Thursday, July 25, 2013

Buddy's Birth Story - Part 2

The contractions started coming closer together as the night wore on. They were 7-8 minutes apart by 2 am Sunday July 24. I tried to sleep in between each one and was fairly successful using my Hypnobirthing techniques. By 8 am my contractions were 3-4 minutes apart so I called my mom. I asked her to leave soon so she would make it in time for the birth. She lives just over 3 hours away so I was hoping I would make it that long. Little did I know at the time, that wouldn't be a problem. I called my older sister just after that and convinced her to start driving as well, also from 3 hours away after dropping off the kids for whom she was the nanny for the weekend. My contractions were still 3-4 minutes apart when my mom, dad, older sister and younger sister arrived about 4 hours later.

I started to get a little nauseous but wanted to keep up my strength so I snacked on Cheerios and water as much as I could stomach. I brought my yoga/birthing ball into the living room to help ease the contractions. I didn't find it very helpful. I walked around, a lot. My sisters walked me around the block. I felt pretty silly stopping every so often to have a contraction outside on a sunny Sunday. They were encouraging and worked as my stabilizers as I held onto them and breathed through each contraction.

My older sister diligently wrote down the time and length of every contraction. They seemed to be getting a little closer, though they never got very intense. I called my midwife, she told me to stay at home for a little while longer. She couldn't hear me screaming so I must not be close yet. After hours and hours of slight progress, the fear of having an unplanned home birth crept in. Both my mother and mother-in-law (over the phone to The Hubs) made me feel like this baby was coming any minute. I let my fear get to me and told everyone it was time to head to the hospital. It was a 25-30 minute drive, depending on lights and traffic, so I didn't want to be stuck at home or in the car if the baby decided to make a sudden appearance. My mom folded a towel on my seat, just in case, and The Hubs tried his best to avoid the copious number of potholes on the way there.

Once we arrived at the hospital, we had to figure out the expecting mother parking and valet service. Lucky for us, it was the front desk guy’s first day. He had no idea what was going on. Finally making our way toward the maternity ward, the elevators were busy. I climbed the 3 flights of stairs and got a nice welcome from the reception desk staff.

During my pregnancy I wanted to meet all 8 midwives in the practice because I would get whoever was on duty when I came in. I successfully met 6 of them; another one didn't take regular patients and I had to cancel my appointment for something for the other. Turns out, the first midwife on duty when I got there was one of the ones I hadn't met.

I checked in around 6 pm. They gave me a room, a hospital gown and then I got checked out (only 4 cm) and walked.

And walked…

And walked…

Then my older sister suggested plies and lunges. So we lunged and plie-ed the maternity ward hallway for hours. We heard at least 2 other babies being born. My mom, sister and The Hubs took turns walking the halls with me. My sister found the popsicles, which were really gross and artificial. But thank you sis for trying.

Then I walked…

And walked…

My sister fell asleep in the pull-out chair. I think my mom dosed off in one of the other chairs. So did The Hubs at various times. They helped me hold onto the railing that lined the walls during each contraction. During the more intense ones my mom rubbed my back. And then I walked.

Every so often the nurse or midwife would come in and check me. Not much was happening and my contractions were slowing down. So much for walking making things progress!

The anesthesiologist came in and said he wanted to meet me. My sister told him, in her very stern, authoritative, but polite voice, that we don’t need him and led him out of my room. He seemed taken aback so I guess he doesn't get many women who want natural birth! I remember being asked a couple of times about getting an epidural, but my sister always took care of the more forceful responses. That is why I wanted her there. She could put into words what I could not and people listen to her. Another reason I am so happy she was there was because she was my voice for everything. I am a quiet person in nearly everything I do. Turns out, I’m also quiet while in the process of giving birth. During every contraction I pulled my thoughts inward, thinking about the baby that would soon enter the world, focusing a lot on my breathing, trying the techniques where I focused on counting and peaceful images. With my focus also came utter silence. I closed my eyes and blocked out my surroundings. I did such a good job that the nurses and midwife would be talking to me, a contraction would come on and they wouldn't even notice. My sister had to keep telling them to wait because I was having one.

So as my birthing “staff” took turns trying to get a little sleep throughout the night, I kept walking.

And walking…

I did manage to get a few minutes of sleep here and there between contractions, especially when they had me hooked up to the fetal monitor.

And then I walked…

And walked…

In fact, all night long, I walked, lunged and plie-ed. Happy Sunday! My first full day of labor.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Buddy's Birth Story - Part 1

The first week of November 2010, I left The Hubs and boarded a plane to Denver for a geology conference. I was a little nervous, a little apprehensive and very excited. Not because I would be giving a talk in front of what turned out to be about 75 people, but because I was hoping and praying we were pregnant. After a week of lectures, posters, mountain climbing and exploring the city, never having that, “am I?!” out of my head, I got home only to have to wait another week. On a Thursday morning, it had been longer than any cycle I had in the past 12 months, probably forever. We took the test, trying to keep our eyes from wandering to it for what seemed like 3 very long minutes. It was positive!!!! We were so excited for this next stage of our life together. We calculated our due date to be July 22, 2011. My midwife told me it was the 19th. We did not find out the sex of the baby.

My pregnancy turned out to be fairly easy. I was extremely tired in the beginning. I even fell asleep in my physical chemistry class. I don’t think I had ever fallen asleep in class before that. I started going into school later, using winter break as an excuse. I left work on time, no matter what. If I didn't, the bus ride home became nauseating because my morning sickness came on around 5 every single day. I jogged to the bus every day. I did prenatal yoga nearly every day. I remembered my kegels. I took walks. I ate a lot of Cheerios those first 3 months. The smell of corn was pretty gross the entire time, but I didn't have any real aversions or cravings. My feet and hands didn't really swell until into the 8th month. I moved a little slower, but I didn't change any of my activities. I pushed through and found I enjoyed being pregnant. I loved the feeling of knowing I am growing a life inside of me and took the aches and pains in stride.

We told our parents at the same time, earlier than we wanted, but this baby would be the first grandchild for all of them and we wanted them to find out together. (That’s another story for another day.) We told the rest of our family soon after and our friends and bosses at 13 weeks. I never got a big round pregnant belly so I didn't get any outward questions until the 5th month, and that was from co-workers and friends. No one ever gave me their seat on the bus or held the door for me. I didn't walk leaning back, grabbing at my back like the stereotypical pregnant woman.

Throughout my pregnancy, I knew I wanted a natural birth in a loving environment. I was going to do everything I could not to have any medical intervention. We've been having babies on our own forever, why add medication or surgical procedures, all of which have side effects? The Hubs and I prepared by taking a Hypnobirthing course and reading everything we could, from stories about natural births to where to birth to birthing positions. I wanted to be as prepared as I could.

As part of my birth plan, I needed to decide who to allow in the room with me while I birthed. I was allowed to have 3 people in the room with me. Of course, I wanted The Hubs in there with me. He took the Hypnobirthing course with me and has been my rock not only during the pregnancy, but since we started dating in 2003. I knew he would be supportive and make sure I had everything I needed. I decided I also wanted my mom, because, well, she’s my mom. As an added bonus, she had 5 kids of her own so she’s been through the birthing process several times, with a few different outcomes. This was her first grandchild so I thought it would be very special for her. I was thinking about letting my older sister in with me too. We didn't get along very well; we were bitter rivals in a number of ways for a number of reasons. But she is also assertive and could help make sure the hospital staff did what I wanted. And even though we never got along, I still wanted her to experience the birth of my baby. She wants children and I always expected her to have kids before my other sister or brother but she is not able to have children. I tried to be as sympathetic about my pregnancy as I could and I thought that sharing this experience with her would bring us closer together and show her how much she can contribute as an aunt. I am so thankful I did.

On July 21st, the temperature reached well into the 90s with a heat index of over 115ยบF. I decided that was just too hot for me to get to the bus and stand outside for at least the 15 minutes it took to get there and wait for the bus and then I would hope the air conditioning was working that day. The weather on July 22nd was much the same, so I stayed home.

On Saturday July 23rd I was at a friend’s house down the street for lunch when I started to feel this pain radiate from my back and curl around toward my front. A bad cramp that didn't go away when I took a deep breath or stood up. My contractions had started. They were far apart and erratic so I didn't pay much attention to them. Later that afternoon I went to another friend’s house to study Torah and chat over some fruit and homemade dessert. The contractions were coming a little more frequently, but I kept them hidden. I don’t think I heard every word my friend said that day, I’m sorry for that. Hopefully she understands. When a contraction came on, I brought my thoughts inward without changing my outward appearance.

July 23rd, 11:45 pm
The Hubs and I went to sleep that night knowing this baby would be here soon.

Part 2!

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Conversation: Daddy's Bread!

It's the night before Tisha B'Av, a very important fast for Jews. (To learn more about that day, the customs and why this day is the saddest day in Jewish history, read this.) It's a custom to eat a meal of bread and eggs on the floor. The Hubs and I each have a piece of bread and an egg while we sit in the living room. Buddy is dancing around with his bread, that he quickly finishes.

Buddy: (Taking my bread) He-ar Daddy! Eat!
Me: That's my bread, Buddy.
Buddy: (Taking The Hub's bread) He-ar Mommy! Eat!
Me: Thank you. (Eats bread)
Buddy: (Crying, with real tears and everything) Mommy eat Daddy's bread! Not nice!
Me: Daddy said I could eat it and look, Daddy has bread too.
Buddy: (Still crying) Mommy eat Daddy's bread! Mommy!!!!! (Flops down in sadness)
Me: Let me get Daddy a new piece of bread, ok?
Buddy: Ok. Daddy new bread!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Sink or Float?

As a toddler, Buddy wants to explore the world. He is trying to figure out how everything works. In order to encourage his enthusiasm for the world around him, I set up his pool for a little experiment of "sink or float?"

I put a few inches of water in the pool, we gathered supplies from around the house and yard and started throwing them into the pool. After every addition I said, "it floats!" or "it sinks!" Buddy did repeat "sink!" or "foat!" a couple of times, but he was more interested in pouring the water out of the containers we had brought outside.

Buddy getting ready to throw in a rock.
"Sink!" The rock sinks and makes a big splash! Buddy liked to watch it splash over and over...
 I encouraged Buddy to find more objects and see if they would sink or float, but his interest was not in the experiment I had laid out. It happens! I have to go with the flow with my independent thinker. Instead of watching items sink or float, Buddy explored the properties of water. What makes the biggest splash? How much water can each container hold? What happens when I swish the rake back and forth?
Buddy would rather make waves than conduct the experiment I had laid out. 
Sometimes we just have to go with the flow and let kids be kids.

 Young kids don't always have the same thought process as adults. Sometimes it is just better to let them try their own experiment. At this age I just want to see Buddy explore and figure out how things work. The real lesson is cause and effect, not density.
Today Buddy is checking out gravity instead of density.
 This is a great activity for kids of nearly any age. As long as they aren't putting everything in their mouth, try it with toddlers a little younger or increase your learning expectations with older kids too. As children begin to understand what makes something sink or float, pick up some items that may surprise them. Pumice is a rock, but it floats! You can start talking about density and what it means and how it affects what will float or sink. Will the same objects float or sink if this experiment is done in oil? Rubbing alcohol? Salt water? Why do boats float? I'll have to borrow some older kids to show you more details, but what kind of clay boat will sink or float? If you roll clay in a ball, will it sink or float? Have them make shapes out of the clay to try to make it float. What if you put something dense in a boat? A marble will sink in water, but can they get it to float on their homemade boat?

There are so many ways to adapt this experiment for kids. Get down on your child's level and make it fun for them while they learn.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Saving the World 1 CO2 Molecule at a Time!

Ok, so I may not be saving the world, but if I am going to work then I want to do something that makes a real difference. My current research deals with carbon capture and storage (CCS), which is starting to become carbon capture UTILIZATION and storage (CCUS). The idea is that we are emitting too much carbon dioxide, or CO2, into the atmosphere so there are scientists and engineers working on finding a way to keep it out of the air.

A quick science lesson: Why should we care about CO2? Although CO2 makes up just a small amount of the air we breathe, it is a big deal when it comes to greenhouse gases. CO2 is good at reflecting radiation back to the Earth that would otherwise escape out to space, trapping heat like a greenhouse used to grow plants. Basically, as more CO2 is released, more heat is trapped on Earth causing temperatures to rise. To learn more, check out this site.

Burning fossil fuels is accelerating the CO2 rise so I want to figure out the best way to reduce our output. Right now, we rely heavily on fossil fuels to live. We use electricity, drive cars and cook. How can we reduce our carbon footprint while living in the way we want to live? We have to reduce our fossil fuel consumption, but coal, oil and gas are not going anywhere any time soon. While many people are working on technology that makes these resources more efficient, we need an immediate fix. I think the best way to do something right now is to capture that CO2 and bury it deep underground in very very salty reservoirs.

I am looking at what happens when CO2 is injected into these reservoirs. How much CO2 can be dissolved in the brine (the very very salty water) that is in the formations? What happens to the rock that makes up the reservoirs? Will the CO2 stay where we put it? As a PhD student, I kind of bury my head in the sand and only look at my part of this issue. The RECS program that I have been so excited about, helped me take my head out of the sand and breathe in all the CO2 we've been emitting. Over the next couple of days I will recap my experience and talk about the current research in the field.

~photo from Pamela Tomski~
Me in front of the National Carbon Capture Center

As parents, why do we even care? When there are so many other things to care about, does climate change really have to be another thing to worry about? Yes, we do need to worry about it. Some places may just get warmer so we'll have warmer winters and longer summers. Greenland may turn green again and crops may be able to grow there. But with warmth comes the spread of disease. Flowers are blooming earlier, but the bugs and birds that pollinate them are not yet migrating north earlier. Some places may get so hot it won't be safe to be outside. We are getting more intense storms with more frequency. There is more drought which cause more forest fires. Sure, we can try to adapt, but what about those who can't? Billions of people around the world are without air conditioners and a steady supply of food that can withstand drought. We should care about people in the world today, and especially about our children. What kind of world do we want to leave them? I hope to leave a world where they don't have to worry about going outside on a hot summer's day because it's too hot to breathe. A world where they don't have to worry about where they will get their next glass of water. A world where there is a New York that is still above water. What kind of world do you want to leave your children?