Our Birth Story (The Highlights)

My sweet little Olive was born right at 35 weeks gestation, 6 pounds 9 ounces and 18.5 inches long with a full head of hair (yes, I had heartburn. Yes, I took Prilosec daily. No, Tums did not work). It was an absolutely crazy week. (Featured image is the last photo I have of my prengant belly).

Saturday: Baby shower

Sunday: Order all the crap we still need for a baby

Monday: Call midwives to be worked in because husband is worried about swelling

Tuesday AM: Water breaks

Tuesday PM: We have a baby!

These are the craziest parts of the story for me to think about:

  1. The date of our baby shower was the same as we had planned to do it in person, before COVID reared its ugly head. We would have had to travel five hours by car to host it in the city of our choice (where my in-laws and many of our friends live). I was big and I was swollen but I was still comfortable.
  2. My entire pregnancy, I was convinced it was a boy (and I wanted a boy). The morning my water broke, I woke up and just had this gut feeling that my baby was a girl. My water broke less than 2 hours after that, and ever since she was born it feels like I knew she was a girl the whole time.

These are the things that make me smile:

  1. My Midwife team was incredible. Anytime I had a concern, I got an appointment and reassurance. The Midwife at my delivery was incredible. Her energy matched mine so well and I just felt so relaxed. Shit- I was telling jokes and saying please and thank you.
  2. I loved my daughter the second I held her. All gooed up and it didn’t matter at all. Also, I legitimately had a cute baby. The first few days were a little hit or miss, but man. That’s all I can say.
  3. I was joking around, laughing, and saying please and thank you during labor. I really didn’t ever feel that urge to be mean, hateful, or anything. I did have an epidural and my pain was manageable (I could still feel quite a bit, which was my desire). I truly think that even if I hadn’t, the contractions would have been bad, but the time in between was time to enjoy the miracle we were witnessing.

These are the things that make me sad:

  1. While Olive was still in the NICU, I returned to the hospital to be monitored for high blood pressure. I had to lay uncomfortably propped up and attached to a blood pressure cuff for 3 hours, just a couple of floors above my baby instead of trying to feed her and get to know her.
  2. I didn’t get 5 more weeks of pregnancy. I know this sounds crazy but I loved being pregnant. The swelling really didn’t bother me (although I did have some limited range of joint mobility I noticed the night before she was born that I think would have changed my outlook). Also, seeing the “xx weeks in versus xx weeks out” posts kinda bums me out because mine is going to be 34 weeks, which isn’t bad, it’s just less for both of us.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires

“It used to be you’d only see bumper stickers for the Gamecocks, or Clemson, or the Citadel. Now you’ve got people driving around with Alabama and UVA stickers. Any one of them could be a serial killer for all we know.”

Summary

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

Read on my Kindle

Horror, Supernatural, Fantasy, Vampires

3/5 stars

Pair with a deep, full bodied red wine such as a Merlot

Review

I thought this book was a really fun read, but it didn’t blow me away like I expected from reading other reviews. The characters weren’t particularly likable, and the writing style wasn’t one of those that really reeled me in. That said, I definitely scare easily and reading this book in the dark before bed didn’t lead to the most restful nights. Incidentally, I finished the book after waking up in the broad daylight (the only time I read the book during the day) and found that to be much easier.

I really felt that something was lacking in the cohesiveness surrounding the women’s relationships with each other. Patricia Campbell is the center of the novel. Everything revolves around her, but there’s just no clear reason as to why. It could just have easily been any of the other women in the book club. I suspect that her job as a nurse and her husband, a psychiatrist were what decided that for the author. But really, any good Southern housewife would have done just as well, and I think that’s part of what made me feel like something was missing.

On the other hand, the plot was great and fun. I’m a mystery/thriller lover so it threw me off a little that we knew who the “bad guy” was all along- but I also found that useful in order to keep reading. The fact that only two people pegged him from the beginning certainly made the book more dynamic and carried the story all the way to the end. And oh! The end! I don’t know how I feel about the ending. Did it provide closure? Absolutely. But there’s something about it that feels way too “tidy” about a vampire novel. I feel like another time skip with more of the character’s stories followed maybe would have helped with this. But I’m also just in a mood with book endings, so don’t mind me there.

I definitely see where all the hype came from for this book, and I think it’s a good read for people interested from the description: “Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias meet Dracula in this Southern-flavored supernatural thriller set in the ’90s about a women’s book club that must protect its suburban community from a mysterious and handsome stranger who turns out to be a blood-sucking fiend.”

Shut Your Face: Things I Wish I Could Punch People for Saying to Me as a New Mom

I’ll be honest, before I had my daughter I had no idea how to talk to other parents, especially new ones. To be frank, I still don’t think I do. What I do realize is how much stress new parents are under for so many different reasons, and how even compliments can be misconstrued with sleep deprivation and constant second-guessing. Likewise, genuine care and concern can be just plain hurtful. Here’s a short list of the things I am ready to punch the next person in the face for.

  1. “You shouldn’t be lifting/doing that.”
    • I had a vaginal delivery, minor 2nd degree tear, no other complications, and had a 10 pound weight limit for 10 days (which was lifted after 8 days; pun not intended).
    • I have been exercising (mostly yoga, also some reps of lunges, twists, and squats using baby as a dumbbell) and I have been carrying my daughter in one arm at times.
    • I lift with my knees and don’t put added pressure on my core and back, because I’m responsible (and have been exercising for years because I want to be fit and healthy).
    • Worry about yourself and trust in my abilities.
    • Mama, listen to your body, not the other voices. You know what you can handle, and your healthcare provider knows you. You got this.

2. “Are you sure your daughter needs…”

      • Yes, I know her different cries.
      • Yes, I know her daily routine.
      • Yes, I know this makes her happy.
      • Yes, I am with her alone for 9 hours a day, 5 days a week.
      • Worry about yourself and trust in my abilities.
      • Mama, listen to your baby, not the other voices. You know what (s)he needs, and his/her pediatrician knows what (s)he needs. You got this.

3. “If you don’t pump, you won’t make so much milk.”

      • This one is the absolute worst of the three, I feel like I need to sit in discomfort, let me boobs leak, and deal with pain for days (which has happened) to help your insecurities. So I’m sorry that this is a personal rant, but someone might find it helpful.
      • Let me tell you about my breastfeeding journey: my daughter was born ~5 weeks early with no ability to latch and a fleeting ability to suckle. She developed jaundice after ~2 days, and the best treatment is eating breast milk and pooping. There is evidence formula is less effective than breast milk. Therefore, in order to feed her enough I had to pump for her bottles. Because she was in the NICU, her guidelines for milk intake were changed daily and were communicated during morning rounds between 9 AM and 12 PM. I was pumping every 3 hours, on the same schedule as her, with no idea how much milk I actually needed for the day. Even so, once my milk came in, in order to feel comfortable I was pumping massive amounts from the first day on (Hit my daily target in two sessions and didn’t actually feel totally empty after either). So yeah, I had an oversupply and I was advised by multiple nurses and lactations consultants to just keep pumping and let it work itself out once she could feed directly from me.
      • Once I hit 7 weeks postpartum, I had clogged ducts at least 5 of those weeks. Sometimes it was just annoying, other times I feel like I need pain killers. It’s really painful to massage my breasts to loosen the plug, even with heat packs or a  shower.  It just feels like such a slight when another woman is willing to tell you to endure that pain.
      • I’m proud of how much milk I’ve been able to pump for my daughter, and all this phrase does is diminish that. We have no idea how my supply is going to be in a few months. Once I go back to work (even if I’m working from home) our routine is going to change. Her cluster feeds are going to come from a bottle more and more often. I’m going to get stressed out. We may need the milk we have frozen, and then again we may not. I’d rather have it and not need it than not have it.
      • I have only gotten this comment from people who did not have an oversupply. So basically, it just makes them look jealous.
      • Worry about yourself and trust my judgement.
      • Mama, listen to your body and your baby. You know what feels comfortable for you, and your baby knows how much (s)he needs to eat. Lactation consultants are your friends; your healthcare provider and your child’s pediatrician do not need to get involved (but they absolutely can if you want them to). You got this.

Such a Fun Age: Book Review

***Summary***

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Read on my Kindle

Fiction, Family Relationships, Race

4/5 stars

Recommended read for anybody interested by the book description

***Review***

I really enjoyed this book, I had already been on hold for it at the library when it appeared on multiple book lists as a good read, so naturally I started it right away once I could. I had absolutely no desire to ever put this book down, but alas real life called. The writing style was slow-paced in the details in such a way that each of the characters were brought completely to life. Yet, it was fast enough that the major events in the book were one right after another and I constantly wanted to know the “what next”. I felt like the ending was done really well; the time skip brought closure in a way most books don’t offer. Normally I like that; there’s that feeling of the characters living on and being real people with real lives. However, it was just perfect for this book. I still feel like the characters are real people in Pennsylvania walking down the street.

Each of the characters served a specific purpose for the story line and I really appreciated that. I can honestly say that I have truly never hated a character in a book as much as I hated Alix. I think the Disney villains are more likable. This is no exaggeration. She was a stuck up, rich white woman who had no idea how privileged she was. Even her best friends didn’t keep her grounded (in fact, I thought they encouraged her deplorable behavior). She was an inattentive mother, she wasn’t focused on her work, she may as well have just accepted that she had an M.R.S. that she was absolutely terrible at. The other piece that truly bothered me was that she changed her name from Alex to Alix (A-leeks) to escape her past, but in my opinion that’s just a cry for attention.

***Spoilers Ahead***

I felt like the book was really brought together by two key details: Emira and Kelley’s breakup and Alix’s flashback. At first, the breakup bothered me. And then the more I thought about it (and read on), the more I realized that there was no growth in that relationship. Under a realistic setting, there was absolutely no reason they should have been together. If they were real people, a breakup was necessary. Alix’s flashback still upsets me. She admitted that she learned the truth about what happened to the letters back in high school, and yet she continued to hold the grudge and lie because it was more convenient for her. It just painted her as an even more corrupt woman. I wish we had conversations about the Alix’s and Kelley’s of the world, because they are everywhere and they are toxic.

How To Keep Track of All the Papers You’re Reading While Working from Home

Hello people! This morning I shared some information on how I organize journal articles in an Excel spreadsheet to make them easier to find later. The tweet absolutely blew up (by my standards), so I decided to write up a post that expands on some of these ideas. 

1. Keep it Simple. Make a new file (or sheet) every time you start a new project, and also every time you start a new paper. The bulkier the spreadsheet gets, the harder it will be for you to find all those carefully organized thoughts. I have found that it saves me the most time to just start a new file for every manuscript, because then you can name each file accordingly. However, it can also be really useful to have one file per project and each individual manuscript as a separate sheet. This also helps if you want to re-use a specific citation because you can easily figure out where it is saved!

2. Header Lines. These are really important! It took me ~3 years (total guess) to figure out what the most useful headers were. Also, make sure you freeze that row! I found that it was useful to have individual columns for both the first author and the corresponding author. I realized that the corresponding author made a huge difference in figuring out what research came from the same groups. This also has an added bonus of helping you learn who the big players in your field are! The other column that I find most helpful is keeping track of whether or not you have cited this article in a particular paper or project. I think this is useful because sometimes even the most interesting of papers just doesn’t fit once you write it all out. 

3. Journal Abbreviation. This column was a direct result of EndNote frustration. There is always at least one incorrect citation that you will catch and one that you will not. Most often, I have found it comes from the journal abbreviation. Knowing the proper abbreviation can save you some time. Also, learning the common words and their abbreviations can save you some time. Also, if you ever need to type out a quick citation to share in an email or chat, this is really useful.

4. DOI. Again with the sharing! I have learned the hard way and the stubborn way that sharing the DOI is the fastest way to find an article someone recommends, unless you have the URL. However, I have also recently learned that some subscriptions change the URL, so you may still be creating work for some people without knowing it!

5. Adapt. This was neither my first nor my second draft of this spreadsheet. Paying attention to what works and what doesn’t for you specifically is going to be important. When I first started out, I made the columns similarly to my citation manager. Logically,  if the citation manager was working for me, then I didn’t really need to make the spreadsheet, did I? That’s true, but also not the point. The point is that you have to start somewhere, and you don’t need to finish where you started. 

Do you have any other tips and tricks on managing articles? Let’s share with each other and get through this journey together!

Review: Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was a Girl

Title: Things We Didn’t Talk About When I was a Girl: A Memoir

Author: Jeannie Vanasco

Rating: 2/5 stars

Review: I wanted to like this book so much, unfortunately it upset me a lot. Despite my low rating, I cannot state enough how important this book is. For Jeannie Vanasco to tell us her story, of her experiences takes an exceptional amount of courage and strength. Furthermore, it’s so important to have a story like this out in the world because in everything she grapples with she is not alone.

The part that sticks with me the most, and ultimately the reason I can’t justify rating this book any higher, is that the book was very stagnant. By that I mean it started where it ended with no ups or downs in between. While I understand that it’s a work of non-fiction, I was looking for more. I even began thinking about moments in the book that would have made it more impactful. At this point I realized that even though Vanasco addresses mental illness and going to therapy, she also states explicitly multiple times that she refused to talk about the assault in therapy because there were other things. I’m sympathetic to her going through a ton of shit in her life but this was a book about dealing with her assault.

The second most sticky feeling was that the title of the book and the content of the book never matched. The only thing I can think that she “didn’t talk about” was calling it rape (because it didn’t fit the definition of rape at the time that it had occurred). She admits to confessing groping of her high school newspaper advisor to her mother (who ultimately told her father). She admits that she told a few people about the assault from her friend. So what exactly did she not talk about? It’s probably not an important point to dwell on at all, but it is really upsetting, because I felt mislead. I thought the book was going to be her admitting something for the first time after 15 years, and in a way it was. It was the first time she really tried to deal with what happened. On the surface level though, she talked about it all.

Ultimately, I won’t even be going back to this book. It has stuck with me, even if it is in a negative way. I truly appreciate the author’s willingness to share her story and write what happened from her perspective. I would not have picked up this book if I didn’t think it was an important story to share. I applaud her for what she did and I truly think it’s important for us to read memoirs like these to understand how people are affected by sexual assault.