Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Lounge Pants Winner!

Congratulations to the the champion lounger: Stephanie Mitchell!


Steph is a lounger after my own heart. We were roomies freshman year, so I've been privy to some excellent lounges of hers. I would tell her to email me with her lounge pant size, but as we've been friends for about a decade now, I already know ... also because I used to borrow her clothes all the time. Like the exercise pants I coveted.

See Steph? It was good I used them so often, so now I can return the favor in a way by giving you another pair. Or remember that time I foolishly guilted you into buying that light blue shirt from me because you borrowed it and I thought you bleached it with your face wash/deodorant or something? I'm embarrassed thinking about my pettiness now ... you are so forgiving. Luvs.



Monday, April 2, 2012

An Empowered Birth

A month ago I wrote a post about being a mom, and today I want to talk more about one of the most pivotal moments of motherhood: birth.

Duh duh duh.

Let me start by disclosing a few things:
1. I've only given birth once; I'm not an expert. I'm just opinionated and good at Googling.
2. I really love science. I think modern medicine is a wonderful blessing.
3. Every woman, pregnancy, and situation is different and therefore requires different things.
4. Even the most carefully laid birth plans are subject to some measure of fate. Birth can be a wonderful, transcendent experience, but in the end I believe a healthy baby matters more.

My Experience:

When I found out that I was the only one of my siblings whom my mother gave birth to without any pain medication, I came to a few conclusions: 1) I really was my mother's biggest pain, 2) my mother was amazing, and 3) I was going to do that, too. So when Nathan and I decided we were ready for a baby, I started researching my options so I would be ready.

The more I learned, the more I was astounded at the sheer amount I didn't know about birth. Before Googling "natural birth," I had no idea that some routine medical procedures increased the risk of complications; I had no idea what the difference was between midwives, licensed midwives, and certified nurse midwives; I had no idea what "transition" was ... and on and on. I devoured this new information like a pregnant lady devours Panda Express egg rolls (or store-bought egg rolls if Panda Express is closed, despite the fact that their sign said "OPEN" = pregnant lady rage).

Me, preggo, researching in my sherpa boots.

While the amount of information available was sometimes overwhelming, for the most part it was empowering and exciting. Because I was educated about my options, I could choose from those options the plan that was right for us. This is my first tip to having an empowered birth experience: Research your pregnancy and birth options. Explore different perspectives and gather information from a variety of sources. Sources of information I recommend: birth accounts from women who share your values, reputable internet sources (I loved babycenter.com), books (I read The Baby Book by Dr. Sears), and films (The Business of Being Born was awesome). Learning about different perspectives and procedures helped me feel confident about my final decisions. Instead of blindingly trusting the popular opinions of our culture or feeling unable to question a healthcare provider, I was able to formulate my own opinions, using my healthcare provider as a trusted consultant (as opposed to cowing before the authority our society grants their additional education--won't go there in this post, :) ). Education is power--don't be the player who doesn't know the rules when you should be the referee. Don't be afraid to ask your healthcare provider "why?" "what are my other options?" "what are the risks?" etc. Remember that your doctor/midwife works for you, not the other way around.

Melting Pot ... thank you, Zofran for allowing me to partake without barfing.

When I found out I was pregnant, I already had some decisions made about what I wanted:

-I wanted a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) to attend my birth.
-I wanted to give birth in a hospital.
-I didn't want any pain medication.
-I didn't want any unnecessary interventions.

I really feel like choosing a great practice of CNMs was the best decision I made in that I found a healthcare provider who supported and facilitated my philosophies surrounding birth. They didn't have an agenda they tried to pressure me into--their purpose was providing care, safety, and expertise while also doing everything they could to preserve the experience Nathan and I wanted. This is something I think is so important to having an empowered birth experience: Choose a healthcare provider whose values align with your own. Whether it's a granola midwife or a traditional OBGYN, don't be afraid to ask your potential healthcare provider where they stand on the issues you think are important.

Remarkably not wearing lounge pants.

Because my CNMs valued the same things I did, I never had to fight for my preferences. I knew they would never try to pressure me into being induced unnecessarily, they wouldn't offer me unsolicited pain medication, they wouldn't give me an episiotomy, and they wouldn't make me hurry or slow down to fit their schedules. I loved my experience with them.

Kind of hate this pose.

Do what you can to promote the success of your birth plan, but also be prepared for a different experience. Don't set your heart on a natural birth and then do nothing to prepare for the intensity. Research the different classes available--for whatever kind of birth you want! Even if you're planning a traditional hospital birth, it helps so much to be informed about what's going to happen or what could happen. Tour the hospital/birth center. Do a hospital run rehearsal.

While Nathan and I took a Hypnobabies class to help prepare for the physical aspects of labor, we procrastinated packing the "go bag." A week before my due date I started getting contractions during our ward's Valentine's Day activity, and I realized we still had a few important things on our shopping list (baby blanket, onesies, snacks for labor--because a midwife will let you eat!). So instead of heading home right after the party so I could start to relax to my Hypnobabies tracks, we headed to Walmart (I cringe when I think of how ghetto Graham's life would be if I would have given birth there). By the time we got to Walmart, my labor had intensified more quickly than I'd anticipated. When we got home--things were even more intense. Nathan was left to gather the things on my list on his own. I was in "the zone" and so not available to give guidance on what to pack--so Nathan ended up throwing everything he could think of into a cardboard box that we hauled into the hospital.

In labor ... unable to walk ... relegated to the Walmart scooter. Too excited to comprehend the shame.

Take responsibility for your role in the process. I think one of the most important elements of having an empowered birth is your attitude about your role. If you go into the experience believing your doctor, the nurses, or simple "fate" is in charge--that's how things will go. However, if you claim your rightful role of conductor, in charge of one of the most beautiful orchestrations on the planet, you will have a much different experience. Being the conductor doesn't mean being the crazy woman depicted in all the movies--it means knowing the score beforehand; hiring skilled and trusted "musicians" who play your style of music; rehearsing; keeping your cool if a violin string breaks or a cymbal player comes in on the wrong measure; and trusting your own innate, God-given ability to conduct the symphony your body was made for. After the final note is played, you'll have something in your arms worth more than all the standing ovations in the world.

Best feeling in the world.

Educate yourself and make informed decisions. Choose a healthcare provider who shares your values. Be prepared. Embrace your role. Be empowered.

Fellow mothers: What did you learn from your birth experience? What helped you feel empowered?
Future mothers: What are your thoughts? What kind of birth are you hoping for? Any questions? :)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Should Mormons Be Vegetarians?

My good friend Amanda and her husband, Andy, stayed at our place last night one their way home from vacation.

Amanda's the hot one in the middle. Steph's the hot one on the left. I'm the brillo pad on the right.

I'd planned on making a new recipe for dinner--Tikka Masala. The recipe called for an abundance of chicken thighs, and while I'd usually cut the meat in half and add veggies or beans, I decided to stick with the recipe because I didn't want to make something too hippie-healthy for our guests. I also bought some Cheerios for them because I wasn't sure they'd like the oatmeal-sans-sugar fare we've been having for breakfast around these parts lately.

So my beloved friend and her beloved husband got to our house, we caught up a bit, and then I remembered the Crockpot of molten Indian deliciousness on my counter.



Kimber: (gesturing Martha Stewart-esquely to the gently bubbling pot) Do you guys like Indian?

Amanda: Uhhh .... well, we're sort of vegetarian now.

!

There I was, making some gelatinous chicken thigh dinner, wondering if they'd be okay with just brown rice. Then they go and flash their superior health standards in my shocked face---I was so excited!!! Another friend in the diamond business interested in whole foods/vegetarianism/hippieness/etc.!

Immediately we made plans to have dinner at my favorite restaurant in Provo, Bombay House--an Indian restaurant with plenty of vegetarian options. Then while the boys went to the priesthood session of conference, I probably talked Amanda's ear off about all my hippie ideas about doctors, birth, nutrition, shampoo--whatever I could think of. I was just so excited to hear that she'd been making a lot of the changes we have--and even more! I got some great ideas from her, some book suggestions, and she just got me pumped about recommitting to living the way I really want to. I love Amanda.

One of the coolest things she shared was her perspective on a scripture I'd read many times before--but apparently I missed a big part of it:

"12 Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;
13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine."
D&C 89: 12-13

I'd gotten the "sparingly" part before, and even the "only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine" part--though probably not as much as I should have, but for some reason I never noticed the clarity
of the highlighted portion: God is pleased when we don't eat meat.

Woah.

Through studying the Word of Wisdom in more depth over the past couple years, Nathan and I have transitioned to eating meat about 3-4 days a week (as opposed to the previous seven days a week), and when we do have meat, we cut it by half and greatly increase the veggies/beans. I was feeling okay with that, but still wondering if I could still do better.

What does sparingly mean? Nathan and I decided that "sparingly" does NOT mean every day. We also pondered what the Lord meant by "only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine." We concluded that those are times when fresh fruits and vegetables aren't available, and therefore meat is necessary to sustain an adequate diet.

BUT--in this wonderful day of global trade, there is NEVER a time in our privileged American society when fruits and vegetables are not available. We effectively never experience the conditions of an 1833 winter/cold/famine. We have refrigerators and freezers. We have a bountiful produce section at the grocery store--year round. Yes, your spinach may cost more in February, but if you aren't spending three dollars a pound or more on meat, you'll be amazed at how much your grocery bill drops--especially if you are willing to eat more rice, beans, lentils, and other extremely affordable and healthy foods.

Another insight I gained as I looked to a footnote found in the scriptures above. From "used," we're directed to D&C 59:20 (which is referencing the earth's resources--plants and animals are mentioned specifically):

"And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion."

How do we extort the earth's resources? Is this talking about shady oil companies? Logging companies who irresponsibly destroy forests and leave squirrels homeless and on Medicaid? Maybe--probably. But what about the little hen who lives in a cage barely bigger than she is, waiting in the dark until she's big enough to end up in my enchilada?

I think the chicken looks happy here, don't you?

Here's the definition of "extort": To obtain from a reluctant person by violence, torture, intimidation, or abuse of legal or official authority, or (in weaker sense) by importunity, overwhelming arguments, or any powerful influence. (oed.com)

I admit, I used to think "animal rights" was a crock ... full of deliciously slow-cooked beef and potatoes. But does God agree? I'm starting to think He may not. Yes, we have dominion over animals (Gen. 1:26). Yes, the Lord has taught that eating meat should not be forbidden outright (D&C 49:18). But I think we often throw around the word "dominion" as an excuse for our bacon for breakfast, turkey sandwich for lunch, hamburger helper for dinner lifestyle. We dismiss reports of cruelty to farm animals as sensationalized products of liberal media meant to drive us from beloved steaks to overpriced sprouts. I admit--I'm ignorant about what happened to the cow in my chili before it was the cow in my chili. Was there extortion (violence and torture, remember) involved? I don't know. Should I know? I think so.

Because no post about animals is complete without this picture.

The Lord said, "wo be unto man that sheddeth blood or that wasteth flesh and hath no need" (D&C 49: 21).

What fits the description of "need" in regards to this scripture? If I have a pantry full of beans and grains and a fridge full of produce, do I need boneless, skinless chicken breasts to make tacos? Or do I just I want it? Could I maybe try taco-seasoned zucchini and mushroom tacos? (thanks for that idea, Amanda!)

In Genesis 9:11, JST, we gain insight into how the Law of Moses approached the idea of need: "And surely, blood shall not be shed, only for meat, to save your lives; and the blood of every beast will I require at your hands."
 
I recommend this Ensign article for more insight into animals and the gospel.

What can I conclude from my quick study of what the Lord has revealed to us about eating meat, and the treatment of animals in general? It's tough to write, but I'm really starting to feel that my recent efforts to eat less meat are still very inadequate. What changes should I make? Should I never eat meat again unless I'm starving? Should I never make it at home, but accept it if I'm at my parents' house for Thanksgiving? What if I just go to Smashburger once in a while? I've heard they have a great bean burger ...
  
I know this is controversial subject, but I'm very interested in other perspectives, especially if they're different from mine! I'm still exploring the topic and hoping to learn more. Please share your thoughts!