Saturday, May 31, 2008

Birth Talk

I think doctors who perform elective c-sections should have their licenses revoked. Excellent post, Ame.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Let the discussion begin

So, I've been hesitant to post about vaccines for a few reasons:
1- because I know what a controversial topic they are, and both sides of the debate can get quite heated.
2- because I have so much information about vaccines that it is hard for me to organize it in my head, much less in a blog post.
3- I'm not sure that the few of you reading my blog have much desire to learn about vaccines.

That said, I do feel passionately about the importance of making educated vaccine decisions, and I wish I'd had more information when Amira was a baby. Let's start the discussion with the first vaccine babies are given: hepatitis B.

Hepatitis B is a serious disease, I am certainly not going to argue against that. It is a disease that affects the liver, and according to the CDC website is more likely to lead to an acute infection in adults and a chronic infection in infants and children. Children who develop chronic Hepatitis B can eventually die as a result of liver failure.

After listing the dangerous symptoms of HepB, the CDC lists the means of infection for the disease. Not surprisingly, they are not as thorough, or explicit, when they discuss the means of transmission:

A person can become infected by:
- contact with a mother’s blood and body fluids at
the time of birth; (this should read: contact with a HepB carrying mother)
- contact with blood and body fluids through
breaks in the skin such as bites, cuts, or sores; (translation: for your child to get HepB in this manner the blood or semen of a person with HepB would have to come in contact with an open sore on your child)
- contact with objects that could have blood or bodyfluids on them such as toothbrushes or razors; (don't let your baby brush their teeth with a HepB infected toothbrush. No shaving, either)

and, we vaccinate babies against these other frightening possiblities:
- having unprotected sex with an infected person;
- sharing needles when injecting drugs;
- being stuck with a used needle on the job.

Obviously,the italics were added by me, but the bullet points are all courtesy of the CDC's HepB vaccine sheet.
Just to be clear, HepB is a sexually transmitted disease, and is passed along by the same means as HIV. To be fair, HepB is viable outside of the body for longer periods than HIV, making it a bit more likely to contract (if a pool of HIV infected blood is sitting on your kid's toothbrush the virus will die more quickly than HepB, which can live outside of the body for a long time).

So, has the CDC lost their mind? Is that the point I'm trying to make here? Not at all. Although most of the ways to become infected by HepB are clearly not relevant to newborn babies, it is true that babies born to mothers with HepB can contract the disease during the birth process. If a baby is exposed to HepB during birth and is vaccinated for the disease immediately after, it can keep the newborn from contracting the disease. Clearly this a great idea and well worth the risks of the vaccine.

I imagine the large picture for the CDC employees in charge of immunizations looks something like this: a mother with hepatitis B can pass it on to her baby during childbirth. Vaccinating the at-risk newborn is an effective way to prevent the spread of this serious disease. It is not feasible to give the vaccine to only the babies of at-risk women (you can't very well say to a pregnant woman, "you look like you may be a promiscuous drug-user, we would like to vaccinate your child") so in the interest of protecting the at-risk babies, it is advisable to vaccinate all newborns against hepatitis B. This is where the problem lies, for me. (as a side note, I don't know why they can't test pregnant women for hepatitis B and only vaccinate the babies at-risk? They already test for HIV during pregnancy. Just a thought.)

I do not have hepatitis B. As a monogamous, drug-free, non health-care worker I know I am not at risk for getting hepatitis B anytime soon. Because of that I would like to make the argument that is not only unnecessary, but ludicrous(and even dangerous), to suggest that I should have vaccinated my just hours-old infant against a sexually transmitted disease.

At Norah's 2-month appointment I discussed this issue with her pediatrician:
me: I really don't understand why someone as low-risk for getting the disease as my 2-month old should have to get a vaccine.
Doctor: There are other many ways Norah could get HepB.
Me: What kind of things should I be worried about?
Doctor: She could be infected by needles or by other bodily fluids in a daycare setting.
Me: (not believing the conversation has gone on this long) My daughter doesn't go to daycare. She just doesn't have any contact with needles or infected bodily fluids (read:semen). Are there other things I should worry about.
Doctor: mumbles a few things, starts to discuss other vaccines.

I would like to say that I actually really like my pediatrician, and appreciate her openness to some of the information I have. I know she is under a large amount of pressure to encourage vaccines.

One final point, and then I should probably go back to taking care of my kids :) I recognize that vaccines are not only about protecting the individual child, but protecting the community, at large. I appreciate that need, and consider "herd immunity" very strongly when making my vaccination choices. Due to the fact that hepB is an STD (have I beaten that point to death) concerns about un-vaccinated Norah infecting someone else are minimal.

I haven't mentioned any of the possible side effects for the hepB vaccine (of which, sadly, there are many) because I think the arguments against the vaccine are strong enough, on their own. Any risks of the vaccine are too many, in my mind, since the vaccine is not at all necessary for low-risk children, in the first place.

I can't help but post one last section from the CDC's website that illuminates, once more, the risk factors for hepB:

All unvaccinated adults at risk for HBV infection
should be vaccinated. This includes:
- sex partners of people infected with HBV,
- men who have sex with men,
- people who inject street drugs,
- people with more than one sex partner,
- people with chronic liver or kidney disease,
- people with jobs that expose them to human
- household contacts of people infected with HBV,
- residents and staff in institutions for the
developmentally disabled,
- kidney dialysis patients

According to Dr. Robert Sears (from his book called The Vaccine Book, in which he actually recommends the importance of most of the vaccines) Dr. Sears advises against giving your baby the hepB series unless you have "one risky baby." My point, exactly.

ps- I am constantly learning in this aspect of parenting, as in all others, and am very much open and grateful for additional information. If you have information to refute or support my assertions, I would greatly appreciate your input.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Couldn't it have a prettier name?

I believe I would like to live in one of these.

It really isn't fair

I just watched a documentary called "Motherland Afghanistan" about the work of a US/Afghani doctor and his efforts to improve the women's health care crisis in Afghanistan. According to the documentary 1 in 7 Afghan women die in childbirth (due in large part to vitamin deficiencies leading to pelvises that are too small) and 18 percent of babies do not survive their first year of life.

So very many thoughts ran through my head as I watched the documentary. I thought about how much Afghanistan reminds me of both India and Morocco and the film left me aching for both places. I thought about how sure I am in my decision to become a midwife, and I felt frustrated that I am not able to start my program, yet.

And then, I just felt guilty. As heart-felt as my last post was, and as important as I believe certain issues are, the documentary put some things in perspective to me. As the film showed a mother hold, care for, and then grieve the death of her premature baby, I thought what a luxury my struggles are. I worry about preschools for Amira and buying organic food and how to lose weight. Meanwhile a mother in Afghanistan will never get to hold her child again, a child who could easily have been saved had she been born in another part of the world.

So, I'm going to take a step back from the issues I previously found so pressing. I am going to work towards my goals with a renewed energy and promise to be grateful for my challenges. If you could even call them that.

Friday, May 23, 2008


The truth is, I guess I'm not entirely comfortable with who I am. I have five posts saved in my draft folder that I haven't had the courage to publish- things I have written from my heart and about which I feel very passionate. I promised myself I would publish this post, unedited and raw. Here goes:

I like people to like me. I have strong opinions, very strong about some things, but I don't like to share them, certainly not in their most potent form, because I don't like making people uncomfortable. I feel this division in myself- one side of me is full of dreams and convictions and the other is just trying to fit in. Whatever that means. And I don't know why I try SO HARD to fit in, when it doesn't really make me happy. I know I'm different that a lot of people, but why does that have to bother me so much? This is my blog, for heaven sakes, and the people that read it are my friends and family. So why do I limit myself to posting about parenting (and occasionally food) when what I really want to talk about is how I want to start my own natural living community, and a women's-health non-profit group and teach my kids Arabic? Sometimes I feel myself trying to cram the "real-me" into a box that doesn't really fit. Because the fact of the matter is, that, yes, I am a wife, a mother, a latter-day Saint and an American. And I love all those roles, but they do not define me. The truth about me is that I am also a lot of other things: a breastfeeding activist, a liberal, a vegan cook and a writer. Sometimes I get up in the middle of the night to type out my thoughts, just to get them out of my head. I read everything I can get my hands on, sometimes several books a week. I use cloth diapers because I like the way they look and I care about the earth. I worry about my kids being exposed to plastic and pesticides and too many commercials. I try to be kind and to teach my children kindness. I try to eat spinach at least once a day. I love God, and I love that I don't always have to have the answers. I plan to wean Norah when she is ready, whenever that is. I believe that moms should be allowed to give birth without doctors poking and prodding and pestering them. I believe this so strongly I plan to devote my career to making this happen for as many women as I can. If I had my way, and I hope I do, I want to live in Morocco once Mohamed is out of the military. I want to build a large house and fill it with a million family members and have my kids grow-up knowing the love of their family and knowing their culture. I want to have a women's health clinic near the house and train Moroccans to be midwives in their villages- and work to protect their birth traditions while still making birth more safe for at-risk women.

I have never vaccinated Norah. It's true. I took her to Morocco and back sans vaccination and am at peace with my decision. I may give her some vaccines, someday, and I may not. I have spent at least four hours per vaccine researching each one and although I think some vaccines are a good idea for some children, I do not believe all vaccines are for all children. There, I said it. Whew. I will post about that, later, don't worry.

Sometimes I get tired, as you, no doubt are from reading this blog and its preponderance of commas. I wish, sometimes, that I weren't so passionate. Or so hopeful. Or so. . . something. I don't know. Maybe I just wish I weren't lonely. More than anything I wish for a house full to the brim with people. All kinds of people from all kinds of places. I love seeing the different ways people live their lives, what is important to them, what makes them angry or happy.

And maybe this post made you angry or happy. Maybe you just skimmed at rolled your eyes. That's okay, because I feel better now. I feel like I've come out-of-the closet (are there hyphens in that?) in a sense, and I feel stronger for it. If you find yourself particularly drawn to my way of thinking, you know where I live. My doors are open, and we have a guest room.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Nightime Parenting

Due to the fact that I have both an extremely loud family and extremely thin walls our neighbors were probably able to hear the following conversation last Thursday night around 1:30 AM:


"Amira, we have looked everywhere in your room. There are no snakes. There are no snakes in Hawaii at all. If there were snakes I would NEVER let them come in your room. We are asleep next door. Everyone is asleep. You need to GO TO SLEEP."

15 minutes later, same deal except this time I sound more like this:

"If you go to sleep and forget about the snake/Grinch/cockroaches I will give you 5 pieces of pink gum in the morning. If you don't go to sleep you won't be able to play with any of your friends and we will stay home ALL DAY. DO YOU UNDERSTAND? You MUST go to sleep and be quiet. Love you (said begrudgingly, as I closed the door tightly)"

As indicated by the all caps lettering, I wasn't exactly whispering most of my speech. I was exhausted and frustrated and out of ideas. Although I wasn't exactly yelling at Amira I knew my parenting wasn't at its best, and as I cuddled up to Mohamed and hoped Amira would finally be quiet, I found myself crying. I cried to Mohamed about how frustrated I was at myself for treating Amira like that. I was so irritated with her I thought my head would explode, and all I wanted to was make her be quiet. I felt myself completely out of patience and ideas. (note, although it seem like a logical solution, we couldn't just bring Amira in bed with us because she is truly a violent sleeper, and we knew none of us would sleep.)

So, I prayed. I said a simple, pleading prayer for God to help me see Amira as He sees her. And for a moment, I think I really did. I thought of my sweet baby, afraid in the other room, not wanting to sleep and certainly not wanting to be alone. I recalled the feeling of injustice I had towards bedtime as a small child, and how I would hold onto my mom's shirt as she laid by me so that I would wake-up when she tried to leave.

I climbed out of bed and went back into Amira's room. I told her stories and sang her songs and even left her lamp on all night long (sorry, Earth). I crawled in bed comforted and awed by the honor it is to raise my stubborn, complex, beautiful daughter.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

My Beautiful Girls

I really should be in bed, but I actually got to nap for an entire hour today and am therefore wide awake. My friend finally got her website up and running so here is a link to the rest of the pictures from the girls' photo shoot:

my babies, and me

When you get to the website click on the "clients" tab and then put in "Kimball" as the password. I've never changed my name on my hotmail account, so my friend thought my last name was Kimball, in case you are wondering.

A few of the pictures of me aren't that great, and I didn't do a very good job with Amira's curls (I sprayed them with water right before the shoot, and they didn't have time to dry for a lot of the pictures). However, I really love a lot of the shots. One of my favorites is the one where I'm nursing Norah.

I will post pictures of Norah's birthday, soon. I can't stop watching the photo slideshow. Gosh, I love my girls.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Happy Birth Day Norah!

At this time, a year ago, I was calling Mohamed at work and asking him to come home early. My labor had really started to pick-up, and I knew that my baby was coming.

I knew a lot of things about myself and about childbirth before I had Norah. I'd read every childbirth book I could find, had surrounded myself with women who believed in the power of birth. I had the support of a wonderful group of midwives and Mohamed was fully on-board with my decision to have a natural childbirth. I knew I was strong enough to handle any pain I would face. I knew my body would lead me through the labor process. I knew I would be safe and so would my baby.

I thought I got it. Before experiencing Norah's birth I thought I understood what it would mean to me, what it would feel like, how it would change me.

But I couldn't have known. I couldn't have known the intensity of each mounting contraction, without actually feeling them. No amount of reading could have prepared me for the vulnerability I felt, for how much I needed Mohamed by me, touching me at all times. I had no idea that I would push her out slowly enough to feel first her right shoulder and then her left. That pushing would be such a relief, and that it wouldn't hurt, not even for a moment (the pushing that is, not the entire labor).

And then, of course, came the moment when I got to hold my sweet baby. This moment I knew, having done it with Amira. That time when the rest of the world really does disappear and I hold my babies, and whisper to them, "You are here. You are here." Yet even this most sacred of moments was so different the second time around. My joy was increased by the absolute physical euphoria I felt. I felt so powerful, so full of light and strength. I nursed Norah right there on the kitchen floor, with her still attached to me by the umbilical cord. She kept eating while the paramedics arrived and busied themselves with their silliness. She nursed through the entire ambulance ride and arrived to the hospital so pink and alive and alert that even the people who thought me irresponsible for daring to give birth at home, couldn't argue with the outcome.

The memory of Norah's birth is still with me these many months later. Her birth changed me more than I could have imagined, more than I knew was possible. Those sacred moments are something I will carry with me always. That is my daughter's gift to me.

PS- "Happy Birthday" to Ryan, too

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

Since it is next to impossible to get ANY of my immediate family members to read my blog, I lured them here with a promise of adorable pictures of my girls. Before I get to that, I want to say, "Happy Mother's Day" to my mom.

Mom, as I was thinking about you today I thought about all the memories I have of growing-up. The nature hikes you led through the creek near our house, the neighborhood plays you directed, the strange salads you would make us before seminary (so we could get our veggies first thing in the morning) and that time I blew off studying for finals so we could watch the entire 6 hour version of pride and prejudice.

And even now that I am grown and gone, I continue to learn from you and count on you for everything from recipes to parenting advice. I remember when I called you a few months ago, stressed about a difficult parenting choice I was struggling with. I asked if you would support my decision, even if things didn't work-out how I hoped and I was harshly criticized by others for my choice. You paused for a second, and your voice caught as you told me, firmly, "I am your mother, Jami, I will always support you." I've thought about that many times, since. It brings me so much comfort to know even when my choices as a mother feel hard or lonely, you are there, with me. You have always been so able to love me. Thank you for that gift.

I have many wonderful memories, Mom. A lifetime full of them. But the one
thing I have to thank you for, most of all, is this: thank you for your faith. Thank you for knowing and loving the Lord so much, that I never had to wonder how you felt. Thank you for the prayers you have said with me, and for me. I am grateful that my earliest experiences with religion were of a mother who really lived her beliefs, and was made happy by them. I pray everyday that I may be that same mother to my sweet girls.

I love you so much, Mom.

Finally, on this mother's day I am also grateful for the two girls who made me a mother. The girls ran around in the rain this morning, and then I put them in a nice, warm bath. As they were playing I thought of all the little things I love about them: the perfectly round birthmark on Norah's shoulder, how Amira never wants to take off her pink running shoes (except for bath time) and the special bond the two of them are already developing. They adore each other. And I, them. On that note, Mom, here are the pictures I promised. Your copies will be coming shortly:

I couldn't post them directly, so click here

Oh, and here is a video of Norah walking and carrying a box as big as she is!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Catching up

I've decided that I should probably blog about something else besides food, in case any of you are worried I spend my days fixated on new ways to cook tofu or how to make kale taste less disgusting. So, here's a much overdue update on our life:

At the beginning of April our neighbors moved to Louisiana. Amira cried and cried the day the left, and still likes to tell anyone who will listen about her friends Zoey and Alexis. She is comforted only by the fact that Norah will never move away. Here is a picture of "the girls" at the park the day before they left:

The week after they left Mohamed's friend, Bob, came to visit us all the way from Canada. We loved having him, and he helped cheer Amira up after the departure of her friends. The only problem with Bob's stay was that it was far too short and we hope he can stay much longer next time. Here are some photos: This photo below was taken at the Polynesian Cultural Center. If you look closely you can see Amira looking awfully tiny and confused among all the dancers. After demonstrating a Tahitian dance, the dancers asked for volunteers and Amira hopped up and ran onto the stage. She was the first one up and stood there with her hands on her hips, so cute and full of confidence that everyone in the audience started clapping and cheering and hollering just for the joy of seeing her. She really wasn't too great at the dancing, but she didn't have to be. She was so adorable, and very proud.

A few weeks after Bob's visit my parents and siblings (all but David) came to stay. We love having visitors, and it was WONDERFUL to have my family here. Sadly, I inherit my inability to document life events via picture taking from my parents so I have exactly 4 pictures of their stay. Here's Andrew watching Amira blow out the candles on her Ariel cake:

I'm so MAD that I don't have any pictures of my adorable little sister, Anna. She is growing so quickly, and is such a happy, laid-back, sweet little baby. In my defense we did try to take pictures once we got to the beach only to discover both my camera and my parent's camera were out of batteries. And since I have no hope of my parents ever sending me pictures of my little sister, I don't know how I can ever blog about her and her cuteness. Amy, maybe you could take a picture and email it to me? I'm so pathetic.
Anyway, the trip was great. We spent four days at a cabin about 20 steps from the beach. We setup an umbrella and little baby tent right on the sand so the babies could nap on the beach while we played. Amira and Andrew (with Mohamed's help) dug a huge hole and spent several hours just sitting in the hole and laughing. Ben and I enjoyed quality time catching the waves and Mom and Dad even got to go on a moonlit walk while I sat with the sleeping kids. Have I convinced anyone else to come visit us, yet?
Whew- catching up was a lot of work. A few more things worth noting:
Norah walks now! She is so proud, and she especially loves that she can carry objects around with her while walking (something that is much tougher to do while crawling). Norah has really started to play with Amira, and is wonderful to watch them giggle and "chase" each other. Norah even gets in on the imaginary play. Today we were playing "Ariel," as usual, and while I was Prince Eric and Amira was Ariel, Norah waddled after us with a shark in hand, making growling noises. Apparently sharks growl.
Amira spends her days in a world of imagination. Be warned, however, that she switches from one character to the next very quickly and if you call her Ariel, when she has clearly changed to Cinderella, she will be very upset. I am always forced to be her romantic interest in these games (I always have to be the prince, never the princess) and Norah is the loyal sidekick. When she is Peter Pan, I'm Wendy and Norah is called, affectionately, "stinkerbell." So go my days, filled with princesses and growling sharks and babies growing up entirely too fast.