Monthly Archives: January 2014

Really Huffington Post? Really?

C’mon, I love the HuffPo. I like ‘crunchy’ / ‘hippie’ ideas – I even have such leanings myself. I proactively support women’s right to make choices about their healthcare. But can they not collide so horrifically in a piece such as:

I’ll save you clicking the link. Ruth Fowler wanted to instagram every moment of her homebirth. She did – including her decision to have a whisky sour to take the edge off the pain (in her “all natural” [cough – alcohol?] birth]. She shared much of the pain, and the wait, and then boom: a cute little baby on an immaculate, naked mother… a big gap and ‘Oh, I woke up in hospital after a hemorrhage, took lots of fentanyl [a sedative] and ohmygosh my midwife and doula were amazing I couldn’t have done it without them’.

The Huffington Post called it the ‘uncensored… beautiful, messy, reality of homebirth’.

As someone who has been though a severe postpartum hemorrhage, let me disagree. That is bull. What we saw was beautiful, I will agree.

But I saw no mess. You want to know mess? It is when you bleed so much a biohazard bin is full, your blood runs off the bed, off the splash pads, can’t be absorbed and runs all over the floor for your husband to clear up. That is the mess.

This is the aftermath of a (much cleaned up) messy birth

This is the aftermath of a (much cleaned up) messy birth

And the reality? The reality is that in these births, the husband sits by helplessly, holding a newborn he is not sure he wants – if it costs him his wife.


The reality is that it is not your midwife and doula you should be thanking, but the medical team (for me: 14 specialists and counting) and the nameless blood donors who allowed your child to have 2 parents.

The uncensored? The uncensored is not ‘yay I have a baby… ooooh fun! I am in hospital in soft focus and makeup with a cute baby 2 days later’. The reality is being wheeled to the operating room fighting the versed because you don’t know if you will wake up from it, it is waking up WITHOUT your infant despite wanting him desperately, it is waking up without you infant (fort he first time in 9 months) and being told they are ‘doing their best, but you are not out of the woods’, it is screaming in pain in the night, it is feeling blood transfusion after blood transfusion burn (10 units of such), it not being allowed to alone with your baby. It is gritty, and it is cold, and it is pale with blue lips and sadness.

Carefully place the baby by the mother... look, it is almost as if she got up and picked up the baby herself

Carefully place the baby by the mother… look, it is almost as if she got up and picked up the baby herself

Why do I say this? I do not think hospitals are perfect – I do think that unless you are informed and prepared to discuss and push for your views things may not go your way. I am not against home birth at all. AT ALL. I had a friend who just 5 months after Sam came told me that she was planning a home birth and I was all ‘OK, she knows what happened to me – cool’ and was pleased and supportive. But I am pro informed choices. And pieces like this spread the misinformation that if something goes wrong in childbirth its not that bad. It spreads the idea that hospitals are not necessary in any cases [Thanks to my doula! Thanks to my midwife! Umm… yeah… that’s all I needed].

This “uncensored.. [and]..messy reality” [sic]” gives a completely false account of the reality of when something goes wrong. Not to mention: where is the father in all this??? Where are his emotions? His experience?

Women need to know what happens when birth goes wrong. They need to see the actual messy reality. They need to hear doctors and nurses thanked and know they did something amazing. Then they need to look at the statistics, see how incredibly rare it is, and make their own decision – with their partner (please involve your partner if you have one). And be loved and supported through it. But just as I hate medical professionals who overplay risks and rush to C-sections, so I hate crunchies who downplay what what the reality can be.

Personally, I would much rather read “Wow… it went really badly, here is how awful it is, but I transferred to hospital, survived and so would make the same choice again. See if these are risks you are prepared to face’. Let people make the choice: unnecessary intervention (likely) vs. the real consequences if it goes wrong (unlikely).


Of course, the important thing is how well it all turned out:

Love being a Mum!

Love being a Mum!

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A Quick Thank You

Just a quick thank you to all the comments and emails I have received about ‘being fearless‘ in 2014. It wasn’t an empty post – it is something I am still thinking about and actively working at. Change is hard! It has been reassuring to hear of the number of people who feel the same, and so useful to hear your own thoughts and struggles. It has helped me reframe and understand mine – this is a first step to making a difference!

I am looking forward to sharing my journey with you.



A lesson for being fearless

Relaxing, Lekki-style this weekend

Relaxing, Lekki-style this weekend

Today was the first day back after the long Christmas break. I was about 1/3 as productive as I wanted to be. But, in the spirit of yesterday’s post, I am not miserable about it. I am not freaking out about what everyone else is / was doing. I am relaxing, taking the long view, and spending my evening doing fun stuff, knowing that the manic deadline-looming 4 am writing nights will come, like they always do in academia.

In my less-than-productive day, I stumbled across this woman – one Beautiful Existence (yes, that is her name). In 2013 she decided to only eat or drink anything from Starbucks, or a Starbucks affiliated / inspired company. Crazy. And probably inadvisable. But while I would not recommend it and I have no desire to try it, I did learn something from it.

When I first heard about the challenge on CNN my thought was a horrified ‘Oh my God, what a terrible idea, how dreadful’. Then I read about her results on Buzzfeed expecting tales of soaring cholesterol and addictions to ambien (a sleeping pill) and sentiments about Starbucks is really bringing down the world from within and we have to get rid of the venti or we’ll never solve the obesity crisis. But after reading her story, I came to the much more prosaic conclusion of ‘oh wow, nothing really changed for her’.

It hit me: really, this was not a catastrophic thing. There is no need to fear eating Starbucks for a year. You’ll be fine. It seems a big deal: it’s really not. It reminded me of 2009, in the last month of my PhD. Things were crazy. I left writing my actual thesis to the last minute and ended up writing a chapter a day, except for my methods, which took 2 days. At the same time I was co-leading an international summer school, and had joined a large multi-center research group and promised to develop some new methods for them on the analysis of sibling data. And I had my usual papers and work due. One day, it all got on top of me and I started to sob. Sob, sob, sob. Sob so loudly my ex-officemate Claire heard me all the way through two wooden doors & across 2 corridors in the other side of the building. She came to my office and, when I finally unlocked the door, said

“OK. Let’s make a cup of tea”

[it is very important that Americans understand just how integral tea is to solving all British crises. I recommend it].

Solves all ills.

Solves all ills.

But then, amidst my howls about how I could not possibly do it all, she said:

“OK, what would happen if you did none of it? Not a single thing?” I looked at her. “What would happen if you didn’t write your thesis?”.

“Ummm… my supervisor would be annoyed, and I would hand it in a bit late”.

“OK, what would happen if you did not get the summer school curriculum together?”.

“The students would still show up… we’d give them some lectures from last year… someone would bail me out”

“OK, and what would happen if you did not run these analyses for the multi-center group”

“They’d be annoyed. Their paper would come out a few weeks later”.

Ah. I see what you did there, Claire. No big deal. None of this is as catastrophic as it seems.

That is kind of what this lady’s Starbucks venture was to me: seemed horrendous and terrible and full of awful consequences. In reality: not a great idea perhaps, but no biggie. So, this is why I am not working tonight: it is not the end of the world that I had a bad (unproductive) day. There is no need to fear losing my job, never submitting another grant, never getting another paper out. I am learning to stop listening to what those around me are doing and go at my own pace. I could be unproductive for a whole week if necessary, and be fine. I could survive off Starbucks for a year and be fine.

We are lucky: we get a lot of chances to adapt and correct. Sweating the small stuff is overrated. Don’t give in to fear. Love life. Smile. Relax.

By the way – my thesis was in early and passed without corrections, the summer school was a roaring success, and I got one of my best publications out of the multi-center analysis group. Go figure.

Champagne for successful vivas for Harriet & me.

Champagne for successful vivas for Harriet & me.



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Looking towards 2014

I love mother and son selfies - this is our first of 2014. Practicing our duckface,

I love mother and son selfies – this is our first of 2014. Practicing our duckfaces

I am looking forward to 2014. I have not made resolutions, per se, but there have been things bubbling in the back of my mind that I want to do, or change, or expunge. It’s been hard to put them into words or achievable targets – in the main because I am completely clueless as to what I can actually achieve anymore. Fitness? Health? Craft projects? I feel stuck that anything worth achieving seems out of reach (train 4x a week? NEVER), and anything achievable seems pathetic (get to the gym once every 2 weeks? Useless!). Then it hit me: fear. My goal for 2014 is to remove fear from my life.

I used to be fearless. I used to be known for being fearless. I once needed a reference for a job application, and asked my supervisor. S/he said ‘I am so sorry to ask this, but could you draft it, and I will edit it?’. I agreed, and they sent a list of words to describe me. Brave or some such synonym was the first and last epithet, and featured throughout. When I left UAB, David called me into his office and said nice things about how nice it had been to have me part of his research group, and why. While I know he does this with all his trainees, I also know David well enough to know that he would not be disingenuous and his complements would be honest. For me, he commented on how fearless I was, and said similar things in his speech at my UAB leaving party. I remember that talk so well, and now I am left wondering where that girl has gone.

I live a life of fear now. I fear losing my job, I fear my son not loving me, I fear people not being interested in my blog. Basically, I fear not being good enough (good enough for what? Not sure about that…). It’s a dark thing that has come into my life and paralyzed me. I desperately try to spend time with my son, making me late for work. When I get home from my shortened hours, I try to spend time with Sam even though I am tired and distracted. I must be with him… must bath him… must do the pre-bed routine. When he goes down at 8, I am tired, but I don’t make time for myself. I feel guilty and worried about work, so I sit at my computer, often fruitlessly, wasting time being unproductive – which feeds into my fear that I am failing at my job. Then it is a downward spiral: I am afraid to do any of my hobbies because I should be working / with my son. I am afraid to invite friends out to do anything because ‘oh, they probably won’t want to and I’ll just bore them’. I am afraid to write a blog post, because I have nothing to say, distracted as I am with worry. I am scared to do anything in the house because ‘I’ll probably mess it up’.

Basically, I am not doing anything because of REASONS, PEOPLE. Because of fear.

Love being a Mum!

Love being a Mum!

Enough! It is time to stop. I am a good academic. I am a wonderful mother. I don’t know if I am a good friend (depends on the company I guess…), but my friends are old enough to just not hang out with me, if they don’t want to. The world won’t end if I restore a piece of household furniture and don’t do it very well, just as the world did not end when I accidentally unleashed a spray can of green spray paint on our cream stairwell. It’s all good. I just need to go for it. Work hard, trusting myself. Spend time with Sam. Not spend time with Sam, when I need to do other things. Write a blog post. Buy a print. Make a coffee date. Carpe diem exactly as I used to.

I remember when SSG (my old academic group) went canoeing. At the end of the river we came across a rope swing into a lake. Everyone hesitated, except me. IT WASN’T EVEN A QUESTION. Of course I was going on the rope swing. And I did (ridiculously, because I let go too early and screamed too much and swallowed 1/2 an Alabama swamp). And then everyone else did. And it was an awesome time.

That is the Lekki I want back in 2014. Fun-loving. Fearless. The only standard I hold myself to is my own. No goals, no check boxes, just a desire to not be afraid. To trust myself and do what my heart wants.

Of course, I hope some things come out of this… I hope that

(1) I blog more. I hope I create more time and actually blog more.
(2) I get an exercise routine. I hope I stop being scared to fail at a training plan start moving at pace on a semi-regular basis.
(3) I go for it and decorate our depressingly student-esque house. I hope I stop waiting for everything to be perfectly assembled and just get some nice pieces here and there.
(4) I read more. It has been so long since I have read anything because I feel all my time should be work or Sam. I welcome some guilt-free time to lose myself in a book.
(5) I see my friends more. I stop worrying about being too boring / frumpy / whatever and just hang out with people.

More of this!

More of this!

2014 is going to be good.