Posts Tagged ‘guest post’

Elsewhere, Again

Friday, July 15th, 2011

My most recent BlogHer Book Club review for What Happened To Goodbye is up today over on the book club site. This month was a nice summery young adult/teen fiction that would make a good beach read.

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen isn’t so much about goodbyes as about choices. Mclean Sweet’s life is all about choices — who to live with after her parents get divorced, what to call herself, whether or not to forgive her mother for the betrayal that tore her family apart, and what to do about the fascinating boy next door who seems intent on being more than friends. How do we choose who we are and can you reallychoose to be someone you’re not?

Read more on BlogHer Book Club…

I totally forgot to tell you my friend (and future roommie) Molly asked me to be part of her guest series this week on some of our favorite Pinterest finds. So go check that out, and definitely look at what her other guest posters this week pinned too – there were some GREAT finds!

And before yet ANOTHER week goes by without my mentioning it, I have to tell you that the (now not so) new blog design is courtesy of the AMAZING Marjorie at Color by Letter Design. I mentioned on Twitter I was terrified to make the jump to Thesis (a blog design template all the cool kids use but that requires some technical skills) and she said “We should talk. I’ll email you” and then BAM! She had a concept and a color scheme and did a fantastic job (at an extremely reasonable price) and now I’ve got my grown up blog all set up. I THINK we’ve gotten all the kinks worked out now too, but if you click something and it takes you down the rabbit hole or are looking for something and can’t find it anywhere let me know and I’ll see if she can help.

p.s. I know I mentioned it once before, but Sarah from One Starry Night designed my social media buttons and I just love them so much I wanted to tell you again. She is also extremely affordable and does great custom work, so drop her a line!


Friday, March 11th, 2011

I’m MIA today because I spent the whole morning finishing knitting this thing together:

It’s not very stylish but it’s such a happy color and was so easy to make I think I love it.

Plus I wrote a post for my dear friend Hannah over on her blog, Peggy Ann Design. It’s about organizing my cookbook shelf. I know, really riveting stuff. Check her out!

Then this afternoon I’ve got my pre-op appointment with the urologist so HOPEFULLY this whole kidney thing will be over for good in the very near future.

And if I get my way we’ll finish the day with a trip to Ikea for dinner. Such a nice Friday!

See you tomorrow for my iPhone wrap up!


Birth Stories: Brigid

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

To help fill in posts while I recover and adjust to life with a newborn AND a toddler I have some friends who have agreed to share their birth stories. Today is Brigid, the hilariously wonderful author of Now Showing! and one of the people whose blog I’ve followed before I knew “following someone’s blog” was a thing people did. Fair warning: it’s a birth story so it’s rated PG-13. And don’t get all shocked if someone says “vagina”. Brigid has a potty mouth, which I love about her so I’m posting unedited. If you can’t swear a little after childbirth, really, WHY HAVE FREEDOM AT ALL AMERICA?

Nikola’s Birth Story

by Brigid Keely

It started on Friday March 13th, really. The Braxton Hicks contractions had settled into a fairly routine but not painful pattern, and then they started hurting. Not hurting hurting; they felt like menstrual cramps only more so, and a back ache. I felt odd, too. Very alert, but wanting to conserve energy. I started timing contractions, and by the middle afternoon they were 4-5 minutes apart, pretty consistently. There were a few times where they’d slow down and have a twenty minute rest or so, but over all they were pretty consistent. I called Nesko and asked him to come home a little early. I didn’t think labor was imminent, but I wanted him near by. At this point, my mucus plug was intact and my water was entirely contained. Nesko called the birthing center and since this is my first kid, we were advised to wait until contractions were 3-4 minutes apart instead of 4-5. First babies usually are pokey babies, slow to come out. Lazy assholes.

Around 2:30 that morning (Saturday March 14th, Pi Day) contractions ramped up considerably. I took a very warm shower which helped and we timed contractions a bit more, then went to the hospital because they were very consistent and close together (every minute and twenty seconds to three minutes) and ramping up in intensity. I threw up before leaving, as I mentioned earlier. We live in Chicago, which gets terrible pot holes over the winter, and I felt every single one of them as we drove over them. So instead of speeding to the hospital we crept slowly along so as not to jostle me too much. This added maybe two minutes to our trip.

Nesko let me out in front of the hospital, I rang the special buzzer to be let in, and waddled slowly upstairs, stopping every two minutes or so during a contraction. I got to the nurse’s station and was all “I’m in labor, y’all. Contractions every 1-3 minutes. Ow. Wait. Ok. Sup?” And they were all “so is this your second baby? Third?” and I was all “Nope, number one.” And they were all “holy fuck you are so calm. Come this way.” And I was all “My husband’s on the way up. Do you need my insurance card?” “Naw, we’ll take that later.”

So I went into this tiny room and changed into a hospital gown and they poked around at me and found out that I wasn’t dilated at all. THANK YOU CERVIX. But I was contracting and the baby’s heart was thumping away, the way it does. They took my insurance information and moved me to a delivery room which apparently was the only delivery room that hadn’t been fitted with a DVD player yet. We hung out there all day. I spent most of the time lying on the bed with an IV hooked into my fore arm and monitors strapped to my belly. The pain was pretty bad. When I was finally allowed to get up, the pain was a lot less. My mucus plug started coming out and let me tell you, it’s pretty gross. Like my vagina had bronchitis. Contractions got less intense and less consistent the longer I was in the hospital.

That evening (I mentioned we were there ALL DAY, right?) my doctor came in and was all “In the past kabillion hours you have dilated to 1.3 or some petty shit like that. We can give you pitocin and hope to ramp this up, but most likely you’d have a C-Section and you and I both want to avoid that. You can go home if you want, or we can start the intervention train.” He was more medical in his presentation, this is a translation. I elected to go home and wait things out.

IRONICALLY, had I tried the pitocin, I would probably have had a C-Section anyway AND had a baby born on March 15th which is the Ides of March. SORRY NERDY BABY.

I spent all of Sunday, March 15th, curled up on the couch watching “Myth Busters” while Nesko timed contractions. He kept asking how long it’d be until go time. I kept losing bits of my mucus plug. Contractions got closer together and stronger. We went to bed around 9:30 or so but I couldn’t really sleep because things were getting painful. Around 11:30 or so, I think, I started getting the urge to go stand in a hot shower thinking it would maybe ease the pain. I put off actually getting up because I was very tired and the bed was very comfy, despite the pain I was in.

Then my water broke.

I swear I heard a popping sound, or maybe felt it, but it was like a giant water balloon exploded in my pants. Fortunately I had been sleeping on a waterproof pad JUST IN CASE and scurried into the bathroom leaving a trail of water all over the floor, which Nesko cleaned up (he was a cleaning machine those few days, let me tell you. He became very intimately acquainted with all kinds of my bodily fluids.), and sat on the toilet to drain a bit. I glooped amniotic fluid and mucus plug both into the toilet, felt really gross, and took a shower. Contractions kept coming. We got dressed and headed to the hospital yet again.

Once again, he dropped me off, I buzzed, so calm, how many babies, etc. This time I was taken straight to the delivery room (the same one we’d been in before, which had no DVD player). I was once again tethered to an IV (in my RIGHT fore arm this time) and fetal monitors and confined to an uncomfortable bed. Nesko tried to sleep. So did I. My back muscles felt like they were being pulled apart. If you’ve ever shredded chicken or beef for tacos or pulled pork for barbecue sandwiches, that’s what it felt like my back muscles were doing. I asked for a shot of demerol so I could sleep; I’d been told by several people affiliated with the hospital (including the hospital tour) that demerol was the drug they use. I’ve had demerol before and it works for me. I was told that no, they do not use demerol, they use something else I hadn’t heard of (stadohl?) and they can only give two injections of it. I asked for an injection and they jabbed my thigh. It dulled the pain slightly, but only for two hours.

I wound up asking for an epidural.

I don’t really remember them putting it in. I think it hurt. My legs went numb and that was really weird. I’d try to move my feet and just… couldn’t. There was nothing. Not quite nothing… it was almost like static between tv or radio stations, if that makes sense. I couldn’t feel the contractions any more unless I really focused on them, and even then it was kind of like when you get a filling at the dentist and you can feel sensations and pressure but not actual pain. I slept a lot, but it wasn’t a refreshing sleep. Somewhere along the line an internal fetal monitor was put in (which I really didn’t want before this all started) and a catheter (no longer having to get up to pee? sounds great in theory, but…).

Several hours later I had progressed to… wait for it… 2 cm dilated! Holy FUCK. THANK YOU CERVIX, YOU LAZY JERK. Pitocin was started to speed things along. Contractions were still strong and frequent, just… nothing was happening. Around 7:30pm I was fully dilated but Nikola hadn’t descended much at all, so we made a bunch of jokes about him being a lazy bum or just too comfortable where he was. My doctor suggested a C-Section. I agreed and was wheeled into the OR which I remember as being right across the hall, but I don’t think it really was. It’s all pretty blurry, frankly. I had to wriggle (numb from the waist down) from my bed onto the operating table, which was crazy narrow and had these like wings for my arms to go on, all spread out. Like Jesus. A fat, pregnant, paralyzed Jesus. They strapped my legs down and erected a curtain. I knew Nesko couldn’t handle the OR and called my mom in (she and my dad were there, well, were in the cafeteria eating). She arrived soon after I’d been strapped down and the epidural increased. It was freezing going in, and let me tell you, it’s creepy to have someone poke your arm and say “can you feel that” and you can, and then poke your stomach and say “can you feel that” and you can and then say “can you feel that” and you didn’t feel anything. I felt so removed from my body.

I fell asleep on the operating table. It was pretty boring. I wasn’t wearing my glasses, so when they put Nikola on the counter under the warming lamp and cleaned him up, I couldn’t see anything. My mom narrated how big he was etc but I wasn’t really paying attention. The entire operation took an hour and was held up some because I’m fat and this caused some problems stitching me up (they had to clamp bits of me out of the way). After the operation they took me back into the delivery room and once again I had to wriggle my (even number, but now with additional stitches and severed muscles) self back onto the bed. Nikola was in the room already and people were clustered around him because he is just that cute, he attracts groupies like honey attracts flies. He was naked under the warmer, I guess, but I was really out of it and didn’t really get a good look at him until the next day.

Numb from the waist down, catheterized, de-babied, I lay on the hospital bed. It felt like I was lying in a pool of blood, but I don’t know if I really was or not. I was told someone was going to come in and clean me up, so maybe I really was bloody, I don’t know. I felt the urge to fart, and several people had told me that farting is important after a C-Section (seriously, it is), so I farted. Only it wasn’t a fart. I shit myself. Two, maybe three times. I just couldn’t control it. I am embarrassed to say this, but hey. I’m trying to be truthful about what childbirth can be like (vomit! poop! uncontrollable sweating that wakes you up!) so other people aren’t taken by surprise so there you go. I shit myself. You might also. Or you might not. I lay there in the bed, unmoving, in a pool of blood and shit and I turned to Nesko. “I am lying in bed in a pool of blood and shit, waiting for someone else to come clean me up. I feel so… Decadent.” He laughed. I laughed. Laughing was a mistake. Ow. Anyway, I started referring to this as The Incident in my head.

Several hours later, literally, some people came in to clean me up. They did a poor job, as I found out later. I was taken up to the recovery room which ALSO had no DVD player (allegedly it’s the only recovery room that didn’t have one. WHATEVER.) I was on a morphine drip (mmmm) and in a slightly more comfortable bed. At one point some nurses came in and removed the catheter and told me that “when I felt up to it” I should get up and walk around and use the bathroom. Then they left. It was dark. I slept. Nesko slept. Nikola was in the room with us and kept making monkey noises. I sweated an ungodly amount. UNGODLY. This is apparently normal, also. IT IS THE MIRACLE OF LIFE, Y’ALL.

Eventually the sun came up and I had to kind of pee. You know how it is when you sort of have to pee but it’s not urgent but you want to use the toilet before it becomes urgent? It was like that. I called Nesko over and he helped me haul myself out of bed and onto my no-longer numb feet. I held onto him and the drip stand, and took a few steps, and felt pretty ok to use the toilet. Then we discovered that the drip stand was plugged into the wall, and the cord would not reach to the bathroom. GOOD TIMES. Luckily for us, a nurse came in and was surprised to see me up. She helped me into the bathroom and also helped me clean up. She asked me if I normally “have a little bit of anal leakage.” lolwhut. It turns out the nurses who cleaned me up left poo all over me. May I point out that I’d just had MAJOR ABDOMINAL SURGERY and also had poo all over me? Good one. This nurse cleaned me up very thoroughly and I walked around a little in the room and checked out the baby (so cute! so much hair! huge feet!) and went back to bed.

At some point breast feeding was tried. I wasn’t producing much of anything so mostly we did formula which the hospital supplied.

It was a long, boring, 3 day hospital stay with some mostly terribly bland hospital food (seriously, how do you fuck up mashed potatoes? SERIOUSLY.) and some very inept nurses (oh, hey, no, when I rang for the pain medication I was supposed to have received AN HOUR AND A HALF AGO I didn’t really mean it) and some kind of lax house keeping (my IV pulled out and I bled on the floor and it stayed there for three days; I took a shower and there was a dirty bandaid (not mine) in the shower) and some really kick ass nurses, and a vague promise to take me to a different room to show me a breast feeding video (never happened). We also had a lot of visitors, family and friends, including Brian who kept making jokes that made me laugh and OH THE PAIN but it was totally worth it. On the final day we were told we could probably go home that day as soon as my doctor said it was alright. “check out time” (whatever that is) is 11:00. We were told we could go home around noon-ish. We were finally approved to leave at 5:30pm, which meant we were packed and ready to go and cooling our heels for over five hours before being sprung.

We went to visit Nesko’s family for dinner, then picked up my prescription drugs including pain medication (NOTE: these events should have occurred in reverse order! DUH!) and then went home. I had hilariously awful problems getting in and out of the car, I was so stiff and sore. And then we were home!

That’s pretty much it. I would rather have done a drug-free vaginal birth, but a C-Section isn’t the end of the world, although I do think it’s interfering with my milk production (it was slow to come in and I’m still not producing a huge amount of it). A lot of stuff happened that I didn’t expect, or didn’t expect would happen to me (pooping! Asking for an epidural!) Several nurses remembered me (“You were so calm checking in! I thought you’d had like five kids!” “You’re the one who brought your own pillows! that’s such a great idea!”) which was cool. One nurse (the one who was an hour and a half late with my pain medication, and who kept asking me if I’d gone pee pee or poo poo) came in at like 2am and started asking questions about how many kids I’d had. “This is your second pregnancy? The first was an abortion?” Uh, no, it was a miscarriage, but THANK YOU for asking that in front of my mother or husband, I forget who was there, that’s a totally normal question to ask at 2am FUCK YOU. She came back at 5am with “discharge paperwork” but I yelled at her and she went away before she could ask about my pee pee and poo poo.

That’s pretty much it. I consider most of it uneventful. I had some bad experiences with some of the nurses who didn’t seem to know what they were doing or who violated what’s apparently normal procedure (apparently, normally, you remove a catheter only after someone’s recovered full feeling in their legs AND you help them to the bathroom. You don’t just leave them with vague advice to get up and walk around later when they’re less numb. Also, normally, when someone has an epidural needle or spigot or whatever removed, it’s also normal to remove all the tape and not leave it there. Oh, and epidurals? You can “ring” for more if you feel pain. Nobody told me that for HOURS, that I had my own push button for pain relief.). Other nurses were really great.

People have asked me if I’d do this again and yeah, I would in a few years.

Sorry if this is kind of garbled and confused. I was in pain and/or drugged up and my memory of a lot of stuff is cloudy.

PS it was several days after The Incident before I could poop again. Farting? No problem! Pooping? Oh man, constipation is usually a stranger to me. If you have a C-Section be prepared for poop problems.

Birth Stories: Brittany

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

To help fill in posts while I recover and adjust to life with a newborn AND a toddler I have some friends who have agreed to share their birth stories. Today is Brittany who blogs (not nearly often enough) at Germama – although she’s been doing so well the last few days! My Google Reader rejoices!  Fair warning: it’s a birth story so it’s rated at least PG-13.

Birth Story – Two Weeks Later

Originally posted on August 12, 2009 by Brittany

Much to my surprise, baby decided to evacuate the womb two weeks early. At 3:45 am on July 29, during my 37th week of pregnancy, I woke up and felt… moist. I had the foresight to jump out of bed before the deluge hit. As soon as I was on my feet, my water gushed out, soaking my shorts and running down my legs. I scurried into the bathroom to try to drain into the toilet, which seemed like the proper thing to do, and was really shocked at there being blood in the water. I know now that it’s normal, but it kind of freaked me out at the time. Once I got reasonably cleaned up, I woke up Ralf and told him my water had broken. I’ve never seen the man wake up so fast!

I called Labor and Delivery to ask about the bleeding. They said it was normal, and that if my water had broken we were welcome to come in anytime to get checked out. Because of our plan to go natural, I had originally wanted to stay home as long as possible to labor in a familiar place. But because this was my first baby, I started feeling really nervous and just felt like I needed to be at the hospital where I could know everything was ok. I was only having mild contractions at that point, so Ralf and I both took showers and he started gathering up everything we still needed to pack and get ready for the hospital. I scarfed down a cereal bar because I knew they weren’t going to let me eat once we got there. At this point I was under the impression that today was the day and I’d be able to eat more once she was born. Ugh.

At the hospital, they took us to a room where a nurse ran a test to make sure my water had actually broken. The Niagara Falls from my vag that happened earlier really left me with little doubt, but they wanted to check. Remarkably, that test was positive. Then she attempted to check my cervix and couldn’t even find it. Not cool. She called in reinforcements – another nurse came to check me and found that I was 1 cm. Basically, I was nowhere yet. However, since my water was broken they would not let us go home. Damn. So, we got moved into our actual room and got settled in. I would be in this room for a long, long time.

I was having mild contractions that were around 5-7 minutes apart. They needed to be 2-3 minutes apart to really be considered progress. Since we were going natural, the doctor was going to give us 24 hours to get to that point before augmenting labor with Pitocin. I was trying different positions, rocking around on a birth ball, and nipple stimulation. Yes, I was sitting in a hospital room while my husband tweaked my nipples for hours. Amazingly, this actually did make the contractions come stronger and closer. Unfortunately, it didn’t sustain anything and wasn’t really creating any progress. Around 11:00 pm or so, after about 20 hours, I had my cervix checked for the first time since we got to the hospital. 2 cm. TWO. After 20 hours. Balls. I decided to go ahead and start the Pitocin. I knew it would make the contractions more intense, but I was going to be in labor FOREVER if I didn’t help things along.

I had an IV port in my left wrist so the nurse connected up the Pitocin. Right after that, I started getting this huge bulge in my wrist. I asked her if that was supposed to happen. Uhhh, nope! My port had clotted off. So, she had to start a new IV on my right hand. Thankfully that one worked fine. The Pitocin definitely made the contractions stronger. I was using my Hypnobabies techniques to relax through them, and Ralf was right there by my side using the relaxation words and helping me through each one. Unfortunately, they had to keep upping the dosage to get the contractions to the 2-3 minutes apart point. With that much Pitocin in me, by the middle of the night the contractions were so intensely strong that I was becoming unable to relax through them. I was having horribly painful back labor and was having to whine and moan through the contractions instead of relaxing. A few times the pain was so immense that I was throwing up. Everything I’d read said that throwing up was a good sign because it meant you were in transition – around 7 cm and the baby was starting to move down. So I assumed I was in transition.

By 6:00 am or so, I was exhausted and in so much pain. I asked to have my progress checked so I could assess the situation. The nurse checked me and told me I was 4.5 cm. ARE YOU SHITTING ME?! 27 hours of labor, 7 hours on Pitocin, and I was still only 4.5 cm. That was really the last straw for me. I knew I needed to get some rest if I was ever going to have enough energy to push the baby out, if I ever got to 10 freaking centimeters. I knew I needed an epidural. Going natural was my goal, but at this point it was just not in the cards. I would have rather gotten the epidural than suffered through more hours of intense pain, because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to push her out and I would end up needing a C Section. On the other hand, Ralf was terrified of the epidural and was worried that it would cause me to need a C Section. We discussed it and ultimately decided on the epidural.

I had to wait almost an hour and a half for the anesthesiologist to show up and put in the epidural. I was never so happy to see a small bald man (well, except for when I met Michael Stipe). He got everything put in and set up. I honestly didn’t feel a thing he was doing, despite knowing he was inserting a huge needle in my spine. I was just so happy to be receiving relief. It kicked in after maybe half an hour, and I was mercifully able to sleep for about two hours. A little while after I woke up, I was checked and found to be 7 cm. I visited with my mom and sister for a while. I was STARVED by that point since I had only eaten a cereal bar about 30 hours earlier. I remember eating some red and orange Jello, and had attempted to drink some of the hospital’s chicken broth, but it was super nasty.

At 3:00 pm I was finally 10 cm and was allowed to start pushing. At first they just let me do it on my own time, but I wasn’t really feeling the contractions so it was slow going. After a while, the epidural started wearing off so I was able to feel the pressure of her coming out, and the doctor came in and told me how to push more effectively, so things started speeding up. Eventually he came back in with a bunch of nurses, but I wasn’t really aware of what was going on because I had my eyes closed and was focusing on the pressure and getting her out. Soon, the doctor was down in my business with his hands, moving her head around and helping her to come out. Let me just say, that was incredibly unpleasant. Then he was telling me to push and breathe and push some more. At one point he said breathe and I assumed I should push again, but he ended up saying, “No, no, just breathe!” and I think that may have contributed to the sizable tear I ended up with. Ouch. But anyway, he soon said the head was out. I had to push some more to get her shoulders out, and at that point I was seriously growling like a demon. My sister was filming so I have evidence of this! Then, the doctor told me to look down and see my baby coming out.

That… that was crazy. There was this little person coming out of me; this slimy, writhing little thing was being extracted from my loins! It was bizarre and amazing and crazy. Then the doctor pulled her out and put her on my belly. I was DONE! Or so I thought… While Ralf and I marveled at this little creature we created, the doctor was down there extracting the placenta and repairing the damage. Ohh, was he ever not gentle. I was trying to just focus on my new baby, but all my feeling was back down there and he was stitching and blotting and OUCH. It hurt. On top of that, I was going into convulsions. Yeah, apparently that happens after you give birth. But eventually, finally, the doctor finished up, I was cleaned up and given my diaper-sized absorbent pad (oh, the glamorous aftermath of giving birth) and that was it. They had her weighed and measured and poked and whatever else, and
then we were alone. We had a BABY! Oh dear Jeebus.

SO… after 38 hours of labor… Rory Michelle was born at 5:26 pm on July 30. She was 7 pounds, 7 ounces, and 20 inches long. Her Apgar scores were 9 and 9, and she was a perfect little baby with all her parts. I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to have her naturally, but it was ultimately the best decision for us. Luckily, I didn’t have any of the side-effects of the epidural and everything went smoothly. All of the doctors that came to see her told us how round her head was for being born vaginally, and how pink she was. One doctor called her a Gerber baby. Hooray, my baby has a round head and isn’t ugly and wrinkly like most newborns!

We have been at home for 11 days and are starting to get into the swing of things. Sometimes it hits me that we are responsible for this thing and have to raise her and keep her alive and the weight of that is sometimes immense. But hey, every day is another day we’ve kept her alive, so that’s a success to me. I hope you enjoyed this epic length story. I’m sure there will be many stories to come, most likely about how we’ve been pooped on.

Babies, According to Carolyn

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Today you get a very, very special guest post from my sister, Carolyn, who is as we speak probably hauling buckets of water to her hut for a bath or saving children from illiteracy. She’s pretty cool.

p.s. If you want to ask her questions in the comments I’ll email them to her so she can answer and post her answers. Her internet access isn’t always reliable (SHOCKING) and I don’t think she has a fast enough connection to respond through the blog.


Hii! This is Carolyn, Suzanne’s sister in the Peace Corps in Burkina Faso (West Africa) and regular reader of this blog. Suzanne asked me to write a guest post ages ago, and today I’m finally going to do just that. Honestly, the reason I was so reluctant to do this sooner (sorry Suz!) was because generally, I don’t think about babies. (This is probably a terrible thing to say on a baby blog, right?) Not really high on my radar. I am very far from being an expert; I feel like I don’t even know enough about them in the states to make legitimate comparisons between there and here. But here goes!

Babies here are extremely cute. Unfortunately, they are usually terrified of white people, so they tend to start screaming at my approach. And making faces to get them to smile only makes it worse, as I discovered VERY early on in my time here. Every once in a while, on a bush taxi in particular (where they have many, many hours to get used to me) I get a baby who makes the sort of shocked face that’s usually a precursor to crying, but on rare occasions leads to smiling and playing peek-a-boo over his mom’s shoulder and all the women making arranged marriages between me and him. That’s when I like babies best.

When women are pregnant here, it’s not usually talked about. Perhaps because of general silence on women’s issues, or maybe because of the risks of pregnancy here, I’m not sure. When a baby is born the customary gift to give the mother is soap. This is because in Burkina, there… aren’t diapers. Babies usually wear little western castoff outfits (very cute ones, actually) with shorts or pants or just fabric wrapped around them, so those layers get washed very frequently. Which uses a lot of soap. As soon as they’re walking, kids are essentially potty-trained because they can squat down wherever they want.

A pagne is essentially just a length of patterned fabric, and is what all women use to carry their babies on their backs. You constantly see women with babies asleep on their backs- working in the fields, at the market, riding motorbikes, everywhere. There’s a routine motion that you notice of women bending forward and hiking their babies up, then re-tying the pagnes. (ed: Carolyn sent me several and I tried to carry Baby Evan Africa-style ONCE. It did not go well. I never made it out of the family room.) In cold season you see bulges on women’s backs with a tiny knit hat on top, the type with the puff ball attached. I should also mention that it’s not only women who carry babies like this. No, I’m not saying that the men do too (they absolutely do NOT.) Often older siblings, or I should say, sisters, carry the babies too. It’s cute, but maybe kind of sad, that you see tiny girls carrying babies almost as big as they are.

I know Suzanne talks about breastfeeding a lot, which I think is great. I was perhaps a little uncomfortable with breastfeeding in practice before I came here, just because I was never exposed to it in the states. Burkina, however, is a different story. Women breastfeed. When babies get a little older there is a type of porridge that they eat, and I see women feeding babies the occasional bit of biscuit or rice or whatever else they happen to be eating, but the main source of nutrition comes from nursing. You see women breastfeeding everywhere: the secretary at my school does it in the office while she’s working, women do it while riding in donkeycarts, and I’ve had, on several occasions, a baby in a bush taxi half-lying in my lap while being nursed by the woman next to me. So I am now VERY accustomed to the idea, in theory and in practice. But here part of it is that breasts, in general, are much less shocking than they are in the states. I still see old women working in the fields or going to fetch water topless (honestly, that’s one of those things that make me remember I’m in a different country, no matter how accustomed I’ve become to other aspects of living here.)

Healthwise: If women go to the health center during pregnancy they can get prenatal care and can give birth with nurses, otherwise there are local midwives or just unassisted home births. Once they have the baby they can go to the health center for vaccinations or to have their babies weighed (and get supplemental formula if the baby is underweight.) Peace Corps has a health sector here and one of the main focuses is child and maternal health, but since I’m a teacher I don’t have much personal experience with it (and even if I did, I imagine I would just have lots of really sad stories to tell.) A lot of child care depends on the economic situation of the family. Poor, rural families often can’t afford the small fees incurred at the health center, so they don’t go.

So overall, babies here are very abundant, and their care is pretty simple. No formula, no diapers, not really any toys, no car seats, no strollers, no cribs (they just sleep on a mat with their mamas.) I actually think it’s quite a nice way to raise a baby, if only you could improve child safety and health care. But I very much like the ideas of breastfeeding, no diapers (or I guess cloth diapers?), wearing the baby wrapped on your back, and co-sleeping. If I ever have babies (yikes) I’m totally following the all-natural, Africa/hippie way of baby-raising (go Suzanne!)