Friday, March 13, 2015

Not That Simple

I've been part of an online support group for preeclampsia survivors for a number of years. It's been rather quiet lately. I recently discovered a lot of people have moved to Facebook, so I joined that group, too. I've been a part of it for only a few weeks, but already this topic has come up a number of times. Some well-meaning but misinformed person upsets a survivor by asking why she didn't just control her blood pressure better. Sometimes they suggest lifestyle changes like diet and exercise, sometimes medication, herbal supplements, or even meditation. All of them show a misunderstanding of what this condition really is.

Here is a good comparison to explain why it isn't as simple as controlling your blood pressure. Influenza is a condition caused by a virus that has a number of symptoms including high fever. Imagine your child was very sick in the hospital and possibly dying of influenza, and someone wondered why you didn't "just" control his fever with Tylenol. You'd look at them like they were nuts. Fever is not the primary problem, it's just a symptom. Even if you control it with Tylenol (which you probably are already doing), that won't actually fight the virus. Your child would still be very ill.

The same thing is true of preeclampsia. It's a condition caused by a poorly functioning placenta that has a number of symptoms including high blood pressure. It's rather ridiculous to suggest that we should fix it by controlling our blood pressure. The high blood pressure isn't the primary problem, it's just a symptom. Even if we control it (which we attempt to do), that still wouldn't make the placenta work better. We'd still be very ill.

The reason this idea of "just" controlling our blood pressure is upsetting to survivors is because it suggests what we and our babies went through is our own fault for not taking better care of ourselves. It's not. We don't know why some women have faulty placentas, and we don't have the slightest idea how to fix it. It's not just a simple matter of better lifestyle choices or medication.

Friday, February 6, 2015

On the Vaccine Debate

Vaccination is the topic of the day. Whenever it comes up, I always really, really want to share my thoughts, but I also really, really don't want to get into an argument. I consider myself to be middle of the road. And you know what they say about people standing in the middle of the road: they get run over in both directions. That has been my experience in a nutshell.

When I had my first child, I felt it was my duty to make sure I was doing the absolute best I could for her. I couldn't just blindly make decisions. Her life and well being were too important. It was my responsibility to ask questions and get informed. And I had questions about vaccines. Questions like:

  • Because she was premature, should she be vaccinated according to her actual or adjusted age?
  • Would she be at greater risk for side effects due to her more fragile health?
  • Would it be better to delay the shots until she was a little older and stronger?
  • Should we spread them out a little more so she wasn't exposed to so many things at once?
  • What is actually in these things, anyway?
  • How serious are the diseases we're preventing? 
  • Does benefit outweigh risk?

When I asked these questions of the pro-vaccine camp, the response I got was this:

OH EM GEE! How dare you question the almighty vaccine! You're just a stupid, crazy hippie who's bought into a discredited study on autism! Your children will die a slow, painful death, and they'll infect half the world's population on the way out! Won't you feel terrible then, but you'll deserve it, you stupid, worthless piece of crap! Let's see what your magic herbs and oils do for you then! Your children should be taken away from such a terrible, neglectful parent!

I was very taken aback by this response. It was full of hate, fear-mongering, and bullying. But you know what wasn't there? Answers. Answers to my very legitimate questions. (And I hadn't even mentioned autism!) I started to wonder, if they couldn't offer facts to convince me, if they had to resort to these bullying tactics, could it be they were hiding something?

So I asked questions of the anti-vaccine camp. The response was this:

OH EM GEE! How can you even consider injecting that poison into your child? They'll totally get autism or ADD or a learning disability! And if they manage to avoid that, their digestive system will be destroyed! They'll have autoimmune diseases and hormone imbalances and everything you can imagine! Your child will suffer and it'll be all your fault! It's all a big conspiracy anyway, and I can't believe you're falling for it! It's government mandated child abuse!

Again, I was surprised at the bullying tactics and lack of actual answers. Now both sides looked insane. How was I supposed to know what was truly best for my child? Was I supposed to just blindly trust one side? Which one? It took a lot of wading through this garbage to find any kind of facts. I eventually came to a conclusion that seems right for my family. What is it? It's not really your business. It's right for us, and that's all that matters. 

I'm not going to tell you TO vaccinate. I'm not going to tell you NOT TO vaccinate. I WILL tell you to ignore emotional arguments. I WILL encourage you to get informed with real facts and not just blindly do what you're told, whether it's by your mainstream pediatrician or your alternative chiropractor. Beyond that I really don't care what you do. But we absolutely MUST get rid of the propaganda, fear mongering, emotional blackmail, and bullying tactics on both sides. If you can't offer facts, if you can only offer coercion, your position isn't actually very sound and you look like a fool. 

You know what bothers me most about this whole issue? The accusations of abuse and neglect for anyone who disagrees. Guess what? A parent who is trying to do the best for their child is not abusive or neglectful! At worst they're wrong, but they're lovingly wrong. So knock it off! 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

On Judging

In the last few months, I've heard a lot of different people in a lot of different formats complaining about being judged on a lot of different issues. It was already on my heart. Then this commercial started making the rounds this week and gave me the push to write:

I don't like this commercial. Here's why.

I first want to acknowledge that there are some very judgmental people out there. I also don't know all the details of all those situations I mentioned above. But when I do know the details, almost invariably the person accused of judging hasn't actually said or done anything judgmental. The only thing they've done is make a choice different from the person feeling judged.

It's been my own experience that when I feel judged, it's usually my own insecurities being projected onto the other person. Since this post was motivated by a formula commercial, I'll give you that as an example. I was really committed to breast feeding. Due to my circumstances, I was physically unable to produce enough milk. I nursed and also supplemented with formula. When I nursed in public, I felt SO self conscious. I felt exposed, and was sure everyone thought I was being a shameful exhibitionist. Then when I pulled out a bottle, I felt guilty over not being able to provide all my babies needed. I was sure everyone was judging me for giving my children less than best. In reality, most people couldn't have cared less what I was doing. They were too busy feeling insecure about what *they* were doing.

Parenthood, and for that matter life, is full of difficult choices. It's often hard to know the right thing to do. I firmly believe we are all doing the best we can with our specific circumstances, strengths and weaknesses, family dynamics, with the information, resources, and support available to us. If my choice is different from yours, it doesn't mean one of us is right and one is wrong. It's just different. I've been working hard the last few years to own my choices, not to question them every time I see someone who chooses differently. I'm also trying to own my insecurities, to realize that my feelings of inadequacy are my own and not other people judging me.

So back to the commercial. I don't like it because it "confirms" our worst fears. The stay at home moms really do think you neglect your child by working away! The working moms really do think you're a useless waste of talent if you stay home! The breast feeders, the formula feeders, the home schoolers, the public schoolers, the cloth diaper-ers, the Western medicine-ers, they all really are judging you!

No, they're not. At least most of them aren't. And, in my opinion, the ones who seem most judgmental are often the most insecure in their own choices, and their "judgment" is really just defensiveness to convince themselves they really are doing the right thing. I like what this woman wrote: People don't think about you nearly as much as you think they do. So next time you feel judged, ask yourself, are they really judging me or am I judging myself? Am I just insecure? Or are they? And does it really matter what they think anyway?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Put some clothes on!

You know why I haven't blogged in a while? Because I haven't blogged in a while. I have to do the obligatory "It's been so long, new resolve, new focus, blah blah whatever" post. Screw it. Here's what's on my mind today.

Papa Runner and I watched the ball drop in Times Square last night. Taylor Swift performed wearing a sparkly bra under a cropped white suit jacket for the first half of her medley, then took off the jacket for the second half and just had on the bra.

I have no desire to discuss the relative modesty of the outfit, first because the topic has been talked to death and I'm sick of it, and second because it actually covered more than your average bikini top so wasn't *that* bad on our society's scale. What bothered me about it was that it was 20 freaking degrees out!

I went shopping for winter church outfits for my girls and was once again disgusted by all the short sleeved dresses. You can hardly find long sleeves. It snows here, for crying out loud! Why on earth are there *any* short sleeved options, let alone a majority? A friend thinks it's a conspiracy theory to make us spend more money buying a sweater to go over. BUT this year, many of the *sweaters* were short sleeved. SERIOUSLY?!?

I'm starting to think the real conspiracy is to convince women from toddlerhood that the point of clothes is not to protect you from the elements but to look nice for other people. If you can teach the four year old to freeze to death in her cute Christmas dress, it'll be that much easier to convince the fourteen year old to dress sexy. Not in this house. My kids and I will be warm, thank you very much.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Eating Paleo as an Endurance Runner

Run like a Caveman
Before I started eating Paleo, I had a laundry list of minor health complaints similar to what everyone else complained about, and I thought that's just the way it is. Since making the change, I feel SO MUCH BETTER. More energy, easier cycles, steadier mood, better digestion. Most importantly, my autoimmune symptoms are almost completely gone. And as an added bonus, I've lost 33 pounds. It's also affected my running for the better.

I made the switch June 2, so I've now been about 95% Paleo for seven months. The other 5% is the occasional cheat, eating out, and things like family reunions and church potlucks. Even on those occasions, I try to stay within the guidelines as much as possible but don't worry too much about eating a slice of Great Grandma's famous peach pie. And yes, my body does let me know it isn't happy when I do that, which just reinforces that I'm on the right path.

I did have to make some adjustments to the plan because I'm an endurance runner. I need carbs for energy. I used to carb load on things like pasta, rice, and white potatoes. I've given all of those up. Instead, I eat a lot of sweet potatoes, squash, and tapioca. These are carb-heavy veggies, great for children and athletes. They may not be the best choice for someone who is less active and trying to lose weight, but they're essential for me. I also eat a lot of fruit. The natural sugars are great for energy, and they come with the bonus of good, solid nutrition, as compared to cookies and candies. Lastly, I generously salt my food. I didn't realize how much salt I got from processed food, and when I started making everything from scratch I wasn't getting enough sodium. Once I realized this and started adding salt to everything, I felt a lot better.

I used to carry Jelly Belly sports beans and drink Gatorade/Powerade on runs. I had no idea how much high fructose corn syrup are in those things, not to mention the food dyes! I replaced the sports beans with dried cranberries. I make my own sports drink by chopping up a lemon to throw in my Camelback, add a teaspoon of salt, fill with water and shake. I add water as needed, and carry a salt packet to add on longer runs (16+ miles).

And what has been the result? Previously, even after 5 years of running, I felt like I was doing well if I could average 13:30/mile. Now I regularly run 12 minutes/mile on longer runs and recently had a personal-best single mile of 8:51! I've set PRs in both the half by 17 minutes and the full (race report coming soon) by 18 minutes, and expect to set another PR in my next marathon in two weeks. After that race, I plan to increase my running interval even more and hope to finish marathon #6 with an average pace around 11 minutes/mile.

I originally planned to give this eating style an 8 week trial. I now plan to stay strict with it for at least 3 years. At some point, I may experiment with adding small amounts of gluten free grains and raw dairy in, but I want to give my body time to heal first.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Race Report: We Care Half Marathon

My Dad and me. Isn't he awesome?
On September 28, I did the We Care Twin Cities Half Marathon. This was the second year for the local-to-me race. Papa Runner ran it last year, while I helped at a water stop. This year I trained really hard to improve my speed. My previous best half marathon time was 2:40:36. I set what I thought was an ambitious goal of finishing in under 2:30, with intervals of 2 minutes running and 2 minutes walking.

A fun part of running a local race is meeting people I see in training every week but don't really know. A man came up to me at the Expo and said, "Hey, you're Run Like a Mother!" in reference to my favorite running shirt. Yep, known by my t-shirt, and now known by name. I connected a few more faces to names volunteering on the Expo clean up crew.

Race day was beautiful with nearly perfect weather conditions for a fast run. The course is pretty flat and happens to include much of the route I run for training most weeks. I went into it feeling strong and confident. I was also pretty excited about seeing so many people I know along the course. A lot of my team mates were either running or spectating.

I finished the first mile in 10:40, which was faster than I had planned. I was a little worried that I'd set too fast a pace and wouldn't be able to maintain. I kept telling myself, "Settle into your pace. Let your body lead." Turns out the pace I settled into was just under 11 minutes/mile. As I turned the final corner and broke into a sprint, I saw the clock count up to 2:23. I never turn my watch off immediately on the finish line, so I wasn't sure if I was over or under until I checked the official time: 2:22:59.5! I didn't even know they measured to the half second, but I'll take it! I was 7 minutes faster than my "ambitious" goal and more than 17 minutes faster than my previous best. A wonderful day!

My dad, who also runs half marathons, finished two minutes ahead of me. He thinks that's the last time he'll beat me. :) I think he should do his first Full.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Catch Up Post 2: Summer Training

As I mentioned in a previous post, I downloaded a running app that I just LOVE. I decided to download the 5k companion app this summer. Now, I'm an experienced marathoner. I don't need a couch to 5k training program. But after letting my speed, such as it was, slack off while training for Goofy, I wanted to focus on the running portion of my intervals. I like being an interval runner, I don't really want to be an all-runner, but I did want to run longer and faster within my interval routine. I thought this would be a good chance both to add to my Zombie fun and to work on my speed.

The storyline of this app takes place between the first and second missions of "Zombies, Run!" While not critical to the story as a whole, it does add some nice details to round it out. It was fun to learn more about the background of various characters.

The training program was thorough and could be easily adjusted depending on your ability. When I started it, I was only running a quarter mile at a time (I'd run an occasional mile during my years of running, but I really like my intervals). By the end of the program, I could run a full 5 miles without a walk break! Since then, I've worked my way up to 10 miles of all-running!

My only complaint with the app is that the last mission, the 5k run, is based on time, not actual distance. I'd gotten so fast (for me, anyway), I ended up going almost twice as far. If I'd been running an actual race instead of just through the neighborhood, I'd have had a lot of story left at the end.

I still love my intervals and use them on longer runs, but many of my shorter runs are now all running. And even on interval runs, my overall speed has improved a LOT. More on that in my next race report.