it's about life, my life, quilts, midwifery, and whatever else occurs to me.

28 September 2013

Stories from Dad #1: Birth, 1951-style

A new occasional feature, capturing my Dad's memories while he is still around to tell them. This one, starring me! 

It was the evening, or maybe late afternoon, of August 28, 1951. Mom's water broke, and Dad brought her over to the hospital. 

At the time, Dad was part of the broadcast team for the local baseball team, the Elmira Pioneers, an A-league farm team for the Brooklyn Dodgers. 

Interesting fact: during that same 1951 season, Don Zimmer, then a Pioneers player and later the bench coach of the New York Yankees, got married at home plate, Dunn Field (the Pioneers' home stadium). Wonder what the bride really thought about that!

The Pioneers had a home game that night, and Mom apparently wasn't doing much in the way of contractions so she sent him off to the game. He left the phone number of the broadcast booth with the labor room nurses in case 'something happened I should know about'. But nothing did, and after the game, around 10:15 pm, he stopped off at the hospital to see how things were going with Mom. 

(Ed. note: I was surprised to hear they let him in to see her, being under the impression that until the late 60s or even later, fathers were banished entirely until the bundles of joy were out, cleaned up and moms likewise cleaned up, spiffy in their new pink nightgowns and beaming with bundle of joy in arms. But perhaps not. Or maybe it was up to the doctor in charge, and he would have let Dad in. Anyway on with the story.)

Dad stayed with Mom for (he says) about an hour or so. (I couldn't get him to clarify this so I'm just guessing that she still wasn't doing much contracting.) He left to go get some sleep and given the 'not much happening', the GP who was our family doctor and Mom's attending doc - since other than being a bit old, she was normal, and GPs did births all the time back then - would also have been home trying to get some sleep until needed for the big event.

Home for both Dad and Doc Gridley was Horseheads, only about 6 miles north of Elmira but at the time requiring a long distance call and the services of an actual human operator. When the labor nurse saw that I was getting ready to make my debut, she called Doc - and called - and called - and the Horseheads operator never answered. In the end it was some intern who caught me, unless it was actually the nurse but she had to credit the doctor for it. Because, good heavens, how could someone who's not a doctor catch a baby on their own responsibility!!?? That was at 2:34 am on Wednesday, August 29.

Dad says he got a call from the hospital around 7 am to tell him he had another daughter. (I haven't asked if he was disappointed about me not being a boy. Too threatening.) Presumably he was soon enough at Mom's bedside admiring the new bundle.

That bundle would later: cause so much trouble in her first grade class that she was sent up to second grade; set a kitchen on fire; read left-wing periodicals; vote Democratic; throw tear gas canisters back at police; hitchhike across the country and back twice; experiment with illegal mind-altering chemicals; convert to Judaism; and get divorced. Had he known all this at the time, I am certain he would have been horrified.

It was later determined that the hapless telephone operator had fallen asleep at the switch(board), and sadly, though not unsurprisingly, was sacked for it. 

And that's the story.

03 July 2013

Three rants

This has been coming for a while now.

 Rant #1: 'High school degree'. I read this only a few weeks ago in the soi-disant Paper of Record, the august New York Times. My understanding has always been that only people who complete a course of study at a college or university get a Degree, whereas what you get when you finish high school is called a Diploma. But it's possible I could be wrong. So, let's see what the DICTIONARY has to say:

from The Free Dictionary: An academic title given by a college or university to a student who has completed a course of study: received the Bachelor of Arts degree at commencement.

from Merriam-Webster: a title conferred on students by a college, university, or professional school on completion of a program of study.

And when you google "high school degree", guess what comes up?

Now we have three sources that say I'm right: the words 'degree' and 'high school' do not belong together. So dammit, New York Times and everyone else in the world, get it right!

Rant #2: 'Emergency cesarean section'. This terminology is used in Oz to describe a c-section done when the woman is already in labor. Now some of them are indeed emergencies: a prolapsed umbilical cord, for example; or massive hemorrhage. But in Oz, the term is applied not just to these rare and actually life-threatening situations but to ANY cesarean on any woman in labor, or I guess I should say labour since it's Oz we're talking about.

Referring to Merriam-Webster again, we find an 'emergency' is: an unforeseen combination of circumstances or the resulting state that calls for immediate action.

And this from the Oxford Dictionary online: a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action.

Anyone who has worked in a labor and birth unit knows that while immediate action may be needed in some 'emergency cesarean' situations like the ones cited above, there are many others - possibly even the majority -  where the problem is that the baby just isn't coming out the usual way. And while you wouldn't want any undue delays, as long as the mother and baby are both stable, there is no 'emergency'. I think another slightly less fraught term should be substituted. Something like, say, 'cesarean section in labour'.

Rant #3: Hobby Lobby. My nominee for the most nauseating and obnoxious business name ever. Not only does the rhymey name itself make my teeth itch, but it's a chain of craft supplies stores where odds are everything in the whole place was made in Chinese sweatshops. It's owned by religious nutjobs who quite illogically oppose both abortion AND the only thing that actually decreases the need for abortion, i.e., contraception. Here is the latest on that front Maybe it would be okay for HL (I can't even bring myself to write it out again, never mind say it out loud) not to allow even their medical insurance provider to cover contraceptives without a co-pay if the company were to pay their employees a real living wage and while we're at it, how about a bonus for every baby? But according to, the starting hourly rate for a cashier is a meager $7.85 and even managers top out at under $20/hour. I can't say I hope they go out of business, because that would mean a lot of people would be unemployed and even worse off than they are now, but  let's just say I wouldn't be sorry to see them get bought out by Costco.

By no means is my ranting done, but I think 3 is a good number for a blog post. I like that I included one US usage, one Australian usage, and one evil business; I didn't plan it that way, it just happened, but it has a certain appeal and perhaps will be a template for future rantful posts. Cheers mate!  

06 May 2013

Uncertainty is life

Where has the time gone? As of January, we've been in the Treehouse for 4 years, and as of last month, in Oz for 4 1/2. That means that our first 5 years in Oz are rapidly coming to a close. And let me tell you there's nothing like the impending end of an employment contract to get you thinking about, well, pretty much everything.

Now that I'm no longer a student, I have the opportunity to look for a job. But where should I look? In pursuit of a return to the US, Phil's job hunting back there, but nothing has come up on that front yet. UQ would like him to stay, and that's looking likely at least for another year. So then, look here. But what if a US job comes through for Phil? So then, wait.

Further in pursuit of a return to the US, we've put the Treehouse on the market. Now, the Treehouse isn't your ordinary house. It will not appeal to the average person. You need to be a bit adventurous to live here, and not mind spiders or geckos. You need to appreciate the quirks and not mind the upkeep too much. Knowing this, we decided to sell up as soon as we can, after which we'll either move our stuff and ourselves back to the US, or move to a more modestly-sized rental in Brisbane for however much longer we're here. After a month on the market and 4 open houses, accompanied first by online and now by print advertising ($$$$!), we've had exactly 0 serious interest. At least we can say that we correctly anticipated a tough sell. 3 more open houses and we go to auction on the 25th of May, and see what happens.

But even this is fraught. What if a buyer wants to close quickly? What will we do with all our stuff, which now fills 11 rooms and the storage space under the house, and only some of which we need to have to hand? Rent storage (an action I vowed never to take)? Engage a mover now for storage until we actually do leave? Clearly triaging of possessions will be required and these will include some that were not mine originally and that I didn't want to bring here in the first place. Fireworks will ensue, I have no doubt.

So supposing we stay: what sort of job should I look for? I haven't practiced midwifery in nearly 5 years but I have no immediate prospects for practice here. No one's hiring except one midwifery education program; they want a full-time person, and I don't want to work full-time. I just helped my physio PhD advisor write a grant that includes a 0.8 FTE research assistant position, and I might be a candidate for that position, IF she gets the grant and IF it's funded. Did I get a PhD to be a research assistant? 

Here are my big worries: What if 6 months go by and the house hasn't sold? What if Phil finds a job in the US and the house hasn't sold? What if we can't sell it for enough to at least get our down payment back after we pay off the mortgage and the real estate agent's fee and still have enough left to fund the move back?

And, not so big but a factor nonetheless: we could be leaving before I've had a chance to see Perth, and Darwin, and Singapore, and Thailand and NZ, and some of those islands in the S. Pacific. It's a long and expensive way to come on a holiday from the US. If that weren't the case, we would have had more visitors here at the Treehouse. So, as much as I want to go back and be Marmee, I also want to stay and see more of this part of the world while it's a shorter and cheaper trip to do so.

So, there it all is, but I have to stop thinking about it before my head explodes. Channeling Scarlett O'Hara - I'll think about it tomorrow.

01 February 2013

Animals you might see at (or near) our house

This post is for Amity (happy birthday, little Groundhog!) and Zara! Here are some of the animals you may see while you're visiting Oz.

1. Geckos

Geckos are small, very fast, and a bit shy, so you usually only see them very briefly. They are helpful because they eat spiders and mosquitoes. They look like this:

They make a sort of chirping sound which can be pretty loud when you think about how small they are. It sounds like this:

2. Gecko poo

Where there are geckos, there is gecko poo. It's hard to tell from the photo, but a poo is very small, about the size of a grain of long-grain rice. It almost always has a little white dot at one end, which is the gecko's pee. This is what it looks like:

3. Cockroaches

I know this may sound rather unpleasant, but better to be forewarned. The sort of climate we have here is very welcoming for all kinds of creatures, not all of which are ideal neighbours, and cockroaches are in that category. Usually if you see one in the house, it will be dead and look like this:

But sometimes they are alive and look like this:

I haven't seen any lately so I hope they've moved on.

4. Tiny little black ants

They're so small I couldn't even find any photos of them. They aren't much bigger than this apostrophe: '  They tickle a bit when they crawl on you but don't hurt you. Best to leave ants alone though, because there are other kinds that aren't so nice and it can be hard to tell which ones you're looking at.

5. Spiders

Spiders have 8 legs and come in all sizes. They trap flies and mosquitoes in their webs so we usually leave them alone and they leave us alone. I see lots of daddy longlegs around, and  you've probably seen them too, because they're very common just about everywhere:

I sometimes see a spider sort of like this one, in a big web, and leave it alone to let it do its spidery work:

6. Water dragons

These guys are relatives of the geckos, but they're bigger, though also very shy. We sometimes have one visiting the pool.

7. Birds

Lately I mostly hear crows squawking around here. They're big and black:

We also see a lot of magpies around:

But sometimes one of our trees gets a visit from a kookaburra or two. They are native to Australia and have a very distinctive call:

And there are always the brush turkeys - they walk all through the neighbourhood:

8. Possums

Possums come out at night - they're nocturnal - and they sometimes have fights on our rooftop with a lot of hissing. They can be bold, but if you pretend you're going to chase them they run away.

I hope you liked this little introduction to our local animals.