Monthly Archives: January 2017

Epidurals, Opioids and Nitrous. Oh My!

One of the wonderful parts about being a human family made up of unique individuals is that we are all different. We go to different jobs, we love different people, we experience a rainy day differently. How neat is that? We have a daily opportunity to embrace each other for the quirks and choices that make us each special. And when I put it that way, it seems easy to do. Where we get hung up is in thinking that someone else’s preference is better or worse than your preference. This can lead to feelings of superiority and resentment, neither of which help us celebrate each other’s differences.

This is true in day to day conversation. If I learn that you like olives (which I despise*), I don’t have to say, “Olives? YUCK.” Instead I might try, “Great! More olives for you, then!” You liking olives is not an affront to the fact that I dislike them so I shouldn’t feel compelled to express my disgust, after all this isn’t about me. And surely a two person divergence on briny foods has a relatively low impact on the way we relate in society, but it doesn’t stop there.

*seamless segue to women’s health*

Women (or those with vaginas) be they trying to prevent pregnancy, decide how to proceed in pregnancy or manage the pain of labor, have a Las Vegas-style buffet of options available to them (and I would like to keep it that way, but that’s not the subject of this post). From pills to implants to shots to little T-shaped pieces of plastic or metal, women have choices when it comes to birth control. To all of them, I say yes. You like taking pills every day? Good for you. You want to never have a period again? Also an option. I would never recommend my chosen form of birth control to anyone, because it’s ridiculous, and this isn’t about me.

I talk to pregnant women all day about how they plan to manage the pain of labor and, surprise! They all have different answers. Some plan to do hypnobirth, others hypnobabies (not the same thing), some want to try nitrous oxide, others plan epidurals and, guess what? They all have babies at the end. It’s not a contest and the prize is the same for everyone. Most importantly it doesn’t matter what I think about how a mother chooses to experience her birth because, you guessed it, still not about me.

And it’s not about you either. And neither is a woman’s decision to breastfeed or bottle feed or stay home with her children or to go back to work. Immunizations are about all of us, but more on that later. As for now here is an infographic of what I think is the best way to present information: here are your options and I will support your choices. That’s my job.

Source: The Parent College

*Olives are delicious. Anyone who says differently is 5 years old.

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Tuk Tuks and Inspiration: Better Experienced than Described.

I don’t know how to write about inspiration. It’s a feeling and those are difficult to illustrate in words. I remember a lightness that rushed over me during a tuk tuk ride in northern Thailand in November of 2012. Jared and I stayed up late into the night watching Fox News, which was comically the only available coverage of the US election. The results hadn’t fully come in when we had to leave early in the morning for an overnight hike into the jungle. The timing was such that we might not learn the results of our nation’s election until 48 hours after it occurred.

2012 felt different than 2008; it felt like the test of a heavily-scrutinized president that I very much wanted to see reelected. It wasn’t for the fear of his opponent. Especially in the context of our current political landscape, Mitt Romney seems like he probably would have done a pretty good job keeping the country safe, which for some people is enough. However, he likely would not have come out in support of marriage equality, gone to bat for women’s reproductive rights or made any honest acknowledgment of the systemic racism that permeates our law enforcement and justice system.

These are considered by some to be soft issues and inherently secondary to national security and the economy. I’ve been called immature for prioritizing them but if accessible healthcare, affordable education and equal rights under the law are idealistic and unattainable, I’m not sure what we’re spending so much trying to protect. If fear is the main theme we operate under, we build nothing. With so much anxiety, there is no room for creativity. When our energy is focused on being great, we lose the capacity for for being good.

Four years ago, I sat in a tuk tuk that rattled along a dirt road out of town and headed for the jungle. Jared turned on his phone for a brief moment to see if any text updates would come through. Right before we lost service, a message from his brother read: Obama wins in a landslide. The feeling I had that day and night was one of elated optimism. As a country, we had decided that goodness mattered and not just for 47% of us. We didn’t beat our chests and we weren’t afraid. The next four years would see the expansion of healthcare, the recognition of marriage equality, and a policy that began to prioritize climate change as a national responsibility. In these four years my partner and I found ourselves and each other; they have been personally and communally transformative; easily the best four years of my life.

Today, I do not feel hopeful or optimistic, but I will also not be discouraged. I still believe that love is stronger than fear and exposure to difference makes space for understanding. The next four years will not see the end of the progress because we are all still here. We will create art and take care of each other and stand up in support of what we believe and protest what we don’t. We will become the inspiration. We will be the good.

And here’s a photo (that’s probably offensive):

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Chicken Poop for the Soul

Hear me out…

Vanderbilt nurse-midwifery students are strongly encouraged to attend the ACNM (American College of Nurse-Midwives) Annual Meeting, which will be held in Chicago this year. Because this is optional we have to pay for it ourselves and some of the more industrious students have fundraised by selling felt vulvas, which are amazing, but far beyond the reach of my creativity. Whilst hiking with one of my colleagues, the topic of bowel movements came up. When you spend all day talking about vaginas and looking at cervixes, nothing is really off limits. We were sharing the stories our of most memorable twosies when, bam! I was hit by a stroke of genius.

What if I interviewed my friends and colleagues about their most distinguished bowel movements and then compiled them into a book of short stories? It would be perfectly sized for the back of a toilet and each entry expertly written to be enjoyed during one’s morning constitution.

Guys, it’s a book about poop to read while you’re pooping. Who wouldn’t want that?

After strongly considering dropping out of school to pursue this goldmine of a business venture, I decided I could probably do both. The working title for this project is Chicken Poop for the Soul because I received a cease and desist letter from Walt Disney when I floated the idea of Winnie the Poop by my social network.

I’m now accepting submissions so don’t miss your chance to be a part of this groundbreaking opportunity. Chicken Poop for the Soul will revolutionize your bathroom experience much like the Squatty Potty has. Your participation and/or purchase will help send a student midwife to an expensive conference she has been asked/bullied into attending.

Now as a reward, and because I’m deeply committed to dropping knowledge, among other things (see what I did there?) please enjoy this pictorial representation of the medically-recognized categories of feces. Poop on, Wayne.*

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*NBC has asked me to refrain from using this phrase, but I say come at me, bro.

Submissions accepted at leacraftspencer@gmail.com

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Holidays, Laughter and Foreskin: The Fundamentals

The back to school or work adjustment is always a challenge post-holidays. On the one hand, people are often invigorated with big plans for new year, which is adorable. On the other hand it’s cold and, in my case, lonely and trying to get back into a routine after time off can be a little bumpy. Everything you had delegated to future you is now present you’s problem and I always have more faith in future Lea than she really deserves. But in any event, here we are. Mostly due to excessive aforementioned faith in my future self, my past self decided that my partner and I should visit three states in the 10 days he could reasonably be expected to take off work for the holidays. Fun!

So, we did it: Texas for Christmas, Florida for Hanukkah and New York for New Years. It was as crazy as it sounds but totally necessary and worth it. We had recently seen the family we have in Arkansas and California, but the Floridians and New Yorkers had yet to see the whites of our eyes since we became a married couple. Our jaunt included planes, trains and automobiles, Texas BBQ, Florida beaches and Times Square on New Years (just kidding, only a crazy person would do that). Our hearts and stomachs were filled with love, pizza and bagels and before we knew it was back to reality, whoops there goes gravity.

School has been back for a week now and this year marks the start of my clinical rotations as a midwifery student. It reminds me a lot of my first rotation as a nursing student with all the fumbles, missteps and fear. I had the great pleasure of enjoying dinner with some of the colleagues I shared my very first nursing rotation with and the laughs we had while reminiscing reminded me of the post-rotation conferences we had when we were all still learning to listen to hearts and lungs.

I always consider the beautiful souls I went through undergrad with to be kindred spirits from whom I can never really part. The impact of nursing school has bonded me to some of these people in a similar way. The image of being surrounded by my male colleagues outside the room of a patient whom I was about to catheterize is forever burned in my memory.

“Is he circumcised?” they asked.

“I’m not sure,” I replied. My preceptor then asked if I had ever seen a foreskin, to which I quickly replied, “I really don’t see how that’s any of your business.” We were off to a great start. Ultimately the procedure was successful, but there was and is always one thing to do in nursing school before you are allowed to call it a day: reflect.

In keeping with the tradition of reflection, I shared my experience of the catheterization with my group. Specifically, I highlighted my surprise at how profoundly I was able to feel the catheter in my hand through the patient’s penis. I looked at one of my colleagues, a woman I admire more than most on this Earth and admitted, “I guess I’ve just never held a flaccid penis before.” Without missing a beat this incredible woman facetiously replied, “Well, good for you!”

It was the best day of my life.

Any day that comes anywhere close to feeling as connected as I did to those people during that rotation will be an opal in a week of dumb, stupid rocks. Here’s to hoping we all continue expanding ourselves with people we can have a really good belly laugh with; I’m convinced those are all that really matter in this world.

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Placenta. Enigma. Namaste.

The placenta is a confounding element of labor and delivery. Giving birth to a brand new entire person is largely hailed as the single most challenging and unifying event humans undertake (along with death, but more on that later). This monumental feat comes after growing this would-be human INSIDE of you, which – let’s be honest – is pretty bananas. So after 40ish weeks of gestation and who-really-knows how many hours of labor, you have a baby!

But, it’s not over yet.

Now comes what we refer to as the 3rd stage of labor, a part so important it had its own category: delivery of the placenta. This new organ is something you grew before the belly fruit began to resemble anything other than a seahorse (yes, offense). The placenta makes good use of all the extra blood you’ve been pumping around (up to 50% more in fact) as it transmits nutrients and oxygen to the fetus and acts as filter for bacteria and other unsavory characters you’d prefer your child waited until daycare to meet. Its delivery has to be carefully attended to because any retained pieces can cause serious problems for you and ain’t nobody got time for that – you’ve got a baby now! So once this blood filled, brain looking, much-bigger-than-you-thought-it-would-be thing is delivered and examined, what do you do with it?

I’m glad you asked.

The placenta is a mystifying entity that different cultures hold in various high regard. Some groups believe it has a spirit of its own and must be buried near the family house as a guide of sorts. This doesn’t seem so strange to me – it has to be gestated and born along with the baby, and without it, baby would have never made it this far. Other cultures use it more practically as fertilizer – all hail the pragmatist. Companies have been built around their ability to encapsulate it so that you can eat it; preesh you, capitalism. And, of course my favorite, carrying it around with the baby until the umbilical cord (along with the placenta) dries up and detaches on its own: the lotus birth. A majority of westerners do nothing with it and it is incinerated (BOR-ING).

As with most things in birth, to all of these options I say yes. Women need to support other women as we navigate the veritable cornucopia of options available to us.

And now, a picture. Because in 2017, infographics and nihilism will be the only truth.

Source: National Institute of Health

 

Lotus birth, even though we both know you already Googled it.

Source: MJY 

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