New Mom’s Guide to an Easy (uh, Easier) Labor & Delivery/Recovery


Because I feel like I had such a terrific labor & delivery experience as well as a remarkably easy recovery period (thus far anyway), today I’d like to share my tips for how other women can also achieve a satisfying & easy (ok, easier- it’s never going to be easy) labor & delivery & postpartum phase.  While I am a nurse I am certainly no expert on labor & delivery or postpartum care.  I am just a regular first time mom trying to survive each new day.  Interestingly enough I went into nursing thinking I wanted to do L&D because I had volunteered on an L&D unit as a teenager & thought it sounded fun & exciting.  However, once I got to OB clinical I realized I just wasn’t that interested in this area of nursing.  I found I liked old people better.  Who’d have guessed?  Anyway, as with most things in life I truly believe the key to having a satisfying birth & postpartum experience is setting yourself up for success . . . aka being as prepared as possible.  Here are my tips for how to make that happen.emerald-doulas

  1. Hire a doula: I remember learning about doulas in nursing school & thinking they sounded a bit “hocus pocus.”  I couldn’t fathom why I’d need/want to pay someone other than my husband or best friend to be my labor support person.  However, as my own pregnancy progressed & I started to realize how difficult labor might be, particularly with my goal of avoiding pain meds or an epidural, the thought of a doula suddenly sounded brilliant.  I remembered seeing a card for Emerald Doulas in the waiting room of my midwifery office, so I started Googling them.  Within minutes I knew I’d found the perfect group for me.  I was 34 weeks when I contacted the group & was thrilled to find they still had openings.  At 35 weeks my husband & I met with two of the doulas (Melanie & Chelsea) & reviewed our goals for our childbirth experience.  Immediately I knew we were in the perfect hands.  At 37 weeks they came to our house to further review our goals for birth.  I can’t say enough wonderful things about my husband & how he handled my L&D experience, especially toward the end when I was getting pretty hysterical & difficult to console.  He was absolutely perfect & my love for him has grown exponentially because of how wonderful he was during this experience.  However, I truly believe part of why he handled everything so well was having the doula there to provide support for him as well.  If he needed to step out for a drink/snack/bathroom break, he didn’t have to feel guilty that he was leaving me alone.  Nor did I have to worry about him becoming overwhelmed because I knew he had a support person too.  I’m so incredibly glad I took the advice of a friend & hired a doula.  Both my husband & I swear I wouldn’t have survived a natural, unmedicated birth without her (Chelsea turned out to be the doula on call that day).  Remember, no matter how much your mom/sister/best friend loves you they are not (normally) versed in coaching a woman through childbirth, so having an objective labor support expert is often a better choice because they are more likely to remain coherent & logical when you’re not so coherent & logical.  Also remember labor can be a long process so having a backup person to help your partner is worth its weight in gold.lactation-consultant
  2. Hire/find a lactation consultant: The nurses in the hospital were great but they simply didn’t have enough time to devote to each patient for really detailed breastfeeding teaching.  As a nurse myself, I totally understand this so I made plans in advance to meet with a lactation consultant (Victoria) from our doula group.  I ended up having to put this off a few days when Rachel was readmitted for bili light therapy, but I am so, so glad I didn’t cancel it altogether.  At the beginning of Victoria’s visit I told her I was mainly interested in pumping because I liked knowing exactly how many mL Rachel was getting with each feeding.  But I also told her that our pediatrician (who is also a lactation consultant!!) told us we no longer really needed to worry about that because we could tell by her weight, labs, & output (# of dirty/wet diapers) that she was getting enough milk.  Victoria encouraged me to focus more on actually feeding at the breast, at least for a few days, before relying mostly/solely on the pump.  With her help, we had the best breastfeeding session up till that time.  Victoria gave me a list of personalized suggestions & tips including buying a larger nipple shield & larger flanges for the pump.  The former of these turned out to be the perfect solution for us.  I‘ve now exclusively fed at the breast for three days & I couldn’t be happier with how it’s going.  Rachel has far less gas & hiccup issues & sleeps better between feedings (for the most part; cluster feedings ARE real but that’s true whether you’re pumping or not).  A few more helpful hints for breastfeeding are listed below:
    1. Target has great nursing bras, & they’re half the price of the ones at the mall.  The Gilligan O’Malley brand makes great ones.
    2. Get a Boppy pillow.  You will not regret it.  It makes nursing so much easier, especially since it frees up your hands.  Plus it has multiple uses outside of breastfeeding as the baby grows.
    3. Invest in some lanolin.

      7-months-pregnant-gym

      Here I was at the gym at 7 months pregnant.

  3. Stay in shape . . . Better yet, be in good shape before you’re even pregnant!  Seriously, I do not think I could have pushed through a natural labor (literally pushed!) if I weren’t in as good of shape as I am.  Trust me, I’m no supermodel, marathon runner, or Olympian, but no matter how hard it got I kept up some type of exercise throughout the entire pregnancy.  Honestly the hardest time to do that was the first trimester when the fatigue & nausea were overwhelming at times.  The last few weeks were pretty rough too, but I still forced myself to take the stairs as often as possible & to sneak in short workouts at the gym, even if all they consisted of was 10-15 minutes of free weights/machines & 5-10 minutes on the elliptical.  If nothing else, I tried to walk Chaucer (our corgi) around the community at least a few days a week.  I never counted that as exercise before I was pregnant but by the end of the pregnancy I definitely did.  There is so much research that shows that women who are in good physical shape before & during pregnancy have shorter, easier labors with fewer complications.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a better reason to get my butt moving!ionized-water-pregnancy
  4. Drink lots of water, including during labor: This is one I definitely struggled with at times.  I was never a big water drinker before I was pregnant but I knew how important it was so I did my best to make it a priority.  During labor, if you can’t tolerate anything else, at least suck on some ice chips.  Whether or not you’re getting IV fluids your body needs as much hydration as it can get.  Plus your mouth will definitely be dry & a few ice chips or sips of water here & there can make a huge difference.

    nestle-popsicle

    The strawberry ones & the lime ones are especially delicious.

  5. Bring popsicles & other clear liquid (or solid) snacks to the hospital: My midwives are pretty relaxed so I didn’t have many restrictions on eating during labor.  However, once I was on the Pitocin I was only allowed clear liquids, which is pretty standard.  Prior to that I was eating saltines & Kind granola bars every few hours to keep up my energy.  Once the Pitocin was initiated I was so grateful that I had thought to bring popsicles with me.  Every hospital is different but many places won’t deny you snacks but won’t necessarily provide them either.  This is where bringing your own comes in handy.  Toward the end of pushing I was so exhausted & I’m so glad I had my husband & doula there spoon feeding me little bites of popsicle between pushes.ambulation-labor

6. Walk often, both during labor & afterward: I knew from the childbirth class I had taken as well as my own research that staying mobile during labor is a great way to both manage pain & help labor progress.  As it turned out whether I wanted to ambulate frequently or not I had to because I had to pee every 30 minutes to an hour!  As the contractions increased in intensity & frequency I found that lying in bed was the worst possible position.  Yes, I was tired so I wanted to lie down but it was actually the most uncomfortable position.  Plus I knew the more I was up the more likely labor would progress faster.  I was out of bed within two hours postpartum (to use the bathroom) & taking walks in the hall as soon as the next day.  Some of the nurses seemed surprised to see me up & moving around so much (I’ll admit I saw almost no other moms in the hall despite the unit being very full), but I knew the worst thing I could do for stiffness & pain was to lie in bed all day. senokot7. Take the stool softeners the hospital offers you: Ah, the dreaded first postpartum poop!  I had read so much about how horrible this experience would be.  At the risk of TMI, let me just say that if you drink plenty of water, get out of bed frequently, & take the stool softeners the hospital offers you, your chances of surviving this experience with minimal to no “trauma” are excellent.  I will say that only having required 2-3 stitches probably made this experience much easier for me than it is for some others.  Just remember, the longer you put if off, the worse it will be.ibuprofen8. Take ibuprofen regularly postpartum, even if your pain is only mild: One of the greatest things that has shocked me about the postpartum phase is how little pain I’ve had.  Considering the intense pain of labor, I was expecting MUCH worse.  Again I’m sure this is partly due to having a small(er) baby (6 lbs 12 oz) & only requiring a few stitches.  But I also think that taking the ibuprofen regularly, even when I didn’t really feel like I needed it, has helped immensely.  Remember, ibuprofen is an NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) so it will help with the swelling which will in turn help with the pain. mirror9. Ask for/bring a mirror to help you during pushing: When you tour the birth center, make sure to inquire whether they provide mirrors.  If not, bring your own.  Our hospital provided a nice large mirror & I can’t tell you how helpful that was during pushing time.  I was so close to admitting defeat, but every time I looked down & saw Rachel’s little head I knew how close she was & that gave me the strength to keep going.childbirth-class10. Take a childbirth class: And don’t be afraid to take it early in the pregnancy.  The sooner you have a birth plan in mind the better.  If at all possible, make sure your partner accompanies you because you’ll be amazed at the things they might remember when you’re in the throes of labor & can’t remember anything at all.  If you’re in the RDU area, I highly recommend Birthing With Confidence by Anne Brand.  My husband & I were both extremely impressed with this class.  It will be particularly useful if you’re trying for an unmedicated birth because she focuses a lot on the psychological aspect of labor.breastfeeding-baby11. Take a breastfeeding class: Even if you’re planning to hire a lactation consultant, I still recommend taking a breastfeeding class if possible.  I took the one offered at the hospital where we delivered.  This definitely can’t replace one-on-one time with a lactation consultant but it’s still a great way to learn the basics before you’re faced with the real thing.flexible-quote12. Keep an open mind & remain flexible: This might be the most important one on this list.  From everything I read during pregnancy the biggest theme I found in regards to having a satisfying birth experience was to remain flexible no matter what happens.  So much of the time things do not go according to plan, & if we want to be able to move forward with a positive attitude we need to adapt accordingly.  I definitely wasn’t planning on having an induction at 38 weeks.  In fact throughout the entire pregnancy I said over & over again that I wanted to avoid Pitocin if at all possible because I feared it would be so painful that I’d have to give up on my dream of an unmedicated birth.  But of course I wasn’t planning on developing preeclampsia either!  So I rolled with the punches & when it came time for the Pitocin I kept an open mind.  As it turned out with the amazing support of my husband & doula I survived even the dreaded Pitocin without an epidural or any pain meds.  So I still got my wish of an unmedicated birth despite hitting a few speed bumps along the way.  The point is that I adjusted my expectations to fit the reality I was given & made the best of it.  Remember, there is no need to compare your L&D experience to anyone else’s.  Childbirth is not a competition.  Neither is motherhood.  Focus on your own situation & make the best of it.

My Birth Story


Baby Rachel is officially one week old today!  How is that possible?!  I hate to sound like the stereotypical new parent but it really is amazing how much she has changed in just one week.  Before I forget everything that happened one week ago, I want to share my birth story.  Hopefully it will be encouraging or at least interesting to other moms to be (or just folks in general).pregnancy-meme

My birth story started, in my mind anyway, on Thanksgiving night.  I worked that night & felt tired but decent.  However, once I got home from work in the morning (on Black Friday) I started vomiting & generally feeling terrible.  I just knew something wasn’t right.  I texted my doula asking for advice & she recommended I call the midwife on call.  I’m so glad I did because the midwife ended up asking me to come in to the hospital for a preeclampsia workup.  By the time we made it to the hospital I had been up for 16 hrs straight or something ridiculous like that, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to rest until I knew what was happening to my body.  As it turned out my BP was mildly elevated in the 130s/80s which isn’t too remarkable but higher than my baseline for the rest of the pregnancy.  (At that point I was 37 weeks 4 days.)  My labs also showed a slightly elevated protein to creatinine ratio but the midwife wasn’t acutely concerned.  However, she instructed me to rest & to call the office first thing Monday morning so I could be seen that day instead of later in the week as previously scheduled.  She also asked me to keep track of my BP over the weekend if possible.

dinosaur-rachel

Rachel ready to go home from the hospital

I felt reasonably well over the weekend but when I checked my BP at home it was consistently around 140/90.  Granted this was me doing a manual BP on myself but I felt pretty confident my numbers were accurate, so first thing Monday morning I called for an appointment.  When I went to the office a few hours later my BP was 142/88 & I had proteins in my urine, which was new for me.  The midwife was hesitant to call it true preeclampsia yet but she did write me a note saying I could no longer work (that was supposed to be my last week of work anyway) & instructed me to come back for my regularly scheduled visit on Wednesday & to call any time with any symptoms or concerns.rachel-cheering

The next morning, which marked exactly 38 weeks, I checked my BP at home & got 150/100.  Naturally that was when I really started getting concerned.  I decided to go to the grocery store & try one of the automatic BP machines at the pharmacy.  That gave me a reading of 130s/80s but I just had a feeling it wasn’t very accurate.  When I got home I spoke to the midwife on call, who turned out to be the same one I’d seen the day before, & she instructed me to recheck my BP in 4 hrs & then call back.  However, after about an hour or so, she called me back & told me that after discussing my case with the doctor they felt the best plan was for me to come in to the hospital to be induced at 1:00 p.m.  Part of me was scared but mostly I knew in my heart that this was the right plan.

I called my doula & she cautioned me that an induction at 38 weeks might be difficult & prolonged, but she also stated she would support me no matter what.  The whole pregnancy I had been very committed to a natural birth, but I knew that with an induction I would almost certainly end up on Pitocin & that alone would greatly increase my “risk” of getting an epidural.  But with her & my husband’s support I was determined to make the best of the situation.  She encouraged me that she had survived not one or two but FOUR labors with Pitocin without an epidural or any pains meds.  I also kept reminding myself that my mom survived an induction with Pitocin (due to hypertension) without an epidural or any pain meds.  If they could do it, I figured I could too.  Furthermore, I kept reminding myself that an induction due to preeclampsia, with a rather sudden onset no less, was not part of my original birth plan & that from everything I’d read the best way to have a satisfying birth experience is to keep an open mind & remain flexible while still staying true to your goals as much as possible.  With that mindset I felt ready to go.

rachel-tigers

I swear she has so much personality already.

To make a long story short, the first afternoon/night in the hospital wasn’t very exciting.  In the end that was probably for the best because it allowed me to get some decent rest to prepare for the big day that was to come.  (My poor husband didn’t sleep a wink that night so I am eternally grateful to him for still managing to be the best labor support person ever despite his own exhaustion.)  On arrival to the hospital my BP was 150s/90s.  That was when I knew for sure we’d made the right decision in going forward with the induction.  Unfortunately it took three tries for the nurses to get an IV in me, but I couldn’t be upset about that because I could look at my own hands & see how swollen they were.  They also told me I had tough skin which I know from experience makes IV insertion much more challenging.  Once they got the IV in place, they sent off labs & the midwife came in to check my cervix.  To our great surprise I was already dilated 2 cm & 80% effaced.  This was encouraging because it increased my chances of a successful induction.  The midwife started me on Cytotec around 3:30 pm.  We ended up doing another dose around 7:30 p.m. & a third dose around 11:30 p.m.  (Cytotec helps “ripen” the cervix” & thus potentially start labor.)

rachel-penguins

After her sponge bath this morning

By 3:30 the next morning I was only dilated 3 cm & my contractions were not much stronger or more frequent, not enough to put me in true active labor anyway.  The upside to that was I was comfortable enough to get some decent rest overnight, especially with the amazing sound machine (provided by the hospital) set to ocean waves.  Around 4 am the midwife decided to try a fluid bolus to see if that would kick-start my labor.  Unfortunately after 1L of IV fluids I still hadn’t really progressed.  Yes, the dreaded P word was coming.  I was “stuck” & needed Pitocin.  But I was so ready to meet our baby girl that I said “screw it, throw it at me.”  However, the nurse was kind enough to offer me a 1 hour break off the monitors to take a shower & eat a good breakfast.  I’ll be eternally grateful to her for that because that made such a difference in how I felt once “real” labor began.

Just before 7 am the nurse came in to turn on the Pitocin.  I was as ready as I was ever going to be.  I’d kept the doula updated overnight & let her know that with the dreaded P on board I’d probably need her soon.  Somewhere around 8 am my husband called her & told her we were ready for her support.  That should be an indication that the pain had started to increase beyond mild cramps to something more intense.  Over the next few hours things escalated pretty quickly.  At first I was amazed at how much deep breathing helped relieve or at least distract me from the pain.  However, eventually I started hitting a brick wall, so to speak.  A lot of that time is a blur to me but Jared & the doula both have told me that between 10:00 & 11:00 were the roughest times.  Believe it or not at that point the Pitocin was actually off because they were having so much trouble getting the monitors to read properly & I guess they figured they’d see how I did without it.  To manage the painful contractions I tried multiple different positions/locations, including the birthing ball & the rocking chair & the tub, but none of them worked for too long.  However, anything was better than just lying in bed.  Plus I knew that the more I moved around the faster labor would progress.  Somewhere around this time the midwife (a different one now) checked my cervix & I was dilated to 7 cm.  That was really encouraging & helped me push through the next few painful hours.  me-and-rachel-again

Eventually around 12:30 maybe I reached a point of utter exhaustion.  I felt like I had used up all of my coping resources including deep groans, back massages, & position changes.  I started crying & begging for an epidural or some kind of pain medicine.  I even used my code word which my husband & I had set up with the doula ahead of time to indicate that I really truly wanted medicinal pain relief.  The nurse & midwife were concerned I was too close to the pushing stage to safely receive either an epidural or narcotics but they needed to check my cervix to be sure.  As it turned out I was dilated to 9.5 cm at that point & it was indeed too late.  Part of me was massively disappointed while another part of me was like “Screw it, I’m almost there, I can do it!”  Everyone kept telling me the urge to push would be undeniable but to be honest it really wasn’t at first.  But it wasn’t long before the midwife told me my cervix was fully dilated & effaced & it was pushing time.  My doula kept reminding me to bear down during the pushing to help relieve the pain & make my pushes more effective.  As physically challenging as pushing was, it was actually not as painful as the previous few hours of contractions.  Unfortunately after an hour or so of pushing my body was simply wearing out & my uterus wasn’t contracting hard enough to match my pushes.  The midwife wanted to turn the Pitocin back on because we could see the baby’s head but I just couldn’t seem to progress (thank goodness for the big mirror because it really encouraged me to see how close she was when I was so ready to admit defeat).  I was scared to death to get the Pitocin back but I also knew that anything that brought me closer to the finish line faster was worth it so I said yes.  It was at that point that I realized my IV appeared to be coming out of my wrist.  I thought I was going to die when I saw that.  Thank goodness the nurses were able to save it & restart the Pitocin, & within a few minutes baby Rachel made her grand entrance at 2:35 p.m.

baby-burrito

I totally understand the term baby burrito now.

I’m not going to lie, in those first few moments I wasn’t as overwhelmed with that immediate love spell as I had hoped I would be.  As they placed her on my chest I was mainly just thankful that labor was over.  My mind was mostly focused on being grateful for an end to the pain & exhaustion.  I had read that this is fairly common so I knew not to judge myself too harshly & that soon enough the overwhelming feelings of love would wash over me.  As it turned out my placenta took a while to deliver.  The midwife kept the Pitocin on because once again my contractions just weren’t strong enough on their own to push it out.  Once the placenta finally delivered, the midwife & the nurses were astonished to discover that it had an extra lobe.  They told me this was extremely rare & asked to take pictures of it.  Being a nurse of course I said yes, as I was equally fascinated by this odd turn of events.

me-and-rachel

This was about 1.5 hrs post delivery.  Pretty sure this child came out sucking her thumb.

While we waited for the placenta to deliver, my husband cut the cord (we opted for delayed clamping of about 3-5 minutes which is actually standard practice with my group of midwives).  Next my husband held her on his bare chest for skin to skin care which was when I realized how much I truly love this man.  Then the charge nurse & another nurse took Rachel to the bassinet across the room to do her Vitamin K injection & newborn assessments.  The nursery nurse soon came & thankfully recognized that Rachel was acting a bit more jittery than average & thought to check her blood sugar.  When she announced it was 34, I almost yelled “Holy shit, get the D50!”  Thankfully as the nurse explained a newborn’s blood sugar only needs to be about 40 to be normal so it wasn’t actually that low (whereas a blood sugar of 34 in an adult is definitely a medical emergency).  At that point the nurse handed Rachel back to me, & the doula started helping me try to breastfeed.  Unfortunately Rachel was too jittery to really concentrate & I was too exhausted both mentally & physically to have a clue what to do.  The nursery nurse ended up giving her a small bottle of formula to raise her blood sugar & thankfully that was successful.  baby-burrito-2

Sometime while all of this was happening, the placenta actually delivered & the midwife assessed me for the need for stitches.  As it turned out I was very blessed & only had a very small internal laceration requiring just two or three stitches.  By that point the oxytocin love bath had begun so I seriously didn’t even feel the lidocaine injection they gave me to numb me before the stitches.

To make a long story short, over the next 12 hrs or so the nurses had to check Rachel’s blood sugar every few hours.  Unfortunately it did drop once & she had to receive another small dose of formula around 8 pm to stabilize her.  After that her blood sugar was never a problem again.  However, her bilirubin became an issue but was consistently just below the borderline of needing treatment.  We were discharged on Friday with an appointment to follow up with our pediatrician the very next morning.  My parents left Friday morning & that night at home was very rough.  I was breastfeeding Rachel every one to two hours but she was so lethargic that I could never be sure she was actually getting anything out of of it.  She also went from having tons of dirty/wet diapers in the hospital to having very few at home.  At some points she was inconsolably crying & in my heart I just knew something was wrong.  If we hadn’t had the appointment at 10 am on Saturday I probably would have taken her back to the hospital.linus project.jpg

When we went to the appointment on Saturday the doctor was extremely friendly & knowledgeable but she didn’t dance around the truth.  She told us Rachel was definitely jaundiced & had a high risk of needing bili light therapy to reduce her bilirubin.  She taught me how to use my breast pump (there’s a reason I chose a pediatrician who is also a lactation consultant . . . & whose office is 3 minutes from our house) & instructed me to feed Rachel at least 30 mL every 2 hrs & to supplement with formula (which she gave me) if needed in order to achieve that goal.  As soon as we left the office we headed across town to have her bilirubin rechecked.  Because it was a weekend they couldn’t do it in the office & get fast results but one of the local hospitals could.  The doctor promised to call us within a few hours with the result.  As it turned out we had just made it home from the hospital lab & I was pumping when the doctor called Jared to say Rachel’s bilirubin was too high & we needed to take her to yet another hospital for one to two nights of bili light therapy.

bili-light

My husband feeding Rachel under the bili light

Immediately I dissolved into tears.  Part of me was so thankful to know that my “mama instinct” was right & that Rachel’s behavior wasn’t normal, but of course the other part of me was scared to death.  We ran around getting our bags repacked, managed to forget one of them, & raced off to the hospital, which happened to be the one hospital in Raleigh that I had never actually laid eyes on in the four years we’ve lived here.  When we arrived at the hospital, I was pleased to see that they were expecting us at patient registration & got us up to a very nice room within about 30 minutes.  Not long after that the bili light was started.  My parents came back that night after I called my mom in tears & told her I needed her.  I will forever be grateful for their unwavering support during such a difficult time.  Overnight my milk came in, & this, coupled with the bili light, was exactly what Rachel needed to get better quickly.  We ended up staying just that one night & were discharged the next day, which happened to be my 28th birthday, less than 24 hrs after our admission.  Seeing our baby girl doing so much better was the best birthday gift ever. I have tears in my eyes just thinking about it now.

milk-drunk

Now this is what you call a milk drunk baby.

First thing Monday morning my husband called the pediatrician to see when she wanted us to follow up with her.  Based on the information she received from the hospital she said we could wait until the next morning.  During our visit yesterday the pediatrician gave us a great report & was very pleasantly surprised to see that Rachel had gained 8 oz just since Saturday.  She said I no longer needed to worry about knowing exactly how many mL Rachel was consuming with each feeding, so she spent a great deal of time helping me breastfeed effectively.  Not long after we got home from that appointment, the lactation consultant from our doula group came over for a consultation.  Let me just say that was the best $150 ever spent.  By the time she left our house I felt super confident in my ability to breastfeed Rachel & no longer felt reliant on the pump.  It’s been over 24 hs now & I haven’t needed to pump at all other than to relieve some mild engorgement.  My milk might have been a little slow to arrive but now that it’s here I have an abundance!  Being able to breastfeed effectively has greatly increased my mommy confidence.  Additionally Rachel & I both slept so much better last night because she has had far less gas issues & hiccups now that she’s off the bottle.  Amazing!

rachel-penguins

This might be my favorite picture ever, so I’ll share it again.

Well, that is my long, somewhat complicated but also very fulfilling birth story.  We definitely hit a few speed bumps along the way but nonetheless I truly feel like I had the most fulfilling birth for which I could have hoped.  The best part of the process of course was the ultimate outcome of our beautiful baby girl.  But the second best part is the amazing confidence boost I’ve gained from surviving an unmedicated induction.  Part of the reason I was so determined to have an unmedicated birth was because I knew that for the rest of my life I’d be able to tell myself “I survived that so whatever else life throws at me, I’ve got this.”  Thankfully that prediction came true & I am feeling more confident than ever.  Not to mention in love with the cutest baby ever!

In my next post I’ll be sharing my tips for why I believe my pregnancy, birth, & initial postpartum period went/have gone so smoothly.  This first week of motherhood has been a wild & crazy ride, but it’s without a doubt my favorite journey ever.

Final Pregnancy Update


Well, here I am at 38 weeks & I’m officially out of work until after delivery.  This was supposed to be my last week of work, but this past Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) I ended up in the hospital being checked for preeclampsia.  After working all night I came home feeling less than stellar, then ended up vomiting & generally feeling horrible & unable to sleep.  My doula encouraged me to speak to the midwife on call so I did.  The midwife asked me to come to the hospital to have my BP checked & lab work done.  As it turned out, my BP was borderline high & some of my labs were a little off but nothing too serious so they sent me home.  However, the midwife instructed me to follow up with the office on Monday rather than waiting till my normally scheduled visit on Wednesday.  She also asked me to keep track of my BP over the weekend which I did.  Granted I was checking it myself, which is actually not so difficult with a little practice, but I consistently got 140/90 ish readings all weekend, so yesterday morning I called the office as soon as they opened to make an appointment to be seen ASAP.  Thankfully I was able to get an appointment for mid morning.  pregnancy-meme

Unfortunately at the office my BP was 142/88 & I had proteinuria, both of which are new for me.  Up until Friday I have medically had a picture perfect pregnancy.  My BPs had been stellar, my blood work was all normal, my urine tests were fine, & my ultrasounds displayed a perfectly healthy baby.  I’ve been working out a bit less the past month or so as I’ve gotten bigger & more uncomfortable, but overall I’ve still continued to be active & made it to the gym or at least taken a good walk around the neighborhood 3-5 days a week.  My anxiety has been another story . . . but medically at least I was doing really well. pregnancy cartoon

The plan for now is for me to see one of the midwives again on Wednesday to have my BP & urine rechecked & possibly a non-stress test & to stop working until after delivery.  (Like I said this was going to be my last week anyway.)  They aren’t considering induction yet but if my BP gets worse, they very well may.  It’s just a waiting game at this point.  I’ve been so committed to a low intervention birth so the idea of an induction doesn’t thrill me because I know it carries its own risks.  However, if my BP remains elevated &/or my labs are abnormal I’ll obviously agree to it because I know it would be the best choice for me & the baby.  I’m just hoping that being out of work will help my BP to normalize.

peeing-pregnancy

Story of my life these days!!

In one way it’s a relief to know that I’m done with work because 12 hr night shifts have become a serious challenge of late.  But of course I’m not thrilled that I’m showing signs of possible preeclampsia.  And I do feel a bit guilty for “bailing” on my colleagues, but obviously I have to do what’s best for my own & the baby’s health at this point.  I know it must sound incredibly stupid, but it’s so hard for me to give myself permission to just relax & pamper myself a bit.  I’ve always been such a hardworking perfectionist that it’s difficult to accept that my only “job” right now is to simply relax & take care of myself & the baby.  There is also a part of me that is disappointed that despite trying to take such good care of myself I’m still having complications with this pregnancy.  But I’m trying to remind myself that this is largely beyond my control, & as my therapist has told me a millions times, it’s not worth stressing about things I can’t control.

waiting-on-baby

Amen!  For a planner like me, this is a bit rough.

I should probably be sleeping but I felt like I needed to write a bit before my mind would fully relax.  So here’s hoping for a good night’s rest now that I’ve vented a bit.  And laughed at funny pregnancy memes.  (You’re welcome.)

I’m sure this song was written in a very different context, but the lyrics feel perfect for me right now.  Being a soft acoustic piece it showcases a very different side of Upon a Burning Body.  It also just so happens that the lead singer’s wife is currently pregnant & due a week after me.  In fact we’ve been following each other’s Instagram accounts throughout our pregnancies which has been rather fun.  In any case, it’s how I’m going to end this post since I’m otherwise a bit at a loss for words right now.

waddling

Accurate!!

See me staring back in the mirror
You don’t have to try so hard
Suddenly life is much clearer
You don’t have to change a thingI’m not perfect & that’s okay with me
I’m not perfect & that’s okay

And I don’t care what they think of me
Cause I’m not ashamed
Of the person I am today
I want you to see the happiest that I’ll ever be
Is just being myself

Because I’m not perfect & that’s okay with me
I’m not perfect & that’s okay (And that’s okay)

Over and over, I pay the cost of playing this game
What can I do to escape?
I will never be the man I want to be
If I can’t learn from my mistakes

I’m not perfect & that’s okay with me
I’m not perfect & that’s okay (And that’s okay)
I’m not perfect & that’s okay (I’m not perfect!)
I’m not perfect & that’s okay (I’m not perfect!)

Rock Star of the Week: Zoltan Bathory


I’m finally getting back to this series.  Maybe I should entitle it Rock Star of the Month at the rate I’m going but Rock Star of the Week just sounds better so I’ll stick with that.

In any case, this week I’ve decided to honor rhythm guitarist & founding member of Five Finger Death Punch (FFDP) Zoltan Bathory.  In light of all the turmoil after the election, it seems appropriate to feature a man who so perfectly embodies the American dream.  Here is a man who grew up in Communist Hungary, built his first guitar partly out of a coffee table, moved to the US when he was 20 (not speaking more than a few words of English at the time), & eventually founded what has become arguably the most successful modern rock/metal band in the world today.  If anyone knows what it’s like to chase a seemingly impossible dream & to overcome what appear to be insurmountable obstacles, it’s this guy.  If his life isn’t the embodiment of the American dream, whose is?ffdp-zoltan-bathory

It’s not too uncommon for the lead guitarist to be one of the designated leaders or spokespersons for a band (think Ben Bruce from Asking Alexandria), but it’s less common to see the rhythm guitarist take that role. However, it has been obvious since the band’s breakthrough in 2007 that Zoltan has always been the biggest driving force behind FFDP, the man who holds it all together so to speak.  This is probably largely due to the alcoholism that frontman Ivan Moody has struggled with over the years as well as the past drug use & alcoholism of drummer Jeremy Spencer.  Now that Jeremy has been sober for several years & Ivan has started to recover as well, this is probably a bit less of an issue, but if you read Spencer’s autobiography he acknowledges more than once that Zoltan has often played the role of “dad” to the other band members when they allowed drinking, drugs, women, or other such temptations to distract them from the greater goal of the band.

On a more superficial note, how can you not love a guy with amazing dreadlocks like Zoltan’s?  I’ll be the first to admit that white people can rarely pull off great dreads, but Zoltan is definitely the exception to that rule.zoltan-hair

Outside of music Zoltan has many hobbies including martial arts, Monster trucks, cars, & yes, guns.  In fact he is one of the only civilians who is a trained weapons instructor with the US military.  In light of that, it’s probably not surprising to find that he is also an NRA member.  Regarding gun rights, Zoltan has stated: “The second amendment makes all the other ones possible. But let’s extend this; it’s not just about the rights that are given to you by a piece of paper.  When your life is in actual danger, you don’t care about any paper; you will just defend your life no matter what it takes.  It’s about defending yourself & your family. You should be able to do that.  Some people say that owning a gun is uncivilized & brute, but we can look at that issue from a completely different perspective; maybe gun ownership actually made us more civilized, since guns act as equalizers.  All of a sudden a physically superior person cannot simply abuse a weaker one, since the gun will act as a deterrent.”  You can read more about Zoltan’s thoughts on gun rights here.zoltan-gun-and-car

Of late, Zoltan has caught a bit of flack with the media for being one of the only major rock stars or celebrities to publicly endorse Donald Trump.  While I don’t exactly agree with that endorsement, I can’t help but admire a guy who has the guts to say whatever he really thinks even when he knows his opinion isn’t a popular one.

Regarding unpopular opinions, Zoltan has never shied away from defending the value of hard work.  As he has stated, “I became an American citizen.  I work my ass off.  I still work 12 hours a day.  Here, the possibilities are presented.  You can still get stuff done, but maybe you have to get off the couch.  Put down the pizza & beer.  But people don’t want to hear that.”  zoltan-bathory

Zoltan has often spoken of how his work with martial arts has influenced his work ethic in regards to the band & life in general.  “And martial arts, which I started soon thereafter, has helped me with guitar, because in martial arts there is this saying, ‘Don’t accept the position.’  In other words, you fail when you accept a position that would be unfortunate for you.  That’s when you see things go sideways.  The music industry is an extremely difficult place.  It’s one in a million who makes it here.  Martial arts gave me the education of, ‘Don’t take a step back, keep going,’ which I applied to my music career.  I was 20 years old when I came to America with a guitar on my back & a bag of clothes, not yet able to speak English.  But I never gave up.  (You can read more from that interview here.)zoltan-bathory-630x420

As I mentioned earlier, Zoltan’s first guitar was one he helped build himself.  “At age 13, I acquired a beat-up, secondhand guitar.  I removed the basically unplayable bolt-on neck & replaced it with one I made from a coffee table.  I painted it military green because we lived on an army base.  Eventually, I acquired a playable guitar, & once communism started collapsing I came to America.”  Regarding growing up in Communist Hungary, Zoltan has stated “When I lived in Hungary, I was always reminded that I could never become what I wanted to be.  Metal was, first of all, a sign of rebellion.  I remember I had to run from the police because I had long hair, so it was my way of showing society the middle finger.  It’s surreal because I’m doing now what they told me then that I couldn’t do.”  (Read more here.)  Furthermore he has said “I would say that since I was a tiny kid, I never had a doubt about what I wanted to do in my life.  I never had a doubt ever for a second that it was gonna happen.  The key to success really is you do have to have the unbending strength that you won’t accept defeat.  You just don’t accept no.  You don’t accept words like ‘impossible’ & you can’t connect to phrases like ‘can’t do.’  Failure is not acceptable.  Right?”  (Read more here.)
zoltan

With a history of such hard work & determination from such a young age, one can’t help but feel his espousal of the power of a good work ethic carries considerable weight.  When asked what advice he would give to someone trying to start a metal band, Zoltan said “Don’t give up.  Never give up.  There is an old saying that I read in a boxing club.  It said, ‘You become a champion by fighting one more round,’ & it’s a wise saying.  If you want to succeed, you have to keep going.”  (Read more here.)  When speaking of the FFDP video for My Nemesis Zoltan stated “In life everyone has a nemesis… it can be anything… a self defeating thinking pattern, a bad habit, an addiction, an adversary… something or someone that puts you in an impossible scenario, where you are presented with a fork in the road.  Sometimes there is no other choice but making a hard choice.  You can give up & just suffer the situation, or you can use your pain to overcome it, as pain is truly the wind in the sails of change.  We wanted to present a story about moving on, a story that probes & questions compassion & loyalty.  Those are beautiful notions, but remember you have to be loyal & fair to yourself as well, so will you sacrifice yourself for another or will you live with the guilt that you didn’t.”  (Read more from that interview here.)  zoltan-truck

Zoltan as well as his bandmates have garnered quite a reputation for supporting the military.  As Zoltan has stated, “. . . it’s about the individual soldier , what it takes to do what they do.  When they are called upon, they can’t run away, their job is to go there & handle the situation.  It takes a lot of balls to do what these people do, so we always connected to them, the individuals.  For us it was never about the political agenda, we’ve never advocated war itself.”  (You can read more from that interview here.)  Not only has FFDP played countless shows for the military over the years, including in war zones like Iraq, but the band also employs many veterans as part of their security & crew.  Furthermore, they have participated in several campaigns to highlight the plight of veterans once they return from war or active duty.  Specifically the video for The Wrong Side of Heaven shines a light on the homelessness, mental illness, & high suicide rate that plague American veterans.  (You can read more about that here.)ffdp-militaryIn summary, Zoltan Bathory is an all around badass.  There’s just no better way to put it.  You might disagree with his political opinions or his views on guns, but I don’t see how anyone could not admire his insane work ethic & ability to overcome the odds.

If you’re not familiar with his band’s music check out some of my favorites:

Rural vs Urban: the Greatest Divide in Modern America


A month or two ago, a close friend of mine sent me an article that she thought I’d appreciate.  The article explains why Trump, despite his many obvious flaws, became such a viable presidential candidate, especially for folks in rural areas.  But more importantly the article addresses the massive cultural divide that separates rural & urban American which is largely either ignored or vastly over simplified.  As someone who has lived on both sides of this cultural divide, having grown up in a very rural area & now living in an urban area, I have witnessed this cultural divide in a very personal way.  In fact as I read this article, I kept thinking to myself “I could have written this about my own hometown.”  The truth is that when I’m in my hometown I worry I’m viewed as some kind of snob who chose to leave & now thinks she’s better because of it.  But when I’m home here in the city I worry I’m viewed as a bit of a redneck, albeit an intelligent, educated one.  Perhaps it’s all in my head & I’m just too self-absorbed to realize it, but I guess what it comes down to is that I never feel 100% at home anywhere. 

Sign reads: 'Small town ahead - don't believe a word you heard.'

As much as I am not thrilled to see Donald Trump as our next President (though I’d have been equally disappointed to see Hillary as our next President but for different reasons), I must admit I am horrified to see so many supposedly tolerant liberals suddenly categorizing anyone who voted for Trump as racists/misogynists/sexists/idiots.  These are the same people who constantly remind us that not all Muslims are terrorists & shouldn’t be treated as such just because a small fraction of them are.  And I absolutely agree with that sentiment.  However, it is very disappointing to see some of these same “tolerant” folks lumping anyone who voted for Trump into various unsavory categories without actually knowing anything about these folks.  Trust me, I am equally horrified that many of my own conservative, religious friends & family somehow rationalized voting for Trump.  It’s cognitive dissonance at its finest in my own mind.  But the fact of the matter is I know, love, & respect many people who voted for both Hillary & Trump, neither of whom I could find it in my own heart to elect, & my opinion on their character has not changed one iota based on who they chose to vote for.  I fully realize that many people truly felt like they were choosing between the lesser of two evils.  Furthermore, my husband & I didn’t even vote for the same person this year & yet it has not affected our relationship in any way.  So I figure if we can be married (& expecting a baby in just a few weeks) & not allow this to harm our relationship, what the hell is wrong with all these other people who are suddenly incapable of tolerating opposing viewpoints from people they don’t even know?MLK love

To return to the rural vs urban issue, when I was in college & even more once I moved to an urban area, I started realizing how much America’s inner city ghettos & rural America have in common.  The hopelessness, the poverty, the high teen pregnancy rate, the drug usage, the prevalence of single moms & the absence of fathers, the high school drop-out rate . . . All of these are major issues that both communities face.  The difference is that in rural areas instead of crappy apartments there are shitty trailers, & there are probably fewer actual gangs & hard drugs, though the violence is still alarming.  Just a few weeks ago, I was explaining this phenomenon to a coworker & somewhat jokingly stated “the rural areas just have less heroin.”  Just a few days later I found out a classmate of mine died of what was likely a heroin overdose & suddenly I ate those words.  The other glaring difference of course is that a lot poor folks in rural areas are white, & one can’t help but wonder if that is one reason they elicit less sympathy from the masses.  Obviously the population density is lower in rural areas so superficially things may seem different, but dig a little deeper & you’ll realize that these communities are facing many of the exact same issues that poor urban areas are facing . . . & often with even fewer resources to assuage & combat these problems.

rural-poverty

Scenes like this are a dime a dozen in my hometown & in so many others like it.

It’s rare that I allow someone else to speak my views for me.  But when I do find that someone else has expressed my own thoughts so eloquently, I am happy to allow their words to speak for me.  So today I implore my readers to read the aforementioned article & seek to understand this very important & largely neglected issue.  I think the words that spoke to me the most, the words which had me nodding along the hardest, are these:

“In a city, you can plausibly aspire to start a band, or become an actor, or get a medical degree. You can actually have dreams. In a small town, there may be no venues for performing arts aside from country music bars and churches. There may only be two doctors in town — aspiring to that job means waiting for one of them to retire or die. You open the classifieds and all of the job listings will be for fast food or convenience stores. The “downtown” is just the corpses of mom and pop stores left shattered in Walmart’s blast crater, the “suburbs” are trailer parks. There are parts of these towns that look post-apocalyptic.

I’m telling you, the hopelessness eats you alive.

And if you dare complain, some liberal elite will pull out their iPad and type up a rant about your racist white privilege. Already, someone has replied to this with a comment saying, “You should try living in a ghetto as a minority!” Exactly. To them, it seems like the plight of poor minorities is only used as a club to bat away white cries for help. Meanwhile, the rate of rural white suicides and overdoses skyrockets. Shit, at least politicians act like they care about the inner cities.”left_a_small_town_,-20749

If you’re reeling over the results of this election & wondering what the hell is wrong with our country, I hope that reading this article will help you understand why so many people did vote for Trump & to appreciate that not everyone who voted for him is some horrible, hateful person.  Just like not everyone who voted for Hillary is some corrupt lifelong bureaucrat.  Also to the people leading violent protests against Trump, defacing historical monuments, & beating Trump supporters in the streets, please grow up & realize that your actions prove you’re just as intolerant & despicable as you say the people who voted for Trump are.bleed-red-lyrics

This is not a time to hate each other.  This is a time to remember the essential humanity that unites us all.  To end this post, I’d like to share one of my favorite songs which I think is especially germane at this point in history.  Lyrics are posted below.

Let’s say we’re sorry,
Before it’s too late,
Give forgiveness a chance
Turn the anger into water
Let it slip through our hands

We all bleed red,
We all taste rain,
All fall down,
Lose our way,
We all say words we regret,
We all cry tears, we all bleed red

If we’re fighting, we’re both losing,
We’re just wasting our time
Because my scars,
They are your scars & your world is mine

You & I, we all bleed red,
We all taste rain, all fall down, lose our way
We all say words, we regret,
We all cry tears, we all bleed red

Sometimes we’re strong, sometimes we’re weak,
Sometimes we’re hurt & it cuts deep
We live this life, breath to breath,
We’re all the same, we all bleed red

Let’s say we’re sorry before it’s too late

We all bleed red,
All taste rain, all fall down, lose our way
We all say words, we regret,
We all cry tears, all bleed red

Sometimes we’re strong, sometimes we’re weak,
Sometimes we’re hurt & it cuts deep
We live this life, breath to breath,
We’re all the same, we all bleed redall bleed red

 

How May I Anger or Offend You Today?


Ah, the day after election day . . . a time when Americans spit vitriol at each other & blame everyone else for the pitiful state in which we find our nation, a time when approximately half of the country inevitably says this is literally the end of freedom & democracy & the other half silently (or not so silently) gloats about “winning.”  I will say I think this is the first year that there are so few people who are truly thrilled about the election results.  Almost everyone seems able to agree that we chose/were given two of the worst presidential candidates in American history.  However, I do challenge people to remember that before the days of electronics & social media many of our previous presidents & presidential candidates were probably equal scumbags; we simply had less access to their private, every-day lives because the technology of today’s world simply didn’t exist yet.  That’s not to justify in any way the disgraceful behavior of modern politicians.  I just ask that we remember that there never really were any “good old days.”divisive-media

Anyhow, in light of all of the nastiness that has ensued in the wake of this election, including being blamed for Trump’s win for choosing to vote with my conscience & thus not picking either major candidate, I thought this would be a good time to bare my soul & be truly open about certain of my beliefs (or in some cases perhaps lack thereof).  People can like it or lump it as far as I’m concerned.  I have friends who are significantly more liberal than I am & other friends who are significantly more conservative than I am, & I love them all dearly.  I would hope to receive the same respect from others, though I am no longer naive enough to expect that from everyone.'Hello, how can I offend you?'

Also, may I just add that I have never so badly wanted a good, stiff drink (just one)?  But don’t worry, I’m obviously going to abstain for the sake of the baby.

These are in no particular order.

  • I support gay/lesbian/homosexual marriage 100%.
  • I love tattoos (as a concept, not every tattoo that’s ever existed), though I have no particular interest in getting one myself (& won’t out of respect for my husband who doesn’t like them).  But I’ll never understand people who judge others for having them, & it angers me greatly that workplaces can still get away with discriminating against tattooed employees.
  • I don’t believe in the concept of “bad words.”  Words are just words.  There is no logical way a word in itself can be bad.  Out of respect for those who are offended by “swearing”, I try my hardest not to say those words in front of them, but I’ll never be able to wrap my mind around the concept that particular words are bad “just ’cause.”
  • I am a secular humanist.  If you don’t know what that means, Google it.humanism quote
  • I am a Libertarian.  If you don’t know what that means, you can Google that too.
  • “Despite” the above, I still believe public schools are one of the best ways we can acclimate our children to the “real world.”  They’re not the only way of course, & they are fraught with inherent problems & challenges, but I still fully intend to send my child(ren) to public school because I truly believe it is the best way to prepare them for real life.  (And I can afford it.)
  • I despise violence.  I think there are almost always better, more effective, & less hurtful ways to solve problems in this world.  But I stop short of calling myself a total pacifist because I absolutely do believe in the right to self-defense.
  • “Despite” the above, I am a staunch supporter of gun rights.  I’ve been tempted to jump the fence a few times, but statistically many of the most violent cities in America also have the strictest gun laws (ahem, Chicago, LA, ahem), so it seems obvious to me that laws are not what prevents violence.gun-rights
  • I still consider myself a feminist because there are still places in the world where women do not have even the most basic rights (ahem, Saudi Arabia).  However, in the US & other more “developed” countries, it’s men whose rights concern me more often than not.  I truly believe we have swung the pendulum so far in the opposite direction that we are now placing males at a disadvantage, almost as if we need to make up for all the years when things were reversed.  I do not see this as a solution.  I think it is only inciting & will continue to incite antagonism between the genders which is the opposite of progress.
  • I don’t believe in the gender wage gap.  Research has shown that women of my generation are actually earning more on average than men our age.  I think the whole issue is way more complex than most folks are willing to admit, & while I’m sure there are probably legitimate scenarios where sexism was/has been/is a factor, I don’t think it explains the whole picture by a long shot.
  • I think our society  has done itself a huge disfavor by worshiping at the altar of single moms.  I’m not saying there aren’t situations in which that is obviously the only choice or the only acceptable choice, but I absolutely do believe children fare best in a situation with two parents, if for no other reason than parenting is clearly much too difficult of a task for one person to take on alone.  Biology itself implies that if it takes two to make a child, it probably ought to take two to sustain the child. In any case, no matter how we like to spin it, statistics show that children of single moms fare worse in every major dimension, from academics to behavior problems to likelihood of becoming teen parents to everything in between.  This doesn’t mean all children of single moms are doomed of course, but even so we simply cannot continue to vilify or dismiss fathers & expect our society to improve.fathers
  • I think using hard drugs like cocaine, meth, & heroin is an incredibly stupid thing to do.  With the knowledge that exists today, I don’t think anyone can claim to being ignorant of the addictive, destructive powers of these drugs.  However, I absolutely support the decriminalization of drug use because I truly believe addiction is a disease, even if a largely self-imposed one, & imprisoning people for it is CLEARLY not working & never will.
  • I love rock & metal music.  But I also love classical & jazz.  And occasional country.  I’m not a big fan of most modern pop, rap, R&B, or bluegrass, though there are certainly a few songs from each of those genres that I do enjoy.  The point is I can appreciate all genres, even if I prefer some over others.  If you can’t understand how someone could enjoy such a vast array of different music, I suggest you open your mind . . . & your ears.
  • I am a huge believer in personal responsibility.  I absolutely believe that as a competent adult, I have no one to blame for my own failures or mistakes but myself.  I believe that our lives (at least in modern America & other similar societies) are at least 90% determined by the choices we make & the attitudes we choose to hold.  With that being said, I absolutely do believe in giving to others & helping those in need.  But I also believe in the age old mantra of “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day.  If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.”give-a-man-a-fish-blog
  • I do not believe in rigid, fixed gender roles by any stretch of the imagination, other than those imposed by actual biology (men can’t get pregnant; sorry, guys, that’s just the way it is).  However, I have no problem with people choosing to follow traditional gender stereotypes or roles, as long as they are doing it out of their own free will.  For example, it doesn’t bother me at all that there are more stay at home moms than there are stay at home dads.  I’m also not convinced that women should be serving in certain roles in the military simply because I don’t think we’re as biologically suited for it.  I don’t think that’s an indictment of us as a gender, just like it’s not an indictment of men as a gender that they can’t get pregnant.  It’s just the way it is.
  • I believe that if a man & a woman are both drunk & they have sex then the woman has no more right to claim being raped than the man does.  If a woman isn’t held liable for her actions while drunk, why should a man be?  If she’s considered too drunk to consent, why isn’t he also considered too drunk to consent?  Obviously things are different in scenarios in which women’s drinks are spiked or they are drugged or when a man who is not drunk has sex with a completely unconscious, obviously impaired woman.  But let’s not pretend these scenarios are all equal.
  • I do not believe that women who wear “skimpy” outfits are “asking for it.”  But I absolutely do believe that we attract a certain kind of attention by dressing in certain ways (this goes for both genders), & none of us should act surprised when people respond to us based on that.  It may not be fair, but it’s the way the world works.
  • I believe organized religion is by & large a destructive, divisive force in this world.  However, I will absolutely fight for your right to believe anything you choose.  I just ask that you don’t shove it down my throat or try to force your beliefs on everyone else.  That’s all.moral relativity
  • I believe in moral relativity.  In all honesty, I think everyone really does, it’s just a matter of whether we’re willing to admit it or not.  I believe real morals arise not from religion but from our own consciences.
  • “Despite” having no concrete beliefs about the after-life, I truly enjoy working with hospice patients at the end of life.  I feel incredibly honored when I get the opportunity to care for someone during their last days or hours on Earth & when I get to help a family process that loss.
  • I absolutely do not believe that sex outside of/before marriage is wrong.  However, I absolutely do believe that our very biology dictates that it is best inside of a loving, committed relationship.  The hook-up culture of my own generation disgusts me.hook up culture
  • In summary, I’m very difficult to pigeon-hole or categorize.  It’s very challenging to find a group in which you can accurately lump me which I realize frustrates & angers a lot of people because it makes me unpredictable & probably annoying.  But I don’t do this on purpose.  I just live the way I see best & hope to help as many others as I can along the way.

In conclusion I’d like to share some songs which I believe are particularly relevant at this point in history.  Interestingly enough, they all come from the Parkway Drive album entitled Ire which is perhaps fitting considering the title/theme of this post.  Please click on the links to listen to each song.  At the very least, I hope you’ll read the lyrics & consider them carefully.ire

Crushed

Brothers, my brothers

Is this all that we are?
Sisters, my sisters

We’ve been crushed by the fists of god

Welcome to the free world
Where nothing’s as it seems
Tell me, can you find a cure
When you can’t see, & you can’t feel the disease?
Can you seek a higher truth
When you’re living on your knees
Where freedom grows from blood soaked soil
In the lands of hypocrisy?

Because if you can’t see the chains, tell me what use is a key
It’s cash, blood & oil, in the age of the refugee
They’re trying to buy our minds, we ain’t selling
Bang, bang, bang, hear they’re nailing down the coffins

Cut the strings, feel your heart start
Cut the cord
Crack this code of silence
All our lives in the hands of tyrants

Crushed by the fists of god. Crushed.
We’ve been crushed by the fists of god

To the left I see the rats & to the right I see the snakes
In my ear they’re whispering sweet sermons of cruel hate
So do you buy the fear, or do you buy the lies?
Tell me, what will set us free
Do we kneel before the crooked few
Or do we bite the fucking hand that feeds?

When death casts no shadow & hope carries no weight
Rise into the light & feel the shackles fade away
They fear what we know, we know how they break
Bang, bang, bang, drop the hammer of conscience

Cut the strings, feel your heart start
Cut the cord. Crack this code of silence. All our lives

Crushed by the fists of god. Crushed.
We’ve been crushed by the fists of god

We’re just waiting for the sky to fall
Yeah I’m just waiting
Feels like all our lives we’ve been waiting for the sky to fall
Feels like all this time we’ve been

Brothers, my brothers
Is this all that we are?
Sisters, my sisters
We’ve been crushed by the fists of god
Crushed by the fists of god. Crushed.

The devil’s at our door
The Bloodwoods shiver in the glare of summer’s haze
Dust of ancient lands breathes beneath our feet
Since the dawn of time, giver of life divine
Shadowed by dark ruination, looming down the lineThe poisoned lies of narrow minds
Now spread into the soul of life

Bitter blight fractures life
This call for change won’t be too late

The devil’s at our door
Selling fool’s gold & a miracle cure

Hearts of fire unite & man their barricades
Truth is overwhelming & yet
Hollow men still talk in vain
Sowing sickness, shifting focus away
Setting in stone a future we cannot sustain

We can’t quench our thirst on profits gained
And we can’t turn back once it begins

Bitter blight fractures life
This call for change won’t be too late

They poison the well & expect us to drink
When the river runs dry only then
Then will they see

You can line your pockets, but you can’t buy back your soul
These gates are locked, this future is not yours to own

Bitter blight fractures life
This call for change won’t be too late

When you’re born in the dirt the only way to grow is up
So we reach for the sun but it seems
Every rung that you climb is another crooked line
That you cross off the tally of your dreams
Don’t step out of line kid, you learn it pretty fast
Every face has its place in the crowd
They’ll give you all the answers, so you don’t ask any questions
Then they’ll march you with a smile into the groundAnd we all go to heaven in a little row boat

So put your hands up, put your hands up
If crawling for the scraps won’t ever be enough
Put your hands up, put your hands up
The writing’s on the wall, this ain’t ever gonna stop
Put your hands up, put your hands up
If crawling for the scraps won’t ever be enough
Put your hands up, put your hands up
We’ll fight until we die, this ain’t ever gonna stop

This stray dog world, this sick sad place
Got a belly full of maggots & disease
Every apple here is rotten, every blessing is a curse
Every word is a lie you best believe
We take one step forward, then two steps back
In a race to the bottom of the barrel
They teach us how to fear
They teach us how to hate
Then they arm us and they march us off to hell

And its left, left, left right left

So put your hands up, put your hands up
If crawling for the scraps won’t ever be enough
Put your hands up, put your hands up
The writing’s on the wall, this ain’t ever gonna stop
Put your hands up, put your hands up
If crawling for the scraps won’t ever be enough
Put your hands up, put your hands up
We’ll fight until we die, this ain’t ever gonna stop

Because they came for our minds
We said nothing
They came for our hopes
We said nothing
They came for our souls
And still we said nothing
Now they’re coming for our lives
So what’s it gonna take

What’s it gonna take?
See how they run, see how they run

So put your hands up, put your hands up
If clawing for the scraps won’t ever be enough
Put your hands up, put your hands up
The writing’s on the wall, this ain’t ever gonna stop
Put your hands up, put your hands up
If clawing for the scraps won’t ever be enough
Put your hands up, put your hands up
We’ll fight until we die, this ain’t ever gonna stop

Loving the Unlovable: Why Addiction is a Disease, Not a Crime


I want to preface this post by saying I have never pondered as long & hard about a post as I have about this one.  I’ve been mentally composing it for three days now.  I awoke at 2:30 this morning & knew I’d never have any peace until I wrote this.  Eventually I got up at 4:00 am & started writing it.  If this post offends anyone, I’m sorry but I’m not sorry.  This is too important of a subject to ignore or discuss with useless euphemisms.

This Saturday I found out the painful news that a classmate of mine from high school died.  Out of respect for his family & many friends, I will simply call him John.  His death was shocking news for several reasons, the most obvious of course being that he was young & presumably healthy.  However, it was even more shocking for me because this past Wednesday John had sent me a link to a new band he’d discovered on YouTube which he thought I’d appreciate & asked for my thoughts on the song.  As it turned out, I got busy with work & other obligations & didn’t get a chance to listen to the song . . . Furthermore, on Friday night I sent John an article about one of our mutual favorite bands, Asking Alexandria.  I had just read that the band’s lead singer (Denis Stoff) had abandoned them & that their previous frontman (Danny Worsnop) was rejoining the band, at least for their upcoming tour.  Because I knew John was such a huge fan of this band, I was sure he’d be interested to hear the news, so I sent him the link.  He responded within a few minutes, saying how excited he was to hear that Worsnop was back in the band & recommending that I listen to their debut album & let him know my thoughts on it.  Within 12 hours of that conversation, John was dead . . . And now I will never be able to share my thoughts with him on any of this music because he is gone forever . . . asking alexandria logo

No one is coming out & saying exactly what caused John’s death, but a quick Google search revealed to me that John had an addiction problem spanning at least the past two years about which I knew absolutely nothing.  Due to that & the fact that no one is specifying a cause of death, I am highly suspicious that drugs were involved which brings me to the point of today’s post.addiction-pain

Our country has a serious drug problem.  And I don’t just mean the number of people who use drugs.  Obviously that is a problem.  But what I really want to talk about is the way our country treats addiction & those who suffer from it.  We’ve been fighting the “war on drugs” for decades now & anyone with the least bit of common sense can tell you that it isn’t working.  You don’t need to be a scholar on this subject to know that prescription drug abuse (largely of opiates/narcotics, aka pain pills) & subsequently heroin has skyrocketed in this country in just the past decade.  With this of course comes a huge increase in deaths related to drug abuse, as heroin is arguably the most deadly & addictive drug known to man.  In fact, for the first time, more people have died in Virginia (my home state) of opioid/heroin overdose than from car accidents in the past year.heroin-death-stats

With all of this in mind, I think it’s high time we asked ourselves if the way we’re “treating” addiction in this country is working.  The obvious answer is no.  Criminalization & imprisonment for drug use are CLEARLY not solving the problem.  It didn’t work for John, & it will never work for anyone because addiction is a DISEASE.  Is it a (largely) self-imposed disease?  Absolutely.  (There is some evidence that suggests a genetic predisposition towards addiction.)  But I don’t see anyone arguing that people with lung cancer or COPD should be incarcerated or denied medical treatment even though their disease is almost always related to smoking, an activity in which they obviously CHOSE to engage.  Nor do I hear anyone arguing that type 2 diabetics should be punished for (largely) causing their own disease due to poor diet & lifestyle.war-on-drugs

The difference of course is that addicts are one of the last groups of people on whom it is safe to look down, to despise.  Frankly we all enjoy the feeling of being better than somebody.  It’s just human nature.  But it is no longer societally acceptable to look down on women, gays, lesbians, Muslims, Jews, Italians, blacks, etc (& rightfully so), yet drug users are still safe to despise.  I am guilty of this myself, as a nurse & just as a person.  How many times we have all thrown around the work “junkie” without stopping to think about the HUMAN BEING behind that word?  As Russell Brand, a reformed heroin addict, has stated so eloquently,“It is difficult to feel sympathy for these people.  It is difficult to regard some bawdy drunk & see them as sick & powerless.  It is difficult to suffer the selfishness of a drug addict who will lie to you & steal from you & forgive them & offer them help.  Can there be any other disease that renders its victims so unappealing?  Would Great Ormond Street [a children’s hospital in London, think St. Jude’s] be so attractive a cause if its beds were riddled with obnoxious little criminals that had ‘brought it on themselves?'”  As my mom, a teacher, has often observed, it is usually the folks who are most unlovable who need love the most.dark-days

If you really want to understand the pain & desperation that lies behind addiction, please consider reading any or all of the following books:

  • Dark Days by Randy Blythe (recovered alcoholic & lead singer of the Richmond, VA-based metal band lamb of god)
  • Seven Deadly Sins by Corey Taylor (recovered alcoholic/drug addict & lead singer of both Slipknot & Stone Sour)
  • My Booky Wook My Booky Wook 2 by Russell Brand (recovered heroin addict & comedian/actor)
  • Death Punch’d by Jeremy Spencer (recovered alcoholic/cocaine addict & drummer for Five Finger Death Punch)
  • Indie Spiritualist by Chris Grosso (recovered alcoholic/drug addict & philosopher)

I don’t think anyone with a shred of decency could read any of these books & not find themselves feeling a great deal more compassion for those who succumb to the horrors of drug abuse & addiction.  In order to provide a brief insight into the minds of these men who have so courageously conquered addiction, please peruse the following quotes:russell-brand-quote-drug

  • “The mentality & behavior of drug addicts & alcoholics is wholly irrational until you understand that they are completely powerless over their addiction & unless they have structured help, they have no hope.” ~ Russell Brand
  • “The priority of any addict is to anaesthetise the pain of living, to ease the passage of day with some purchased relief.” ~ Russell Brand
  • “Eckhart Tolle says, ‘Addiction begins with pain & ends with pain,’ meaning that pain is behind compulsive behavior. Eleven years clean, I still feel the urge to medicate pain. Whenever events don’t go my way, my first instinct is to annul the feeling, to look for an external resource to solve the problem. The second part of Eckhart’s edict kicks in here—addiction ‘ends with pain.’ Medication of any kind offers only a temporary solution; it always leads back to pain & becomes therefore predictably cyclical.” ~ Russell Brand
  • “What I wanted was to be in love, to have a companion to look after me- someone to replace my mother.  But before I could persuade anyone to fulfill that function, I found drugs.” ~ Russell Brand
  • “Once I finally got a bit of success, it became clear that my internal deficit of sadness & longing would not really be sated by the things I’d always thought would save me.  This realization made me turn to hard drugs– specifically heroin- in an even more concerted way than I ever had before.” ~ Russell Brand
  • Heroin is a greedy drug, robbing you by increments first of your clothing, then of your skin; finally when it comes for your life it must be a relief.  They’re not present, those people: if you talk to them, they just look beyond you, they’re not really there.  That’s why the invisibility of the homeless scoring drugs . . . is almost by mutual consent: they don’t want to be seen, & no one wants to see them.” ~ Russell Brandaddiction-quote
  • “Then I could lean back & everything was suddenly all relaxing & beautiful.  It was at this point that I knew that I was an addict, though the pain of that realization was greatly mitigated by the impact of the heroin: that’s how it gets you.” ~ Russell Brand
  • “Perhaps heroin had, similarly, held me in times of trouble.  The prospect of relinquishing it was terrifying.  The only reason I did so was because I was more afraid of what was going to happen to me if I didn’t . . . at this juncture I was finally willing to do whatever it was going to take to bring that about- up to & including giving up drugs.  From that moment on, I really did take things, in the textbook rehab fashion, one day at a time.” ~ Russell Brand
  • “…but if we’re really sick & tired of being sick & tired, well, then some shit has got to change.  Other people can (& should) most definitely help us through this difficult process, but ultimately it’s up to us to decide to even begin making the change in the first place.” ~ Chris Grosso
  • “All I wanted to do was find the next party so I could forget & feel alive . . . When you try to describe addiction, I guess there is no better word than gluttony.” ~ Corey Taylor
  • Just because we might act like assholes sometimes does not mean we are defined as assholes forever.” ~ Corey Taylor
  • “For many, many years, my life as an active alcoholic was just like today.  I was surrounded by life, things, & people that could have brought me great joy, grand opportunities I wasted because I sat in a haze of alcohol, drugs, & sadness.  I simply would not & could not get up & walk a few blocks through the fog back to freedom & life.” ~ Randy Blytheaddiction-monster
  • “If you are unlucky enough to have an active alcoholic or drug addict in your life, you probably don’t understand why [they] wil not just stop drinking . . . Or doing whatever substance it is they are doing that is killing them & killing you, that has changed them into this awful person, that makes them do such strange, self-destructive things.  I can tell you why- they are insane . . . And their addiction’s need for drink &/or drugs has twisted their perceptions to the point where they do not even know that they are unhinged, that the problem (if they even recognize that they have one) is their addiction.  They may even pay it lip service, but they don’t truly know yet, know it in their soul- because if they knew, they would stop.” ~ Randy Blythe
  • “…not all drug addicts are horrible human beings.  Most of them just need help breaking the chains of their addiction, not a prison sentence . . . most drug addicts I have known started off as decent, normal citizens, only becoming involved in a life of crime after their addiction led them down that dark path . . . addiction will almost always eventually lead an otherwise sensible person into committing actions that would horrify them if they were not caught in its vicious grip.” ~ Randy Blythe
  • “I had become a mere receptacle for alcohol, a garbage can to throw booze & drugs into.  Now I was empty, just like those bottles, & just like those bottles, all it would take to bring me crashing down was one slight nudge . . . I was desperately unhappy.  It was time to try something else, or I would die . . . I was terrified, empty, & heartbroken; but I dug in & did my job.  That was my first day sober. I haven’t had a drink since.” ~ Randy Blythe
  • In the end alcoholism & drug addiction are almost always horribly lonesome repeat journeys to drink at the wells of despair, & the alcoholic or drug addict often feels as if they are the only person on earth who has experienced & understands their particular pain . . . This is, of course, an illusion; a merciless trick that the substance-fueled & monstrously inflated ego plays on the drunk or junkie.  No one is unique in their addiction.” ~ Randy Blythe
  • “…but somewhere along the way I had allowed myself to get lost in a haze of alcohol.  When I woke up one morning in Brisbane, Australia & realized that no matter how far I tried to run into a bottle, I would always carry my problems with me . . . I gave up the race.  I began to face my problems, to try as hard as I could to live in a manner I could be proud of, & to take responsibility for my own actions & life.  There is no escape.  So I simply stopped running. That was the change in me, that was the big ‘aha!’ moment in my life.” ~ Randy Blythetolle-quote-addiction

If you’re looking for evidence that the decriminalization of drugs, even “hard drugs” like heroin, can actually be effective in reducing drug use & deaths, look no further than Portugal.  Besides, it just seems like common sense to me that as long as drugs are illegal, there will never be adequate rehab facilities & resources to help those suffering from addiction because, after all, who wants to help criminals?  And as long as people are regarded as criminals for being or having been addicts, that criminal history will continue to cripple them for the remainder of their lives.  Is it any wonder that so many of these people never rise above the cycle of negativity when our society is constructed such that they can’t even qualify for a decent job?  As Randy Blythe noted, “It is no wonder to me, even after doing such a short amount of time, that so many men & women released from prisons cannot function in normal society anymore & wind up back behind bars again & again.  Being locked up causes a profound psychic shift to occur.”

addiction-pain

Just in case it didn’t set the first time, I’ll share this one again.

To those who may say I am sullying John’s name by writing this post when I have no concrete evidence that his death was actually linked to his addiction, my thoughts are that if John were still here he’d be begging us to talk about this.  Whether his addiction led to his death or not, it is obvious to me that it did have a massive negative impact on his life & on those who loved him.  Ignoring the issue isn’t fixing the problem.  As is often the case in life, the subjects that are the hardest to talk about are the ones we most need to discuss.  I didn’t know John well but from the testimony of those who did, it’s obvious he was a kind-hearted person who loved to serve others.  Thus I believe he would want his death to be an inspiration to those he left behind to open their hearts & minds to those suffering from addiction, to see the human being behind the “junkie” or the “druggie” who can be so easy to dismiss when caught in the throes of addiction.  Until we can learn to see the suffering & the pain behind addiction, until we can learn to see these people as PEOPLE, not criminals, we will only continue to have more Johns & more broken hearts left in the wake of tragic & untimely deaths such as his.

Because I am such a staunch believer in the power of music, I feel compelled to share this song by Brandi Carlile which was written from the perspective of a drug addict begging for forgiveness from those they’ve hurt.  Every time I take care of a drug addict I try to remind myself of this song because its lyrics are so powerful & help to remind me of the person behind the addiction.  Here’s a sample of those lyrics:

Tell me, did I go on a tangent?
Did I lie through my teeth?
Did I cause you to stumble on your feet?
Did I bring shame on my family?
Did it show when I was weak?
Whatever you’ve seen, that wasn’t me
That wasn’t me, oh that wasn’t me

But I want you to know that you’ll never be alone
I wanna believe, do I make myself a blessing to everyone I meet?
When you fall I will get you on your feet
Do I spend time with my family?
Did it show when I was weak?
When that’s what you’ve seen, that will be me
That will be me, that will be me
That will be me

In conclusion & in honor of John, I’d like to share the links to a few songs which I’ve found of comfort over the past few days: