November 26, 2008

We’ve received a lot of inquiries lately concerning Hallie’s genealogy, country of origin and political views.  Although she makes the latter very clear, the first two are a bit more nebulous.  


Her perky/floppy ears, square snout and desire to carry something in her mouth at all times lead us to believe that she has a strong Labrador Retriever influence.  


Her body build, excess of skin and wrinkles as well as her intensely loyal and affectionate nature make us believe she is part Shar Pei.


We’re not completely sure where she gets the light eye color.  Or her fear of Jeeps. 


Or her intense desire to have her belly rubbed as often as possible.


Although we have some indication that her infinity for sleeping and listening to The Decemberists is a bit more nurture than nature. 


She’s been an adventurer from the start.  We love that.  


On a steep and strenuous hike this weekend we became convinced she is part mountain goat.  Or spawn of Bear Grylls.  


And we can judge a hike well-done by averaging the amount of dirt caked around her puppy nose and the number of minutes it takes her to fall asleep in the back seat on the way home.


She answers to Hallie, Hals, Hallencakes, Puppycakes, or an other combination of Hallie and Cakes.

Any other questions?  Oh, and she accepts fan mail.  If written on barbeque flavored dog treats.



November 21, 2008

It’s amazing to me how strong the desire to sleep with the windows open can be.  This time of year is always such a challenge for me. Right now I’m taking the blue sky for granted. I lack a thankful spirit. I worry that I’ll never love my husband the way I desperately strive to.  I don’t want to forfeit my passions out of a lukewarm spirit. I am missing friends of the past. Sometimes i wonder where all of my similar souls have gone and i feel alone at the most unexpected times. Right now my dog’s cold brown nose is something to smile about. She is relentless in her pursuit of attention. She sends me initiative to give love.  I am grateful that I married a man who loves to sleep outside.  Under the stars.  I need to read more. My stack of never-ending must-reads overwhelms me and I feel under-educated. Too many words.

I think about traveling to foreign places with him.  The wandering, amusement and continual newness.  I think about indian food and wine.  I think about the way the snow flakes race toward my headlights and I feel like I’m flying.  I think about old journals.  Spicy candles and God’s grace. I think about reading aloud. I think about laying on a blanket in the middle of a dark field, under the stars and eating ice cream.  The hammock on the porch.  I remember the sweetness of falling apart.  I think about the times I feel like I’m closer to understanding what love means.  

And I think about what it takes.

I know that I can take my human feelings, multiply them exponentially into infinity and I will still only have a hint of the love of God revealed by and in Jesus Christ. God is loving me this moment just as I and and not as I should be. There is nothing I can do to increase His love for me and nothing I can do to diminish it. Who am I to deserve a day full of such passion?

And I’m understanding that I can have it daily. (although I don’t often choose it) To be aware and alert of the presence of God manifested in a piece of music, a kiss, an encouraging word from a friend, a thunderstorm, a sunrise or sunset, a snowflake, the mountains, today: in the subtle thud thud of the fetal monitor and the excitement on the faces of expectant parents. It requires an inner freedom from self created through prayer. Gratefulness is born of a prayerfulness that helps us notice the marvels of God. Marvels that made my day.

 I want God, not something like God.

“That is why the real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.” _CS Lewis

Two things I love: hand written notes and a kiss to wake me up.

These are the kind of moments that, however modest or silly, make me feel needed—I might answer his questions “with just the right words,” as I always hope. But I am always guessing, sometimes afraid of the wrong words. I want to be a comforter.  Intelligent and sensitive.  I never know what he really needs and I am committed to a lifetime of figuring it out. And I ask him to tell me a story, or something I don’t know. Always hoping I would say something nourishing, something to make his heart glad. We are so needy.

I believe that grace is what overturns us, and also what opens us.

November 18, 2008

At some point between completing nursing school and beginning work, I read an article that drastically changed my practice as a labor and delivery nurse.  This article submitted that a woman’s self image is dramatically influenced by her birth experience.  Citing personal experiences and statistics, research has shown that how a woman feels about herself both during and after her labor and birth experience directly relates to how she views her self worth and self image.  

If a woman feels like she was inadequate or didn’t “do a good job” for any number of reasons (the natural vs. medicated delivery, c-section or vaginal delivery, negative comments from medical personnel or family, etc) then she carries that image of herself (as inadequate) throughout her life, into her relationships.  Interestingly, the positive or negative self-image a woman comes away from her birth experience with does not correlate with a positive or negative outcome.  Women who have delivered still-born babies have come away feeling positive about their role and women who have delivered perfect and healthy babies have, in the end, felt like failures.  

And even more interesting, the labor nurse has the most influence over this perception, more than the doctor or the family.  I wish I could find and reference that article now.  I’d give it to every labor nurse I know.  

It is weighty.

Some days I’m overwhelmed by the weight of it.  Everyone’s story is different and spending my days in some of the most meaningful, dramatic, life-altering moments of people’s entire lives makes the ordinary seem less so.  The second I step in the hospital room, I am immediately a part of their family.  I have the ability to shape who they are and that responsibility is both magnificent and terrifying.  

A few weeks ago I cared for a mother pregnant with twins who went into labor earlier than expected.  Weeks before her medically necessary, scheduled c-section.  From the moment she arrived in painful, active labor, she progressed more quickly than we expected and the doctor and I frantically delivered her first premature baby as I held her hand and coached her through and the doctor sat on the end of the bed to catch.  The bed, coincidentally, was positioned half-in and half-out of the doorway of the operating room where we were rushing her for the c-section.  A few minutes later as I struggled to find baby 2’s fading heartbeat, the doctor urgently cut open the mothers belly to delivery baby 2 by c-section.  This mom now had two premature babies and was forced to recover from both a vaginal delivery and c-section.   She was brave and amazing.

Some days up to half of our patient population is Spanish-speaking only.  And I can hold my own in Spanish as my OB-GYN Spanish vocabulary has expanded exponentially.  Although I still find it strange to tell a mother that I need to check her “boca de la matriz” (cervix) because it translates directly “mouth of the womb”.  I can communicate in Spanish labor progess, pushing, caring the the baby and breastfeeding but sometimes I’m forced to rely on my carefully crafted arsenal of OB-GYN charades.  Which are much more universal than one might assume.  (Don’t you wish you had a video of those?).  

Because of my relatively advanced ability to speak Spanish, I am occasionally asked to stand-in as translator in the times that we can’t find one soon enough. A few weeks ago I was in on a delivery with a co-worker to translate and coach the mother through pushing.  Most of my co-workers know enough Spanish to be dangerous.  At least they think so. 

Apparently oblivious to my calm coaching of the mother as the baby’s head begins to crown, this particularly excitable co-worker began to enthusiastically encourage the young mother to Push! Push! Push! by saying, emphatically, “Puta! Puta! Puta!”.  Much to the dismay of all in the room (most of all the co-worker), “Puta!” does not mean “Push!” in Spanish. 

Not at all actually.

It means “Whore!”.  So the father has stormed out of the room, the co-worker is bewildered, the doctor is trying not to laugh while attempting to catch this baby and the mother is crying and confused.  I use my best, most compassionate and eloquent Spanish to explain, apologize, console and coach this mother.

So I can do Spanish.

This week I cared for a patient who only spoke Arabic.  She had the most intricate and beautiful henna tattoos covering her hands and feet and had been in the United States a matter of months.  She had a benign tumor in her placenta which forced us to induce her labor earlier than expected.  Two nights in a row I cared for her during the long and trying process of inducing a baby that’s not ready to be born.  And by the second night we were familiar with each others facial expression, short phrases and charades enough that our bond began that slow, breath-taking crawl beyond language barriers.  

Her delivery was a comedic and beautiful dance of me animatedly coaching her by using a translator phone where I speak into one phone and the off-site translator relays the message to the patient through another.  It’s a strange and amazing experience to talking someone through their birth experience both over the telephone and face-to-face.  But eventually the phone was set down.  She was only reading my expression and listening to the tone of my voice, following my cues.  We didn’t need the words.  She delivered the most beautiful baby girl while looking me in the eyes and that expression has the power to stop time.  It is nearly other-worldly.    

And there are other mothers.  Ones who I have to cry with as we hand them their carefully swaddled, lifeless baby.  Ones who arrive high or drunk and delivery babies who go through detox along side their mothers.  Slowly and painfully.

But every day, every patient, every birth, I share the joy and the tears, sometimes the deep sadness of loss and usually the celebration of a new baby and a new mother.  And with each one I am forever repeating the words of encouragement.  In English, in Spanish, with my words, eyes and actions. You are doing such a good job.  You are a strong mother.  You can do this.  I am so proud of you.

November 14, 2008

November 4, 2008


Not happy about the options.