The current team has several girls on the national team, a dozen All Americans, and they won the national championship by over 60 points last year. The coach (my former coach) coaches the nation's coaches. I failed to tell the girls any of this information beforehand.

When they came out of the first period down two tries, I did tell them this information. That they held such a team to such a score was awesome! I have some stunning athletes and I wanted them to feel really proud of how they were playing. But more than anything, I wanted to shake the feeling that I was being personally observed and analyzed. I saw their performance (which was strong!) as a reflection of my coaching abilities, all judged before the men who taught me how to play rugby over a decade ago. It was very intense. I got great loads of armpit sweat out of the situation.

When I coach, I use a visualization technique my favorite ref Lois Bukowski taught me: get in your zone and put on your coach hat while you are in the car. From the moment you open that car door, you are "coach Katy" and you need to emit that energy.

So there I am, trying to maintain my zone, conduct warmups, wrangle the troops, and my former coaches are all walking over to give me hugs and say friendly hellos before the match. I was so torn! Do I hug them, or do I maintain my bubble of coaching energy? I went with the hug and totally lost my focus.

Which was nothing nearly as bad as after the game, when Pete was talking to me about what I should be saying in my pep talks (ah, how I miss that man's pep talks) and chatting about some of the mental stuff associate with rugby.

Talk about bursting my energy field! It was like I was 18 again, mesmerized by the aura of Penn State rugby and too sheepish to claim authority. At any rate, I feel really good about the game, proud of the girls, and totally ready to face the rest of this season. Let's go Trees!