Saturday, December 28, 2013

Looking Ahead to 2014

Like so many at this time of year, I am looking back on the year while simultaneously looking forward to the next one.  I can certainly say 2013 was not a bad year at all, but of course I'd love for 2014 to be even better!  I have a list of things to do over the next week or so and one of them I've been thinking most about is goals for my business for 2014.  At this point, I only have one specific goal so far; a modest one of that.  I plan to gain a wholesale account every month, as well as increase my general retail online presence.  SEO is so complicated, and Google seems to change things up as soon as my rankings improve.  This is also at the same time as Facebook decreasing the organic views of business pages posts in hopes to push business to "boost" their ads for more views, which for a small business is tough.  So obviously I need to come up with some more ways to increase online visibility.  I do think that Pinterest is going to be the way to go in 2014, and now that I am improving my product pictures, it only makes sense to increase my business use of Pinterest.  The picture with this post is my latest edit.  I think I will have to re-photograph my products (ugh....) to finalize this current edit to get the lighting very even, but I think this current version is the way to go.


Latest edit of my American Moose New Baby Bib at Bourgeois Baby.  You can find it via my website link above or to the right.


On a personal note, I don't typically do the traditional resolutions.  But I do aim for more positive actions that are realistic to my day to day life.  For instance, I hope to read more.  I love reading, have always loved reading, so much that it was my source of calming anxiety when I was dealing with a troublesome husband and struggling with postpartum depression.  But as those things improved (thankfully), I let the reading every night for a minimum of 30 minutes before bed slip.  Combine that with night time being my only work time now that Vera doesn't nap anymore (I still am not over this transition- it sucks!!), and I think I may have read 2 books this whole year.  Before, I was 2 books a month!  I have so many excellent books on my shelf, not to mention a growing list on my notes app on my phone, that I need to pick it up quickly.

Is there anything special you are doing?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Well, I'm Wrong! (Something my husband doesn't hear often)

My last post went on and on about license character infringement and how it relates to the handcrafted small business person.  If you haven't read it, go and do that now.

This past weekend I was doing a local event with Bourgeois Baby and had the pleasure of meeting Stacey of Three Monkeys Cloth Diapers (check out her stuff....SO CUTE!) and we chatted about licensed character products.  Her understanding of using licensed characters in clothing, cloth diapers, etc, was completely different than mine.  She said that so long as you don't name the product the licensed name, then you are fine.  I really wasn't buying it, although I had seen items on Etsy like "Cat in the Hat Inspired Shirt" or whatever. I needed to research this more myself.

Tonight I was digging around the internet and found this page about the use of licensed fabric.  So it seems that it is totally fine to sell items made from licensed fabric.  I found the Tabberone website every interesting on various topics, and got a chuckle of their comments on the Uninformed Mavens of Etsy.

And I will say it again- I was wrong.  At least as far as it goes with fabrics.  As much as I like Hello Kitty, don't expect her to show up on my business website.  But it does open up possibilities for other things in the future.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

License Infringement

Because I had been on Etsy (with an entirely different product than what I do with Bourgeois Baby) years ago- shortly after Etsy was just initially gaining some momentum on the internet- I had been very aware of a lot of the no-no's small handcraft businesses were doing.  These things, for whatever reason, stuck with me- not because I was doing them- but because I was surprised other people were.

A huge legal no-no is selling product using licensed images or characters by other companies.  And you see it all the time.  It drives me bat shit crazy, actually, for several reasons. But before I go on, what is considered licensed images or characters?  Think Disney characters (from the originals all the way to movie characters in Pixar films), Sanrio's Hello Kitty, Thomas and Friends, etc.  Large corporations own the sole rights to these characters and do sell certain rights for other manufacturers to make merchandise, they do legally pursue companies who use these characters without permission.  And I can tell you that virtually no small handcrafted business can afford the licensing fees.  Many of these small handcrafters buy their materials retail, which does mean they can buy things with these images legally- but for personal use only.  Making another product with these licensed images and then selling them for a profit is illegal.  And these companies have come down on small business people on Etsy and the like.

Here's a very common example I often see: A small business owner makes little girls hair accessories.  A big seller are the Hello Kitty hair bows and barrettes.  And of course they sell well!  Hello Kitty is very popular, the ribbon with her image is readily available almost anywhere you can buy ribbon, and the person making them shops at her local chain craft store.  Each bow may cost her less than a dollar in ribbon, and factoring in labor, etc, she charges around $5 per hair bow or clip.  No biggie, right?

Ya, it is to Sanrio!  I'd imagine that all they need to do is have their legal team write up an official cease and desist letter- but they could potentially sue for license infringement and fees on sold products to date.  This will crush a small business.

So- besides the fact that this is a no-no for the reasons states above- I have problems with it beyond that.  Here are those reasons:
  • It makes other handcrafted businesses look cheesy when, in fact, there is nothing cheesy or cheap about handcrafted products.  Handcrafted products are a labor of love.  Detail and care was put into EACH item made.  For instance, every fabric layer, every stitch, every label....you name the part of any of my products- has been painstakingly cut, sewn, pressed, packaged, etc by my own hands.  Other than a sewing machine- there is human touch and work put into every piece.  I take huge pride in this, and when I see handcrafted using materials that are not legit to resell- it is so irritating!
  • It makes handcrafted business owners look uneducated.  When you started a small business, didn't you do research first?  Did you look up laws pertaining your items, read different forums to get an idea of your market?  I am always surprised to see that some people do next to nothing to set up selling their wares and think that is all there is to it.  I did months of research, learning all sorts of retail and wholesale aspects of small business, not to mention as much legal stuff I could get my hands on.  Why would I put all the blood, sweat, and tears into this endeavor to have it threatened by some legal snafu?
  • It provides no individual creativity.  When I think of handcrafted- no matter the type of product- I think of some type of creative angle to it.  Coming up with products using someone else's (or company's) image or character really isn't that difficult.
  • It may hurt your competitors.  Now, when anyone (including myself) starts a business of any kind- we want to be the best.  We want to be THE place for the widget or whatever it is you sell.  Of course, other people sell widgets, too, and we want to outsell them.  That is business in a capitalist society, after all.  But I do think handcrafted is special.  The market we sell to is much smaller than traditional retail.  However, there is a place for all of us.  I really do believe that. Handcrafted often has something different to offer.  But when the business next to you is selling similar items but with these very popular images- what do people go to?  They go to the familiar.  And buying the illegal, licensed product hurts the handcrafted business who has the very cute hair bow with a kitty image that is not Hello Kitty.  And when the familiar licensed image is sold as "handcrafted", the real handcrafted original item gets the shaft.  These businesses may think they are helping the handcrafted movement because they are moving product made by them with illegal images and therefore getting handcrafted into more people's hands, they are really doing a disservice to handcrafted business in general.
 
I recently exhibited at the Boston Christmas Festival.  I loved it.  It was busy, but I got to meet lots of talented artisans and handcrafters.  Bourgeois Baby products had made their way into more markets than the southern NH area (even Germany and Iceland!!).  It was my first year there, and as part of the application process, I had to prove my worthiness to be in their show.  So it was disheartening to me to see these types of products in some of the booths.

Of course, I don't go telling the people who sell these items all of this.  I don't feel it would be proper etiquette of me to introduce myself, my business, and then follow it up with "By the way, you know that selling these Hello Kitty hair bows are illegal, right?"  Perhaps they really don't know....but I also don't want to make any business enemies. 

I guess this is why blogs are a good thing- I can just vent it all out here.  And as far as my Hello Kitty example- I am just using that one as it seems to be the easiest to make the point.  I am not writing this post with any specific business or person in mind- there are so many of them out there I don't actually remember any by name.

And on that note- /vent.  Much happier to have gotten that out!

For an update on this post, go here.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Well, Efff Me Today. And *Thank You.

I'm not even sure that I have a theme for topic for this post other than I am just typing to vent.  Today was a shitty day, and although many of my days are frustrating (hello, 2 year old!), most of them do not leave me wanting to cry.

Today I had plans to teach a knitting class.  I've taught others to knit before, and as a little side money I decided to teach a few Saturdays before the holidays.  It would be some extra cash for Christmas presents for Vera as I prefer not to use our credit cards.  So I was very excited that 6 people signed up!  Wahoo!

My class design is meant for the ultimate beginner.  I even provide the supplies.  Prior to the class I purchased the supplies for 6 people (with the thought that maybe 1 or 2 might no show, but I could just return the stuff), then went to the classroom to set up.

Start time begins, and no one is there.  Ok, fine, people these days tend to find it acceptable to be a few minutes late (I don't, but I have noticed this trend).

 Fifteen minutes go by. Still, not a soul.  Now I know that even if someone shows up that it will be an abbreviated class because my parents are watching Vera and they both showed up very cranky for different reasons.  It was made pretty clear that having to take several hours out of their afternoon was bothersome.  I felt pressured to make sure I got home quickly.

So about 30 minutes has passed and I admit defeat.  I pack everything up and head out to return all the supplies.  Which, mind you, takes an entire 30 minutes in itself because the computer system at the store was not recognizing a few items and therefore not giving the proper return amount.

WTF.

I walked out really wanting to cry.  Really. This isn't a feeling that I feel often, I'm not a big crier at all, actually, but this really was like a punch to the gut.  Perhaps I was being sensitive to this massive no-show to my class as in the last few weeks I've also been feeling worn out in my ability to mother an independent toddler who listens to no one and finds it hilarious to give her mother the hardest time about everything.

Actually, there are days I feel abused by my own child.  I hate to say that, as it seems so dramatic, but I'm drained and defeated and not sure what the right move is in parenting a little girl who has such a strong personality. 

And then, after dinner Vera asked to have her milk time.  This is a bedtime routine we have- something that we never broke from infancy basically because I didn't want to.  We sit together in a special rocking chair and read books together as she drinks some milk.  We cuddle and now that the weather is cool we snuggle under a blanket together.  It's a wonderful time, maybe more so for me because it is the one time of day she is fairly calm, quiet, and seemingly appreciative of the love I give her. 

Tonight, we start this early.  But she requested, and how can I say no to this?  Once her milk is poured, she immediately starts yelling at me to pick her up, although for reasons I can't quite remember outside of having had things to put away, etc, and I don't pick her up right away.  She nearly has a fit, flopping herself on the floor over me not picking her up RIGHT THEN.  This is coming from the same girl who not long before came up to my supper plate and tossed all my food off onto the floor and continued to smoosh all the food as quickly as she could when I was attempting to correct her.  This is the same girl who, when sternly told NO to something while I was cooking, hit me.  And the same girl who came and ripped a magazine out of my hands and proceeded to rip out the pages not long before that.

But I don't pick her up right away.  I do the things I need to do.  It take 20 seconds, if that.  She is still yelling, "Nooooo!" until the second I say, "Okay, now you can come up to Mom".  And Vera comes up into my lap, and faces me.  She rests her head down, places her arm around me.  She hugs me.  We stayed that for a few minutes.  Both of us instantly calm and we cuddle.  It was the bright spot of my day.  She finished her milk and asks to brush her teeth and go "na-nights".

Of course, getting her into pajamas was another shit show, but I guess I can't expect miracles.

And as far as the 6 students who no showed me, you can shove it.  That is the nicest way I can put it to a bunch of people who feel their time is more important than mine.

*Sarcasm.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Intermission

Why, yes, I have no spare time on my hands.  I really don't.  You wouldn't know it, but I don't.  I am prepping for a big expo that is just in 3 weeks, and tonight I decided to mess around on the computer.

Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Pin Test: Print On Fabric With Your Home Printer

I was so pleased that this little trick actually worked without a hitch! 

For several months I've noticed a few different pins on Pinterest that link to tutorials on printing on fabric with your home printer.  At first I just passed over these, thinking how is this possible, but with a few very large expositions that Bourgeois Baby will be at this fall and winter I have been busy making infinity scarves as a booth attraction.  The problem is that they need labels, as per FTC regulation, and my label company requires a fairly large minimum.  These scarves are solely a booth attraction item, and not something that I plan on carrying via the BB website (unless there is a big draw to them) so I don't plan on making a lot.  Therefore, I don't want to invest a lot in tags.

Enter the print on fabric idea.  I scoured Pinterest and read through a few tutorials.  They are all pretty simple.  Choose a fabric, attach it to a thick paper, run it through the printer.

And yes, it really was that simple!!

Here is a picture of my first run through of labels for my infinity scarves:


Here is EXACTLY what I used:
-One sheet cardstock (67lb weight)
-Quilt basting spray
-Basic cotton woven fabric in white
-Home printer with black ink (I have a HP Photosmart 5520)

Here is what I did:
-First, I sprayed the cardstock generously with the basting spray.
-Second, I laid the cotton fabric over the cardstock, and smoothed it as best as possible.
-Third, trimmed the fabric to be flush with the cardstock.  I let it dry (not long at all- maybe 15 minutes to be safe)
-Last- ran it through my printer as I would any other paper!

And, it came out perfectly!  The ink is printed crisply onto the fabric.  Then I cut them to size, using pinking sheers to help them from fraying, and easily sewed them to my scarves.  Here you will see that I also did a sheet of these on a tea colored cotton muslin, which I actually like better than the white cotton woven.



Here are some tips that I came across, as well as some concerns that I read others had about this method:

-Black printer ink works very well for long term application.  Color printer inks seem to fade with washing.
-One way of increasing the life of these tags, soak the finished product in white vinegar and let dry.
-There are products to help in printing on fabric, including a fabric prep solution called Bubble Jet Set.  I haven't used it, but if you are really worried that your printed fabric will fade or wash out completely then this might be worth a try.  I would imagine it might be worth using if you plan on printing something like a picture or a monogram that would be the centerpiece of your project.

Of all the things I've tried on Pinterest, this by far was the easiest!  And what a money saver!  Is this something you've tried? What did you print?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

I Am a Selfish, Money-Sucking NICU Mom. A Reply to the commenters of Radiolab's 23 weeks, 6 days.

Listen to this podcast:


Wow. Wow.

  I was in the car when I first caught this. I listen to Radiolab fairly often, but because I was out and about while this was airing, I had to go back and listen to what I missed. A very moving story. And then I went and read the comments to this podcast, and well...I guess I shouldn't be surprised at the vitriol. The politicization of prematurity.  The insertion of the abortion debate (WTF??).  The viewpoint of selfishness on the part of the parents.

You know what I say to that? You. Have. No. Fucking. Clue.

Yes, premature birth and subsequent NICU care is expensive. The ongoing care beyond the NICU can also be quite expensive, especially for the infants who have disability due to their prematurity. But I venture to guess it probably is no more expensive than an adult with chronic illness like diabetes- or even worse- a progressive neurological disease that will ultimately kill you like ALS or Parkinson's. I've never come across an argument that we should not care for those adults because of the cost. It would seem inhumane, frankly, to say that those people should just be left "out of the system" to fend for themselves and their disability.

Many premature infants are not expected to be premature. About 50% of premature births are of unknown reasons. Vera's birth falls into that category. My water broke, I went into labor, she was born hours later at 31 weeks. There was nothing I did because I was selfish that led to this. There was nothing I could do to prevent it, at least at this point in medical history.

As far as criticizing the parents in the podcast of what they did for their baby and how they read the baby's responses...well, go look above. 

When you have an infant in the NICU, you  are helpless.  All of the things you would normally be doing if you were a new parent of a full term infant is not happening for you.  And so you adapt by doing what you can- which is cuddling (kangaroo care), pumping your milk, and providing whatever comfort you can.  Because of the premature neurological system these babies have, continuous holding, talking, and doing what you would normally do for a full term infant are not "allowed" because it can actually cause them stress.

So- what I did frequently when I was allowed to hold or touch Vera was either tuck her into my cleavage but unable to pat or stroke or rub her as your instinct as a comforting mom would typically do, or I would stand leaning against her heat and humidity controlled incubator with my hands through the port holes while placing one hand firmly on her head and the other cupping her butt.  Applying gentle pressure.  Because that was all her body could handle.  I also spent more time "cuddling" up with a hospital grade breast pump.  Again, because many times that was all I could do to be a useful mom.  Reading or singing quietly was often done in the NICU by parents.  I never did, as I just talked to her about day to day stuff.

And even though we couldn't do all the things we wished for in a normal newborn, Vera did respond to us as her parents.  When Mark did Kangaroo care with her, her heart rate slowed.  When she kangaroo'ed with me, she never had dips in her oxygen levels.  When we talked and she was awake, she would follow the voice and look up at us.  She didn't do this with the nurses or even other family.

I would have done anything I could have to prevented this so she would not have suffered (and yes, I do think she suffered as she did endure painful procedures and care to keep her alive). As far as selfish- I think the notion of wanting to be a parent is the furthest from being selfish.  Being a parent, no matter when the child is born or how conceived is not a selfish job.  There is NOTHING selfish in what I do everyday as a mom.  If calling wanting to put a person in this world that will be raised surround by love and kindness in their family, and allowing them to become an independent, intelligent, creative, kind human being is selfish...well then, sure.  I was selfish.

Before Vera's birth, I knew the NICU was not an easy place.  As a nurse, I had cared for many NICU parents of varying gestational ages.  I knew that they were on a rough road.  I knew that the care their infant(s) were receiving was expensive.  I knew that they may be facing a long, tough path of disability for as long as they all lived.  I also realized that there is a wide gray line between viability and non-viability, which medical science keeps pushing.  In hindsight, I can say that my thoughts on it were just matter of fact, not any true empathy because I just didn't truly get it.  Becoming a mom has really taught me that you just don't know what it is like to walk in anyone else's shoes unless you've experienced it yourself firsthand.

May all those who feel preemies, especially those near that gray line, are left to suffer because their parents are selfish and a financial drain on the system NEVER have to experience a NICU first hand.  I don't think they would be able to walk in with their generalizations worn proudly on their sleeves if they were staring down at their fragile newborn.

So go ahead and call me a selfish, money-sucking NICU mom.  It was worth it.  And should some of my health care expenses go up because there are preemies out there that need medical care, then so be it.  Even disabled, those children have something to contribute.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

NICU Nurses: Don't Say This

When Vera was born, many of her nurses were "old timers".  They had been in neonatal care since it's inception.  They watched viability age decrease over the years.  They worked shift by shift where technology kept growing and helping premature and very sick infants survive at greater rates.  That must be an awesome thing to reflect upon in a career.

But, please, NICU nurses, please don't tell a mom of a new preemie baby that when you started your career that her baby would not have survived when you started in the field.  Don't say, "We would just provide comfort measures for a baby of this gestation age."  Don't reflect that it was awful watching a 31 weeker back in the day struggle with breathing in his or her few hours of life, or if they managed to survive the respiratory distress syndrome how disabled they'd be.

None of that is helpful to the mom who is looking at her 31 week newborn, hooked up to CPAP to survive, swollen, jaundiced, and getting poked with multiple needles and heel sticks.  She doesn't know how her own infant will do, what long standing effects they will be faced with, or whether her infant will come out healthy and unscathed from such a traumatic event.  To know that her infant would have been left to die in another time of your career is fucking awful.

Let me repeat: It's fucking awful.

Because when it was said to me, I stewed over this for days, with the worst kind of scenario going on in my head, visualizing my little baby struggle for breath and dying.  Because what I was seeing in the present was an infant struggling to breathe despite having all the high tech help possible.  How could it possibly be any worse?  Those words just make it seem that whatever I might be feeling now, it is not worthy of my present day fear.  Because, you know, it could be worse.  And really, I couldn't handle worse.

And, if you want to know how much these sorts of things could effect the mom of a premature infant?  Vera is now a healthy, thriving 2 year old.  I'm still bothered by those words.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Blogtember: Self Portrait

Today's Blogtember topic: Post a self portrait.

Here you go!




It's been three months since I shaved my head.  My hair now show's its natural curl.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Blogtember: How Social Media and Blogging Has Changed My Life

It has sucked more time away from my days.  Ha ha.  Seriously.  I say this tongue in cheek, but it really has.

For one, here I am blogging instead of working.  At night, instead of reading every night, I am scrolling through Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter.  I'm reading blogs that I follow, and finding new ones.

So I can't say it's changed for the better.

But what it has changed in a good way is being able to connect with people I would never had the opportunity to otherwise.  There are so many nurses, midwives, moms, birth advocates, craft people, sewists, the list goes on and on....that I can learn from and communicate with!

It's also framed how my business is marketed.  The majority of the marketing I do is via social media, which ultimately leads to word of mouth (or word of screens, clicks, and pins!).  Traditional advertising just doesn't work for my type of clientele, as 100% of them are connected online.  Social media and blogging has certainly made for competitive marketing for me, as I think every online business (or any business, really) wants that one viral pin on pinterest, or video on You Tube to help boost their profits.  So I certainly have changed in regards to that, which brings me to my very first sentence above.

It sucks my time away from me!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Pin Test: Peasant Bread

I love a good hearty, home baked bread.  I have never made a homemade bread, thinking that it would be super difficult.  But then I realized that this notion was inherited from my mother, who is a self proclaims "I'm no Betty Crocker" and finds making cookies from premade dough difficult and time consuming, and so she was likely pretty off on this one, too.

Scouring my cook books and Pinterest, I came across a simple recipe for a Peasant Bread.  I had all of the ingredients, and the afternoon to allow for good dough rise so I gave it a go.



So, the only down side to any of this was the actual web post this came from: it is way too long!  Too much commentary to skim through to get to the actual steps of putting this together.  Now, I realize that people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, but really, I would have liked the commentary below all of the ingredients and directions.  I do read everything, but I would have liked to have what I needed to know immediately up front, then all the nice to know things after.

What I did differently (because I hate being told there is only one way to do things):
- Original recipe calls for unbleached flour.  The first time I did this I only had bleached on hand.  As it turned out, I found that version tastier than the unbleached.
- The original recipe makes a VERY LARGE loaf, or two loaves, so if you don't want to have a lot of bread or any leftovers, half the recipe.
- I greased my pyrex bowl with olive oil and cracked black pepper for a little extra flavor.  Turns out awesome, except the top part of the bread stuck to the bowl and needed to be scrapped out. If you are going for presentation, I suggest you stick with using butter as the original recipe states.

My thoughts on this Pin:
My husband ate his toasted with butter, me dipped in herb flavored olive oil, and my daughter ripped straight from the loaf.  It really is the easiest bread to make with out kneading or special mixers, etc.  It's a keeper!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Blogtember: Moment When Life Took A Turn

I purposely skipped yesterday, as it involved taking a personality quiz.  I'm not into taking quizzes about myself, as I find them generic and rigid, when people are fluid and ever-changing.

So today's post: Describe a distinct moment when your life took a turn.

Without a doubt, it was Vera's birth.  Becoming a mother.  It really does change everything, and in more ways than you could ever fathom.  I am sure that the fact that your life changes once you become a mother is not news; everyone hears this at least several times when you are pregnant.  However, despite hearing this, I didn't really know what it meant until she came into my world.

And I'm not talking about the day to day changes with mothering.  Waking early, having to plan regular meals, having to make appointments and plans around naps.  Sure, those change things from pre-motherhood life.  What I am talking about is what changes within your head that changes you as a person.

For me, it was caring for myself in a way that I never had before.  I actually began thinking, "I can not die for many years to come- Vera needs me like no other".  This might sound crazy, but I really felt that I was important in someone's life enough that it might mess them up irrevocably so I better make sure I stay alive and healthy for another 30+ years.  At least!  I'd never really cared much before.

It also changed what I felt was important in my life.  Having a high level of education? A respected career?  Making good money?  Who cares.... those things drained me and hacked down my self esteem and I realized that continuing down the path I was on before would not allow me to be the best mother I could be.  And I don't miss any part of my previous career.  (Well, the money was good, and I'd plan to make that kind of money again, but it's not important enough now to keep on this new path).  Instead, I decided to go for a dream of using my creativity and craftiness as well as be my own boss.  And I love it!

And lastly, what others might think of me?  The little bit I might have cared about before has completely gone.  And even more importantly, I have come to accept that I am who I am, and if that means being a fat lady with a super short hair cut because damn it, it is so freeing!  So be it!  For proof, you can see this naked pic of me here.  Ya, really.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Blogtember Resumes; Fear

Today's topic: A story about a time you were very afraid.

Hmmmm.....

Well....here is one, where the time I was actually afraid in the pure sense of "afraid" only lasted about five minutes, but none the less, I was afraid.

Shortly after my daughter was born, my husband lost his shit.  Like totally snapped, began doing things that most sane people would be like, "What in the freaking world is going on in his head?".  This went on for well over a year.

There is a lot of crap that contributed to his behavior, but ultimately he was making some very bad choices.  He held a lot of anger towards the circumstances around Vera's birth.  He never planned on having children, although had always told me that he would (as I wanted to have them).  And we had struggled in our marriage at one point on whether we would move forward together because I was pushing for children NOW and he was finding every reason not to.

Ultimately, we moved forward in having children.  Enter Vera.  Her fragile status at birth, the unpredictable course that was ahead of us as parents, and his deep rooted fears of being a father had culminated into chaos for him.  So he began drinking, doing drugs (narcotics, benzodiapines, and bath salts), and generally behaving like a slovenly fool.  Mind you, none of this was out in the open, and what was presented was just this absolute asshole who never went to bed, never interacted with his family, and at times disappeared overnight.  Or passed out in his car and pissed his pants.  Or something along these lines.  Despite this, he did manage to go to work every day.

When Vera was about 4 months old, it became obvious exactly what he was up to.  At the same time I was struggling with severe postpartum depression and anxiety (without knowing it, but my mom certainly knew) and was barely able to take care of Vera and myself on a day to day basis.  My mom could see things were not right, and like the wonderful mom she is (despite her outer hard shell), swooped in and helped me.

Over the course of a few weeks I did end up seeking help with my own postpartum depression and anxiety, and started to be able to see things more clearly.  I knew that things would not  be able to move forward with my husband if he didn't get his act together.  But in the meantime I was doing the best I could for my daughter and I.

One of those things was making sure we got plenty of good night time sleep.  We both have white noise machines, and slept with the doors closed.  This was because my husband would come home (or inside from the garage) at god-awful hours of the night and decide to play with the dog.  It was noisy.

My tricks of keeping out the noise worked really well.  So well, in fact, that one night early that winter I hadn't heard my phone ringing for the previous 30 minutes.  And I didn't hear the banging on my front door for the first 10 minutes.  For the next 5 minutes of being awake and listening to the banging on the front door (oh, did I mention that this was at 2 AM?) and getting myself in quite a tizzy of anger at my husband because I couldn't believe that he would have the gall to bang on our front door at this time.  He knew, after my many threats of "If you dare wake up the baby" speeches, that if he forgot his house key he was shit out of luck and would have to sleep in the car, that he'd be messing with a very angry woman.  And previously, he knew I wasn't kidding and HAD slept in the car on those nights he forgot his keys.

So as I laid in bed listening to the banging getting louder and louder, I think steam started coming out of my ears.  And then I decided I better go down and let him in before Vera did wake.

I got to the top of the stairs and angrily stomped down a few stairs before I noticed out the porthole window in the stairwell that there was a police car in front of my house.  My heart stopped.  I couldn't take a breath.

This is it, I thought.  He's dead.  He either killed himself willingly or accidentally, but he's dead.  With his current behavior, it was the only logical explanation of why the police were at my house in the middle of the night.  I was so afraid of opening that door. 

And as this fear came fully awake within my head, I realized my phone was ringing nonstop as well.  I made it to the bottom of the stairs and cracked open the front door.  I was only in a tank top and my underwear, so I told the cop that I needed my robe.  I'd be right back.  But I let him in.

When I wobbled back down stairs, because at this point I was shaking quite a bit, wondering how was I going to hear how my husband had died, and should I call my mother now or wait until I knew she'd be awake?

I sat down before the cop started talking.  I was taking deep, gulping breaths, bracing myself for the news.

"It's about your husband," the cop said.  He was young.  Maybe 10 years younger than me.  I remember thinking he seemed composed for such a young cop about to deliver terrible news.

I looked up at him, and he continued. "He's been arrested for drinking and driving."

Suddenly all that fear, all that terrible shaking, breath gulping, and terror....gone.

"Oh, why are you here to tell me?"  Because really, I was so pissed now, and did anyone really think I was going to bail him out at this time, with a 5 month old baby in tow?  At two in the morning?

Hell, no!

Turns out that he was arrested with the dog.  They wanted me to get the dog.  I said no.  The dog can go to doggy jail for being his accomplice for all I cared, and I would pick her up when I was good in ready in the morning.  As far as my husband, he could bail himself out and walk home.  And yes, I said this to the cop.

I also told him to make sure they searched the car very well.  I was told that they did, but didn't find anything illegal.

Obviously, my anger well overtook any fear I had, but this was very much the biggest fear I'd felt in recent times.

And, as an aside- a friend of my husband's picked up the dog and dropped her off that night.  One thing I remember clearly that night was watching them pull in the driveway; Freida (my dog) was sitting in the passenger seat of the truck, her eyes quite relieved to see her house.

My husband walked home from the police station. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

I'm All Over Blogtember!



I came across this awesome idea from Sew Fantastic and found the original blog source and wanted in! I was one of those kids in school that beamed at the thought of an essay assignment, which continued through college. Even in grad school our scholarly papers were never a bother; except that I was frequently told to keep my page limits within the guidelines. That is how much I love writing. I could just write, and write, and write. Life seems to get in the way of it, though, so this daily blog challenge is going to truly be a challenge. But a fun one.

The topic for today is: Pass on some useful advice or information you learned and always remembered.

Of course, this one is actually hard.

The first thing that comes to mind is actually something from my former career. When I first entered maternity care nursing, labor and delivery gave me palpitations. It seemed so scary. Life or death scary. So much so that my first L&D job was a total clusterfuck (on everyone's part). My anxiety was awful, and working in one of the roughest places was probably not the best choice. So I had given up on L&D nursing for quite some time until I moved to NH and took a job that required that I learn labor and birth.

I was several years older, and had told my NH employer that I was scared. My previous experiences were not pleasant, to say the least, and they actually cared to make sure I was successful. They gave me to an experienced nurse for precepting, and it was she that wiped away any anxiety left in my brain.

We were reviewing fetal monitoring strips, discussing the fine points of our interpretation, when she said to me, "Jamie, always look for the positive. Don't go searching for the negative right away."
This advice was the best given to me, as almost always, there were positive findings to be had. She certainly hadn't meant to ignore troublesome tracings, or question something, but to change my viewpoint to always go for positive first was a game changer.

So I think that this came to my mind because it is actually something I remind myself to do everyday. It's not easy to follow. I think my brain is hard wired to immediately go to the negative. I am typically a glass half empty person, or at the very least a person waiting for someone to empty the glass!
Several years back a friend and I began to test the theory of The Secret. I am embarrassed to say that I watched the movie and bought the book, but it actually was an interesting experiment. My brother had been using The Law of Attraction for years, and it did appear to work for him. He started a very successful business, began dating his wife, and is comfortable financially. So, what the hell....my friend and I began using positive language during conversation, and I even tried the tricks they talk about in The Secret. And they worked. Mind you, this was a very heavy time in my life: I was looking for a midwifery job, trying to pay off debt, attempting to lose a significant amount of weight, and dealing with the day to day with my mother's extremely rare cancer diagnosis- a diagnosis in which even the world renowned specialists at Dana Farber didn't quite know how to treat.
I even started training my brain to think and look for the positive. I read affirmations to myself every day. As I fell asleep at night, I would also say them to myself. I never let myself get too deep into negative thoughts.

What happened with surrounding myself in positive thoughts?
 
Well, I lost 75 pounds. My mom was "cured". (She is almost 5 years cancer free!). I ended up being contacted for a midwifery job that was the perfect fit. I was able to pay off all of the debt, except for my student loan.
 
And then life went on....as I mentioned before my brain is hard wired for negativity. I wasn't keeping up with the positive. I wasn't looking for it the way I was. And things changed. Not necessarily for the better at the time, although, having brought myself back to the positive mindset things are better. But it's work.
 
I guess this was easier than I thought for my first Blogtember post. Bottom line: Always look for the positive.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Really? A Vagina Steam?

This is freaking ridiculous!

The other day on twitter I came across this tweet about getting your vagina a steam bath.  Apparently it's basically sitting on a chair with a hole on it, in which a steaming pipe of some such flushes your vagina with steam infused with herbs.

I don't know whether I should laugh or be outraged.  I can tell you in my 37 years there have definitely been times I've had thoughts like, "Boy, I could really go for a spa treatment like a massage or a pedicure".  But NEVER have I thought my vagina needed a trip to the spa.  If anything, I've had thoughts of wishing it could be left alone (many years of time intercourse, many pelvic procedures to work up infertility, pregnancy and birth....you get my idea here)!

Ladies: you don't need to steam your vagina.  There is no evidence that proves this "works" for the things it claims to do.  All the steam is doing is warming your backside and vulva, and well, it's really ridiculous.  If you like that feeling, fine, but don't expect to end up having a perfect vagina out of this.

The thing about vaginas is that they are really quite magical.  You laugh, but I can tell you that they are!  They are self cleaning, they can stretch to accommodate newborns of varying sizes, and can heal back up like nothing happened!  So just leave them alone.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Giveaway!

My company, Bourgeois Baby, is featured on the blog Stand and Deliver.  I've been following Rixa for years (since before her oldest was born) on her blog as I was pre-midwifery school at the time and loved her take on modern maternity care. 

So it seemed natural to me to contact her and offer up my products for review, and even better, a giveaway!

Visit Rixa's blog to enter.  The giveaway ends September 1st, 2013.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Conflict

I was listening to a TED Talk today on NPR that caught my attention.  The particular segment was focused on Margaret Heffernan's talk on how conflict is good for change.  It made me think of my years in health care as both a registered nurse and more recently a nurse midwife, and the seemingly constant conflict of paradigms within maternity care.  My personal experience within that conflict was not pleasant, and I am still deeply affected by it.  But on a whole, the talk was a bit uplifting. 

Much of the talk focused on an example that occurred in health care.  During the 1950s, a research physician in England interested in epidemiology named Dr. Alice Stewart wanted to look at the cause(s) of childhood cancer.  Her approach was thorough, and in some ways revolutionary.  She asked the children's mothers.  Other researchers questioned her methods (like, "Why ask them? What do they know?").  But she did find a direct correlation: prenatal x-rays could statistically be linked to childhood cancers (leukemia specifically, I think).

Another interesting approach she took was hiring a statistician to make sure her research numbers were correct; that her findings and their interpretation was correct.  The man she hired was at some point quoted in saying it was his job to find Dr. Stewart wrong.  What I find especially interesting is that Dr. Stewart used someone not directly related to her field of research.  Very much not "peer review".  And with these particular data he couldn't find her wrong.

So Dr. Stewart went on to publish her findings in well respected medical journals about prenatal x-ray exposure and its dangers.  Her work seemed to be an obvious call to stop the routine practice of obstetrical x-rays due to the potential dangers to the fetus.

And what happened?  Her research was so conflicting with current thought that her work was scoffed.  Her methods were criticized.  And obstetrical x-rays were continued.  In fact, my mom had an obstetrical x-ray when she was pregnant with me.  That was in 1976!   My mom said that she questioned it's use, mostly because the reason she was given for needing the procedure was to make sure her hips were big enough for childbirth, and she argued that her hips were plenty big.  But she did it anyway, because the doctor said it was needed and pushed right back.

Obstetrical x-rays were abandoned soon after in the 1970s as Dr. Stewart continued her work on her original findings and finally got the "establishment" to listen.  But it took a lot of conflict.

What I drew a line to in  my own head is that much of what is routinely done in obstetrics today does have some research that conflicts with current practice.  I'm hoping in this age of evidenced based medicine/practice is that the conflicts won't need to be as long as the x-ray example.  One such thing that is studied quite a bit today is possible causes of autism, with a recent study that made the headlines that use of oxytocin during labor either for reasons of augmentation or induction of labor increases the chances of the child being diagnosed autistic.

With the rampant use of oxytocin in modern obstetrics, do you think that it will be easy to get use of drug down to much lower proportions?  I sure hope so, but I'm thinking this may be one of those cases that will take a lot of conflict.  And this is just one example.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Nap Genius

Vera had been absolutely terrible about taking naps recently despite being exhausted.  And when she wouldn't nap, I suddenly had a terror on my hands by 4PM that was full on whining, the word NO, hitting, throwing herself on the floor....you know what I mean.

Perhaps she is coming to the end of napping?  But...no....no....noooo!!! That can't be! She's too young to give up naps!  She is clearly tired!!!  And, I need that time for my sanity and work.

Talking to Kirsten about this, whose been there and done that not that long ago, suggested putting Vera to bed for her nap earlier.  Totally against what my instinct was, which included putting her to bed later in hopes being more tired would do the trick. 

So, I can announce that Kirsten is definitely a toddler nap genius.  Putting Vera to bed at least 30 minutes early has been the answer!  I put her in her "nap suit", put her in her crib, offer to tuck her in.  She turns to me and has said, "Bye, Mama!"  Smiling.  Happily.  No fighting or hitting me.  I once peaked at the door to see what she does when she thinks I have left, and she laid right down and covered herself over with her blanket.

Wow.  I have had so much time today to get work done, that I was able to take a break and write this post.  So, Kirsten, you are a genius!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Pet Marker

Today I was in my front yard taking some product pictures for Bourgeois Baby.  This was the first time I've used my front yard as a back drop but noticed that there was a perfect spot off to the side under some trees.  I took the products and other props for the pictures and set up near my property line.  Immediately, this flagstone caught my eye.  It was the first time in the 8 years I've lived in my house that I have ever seen this stone.


A marker, with only the year 1989 visible.

I got a small hand shovel to help uncover the rest.



I easily uncovered the rest of the marker, and also found the edge of a wooden box, the one visible screw closing it up had begun to pop out.  I swept the spot to get a better look, and immediately the sun made it's way through the trees and down on the marker.

How fitting this pet, who lived from 1978 to 1989, was named Sunshine.

 And finally, one last look before I began taking product pictures:

A loved pet. I wish I knew if it was a cat or dog.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Interfacing

If you are new to appliques of any kind, whether sewing by hand or machine, the inside of the garment will have stitching exposed.  When machine embroidering, a stabilizer is used, but not all appliques require a stabilizer.  There are all sorts of ways to approach appliques, and I've come across many sites, tutorials, and sewing magazines that say you MUST do things exactly as they describe.  As soon as I see the word "must" or similar, I wonder, "Really?  I think I've just been offered a challenge!" and so I set off to see if I can find another way to complete the project.

So I have done a lot of playing around with appliques.  There are two ways I've found I like best when applying an applique to a clothing item, which I will talk about later.  And both ways leave the inside stitching exposed.  This I didn't care for because I was always afraid of unraveling and it didn't have a professional look.  Many children's ready to wear clothing that has some sort of applique embellishment has an inside interfacing covering that stitching. 

Enter Pellon Sheer-Knit fusible!  Love, love, love this stuff!  It is super easy to use, and gives that professional finished touch.  It is very light weight and the right side of this fusible is very smooth on the skin, making it the perfect interfacing for this application. I buy it off the bolt, and it's not very expensive. (I believe it is around $4/yard at my local Joann, and a little over $2 a yard with their weekly 40% off coupon!)  There are also precut pieces available at some stores, but I think pricing by the bolt is better.  Another name for this type of interfacing is Tricot interfacing.

Instructions come with this, but I found that I needed to have a very damp cloth and apply my very hot iron for quite some time (like 30 seconds or more, depending on how damp the cloth is).

The picture also gives a very quick instruction, but basically just do this:

-Cut your fusible to cover the inside of the garment's applique stitches with a bit of an allowance past the stitches. 
-Place the ROUGH side down.  The SMOOTH side should be facing up.
-Using a damp cloth over the interfacing (I use a washcloth) and a warm to hot iron, press down and use a gliding motion to cover the entire interfacing.  The instructions state to press on the right side of the fabric, but I press directly to the damp cloth.  I found this to be more effective, but it may be just because of the thicker fabrics I use.
-Allow to cool for a minute and check to make sure that your interfacing is completely fused.  I do this by rubbing my fingers lightly across the edges.  If they begin to lift, I repress. 

And that is all!  If you haven't used this, give it a try.  I'd love to know what others use on their appliques.



Monday, August 5, 2013

Underwires, You Suck

These suckers are bigger than my head! *Mustache added for comic effect. It's not real. Seriously.


Another thing I hate?  Underwire bras. 

Even when I was thin, I wasn't crazy about them, but when you wear an "average" size (I was previously floating between a 34B-36C in my thin days) the actual underwire is proportionate to your rib cage and breast size.

Now, in a 40DDD or 40H/F (depending on the brand), an underwire is a torture device that is literally larger than my head.  The makers of these torture devices are under the false notion that when you gain weight OR wear a larger size, your rib cage must be equally large. 

Let me tell you: when you gain weight, your bones don't grow.  Sure, all of my circumference measurements grew with my weight gain.  But let me repeat: MY BONES DID NOT.  My breasts may have grown to be as big as my head, but they still are attached to a rib cage that didn't enlarge in itself.  I gained some padding around my back, hence the increase to a size 40 band size.  But really, if you lay out the underwires in a plus size bra, they are much too wide.

So, these wires will poke and dig.  The dig down in my chest and poke my underarms continuously.  They will literally rub my skin raw if I have to wear them longer than 5 minutes.

Recently I bought a casual bathing suit, and I had no choice but to buy a top with those damn wires.  I wore the top with the wires in it a few times and looked like a fool fussing with it.  The top fit perfectly fine, but those damn wires were ruining everything. 

It dawned on my after a few torture sessions in the pool that I could take my snips and carefully remove them!  And, let me tell you!  What a freaking relief!

This opens up a whole new world of bras for me!  I haven't yet bought an underwire bra yet, but when I find one I like, and fits with the exception of the wire, I now know that I can just snip that damn thing out, and enjoy a nice bra.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Mt. Washington Resort and Spa Excursion




Back side of the hotel, which overlooks the mountains
It was not long enough, let me start by saying that. 

Kirsten and I went for a night to the Mt. Washington Resort and Spa for some child free pampering.  If you haven't been and love a calm, beautiful, and pampering type vacation this is the place.  But they also have tons of activities as well, so if you like hiking, zip-lining, golf, etc, this is still the place to go.





From the lookout deck, which is above the spa
 
The main staircase
Small detail of stairway
Looking through the main lobby


Antique Books
 
Antique door knob
 
Stained glass


What is an extra bonus about the resort is that it is reportedly haunted.  I first learned of the haunting claims from the show Ghost Hunters, with the episode back in about 2008 that has incredible electronic voice phenomenon (EVP).  I knew then I had to go, and my first trip was with my husband.  I had my own little experience when I was there in what is called the Gold Room.  I was looking over the displays of historic ephemera and the like, waiting for my husband to return from where ever he was.  I heard him enter the room and come over to me, and without looking I started talking to him.  But it wasn't him.  The sense of a presence was strong, although I was the only person in the room.  This time, the Gold Room was part of their renovation in progress so all of the historical trinkets were gone. 
This time Kirsten and I had no personal paranormal experiences.  Everytime that we entered the hallway to our room, Kirsten would comment on how much like the movie The Shining it looked like.  You know, the scene with the twin girls down the hall.  So I decided to capture a picture of the hallway to show my family.  I've included the pictures of the hall, which were taken in succession in under 2 minutes.  You can make of them what you will. Absolutely no editing was done on the following three:


Picture 1 
 

Picture 2 
 

Picture 3






Me, performing in the Grand Ballroom

The hotel has kept it's late Victorian era charm.  The architecture and details are not at all this exquisite in newly built resorts.  As soon as you are in the lobby, I can just picture as clear as if I was one of the Ladies of Leisure dressed in their afternoon promenade finest strolling through.  The ballroom speaks of entertainment done with orchestras and live entertainment while well dressed couples waltzing.  It is now used for weddings.
 
 


The best part of my stay is the spa.  Seriously, I could live this life of the rich.  Cater to my every need or just whim?  Yes, please!!  I got an awesome pedicure, and also spent (not enough) time in the ladies lounge.

Unfortunately, the cloud cover did not allow for any decent shots of the mountains, but that didn't take away from the beautiful scenery.  The entire resort building has a wrap around deck (in which you can order anything you want for food and drinks) with lounge furniture so you can just soak in the views.

(And if you are wondering, the Moose doll wearing a bib is part of a marketing promo Bourgeois Baby will be doing soon!)

 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Word I Hate

Panties.

I hate that word.  Really.  Even typing it makes me cringe.

Growing up my underwear was called, well, underwear.  Or undies for short.  My mother never called them panties and so when I heard others say it, it sounded funny.  When I got older and able to choose my own underwear, the types that could be classified as "panties", I still called them underwear.  No one ever pointed out that I only referred to my underwear as underwear.  Except my husband, who loves to taunt me and try to get me riled up ready to go on and on why I can't stand the word.

It wasn't until I was well into my 20s that I realized why I hate the word.  Panties is sexualized.  It seems anti-feminist.  It's also used in the colloquialism, "Don't get your panties in a bunch"; basically a derogatory way of telling a woman to calm her irrational feelings.

When I hear mothers say to their young daughters, "Make sure you have clean panties with you" or something like that, I cringe.  I feel like it is prepping young girls to feel like they need "cute" and then as they get older "sexy" underthings.

I've watched many true crime shows in which rape and or rape/murder is the topic, and the victim's "panties" are used as evidence.  The use of the word panties in this context seems to be an ever so subtle nod to the woman having some ownership to the assault.  Perhaps this is because I can't stand this word as I see it charged with sexism, but none the less, I cringe at lawyers talking about the victim's "panties".

When you see a picture of a model in underwear, the catalog or advertisement has the word PANTIES pasted all around a young woman with her butt cheeks hanging out while seeming to find herself in some innocently exotic pose.  You know, that subtle marketing to tell you that you need those "panties" to feel sexy and good about yourself.

If you see an advertisement of good ol' cotton "briefs", all you see is a crop picture of a modest pelvis swaddled in waist high, low cut thigh underwear.  It shows you the product.  And that is all.  For me, that is all I need.  But I don't need panties.  I wear underwear.  The kind that covers everything, is comfortable, and practical.  Just don't call them freaking panties, because I am not ever in panties!  I am a human being that wears underwear; just like men.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Just Back

Today I returned from a very short but sweet trip with my good friend Kirsten from the Mt. Washington Resort and Spa.

Holy cannoli, it was awesome and when I say there was not enough time in just a one night stay, there is just not enough time.  I took a lot of pics, and will post them soon. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Swimming

I've recently got myself back into the pool.  As a kid, you could have confused me with a fish with how much I loved being in water.  I took swim lessons until I was about 10 (when my mother pulled me out because I was told my lap times required me to stay back and repeat a class, to which she replied, "Well, you did learn how to swim" so that was that even though I wanted to keep going and try out for the swim team).  I had a pool through junior high and high school that I used every single day.

Then I gained some weight.  And more weight.  And I was unable to find a bathing suit that I both liked and fit in a regular store, so I gave up.  I decided I was an adult and no longer had either the time and desire to go swimming or even spend some relaxation around a pool.

But I was really just fooling myself.  My fatness was keeping me from swimming.  Finally I've come to realize and admit this to myself.

My daughter and I go to our local YMCA several times a week, and I take her into the pool.  She loves it, and so do I.  But initially, the process of getting me into the pool took some psychic cheerleading.  First, I would have to invest in a bathing suit, and one that I felt would adequately cover me in public.  I joked initially that I needed a swim burqa (there are such things for Muslim women) to look socially acceptable but settled on long board shorts and long tankini top.

First time swimming in this suit felt weird because I was being self conscious and I really didn't like the feeling of shorts to my knees in water.  But I didn't feel like anyone at the pool was staring at me in any obvious way or whispering behind their hands about the fat lady in the long swim shorts, blah blah blah.

And the more I got in the pool, I started to shed my self consciousness.  So much now, that I decided to take up lap swimming for my exercise.  Previously I had been using the track to walk a few miles and use free weights, etc, but I recently went off my medication that helps control my joint pain (I have a chronic connective tissue/rheumatology disease- yes, yes, I am one of those people) because the side effects were just intolerable so walking and what not was not as enjoyable on my body.

But the pool felt awesome!  And with my rekindled love of swimming, it only made sense to start lap swimming again.  Good on my joints, awesome cardiovascular exercise. 

Except those board shorts and tankini top were just not going to do for laps.  I went online and bought myself an athletic swim suit.  Basically, a traditional tank suit meant for actual real swimming.  I also bought some awesome goggles and as soon as they arrived, I couldn't wait to get into the pool!

By this point, I had really begun the mental shift in my head about my size separate of this decision to go back to lap swim.  What fully emotionally liberated me was posting this other post, which I have to admit I am surprised has not received much feedback at all.  I mean, it's a pic of a fat lady.  It's one of the most controversial images in the American culture.  But, I digress...

I put that bathing suit on, strapped those goggles to my head, and strut out to the pool for lap swim with my head up.  Seriously.  Whether I walk in to the pool area with my conservative pool shorts or my traditional tank suit that shows all of my cellulite and hugs all my abdominal rolls, people can see I'm obese.  And if they are going to judge, they will do so no matter what suit I wear.  There was one occasion that I walked by a group of parents who were watching their kids in a swim class that was going on, and one father was making no effort to cover his disgust at the site of me walking by.  But I looked him in the eye as I walked and smiled.  I so wanted to say, "Yes, I'm fat!  I know! But can you swim laps for an hour without stopping?"  My guess is probably not.  And I didn't say anything, but there was no way his obvious repulsion at the sight of a fat woman in a bathing suit was going to stop my love of swimming and showing up in a regular suit.






And on that note, a picture that inspired this post! 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Update: Pin Test of White Vinegar Manicure

I previously reviewed a popular pin on Pinterest about using white vinegar as a way to keep your manicure from chipping.  Initially I thought this was a good trick, but after I took the original polish off my nails kept peeling and splitting.

I gave my nails a rest from any polish, and kept them super short to keep them from peeling any worse than they already were.  But they also felt very weak, and wanted to give them a little strength.  I ended up polishing my super short nails with Sallie Hansen NailGrowth Miracle in a clear base coat, and used Sallie Hansen Diamond Strength in lavender.

As mentioned before, I do my nails after Vera goes to bed.  I let them dry before going to bed myself but I almost immediately noticed that none of the bumps occurred like they did with the vinegar version.

So I guess that the vinegar did cause the bumps, although I did use a different nail polish brand the first time.  Either way, I won't be using the vinegar again.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Another Birth Story

For the birth junkies, I will add my story to the numerous birth stories that can be read out on the internet.  Part of this is a way I can work into some other things that led to the demise of my health care career, but for now it will focus solely on my personal birth story.

As a little background, it took quite some time to actually get pregnant.  We started trying actively in the early fall 2009, and I got pregnant in January 2010.  But unfortunately, this pregnancy ended in a miscarriage at 8 weeks.  It was a devastating loss for me, and I had a very hard time picking myself up emotionally.

But we kept trying.  And I got fairly aggressive about it.  I did the LH surge (ovulation predictor kits) tests every month to time things just right.  I also kept track of everything in terms of my cycles.  With my midwifery knowledge, I soon realized that we were dealing with a very short luteal phase (any where between 8-10 days).  Because of this I contacted an infertility physician and got started with the process.  I'll leave it to that, as this in itself could be take up an entire post by itself.

In December 2010, I took a pregnancy test for the sole purpose to stop using the disgusting progesterone suppositories.  But it was positive.  I couldn't believe it.  I did two more over the course of a few days, and each one was positive (with a progressively darker line on the stick). 

So started my pregnancy with my daughter.  And now after years of working with pregnant women, having studied all sorts of normal and abnormal pregnancy stuff as a midwife, thought I'd have a good handle on it.  I was wrong.  I also thought that I'd enjoy being pregnant and the experiences related to it.  Again, I was wrong.

I hid my pregnancy, which wasn't hard given my weight and body size, until about 20 weeks at work.  The two nurses I worked with on a daily basis knew I was pregnant because I was so nauseous and had about two whole foods I could tolerate for most of my pregnancy that it was difficult to not share with the people who saw me all day long.

Around 28 weeks, I started to physically feel like a pregnant women in the sense of the weight.  My pelvis hurt almost constantly and my two close nurse friends at work told me I waddled.  I was also diagnosed with gestational diabetes around this time, and found it so challenging because my food aversions were so strong.  There left very little for me to eat to keep my blood sugars down while actually liking what I was eating.  But somehow within three days of diagnosis, I had controlled my sugars with diet alone.

Except on a rainy, crappy, June Saturday when I turned 31 weeks, I felt terrible.  Just extremely tired, achy, not right.  Nothing specific but I spent the day laying on my couch and knitting.  I ended up in bed by 8:30pm that night because I was so exhausted.  My last blood sugar of the day was in the 130s, which was high for me at that time.  But, nothing about that day triggered anything in me that something was wrong.

At 2:15am, I woke with a start.  I remember quite clearly thinking, "Oh my gosh! I can't believe I slept this long without needing to pee!" at the exact time I felt hot warm liquid coming out of me.  I jumped out of bed quickly, afraid that I was peeing the bed.  But by the time I reached the bathroom, I knew that this was not urine.  My inability to control it, not to mention the classic amniotic smell I was more than familiar with was the tip off.  I hopped on the toilet and it was just pouring out of me.  When I stood up, it poured all over my bathroom floor.  There was so much freaking amniotic fluid that I was worried if the cord had prolapsed.  I wasn't feeling the baby move, but in the two or so weeks prior to this I wasn't feeling much movement anyhow.

I was at the hospital within 30 minutes.  I wasn't contracting, at least what I could tell, but the fetal monitor was showing contractions every five minutes.  It was pretty obvious my water broke, so much so that the doctor only did an exam to collect specimens for infections as a possible cause and to visually look at my cervix, which was completely closed.

The plan at this point was to admit me, keep me on bedrest and monitoring until 34 weeks, then induce labor.  I'd get the standard preterm premature rupture of membranes plan.  Antibiotics, bedrest, steroids, no vaginal exams.

My daughter and body had other plans entirely.  By 6 am, I was contracting uncomfortably enough to not be able to talk during them.  By 7 am, they were getting stronger and closer together.  By 8 am, I was totally unable to cope, and my plans to hypnobirth went right out the window.  My husband kept leaving the room (more on this nonsense at another time), and my planned doula was already post-call (she was a midwife friend of mine), and my nurse had another patient that was very needy.  Oh, and the hospital I delivered at was the hospital I worked as a labor nurse.  They knew me, and I knew them.  This was good and bad.  The good at this moment was that I told my nurse that I needed her to get rid of her other patient.  She totally obliged.  And also, it just happened to work out that all of the staff that was with me during my labor and birth were all doctors and nurses that I enjoyed working with.  I did feel safe knowing that I was in their hands.

My contractions at this point were every 2-3 minutes and totally awful.  I needed to take my glasses off and press my eyes with an ice cold washcloth in order to not literally rip my eyeballs right out of the sockets.  I seriously was thinking that I needed to rip my eyeballs out during my contractions.  Totally irrational, but that is what I felt.  Many of the contractions were not fully relaxing in between peaks, and it was feeling like it wasn't letting up.

By 9:30am, I had an epidural.

Yes, you read that right.  I. Got. An. Epidural.  At my request.

It was placed before I even realized we started.  It worked like a charm.  Fortunately, no visible side effects (because you know once I was feeling less pain, I was looking at that damn fetal monitor).  Around 10:30am, my daughter's heart rate took a dive.  All the usual stuff was done to help it go back up, and it did.  The doctor checked my cervix and I was 5 cm.

Another heart rate dive occurred at 11am, and now I was 7 cm.  About 15 minutes later, I was feeling some pressure near my pubic bone, and I was complete at +2 station.  Everyone got ready for my daughter's imminent birth.

I started pushing at 11:20, and my daughter was born at 11:41am.  She came out like a rocket; I felt her head literally "pop" right out and seeing the doctor fumble a little at catching the rest of her body as it shot out.  Initially they placed her on my belly, and she had only her right eye open.  She looked just like me in my own newborn photo, and I even said this out loud.  But she was whisked quite quickly to the neonatologist and NICU nurse. 

Vera was born quite vigorous (I think she had APGARS of 7 & 8), and the neonatologist was very happy she showed such good signs.  But within minutes, she very clearly was having some respiratory difficulty, and turning a bit gray.  They wrapped her up, brought her over to me for a quick kiss before she was put into a rolling isolette and brought to the NICU.

My adrenaline kicked in, and I felt ready to jump up and run to the NICU to be with her, but of course was reminded that I needed to take care of a few things on myself.  I needed one stitch inside my vagina, but that was all.  I examined my placenta, which was as large and healthy looking.  Actually, it was as big as a full term placenta.

The official cause for my preterm birth is unknown.  All tests were negative for any type of infection, and there was no other obvious reason documented.  However, my own diagnosis was polyhydramnios (too much amniotic fluid). Had I not given birth, the following day I had an ultrasound scheduled because my fundal heights were measuring very large.  I believe at 30 weeks, the doctor had measured 40 weeks.  Also, in hindsight, the fact that I started to feel less fetal movement was probably because there was so much fluid.  My belly, until the moment all that water came out of me, was as tight as a drum.  And I had one of the biggest known risk factors: gestational diabetes.

But, because there was never an official amniotic fluid index done prior, no one can actually formally call it so.  But, that's very likely the cause.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Personal Struggle

I've been struggling a little with a few things about my past career, and those of you who have come by via my previous life's blog and wonder what about....don't worry.  I'm sure it will all be like verbal/blog/post diarrhea all over the place here. 

I just need time to be ready to discuss all the points and collect my thoughts.  It's not a simple reason or even one reason needing elaboration.  It's going to be a multitude of things that just culminated into one giant clusterfuck.

What ended up terminating my career (originally on a temporary basis, so I thought) was the birth of my daughter.  She was born unexpectedly at 31 weeks.  It was probably one of the most traumatic events of my personal life, and spun things into such a downward spiral that I was unable to return to work.  This is such an oversimplification of actual events, but will suffice for now.

Now, over 2 years later, I've gone down a completely unexpected path.  But it is a welcome one, and one that I am glad to have landed on.  I love where I am at today, and the struggles in the last few years has made it possible to appreciate it all that much more.

Repurposed Window Valance

If you have one of those nursery sets, it probably came with one measly window valance.  If your baby's room only has one window, you are all set.  But if not, you either have to purchase another matching valance (if one is even available to purchase separately) or buy an entirely separate set that coordinates with the set.  Or, if you want to be crafty you could make some.

At the time that my daughter's nursery was being put together, I was in no shape to actually make two window valances to match (more on why later).  So I bought some simple valances at Target but hung on to the single valance that came with her set.  And finally, it came to me what to do with it.

I originally posted this repurposed window valance for her nursery on my business blog, but thought it would be suited to post here as well.  To see exactly what I did, click here.

This is the final product, but I'd love to see how you repurposed something for your child's room.



The other thing I did with her nursery set was take the crib quilt and hang it as wall d├ęcor.  It is not recommended to use the crib quilt for infants, and now that she is 2 and could use blankets safely she prefers wearable blankets.  So, all off her nursery set got used in some way.