Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Guest blogger - a man's perspective

Ok, so we've had a kind of full week of pregnancy related outings. Hugh got inspired to write. Here's his version....

"Monday night is our birth class. As it is a "natural" birth class (women who want to have their kids without drugs, suction, tools used to stretch or cut the vagina to speed up the birth, no cesareans, etc.), we sit on the floor. I guess sitting cross-legged for two hours is preparation for the pain of childbirth. In "nature" there are no chairs, only pillows and sore backs.

Raquel, the motherly, graying, 60 something "advisory" midwife (she's only instructing us, not participating in the birth) who teaches the class, gets the only chair. I frequently tune her out and think about how comfortable she looks. Sometimes, maybe 45 minutes into the class, I scan, spy, study the faces of the men to see whose eyes are glossed over, who is nodding off; then, when I spot a perp, I look to see if his wife's face is conversely attentive and full of the glee that only a woman can feel when she knows her man is participating in an intimate conversation with witnesses. There's this theory I have about men being forced into doing things by their wives all over the world and this seems like a good opportunity to test my theory.

Usually the men say nothing. But this Monday night was different. After one mother revealed that she has been breastfeeding her son for 3.5 years, a blast of consciousness spread across the husbands' faces as if a bucket of cold water had been poured on their laps (she shared with us that her biggest problem is social pressure, of course, like the time recently when her nearly four year old boy ate a chocolate bar at the beach and followed it up with some tit milk in front of horrified onlookers). The men suddenly had lots of questions and things to say. So did I. When we were leaving, in fact, I told Amber, "There is no way in hell we're breastfeeding for more than a year. Period."

Birth classes bring couples closer through communications like this, I guess.

So it was only natural on Tuesday morning that when Amber told me we had yet another, different birth meeting scheduled for Tuesday night with our "practicing" midwives -- yes, Birth Team Alexander is now up to 10 people and one dog: 1 advisory midwife; 2 practicing midwives; an OBGYN; neonatal doctor; lactating/breastfeeding specialist (gotta have one of those!); Amber's sister who is anurse; the maid; us -- that I would politely ask, "Why on FUCKING earth are we having another birth meeting? Please tell me there's a reason for this."

I admit that Amber never satisfied me that this meeting was necessary or helpful, but she insisted it was required, and that the two midwives want to drink tea with us, discuss the birth, talk about things they would need in the house, etc.

Fine. I went.

We sat on the floor (surpirse), drinking tea and eating high-fiber cookies, and about 90 minutes into what was nothing more than an emotionally charged bullshit session on how wonderful natural childbirth is, we started in on war stories, complete with graphic pelvic photos, videos, and the typed story of Valeria and Juan's birth experience, which one of the midwives started to read.

I followed along as best I could in Spanish. While some of the more subtle details escaped me, the role of the husband in the birth did not. I was all ears, asking the midwife to repeat the parts I missed. For example, did the mother really say that Juan while was massaging her sacrum she could feel another round of red-tinted mucous sliding down her leg? Did Juan really massage, hold, clean, caress for 5 consecutive hours?

These parts had to be repeated.

Unfortunately, while I asked for them to be repeated so that I could get a clearer picture of what I might need to skillfully escape during the birth process, the midwives misinterpreted my questioning, and at the conclusion of the birth story began asked me how I visualized my role in the natural birth and then stared at me, judging, waiting, eager to know if I was prepared to go as far or further than Juan. When I stalled, they figured I was needing help with my Spanish, and produced photos of Juan cutting the umbilical cord himself, wife exposed, covered in birth gook.

"How beautiful!" They exclaimed. "Do you see yourself being like Juan??"

Three pair of eyes were trained on me, watching, judging.

I was sitting on the floor for my fourth hour in the last 24. I spaced out and wondered if the vibrating text message I just received on my mobile phone was from DirecTV, who had been calling all day to schedule installation of my NFL Sunday Ticket package, which provides all NFL games for all 32 teams, all season. I turned my attention back to the women watching me and thought maybe the midwives would fire us and not work with us if I somehow messed up my answer.

"Si!" I exclaimed, and a chorus of "que lindos" (how beautiful!) poured out of the midwives and one of them clutched her heart with both hands (not making that up), and I was safe.

That is, until the midwives explained we would be having these 2-hour meetings once a week for the next 8 weeks until the birth."

The A Team

Olga (left) and Laura (rt) are the latest additions to the Alexander Birth Team here in BA. Hugh laughs and says now that he won't rest unless we have at least 10 people in the house for "D Day".

After literally months of interviewing OB's, midwives, doula's, attending birthing classes and workshops and talking to anyone who would recommend their medical team, we finally found "the ones". More than once, I've been told we did an "exhaustive" search with raised eyebrows. Well, its said people in the states spend more time picking out a new car than the professionals that will be with them through the birth of their children. Not true for us. So here's the lineup for our homebirth:

Olga and Laura: they are a midwife team. They'll come first when I've had two hours of contractions consistently. As they've told us many times, they could end up hanging around the house for anywhere from 5 - 18 hours after that call. They drink a lot of mate. Olga is the more experienced mother type. She's been a midwife for 30 years. Laura is the younger, energetic assistant. She has "buenda onda" as we like to say here which means I liked her vibe and could imagine her not bugging the crap outta me in the house for hours. They also attend births without the need of an OB but work according to the desires of the couples. In our case, we decided to hire an OB that also has access to the hospital Clinica La Trinidad four blocks from our new apartment just in case we need it.

Guillermo Lodeiro aka "Tito": everyone in Argentina has a nickname. He's known as Tito to his friends and colleagues and now to us. He's our obstetrician. A friend from my prenatal yoga class recommended him, also the american trained doula friend we met worked with him and gave him high marks. We met with him and he spent an hour with us detailing the 30 year history of the natural childbirth movement in Argentina along with his role in it. It was illuminating and also amusing when he added his own son's birth to the timeline. He engendered our trust immediately and also gave me the most thorough exam I've had so far. Olga/Laura will call him when I'm at 8-10cm dilated - basically at the very end when I'm ready to push. Tito will come with a neonatal doctor - Hugo Guzman. Also well known and respected in the world of natural births here. He's also a pediatrician. His role at the birth is to see that the baby is a-ok once she comes out.

Maria Nogues: argentine born, US raised and educated. She's a doula (US certified). Argentines don't know much about the concept of doula here because they have their families close so not much need for this kind of support. Maria is also a lactation specialist and consults for an Argentine company that manufactures bottles for children born with cleft-lip syndrome. She's our post-partum aid. She'll come once the baby is born to help me with breastfeeding and also help us set up a new schedule with all of the adjustments. When we first met her she drew a diagram of three circles, explaining with arrows that while the first two circles (me and Hugh) used to take care of each other, now I am taking care of a new circle (Valentina), so Hugh will need to take care of me. His face fell when he realized there were no other circles to take care of him and his role is going to shift dramatically. She also knows all of the people we interviewed in the process of finding a midwife and OB so helped us sort out the pros and cons of each.

Sis Rachel: Nurse Rach will arrive the week of October 6th and stay till the end of the month. My due date is the 20th but two psychics and my own intuition tell me Valentina will come a week or so early. Rach will be with me throughout labor so I am not scared or worried about anything medically that could come up (of course she's not a midwife but I just feel better knowing she's coming). Also the midwife team needs someone to drink mate with while I'm doing squats and groans in the other room.

Marta: Our housekeeper mentioned last week that she wants to be here to help yell "PUSH" "APUJO!". She's the closest thing to family we have here so we'll probably add her to the party parade. Another mate lover.

Utta: She won't be allowed in the baby/birthing room but will of course be nearby. She knows something is up and is being extra protective and clinging on me these days. She takes long deep sniffs of my belly. Olga tells me in her experience the pets around at homebirths have a sense of what the woman needs and tend to stay very quiet and still once labor starts.

Hugh: Last but not least. I've assured him at no point will he have to be "in front" of the action with the potential of being exposed to an enlarged vagina or head coming out. He started out wanting to wait "in the hall of the hospital with a cigar". Now he is looking forward to the homebirth party and involvement sans blood and bodily fluids. We'll save the gore for the midwives and my sis.

Clinica La Trinidad: This hospital is just four blocks from our new pad. Dr. Tito attends 90% of his births here (the other 10% at home) so he's comfortable and familiar with their protocols. They are much less conservative than Hospital Aleman (where we are insured but limited to using their doctors) and are the preferred choice for most of the argentine and american friends I know. Going to La Trinidad is our "Plan B". Of course we'll pay out of pocket but the total cost of the birth would still be one-fifth of the cost of having the baby in the US.

Whew! I think we're ready.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Los Olimpicos

We're staying up late every night to watch live coverage of the Beijing Olympics. It's quite a different experience from the US as Argentina doesn't have the medal potential (thus incentive) to cover every second of swimming and gymnastics. So, they flip around to all of the other events of the games and we get to see more variety. Who knew there were olympic level table tennis matches? fencing? The biggest deal here (aside from the obvious soccer) really is the female hockey team - Las Leonas. So far, they are winning all their matches and in a good place to make the finals. Most Argentine girls - even the sissy ones play hockey - a fairly studly sport so its not unusual to see hoards of 12-14 year olds walking down a neighborhood block with hockey stick in hand on their way to practice late weekday afternoons. Hugh already dreams of Olympic Gold for our Valentina some day...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

La Bourgogne

Last night Hugh took me to the fanciest french restaurant in town La Bourgogne to celebrate my descent towards middle age. I don't know if this place is 5 star rated but its part of the Relais Chateaux family of establishments and the official restaurant of the Alvear Palace Hotel - consistently rated one of the top ten hotels in the world. Yes, fancy fancy. Beyond the food - which was of course very french and outstanding - full of light and crusty bread thingies, sauces and in between course palate refreshers, the service wowed. No fewer than five peguined english speakers surrounded our table each time a course was delivered or retrieved. I told Hugh this week that I wanted to go to dinner at a really nice place - nice enough to wear this maternity frock I purchased with Joni back in March assuming I'd wear it to Rachel's wedding. At month five, I wasn't big enough to wear it to the wedding but at 30 weeks I filled it out just fine. I squeezed my sausage feet into a low pair of heels and clung to Hugh's arm for balance as we exited the lobby of our new apartment building. A rare grown up moment so it was special and fun. Other than the culinary outing I spent the day doing my favorite things - sleeping in, prenatal yoga class, cooking lunch, taking a nap, skype call with my sis, a sunny stroll to the plaza with Utta, a bit of writing and a mid afternoon candlelight bath. A luxurious leonine birthday.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Last week I brought my camera to painting class. My teach Ada is working on a new canvas of turqoise and yellows that I think is beautiful but she finds lacking. Maria-Vanessa, her other student just finished up an earnest abstract of gray tones and vibrant brick reds. Both inspire me to work harder and practice patience. Maria-Vanessa's canvas evolved no fewer than three times over the past months. She started out with this idea to use masking tape to create rectangles, triangles and squares. The colors were well developed but she hated the rigidity of the lines. So she started painting over the shapes and brought in new shades of red and black. I was scared for her at first not knowing how it would turn out but Ada was confident and led her in just the right direction. While painting, we three chat about the latest Christina Kirchner snafu, their grandchildren and of course how to mix color. Half way through the 3 hour session, we pause for tea and a dessert - usually the Argentine favorite cheesecake with fruit sauce or dulce de leche.

The other side and Previa-free

Monday I went to see Dr. Engel at the German Hospital for my monthly check in and to get an updated ultrasound. Great news! The placenta has moved. Well, not really. As Engel told me "placentas don't have feet". My uterus grew in such a way that the placenta is now up and far away from the cervix so no more worry or danger of it getting in the way of baby coming down the chute. Yes, a big relief. Now we are all systems go for a natural water birth in the woods with witches and incense (:

Here's a pic of me yesterday in a classic maternity "outfit". Yoga pants, extra long tank to cover the frontal and backside expanding bumps, and some kind of knit sweatery thing. Hugh is so tired of this look and all of my other non-sexy attire (eggplant purple full length terrycloth robe, baggy sweat suits, and shirts with built in bras (think opposite of Wonder). But, as my prenatal yoga teacher said to me yesterday..."welcome to the other side of pregnancy". I was lamenting how smooth and easy (even enjoyable) the first six months had been. Then, bam! In just over a week I've got non stop heartburn that cuts into the top of my ribcage regardless of whether I have a glass of water or a slice of pizza and chronic sacral low back pain. Last weekend during the move I got stuck in one of our new bean bag chairs and Hugh had to roll me over like a charred chorizo sausage on the parrilla using both hands so that I could get to my knees and stand up. With yoga, hot baths and a prenatal massage, the pain is no longer excruciating but flickers off and on from bearable to grouch-monger uncomfortable. Likely its Valentina's growing head pressing in to my sacral nerve so not much I can do about it other than avoid things that hurt like bending over, lifting anything and rolling out of bed.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Blogger facelift

yes, something IS different. I changed the template for my blog. The old sage green tones were getting on my nerves and more so each time I came across a new blog that looked identical. So it goes with templates in blogdom.

Friday, August 1, 2008

We're in!

Today Hugh realized his long time furniture fantasy. Two custom upholstered leather club chairs arrived in time for our first night in the new place. We found them browsing antique shops near the Mercado Las Pulgas in Palermo Hollywood a few weeks ago. They were ratty and torn to pieces - a deep burgandy leather and missing a seat cushion but the bones of beauty shined through. Hugh knew immediately he had found "the ones".

The "flete" moving truck arrived this morning and carried our bed, rugs and remaining suitcases of stuff. Even though we've lugged bags over on our own via taxi every day the past week or so, there was still a lot left to transport. After a massive de-cluttering of material goods when we left the States, we find ourselves cluttering up again. New furniture, kitchen supplies, plastic balcony chairs, organizers for the closets, appliances yahdahyahdahyahdah.

Thanks to the recent posters who cautioned me not to reveal our address on the blog. I do often forget that the information is out there for anyone to read and strangers often do. In my mind, its just my mom checking in for regular tummy shots.