Thursday, February 6, 2014

My Birth Story is In a Book!!!

Chapter 14: Jennifer and Michael (Alison and Greg)
~ How much longer can this go on? ~

Excerpt: Jennifer did not sleep that night (second night of labour), only able to nap between contractions. The contractions were very painful now, a minute to a minute-and-a-half long, and too difficult to talk through. Tuesday morning her contractions picked up as she became more active, like walking up and down the stairs. Her midwife explained to her that the general rule for physicians is to induce labour if the baby is not born within twenty-four hours after the amniotic membranes have ruptured (my water broke on the Monday evening), but studies had shown that there was only a slight risk of infection, even if the baby arrived three (or four) days after.

(Riiiiiight...I should have listened to my mother. Baby arrived via c-section on Thursday evening after induction and an heroic attempt at a vaginal delivery. Medical report after the c-section indicated that baby's head was transverse - top of the head lying horizontally across the cervix - and stuck. A surgical "T" type incision was required to remove the baby from the birth canal. Usually, only a horizontal (top of the T )incision of the uterus is required.)

Postscript - In the end, Jennifer was disappointed with her labour and delivery experience, not so much with the surgery, but by the prenatal care late in her pregnancy. She blamed her midwife for not having realized that her baby was in a transverse position, making a vaginal delivery impossible. She felt let down by her midwife and wanted to use an obstetrician for a second child. This reaction was not surprising after enduring labour for so many days, only to find that the baby could not have been delivered on her own anyway. I don't know if this could have been avoided, if anyone could have known, or expected that the baby was not in a good position. If the baby's position could have been determined before or during labour, then both the obstetrician and the midwife missed it. Yes, the baby's head was down, buy she was lying horizontally across Jennifer's cervix.

There is no denying that Jennifer had had an unusually rough delivery, but the odds are slight that her next child would be in the same position in her uterus during labour. The actual problem seems to be that the midwife, who was in charge until she handed off the delivery to the obstetrician, waited too long before checking out why Jennifer's labour had not progressed.

(After reading the surgeon's report and a description of the T cut involved, I determined that my risk of a uterine rupture during a subsequent attempted vaginal delivery was too great and I opted to have a scheduled c-section with an obstetrician for my son's birth. I also felt that I'd endured enough of labour to last me the rest of my life and wanted to avoid experiencing it again, if possible)


I am so pleased with Karin's retelling of my pregnancy and birth experience in her book. I had forgotten so many things about it! Some minor details are slightly inaccurate but she did a wonderful job!

Gillian is highly amused by the name changes, including her own to Taylor!

Read the whole story, and many others like it, in Karin Banerd's amazing book:

Inspiring Births with a Midwife by Karin Banerd

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Just Dance!

My daughter received the new Just Dance 2014 video game from my brother for Christmas. I anticipated that she would love it (she does!). I did not anticipate that her brother, Graham, would get as much out of it as she does, or that I would adopt it as an ideal indoor workout in the midst of the coldest/messiest winter we've had in years.

I'm still going to aquafit, but now I also have something to keep me moving in my own basement. If you've never tried any of the Just Dance games, they really are a fun way to get grooving!

With bright graphics and easy-to-learn dance moves, this game is a winner. Popular and classic songs are available with range of danceability (easy, medium, hard) for any participant.

I was more than impressed with my six year-old son's ability to really pick up the moves! He is quite the little mover. And my daughter, who is in her second year of hip-hop dance classes, amazes me as always.

As for myself, because I'm incredibly uncoordinated and have some slightly compromised abilities, it helps that as long as you move the hand holding the motion wand properly, you can get a pretty high score, even if you're not attempting the fancy footwork!

~ Alison

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

What I Am Reading

Dexter and Duke (her adopted daughter and son) have changed my life. People say they're lucky to have me. I don't know about that. That's not the real story. The real story is, I'm the lucky one. They've saved me, and I know what from: myself.

~ Then Again - Diane Keaton (autobiography)

I took this out of the library on Sunday afternoon because it looked interesting. I've always liked Diane Keaton. Her performance in Mrs. Soffel with Mel Gibson will always haunt me. She's always seemed to me to be so very relatable and down to earth, like she's not even convinced that she's a movie star.

Anyway, that night my husband and I cuddled up in our newly organized basement den to watch The Golden Globe awards after the kids had gone to bed. Diane Keaton accepted a prestigious award for her friend, Woody Allen, and I flinched inwardly.

The next day, on Facebook, some of my friends indicated their disgust for Woody Allen and disbelief that he would have been given such an award, and that Diane Keaton could still possibly be friends with the man.

I have to say I agreed. The fact that Woody Allen seduced and married his nineteen year-old Korean stepdaughter, thereby destroying the bonds of his family with Mia Farrow, is something I cannot forget. He is also alleged to have abused another adopted daughter, seven years of age at the time.

So I was kind of interested to read this autobiography and see what impression Woody Allen had on Diane Keaton, and why they remain friends.

It turns out that Diane, twenty-three when she and the older Woody Allen 'dated', was in the midst of a secret five-year bout with bullimia. She admits, in one section, that Allen was always attracted to insecure women. She eventually conquered her illness and her romantic relationship with Woody Allen came to an end.

I can pass off her acceptance of the award on his behalf as a kind of misguided loyalty to a man who essentially launched her career and remained loyal to her.

The autobiography itself is entertaining and thoughtful. Diane interweaves a biography of her mother's life with her own, and the result is powerful.

Her mother, a young homemaker who abandoned her own dreams for marriage and to raise three children, eventually led a dissatisfied, isolated and introspective life before succumbing to Alzheimer's Disease.

The telling of Diane's own story, interspersed with excerpts from her mother's many journals, are fascinating and reveal a bond between mother and daughter that exceeds biology. Diane wonders what motivated herself to avoid marriage and eventually decide to raise two children on her own, and what motivated her mother to sacrifice her ambitions for her family? Was it just the times they lived in, or an intrinsic nature to discount one's own true value?

Throughout this memoir it becomes obvious that Diane's own inner demons of insecurity, self-doubt and body issues reflect those of her mother. However, coming to parenthood later in her life, and having achieved her own dreams beforehand, Diane is embracing and loving motherhood and the way it gives us something positive to focus on instead of spiralling down an endless chasm of narcissism and obsession.

~ Alison

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Joys of Aquafit!

So, aquafit.

Why didn't I try this sooner???

The short answer is that I didn't really have a decent, practical bathing suit for a long time. And I HATE shopping for bathing suits. But, on a recent trip to Toronto I had to get one to visit a spa with my sister-in-law, and I lucked out and found a great one - comfortable and supportive and also looks great!

I needed to sign up for some sort of exercise this winter, and the closest affordable gym is driving distance. Since I don't have the car during weekdays, that would mean I'd have to exercise on evenings and weekends. But I'm a morning person and I prefer to work out in the mornings, while the kids are at school.

So that left the aquafit program at the local community centre, a ten minute walk down the street. When I originally inquired about prices several years ago, they only gave me the monthly rate, which seemed expensive. I found out that the longer you sign on for, the cheaper the rate becomes. A three month or six month membership is very reasonable as they offer classes three mornings and two evenings per week.

I went to my first class a few weeks ago, and enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. There are several things I love about aquafit and I'll explain in detail what appeals to me:

1. Heavenly coolness:  The water at this pool is just slightly above room temperature, so quite comfortable. Usually I'm sitting in the bleachers, sweating in the humidity while my kids have their swimming lessons. Actually being in the pool for almost an hour is really appealing. And even though the workouts can get quite intense, I never get hot and sweaty!

2. Lack of visibility:  Since my body from the neck down is underwater, nobody but the instructor has the slightest idea whether or not I'm doing the moves properly or as speedily as she is. For someone who is very self conscious about her performance in situations like this, that leaves one less thing to worry about. I can focus more on doing my best and trying my hardest to get the moves right, rather than on what I might look like to others.

3. Seniors:  No, really. I love that the aquafit classes are primarily filled with elderly women and men. Being the youngest person in the group can be a great feeling, and being surrounded by people whose bodies are as big or bigger than yours is really nice too. The young, skinny and fit people are over at Good Life kicking ass in Body Step classes that would probably kill me. I would rather be surrounded by hefty older people who realize that looks are not what it's all about. It's about staying mobile and being as fit as you can be, in order to lead a long and comfortable life.

It is genuinely amazing for me to be in a change room surrounded by older women who may have been slim and objectively beautiful in their youth, but whose bodies have mostly succumbed to the advancing years by adding on pounds and wrinkles and scars from surgeries or multiple pregnancies, but who are old enough and secure enough in their presence not to care. They happily shuck their swimsuits to shower off the chlorine and chat animatedly to their friends. I have been able to lose some of my inhibitions and enjoy being in the company of women who don't judge you by how you look, only if you seem like a nice person and can offer some wisdom and humour to brighten their day.

I wish the world was more like this, but at least I get to experience a micro community of strong, self assured women who don't give a damn what they look like physically. Who have reached an age where it is a triumph to be alive and still moving and still living to the fullest that they can.

4. Community:  I've only recently started attending classes and I've already been invited to a Christmas pot-luck on December 18th after the morning class! I joined up for exercise and have discovered a vibrant social group of active, older women whom I'm eager to get to know.

So, yeah, aquafit.

Who knew?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Sexapalooza Baby!

I'll never forget the first time my husband and I made love during one of my MS relapses (the first really significant one that involved a sensation of numbness from my neck down). Although he was gentle and sensitive to the fact that I wasn't feeling entirely well, it was a frightening and upsetting experience.

It was very scary because I couldn't feel what I normally feel during a sexual encounter. It was kind of like making love wearing a knit body suit. Every sensation seemed muffled and indistinct and it took much longer than usual for me to achieve orgasm.

When you have relapsing/remitting MS, you need to have faith that your body will recover eventually. But one never knows if the body will recover fully or incompletely.

I've been lucky so far. My body has now almost recovered fully from three separate relapses. I do have some residual symptoms, but they are very mild and serve to remind me that I do have a chronic disease lurking in the background.

But there will always be a voice in my head, when a relapse is at its severest, that says, what if I don't recover? What if my MS has now changed to Secondary Progressive and I will either stay like this or keep getting worse? You have to tell that voice to shut up. But let me tell you, when a relapse affects sexual performance, it is hard not to be a little bit scared.

This may explain why I have consciously and boldly embraced my sexuality, without fear, ever since that first big relapse of five years ago. I received the gift of a fully functioning body back from the brink, and dammit I will not apologize for celebrating what makes me excited, turned on, and able to achieve physical pleasure.

I now have many published works of erotica, either for sale or available for free, that I wrote in the time period after my MS diagnosis. Yes, they are male/male stories, because I have always found the idea of two men being physically intimate together a turn-on, and I've learned that many other women do as well. I also love the idea of being able to turn on a gay man with my writing. I've always loved gay men, and have a slew of close friends who identify as gay or bisexual. Although I identify as straight and I'm married to a wonderful man, I have several Lesbian friends and find many of them very attractive.

Last November, for research purposes, I attended a fisting seminar as part of the Mister Leather Ottawa event. I initially did not realize it would involve an actual demonstration of said activity, which I had seen in videos many times. Because I knew the presenter personally, and he knew that I was there to find out all I could about it, I soon found myself challenged to participate in a "hands on/in" way. To my own surprise I took up this challenge and had one of the most interesting and informative experiences of my life. (A more detailed description can be found at my Author Blog - it remains one of my most popular posts)

Knowing as I did that three months, or three years, or even three weeks down the road, my hands could become completely numb and non-functioning again, I had to take advantage of this opportunity. I wanted to do it, I had the capacity to do it, and it was a safe environment for doing it. I would not let societal prejudices or judgements stop me from participating in something that I may never get the opportunity to experience in such a way again.

Yesterday, I took advantage of a friend's offered free pass to attend the Ottawa Sexapalooza show on Uplands Drive, which is in my neighborhood. My husband and I have attended twice together and find it overpriced and tame for a venue that boasts to be a scintillating journey into the world of sexuality. Unfortunately, it is very much hetero-centred, and geared toward a subset of women who are just branching out of their narrow view of monogamous vanilla sexuality.

But, the kids had been stressing me out and Greg kindly offered to look after them while I went to the show on my own for an hour. Since I had just recently begun to feel better after my latest relapse, it was an opportunity to see a few friends and just get out of the house.

It was fun to see all the sex toys on display, especially the gorgeous tempered glass dildos and plugs (a personal favourite) which come in so many different designs and colours. I do wish the organizers would take a leap and stop dimming the lights and keeping everything so dark and mysterious.

Since my husband and I already have a plethora of toys and accoutrements we hardly ever have time to use, I didn't purchase any. I did buy a fun bag and a couple of necklace pendants. My friends Isaac and Keven were manning the MLO booth so I was able to chat with them for a bit. Eventually I sat down and had a drink and watched the people moving about in the darkness.

I don't think I will go next time, even if I'm offered free admission. It's much more exciting to attend an event like MLO or a Pup Night at CPs, where at least I get to see things further from the mainstream.

It is a great thing to be able to follow one's own desires and take advantage of one's full sexuality, no matter how "out of the norm" it may be as long as it is consensual, people are treated with respect and one engages in risk-aware behaviour. You never know when the ability to do so might be taken away from you.

~ Alison

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Big M, little m...

...what begins with M?

MS and Menopause, M M M.

So...had a nice chat with my doctor today. She doesn't actually think I'm starting Menopause or Peri-Menopause yet, because I'm still having pretty regular periods, and I'm only (!) fourty-four. She thinks the increased premenstrual symptoms I had in August and September were caused by stress from my MS relapse. She might be right because they aren't as bad this month.

So that is good news!

We spoke for a bit about the possibility that menopause, when it does start, might cause more MS problems for me. She said that hormone replacement therapy would be an option, and that it is not as bad as they thought years and years ago. I really don't know if I want to go that route though. But it's not something I have to think about yet, so yay!

I told her that I had started this blog and she thought it was a great idea, to help me manage my emotions and the stress of dealing with this illness. She also printed off a list of community resources/counselling services in case I might need them. She is so awesome!

~ Alison

The Gift of Time

I seriously do not know how parents who both work outside the home full time do it.

I "work" at home, and we still find it incredibly challenging to ensure that our nine-year-old keeps up with all the homework she's getting. Luckily, because she and Graham come home to me after school and not to after school care, I can encourage her to do some of it right away. This has actually happened on several occasions. But even if she doesn't get to it until after supper, because I'm home we are usually done with supper by 5:30 or 6:00 and there is still an hour before bed time rituals begin.

I know that some children are not even picked up from their caregivers until 5:30. Supper in homes where both parents have outside jobs may not even get onto the table until 6:30 or 7:00.

If my daughter is too tired to finish her homework after supper or, as on Tuesday evenings, has an outside activity to attend (Hip Hop Dance), she is lucky to have me here in the morning to make sure she sits down and completes what she didn't finish the night before. Quite often she breezes through homework in the morning that she was struggling with the evening before.

We are so lucky to have the luxury of time. Although it is not an ideal situation financially (!), the fact that my illness makes working full time outside the home a virtual impossibility and definitely a bad idea, may just be a blessing for our family. True, we only have one car and will probably never be able to afford a bigger house, but we have enough to live comfortably. I am here with a listening ear when the kids come home from school, and I walk them to school in the mornings.

My husband benefits from this situation as well. We don't have any childcare expenses which, even for after-school care, can be substantial, and he doesn't have to worry about taking time off when they are sick, because I'm here to look after them.

Although I'm sure there will be things that the kids will regret about the fact that they had a mom struggling with MS, at least it has given me the opportunity to be present for them in a way that alot of my friends can't be. No doubt they will be sick of me by high school, but I will still be here, keeping an eye on them, checking on homework, making dumb jokes and cooking chicken nuggets for supper.

~ Alison