Archive | May, 2012

Finn’s Annual IEP: Easy Peasy Mac ‘n Cheesy

Yesterday we had Finn’s second annual IEP meeting.  It was completely devoid of all the emotion and melodrama of last year’s debacle, thank goodness.

We declined all assessments this year because Finn is only receiving speech therapy, and we’re only interested in continuing with speech therapy at this point, so that eliminated several “team members” who would have been part of the process had we agreed to assessments to obtain more services for him.  His speech therapist was in agreement with us on declining assessments – even a speech assessment – since he’s only been seeing her for about six months.  She did a sort of informal assessment to document a baseline for him, and that was it.

I LOVE Finn’s speech therapist.  She is so warm and personable, and one of the few people we’ve dealt with concerning Finn in a clinical setting who doesn’t just see him as a set of deficits and deficiencies.  She really seems to see him as a whole child, and she stays very focused on seeing him in a positive light.  (Plus, you know, she’s never slipped and said “retarded” or called him a Downs kid, which I am sad to say a couple therapists we dealt with in the past did.)  When we sat down for the meeting yesterday, the first thing she said was, “First, I want you to know how much I enjoy working with Finn.  He’s a great little kid, and I really have a lot of fun working with him.”  Awesome.

Also there were the school principal (Finn attends ST at the same public school at which Joey and the girls attended pre-k and Kevin attended middle school), who we met at Finn’s IEP meeting last year only because she happened to be filling in as interim principal at that other school last year (so she remembers the awful tension and high emotions from the last meeting), and the girls’ former pre-k teacher as the required general ed teacher.  So it was very relaxed and friendly.

Really not a whole lot to report.  Finn has met one of the three goals set for him last year, but like I said, he’s only been attending speech therapy since October.  The main thing is that he is definitely making progress in all areas: expressive and receptive language, cognition, attending to tasks and following directions, sharing, engaging with the SLP and other kids, etc.  His speech teacher is very enthusiastic about the strides he’s made and seems convinced that he will continue to progress.

I asked her what she knows specifically about Down syndrome and speech issues, and why some kids with Ds remain non-verbal.  She said that she believes that most kids with Ds who remain non-verbal probably have a dual diagnosis.  I don’t know if that’s true.  I think there are a lot of theories out there, but probably nobody knows for sure why speech comes easier to some kids with Ds than others.  And I don’t know where Finn will end up with regard to speech and communication.  I try to be realistic in my expectations: I know he will probably never speak as clearly or prolifically as his peers who do not have Ds, but my hope is that meaningful communication will become the norm for him over time.

Anyway, he will continue with speech therapy twice a week with this same speech therapist for the rest of this school year and starting up again after summer break, and he’ll also attend preschool twice a week (independent/not on his IEP).

I’m happy with how things went.

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A Baby Shower

The shower givers, Caryl and Lisa

Good food and beautiful weather

Good friends

It wouldn’t be a shower without shower games.

And gifts!

And cake . . . mmmmmm.

I am one lucky girl 🙂

Having Babies at Home: I Ain’t Doing This For a Medal.

As the time draws closer to our newest addition’s debut, I’d like to address some misconceptions that seem to run rampant about home birth.  (I think there are as many misconceptions about home birth as there are about Down syndrome!)  I’ve heard it all – everything from “You’re crazy!” to “Home birth is dangerous!” to “You’re so brave!” to “You know nobody gets a medal for that, right?”

So let’s just clear a few things up, okay?

I think people still generally see those who choose home birth as fringe lunatics who run around barefoot in peasant skirts and catch and/or grow all their own food.  It’s just not so.  Most women in the U.S. who choose home birth are educated and middle class.  Speaking for myself, I slack on buying organic, I enjoy a good, cold martini, I get my nails done regularly, I drive a gas-guzzling SUV (not that I’m proud), and I don’t even own a peasant skirt.  Yes, yes, I’m still one of the outliers as far as birthing choices, but in most ways, I’m very much like most of the other moms you probably know.  (Okay, there’s the vaccine thing, and the cloth diapers.  And I probably swear more.  And I have multiple tattoos.  Oh, and there’s the whole God thing . . .)

So, why do I choose home birth?  A Wikipedia article on home birth states,

Women with access to high-quality medical care may choose home birth because they prefer the intimacy of a home and family-centered experience or desire to avoid a medically-centered experience typical of a hospital or clinical setting.

and,

Many women choose home birth because delivering a baby in familiar surroundings is important to them.[6] Others choose home birth because they dislike a hospital or birthing center environment, do not like a medically-centered birthing experience, are concerned about exposing the infant to hospital-borne pathogens, or dislike the presence of strangers at the birth. Others prefer home birth because they feel it is more natural and less stressful.[7]:8 In a study published in the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health, women were asked, Why did you choose a home birth?[6] The top five reasons given were safety, avoidance of unnecessary medical interventions common in hospital births, previous negative hospital experiences, more control, and a comfortable and familiar environment.

That about sums it up for me.

I gave birth to my first four kids in a hospital setting, and every one of those experiences was pretty negative.  I felt pushed around (especially in the case of my twins’ births) and assaulted, even, and it was only over time, as I started learning everything I could about birth, that I realized that most of the protocols and procedures that are routine in hospital births are medically unnecessary and designed to maximize (a) hospital profits, and (b) the medical staff’s convenience.  Maternity units are the biggest revenue makers in most hospitals; birth has become an industry. Of course they don’t want moms or babies dying on them, but the safety and comfort of moms and babies is secondary.  (The United States ranks No. 39 – in the world! – for maternal mortality rates as of 2008 [and the U.S. maternal mortality rate increased slightly from 1990 to 2008], the year for which the most recent data is available, and No. 34 – in the world! – for infant mortality rates as of 2011.  In case you were wondering.)

Here’s what I know:

  • If I walk into my state-of-the-art hospital in labor, I will be denied food and drink by mouth for the duration.  Completely unnecessary, and in fact, counterproductive; the reasoning behind the NPO protocol is that they don’t want anything in the woman’s stomach on the off chance she’ll need an emergency c-section (which would require general anesthesia as opposed to a non-emergency c-section for which an epidural is used), as she could aspirate the contents of her stomach during surgery.  First off, people come in for emergency surgery right off the streets all the time (think horrible car accident).  During surgery, you are intubated.  You therefore will not aspirate the contents of your stomach.  Furthermore, to deny fuel to someone who is doing the work akin to running a marathon is counterproductive at best, and cruel at worst.
  • I will also be made to accept an IV, through which they will feed me a glucose solution in place of actual food and water.  I will thus be tethered to an IV pole and will have an uncomfortable needle jammed in my arm and taped down.
  • I will be made to submit to at least intermittent fetal monitoring, which will require me to lie in bed for 15 minutes out of every hour.  I may be allowed to walk the halls, but I will be pulling a cumbersome IV pole around with me whilst trying to keep my ass covered by the required wayward hospital gown.
  • I will be looked in on by a nurse who is also looking after numerous other laboring women.  I will have no continuity of care.
  • I will be put on the clock as soon as they get the IV in my vein; if I fail to dilate the prescribed 1 cm per hour, I will be “encouraged” to submit to augmentation of my labor by way of Pitocin and/or artificial rupture of my membranes.  If I submit to Pitocin, my labor will become unnaturally intense and painful, and I will then be “encouraged” to accept an epidural.  Once I receive the epidural, that’s it – I’m stuck in bed with continuous fetal monitoring and a catheter because now I can no longer get up to pee.
  • I will be limited on the number of people important to me whom I’d like to be present for the birth.
  • Once I am deemed “ready,” the doctor will swoop in to save the day.  By this time, I have been swabbed from belly to mid-thigh with Betadine, and sterile sheets have been draped over me, exposing only the baby’s direct exit route.  I will have an extremely bright light shined on my nether regions, and I will be made to give birth in a supine position (the least optimal position for opening the pelvic inlet, but the most convenient position from whence the good doctor to deliver the baby), with directed pushing (“PUSH TO THE COUNT OF TEN!  NOW!  PUSH!  NOW STOP.  PUSH AGAIN, TO TEN NOW!”).
  • Once the baby is born, s/he will be placed on my chest for a few moments, and Dad will be allowed to cut the cord if he so desires.  The baby will then shortly be whisked away to the other side of the room for suctioning, weighing and measuring, bathing, administration of Vit. K shot and antibiotic eye ointment (you know, just in case I have VD and don’t know it, or am holding out on everyone).  I probably won’t see or hold her/him again for a good 20 – 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, it is imperative that I expel the placenta pronto.  To assist, the doctor will use cord traction to help things along – that is, he will yank on the cord.  Time is of the essence; he’s got other moms to doctor and/or a golf game to get to!  If I have not received Pitocin in my IV to help my labor along, I will now receive a shot of Pitocin in my thigh as a matter of routine to control bleeding, whether I am bleeding or not.  The nurse will also grab my tender uterus through my now squishy abdomen and knead it like bread dough to make it clamp down.  I will want to strangle her.
  • Within an hour or two, I will be moved, along with my new baby in a clear plastic box on wheels, to a postpartum room.  My husband may be allowed to stay the night in a narrow vinyl pull-out chair.  There will be visiting hours that must be observed, and my other children won’t meet their new sibling until visiting hours.
  • Throughout the day and night I will be monitored by different nurses at regular intervals who will check my blood pressure, temperature, etc.  I will have to listen to all the hospital noises and people coming and going at all hours.  I will be admonished if I bring my baby into my bed and actually fall asleep with him or her there.  I will leave the hospital with formula samples, you know, just in case.

And all this if I don’t end up with a c-section!  Just walking into the hospital in labor puts me at a 1 in 3 chance of having a c-section.  Yes, that’s right, 1 in 3!

Here, in a nutshell, by contrast, is what I can look forward to when having a baby at home:

While in labor, I can wear what I want, do what I want, and eat and drink what I want.  My midwife will come over when we ask her to, and from then on, she will be there for the duration, occasionally checking my blood pressure, listening to the baby’s heartbeat, and doing as few vaginal checks as necessary (I’m actually aiming for none this time around, I hate them so.  I figure I’ll know when it’s time to push since I’ve done this a few times already).  She will bring with her oxygen and necessary emergency medications.  She’ll stay out of my way if I want her to, she’ll make bawdy jokes if the situation calls for them, and she’ll offer tender encouragement.  She will mostly observe and allow me to do what I need to do to cope with labor and deliver my baby into the world.  She does not deliver babies, her mothers do; sometimes she catches babies as they ease into the world, sometimes the moms themselves catch their babies, and sometimes Dad catches the baby.  There will be no time limits placed on me.  I can go for a walk around the neighborhood if I want to, or I can relax in the birth tub.  I can labor in whatever position works for me, and when it’s time to push my baby out, I can do so in whatever position works for me.  I can have as many or as few people present as I wish.  After the baby is born, I can hold her for as long as I wish – there is no hurry to bathe her or do anything else under normal circumstances.  The placenta will come when it comes.  When everything is said and done, I will crawl into my own bed with my new baby and my husband, and my midwife will stay to make sure we’re all settled and fed.  She will empty the birth pool and clean up whatever needs to be cleaned up (birth is not as messy as you might imagine – most of the mess is towels, plastic sheets on the floor, etc.)  My other kids can come in and meet their new sibling right away.  After she leaves, she will come back numerous times over the next week or two to check on us.

Lilah, probably less than a minute old; October 2006

And that’s pretty much it.

Listen, if you’ve had a positive birth experience in a hospital (and I know many have), then bully for you.  But just like home birth isn’t for everyone, neither are hospital births.  And before you make any snap judgments about home birth, do some research.  It cracks me up how many people say that home birth is reckless and crazy who really know next to nothing about home birth, and who have no facts to back up their assumptions.

I don’t do this because I’m crazy or brave.  Deciding to give birth at home after four hospital births was a very thoughtful, research-intensive process.  In the end, I have chosen this because it’s what’s best for me and my family.

The Mysteries of My Son

 

About Just Write
“What ends up revealing itself when free writing is that everything has meaning. That is a magnificent gift of writing. If we write from a free heart-gut place, our souls start speaking.”

_______________________

The four youngest kids are in bed, and I get into the shower as Michael runs to the store.  About ten minutes later when I step from the shower, the first thing I hear is Finn’s wailing from across the house.  I quickly dry off and dress and rush to his room, where I see him in the dim light of his nightlight, sitting up in his crib sobbing. I pick him up and settle with him in the rocking chair where his little body still heaves with his sobs.  “What’s wrong, Finn?  What’s the matter?”  But he can’t tell me.  “Shhhhh . . . it’s okay, it’s okay . . .” I rub his back and he gradually grows heavy against me, finally dozing, still occasionally hiccupping with his spent crying.

Was it a bad dream?  He had only been in his crib for twenty minutes or so – hardly long enough for a bad dream to have gotten hold of him.  And what would he have a bad dream about, anyway?  I’m not sure he has any understanding of danger yet, and I have no idea how active or capable his imagination is.  Was he just suddenly overcome with loneliness?  Did his tummy hurt?

Eventually I put him back in his crib, pulling the covers up to his chin, watching his face now peaceful in sleep.  I still don’t know why he was crying, and so fiercely.  And this is certainly not the first time this has happened.  So many things about Finn remain a mystery to me.  As much as he is one of us, as much as from day-to-day and moment-to-moment, we hardly think about his differences, on some level it’s always there, and sometimes it’s brought into sharp relief: he’s like a foreigner traveling in a strange land without an interpreter.

I know the landscape of his personality, and I can usually figure out what he wants when he wants something, but for all the words he’s added to his lexicon in the almost four years he’s been on this earth, communication remains elusive, and I suspect it always will to some degree.  I don’t know what he thinks about, what he imagines.  I don’t know what monsters lurk in his room at night and set him to howling every so often.  He can’t explain it to me, and so I am left guessing, and doing the best I can to make it all better for him.

On Being Mom Enough

Time magazine’s latest cover has sparked debate about Attachment Parenting and extended breastfeeding.  I was extremely curious about what the article had to say, as I’ve practiced both Attachment Parenting and extended breastfeeding, but the truth is, I find myself conflicted about both.

As far as the Time magazine article goes, unless I missed something, it was actually pretty anticlimactic in light of all the brouhaha surrounding it.  It’s really nothing more than a piece about Dr. William Sears, considered to be the Father of the Attachment Parenting Movement, and the origins of the Attachment Parenting philosophy.  Despite the magazine’s cover – which, clearly, is purposefully controversial as a means of selling magazines – only a very brief mention is made in the article itself about extended breastfeeding.

I will say that at first glance, when the image of this cover began circulating on Facebook a day or two ago, I was disturbed by it.  I only later learned that the kid on the cover is 3 years old (apparently close to 4); my first impression was that he must be  6 or 7.  It seems apparent that the magazine’s photographers and editors were going for shock and controversy, and I would even venture to guess that they wanted the kid to look older than a typical toddler.  The image on the cover is not typical of moms who actually practice extended breastfeeding; the average mom who engages in extended breastfeeding isn’t necessarily hot (though, who wouldn’t want to look like this cover mom?) and doesn’t have her youngster stand on a chair to nurse.  To that end, I think Time has done a pretty sad disservice to breastfeeding moms everywhere; although breastfeeding has grown in popularity and reached a level of acceptance greater than at any other time since formula hit the market decades ago, breastfeeding is still widely equated with immodesty and perversion, and nursing moms still find themselves fighting with storekeepers and the public to feed their offspring publicly and in peace, the same way bottle-feeding mothers are allowed to feed their children.  With this cover image, Time has emphasized the very misconceptions and prejudices society still has about breastfeeding.

Anyway, so yeah, the picture made me squirm a little.  Even though I myself practiced extended breastfeeding (which is generally considered to be anything beyond the baby’s first birthday):

I nursed Kevin for 18 months

I nursed Joey for 21 months

I nursed Annabelle and Daisy for 18 months

I nursed Lilah for 15 months

I nursed Finn for 33 months

None of my kids has ever ingested a drop of formula – and yes, that’s something I am (maybe perversely) proud of, because there were times when it would have been an easy alternative, and I guess I feel good about my determination to stick with it, even when it wasn’t easy, because in the long run it was worth it to me.

I am pretty passionate about breastfeeding; Michael has been known to (half) jokingly refer to my stance on breastfeeding as “militant,” although he is extremely supportive and has become quite the breastfeeding advocate himself.  I’m sure by some people’s standards, my feelings about breastfeeding would seem that extreme, and by other people’s standards, they wouldn’t seem extreme at all.  I think breastfeeding is a beautiful thing; I think we, as women and mothers, were physiologically designed to nurse our young, just like any other mammal, and our offspring were physiologically designed to be nourished by our breast milk.  There are properties in breast milk that cannot be simulated or reproduced artificially, and the health benefits have been proven by study after study.  I think there is something intensely and uniquely  intimate in the act of nursing one’s child, and there are both physical and emotional benefits to both mother and child that cannot be denied.  Plus, it’s convenient and free!  I wish every mother would at least try to breastfeed, and I confess that I’ve spent most of my breastfeeding career thinking that pretty much anyone can breastfeed with the right attitude and the right support.  I’ve been humbled, however, by having my eyes opened to mothers who truly couldn’t breastfeed, usually due to medical issues.  But even absent medical issues or other extenuating circumstances, there are just moms who don’t want to breastfeed, for a variety of reasons.  Are they bad moms?  No.

So how do I really feel about extended breastfeeding?  Well, the current cover of Time magazine has forced me to examine that.  And the truth is, I have mixed feelings about it.   I think nursing for the first year is a no-brainer.  I think nursing for two years is wonderful.  Beyond that?  I don’t know.  I nursed Finn for close to three years, but I confess that there were probably reasons I nursed him for that long that just didn’t apply to my other kids: he and I struggled so fiercely just to get breastfeeding off the ground to begin with, that I think I valued our nursing relationship that much more; he was supposed to be our last baby (ha!), and therefore the last baby I would ever nurse, so I suppose it was just a little harder to give up because of that; and, yes, I will admit that the fact that Finn is developmentally delayed and therefore seems quite a bit younger than he actually is makes it easy to see him as more of a baby than he actually is.  I nursed him until he was close to 3 years old, and it didn’t seem like any big deal.  But when I imagine possibly having nursed any of my other kids until close when they turned 3, it seems a little . . . weird.

So where should the line be drawn?  Obviously there are no hard and fast answers to that question.  And I don’t think anyone has the right to impose their beliefs on anyone else; every family is different, and what works for some isn’t going to work for others.

Still, I think that, just like in the animal kingdom (we are animals, after all), nursing is not meant to go on and on.  Every mammal mother reaches the point of nudging her offspring towards weaning, usually around the time the youngsters are physiologically eating and tolerating the same diet their parents are eating.  Of course, unlike our animal counterparts, we human mothers also nurse for emotional reasons, and there is certainly value to that.  I just wonder at what point the need becomes more of the mother’s and not so much the child’s.  As a child grows and matures, there are certainly other ways besides nursing to fill that emotional need for the mother and the child.

I know, I sound judgmental, don’t I?  I’m trying really, really hard not to be.  I told you I was conflicted.

Moving on to Attachment Parenting, this is also something I’ve practiced.  The three basic tenets of Attachment Parenting are: breastfeeding (exclusively and on demand), co-sleeping, and baby-wearing.  Check, check, check.  The philosophy behind Attachment Parenting, in very general terms, is that a baby whose needs are responded to on demand feels secure and learns that s/he is valued and that the world is a safe place.  And who doesn’t want that for their children?  But, as with any ideology, be it religious, political, philosophical, or parenting, extremists of the practice are spawned.  How long should a baby breastfeed?  How long should children sleep with their parents?  How long and how often should a baby be carried in a sling?  Again, no easy answers, and what works varies from family to family.

My take, personally, is that Attachment Parenting is a wonderful thing for babies.  You know, when they’re small and helpless and utterly needy.  But, as with breastfeeding, there comes a time when babies are no longer babies, and their needs change.  Their burgeoning independence should be fostered.  Boundaries and limitations should be enforced, and yes, sometimes a firm hand is called for (and I’m sorry, but I just don’t believe that an occasional sharp swat on the backside is going to result in long-term harm to a child’s psyche; I’m not talking about beating the crap out of one’s kids). Expectations of certain behavior on the child’s part should be demanded.  Opportunities for frustration and failure should be afforded to children so that they learn humility and perseverance.  Opportunities to work out differences with their peers without parental involvement should be afforded children.  Skinned knees and bruised egos should be allowed.  Consequences of poor choices should be experienced.  I believe all of these things deeply.

And there will be those who will come and tell me that Attachment Parenting doesn’t rule out these things, or that I’m flat out wrong in my own parenting views.  To the first, I’ll just say that I’m talking about extremism in Attachment Parenting, where even at age 5 or 10, the parents are running themselves ragged trying to meet all of their child’s needs and wants (real and perceived), where the child rules the roost, and not the parents.  To the second, it may be true; who am I but one more parent who is only trying to do the best she can?  And often failing.

There is one thing I’m absolutely certain of: every single parenting method/philosophy out there produces its share of screwed up adults.  Also, parenting by prescription is foolish.  Short of abuse and/or neglect, there is no right or wrong way to parent, there’s just not.  What any reasonable parent wants is to raise healthy, happy, compassionate, self-sufficient adults, right?  So take what works for you to meet those goals, and leave the rest.  That’s all any of us can do.

My Husband’s Secret Life

The wife is always the last to know – isn’t it the truth? I found out in quite a roundabout way, as these things tend to reveal themselves. Yes, my husband has been living a secret life. On the internet.

He’s a Blog Reader. Not only that, he’s a Blog Commenter.

We’re talking mommy blogs, the likes of KH and Mrs. Odie. (Are there others? How long has this been going on? Who knows?!) And apparently he’s been spreading his comment seeds willy-nilly, spawning bastard comments. He’s even made reference to “my wife” in some of his comments. Shudder. It feels as if I’ve been made a party, unbeknownst to me, to some far-flung group grope. I’m now half expecting him to blurt out “Oh, yeah, Mrs. Odie!” next time we’re . . . uh . . . well, you know, if there is a next time.

And when has he been diving between the sheets of digital paper with these other whores writers bloggers sluts bitches? When he’s at work, supposedly earning a living to support the offspring he keeps spawning at home? Or at night, perhaps, when I’m innocently asleep, dreaming of my next blog post all the ways to keep my man happy and satisfied?

It’s true (or so he says) that he’s only scanned KH’s blog recently, curious to see if she addresses the fact that her recently published book has generated some negative (gasp!) reviews; and it’s also true (or so he says) that he only found Mrs. Odie by Googling KH, and found her to be entertaining. How’s a wife to feel, though? Isn’t my blog enough for him? What have they got that I don’t have? I bend over backwards (ahem) to make him happy, and this is what I get? He’s looking for blog lovin’ elsewhere? He doesn’t even like the whole concept of blogging! He disdains it! At least that’s what he’s told me. I don’t know what to believe anymore.

Geez, what’s next? Am I going to find out he’s secretly writing a blog, too?

Legalese

Let’s get a few things straight here, shall we?

I’m so weary of the word “bullying” being so easily and liberally thrown around.  It seems to be the go-to accusation to make anytime someone gets their feelings hurt (or imagines that someone they revere has gotten their feelings hurt).  Bullying is a serious accusation to level at someone, and actual bullying should be taken very seriously.  Unfortunately, throwing it around willy-nilly only dilutes it and makes it mean far less than what it should mean.

According to USLegal.com,

Bullying is generally defined as an intentional act that causes harm to others, and may involve verbal harassment, verbal or non-verbal threats, physical assault, stalking, or other methods of coercion such as manipulation, blackmail, or extortion. It is aggressive behavior that intends to hurt, threaten or frighten another person. An imbalance of power between the aggressor and the victim is often involved. Bullying occurs in a variety of contexts, such as schools, workplaces, political or military settings, and others.

Furthermore,

Defamation is an act of communication that causes someone to be shamed, ridiculed, held in contempt, lowered in the estimation of the community, or to lose employment status or earnings or otherwise suffer a damaged reputation. Such defamation is couched in ‘defamatory language’. Libel and slander are subcategories of defamation. Defamation is primarily covered under state law, but is subject to First Amendment guarantees of free speech. The scope of constitutional protection extends to statements of opinion on matters of public concern that do not contain or imply a provable factual assertion.

***

The law of defamation protects a person’s reputation and good name against communications that are false and derogatory. Defamation consists of two torts: libel and slander. Libel consists of any defamation that can be seen, most typically in writing. Slander consists of an oral defamatory communications. The elements of libel and slander are nearly identical to one another.

Historically, the law governing slander focused on oral statements that were demeaning to others. By the 1500s, English courts treated slander actions as those for damages. Libel developed differently, however. English printers were required to be licensed by and give a bond to the government because the printed word was believed to be a threat to political stability. Libel included any criticism of the English government, and a person who committed libel committed a crime. This history carried over in part to the United States, where Congress under the presidency of John Adams passed the Sedition Act, which made it a crime to criticize the government. Congress and the courts eventually abandoned this approach to libel, and the law of libel is now focuses on recovery of damages in civil cases.

Beginning with the landmark decision in New York Times v. Sullivan (1964), the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that the law of defamation has a constitutional dimension. Under this case and subsequent cases, the Court has balanced individual interests in reputation with the interests of free speech among society. This approach has altered the rules governing libel and slander, especially where a communication is about a public official or figure, or where the communication is about a matter of public concern.

***

Slander is the oral communication of false statements that are harmful to a person’s reputation. If the statements are proven to be true, it is a complete defense to a charge of slander. Oral opinions that don’t contain statements of fact don’t constitute slander. Slander is an act of communication that causes someone to be shamed, ridiculed, held in contempt, lowered in the estimation of the community, or to lose employment status or earnings or otherwise suffer a damaged reputation. Slander is a subcategory of defamation.

The basic elements of a claim of slander include;

  1. .                a defamatory statement;
  2. .                published to third parties; and
  3. .                which the speaker or publisher knew or should have known was false.

Slander is primarily covered under state law, but is subject to First Amendment guarantees of free speech. The scope of constitutional protection extends to statements of opinion on matters of public concern that do not contain or imply a provable factual assertion. If the slander unjustly accused you of a crime or reflected on your profession, the court or jury can assess the damages. For other types of slander you generally must prove some actual damage to be able to recover.

You can read more about New York Times v. Sullivan here, if you’re so inclined.

Bottom line: publishing a blog post that states opinion about a public figure or their stupid book is NOT bullying, defamation, slander or libel (as any attorney – or even paralegal – worth their salt would know).  Bullying consists of aggressive behavior and an imbalance in power; defamation, slander and libel all consist of FALSE statements that the statement maker knows to be false and makes anyway with the intent to harm someone’s reputation and/or business opportunities.

If you put yourself in the public eye, if you write a fucking book, you better be prepared for not only praise and accolades, but criticism as well.

Got it?

Good.

32 Weeks

Thirty two and a half to be exact.  Time keeps slipping through my fingers, as much as I’d like it all to just slow down a bit.  Now that I’m on the last leg of this adventure, I’ll no doubt be posting more updates, if for no other reason than to document it all for posterity.

My midwife came to see me today, and now we begin prenatal visits every two weeks, until, I believe, 36 weeks, at which point our visits will be weekly for the duration.  Only a few more weeks before she brings the birth pool over to have on hand; only a few more weeks until Michael and I will need to rearrange our bedroom to make room first for the birth pool, and then a changing table and cradle.  Holy shit.  It blows my mind when I think about the fact that within just a few weeks – less time than it’s been since my ultrasound when we learned we’ll be adding another girl to the mix, which seems like yesterday – I’ll be holding this little bundle in my arms.  And then I wax teary and emotional, imagining her entrance into the world and into our family, our eyes meeting for the first time, feeling her weight and warmth against my body rather than inside . . .  What will she look like?  Dark wavy wisps of hair and dark eyes like Joey, the twins, and Lilah?  Or blonde and fair like Kevin and Finn?  Or something altogether different?  What I do know is that I will look into her eyes and know that I know her already.

Everything is looking good.  I’ve gained 28 pounds, and although people are starting to comment that I must be due any time now, I’m measuring right on target.  The comments, I confess, have made me a little nervous, as I started measuring ahead of dates right around this point with Finn.  I developed polyhydramnios (excess amniotic fluid) – to the point that at 38 weeks I measured 44 cm, just 2 cm shy of what I measured full term with the twins.  The condition was caused by Finn’s intestinal malformation, caused by Down syndrome, neither of which we knew about until after his birth.  I’m not afraid of Down syndrome.  But the thought of having another baby who might need almost immediate surgery and hospitalization?  Yeah, that puts me in a cold sweat.  All that to say that I was very relieved today to learn that I’m measuring right on target.

My blood pressure – are you ready? – was 112/50 (!!!).  This is EXCELLENT news.  My blood pressure, which was the biggest concern in the beginning of this pregnancy, has remained stable and excellent for months now.  Phew!

This little girl is very active!  She’s all over the place.  The kids love putting their hands on my belly and feeling her kick and punch and roll – and hiccup!  Her level of activity reminds me very much of Annabelle in utero (yes, I was able to differentiate between her and Daisy in there; Annabelle was always very active, while Daisy was quieter).  Oy.  I hope this doesn’t foretell another evil genius.

I am feeling really good.  Tired, yes, more and more so, and the aches and pains of later pregnancy are making themselves at home.  But all in all – especially in light of how sure I was in the beginning that there was no way this could go well – I feel really good.  Way better than it seems I should be feeling for a chick in her mid-forties pregnant for the sixth time.  I, honestly, am incredibly grateful that I am feeling well and that this has been a smooth, uneventful pregnancy.

So, time marches on, the weeks continue to fly by, and although I am eager to meet this newest little person, I’m in no rush to be done being pregnant.  Soon enough, soon enough.