Monthly Archives: May 2013

Blog Every Day in May: Schooled

Day 23: Things you’ve learned that school won’t teach you.

I graduated magna cum laude from Amherst College, and sometimes I still ask myself, “What DID school teach me, anyway?”

My favorite quote on this topic comes from G. K. Chesterton:

Sincerely speaking, there are no uneducated men. They may escape the trivial examinations, but not the tremendous examination of existence. The dependency of infancy, the enjoyment of animals, the love of woman, and the fear of death–these are more frightful and more fixed than all conceivable forms of the cultivation of the mind. It is idle to complain of schools and colleges being trivial. Schools and colleges must always be trivial. In no case will a college ever teach the important things. For before a man is twenty, he has always learned the important things. He has learned them right or wrong, and he has learned them all alone.

What have I learned that school didn’t teach me? My limits, for one. Pulling an all-nighter during finals week can’t hold a candle to staying up all night with a newborn. Getting a bad grade on a final hurts less than realizing you’re going to run out of money before you run out of month.

I guess we need these school experiences as a warm-up for the “tremendous examination of existence.” But most of adult life has to be learned hands-on, through trial and error (and error and error and error).

I am STILL learning how to make friends outside of an artificial school environment. I am still learning how to run a household. I am still learning to care for other creatures, both two- and four-legged.

So I guess you could say I learned that my real education never ends.


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Blog Every Day in May: Soapbox

Day 22: Rant about something. Get up on your soapbox and tell us how you really feel. (a pet peeve, a current event, a controversial topic, something your husband or roommate or neighbor or boss does that really ticks you off)

(Rubs hands together in quasi-gleeful manner)

I get incredibly irritated at a subset of pregnant women who choose to turn gestation into the Martyrdom Olympics. They remind us constantly of what they CAN’T eat and what they CAN’T drink and what they CAN’T do. They flaunt their (largely self-imposed) restrictions like merit badges.

Most of these women rely on the internet, instead of their obstetrician, for the long (and ever-growing!) list of prohibitions, and then insist on demonstrating to their peers that they are the Valedictorians of Sacrifice. These are women who, before getting knocked up, lead reasonably healthy lives – they exercised, ate well, and didn’t take stupid health risks. But introduce a zygote, and they decide to totally overhaul their lives. Add baby, remove reason. They end up confused and stressed and filled with contradicting “facts.” (See, “How to have the Best Pregnancy Ever,” by Tracy Morrissey)

Give. Me. A. Break. Women have been reproducing for thousands of years without worrying about their lunch meat, their alcohol consumption, or the lead content of their crystal glasses.

Causes of The Panic

This near-hysteria over Every Little Thing has several root causes. In part, it is the result of the staggering liability exposure for obstetricians. They pay the highest premiums for malpractice insurance of any field of medicine – juries are very sympathetic to dead or injured babies, and many parents are more than willing to blame the doctor when they have one. OBs must cover their own tails more than any other doctor – hence the long lists of things to avoid.  Another part is a media machine that targets women at their most vulnerable. Parenting magazines must sell copies, web sites must get hits, and publishers must move books – and what sells better than scare tactics? Not much! When’s the last time a headline like, “Relax, Everything’s Going to be Fine!” caught your eye? A third culprit is the rise of internet forums and mommy listservs, which are supposed to be safe communities but can become playgrounds for adult bullies who are more than happy to tell you You’re Doing Everything Wrong.

The Risks are Small

Most biological processes involve risk. Hell, getting out of bed every morning involves risk. Most of the time, we look objectively at a situation and decide for ourselves if the risk is worth taking. The risks to pregnant women seem to fall into two broad categories – birth defects in the baby and agents that will cause illness/death to either the baby or the mother.

According to the CDC, 3% of babies born in the US will have some form of birth defect. The most common birth defect is Down Syndrome, which is genetic and therefore not affected by the mother’s behavior while pregnant. In fact, some reports indicate that only 10% of birth defects can be traced to a specific environmental agent, while 20% are genetic, and fully 70% are of unknown origin. So all this fretting is to prevent something that occurs in less than one percent of live births.

Think of it another way – when you had your wisdom teeth removed, your oral surgeon told you that there was a small chance that the removal could end in your death, because that is true. Did you still have the surgery? Of course you did. You accepted the risk.

Yet when your OB says that if you eat deli meat while pregnant, there is a small chance you could get sick, what do you do? AVOID LUNCH MEAT LIKE THE PLAGUE BECAUSE IT WILL KILL YOUR BABY, OMG. Suddenly any risk, no matter how small, is unacceptable.

About that Deli Meat

The lunch meat prohibition is probably my favorite example of the pregnancy panic that has stolen the logic from many of my peers. Pregnant women are advised to avoid deli meats, unpasteurized cheeses, and some cold-smoked fish because they might contain listeria, a bacteria that can make you sick. When I was pregnant in 2003, the deli meat prohibition was brand new – in fact, I didn’t read anything about it until my pregnancy was almost over.

This article, published by the National Institutes of Health in 2008, gives a good overview. Bottom line – yes, listeria is a very dangerous bacteria, but your chance of getting it, even while pregnant, is very small. Like 0.00012%. There were 800 lab-confirmed cases of listeria in 2007 (the CDC’s current count is 1,600 cases per year), out of US population of 314 million. The study says, “In the 222 cases of maternal infection reported in the literature and reviewed by Mylonakis and colleagues, 94 infants were infected. Of these, 59 (62.8%) recovered completely, 23 (24.5%) died, and 12 (12.7%) had neurologic sequelae or other long-term complications.”

Now put that in perspective. As a pregnant woman, you have a 0.00012% chance of getting listeria. If you do, your baby has a less-than-50% chance of getting it as well, or 0.00006%. And if your baby gets it, he or she has a 63% chance of totally recovering. That means that the chance of your unborn child dying because you had a hot dog is 0.00002% or less.

Also? The last major listeria outbreak in the US was in 2011, and the culprit was cantaloupes. In fact, the NIH article referenced above says plainly, “Epidemiologic investigations have demonstrated that nearly all types of food can transmit Listeria….creating guidelines that will prevent exposure to Listeria is nearly impossible.”

This is just one example. There are countless others. 

In My Humble Opinion

I think that the long lists of prohibited items give pregnant women the illusion of control. Pregnancy is a very weird time, when your body is doing things all by itself and has possibly been invaded by alien beings. It may be comforting to imagine that if you just follow these rules, your baby will be born healthy and safe. And if a few rules are good, more rules are better. Look, I’m not advocating that we all start shooting heroin into our eyeballs when the stick turns blue (or whatever it does these days), but I’d appreciate a little common sense. The internet is not a substitute for your obstetrician, and it will always tell you exactly what you want to hear if you look hard enough.

Pregnancy is not some sort of aberration; it’s a perfectly normal condition. I think if we all treat it as part of regular life, instead of a nine-month vacation from reasonableness, we’d all be a lot happier.


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Blog Every Day in May: Retrospective

Day 21:  A list of links to your favorite posts in your archives

This is hard.

I used to write more frequently about divorce and blended family issues (that’s why I started this blog in the first place) and I should probably do more of that. I have several posts in my archives that sound reasonably un-preachy: Like this one on e-mail communication, or this one on dividing one’s friends, or this one on motives.

My post on the house fire is one of my favorites, but only in hindsight. It’s nice, a few years later, to be able to trace the progress of the rebuild through posts like this one, and this one, and this one, and this one.

(Note to self: Organize your archives!)

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Blog Every Day in May: Struggles

Day 20: Get real. Share something you’re struggling with right now.

“I can’t complain, but sometimes I still do.” – Joe Walsh

This pretty much sums up my attitude right now. Sure, there are things that I wish were a little different, but overall I wake up every morning grateful for the life I have. There’s nothing I am “really struggling with” right now. Maybe it’s because I’ve struggled with legitimate, life-altering issues in the last ten years – everything from losing a parent to going through a divorce to having my house burn up. The everyday concerns seem so….small. So petty. Not worth complaining about.

I don’t feel it’s right to waste my energy magnifying problems just so I can “have a struggle.” I mean, yesterday I heard about a seven-year-old boy whose brain cancer has spread to his lungs. Compared to that, “I wish I could lose 10 pounds” sounds unbelievably selfish and stupid. I. literally. have. nothing. to. struggle. with.

Sorry to totally whiff the prompt!

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Blog Every Day in May: Five Favorites

Day 19: Five of your favorite blogs and what you love about them

1. SAS Interiors – I love this woman’s style, and the way she relies on “shopping her home” to make spaces look new.

2. How Sweet it is. This is where I get most of my recent new recipes. Also, this woman is hilarious.

3. GayPatriot – As a conservative person who supports marriage equality, it’s nice to have a community space like this.

4. Pintester – Because let’s face it, Pinterest is sometimes ridiculous and needs to be taken down a notch. Her post on Resurrection Rolls was hilarious.

5. Get Rich Slowly – This is a personal finance blog I read, to keep me on track with my financial goals and resist the temptation to keep up with the Joneses.





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Blog Every Day in May: Selfie

Day 17: A favorite photo of yourself and why.

Let’s go with……..this one:


Why I love it:

First, this was taken on our honeymoon to Cabo San Lucas, so it involves several of my favorite things – travel, my husband, and food. This particular photo was taken at a fish taco place where we had breakfast several times during our trip (if you think fish tacos are not for breakfast, THINK AGAIN). It was one of the happiest times of my life.

Second, I am most comfortable when doing something slightly ridiculous, like imitating a whale in a mural.



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Blog Every Day in May: Dissatisfaction

Day 16: Something difficult about your “lot in life” and how you’re working to overcome it.

Oh, boy.

When my mother used to take me to pediatrician visits, she would proudly tell the doctor that I was “very healthy” and “ate like a horse.” Both of these were true statements, but the latter has a way of catching up to you.

I wish I was the kind of person who didn’t have to count every calorie, but genetics says I am. This makes me very dissatisfied, and by “dissatisfied” I mean “cranky and hungry, most of the time.”

How am I working to overcome it? My buddy, Tapeworm Tim.

Just kidding. I track calories with the My Fitness Pal app, and I’ve learned to reward myself with things that are not food.

But there are days…….



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