Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Close Family Letter

Happy Belated New Year's!
Here's our 2011 wrap-up and belated holiday good tidings ...

Happy 2012!

2011 was an eventful year …

- Joanna moved back to West Linn to live with Alex … and Al

- Alex turned 30 … and broke his wrist while playing old-man soccer, requiring surgery and a titanium plate

- Joanna then moved them in to their new apartment in downtown Portland

- Best friends Rachel and Trevor delivered a favorite little “nephew,” Logan

- Alex completed his first year as a high school Language Arts teacher

- Joanna graduated with her Master’s in Communication Disorders and Sciences

- They had the summer off together – a few bike trips, a week as camp counselors, and a long stay in Tahoe, courtesy of a broken down Subaru

- Subsequently, Alex got Joanna pregnant!

- But the day before they learned the good news, Joanna brought home a 2-year-old Corgi, they named her Gizmo

- Alex went back to work at Southridge High School in Beaverton, while Joanna slept 12-14 hours/day on the couch in their apartment, growing that baby

- Alex coached the JV Boys Soccer Team, boasting a 9-5-3 record

- Joanna headed back East to support her brother, Brian, while he recovered from a TBI in a Rhode Island ICU

- All were all thankful for good care and his fast and full recovery

- Joanna started her new, big-girl job at the VA Medical Center as a Speech-Language Pathology Fellow

- Alex’s BFF AJ and Breezy gave birth to Baby Gus Franzke

- Alex and Joanna found out they were having a Baby Girl!

- And then they bought their First House!

- After Christmas in Tahoe, Alex’s parents helped Alex move EVERYTHING into their new place in SW Portland

- They celebrated the New Year in their PJ’s with good friends and family, toasting to the past, present, and future …

Wishing everyone health, happiness, and humor as we embark on another year.


Alex & Joanna

Please make note of our change of address. I promise, we’ll be at this location for awhile:

Alex & Joanna Close

7255 SW 54th Ave, Portland, OR 97219

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Business of Birthing

Yes, we have seen the Rikki Lake movie. And yes, it was informative, although very, very, biased.

Since starting our childbirth class throughKaiser last week, Alex and I have spent a decent amount of time talking birth plan, child rearing, and all the various viewpoints that come from all angles on the matters. Everyone has an opinion, and everyone thinks their opinion is the right one. I fear I fall somewhere, boringly, in the middle of it all. No grandiose plans to forever forbid my children from television, nor plans to indulge their every video game fantasy. No qualms about maybe needing an epidural, but no aversion to giving natural childbirth a try. I rely heavily on Western medicine, but am open to the ideas the East provides.

So in order to consolidate and summarize the information I have gleaned from Kaiser, the Internet, pregnancy/baby books, the movies, and friends and family, here is what I've come up with that's been interesting and weighing on my mind ...

The maternal mortality rate in the USA is relatively high given we are a first-world, developed country. There are 40 other countries with lower death rates that us. For example, in Ireland the rate is just 0 per 100,000 births. The rate here is about 14 per 100,000.

Only six states are legally required to report maternal deaths.

Cesarean rates have increased in the US by more than 71% since 1996.

The risk of death from a c-section is 3x that of a vaginal birth. But the rates are skewed because most women with high-risk pregnancies must deliver via Cesarean. And women with high-risk pregnancies are at a higher risk of complication, and thus are more likely to die during childbirth or postpartum.

Yes, there are business, financial, and time factors that contributes to the number of c-sections now being completed in this country, but I have yet to see the details of this outlined. And I'm hard pressed to believe that the midwives and OBs I know are in it for the money.

Interestingly, while the US maternal mortality rate is high, it is not necessarily representative across demographics and SES. For example, an African-American woman is 4x as likely to die from pregnancy and childbirth complications than a white woman. The majority of those who fall in the higher risk groups are those of minority groups, who do not have access or are not receiving appropriate prenatal care.

Twenty five percent of women receive no prenatal care, increasing their risk of related death by 3-4 times.

So my conclusion from all this? It's not necessarily pitocin, C-sections, or Western medicine to blame for our relatively high maternal mortality rates, but our lack of care for the impoverished women and children of this country. It really shouldn't be a luxury, but a basic human right.

Then again, this doesn't mean being induced or having a C-section doesn't scare the hell out of me. It doesn't mean I'm all aboard the epidural or narcotic train - but only because I learned yesterday that means I won't be able to get up and labor out of bed, which I find terrifying simply because I'd have limited mobility if I wanted to get up and pace from anxiety or pain. And since they apparently won't even give me Valium during birth - even though I have not self medicated for nearly 8 months now- I have to keep my options open. And "ahi" breathing and squatting over a yoga ball is probably not gonna cut it.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Weekend Projects

We got a chance to putter around the house this weekend and I was able to complete a few more projects in the nursery. I'm super excited about the pink "accent" I used in the baby's room, although now I'm struggling with whether or not the rugs we bought are really a good match to tie everything together.

This is the little reading nook in one corner of the asymmetrical room. We had previously painted the walls a light grey and green, and added the pink to make it a bit more cheery and girly. On the bookshelf are some of the books my mom and I must have set aside for me many, many years ago. There are some oldies like Winnie the Pooh from when my mom was a kid, and some new books like Wildwood, which I bought Alex for Christmas. And then there is the Snoopy series of "question" books, because I think I was even more inquisitive as a child than I am now.

This dresser previously hosted about 1/3 of my craft supplies. I think we bought it for $20 at a garage sale a few years ago, before we bought our "grown up" Ikea furniture :). Anyway, Alex took care of washing the old dresser down with TSP, sanding it, and priming it with spray primer. I got to do the fun part - I painted the whole body of the dresser in the same pink, aka " cheery" from Home Depot, and painted each of the drawers in a grey chalkboard paint. And I am so pleased with the result! Unfortunately, the cuteness of this dresser brings out the drabness of the boring-but-free crib and changing table a friend of Alex's gave us.

Here's our dining room, and we finally put together some of our hangings for a wall gallery. I'm not as psyched on this one as I was on the one we did in our apartment, but it might be simply because I don't love this paint color. We're too lazy to buck wild re-painting every room, and this one is good enough that it's at the bottom of the priority list. So even though I'm not gaga over this decor, I'm sure once I get used to it I won't even notice anymore.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Babes in the Bath

This post needs no words, the cuteness of Harlow and Logan during bath time at our Manzanita book club getaway says it all. Although, and I admit it's creepy, in a few of these photos I can't help but see George and Trevor bathing together!

Coat rack

The best part of having a new house is all the ideas and accompanying motivation for new projects. Here is out latest tag-team effort. Nothing too fancy, but I think it's perfect for our entryway. I was the brains, Alex the brawn.

In action, hoisting our rain jackets, which were in use a lot last week.

We used a variety of hooks and knobs from Home Depot and a piece of cheap pine stained with a dark mahogany. Originally the idea was to include re-purposed hooks and knobs room places like ReBuild, but I wasn't able to find what I was looking for, so had to go the new and unearthly route.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


"It's going to feel like a very big poop. It's a baby."

Or so says our childbirth class instructor.

She knows the way to my heart - potty talk. Apparently the same bundle of nerves that tell you to take a shit, the ones that give you the unmistakable urge to push, well those get fired in the process of labor. Yeah, class was mostly about the stages of labor and comfortable positions, but what resonated with both Alex and me is the concept that I'm really, truly, actually, going to shit out a baby in just two months! That, my friends, is exciting business.

I'm 30 weeks along and still feeling pretty darn good. Actually, although I know I bitch a lot about expanding waistlines and gaining weight, but I love this stage of being pregnant. I'm big enough that public feels comfortable asking me about baby, but I'm still not so big that my belly gives me a constant backache or my legs are chafing each other raw.

We are still both super excited about parenthood, although we can't help but feel like we are playing pretend. We still haven't decided on a name. I still have no core strength and have to use what's left of my arm strength to rotate myself from side to side in bed. I'm still wearing running shoes to work for better support on those days where I do a lot of standing (inpatient days when we have lots of X-ray swallow studies). I seem to be growing by they hour. My supervisor was out sick one day and came back surprised by the roundness of my belly. People are no longer asking me if we meant to get pregnant. I still love candy and ice cream. I still resolve daily to start exercising beyond the twice daily dog walk. I'm still exhausted after work and spend as much time on the couch as anywhere else. I still LOVE to hear Alex talk to my belly and tell secrets to his little girl. I still feel her kick very regularly, and especially in the evenings or after doing a bit of "exercise" ( e.g. Climbing 1 flight of stairs at the hospital).

But really, if I were to sum up the 30th week of pregnancy, commercial style, it would go something like this:
"Holy heartburn, Batman! Reflux: the gift that keeps on giving. All. Night. Long."

My baby belly, and my rapidly disappearing belly button.

Week 30! Remind a pregnant lady to never, ever, wear stretchy pants in public. At least not if they don't have Spanx or some super-techno-savvy lift-and-tuck-and-squeeze-and-miraculize fabric in them. At least not me. I shouldn't even be allowed to prance around that way in my own house. But luckily Alex only wears his glasses to drive at night. And that's only if he remembers in the first place. If not, I have to drive. At least from the backseat. Anyway, here's what 30 weeks looked like, and I'm already twice that size as I write this!

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Alex and I have different ideas of what role the parents will play at the time our baby arrives. I originally voted for his parents to stay 3-4 nights at our place after we come home from the hospital. We both agreed that no out of town visitors will be welcome prior to labor. It's the last few chunks of time we will ever again have as just Alex and Jo. Not that we'll never get alone time again, but we will never ever get alone time again when there is not someone else in the picture to consider, even if that creature is not in our presence. But I sure as hell don't want anyone hanging around just waiting for me to pop. It's kinda like a toaster - the bread won't cook if you just stare at it willing it to crisp more quickly.

But my girlfriends this weekend strongly recommend against hosting houseguests with a brand new baby at home. Not because of typical hostess with the mostest duties, but because they say Alex and I are going to want the house to ourselves at times, and having people, even grandparents, in the guest room, is just an added stressor to already overwhelming time. They said how much nicer it is to actually invite people over, rather than just having them around 24/7. They recommended having family stay elsewhere for the first visit. And, of course, anyone is more than welcome to stay with us once we've got our bearings. That's what a guest room is for after all.

Alex's initial reaction to this friendly advice was that it would offend his parents, to suggest they stay elsewhere during/after the birth. I mean, they did just gift us a shitload of money for a house down payment - and we've alluded to the fact we finally have a guest room. Plus, they are super excited to be new grandparents. But shouldn't we trust my new-mommy friends? It's probably wise to learn from their experiences. And they did remind me that it's far more offensive to invite first time grandparents for just 3 days than it is to suggest they stay at my dads or a hotel for at least a week to enjoy the new bundle.

Alex's apprehension and concern for his parents' feelings regarding this decision of ours annoyed me tremendously.

"When you work to squeeze a grapefruit out of your penis for 36 hours, after growing the thing inside of you for 40 weeks, then you can decide who gets to stay at your house and for how long. That's when you can consider everyone else's feelings. But right now, your only job is to consider MY feelings. I'm the one doing this thing, after all."

So no, I didn't actually say any of this. But I wanted to. And I thought about it. Instead I went up stairs, took my second long, hot shower of the day, and climbed into bed at the ripe hour of 7 p.m.

My dad is a whole different story. First of all, he lives in town. In his own house. More than 10 miles away. Second of all, he gets tired of me long before I tire of him. He's got this parental boundary to grown up children thing mastered. And not because he's god or anything, but simply because his neediness for his kids is even lower than ours for him. Weird, I know. And as far as the baby is concerned, sure, he's interested and excited. But really he's only interested and excited on behalf of Alex and me, as he is no particular vested interest in being a grandfather. He thinks of this as our crazy adventure that he'll tag along here and there, not so much as a milestone in his own personal life. Which I've grown to appreciate. Though he did offer "backup childcare" this evening ... When the baby is 1 year old.

Don't get me wrong. I love our families very much. We are so lucky to have such supportive, involved parents. But the birth of a new child, and the growth of our very own nuclear family, trumps the possibly hurt feelings of those around us. And boundaries are something we are going to have to discuss with each other and our families, as we are all embarking on a new experience adding one to the bunch.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

29 Weeks

"Do you have one in the oven?" the elderly Indian man (dot not feather) asked me at work the other day. He is maybe 85 pounds soaking wet, has no teeth, and a wiry beard that resembles pubic hair, yet there is something rather regal about his disposition. And I don't think it's his positioning in his hospital bed post-cerebellum stroke.

Anyway, why is it I get asked about my belly and upcoming bundle of joy by patients in the hospital on a daily basis. But not yet once has a good Trimet Samaritan offered this pregnant lady a seat on the packed bus?

Life is mostly comprised of work, couch time, dinner at the table courtesy of my husband, Jeopardy, a walk to the park with the dog, then shower and bed. Work is called that for a reason. It is indeed hard work, after all. It's pretty much all I have the energy for during the week. And thank goodness for a loving, gracious husband who is willing to not only cook but clean for me, too, on a daily basis.

I go to bed nightly resolving to eat less junk food (candy, hot chocolate and desserts) and to exercise more. And after reading my "Motherless Mothers" book last night, I need to be adding meditation to my list.

Overall, I still feel good. I would no longer say that I feel "great," but I don't have too many complaints yet. At least not ones that hold much ground, such as follows:

I feel like a bowling ball. Or maybe a bowling pin. My new motto is, "if you don't like your body, get pregnant and you'll realize how bangin' your body used to be." I'm now wearing running shoes to work. I feel like a PT not an SLP. Alex is rubbing "anti stretch mark cream" on my belly nightly, meanwhile I'm crossing my fingers I get my waist back someday. Oh yeah, and my collarbones. And my belly button too. I dont even revognize my stomach! It is starting to resemble that of an alien or some other non-mammalian creatures. I still get bloody noses on a daily basis and I still haven't asked my doc about it. No real swelling in my feet, or ankles yet, even on the days I'm on my feet a lot. I'm resenting those pregnant ladies who don't look pregnant, while meanwhile marveling at and admiring the ability of my body to take on such a transformation. Strange body-awareness place to be - dreading my ever-expanding waistline and elephant-like thighs, but meanwhile relishing in what my body is able to do, excited to meet the little being I spend every minute cooking.

She's still kicking regularly, although I'm mostly only aware when in bed. Sometimes she kicks me in the ribs, usually on the right side. And sometimes she gives her daddy a high five right from the center of my belly. And other times it feels like she's kicking me in the vagina, which makes me squirm a bit in discomfort. Especially at work.

And yes, my boobs are huge. Not that I'm wanting to draw attention to it, but come on people, I could practically be an x-rated circus show.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Painting the Nursery

We started our first actual homeowner project - putting together the nursery! It took us the course of a day and a half, mostly because we had to keep running to the hardware store because we just don't yet own everything needed for house projects. Here's what we've come up with so far ...

Before: the reading nook


Our colors of choice - the brighter the better!

During: getting started with the "Caterpillar" green

During: finishing the caterpillar green

After: the reading nook; still need a cozy round rug

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Resolutions, and, 28 Weeks

"I think I want to start eating more desserts," I told Alex the other day.

I think I'm the only girl who resolves to eat MORE fat and sugar at the beginning of the year. Especially when having seen the scale make a steady incline. So in honor of my resolution to eat more quality desserts, we made a variation of Oreo bark - melted dark chocolate chips with mint Oreos. Let's just say, we at our weight in cocoa and both Alex and I popped a few Peptos before crashing tonight.

As for the 28th week, I'm thinking that officially puts me in the third trimetster. Then again, my doc might have said that the technical cut off is the end of the 28th week, but who's counting. I'm definitely feeling a bit more tired, and I think I can finally blame it on the growing baby, carrying the extra 15+ pounds, and walking more for this rotation than my last. I must admit I've been a bit of a mess late. Not in any major way, but enough to feel silly. For example, I fell onto the lap of an innocent teenage boy on the bus the other day. No teenagers or unborn children were harmed in the incident, but I was certainly embarrassed in front of a bus load of commuters. Today I was sporting my brand spankin new white lab coat, when I decided to make a stop in the canteen after seeing a patient to indulge my own chocolate pudding craving. I felt a sneeze coming on mid-bite and couldn't do much to hold it back, sputtering chocolate loogies all over myself. And I no longer seem to understand the dimensions of my own body; I am continually brushing my belly against my coworker's chair each time I get up to get something from the printer, check with my supervisor, or pee for the 19th time. Also, there are now parts of my belly button that are exposed that I've never felt before, and damn is it soft. Like velvet. If it wasn't totally weird and unsanitary in the hospital setting, I might consider playing with my navel all live long day. We're hoping Baby Girl comes out feeling that soft, and then I'm guaranteed to want to play with her all day!

Thursday, January 5, 2012


In our new house with our new weekly photo background. Had an OB appointment today and all continues to be "textbook perfect." Although I feel like I gained about 66 pounds instead of just 6 since my last visit. Belly measures just right, Baby Girl active as can be, and no sign of gestational diabetes. I'm still getting the daily nosebleeds, some days worse than others. Still feeling well, although tired this week. That's likely due to post-holiday hangover rather than pregnancy itself. and still promising myself I'll start working out - next week. Getting more and more excited to meet Baby Close, and definitely entering a serious nesting phase. I dream about nursery colors and decor ideas.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

26 Weeks

My how time flies when it's the holidays, you move into your first house, you have company in town, you start your new job rotation, and you're 26 weeks pregnant.

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