Monday, September 28, 2009

Health Care- Personal and Universal

So, I'm still pregnant. My due date is Wednesday. I've been having "pre-labor" symptoms for almost two weeks now, including four nights during which I actually started timing the contractions. So, a lot of lost sleep (why do the contractions always come at night?) but no baby. At my last doctor's appointment (last Friday), I had made progress and was told birth could come any day now. Saturday night, I had almost three hours of moderate contractions at roughly 10-15 minutes apart. I got all excited, and ruined Hubby's sleep, too. Then they just stopped, and I went to sleep for a few hours. Then they started again, and then they stopped again.

Anyway, I don't really want to talk about it. I'm tired of starting all my phone calls/emails with "I'm still pregnant!" or "No, I'm not in labor." I want to talk about health care instead. (Here is my earlier rant on the subject).

One of the things I've been doing to help pass the time while I wait for this baby to be born is read magazines. Somehow, concentrating on a magazine article is easier than concentrating on a book. My parents brought over some old magazines for me to read. One of them was a Newsweek with an article called "No Country for Sick Men", by T.R. Reid. It makes an interesting point- a nation's health care system says something about its character. The American mythology includes the rugged individualist and the self-made rags-to-riches man, so perhaps it is not surprising that we emphasis personal choice and responsibility so much in our health care system.

It also gave me a little more understanding into one of the aspects of the debate that has been most difficult for me to grasp. To me, and many other left-leaning types, health care is a universal right. I consider the large number of un- and underinsured people a symptom of a moral failing in our country.

As I read and try to understand the point of view of people opposed to the proposed reforms, I have been puzzled by the belief of many more conservative people that health care is not a right, but a privilege. (One good, and non-combative place, to get a feel for this point of view is this guest post from Loralee's husband on her blog.) I could not figure this out. Isn't the right to life one of the most fundamental rights? Doesn't lack of access to adequate health care impinge upon this right? I've posted these questions on a couple of the more thoughtful conservative posts opposing health care reform, and never really gotten an answer. I also have never received a satisfactory answer to the question of what to do about emergency care- currently, emergency rooms have to provide care to anyone who needs it, whether they can pay or not. We all pay for the care for those who are unable to pay for it themselves. This is an expensive way to pay for care, some of which could be handled in a doctor's office if the patient had access to one, and some of which could be avoided altogether with good treatment of chronic diseases like asthma and diabetes.

But perhaps the Newsweek article explains it, at least partially. To me, providing health care to everyone is a moral imperative. To opponents of universal health care, it is a moral hazard, creating a system in which people can shirk their responsibility for their own health- and if you won't take care of your own health, what does that say about your approach to other responsibilities? I guess that forcing someone to go to emergency rooms, with their long waits and stressful conditions, for all his care does send a message that he has somehow failed in his responsibilities.

I don't agree at all with this viewpoint, and I am hoping that my country decides that providing health care to all is a moral imperative, not a moral hazard. But perhaps I can understand one of the opposing viewpoints a bit better now. I still can't really reconcile the moral hazard idea with the rabid opposition from the same people to a mandate requiring people to take responsibility for their health care and purchase insurance. This is usually painted as an attack on personal freedom- but why should someone be free to force me to pay for his/her emergency room treatment? As far as I know, no one has argued that we should turn people away from emergency rooms if they cannot pay.

So I guess I still cannot understand the viewpoint of the opponents of health care reform. I suspect they are just as baffled by my viewpoint. What a shame that we have not taken this opportunity to have a thoughtful debate on real issues, and instead are shouting at each other. Maybe if we all tried a little harder to understand the concerns of the other side, we could find a solution that really would reflect our nation's character.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Hubby and I have been busy preparing our house for the new baby, with copious help from my Mom (who has been here since Thursday). We are far more prepared than I expected we would be. The office has mostly been merged into the guest room. The stuff that was stored in our old desk has either been stored in the new, smaller desk, stored elsewhere, or tossed. The baby's dresser has been organized and a plan made for the other furniture that is needed in the baby's room. A new system for storing Pumpkin's diapers has been found, and the changing table moved into the baby's room. A lot of this is due to my Mom, who enjoys crossing things off of to do lists even more than I do (and I really love crossing things off to do lists- just ask my coworkers). Hubby has put in a huge amount of work building the new desk and moving things around, too.

Really, we're almost ready. Of course, there is a rather large desk in the baby's room instead of a crib. But we're planning on having the baby in a cosleeper in our room for the first six months, so that is not as big of a problem as it might seem.

I continue to try to finish the work I did not finish before I went out on leave. Things are in OK shape- if I were to have the baby tonight (which would be fine with me- hint, hint, baby) everything would be OK. I'd have to come back and do a little work after a few weeks, but nothing bad would happen in the interim.

I'm also making progress on the perhaps more important mental preparations. I'm definitely ready to have the baby- I have been for a couple of weeks, ever since the contractions/cramping/mind games started. (Hint, hint, baby.) However, I've also been a bit wistful about the changes I know are coming in my relationship with Pumpkin, though. She is so smart and funny right now. She can be frustrating, as any 2 year old can be, but she is also a lot of fun to play with and talk to. She gets so excited about every new thing, and I want to be there to see everything. I've needed to rest, though, so she has gone on more outings without me. She comes back full of stories, which I love to hear. But I always wish I had been there! I know I need to start letting go a bit. Pumpkin is ready to go on more adventures without me, and I need to let that happen- both for Pumpkin and for my own sanity once the new baby arrives.

So on Saturday night, Pumpkin went on a sleepover at my sister's place, with my Mom. They watched a movie and ate ice cream. They got up the next morning and made trail mix and went to the zoo. She had a great time. Hubby and I went out to dinner, for perhaps the last time in, oh, maybe 6 months. (Who knows how long it will be before we have the bedtime routines down to the point where one person, not one of us, could be expected to handle them?) We had a great time, too. The next morning, Hubby and I worked in our new consolidated guest room/office. We made far more progress than we would have if Pumpkin was around. I was a little sad thinking of Pumpkin at the zoo without me- I have yet to see her actually touch an animal at the petting zoo (a recent advance for Pumpkin)!- but I'm getting better at this. Pumpkin came back and needed a little snuggle to settle into her nap. When she woke up from her nap, she told me all about her adventure with her Mimi and her aunt. And maybe hearing those stories was just as good as being there.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Home for the Duration

Tuesday was my last day of work. Pumpkin is clearly a bit confused by this change in routine. This morning, she asked me if I would be staying home to rest again. I explained that I would be home until after the baby was born. I don't think she really believed me.

Did I get everything done at work? As Pumpkin would say, "I did-nent". But I came close. I have a reasonably short list of things I'm trying to finish up from home. I can add that to the list of things I need to do at home- like continue merging the guest room and office so that the baby can have a room.

I worked for about an hour and a half yesterday, and will probably do the same today. It is amazing how much more I can get crossed off my list now that I am at home and free from needing to respond to the items people brought to me throughout the day.

I also took a nice long nap yesterday, and watched a fair amount of bad TV. I am always struck by the commercials that are on during the day time. There are the same commercials for cleaning supplies (aimed at the stay at home parent, no doubt), cheap car insurance (the person stuck at home because he/she can't insure the car?), and technical and trade schools (the person who needs a new, better job) that I remember from my last pre-baby stint at home. There is also a new category this time- commercials for gastric surgery weight loss products. I'm at a loss to explain those. Surely the seriously overweight have to work during the day, too?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Test of My Methods

After my 8 (yes, 8!) hours of not really labor pains on Tuesday, I decided to change my last day of work from September 22 to September 15. I am happy with that decision, because I had a lot of pain last night, too, and early signs are that tonight is not going to be much better. I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow, and will be interested to find out what he makes of all this, and whether the pains are really "false" in that they are doing nothing, or if I am in fact starting to dilate. I started dilating several weeks before Pumpkin was born, so I suspect the latter.

Regardless, this raises two interesting questions:

1. Why are the pains coming only in the late afternoon/evening? Is this telling me something about when labor is likely to start? Or is it just due to me being tired? I don't think it can be that I am just more distracted during the day, because believe me, I notice these pains regardless of what I am trying to do at the time they come.

2. Can I actually get myself ready to go out on leave by next Tuesday? The obvious answer here is "no, of course not". By its nature, my current job does not lend itself to "finishing up". If I could really finish everything off before I leave, I'd be nervous about how long they'd keep me when I got back! The real question is whether I can get enough done not to leave anyone really in the lurch. This will be a test of my work methods. I really can't manage any extra hours right now- I'm barely making it through my usual work day. So can I get everything done with the hours I have? I started to suspect I might call it quits early about a week or so ago, and started to aggressively prioritize my tasks. I had already started a list of "things to do before going out on leave", so I revisited that list and picked out the truly critical things. I came up with four things. Two are now complete. One can be completed with a meeting, which is scheduled for next Tuesday (my last day- it was scheduled for today, but one of the other critical attendees had to leave town unexpectedly this week).

I'm working hard on the fourth thing now. It is a big one. I'm making progress, but I have to be honest- I'm nervous about completing it. I've broken it into smaller parts, and have prioritized the parts based on what will be easiest for my colleagues to pick up and finish without me. I will almost certainly finish the highest priority pieces of this task, unless I actually go into labor before next Tuesday. I am still hopeful I can finish it all.

In case you're curious, I've used a similar approach at home. We had a list of things to do to get ready for the baby. My fatigue-ridden pregnancy and the demands of a toddler conspired to prevent us from coming close to finishing everything on that list. So I prioritized it. We have all but one of the "must do" items done now.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Some Random, Unrelated Things

I've been having false labor pains for several hours. I know they are false because the feeling of contraction and the pain never occur at the same time. I remember enough about my first labor to know that these are not "real". (Of course, they still hurt, and tired as I am right now, I don't see the point of trying to go to bed while this is going on.)

About an hour ago, I remembered that I'd actually had something similar last time- pains strong enough to make me start timing them, but that didn't ever turn into real labor. I can't remember how long it lasted- I think about 6 hours. And more importantly, I can't remember how long after the false labor my water broke. I think it was at least a week.

If only I'd written these things down, I could torment myself with that (probably irrelevant) information now. So here I am, writing them down this time. But of course, I'm not planning on ever being pregnant again, so this is pretty useless. At least it is distracting me.


I have realized that I left some incredibly cute things out of my recent post on cute things Pumpkin says:
  • They aren't bunny rabbits. They are "rabbit bunnies".
  • "Just a little bit", said while holding her thumb and forefinger together and squinting her eye, after being refused something. As in "I need to watch the Muppets, just a little bit, though".
  • "Daddy said no to me!" Said in shock and horror, after her Daddy does indeed say no to her.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Worth It

Tonight was one of those nights that reminds me why I had a baby in the first place.

One of the quirks of living near Mission Bay is that we hear the Sea World fireworks- they go every night in the summer, at 8:50 on weeknight and 9:50 on Saturdays. We can't see them from our house, but we definitely hear them. Pumpkin enjoyed watching the fireworks on the Fourth of July, so we decided that we should take her down to the bay to see the Sea World fireworks some time. Here it is, the end of summer (a funny designation here in San Diego, where September may be the best month of the year, but we still observe the formalities), and we hadn't done it yet. We tried on Friday night, but the fireworks were moved later due to the long weekend. Pumpkin took the disappointment well, but we knew we had to try again, even though it would mean a later bedtime on a "school night".

We took Pumpkin down to the bay tonight, and it was without a doubt worth the late bedtime. She talked excitedly about the trip from the minute Hubby told her of our plans. On the way down to the bay, she told us that "if there are no fireworks tonight, we'll go straight home and snuggle with Mommy" (this is what happened on Friday), and she told us how she'd say "good one!" when she saw fireworks.

We got to the bay a few minutes before the fireworks started, and sat at a table to wait. Pumpkin hugged the blanket we'd brought to cover her, and told us how there were cars driving on the road (the freeway, behind us), and how that was the bay in front of us.

And then the fireworks started. Pumpkin's eyes got big, and she said "good one!" Then she said "what's that?" because she'd never been close enough to hear the boom of fireworks before. We told her it was the fireworks, and for the rest of the show, she told us "it says 'BOOM!'" and "good one!" She liked the ones that crackled ("they say 'ssssss'") and the ones that were different colors.

The show only lasted between 5-10 minutes, and Pumpkin loved every minute of it.

Then we came home and she snuggled with Mommy, and was asleep a mere 20 minutes later than usual. Definitely worth it.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Funny and Sad

I just looked at my logs, and apparently someone came to my blog by searching on "how to make a scientist happy".

Huh. If I discover something that does that reproducibly, I'll be sure to post on it. Right after I tell my husband.

Right now, I'd say the front-runner is ice cream. But that might only work for pregnant scientists.

(The search led to this post. Somehow, I think the method described in that post is a little more complicated than the searcher wants.)

I do have some searches that perhaps led to useful information- a few people found this post by searching on combining motherhood with science, and on by searching on combining life with a career in science (its a little sad that I only laughed at the strangeness of that search now, as I typed it- it is so ingrained in me that it is hard to "have a life" and be a scientist). I suspect my sort of scientific career isn't what the searchers were looking for, though. I wish one of the successful professors who happen to be mothers out there would write a blog post about how she combines her career and motherhood. Anytime I read a post from an academic scientist that gets anywhere near the issue, the comments are depressing (for instance, the recent post from Blue Lab Coats on maternity leave in academia). Surely, there must be some mothers/professors who are happy with their lives?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

A Thoroughly Unoriginal Observation

The last month of pregnancy is designed* to ensure that you're happy to go into labor.

Everyone who sees me says something along the lines of "you're huge!" (I am). My stomach and legs itch. My back hurts. I'm having Braxton-Hicks contractions almost all the time. I'm tired, because even with my old standby Tylenol PM, I can't seem to sleep more than 6 hours in a night. I feel queasy some of the time (the doctor says this may mean I'm not drinking enough water- but I'm drinking ALL THE TIME).

The real kicker is that I know I'm having an easy pregnancy. Imagine how whiny I'd be if I'd had some actual complications.

*This, from a scientist who firmly believes in the theory of evolution. When I'm awake at night, tossing and turning because if I stay on one side for more than about 20 minutes my leg hurts, I amuse myself by trying to come up with the selective advantage to the miserableness of the last month of pregnancy. I haven't come up with anything plausible. Anyone else have any ideas?