Friday, October 12, 2018

Hurricane Michael

Well, I suppose it’s ironic that I posted a few days ago worrying about a Category 3 hurricane and hoping it would be downgraded. As it is, Hurricane Michael was 2 mph shy of a Category 5 and declared the worst storm to hit the panhandle in recorded history.

The area that was hardest hit, as you probably know, was the city of Mexico Beach. Tragically Mexico Beach was also one of the most vulnerable areas, at least in my mind, with lots of older construction and one story homes near the water.  It’s a town just a short drive from my house and it’s really sobering to see the extent of the devastation there. I can’t imagine the town will be able to fully recover from so much destruction, at least not anytime soon.

My property manager sent a link so I could see the house via satellite at least (no one is allowed into the area just yet except first responders). I really appreciate the gesture given that his own home must have been damaged as well, and his whole life has been thrown into chaos with the storm.  It’s certainly above and beyond what I would expect.

In any case, here’s the state of the house:

I call this picture “Unreasonably Blessed” - remember the house was within 50 miles of the eyewall and approximately directly at the site of the highest recorded storm surges. Yes, we will clearly have to replace the stairs, and we might still have a lot of siding loss and other issues, but it could have been so much worse.   For now I’m just appreciating having a place to call home still. We’ll sort out the rest of the details later.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

I did know this day would come...

...I just didn’t think it would be quite so soon! I was really hoping to get to spend a few nights with the baby and family at my house when we didn’t have to kill ourselves doing construction.  But what can you do? Hurricane Michael is now projected to make landfall on the coast somewhere very near my house as a category 3 storm.  At least the house is very thoroughly insured and my loved ones and I are far from the danger zone. I’m definitely thinking of all the property managers, store owners, and service providers who live in the area full time.  Hopefully the storm won’t be as bad as predicted for their sake especially.  At least we don’t have long to wait to find out what the damage will be. I’ll post an update once I know more.

Til then, stay safe Gulf Coast!

See that big purple smear? Yeah, my house is approximately exactly in the middle of it.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

4 weeks to go!

I apologize to any of my faithful readers who came for foreign service stories, not a pregnancy blog. I TOTALLY agree. I am dying to have some foreign adventures again and am also very done with the whole pregnancy thing. I promise we will return to our regularly scheduled program of expat life starting in December/January after my maternity leave.  In the meantime though it does help knowing how very close I am to the finish line, just a few months from now baby will be on his first international adventure with me!

I also read a pregnancy forum today though helped put things in perspective. The original poster asked moms-to-be what they couldn’t wait to do once they have the baby. There were sooo many moms who chimed in about food, especially the moms on medically restricted diets.  So it could be much worse! It seems to unfair to be pregnant and not even get the payoff of eating whatever you want. I am very, very grateful to have avoided gestational diabetes and to those moms dealing with it - you are heroes!

Since I’m still an omnivore, for me the list is actually pretty short. In no particular order, I can’t wait to:
Drink wine
Sit or stand comfortably for as long as I want
Wear my full wardrobe again
Pick things up off the floor with ease
Not have to find a bathroom every 20 minutes
Have something more exciting than ‘resting’ on my weekend agenda

You know, the little things in life.

But come to think of it, I will kind of miss feeling baby kick. :)

Sunday, September 30, 2018

DC Lately

Just a few pictures from my DC wanderings lately.  I’ve been getting a little stir crazy after almost a full year here in DC but a visit from an old friend gave me a fresh view of the city.  It really is a beautiful city sometimes.  

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Surviving the Office While Whale-Sized

1) Get a standing desk - when sitting hurts you can stand, then, twenty minutes later when standing makes you feel like passing out you can sit. A truly brilliant invention, just one step down from being able to work in a recliner. (FYI office, I would be very productive with a recliner/desk.)

2) If you and your office both agree, arrange a part-time telework schedule.

3) Acquire: compression socks, a yoga ball, a donut pillow, maybe some ice packs, and a footrest.

4) Drink lots of water.

5) Take frequent breaks - as in once an hour - don’t just hit up the bathroom, take a walk, grab a snack or a drink, stretch.

6) Oh yeah, and move around or change position as often as you can get away with it.

7) Purchase some non-frumpy work clothes. You’re going to need the ego boost.

8) Straight up lie about your due date. If you tell people you have a month or more to go they’ll just say something unintentionally discouraging like, “Wow, you look ready to pop already!” But by the next day they will have completely forgotten the due date you gave them anyway, so you can get away with being ‘two weeks away’ for pretty much the last two months if you want to avoid that awkwardness.

If it sounds like I’m advising that you prepare as if you were going to climb Mt. Everest or trek across the prairie in a Conestoga wagon, that’s basically what my intention is.  Being pregnant is one thing but being pregnant while working is a whole other level of difficult so take full advantage of any extra tricks available to make it through the day. And give yourself a pat on the back while you’re at it!

(Also, thanks mom for going through all this way back when for me!)

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Book Review - Pregnancy/Childbirth Edition

On my baby prep to-do list there’s an item for ‘Read baby books’ that in retrospect was a bit vague, but I’ve been diligently working through the library anyway, picking up something random and baby related every couple of weeks and devouring it for new secrets to the process. Turns out there’s a TON out there, but here are the ones I can speak to from personal experience.

The Happiest Baby on the Block, Harvey Karp
I honestly just can’t with this book. It’s soooooo repetitive and the writing style really rubs me the wrong way. However it is the only book I’ve read so far on the whole after-delivery baby situation and it does promise to teach one how to swaddle so at some point I imagine I’ll bite the bullet and read through to the actual useful stuff. Really though, very irritating writing.

Dr Miriam Stoppard’s New Pregnancy and Birth Book
One of approximately one million books that all seem to cover the same territory. However if you haven’t yet read one of the others this one should be a totally acceptable choice to get a handle on the basics and reassure you that you'll probably survive delivery and so will the baby. What this book and many others left out, in my opinion, is any of the nuance. So if you want someone to tell you what the side effects of an epidural are in bullet points then this type of book is fine. If you want to know the exact numbers, where they get their data in the first place and how recent that research is, this book and the rest will mostly send you searching elsewhere.

Pregnancy, The Beginner’s Guide
Very similar to the above, again with fun graphics and lots of reassurances .... and the occasional pronouncement that isn't backed up by any scientific detail.  I was also mildly annoyed that most books including this one refuse to acknowledge that the majority of women choose an epidural - instead they tend to treat it as an unfortunate aberration.  And none of the books I read indicated that you might be giving birth without a husband in the room, despite the fact that around 40% of women giving birth aren't married and this number is even higher in certain parts of the population.  As a single mom by choice I found the choice to ignore the existence of single moms a bit of an anachronism. But that's enough tangent for today!

Getting back to the book review, since I’d already read the above and skimmed though plenty of books like the ‘What to Expect...’ series I didn’t get much out of this one. But it's fine for what it is. 

Expecting Better, Emily Oster
Written by an economist who is also a mother this book aims to cut through some of the old wives tales and pseudo-science that show up everywhere and focus on the actual studies.  Then theoretically expectant moms can make decisions based on facts and not just what some pushy stranger on the internet thinks. I like that idea!  For instance the author debunks a lot of the fears surrounding different food groups that pregnant women are mostly cautioned to avoid.  She also talks a lot about the pros and cons of various medical interventions, mostly without judgment, though I was disappointed to see that when it came to her own experience she fell victim to the internet commenter tendency to use an anecdote (she had no epidural and a fast labor, therefore no epidural equals fast labor) rather than presenting the facts without bias.  So in the end she almost achieved her goal and if you  can see past her treatment of just a couple subjects that must have touched a little too close to home the rest of the book could be an excellent resource for making more fact-based decisions for your own (and baby’s) care. 

Push Back, Amy Tuteur
Because I am a rebel I was intrigued by this book, which basically makes the claim that many women are coerced or shamed - either before or during delivery - into following the agenda of the ‘natural birth’ movement against their preferences and potentially at greater risk to their own health or that of their babies. Having noticed for myself the truly amazing amount of judgement that seems to be spewed out on some of these pregnancy forums towards any mom who isn’t on board with a medication free, natural birth, this book definitely resonated with me, though I will say I think in multiple places the author takes her position and accusations too far.  Basically if you want an alternative perspective or want your preexisting alternative perspective validated this book is for you. And at the very least it does go into significantly more detail about the studies behind some of the claims in most pregnancy books and articles (which are often biased or inaccurate, or just completely lacking sources.)

Honestly though, the best source for current information is the internet, as always.  If you're looking for really honest information (if not very factual) I'll search the internet forums where other pregnant women compare symptoms.  Turns out there is a lot that is apparently not cute enough or a little TMI to warrant a mention in pregnancy books, but it's reassuring to know other women are going through the same things. And when I really want to dig for actual facts most of the medical studies I've searched for have been available for free online as well, helping me investigate a lot of what I've been hearing for myself.

So happy reading! Any recommendations for me?

Sunday, September 9, 2018

When it rains it pours!

DC has been very, very soggy this weekend. If you’re here maybe you noticed?

While it wasn’t a good weekend for say, nature activities, it was pleasantly cozy and cool and one particularly nice event didn’t get rained out - my baby shower!

With this crazy lifestyle it was inevitable that my family and friends were scattered pretty far for the big event. The family is mostly in the Midwest and the friends are - to name a few - in Taiwan and South Africa and Iraq and Burundi and Brazil and ..... But I was/am extremely lucky to have a few friends either here on DC tours or just passing through and they threw me a lovely and generous party to celebrate the impeding arrival of he-who-shall-hopefully-be-named-soon.

With all this help I feel like I’m finally getting a handle on the baby to-buy list. Who knew someone so small could need so much stuff? At least it’s all really, really cute!

And in addition to all the material support I’ve been getting really great advice and moral support from my more distant friends from out of town. It’s a cliche, but it does feel like I’m gathering a whole village to help me raise this little one.  Turns out commiserating about soreness and comparing breast pumps is a great bonding exercise!

So to the loved ones near and far who’ve chipped in with everything from words of encouragement to booties to home remedies for muscle aches, thank you! I really do feel showered in love and if baby knew you he would too!