Tuesday, December 29

Tough decisions

We got one of those fine print "Important Changes to Your Account Terms" for one of our credit cards. I was about to just file it away without looking at it, since these things usually involve changes in APR or finances charges, and since we never carry a balance I don't worry about that stuff. Thanks to Congress, lately they've been more in the vein of "we're not allowed to rake you over the coals quite like we used to."

Luckily I took a closer look at this one, as one of the changes went like this:

Annual Fee: We may charge an annual fee of $20 if your credit limit is less than $1,000 and an annual fee of $45 if your credit limit is equal or greater than $1,000.

"May" charge an annual fee? Like, if they feel like it? You're always given the option to reject these changes, but in my experience that has always meant you have to cancel the card. Alas, I sighed, it will be time to search for a new Visa card.

So we called yesterday, prepared to cancel. The conversation went something like this:

Me: What does this mean, "may charge an annual fee?" Does that mean you will or you won't charge the annual fee?
Agent: They probably will charge the fee.
Me: "Probably"? So... will you let me know, or are you just going to surprise me?
Agent: You can reject these changes, you know.
Me: I know, but I'd like to keep the card, if possible.
Agent: You can reject the changes, and keep the card.
Me: So... the $45 dollar fee is... optional?
Agent: Right.
Me: So... I just have to tell you that I don't want you to charge me the annual fee, and I still keep the card?
Agent: Yes, you just opt out of that change and keep the card.
Me: And... I can just do that over the phone?
Agent: Yes.
Me: Um, let's do that.

So, it was a tough decision, but after giving it about a microsecond of thought, I decided I didn't want to be charged $45 dollars a year. Weird, I know.

Moral of the story: Read the fine print.

Sunday, December 20


Back by popular demand...


I've been asked about this name. There isn't much of a story except this:
When I was a little girl, I loved planning what I would name my children, and top on the list was Maren, because I thought I had made it up. Imagine my dismay, as a small child, to find that there was someone in my ward named Marin. I was understandably upset. My baby was supposed to be the only Maren in the world!
Anyway, I had forgotten about that name until a few months ago. I just remembered, oh yeah, I loved that name as a kid! And when she was born, Maren fit better than the other names we had considered.
So there you go.

Gnome pants
My mom made these, and all my siblings wore them as well as many of my nieces and nephews. They also come in blue and maroon. These are my favorite three outfits by far.

Snoozing in the sun with Dad

Checking out the world

Much happier about the post-umbilical bath than last week's sponge bath

Best. Picture. Ever.

Friday, December 11

How she got here

WARNING: Long post.

A week ago yesterday Maren made her big debut, writhing into the world in what is proving to be her signature style.

Here’s how it went down:

Tuesday, December 1

Contractions get more uncomfortable. Dani pauses to document the large size of her abdomen.

Increasingly aware of her cervix, Dani passes a restless night.

Wednesday, December 2


A curious flow gives Dani cause to suspect her water might be broken. Having recently read stories of women whose water leaked for three days before they realized what was going on probably contributes to this suspicion.

Conversations with her skeptical-about-midwifery worry-wart father and her overly excited husband compel Dani to call the midwife, against her wishes (Dani is in denial). Midwife doubts the water is broken, but suggests Dani come in to make sure.


Midwife confirms that the amniotic sac is intact, and we’re just seeing the mucus plug work its way out. Dani is dilated to a 4, up from a 3 last week. “You will probably have your baby soon,” Midwife Gina says. Gina and Midwife Ramona stress the importance of not coming to the center too soon, but waiting until contractions are 3 to 4 minutes apart and too painful to talk through. Dani and Mark receive message loud and clear.

Evening, 6:00ish

Contractions get painful enough that Dani stops what she’s doing to talk herself through them. She continues to work remotely in the hope of getting things squared away for her substitute at the office.

9:00 p.m.

Dani’s sister calls and Dani forces herself to talk through a contraction. This is the last contraction she talks though.

10:30 p.m.

Dani finally stops working and gets her PJs on. Thinking perhaps the contractions will subside (remember, she is in denial), she plans to go to bed.


Quite awake, Dani gets in the shower. She asks Mark to please time a few contractions using their handy iPod app. Contractions are 3 to 4 minutes apart.

Thursday, December 3

12:00 a.m. – 2:30 a.m.

Contractions really pick up and Dani is moaning through them. Loudly. Dani and Mark are acutely aware of the thin wall they share with their Coldplay-loving neighbor. They move to the other room. Dani finds the toilet to be the most comfortable least uncomfortable place to be, leaning into Mark’s leg. Dani repeatedly asks Mark if they can call the midwife yet. Mark wants to wait, having been duly warned not to go in too early. Finally Dani convinces Mark to time contractions again. They are 2 to 3 minutes apart. Mark calls the midwife, who advises them to come in. Mark takes charge and packs the car between contractions.

3:00 a.m.

Dani and Mark depart for Holy Family Services Birth Center in Weslaco, TX. Dani kneels on the floor in the back seat and dozes between contractions. The motion of the car seems to be soothing and Dani calms down.

3:30 a.m.

They arrive at Holy Family and meet Gina. Dani is dilated to a 5. They move to the birth room.

Our "suite" -- nicer on the inside than you'd imagine.

4:15 a.m.

Dani gets in the tub, commenting, “This was a good idea.” Contractions are still painful, but the water takes the edge off. Dani spends 95% of her tub time on her hands and knees, forehead resting on the side of the tub. Jessi, the nurse, rubs Dani’s back during contractions. Mark stays by her head. Gina offers encouragement from the side of the tub. Every hour or so Gina has Dani get out of the tub to use the bathroom and walk around.

Every laboring woman deserves one of these.

7:00 a.m.

Dani is disappointed to see the sun coming up. She was sure to have had this over with by 6:00 a.m. She feels absolutely exhausted and wishes she could just lie down and sleep, but hands-and-knees in the tub is the only place she wants to be during a contraction.

8:00 a.m.

Out of the tub again. Despite her ardent desires for a natural birth, Dani is wishing for an epidural right now and thinking if there were one available she’d take it in a heartbeat. She considers what it would be like to transfer to the hospital.

8:15 a.m.

Back in the tub. Dani is hating life. Everyone around her is very encouraging, telling her how great she’s doing. She has been stuck at 8 centimeters for what seems like eternity (but is really probably only about two hours). Contractions are becoming unbearably painful. Gina postulates that an extra healthy amniotic sac is pushing against the cervix but isn’t firm enough to dilate it. Dani and Gina weigh the option of rupturing the amniotic sac artificially. Having read more than is probably healthy about interventions in labor, Dani wants everything to go as naturally as possible. Then she has another contraction, and in a moment of delusion – thinking that rupturing the bag of waters will alleviate some pain – she agrees to have Gina take a look at it.

10:50 a.m.

Dani gets on the bed. Gina “helps” the water break. Dani gets back in the tub. Gina tells Dani not to push until they’re sure the cervix is dilated; otherwise the cervix can swell and then you’re in a world of trouble. Dani envisions an emergency transfer to the hospital for a c-section because of a swollen cervix and tries her best not to push.

11:00 a.m.

If Dani thought things were painful before, she has another think coming. She goes from controlled moaning to outright screaming at the top of her lungs. Each contraction is accompanied by blood-curdling shrieks. She begs for drugs. After a few pitiful, pleading contractions Gina says they do have a narcotic they can give, but it makes you sleepy. Dani demands it. Gina remains calm and says they will send the nurse to go get it.

11:20 a.m.

Gina, who up until now has only guided Dani, firmly instructs Dani to get out of the tub. Dani is still screaming during contractions, begging for the nurse to come faster with the drug. Surely the entire town of Weslaco can hear her. This is not like what you see in the movies; this is worse. Mark would later describe her as “freaking out.”

11:30 a.m.

On the bed, Dani is screaming bloody murder for the nurse to hurry up. Everyone else is calm. Suddenly Gina says, “Your cervix is gone. You can start pushing.” Dani is in disbelief. She holds her breath while she pushes, asking if she can get off the bed. After a few minutes, Gina says yes. Mark sits on the side of the bed and supports Dani under the arms while she squats. Pushing is hard work, but not as painful as the contractions were before. Gina says, “Your baby’s head is right there.” Dani can’t believe it’s almost over. Impatient, she pushes hard. They bring a mirror over and she can see her baby’s head advance, and then recede, advance, and recede.

11:50 a.m.

Still in denial that childbirth is actually happening to me, Dani gives a final push and the next thing she knows, Gina has caught what has just slithered out, the pain is gone, and Dani is holding a slimy baby against her chest. One word: relief. After a few surreal moments Dani remembers to check the baby’s gender and exhales, “I knew it.”

They help Dani onto the bed, where 10 minutes later the placenta comes out. They wait for the cord to stop pulsing before they clamp it and let Mark cut it. Covered in blood, vernix, meconium, and sweat, Dani holds the baby for a while before they take her to be weighed, measured, and cleaned up. Two thoughts go through Dani’s head: 1) I will never, ever judge any woman for taking drugs during labor, and 2) I don’t know if I can ever put myself through this again.

Total time in active labor: about 15 hours, total time pushing: 20 minutes


One Week Later

A week away from it all, here are my thoughts:

I have thought a lot about the merits of a home birth, but I am so glad we did this at the birth center. I felt such relief when we arrived. I can’t explain it, but it was something about knowing that I was in a place that was designed for me to labor, and I didn’t have to worry about what our neighbor could hear or me getting blood on the carpet.

That last bit, where I was screaming bloody murder and begging for drugs, was transition -- the most painful part of labor but also a sign that it’s almost over -- but I didn’t know it. I think if I had known the end was near I would have borne it better. I was screaming so hard that my throat hurt for two days. For the record, on a scale of 1 to 10, Gina gave my labor a 5 for difficulty and my transition a 9 compared to others that she's seen. Comforting to know that it 1) isn't always that bad, and 2) I am not just a total wuss.

Even though the pain at the end was more excruciating than I had anticipated in even my wildest imagination, I am so glad I wasn’t at the hospital. The consistency and support I felt with the midwife and two nurses was, in retrospect, infinitely more valuable than pain relief. My memory of the pain has faded completely, but my warm feelings toward the women who supported me and the cozy, dark room I labored in have only grown in the past week. Jessi, one of the nurses, rubbed my back during each contraction for four hours. Katie, the other nurse, hung out with us from 6 a.m. until nighttime. Gina gave the best mixture of guidance, support, and direction I could’ve asked for and stayed there the whole time. The room was homelike; the three of us were able to spend our first night together as a family in the same bed, alone and undisturbed. From the happy camaraderie among the nurses and midwives to the way they had gotten to know me personally from my months of prenatal care, it was like being cared for by family.

Gina and Maren

I owe a lot to Mark, of course, who has been 110% supportive of my decision to do this from the very beginning. I couldn’t have done it without him (for lots of reasons, wink wink).

Remember how I said I hoped to have a birth that was “beautiful, empowering, spiritual, and even life changing”? I remember lying on the bed with my baby in my arms and thinking that it was none of those things. The only adjectives I could think of to describe the experience were raw and surreal. The thing I remember most was how slimy she felt when they handed her to me. Really, really slimy.

There’s a scripture in John that I turned to numerous times during pregnancy:

A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. (John 16:21)

I had my birth-announcing blog post all worked out in my head months in advance -- there would be that scripture and a picture of the baby. But as I lay holding her I thought, “I can’t post that because I sure remember that anguish!” It took a little longer for me to bond and forget how painful the whole ordeal was.

If you had asked me the day of or the day after Maren’s birth if I would do it the same way again, I would have told you I wasn’t sure. I would have told you that I’m not sure there’s going to be an “again.” But one week removed, I can confidently say that I wouldn’t want to do it any other way.

And now what you really want, which is more pictures:

After she was born, someone commented, "Where did she get those cheeks?!"

Seriously? Look at me!

Do I look exhausted or what?
I certainly can't take credit for how attractive this child is (for further evidence, see "About Me" section to your right).

I doubted when we packed the labor bag that we'd get to use this suit. But then it ended up being the coldest day since we've moved here, like 45 degrees outside. Which is great, because this is too cute. And hence her first nickname, Mare-Bear.

I'm grateful for a healthy body and a healthy baby and for the existence of Holy Family Services for giving me such a great birth experience. I hope I can find something similar wherever we end up living when the next one comes.

Saturday, December 5

Meet Maren

Maren Emily
Born December 3, 2009
11:50 a.m.
19 inches
6 lbs. 11 oz.

More pictures and details forthcoming...our internet decided THIS was a good weekend to go on the fritz. Hopefully we'll be up and running by Monday.

Tuesday, December 1

The Gospel of Peace

I’ve had a heavy heart since I heard Friday’s news of the passing of John Jones, who was trapped in the Nutty Putty caves last week. I have felt a deep sadness since reading about it on Friday morning, and I’ve struggled to understand my own emotions.

We weren't terribly close to the Jones, who were in our ward at BYU for a year, and we haven’t kept in touch. But the Jones are the kind of people whose influence reaches far and doesn’t fade. Emily in particular is someone who so happily radiates the light of Christ that she is hard to forget. Her simple example affected me in specific and memorable ways that it would be impossible for her to know about.

My heart has ached all weekend at the weighty implications John’s passing has for the little family he left behind. I have struggled to know what to pray for, and I’ve wished that somehow I could shoulder some of the grief that his loved ones, especially Emily, must feel. It’s been hard to understand the depth of my own reaction considering the distance of both time and space between our family and theirs. But I was reminded on Sunday that I promised a long time ago to “mourn with those that mourn,” and though my ability to comfort those that stand in need of comfort in this situation is limited at best, I’ve come to understand that somehow my little portion of grief ascends upward in some small but meaningful way.

Emily’s post the day after her husband’s death, as well as her comments at Saturday’s memorial service (thanks again for recapping that, Melissa), spoke of peace. I spent a lot of time thinking about that yesterday.

I have thought before about how the Gospel doesn’t promise a pain-free life. Living righteously doesn’t ensure ease or comfort or even constant happiness. But it does promise peace. “My peace I give unto you…” the Savior said. And since peace is communicated through the Spirit, we have to be worthy of it. Hence one of the many incentives for living righteously.

I was also reminded of a personal scriptural insight I had a few months ago. The short version of the story is that I had received a substantial bill from someone who had dealt with me dishonestly and he wasn’t going to fix it. I was pretty upset. That day Mark and I were reading in Alma 15, where Zeezrom is sick with a scorching fever caused by his own wickedness. As I read the description of his spiritual anguish in verse 3, I was struck with the thought, “Dani, you think you’ve got problems? Zeezrom’s got problems. And his are the kind of problems you never have to have.”

I was impressed that the anguish of being separated from the Spirit due to our own wickedness is worse than any trial we could possibly have to pass through in this life. And based solely on my own choices, I can have the Spirit – and the peace that accompanies it – as often as I am willing to live worthy of it.

As I have contemplated this peace, I was reminded of the Sunday School lesson I taught the teenagers last week on the armor of God. One of the pieces of armor is having our “feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace.” That wordy piece of armor has never really made sense to me. But yesterday as I contemplated peace, I had a new understanding of having our feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace. Kind of in the vein of “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear” -- that living constantly worthy of the peace of the Gospel prepares us for whatever vicissitudes we may be called to walk through. That we can confidently walk through life in our “Peace Boots” because we know that no matter what, our own choices and behavior entitle us to the constant -- constant -- peace of the Gospel.

So although I haven’t had contact with Emily in years and I don’t know that she’ll ever read this, I want to thank her for her example of being prepared with the Gospel of Peace to weather the hardships of life. She has inspired me before and continues to do so. I want to be a better person because of my minuscule glimpse into how she has dealt with this tragedy. I know that pain heals only with time and that the loss will never completely disappear, but I also know that the Gospel of Peace makes our worldly challenges bearable. And I know that Emily knows that too, because of the way she has lived her life. I’ll continue to pray that the peace she’s felt will stay with her and the rest of John’s family throughout this intensely difficult time.

If you’d like to make a contribution to Emily and her children (14 months old and one on the way), you can do so here or to the John & Emily Jones Memorial Fund (Utah Community Credit Union and Wells Fargo) or the Emily Jones Children Donations (Zions National Bank).

Monday, November 30


I was chastened by Nephi this morning.

1 Nephi 18:15-16
"...and also mine ankles were much swollen, and great was the soreness thereof...Nevertheless...I did not murmur...because of mine afflictions."

So I guess I should stop complaining that I can't tell where my calves stop and my toes begin. ::sigh::

Friday, November 27

Should I be angry or amused? I'll take amused.

At first when people started noticing my belly and taking the liberty of asking me all sorts of personal questions and scrutinizing my figure in usually inappropriate ways I was a little self-conscious. My child’s gender has been predicted based on the size and shape of my abdomen more times than I can remember (according to most people it’s a boy because I’ve expanded up more than out; one woman told me that if it were a girl my butt would be bigger.) But now I’ve come to appreciate these little comments as other people’s excitement and desire to share in the joy of new life and so I just roll with it.

Yesterday was a little different.

I was washing my hands in the bathroom at WalMart. There was another lady in there -- about 50ish, small, and witch-like -- who seemed to be adjusting the back of her dress, so she was looking into the sink as she reached behind her head. Lifting only her eyes, she said to me, “Is this your first baby?”

Me, smiling, anticipating her excitement for me: “Yes.”

Then, in a tone of neither curiosity nor cluelessness about the socially acceptable but rather a flat tone of accusation and still without lifting her head she said, “How old are you.”

I was so taken aback that I wasn’t quick enough to say, “How old are you? And how much do you weigh?” Or even, “Excuse me?” Instead I just said, “Twenty-four.”

Her tone didn’t change, and she replied, “You look very young.”

I laughed and said, “Yeah. But I’m married.” And then left the bathroom.

Maybe you had to be there, but I was blown away by the gall of the whole thing. I know I look like a pregnant teenager, but to indict me for it…come on!


I just wanted to say that if I came across anti-hospital in my last post, I didn't mean to. Hospitals are great places to have babies (my friend Melanie that I referenced had hers in a hospital in Utah County). My intended point was just that I was exposed to information that both surprised me and challenged a lot of my assumptions about birth. So that post was partly to explain myself (since what I'm doing is outside the norm) and partly to pass along some things that I found helpful -- since this info wasn't offered by either of the OBs I had seen (one great, one not-so-great) -- in case there's another "me" out there who will appreciate it.

Tuesday, November 24

Why I’m choosing to “go natural”

As you may or may not know, I’m planning a non-hospital, drug-free waterbirth attended by a midwife. I get varied reactions from people when they find this out – mostly polite surprise, but also the occasional “Hoo boy, you’re brave” (Mark’s grandma) and, among the brutally honest (my father), overt initial skepticism. Curiosity is one consistent aspect of nearly everyone’s reaction.

And as a disclaimer, I’m not trying to convince anyone that they should do the same thing, but I am glad that I was exposed to this birth information when I was, so if I can increase exposure to this way of having a baby, then great. If I help someone else find a better birth for herself, then hey, pay it forward.

I always assumed I would give birth in a hospital, in a bed with a hospital gown, just like everyone else I knew. My exposure to birth was limited to postpartum visits to friends and family, one visit to a friend who was actually in labor in the hospital, and television portrayals (which, it turns out, are a wild misrepresentation). In other words, my exposure was (and still is) very limited. But I assumed I would go to the hospital like everyone else. I wanted to “see if I could do it” without an epidural – partly to see if I was “tough enough,” and partly because I wanted to connect with this rite of passage for women through history. But, if I couldn’t hash it, I thought, I’ll get an epidural.

This was my plan – or rather, this was the default option. Then I read the birth story of my friend Melanie. She talked about laboring in a tub, using a birth ball, walking around, and her doctor massaging the perineum as the baby crowned (!) – I thought it was all quite strange but thought hey, to each her own. Then, in a later post, she referenced an article called “The Purpose of Pain in Labor” (which unfortunately is no longer available on the website – Mel, if you have a copy would you email it to me?). The gist of the article (as I remember it) was that pain in labor, like in any aspect of life, is your body’s way of communicating with you, and that naturally responding to that pain allows your body to be most effective in getting the baby out with the least damage to everyone involved.

I had a major “Huh.” moment reading that article. It just made so much sense. One reference led to another, and by the end of the day I was researching birth centers and midwifery and waterbirths, and I was just about sold.

Coincidentally (actually, I don’t think it was a coincidence, I think it was divine providence), that same day Mark attended a presentation on various community service opportunities he would have this year, and one of them was at the only birth center in the Valley. He took the time to talk to the nurse afterward and get some additional information, thinking it sounded like something I would be interested in. When he came home that day, we both, independent of each other, had a lot to say about birth centers. This was the first of many little confirmations that this was the right direction for me to take.

I must pause to tell you why Mark thought this would appeal to me. My biggest fear about giving birth was not the pain, not that something would go wrong with me or my baby, nothing like that. My biggest fear was that I would have people telling me what I could and could not do. It was that I would be in a hospital where people would be telling me that I couldn’t even get a drink of water if I was thirsty. I had this vision of being so thirsty and being told all I could have was ice chips, and grabbing some medical individual by their white lapels in raging agony and yelling, “Get me a damn drink of water NOW!”

So, naturally, learning about a place where you’re “allowed” to labor as you want – eating and drinking as much or as little as you want, moving around, and just generally trusting your body and your own intuition – was very, very appealing to me. And the more I learned, the more it appealed to me on just about every level.

The more I’ve read, the more I’ve learned about some of the problems with the obstetrical model of maternity care, and how most women (like me) are just not familiar with the other options. I won’t try to regurgitate everything I’ve read over the last five months, but I’ll give a few examples of what I mean. And I mention these because they were huge wake-up calls to me.

Did you know, for example, that lying on your back – the standard hospital position – is probably the worst position to deliver a baby? You don’t have gravity working for you, it’s generally more painful, and you’re more likely to tear or end up with an episiotomy. Most women who choose their own position end up squatting, sitting slightly reclined, lying on their side, or even being on all fours.

To me this was a revelation. I thought women everywhere, throughout the ages, had given birth on their backs. Not so – the US is one of the few countries where this is standard procedure, and only since the last century.

I had always thought that giving birth in a tub was something that crazy hippie home birth people did. (I had even been known to make jokes along the lines of “Are you going to be one of those crazy people who give birth in a tub?” followed by a superior chuckle.) In fact, I have read that water is the best non-pharmaceutical pain killer for labor. Some women even describe it as relaxing. (I’m not holding out for that, by the way, but if it happens – woohoo!) You’re also less likely to tear under water.

Another thing I had never before considered was how a birth could be affected by a woman’s environment and her emotions. Being able to let go and surrender to the birth process is key, and tension, fear, and anxiety can impede and even halt labor. One article talked about how a doe in labor finds herself a dark, secluded spot to give birth. If anything happens where she feels threatened, the adrenaline rush will actually stop her labor so she can get up and run. The same is true for humans – how you’re feeling emotionally has a huge effect on labor.

If you have the same, trusted person with you for the duration of your labor (which is what a midwife or doula would do), if the lights are low, if you’re comfortable in your environment (if it’s as home-like as possible), that fight-or-flight reflex is much less likely to be triggered. It can be very hard to really relax with various nurses, students, residents, and so forth, coming in and out of the room, checking your cervix, changing shifts, etc. At the hospital, you don’t get to choose who ends up spending most of your labor with you, and you might get stuck with an ornery nurse (I know I’ve heard several of those stories).

Anyway, those are just a few of the things that I had never before considered, but once I started learning more about them it just made so much sense. And the list goes on, from the effects of various interventions (pitocin, pain medication, fetal monitoring, etc.) to the obstetrical philosophy (seeing birth as a potential emergency and over-treating for fear of litigation) to cesarean rates (way too high) to hospital policies (often not mom- or baby-friendly, and surprisingly often not evidence-based) to VBACs (unfortunately discouraged) and so forth.

So that’s a little bit of why I’ve chosen to go the way I have. And to follow up on my disclaimer at the beginning of this post, I’d just like to say that I don’t think that every woman should necessarily say adios to her OB and have her baby at home. Unfortunately, some natural birth advocates are a little too aggressively evangelical and they end up vilifying all doctors and hospitals and it can be a real turn-off.

But I do think that every woman should try to become as informed as possible and make her own decision, one that she’s happy with. Personality is a huge factor that I think rarely gets addressed. You may be like me and want to make all your own decisions regarding your care, or you may feel much more at ease knowing that you’re in the hands of a highly trained professional who is going to make the decisions for you. Your biggest fear may be similar to mine, or you may be afraid of something going wrong with your child. Either way, my hope is that everyone can at least know the truth about all her options. And OBs, as good as they may be, are likely to give a one-sided representation of reality. I’m a skeptic by nature and I don’t like to take any one person’s word for it, especially when it comes to something as important as my body and my child.

One more thing. Reading and hearing birth stories is very interesting (and often inspiring). When it comes to hospital births, I haven’t really read or heard a woman rave about how wonderful her experience was. Mostly they seem neutral, mediocre, or sometimes even really bad. And though there are certainly the rare scary birth center and home births, as a general rule women who have chosen to go that route tend to rave about their experience. Not that it was easy, but that it was empowering, beautiful, spiritual, and even life changing. I hope to have one like that.

If I don’t have one like that, if I end up in the hospital or with a c-section, that will certainly be disappointing, but I think I’ll be okay with it – because I know I won’t be railroaded into it and ultimately it will be my decision. I’m not holding out for any ideal birth because I know that labor is a poker hand and you get what you get – long or short, hard or easy, emergency or not. But I’m happy knowing that I’ve done everything I can to plan for the kind of experience I hope to have.

For some good, middle-of-the-road resources, I recommend Your Best Birth as a nice introduction to the various birth options (it does lean natural-birth but was neutral enough for me) and The Birth Partner as a great resource for preparing for birth no matter where or how you’re going to do it. And this is a blog mostly about birthing that I follow regularly now, because its author is educated, smart, and objective. (Her two birth stories, which are linked in the "About Dr. Freeze" sidebar, are amazing by the way.) There’s too much polemic and divisive stuff out there on both sides, from blogs and books that make you see every man with a stethoscope as a misogynist to simply false doctrine on the Today Show about the “Perils of Midwifery.” So I recommend steering clear of both extremes, and don't believe anyone who uses fear as a tactic to get you to believe their side (whether that's "Your doctor will disregard your wishes and cut you a huge episiotomy for his own convenience" or "If you don't do x, y, or z, procedure, your baby might die"), because unfortunately there's too much fear mongering out there. So these three resources, I think, are good objective places to start.

By the way, feel free to disagree with anything here. You may even extol the virtues of the epidural! You won't hurt my feelings. In fact I’ll respect you for voicing a contrary opinion. And soon I’ll have my own birth story to share (I was 38 weeks on Sunday), ready or not…

Wednesday, November 11


Gross: Finding a dead spider in your bedside Vaseline. Deciding to deal with it tomorrow.

Grosser: Applying Vaseline to your lips in the dark the next night and wondering what that crusty thing was. Realizing what that crusty thing was.

Tuesday, October 6

Just cruel

I almost cried when I got this email today.

Because much to my dismay it is definitely NOT sweater season here.
Think 91 sounds balmy? It's not. Add 60% humidity and it "Feels like 103 degrees." And as you can see, it's not going to get any better later today.

If you are fortunate enough to be living near my homeland, you may be lamenting that it's hovering around freezing (I know this because I also have a Utah weather widget on my dashboard, which I covet daily). I will trade you. Think of all the benefits you have that I don't (and that I won't have until I move from here):

  • Sweaters
  • Socks
  • Pants (although this is a small blessing since if I had to wear pants right now I'd be up a creek)
  • Hats, scarves, & gloves
  • Hot chocolate
  • Warm baths
  • Candles
  • Leaves changing colors
  • Using your oven without turning the A/C down to 70 degrees and then sweating anyway
  • Actually sleeping under your comforter
You may say, ah, but Dani, YOU can go outside. No no, my friends. I can only go outside if I submit myself to be devoured by mosquitoes. I kid you not, I cannot walk from my front door to the mailbox without at least one bite.

I will concede one plus: no goosebumps when I get out of the shower in the morning. But I would gladly trade it for the benefits mentioned above. Besides, we are getting to the point where shaving my legs requires acrobatic contortions not safe in a slippery shower.

I don't know how people live here, especially those who moved from northern climes. When I say this to long-time residents, they just laugh and say, "Well, we just stay inside!" Then they mention how great it is to be able to go the beach at Christmas, as if this were consolation for 9 months of roasting. At which point I just whimper, because Christmas is about fuzzy slippers and cozy PJs and fabulous toasty aromas in the kitchen and playing in the snow (if we're lucky). Beach-going, for me at least, is a strictly summer activity.

Maybe you have to have Latin blood to survive here, because my quarter-Mexican husband doesn't complain, and HE has to wear a shirt and tie every day. I, however, being bred of 100% northern European stock, do not have the constitution for this.

Being a walking human incubator may have something to do with it too.... though I am a born and bred four-seasons girl, pregnant or not.

So there you go. Think of me next time you're complaining about how cold it is, and be grateful that you can always put more and warmer layers on, while there are only so many layers you can take off.

Wednesday, May 13


One year ago today, I was on an airplane to Italy.


Saturday, February 28

Fresh & Clean

If you're thinking this looks a lot like the remnants of a stash of 10 tithing envelopes forgotten in the pocket of a shirt that found its way into the wash today, you're right -- that's exactly what this is.

Wednesday, February 25

The San Antonio Church Tour of '09

The San Antonio Church Tour of '09 is in full swing! In an effort to broaden my religious understanding, I'm visiting various churches in San Antonio and blogging about it. So if you have any interest in reading (admittedly long) posts about my experiences, you can check out the blog at


If you have suggestions of churches or worship areas I should consider, or if you want to come along, let me know!

Thursday, February 19

I'm not as cool as I pretend to be

I butchered a French man's name today. And I mean wholesale slaughtered it.

It wasn't even a strange, unfamiliar name with bizarre French spelling that would have left me totally clueless. It wasn't Jacquot or Apollinaire or Émilien or Amaury or Théophile. THOSE I would have looked up online before even attempting. No, it was Jean-François. Which seems easy enough.

Now, I don't speak French. But I'm not totally ignorant. And I like saying things right, and usually I manage decently enough.

So before I called the guy, I prepped myself. "Jean" like on Les Mis, Jean ValJean. Zhoh(n). Got it. "François," like Froh(n)swa. Piece of cake. It sounded great. Not native, sure, but legit. Educated. Cultured. I felt ready.

Then when the guy picked up, I totally croaked. Totally. Croaked.

"Hello, could I speak with, uh, Zheen, uh, Zhoh... ::mumble, mumble:: Frons..frans...fronswah?"

The reply came kindly in perfect English tinted so attractively with French accent: "This is he." He didn't make a point to say, "Yes, this is Jean-François (you pathetic American)," he just moved on like it was no big deal that I just shredded his name. I would not have been so generous.

He's probably totally used to it, but I not only decimated his name but then I tripped over the pieces! I hang my head in shame.

Monday, January 26

Where there's a will there's a way

This is what happens if you wrap your dough in only ONE layer of saran wrap and put it in the fridge overnight. It will break through the saran wrap (not just find its way out a loose edge, but actually burst a hole clean through the plastic) and form a crusty goiter-y thing.

But do not despair—that persistent yeast hasn't gotten the best of you yet. You can still make an excellent pizza crust.

Monday, January 12

Today is a red-letter day...

(you may have to run an ActiveX control to get the above song to play)

It's been a looong time since I've had this much style.