Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Back in the studio.

This picture has nothing to do with the blog,
but isn't it cute?
I wrote a new song! I've got oodles of unrecorded tunes for future albums, but I hadn't actually written anything new in many many months. Maybe longer.

Even more exciting about having written a new tune is that I actually recorded it yesterday -- like for real, in a studio, with an audio engineer and a fancy mic. Said engineer was most excellent, and we recorded two accordion parts, a guitar, and a vocal, in less than thirty minutes. How's that for efficiency?

And I think it's got a home already on a compilation that'll come out next year. Yes, that means you won't hear it for a while, but I'm still happy that it's finished.

It felt good to put pencil to paper, pick to guitar, and hit record. I should do that more often.

Also, it turns out I really like a prompt -- you know, like old school creative writing class prompt, except for songs. Anyone have any new prompts for me? I'm taking requests.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Eat your watermelon seeds, people!

If you know me, you know that my favorite food is watermelon. People who think watermelon tastes the same as cucumber clearly do not have taste buds as evolved as mine. I would suggest that such people be punished, but I think the lack of taste of that delicious watermelon flavor is punishment enough.

Here's a fact about me that you might not know: I love watermelon seeds.

It's long been a source of contention between me and David. He thinks I'm weird because not only do I go out of my way to buy a seeded watermelon (seedless ones just don't taste the same), I also don't bother to scoop out the seeds when I'm eating a slice. Sometimes I'll just cut the top off a watermelon and just dig in with a spoon.

This isn't because I'm lazy and has nothing to do with me not matching my socks. I actually like the seeds. People eat pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and various other seeds -- why should watermelon seeds be treated so differently?

Now that David's got an iPhone and has instant Google, he did a little research for me this morning.

Did you know that a cup of watermelon seeds has 30 grams of protein? It turns out watermelon seeds not only add a wee bit of crunch to your delicious sweet treat, but they are actually really nutritious.

Take that, America!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Birth Story Part 2

Catch up on on the previous blog, Birth Story part 1 here.

Recap: It was somewhere around 3 am, our doula Nicola was there, and I was in the shower. I got out for a bit, watched Nicola knit a hat with rainbow yarn and told everyone I was getting back in the shower. That's when Nicola gave her first and only strong opinion of the labour. "I think if you get back in the shower, you won't get out unless you want a home birth."




At this point in my pregnancy, I'd actually become okay with the idea of a home birth (I think the more research you do on childbirth, the fewer interventions you want), but we hadn't prepared the flat for that at all. So David called the Royal Infirmary, which, thankfully, was no longer on divert and had one room left in the Lothian Birthing Centre. The midwife told him to go to triage rather than the birth centre, but Nicola suggested we ignore that and go directly to the birth centre. I was really worried that they wouldn't let me into the Birthing Centre because of my hospital visit earlier that week.

We lived at the end of this adorable dead end
cobblestone street.
We gathered our belongings and walked to Glenogle Road where Nicola was parked -- the end of our cobblestone street. She'd offered to back down our road, so I wouldn't have to walk. But I preferred a wee walk to a slow drive down cobblestones.


I was still contracting irregularly, but often, as I sat in the back of Nicola's "people mover," unbuckled, facing backwards, hugging the back of the seat, and grumbling whenever

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Haters and that PPD blog: Never read the comments!

It's probably a good thing I retired from my journalism career when I was 23 (did you know I used to work for network news? another blog perhaps...) because my skin isn't nearly thick enough to handle that. Truthfully, it's a lot thicker than I thought.

Last week's blog on PPD got over 2000 views the few hours and I received countless messages from women around the world who thanked me for the post and shared their own struggles (one even suggested I sponsor the post so that even more women would see it -- I did, though I'm not sure if that did any good because I don't really understand Facebook stats). Anyway, it was an amazing response, and further supported my point: that so many more new mothers are suffering than ever let on in public.

As with anything that goes slightly viral, however, there were haters out there. Either my medication is working times ten or I'm just not bothered by idiots anymore because, for the most part, I found the haters amusing -- especially because they were pretty much all posted by anonymous men.* (and not on my blog, but on some other weird forum)


I know the new first rule of internet journalism is "never read the comments" (but again, I retired from journalism years ago), but I couldn't resist being a voyeur on a message board people with men who called me a "punk-ass bitch" and a "whiny woman," all the while talking about "period parties" and how the writer (me!) should "shut her mouth and do her job, no?" Part of me wanted to respond to every jab individually, especially those who assumed that I lead some privileged life or don't work. Instead, I took some deep breaths, giggled, and looked away, resisting every urge to defend myself or troll around. It's not worth it.

Still, we wonder why so many women are quiet about PPD... 

In retrospect, it's not really a laughing matter.


* I also got plenty of messages of support from men, so I know it's not that simple.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Having a Baby Abroad: Birth story part 1

My husband's dissertation was due on August 30, and the baby was due on September 7. David asked me to keep my legs crossed until he handed his paper in, then he begged for a few days, perhaps even a week of nothing and laziness before we were overcome with a newborn. I taunted him by bouncing a bit too high on the yoga ball (the only comfortable place to sit in the entire house), ordering a spicy curry, and jumping off the sidewalk at a crosswalk. But the wee boy stayed inside.

Emily, the midwife, making a house
call when I was 40weeks+5days.
That's her black medical bag.
How cute is she??
He was born nine days "late." I use quotes because due dates are guesses. I think all they do is frighten women into thinking something is wrong if they go overdue and give friends a reason to write "Have you had that baby yet?" on people's Facebook walls. In many countries, they don't even give you a date -- just a range or even a month. I was thankful to be in Scotland while I was nine days "late" because they don't talk induction until two weeks past the due date. I've read far too many horror stories about inductions (and yes, I'm happy that yours went fine, but I didn't want one, okay?), and I was hoping to avoid one.

One fab thing about going overdue is that the midwives in Scotland make house calls at that point. It's not quite Call the Midwife, but it's not far off either. They don't wear those super-cute outfits, but some of them do ride bicycles. My 40-week appointment was in pajamas, in my own bed, sipping tea. Everything was fine with the baby, but I had a little something else going on with me -- I was losing some feeling on the left side of my face, most likely caused by the baby pushing on a nerve. Not a big deal, but enough that the midwife wanted to get a doctor's opinion.


I was sent to the hospital to have it checked out, and I was terrified that they would keep me there and induce me or c-section me -- I was five days overdue at that point. My normally low blood pressure was soaring because I hate hospitals and because I was freaking out. I explained to them that I was just having white coat syndrome (which is weird because doctors wear regular clothes over in the UK, not white coats). The doctor kindly gave me some time to myself with a glass of water, and even agreed to take my blood pressure manually rather than with the big scary machine that always makes me breathe heavily. Eventually, after several hours and some blood tests, the doctor said everything was fine, and I was sent home. (Who knows for sure, but I think if I'd been in America, I would have been induced, C-sectioned, or at the very least, not allowed to leave the hospital.)

I was home for another week before anything of interest happened.

The first contraction was at 11:15pm GMT on September 15th. I went back to sleep, thinking I might be able to get some good rest in between them (they're meant to be far apart in the beginning, right?) and feeling no reason to wake David, who had just finished watching an online Dr. Who marathon)  from his peaceful slumber. The second one was at midnight. David heard me get up to go to the bathroom, and he mumbled to ask if I was okay. "Yes, just a contraction, go back to sleep."

Wrong thing to say! He was immediately wide awake, grabbing my iPhone to start timing contractions. Oops.

The third one was at 12:03am. The next -- 12:05am. Then 12:10am. Then 12:13am. Now if you know anything about how labour is supposed to go, you know that's not typical timing. They are supposed to gradually get closer together. Mine got really close, really quickly, with no discernible pattern -- and I was having what I referred to as "after-shocks," where I'd have a second contraction just thirty seconds after the first.

This is most likely because my baby was posterior -- facing my belly button rather than my back. It's harder way out of the birth canal and results in what's known as "back labour." Back labour is typically more painful and difficult than regular labour, and I'd done everything I could to prevent it. During the last few months of pregnancy, I never leaned back, I stopped sleeping on my back once the baby was getting into position, only ever I sat on a yoga ball, and I spent hours a day on hands and knees or swimming. I even had cranio-sacral therapy to get the baby to turn (he did, but then he flipped again).

I'd read that hands-and-knees position was good for back labour, but I found that even worse. Finally, I jumped in the shower and leaned against the wall with a stream of hot water aimed on my lower back for immediate relief.

At some point David called the Lothian Birthing Centre at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. They say that the woman is supposed to make that call, to eliminate the middle man and make it easier to evaluate how far along the labour is. Well, I have major anxiety about making phone calls anyway, but I definitely didn't want to talk to ANYONE -- even David -- while I was going through active labour. So sweet David called for me, which was a good thing because he was told they were "on divert," and we would likely need to go to St. John's, a farther away hospital. Thankfully, David didn't tell me that, or I might have locked myself in the bathroom and not come out until the baby was born.

David also called our amazing doula, Nicola. She came over about 2 or 3 am. I'm not sure because I was still in the shower -- at one point, I even set off the smoke alarm from all that steam. (Apologies to our upstairs neighbors, but consider it payback for your taking up the viola.) I wasn't paying much attention to anyone because I was trying (unsuccessfully) to conjure up some hypnobirthing, but I did hear Nicola tell David that he needed to get me out of the shower unless we wanted a home birth.

To be continued because this is long already...

Previous Having a Baby Abroad posts begin here.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Most New Moms are Liars: PPD and what I've learned from it.

The wee boy is almost nine months old. They say that you blink and they're in college, but I've got to say: these have been the longest nine months of my life. As a mother, I am not supposed to admit that. I am supposed to ooh and ahh and talk about how happy this time has been. I'm supposed to suddenly connect with all of womankind, convince my non-mother friends to join the club, and sigh with pity at those who just don't understand.

Guess what I've learned more than anything? Most new moms are liars.

Yep. I said it.

Liars. 

And you know what? It's really, really unhelpful. It does a huge disservice to mums-to-be, pretending that everything is sunshine and rainbows. It would have been a lot more helpful to me, someone who had a bad case of postpartum blues, if other women who had PPD actually talked about it. Or at the very least, if they didn't cover it up.

When I confessed on the blog that I was dealing with PPD, I was inundated with emails from friends and strangers who said they, too, had it. Some of them suffered for years before they realized what it was, and most of them didn't even understand that they had it until they came out of it. It's much, much more common than you think, and I suspect it's a lot more common than even the studies suggest.

As for me, I'm not talking about typical baby blues here. I'm talking about spending most of the day in tears, having no interest in playing music or writing, not wanting to answer the phone when my best friends call, and ... and here's where you'll gasp in disbelief and shake your head in disapproval: not wanting anything to do with the baby.

Most of my symptoms centered around guilt. According to all my mother friends/books/articles, this is supposed to be the happiest time of my life. I'm supposed to be completely in love here. I'm supposed to want to snatch my baby away when another woman wants to hold him. I'm not supposed to exhale with relief when David's parents ask to babysit for a few hours. I'm not supposed to take them up on it and run out to the pub with my husband. And if I do go, I'm supposed to think and talk about the baby the entire time I'm gone. If I don't, well, then I'm an unappreciative new mother who doesn't deserve to have a perfect little one.

Believe me, I absolutely know how lucky I am. I'm 34 years old, we planned this baby, and I had a healthy pregnancy and delivery. When I was in the rocking chair trying to get this screaming baby to go to sleep, and he was scratching my face, and I was sobbing as much as he was, I really did try to take deep breaths and remember how many people would give up so much to be in that position. I appreciate it. I do. I can also tell you that now I absolutely adore the wee boy, and I actually enjoy spending time with him -- though I, too, would be lying if I told you I loved every minute.

I remember distinctly the first time I actually looked forward to the next day; it wasn't until the baby was almost three months old. Up until then, I think I was just living one minute at a time, awake, exhausted, and unclear as to what the tiny boy wanted. I loved him, of course. I was in awe of him -- amazed that he could possibly have been the same alien that turned inside of my body, twisting, hiccuping, doing jumping jacks on my sciatic nerve. Still, I did not feel the kind of bond that I'd read about. All I felt was guilt.

Guilt.

Guilt.

When I was unable to soothe his tears, but my husband could make him melt ... I cried. When someone else asked to hold him and I felt not a twinge of jealousy or instinctive over-protection ... I cried. When he would lie happily on the floor staring at a book, entertaining himself, I was flooded with relief and a desire to have a minute to myself. And then again -- I cried. I should want to be with my son at every minute. My friends said all they wanted to do was stare at their babies for hours at a time. Me? I wanted alone time.

So, yeah, he was three months old before I distinctly remember going to sleep one night and looking forward to playing with him the next day. Three months! I smiled, relieved that I was finally having motherly feelings. Then I felt even worse with the realization that I hadn't felt that way until then.

And guess what? I've talked to loads of other moms who have felt the exact same way. They just never say that in public. Who can blame them? 

It's many of these same mothers who post Facebook statuses saying how they'd "never been so overcome with love" and are "absolutely in love" with their babies. There are photos of them holding the wee ones with captions like "the perfect morning" and "the greatest feeling." I'm not saying that every new mom is depressed, nor that we should be posting statuses like "This sucks" or "I want a nanny."

But we should not hoodwink future parents by saying that every moment is wonderful and that it was like that from conception.

Maybe I've read too many fairy tales. Maybe my expectations were too literal (or maybe these other moms have never actually been in love before). I believe in romance and butterflies. I wanted to be overwhelmed by emotion. I expected a rush of pure love like nothing I'd ever felt before. The strong desire to jump in front of a bus for this tiny creature. The warmest fuzzies of them all. I wanted that beautiful hospital picture that everyone posts when a baby is born. Here's the closest I've got to one of those sweet just-born photos:



And yes, that's the "smile for the camera and look happy because everyone expects you to be in complete and utter love at that moment with stars twinkling in your eyes and bluebirds of happiness floating around."

What did I actually feel? Relief. I was effin' tired. I'd been through twelve hours of back labour (he was posterior) without an epidural, including about four hours of pushing. I hadn't slept in two days. I wanted to take a nap. I was loaded with whatever natural cocktail of hormones is cooked up when you have a hippie birth, so I was expecting to feel differently. But, no, I wanted to sleep, not cuddle.

The real "first photo" looks like this:
 Caption that with a big ol' "scared-to-death," which, I suspect, is a lot more accurate.


I'm sure there are those who truly love every minute, but I do not. And I'm not going to lie about it. I feel like I would have been much better prepared for these emotions if someone had told me -- even if you don't have a proclivity for depression -- that:

1) There will be moments when all you want to do is cry, and that's okay.

2) You aren't supposed to be able to handle it all by yourself. Remember that whole It-Takes-a-Village thing? Most women throughout history had lots and lots of help -- from relatives, neighbors, siblings, etc. If I had a bunch of aunts and sisters around who were lactating, I would have gotten a good night's sleep by now.

3) That perky new mom at the mall -- or even your closest friend whose Facebook page you stalk -- who has perfect hair, makeup, and a yoga butt, and who glows about how easy and wonderful motherhood is ... well, she's probably lying. Or she has a nanny. She'll never admit to you (but she should, she totally should!) that she's cried herself to sleep or that she doesn't instinctively know how to soothe every cry.

4) Social media makes it worse. People filter their pain and show only what they want you to see. Don't judge your own feelings based on what other people put out for public consumption.


I wrote most of this when the wee boy was six months old. For three months, I've kept the blog in draft, wondering if it was better off as a journal entry. Someday my boy will probably read this, and I don't want him to think he wasn't loved. I absolutely adore him, and of course I would jump in front of a bus for him. I'm feeling a lot better these days, which makes me realize just how bad I was.

I wish I'd been able to post this months ago when I wrote it, but again...the guilt. Well, now I'm [mostly] over it. How I reacted, and how you're reacting to your situation, is totally normal. I've coped and managed, and now I wake up most days looking forward to playing with this little guy.

On the days I don't, I let it go.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Having a Baby Abroad Part 7 : The Birth Plan

Do you know how many friends I have hidden on Facebook because they posted intimate details of their birthing plans and birth stories? I've lost count. I've even hidden their husbands, particularly those who boasted evangelically about natural childbirth. In what world does a man get to tell you you can't have pain meds?

Well, here's where I eat my words.

Those of you who love birth stories will probably be disappointed. Those of you who hate them can probably tolerate this blog. I'll leave out details of body parts I'd rather you not think about, and I won't judge you for whatever birth you have.

***

I don't think there was even a question that I would have an epidural. I hate pain. I am dramatic. I was terrified of childbirth.

Somewhere around six months pregnant, I decided, pretty much overnight, that I wanted an absolutely natural, drug-free birth. I also decided I was probably out of my mind and wondered if I would be able to do it.

Then I thought of several things:
  1. I am a redhead, and it is statistically proven (no joke) that redheads have at least a 20% higher pain tolerance than other breeds. 
  2. I know a lot of

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

What to READ When You're Expecting: Pregnancy books to enjoy ... and to avoid.

I did far too much research when it came to childbirth, but it sort of baffles me when I meet women who didn't read a single book in preparation. We met a couple that was 38.5 weeks pregnant at a childbirth class, and they said they had "done nothing to prepare." That blows my mind. I mean, truthfully, your body does know what to do. But in modern childbirth, especially in America, it behooves a woman to have as much knowledge as possible. It's nice to know when you're being treated like a human and when you're being lied to.

Granted, reading some books might be more dangerous than just going with it...

Product Details 
Least Helpful/Most Likely to Terrify you:

Monday, June 10, 2013

Show wrap-up! Good times.

Thanks to all y'all who came out to Friday's show! I have no idea how many people were there, but it was somewhere around 1500, I'm guessing. Not a bad way to break back into the Louisville music scene. Here's me grinning in front of Jason Isbell's band. I felt kind of bad posing for this picture because he just told the New York Times (featured in last week's Sunday Magazine) that he doesn't like it when people record on their phones during his shows. But whatevs ... I needed a souvenir.

Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit were fantabulous, Paul Thorn was

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Ticket Giveaway and video from TV appearance.

I'm playing a show this Friday night. It's an opening set at Iroquois Amphitheatre, where I'll be playing from 7:30-8:00 with the amazing Steve Cooley on various stringed things. I always envisioned my big I'M BACK!!! show as a full-band event at a rollicking club. This is not that show. But it's kind of better ... I get to play a power set with the best musician in Louisville. Then I get to hang out with 1500 of my closest friends and listen to Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit and the Paul Thorn Band at one of my absolute favorite venues. How fun is that??

So who wants a pair of tickets to this fabulous show? The only catch is

Monday, June 3, 2013

TV shows and concerts!

I'm playing at the Iroquois Amphitheater this coming Friday, June 7, opening for the Paul Thorn Band and Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit. That means this week is PUBLICITY WEEK! Tomorrow morning you can turn on your TV between 9-10am and see me on WHAS11's "Great Day Live!" I'll be bringing the accordion, the saw, and one Steve Cooley.

Now to make the setlist for Friday night's gig. I'm only playing a 30-minute set, which means no time for "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." Thankfully, I'm a big believer in

The Return of Elvis Costello [in my life]

I just LOVE a good rock and roll show, especially a band that knows how to integrate a real piano player. That Steve Nieve is magical, and I...