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The House The Hope

We have a house under contract. It is downtown. It is a fixer-upper.

A pious Catholic woman, a regular latin mass attendee, died of old age and now her home needs new occupants. Our realtor informed of us of the property before it even went to market. We walked into the cluttered 3 bedroom 2 bath decadent with both dust and old Catholic artifacts, including over 100 rosaries, statues, and paintings of Jesus and Mary. A baby grand piano welcomes visitors in the front parlor room—although it is devastatingly out of tune.

The property needs a new foundation, new electrical work, new appliances, new kitchen cabinets, a new heating and cooling system, new flooring, new gas pipes, new sinks, and a whole lot of paint.

Banks won’t do conventional loans on crappy houses like the one we’re determined to buy. They only want to lend money for “average or better” properties—whatever that means. So for fixer uppers of a profound nature one must either pay all cash or do what we’re doing: a 203(k) loan.

Our loan is very rare—because its a pain in the bunz.

We have to do two miles of paperwork. Then we have to get bids from a contractor. Then we have to pay a HUD consultant mega bucks to mediate. Then we have to have to wait. Then we have to do more paperwork. Then we have to convince our contractor to finance all his own work. Then he has to bill the government. Then we have to do more paperwork. Then maybe like 10 years from now we’ll have a decent house to live in.

But it’s downtown. The husband can bike to work. We can walk the kids the ONE BLOCK to school. And sit on our huge southern front porch as the fat rain drops and contemplate about life and God and listen to swamp pop on our record player in the parlor.

Closing date is May 20-something. Wish us luck.

Lent 2015

We are midway through Lent—the 40 days after Mardi Gras and before Easter where Jesus was said to have walked through the desert, being tormented by Satan—right before He was humiliated and murdered on the cross.

Some know Lent as the time when you “give something up” in some kind of arbitrary masochistic deprivation. I’m new to this whole Catholic thing, I have no wise words to share. But I use this blog to document life in preparation for the onset of Alzheimer’s and so readers be warned this post may mimic the torturous nature of the season.

Lundi and Mardi Gras were cold but exciting times this year at the Newman’s. We paid off all of my student loan debt. ALL OF IT. We are debt free and it. is. great. We envisioned a loosening of mind and body as life-without-debt now allowed for more disposable income. We also did our taxes early and discovered we were getting a nice cushy tax refund. Ya! Turns out kids ARE helpful in some regards… Then Ash Wednesday hit.

My husband’s boss—a priest—informed us that the house we live in, graciously provided for by our parish, either needs to be sold or rented out to balance the operations budget. So we probably needed to be gone by July 1st.

Ugh. Great timing, Father. You’re a real poet.

So instead of blowing a paycheck on a kayak or keyboard we decided to stick to our pasta and water rationing and go house hunting.

We found a beauty of a fixer-upper. It was perfectly imperfect. Horrible kitchen with no appliances, hideous paint and lighting fixtures—with a glorious Southern porch, situated a half-block away from one of the most beautiful streets in our town with Gone With The Wind mansions—right across the street, literally 15 feet away from a great school that I am now enrolling our daughter in.

We decided to make an offer. The house was on the market for 4 months so we thought we would go in under asking price. They countered at the midway point of $65k. Then out of nowhere some asshole comes in and makes an all cash offer above our offer price.

There were tears.

More house hunting has occurred. Lots of driving. Nothing has emerged. We’ll give updates later.
But I have discovered St. Joseph is THE go-to Saint when asking for intercessions in home selling/buying.

This housing situation has caused great stress. I am now working and juggling more than I should with added ferocity. My husband and I have been fighting because we’re just tired. Properties I like he doesn’t like. Realtors I want to work with he doesn’t want to work with. Money problems always add stress. When I feel out of control I often buy more like I’m securing the nest before a hurricane. When he feels out of control he saves more. Our different styles lead to disagreement and so we fight.

Our almost-3-year-old has picked up on our stress and for the last 2 nights in a row she has had major night terrors. Our book Healthy Sleep Habits for a Happy Child talks about night terrors typically lasting 5-15 minutes. These ones are lasting two hours. She hits, she throws, she screams herself hoarse. If she were 200 lbs. with better aim I would likely be dead. If were 200 lbs. and didn’t have the self-control and tools to deal with the stress she would likely be dead. First night we thought she might be possessed—like Satan himself was tormenting us through our daughter.

cryingbaby

Today I went to Mass and our priest did a homily on how Satan divides communities and side-tracks us from our mission to love.

My mom helped me do some research on the fixer-upper house—turns out the man who owned it and was selling was in prison. He was selling the house as-is and needed a buyer with a lot of cash because the things that were wrong with it wouldn’t qualify for most conventional (and definitely not FHA) loans. He was married and rather than rent it out his wife was selling it for the cash. The reason he was in prison?

Consuming, creating, and distributing child pornography.

Did I mention the house was right across the street from a pre-school and a playground??

People do evil things. And bad things happen that are out of our control. The season of Lent is meant to bring us closer to God and closer to holiness through self-mastery, self-control, and mindfulness through suffering.

I have a baby crying. Apologies but I’ll have to finish this later…

Birthing Blues Part II

Now that my son is nearly two months old, I’ve caught up with enough in life to be able to find a moment to tell you about the birth experience. Or tell my future self.

First, I succeeded! I got the natural birth I wanted and needed so badly! It was a glorious, albeit extremely painful experience and I’m forever thankful to God, my husband, my mother-in-law, my doula, and doctor for getting me there.

In preparation I watched nearly 20 hours of birth preparation video. I read so many books. I did acupuncture. And reflexology. And took a long ass six mile walk in the hot Louisiana heat a week after my due date. I took vaginal suppositories of evening primrose oil, had awkward late term pregnancy sex for the prostaglandins. I ate spicy food, pineapples, and castor oil (twice). But still, it took me 42 weeks and 2 days to cook my son. They come when they want to. 

After firing my midwife on my due-date, I transferred care to an OB. We had trust issues. I was terrified he would be c-section happy, and I think he thought I was a high maintenance granola queen. I never would have imagined I would go so late. At the two week late mark I had to sign paperwork legally freeing him of liability because I had refused to be induced within the prescribed time frame. I was due Tuesday, I agreed to be indued for the following Thursday. Rickard had to start his job in Lake Charles soon and every extra day in New Orleans was costing us money, and I was getting more stressed out by the hour—worrying that my son might have health complications if he stays in there too long.

The Wednesday before the induction I had my last acupuncture session. I relaxed. I accepted the induction and stopped trying to do everything I could to get him out and instead just rest in preparation for the birth. I went to bed early that night. I was scheduled to be induced at 4:30 am. So I woke up early, braided my hair the way I wanted it, brushed my teeth, put on deodorant and got myself ready. Literally ten minutes before we were supposed to leave for the hospital, I get a major contraction. My labor was starting and the baby was coming.

My doula was all ready to go, she just gave her cab driver a different address and arrived at our rental apartment instead. I threw up. But there was a bucket ready for me so that was fine. Our daughter was asleep in the adjacent bedroom, at one point she woke up and said “Mommy sad. Mommy! Hurt.” At which point Rickard went to console her and said, “No, mommy working.” She seemed satisfied with that. I kept a low growl and took advantage of our bathtub and LED candles. I used and abused both Rickard and our doula’s hands as stress balls during every contraction. Without their bodies to extoll and extend my pain to I’m not sure what I would have done.

The sun rose and by 7:30 we were at the hospital. All three of their tub rooms were out of commission. I was very sad. But the baby was coming with or without hydrotherapy. They put me in a dark room that I can’t remember anything about except there were windows. The animal started to come out and I began to get tired. The exhaustion made everything harder. But I was able to move and adjust myself against the pain. The nurses hardly ever came in—probably because my agonized howls made them uncomfortable. Nobody likes watching someone in pain. But the pain was very useful.

I had to keep my mind positive. With every cutting contraction I had to tell myself this is good, this is your baby moving down. My mobility was a complete blessing. At one point the baby got stuck. My doula assessed that I still had a cervical lip, hindering his ability to drop. I lifted my leg in time for the next contraction and pushed down. He popped down. Success.

The noises I made were very interesting. I was embarrassed by them. Usually I am told I am soft-spoken with a gentle vocal tone. That morning I went hoarse from heaving squeals where the volume and force behind the air I was exhuming was being trapped behind too tiny a mouth.

I took off my hospital gown because it annoyed me. I pushed Rickard and my doula out of my way whenever they too annoyed me or touched me wrong. I was an animal, naked and vulgar on the hospital bed. Every 45 seconds the atmosphere transformed from quiet anticipation to roaring effort and cheer. It was warm and strange when my water broke. Like a balloon full of swamp popped within me. When the baby was ready to come out I was on my back. We had some of the same troubles as we did with our daughter. Every time I pushed he would come out a little, but inevitably drop back due to gravity. I should have been on all fours, but alas that didn’t happen. They told me I had to push harder. The doctor even said we were running out of time and if he didn’t come out sooner rather than later we’d have to go to surgery and cut him out. I decided to push harder.

But I was already pushing so hard. This is where my decision to avoid an epidural really helped. I could feel him now. My “hardest” was not hard enough, and so I had to go from a 10 to a 15. I mustered everything I could and decided that I could care less about pride, appearances, integrity or safety. I no longer cared if my entire vagina ripped apart in the process I was going to push my baby out. I screamed like I never screamed before. I went to a wild place.

Two maybe three times.

Then he arrived. Slimy and just as wild and animalistic as his mother.
It was glorious. And so very very hard.

I did end up tearing. But the recovery from the tear was much better than the c-section had beed. I had anticipated an oxtyocin rush after the birth much like a dose of ecstasy (the pill, molly). But it wasn’t like that. I was very tired and not really euphoric. However, I still held on to my doula’s hand and it was very special to me. There was a sense of wonder and magic in being there with her that can only be compared to taking drugs with acquaintances. It brings you together somehow. Maybe that was the oxytocin.

When my son was born I cared. I held him and loved him immediately. I breathed him in and felt joy, not trauma. I’ve loved him well ever since and avoided the post partum depression I was afraid I would come down with should we have had another cesarean.

I don’t want to paint pregnancy and labor as a “good” experience because people misinterpret positive with easy, like candy or tropical vacations. My pregnancy and labor were good like an ultramarathon is good. It was good like Christ’s dying on the cross was good (an image I visited many times during labor). The pain transformed me. But dealing with it naturally gave me confidence and let me feel on top of it, whereas the cesarean left me feeling passive and insecure in my body’s ability, in my abilities.

I love my little boy and am thankful to him for the gift he’s given me.

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Is Egg Freezing Really the Pro-Woman Solution?

Proud to have a piece over at Verily Magazine on the topic of Egg Freezing. Read full story here.

EggFreezing

I’m at a coffee shop in New Orleans. Next to me, a table of women discuss business and funding solutions. Ten feet away, my thirty-something barista chats with a male customer about video game strategies. In the bathroom is a large fish bowl of free condoms in a variety of colors. On the bulletin board is an ad soliciting full-time activists: “Oppose attacks on healthcare access. Expand reproductive rights. Keep birth control affordable.”
Contraception is touted as a necessity for my demographic, but I came to this coffee shop to write about how more and more women are resorting to reproductive technologies because of the difficulty they face in trying to start a family before menopause. Women now pay tens of thousands of dollars to inject themselves with hormones in a procedure called oocyte cryopreservation, or “egg freezing,” so that they might be able to have biological children when they are forty, forty-five, or fifty-plus years old.
In April, a feature story titled “Freeze Your Eggs, Free Your Career” made the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek. “Not since the birth control pill has a medical technology had such potential to change family and career planning,” wrote author Emma Rosenblum. She continues:

Imagine a world in which life isn’t dictated by a biological clock. If a twenty-five-year-old banks her eggs and, at thirty-five, is up for a huge promotion, she can go for it wholeheartedly without worrying about missing out on having a baby. She can also hold out for the man or woman of her dreams. Doctors hope that within the next thirty years the procedure will become a routine part of women’s health, and generous would-be grandparents will cover it as they would a first-mortgage down payment.

Rosenblum is right when she asserts that dramatic changes in family and career planning were brought on by the pill. But are women really happier now because of them?

Read more here…

Creating A Marketplace for Children

Proud to have a cover story piece published by North Carolina Family Policy Magazine, for their Spring 2014 issue. Here is a link to the text. Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 4.59.41 PM

Dr. David van Gend

I’m very uncomfortable with the use of the word “homosexual” rather than gay, but other than that this is a compelling video worth the watch.

Settling Down

Been melee’d in emotions high and low, not just lately but for the last million years it seems. There is so much to be thankful for. R got an amazing job as Director of Family Life for the Catholic Diocese of Lake Charles, LA. He gets to do exactly what he’s grown to love, and definitively help people build strong secure families. The town comes pre-loaded with friends: a friend for me, a friend for R, and a couple of friends for V. If there’s one thing I’m sure of it is that our children will have an amazing childhood in this swampy little town.

We’re giving birth to baby #2 in New Orleans. The job wasn’t secure for Lake Charles and we had to commit to a birth plan so we chose a mid-wife and birth center here, along with a 2 bedroom sublet and we’re doing fine. I much prefer the mid-wife I had picked out in California—I trusted her completely and she oozed an irresistible combination of professionalism and warmth. All of the toys in her lobby were wooden. She listened.so.well. She was going to facilitate a home birth, which has been my dream ever since the c-section with V. The experience itself was very scary, but in the last two years since it happened I’ve also relived it in horror via nightmares and daymares again and again and at this point I’ve cemented a negative perception in my brain of hospitals. The hospital has become the enemy.

My mid-wife now is an employee of the hospital. She is their first on staff mid-wife. She is very pro VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), but since she is so new here she is very concerned with establishing a good reputation with the doctors and staff at the hospital. She is not a very good listener. After a couple of visits it became clear that my mid-wife in fact frightens me, as does the birthing center (which is basically the hospital). But I can’t switch care-givers now because I’m due in 2 weeks. So I hired a doula. She’s going to help me do most of the active laboring at home, where I’ll be able to relax and manage my pain without fear of anyone shoving equipment up me or into me or trying to convince me to have an epidural because they’re uncomfortable dealing with my pain.

I like my doula. I trust her. I think its going to work.

There is so much to be thankful for. My daughter clearly is a very loving personality. She is so affectionate and laughs so frequently. I hope I offer her enough joy in return—sometimes I feel like an overly melancholic mom. More often though I feel like an overly melancholic wife.

There is a lot to do in 2014 and 2015. My ambitions have only waned slightly. But my desire to nest is intense. I constantly dream about furniture. At any given moment I’ll be thinking about wether or not we should buy a mattress or use craigslist to find free ones or wether or not R should bike to work so we can save money or should we splurge and get a vehicle. What kind of vehicle am I imaging for us? A minivan. 

I’m just as disgusted as you are. But like I said I’ve thought a lot about this, and if we plan on having 3 or more kids, which seems inevitable, than a regular sedan won’t accommodate us. And this is where the self-loathing comes into play because I too find consumerism unattractive, but more than that I think its a frustration with the physical needs and limitations of the body. And that extends out to the obligations and responsibilities of parenthood—supervising the wellbeing of other people’s bodies.

I have to remind myself that I am entering the sacrificial stage of adulthood where I must give of my all to others, because it is due return for my own existence and wellbeing. To make it bearable though, I am determined to get good speakers and a decent piano for our new homestead.