Birth centers, prenatal testing, decisions

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As NK and I contemplate parenthood we have discussed many aspects of how we plan to handle pregnancy and birth when those events occur.  Even though our insurance does not fully cover a birth at our local birth center, we have decided that it is still the best option and well worth the money we will pay out of pocket.  I know that it is possible to have an unmedicated birth at a hospital, but in order to have the birth experience you want you have to battle the medical establishment every step of the way.  When I’m in labor I do not want to be arguing with medical staff or fighting for the birth I want; I want to be focused on birthing my child knowing that I have the support of those around me.  I cannot see myself giving birth in a hospital.  If we lived in our own home, we would seriously consider a home birth.  Alas, we live in a one-bedroom apartment, so the birth center it is.

I have known for a long time that I did not want to give birth in a hospital, but there are other questions that I do not know the answers to.  For example, will we get the quad screen?  The 20 week ultrasound?  I know that both are considered standard, but are they necessary in a low-risk pregnancy?  I am not opposed to useful medical intervention, but I do not want tests and procedures performed because doctors are protecting themselves from potential lawsuits.

Clearly, I still have a lot of research to do.

(Also, I’m not nearly as cynical and hateful toward the medical community as this post makes it seem.  I do have bones to pick with modern medicine, but I do not think all doctors are horrible or that they do not care about the well-being of their patients.)

Making music again

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I started playing piano in the second grade and continued until my early college days.  Since a piano is not the most convenient instrument to haul across the country, I no longer play regularly.  Whenever I am visiting my folks I dust off the keys and play, but otherwise I produce very little music in my life.

Two months ago I found informal classes for adults offered through the university.  They have any number of classes from learning languages, painting, pottery, photography, dance, and guitar.  I have had a guitar collecting dust in various apartments since I was in late high school.  When I was a junior or a senior I decided I wanted to play the guitar.  Hearing that, my oldest brother bought me a beautiful acoustic guitar for Christmas.  Then I never learned to play.

Until now.

Last night I started the first of my group guitar lessons.  Oh, how I have missed making music!  Of course I am absolutely terrible and no one could recognize the one song I can play, but I love it nonetheless.  There’s something magical* about it.  So here’s to finally learning to play the guitar, 10 years after my initial interest.

*Dumbledore in The Chamber of Secrets: “‘Ah, music…a magic far beyond all we do here.”

Our next big adventure

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Last week NK and I were chatting as I made bread.  He turned to me and said, “So, what’s our next big adventure going to be?  We haven’t had one in awhile.”

I tried to hold back the biggest grin that was spreading across my face.  I love that he’s thinking about future adventures.  I had assumed that our next adventure may not be for a couple of years since (1) we’re both done with school and no longer have months of vacation, (2) NK has a “real” job with limited vacation and a lot of responsibility, and (3) we’re actively trying to have children and from what I understand, adventuring with an infant may be more adventure than we’re seeking.

Some of our past adventures have included:

  • Road trip to Georgia, South Carolina, and New Orleans after I graduated college
  • South Island of New Zealand later that same summer (adventure for NK, vacation for me)
  • Road trip across the country on our way to grad school including stops in North Carolina, Colorado, Utah, and Idaho (with all of our earthly possessions stuffed in my 92 Honda Accord, Rocketstar)
  • Senegal and The Gambia (adventure for me, vacation for NK)
  • Bike trip from Portland to the first farm near Hood River (perhaps the best 10 days of my life up to this point)
  • WWOOFing in Hood River (quickly surpasses the bike trip and becomes the best two weeks of my life)
  • WWOOFing in Ashland, OR
  • Train trip back to Arkansas with all of our earthly possessions in ten boxes and four carry-ons

I am constantly thinking of new adventures for us.  It’s just how my mind works.  In high school I was already dreaming about joining the Peace Corps.  In college I must have considered every study abroad program in every country known to man.  In grad school I could not resist seizing the opportunity to work in The Gambia, even though it meant leaving  less than three months after my wedding day.  I do not limit myself to international travel either.  At different points I have become obsessed interested in the idea of hiking the Appalachian Trail, hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, biking across the country (or Europe, or South America…), and completing a farm internship in Hawaii, Oregon, New England, Alaska, and most of the other fifty states.  Often I have felt that I am the driving force behind our adventuring, so having NK suggest we discuss future adventures as we approach a time in our life where we may be less able to trek around the world?  Brings me more joy than I can describe.

We concluded that while we are planning to take a big vacation in February/March, vacations do not count as adventures.  The plan?  After NK gets some good work experience at his current job (2-5 years) we will depart for Alaska.  We’ll take the train to the Northwest, stopping to hike/camp/explore as needed.  Once in Washington (or maybe Vancouver?) we’ll take the ferry to The Last Frontier and spend the summer exploring all it has to offer.  It will be a different kind of adventuring than we’ve done in the past because we will likely have a couple children in tow, but that’s just adds more adventure to the adventure, right?

Obviously the Alaska plan will be expensive, time consuming to plan, and a challenge with children.  But it’ll happen.  I believe in visualizing what we want out of life, and I want a life of crazy adventures with my family.  I am sending our desires out into the universe and then we will work hard to make it our reality.  You have to make it happen for yourself.  We are not wealthy (by American standards).  We have a modest income and live a frugal lifestyle so we can spend our money where it matters to us–making memories exploring the world as a family.

It’s the little things

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This past weekend was a mixed bag.  Parts of it were wonderful: we went out to a mouth-watering pizza place with another couple; we went to the ballet for the first time (which I loved and N was indifferent towards); we enjoyed the cooler weather (and yes, 90 degrees counts as “cooler” when you live in Texas); we walked through eclectic thrift stores; we attended a class about joining a local Unitarian Universalist church… the list goes on.

But parts of it were less than wonderful, mostly due to my emotional instability.  What can I say?  Sometimes my emotions feel beyond my control.  I find myself becoming upset and on the brink of tears for no apparent reason.  I know I am getting frustrated over silly things, but somehow knowing that logically I shouldn’t feel the way I do does not stem the tide of my emotions.  Unfortunately, the person who suffers the most from my inexplicable mood swings is usually my husband.

This morning I woke up to find that N had done two things: put away the dry dishes in the sink and the clothes strewn on top of his dresser.  Were there still clothes (both mine and his) on the bedroom (and living room) floor?  Yes.  Was the kitchen still a complete disaster from our cookie baking adventure the evening before?  Yes.  Even so, those two small acts meant a lot to me.  I don’t need him to be a perfect housekeeper–it’s no secret that I’m not–but when he does those small things without me asking?  Melts my heart.

It really is all about the little things, isn’t it?

Fall seeding

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On Sunday NK and prepared the garden bed for the fall, which mostly involved weeding bermuda grass (the bane of every central Texas gardener), adding mulch, and creating short rows to help capture water.

I had high hopes when we started the morning that I would be able to get all of the bermuda out by the roots and would never see it again.  What was I thinking?!  Having a raised bed makes this process exceptionally difficult.  The bermuda sets up camp just under the frame so its roots are protected–making it nearly impossible to get the whole plant out (one of the many reasons I never want to garden in a raised bed again).  In fact, in trying to get the bermuda out, you end up breaking the rhizomes, which makes more bermuda (just like a hydra).  I admire the grass for its ingenuity; it truly is a success story of evolution and has perfectly adapted to its environment.  I like to think of it as a “worthy adversary”.  Bermuda, you may have one this round, but the battle isn’t over.

Another challenge of my plot is the slope of the land.  For some reason, my bed was created on an incline and the construction of the bed was not altered accordingly.  All spring and summer as I watered the garden, the beautiful compost and top soil would wash away toward the left side of the bed, leaving the right side a dry desert of sand.  This season I am trying a new configuration in order to prevent the good soil from washing away so quickly.  Instead of having one large planting space, I created four rows with three swales between them.  I am hoping that these ditches will help to collect water and soil and keep the nutrients evenly distributed.  I know I am losing a small amount of planting space for the ditches, but it will be worth it if it creates a better environment for the plants.

Today I seeded for the fall.  Here’s what I planted:

Row 1: Sage (chives and parsley from the summer are also in this row)

Row 2: Early Wonder Beets and Red Acre Cabbage

Row 3: Purple Top White Globe Turnips

Row 4: Fordhook Chard and Big Seeded Mache

I will add cilantro to Row 1 and Five Color Silverbeet Swiss Chard to Row 3.  I also want to add Lacitano Kale and will probably squeeze that in wherever there is space once I see which seeds actually sprouted.  I love watching the sprouts come up (assuming they will) and can’t wait to dig into the beautiful cool weather crops.

The Greenhorns

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Last night I attended a backyard screening of The Greenhorns.  It was just what I needed.  I left feeling inspired, which is something I haven’t felt in awhile.

The original plan was that wherever NK found an engineering job I would look for a year-long internship.  Since moving to Texas, becoming a full-time farmer has become a deferred dream.  My husband and I have decided to make starting a family our first priority, which means a year-long internship is unlikely.  Somehow the thought of pulling weeds for hours on end while in the throes of morning sickness sounds less than ideal.  I’m still working to cultivate my skills as a wannabe farmer through various volunteer opportunities, but I have discovered that I am a homesteader at heart.  When I imagine my future, I do not picture myself with a farming business that generates a livable income; I picture myself with a beautiful backyard garden that feeds my family, friends, and neighbors.

Part of the reason I do not envision a full-time, money-making career farmer is because of NK.  It is not that he is unsupportive–he goes above and beyond to encourage me and all my half-baked ideas–it’s that he does not share the same vision.  He loves his current job and career path and has no desire to trade that in for full-time farming.  Just as he respects my need to not to be in an office staring at a computer all day, I respect his desire to continue the work that he loves.  But a career as a farmer?  You need your partner to be all in.  We’re talking hands in the dirt, pulling out weeds, crying over broken irrigation systems, and praying for rain kind of “in”.  I don’t want to farm on my own.  Running a homestead with the help and support of my husband?  Sounds great.  Spending my days in the field and his in the office while trying to make it work financially and emotionally?  Not so much.

Watching the Greenhorns with a group of young people trying to make it as farmers was exactly the lift I needed.  While I have different goals for my future than many of my fellow attendees, I nevertheless felt invigorated by their energy to keep doing what I’m doing and taking steps toward the future I want for myself and my family.

Feeding my family

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The responsibility of cooking dinner is mostly mine these days.  NK cooks on Sundays, but every other day I’m the one wearing the apron.  There are two main reasons for this seemingly uneven divide of kitchen duty: (1) I have more free time in the afternoons since he doesn’t get off work until 5:30-6 and (2) I like to cook.  In return, he cleans up (most) every night.

This agreement came about after several discussions of what is equitable given our current situation (him working full-time, me volunteering with side jobs here and there).  Since I am the one at home most afternoons, it makes sense that the bulk of the household responsibilities falls to me.  In the same breath, it’s hard for me to swallow such a “traditional” division of labor where I do all the cooking, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, etc, while he “brings home the bacon”.  I know it is the logical outcome of our circumstances, but that does not make it easy for me to accept.  I have spent my life working to become an independent, well-educated woman who is in an equal partnership with her spouse.  And I am.  But when what’s equitable looks like a throw-back to the 1950s from the outside?  It’s a challenge.

All of that aside, getting to cook six nights of the week is something I (generally) enjoy.  Of course there are the nights where putting together a meal feels like a task equivalent to scaling Mount Everest, but luckily those nights are (relatively) infrequent.  I believe that cooking nutritious meals form whole, organic ingredients is potentially the most important thing I do for my family.  What we put into our bodies has such a huge impact on our health (both mental and physical), our happiness, and our outlook on life.  My values and ideas surrounding food are continually evolving, but I do know that eating quality meals at home together ensures our well-being in the broadest sense of the word.  So even though I occasionally feel like Donna Reed (minus the jello molds and pearls), I just keep cookin’.