homeschooling, homemaking, homesteading...home.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What He Said.

An education is not just a technical training in the arcane knowledge of a discipline (whether that be history, politics or a science). It is a training in how to think and evaluate, how to marshal evidence for and against a position, how to approach a problem critically without falling prey to prejudice and preconception. Those are skills that everyone from bank manager to politician, journalist to local government functionary, needs every working day. But to train those skills, it is necessary to excite an interest. And somewhere along the line between primary school and university, we are managing to stamp out that sense of excitement and enquiry. We will rue the day we lost sight of that.

--Robin Dunbar, “How Many Friends Does One Person Need?: Dunbar’s Number and Other Evolutionary Quirks.

Monday, July 11, 2011

No Easy Feat

I'm going to have a baby soon. Exactly six weeks from today, in fact. I know the date because I am having a scheduled C-section. After years of equal parts hope and stubbornness, fueled in no small part by a good dose of highly judgmental brainwashing ("Surgical deliveries are for the weak and fearful!" chanted our prenatal instructor), I have finally, finally come to peace with it. The details are not important for this little essay...just suffice it to say that it's not going to happen the natural way. I tried myself halfway to death once, and really valiantly a second time, and now I realize (in my heart as well as my head) that "it is what it is". Yes, I would prefer an alternate reality but this is the one I have and I'm through beating myself up and second-guessing and over-researching and questioning what certainly *must* be a misdiagnosis, because damn it, I am too strong/smart/tough to have this happen to me...

(And incidentally: Your commitment and confidence and education and OMG level of fear have no bearing on what is just physically Not Possible. A story in today's LA Times Online discusses the subject of the planned C-section and cuts right to the heart of the matter where judgment is concerned: "...the idea that if only you were permitted to try, you would succeed." This narrow-minded optimism can be deeply damaging to mothers who labor and cannot deliver. In many--perhaps most--cases, repeat C-sections have nothing at all to do with attitude. It's time we stopped pressuring ourselves to measure our worth as women and mothers based on our success or failure at a very difficult and full-of-uncontrollable-variables event.)

That said, I would really appreciate a little sympathy. Not "poor baby" coddling, mind you...but some acknowledgement that I am not "taking the easy way out". That I am not making an uninformed choice or being pushed into something unnatural by The Establishment. But mostly, I am tired of encountering the attitude from others that what I'm about to go through is no big deal.

You know what? It is a VERY big deal.

I've been through this surgery twice now (unplanned, following two vastly different trials of labor) and I am not going to sugarcoat it. It is horrific. Especially for someone who previously requested to be knocked out for minor outpatient procedures (I'm sorry, if I can *hear* what's going on, I can imagine all sorts of pain for myself and it freaks me right the hell out) go through something as violently invasive as major abdominal surgery while you are completely awake and aware is no fun.

Then comes the recovery period, which is by no stretch of the imagination "easy". Not only do you get the full host of typical postpartum unpleasantness, but oh yeah, um, let's refer back to *abdominal surgery*. You have a newborn to care for, sometimes a house full of other family members who need attention and maintenance, and you cannot take a full breath or more than a few shuffle-around-the-house steps without discomfort. Straining against staples (informed by experience, I've begged for flexible sutures and gotten the brush-off) to do simple abdominal-engaging activities like getting in and out of bed or a chair or OMG the potty results in the stabbing pain of, well, literally a handful of tiny little knives. Every cough, sneeze, or (TMI) bowel activity can leave one with the vivid sensation of potentially splitting that incision right open again.

And yet some people--including several who had a front-row seat to my previous birth and postpartum experiences and should have half a clue by now that it's NOT a minor outpatient procedure--have made recent flip comments which indicate some unrealistic assumptions about my recovery time and the speed with which I will be returning to Life As Usual, including social obligations, travel, etc.

Whatever happened to the tradition of a period of confinement? Today's society does not seem to allow for this. Hospital policies and insurance company pressures broom patients who are still dazed, sore, and often incapable of basic self-care. Societal expectations pressure new mothers to resume "normal" life as though nothing has happened. Get back to your full exercise program, get back to work, and for heaven's sake if you aren't fitting into your prepregnancy wardrobe within days, there is something drastically wrong with you, you selfish, lazy wimp.

I need time. Time to drowsily gaze at the baby, yes, but also time to take a deep breath (metaphorical, anyway) and to not fret about taxing my just-been-through-hell body by demanding that it feel, look, and behave as it did immediately before conception. Let's be honest, pregnancy alone is rough on the body...and then cap it off with delivery of any kind...damn it, new mothers deserve a little down-time. A little forgiveness for not being "themselves". And a whole lot more understanding that "bouncing back" doesn't happen on a timetable, and certainly not on someone else's timetable.

I will feel better when I feel better, and not a second before. And what's more, I will apologize to no one--most especially myself--for taking a little time-out to act like someone who's recovering from a pretty major ordeal. Because I will be.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

On Overthinking Things

If I have one defining quality, I would have to say that it is my lifelong tendency to overthink things. I have a hundred pieces of writing scattered amongst my papers and computer files which I started and then second-guessed myself out of finishing for any number of reasons. I have a million more that never made it out of my head because I wasn't sure where to take them or how. I do more planning and designing than actual crafting. I pre-emptively worry about every potential outcome of many if not most situations. I want things to be *perfect* and often end up shooting myself in the foot by not settling for "good enough". Yes, high standards are laudable...but what's the point of holding oneself to them if you hold yourself back from doing anything?

As my best friend keeps reminding me, perhaps my focus should be on "progress, not perfection". Yeah? Easier said than done. Let me tell you about a few of my current concerns.

1. Even though I've had two successful breastfeeding relationships, I'm spending time pondering whether this third (impending) one (baby arrives next month!) might hit an obstacle that I'm not even sure is possible to exist. That's right: I'm obsessing on an issue which could well be a complete non-issue. It's a complicated question which really would require an endocrinologist to answer to my satisfaction, so I won't get into it here...other than to point out that this obstacle, if it indeed exists, is most likely to only delay the natural process and not derail it. Yeah, worst case scenario is still essentially "inconsequential". And yet, I am investing time trying to understand it.

2. I have spent the better part of the past three weeks researching, planning, surfing, asking, calculating, testing, knitting, and frogging a pair of knit slippers that should reasonably have taken 2-3 days to complete. Above-referenced Best Friend is going to verbally abuse me when I admit this, but I have now made 4 slippers and am still not satisfied with the fit. I think I may have FINALLY figured out the perfect (see, there's that word again) formula (not universal, alas, but for this yarn/gauge/foot) and am going to task myself to NOT frog the current slipper when it's done--with luck, later today. Godwilling, then I will finally make a matching mate and be done with it. (Poetic justice, by the way, dictates that I will never actually wear these things. LOL)

3. I sewed one of three matching new curtains for my bedroom two weeks ago. I have left the project dormant ever since, because I cannot decide on the most accurate method to compensate for a design challenge (the windows are differing lengths and the curtains have contrast panels...and I want them to look as visually consistent as possible). I have a number of ideas; I just can't seem to pick one and dive in.

4. I've had a pile of pattern pieces (tissue paper, not cut fabric) sitting on the buffet in my dining room for probably a month now, waiting for me to redraft an ill-fitting bodice for fifth time. Yes, it matters. I did three test muslins to find a good fit, then sewed a garment in a fabric with a different ease requirement and it didn't work. Part of me actually has a practical need for this garment (nursing attire), but I'll be honest--most of me is just stubbornly committed (as with the knit slippers) to beat this challenge because I will not let it beat me.

Does it surprise anyone to learn that the one time in my life that I accepted a prescription for psych meds, they were to control OCD?


The optimist in me would like to point out that in all of these cases, my search for answers has invariably expanded my knowledge and understanding of a number of topics, processes, and techniques. I've learned a handful of methods for knitting heel turns in toe-up socks, a counterintuitive but so superior starting point for altering commercial sewing patterns, and a boatload of cool biology. For the autodidact in me, it's hard to discount that kind of "win". All the same, there are times when I wish I could step outside of my need to understand the "how and why" of everything and just go for that progress instead of bogging myself down in so many stalled projects at once...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Breakfast of Champions

When the 5-year-old asks to make something "new" for breakfast, a mother may well be tempted to ask an eye-rolling, battle-experienced, sarcastic, "What could possibly go wrong?"


Surprisingly little, actually. What can I say, the kid likes fruit.

He *was* a little bummed when I reminded him that we (mostly he!) had eaten all of the cantaloupe last night. And he couldn't understand why I was perfectly happy to donate black raspberries from our garden but not zucchini. So I micromanaged just a little. But mostly, I just played sous chef and let him run the show.

Thanks, C, for a great meal and an even better memory. ♥