Monday, March 29, 2010

Ahhhh new moms to be...

So you hear a lot of very interesting things at the ob/gyn. People talk in the waiting room there about things you'd seriously never imagine people discussing in public, lol. Which is whatever, I certainly don't give a shit what people are talking about, and, sometimes, I get to listen to something quasi entertaining while I'm waiting.

Well, today, as I'm waiting, in walk these two girls. They sit a few seats away from me, and start gossiping about normal, everyday stuff that you blather to your friends about. Work, school, all that. From the conversation, I glean that girl #1 is newly pregnant - which is ok-ish with her because she just got engaged anyways and it's her last semester at school.

Allow a segue for a moment here. Both girls are very put together - dressed in skinny jeans with heels, the preggo has a very cute silk shirt with a jacket and scarf, perfectly done nails, amazing hair and makeup. Her friend is dressed slightly more casually, but still looks quite chic. They're both very tanned. They're thin, but not athletic looking, if that makes sense. (I assure you, this will all matter in a moment.)


So, there are patients going in and out, I'm reading a book and half listening to those two gossip, when an obviously new mom comes in. She's got her newborn in an infant carrier, she's frazzled-looking, hair in a ponytail, no makeup, jeans and a t-shirt. Her baby is crying, and she has a small spot on her shoulder where you can tell that, at one point, her baby spit up a little. She's obviously tried to clean it up, but as anyone who has attempted to clean baby puke without actually just washing the shirt (and even sometimes with that,) it's not the easiest thing to do.

So the pregnant girl by me lowers her voice and goes, "Oh my gawd, I am *so* not going to be the mom who lets herself go. Ugh, just look at that woman. She looks terrible." And she and her friend go into this conversation about how moms like that are totally lazy and look at Heidi Klum, who was back in the VS shows like instantly and they would NEVER be caught dead looking like that in public. EVER. It's a travesty.

And I'm sitting there, trying my hardest not to laugh my ass off.

You see, I have never - NEVER - known a new mom who didn't look frazzled and a little less groomed with a newborn. Ever. You know why? Because newborns are a fuckload of work, that's why. I mean, they're adorable, and you love them, but there are days that it's all you can do to take a damn shower, much less spend an hour in hair and makeup. And at four weeks postpartum (when my ob schedules your post baby checkup,) most new moms think "skinny jeans" are the prebaby jeans that you can zip but not yet button. Sure, there are exceptions. But by far, with a newborn, you do have a minute of "letting yourself go." Shit happens. You regain yourself, usually right around the time your kid sleeps through the night (or at a 4-6 hour stretch, at least.) While you're getting negative sleep, though, I assure you, that becomes WAY more seductive than any other activity you can imagine when you have a free moment.

Also, I'd hate to tell preggo, but when your hair starts falling out all over the place, putting it in a ponytail seems like an amazing option so it doesn't wind up, say, wrapped around your kid's toe. When you're going through the insane paranoid period of new motherhood, wearing heels seems like tempting fate to make you drop your kid directly on their head. When your baby pukes or poops on you, you'd much rather it be on that $3.00 cotton thing you bought at Target on sale and not the $50.00 silk shirt that has to be dry cleaned. And those dangly earrings get retired until they become something other than "a way for your baby to yank your earlobe off."

So when the girl got called in, and she and her friend walked past the new mom, giving her half pitying, half disdainful looks, I actually *did* laugh out loud. And when the new mom looked at me like I was slightly crazy, I said, "Oh, that one has a very steep learning curve." And she smiled in a way that teetered between agreeing and wondering if I was mentally unbalanced.

And I went back to reading about Dexter. All in all, a good time.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Because you've all been dying to hear them...

My thoughts on health care reform.

Some of you have already read them. Possibly in multiple places. Some of you (hi, Shane) have heard me go off on tangents involving four letter words and lamenting how incredibly ignorant some people are on the basics of the plan.

If you know me at all, you know I've been extremely passionate about health care reform. I spent some time working in the health insurance business, and it was extremely disheartening. Companies conduct themselves in horrible ways (Google Mega Health Insurance if you want some really terrible horror stories,) costs are freaking insane, and people get dropped for getting sick - you know, the very thing that you get health insurance for. It sucks, as a whole.

I will admit, this bill was something I was very undecided on for awhile. Especially after they added the part about mandating coverage. (Read this, by the way, for some interesting information on the origins of mandating insurance.) I thought - and still do think - that that part sucks. I see the reasoning behind it, but I think that making insurance affordable would ensure that people bought it anyways. So there was that, and a few other things holding me back from fully supporting the bill. I may not have been shouting "kill the bill!" but I was certainly wondering if that wasn't maybe the best plan after all.

Then I looked into it. And what I saw...well, it wasn't perfect. Not at all. But it certainly wasn't the apocalypse. Or our country becoming a Nazi regime. Or any one of a billion other things that people said it was.

There are, however, some wonderful things in this bill:

1. The ability to insure your kid until 26.
- This economy combined with the fact that there aren't a lot of jobs that you can get right out of high school and actually make a living with are increasing the amount of people that go to college. Like your mom. (I had to add in something to break up the monotony.) Well, most college students don't have decent health insurance from their jobs, for obvious reasons, and even after college, you have to do some entry level stuff that may not come with benefits. Well, now your kid can stay on your policy if they don't have another option. That's pretty amazing.

2. Health insurance exchanges
- This might be the most misunderstood part of the bill. The exchanges don't open until 2014, and they are on a state level. Basically, they allow individuals and/or small groups to band together to get large group health insurance plans.

So why is this good?

Individual and group insurance plans are confusing, confusing things. So let's clear that up first. An individual plan is one you buy that is just yours, or yours and your families. It's typically not through your work - you usually get them when you are self employed, unemployed, or work for a small company that doesn't provide insurance. The insurance company looks at your personal health history, and charges you accordingly. They also put riders on things that you have had issues with in the past, usually. (That means, basically, they don't cover you for that.) You may or may not have prescription drug coverage, and you almost certainly have to buy maternity coverage separately. In a group plan, like you get through work, the insurance company assesses the risk of everyone altogether. This tends to lower the costs, as there are usually more healthy than unhealthy people in any given group. Also, prescriptions and maternity are built in, and you generally have lower co-pays and deductibles. Group plans, as a whole, just suck a lot less, lol.

So, basically, you and these other people through the exchange are forming a small corporation for the purpose of insurance only. This gives you more bargaining power with insurance companies, and it allows you to get better coverage at a better price. But YOU are still selecting YOUR private group plan. Still free market, still not through the government.

3. Insurers can't deny kids with preexisting conditions now, and adults with preexistings in 2014.
- So you have this great job with AMAZING insurance. It's fantastic, you're thrilled. Well, then your company downsizes. And maybe you extend it with COBRA, but then you have to find new insurance. Except, every plan you try to buy has some issues with your daughter's asthma or your wife's kidney stones. Like, they won't cover them. BAM! No longer an issue.

4. Wellness programs
- Prevention is the best way to stay healthy. So, using preventative health services is good for you, and good for insurance companies. Well, now they'll have to cover certain things, with no additional charge to you.

5. Basically, everything involving businesses
- For some reason, this article also doesn't mention the fact that small businesses get tax credits if they do offer insurance (a small business is, in this case, under 50 employees and thus not required to get insurance or pay a fine.) That's awesome, and could mean the difference between being able to provide insurance or not provide insurance.

You don't have to agree with me on any of the above. But I really hope anyone reading this will take the time to educate themselves really, really well on the bill. There's been a bunch of insane fearmongering and ridiculous things said over the past few days, and there's a nightmare of misinformation out there. I'm ending this article with some links that have a wealth of information in them and appear to be as unbiased as it gets. Take time, form your own opinion. See the pros and cons of the bill. Evaluate them. Remember that nothing passed will ever be 100% what you want, because it's not only YOUR country. Realize that bills in this country are historically flexible. Then decide what action you want to take, if any. Be proactive and involved, but do it in a mature way after knowing what the hell you're talking about.

Christian Science Monitor
(an in depth look)
Key Info on How You're Impacted
Another "How You're Affected" Thing
How It's Being Paid For (note: it's CNN, but honestly the least biased thing I could find. I usually don't post CNN links.)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Texas Debacle

(Please note: this blog uses a lot of four letter words. Because when I'm angry and writing, I don't monitor the amount of cursing I do. So if it offends you, either don't read it or replace the words with something more tolerable in your head. Whatev.)

Today is one of those days where I feel like I'm losing faith in the people of America.

Understand that I am pretty patriotic. I believe that this is, inherently, a pretty amazing country. I think we have a lot of wonderful things in place, especially since, comparatively, we're really, really young. I think that most people who live here are good, decent people. I feel like a lot of our "differences" are really small things that have just been blown up by people who take advantage of them to exploit their own agenda. For instance, guns. Such a huge hot button issue. Except that most people I know can agree that guns themselves aren't the end of civilization, that, yeah, certain people really don't need to be able to buy them, but that they are able to be owned and used safely and responsibly. Right? Except you NEVER hear that. You hear that conservatives want to hand a gun to everyone anytime and liberals hate them all and want everyone with a gun to hand them in. Then no one can have them EVER. The end. But even though there are extremists, for sure, on both sides, most of us meet somewhere in the middle ground. Too bad the people who want to get your vote are determined to hide that from you.

But that's a rant for another day.

Today, the state of Texas has given me a multitude of emotions...and none of them are good.

Last week, I have discovered, the Texas state board of education made a bunch of changes to its social studies curriculum. Changes that will utterly reshape the way Texas children learn about things like history and economics.

I first read about this in the Bad Astronomy blog (which I highly recommend to everyone, by the way.) And what I read, I couldn't quite believe. So I dug deeper. And grew more disturbed.

First of all, the Board originally used teachers and professors. But when they found out that the people who, you know, teach and presumably know these subjects well balked completely at many of the preposterous ideas, they threw it all out and brought in experts. Whew, you think, experts. Thank god. Well, think again. These experts were anyone that two of the (incredibly conservative) board could agree on. Like, oh, Peter Marshall. Peter Marshall, ladies and gentlemen, believes that Hurricane Katrina and the wildfires in California are punishments from God since we tolerate gays. You know, because Jesus was all about hanging out with only good, just people and never ever kicked it with, say, whores or lepers or anything. Nope, he pretty much added the 11th commandment about judging the fuck out of everyone and being a dick to everyone who wasn't up to par, God-wise. That totally happened. Or something not at all like that. But whatever. No matter what you believe about God, that person probably isn't someone you want setting up shit for impressionable young children.

So, you may be wondering what they did to make me so annoyed, right? Like, what *are* these crazy curriculum changes?

Well, here are just a few:
-Slavery was totally a remnant of British rule, and the Americans *tried* to cast it off FROM DAY ONE.
-They want to show that McCarthyism was totally right and just.
-Newt Gingrich is an important historical figure.
-Ronald Regan singlehandedly saved the entire world from communism.
-Martin Luther King Jr is a historical figure...BUT he shouldn't be credited with anything too huge in the fight for minority rights.
-The Black Panthers are being added to "balance" the Civil Rights movement.
-This was inherently intended to be a Christian nation and the whole "separation of church and state" thing is a big myth.
-Hispanics and their contributions are pretty much ignored completely.

But most of you don't live in Texas, so why is this a big deal anyways?

Well, folks, Texas is the largest shaping force in textbooks that are sold in this country. Which was once a pretty decent thing. Texas has, in the past, enacted a lot of pretty decent educational standards that lots of other states modeled themselves after. So now, even though the Texas Board has lost their damn minds, textbook companies will still be catering to them. Meaning that YOUR kids could have textbooks teaching all this nonsense.

Now, I'm not Christian...and I'm not conservative. But I spent a lot of time thinking about it this morning, and, quite frankly, this shit would piss me off even if I was. Who the fuck are these people to promote this kind of agenda in a children's textbook? As a parent, it's *my* job to teach my child about religion and or politics. It's *not* a public school's. If I wanted my girls bombarded with shit advancing a certain agenda, I'd put them in a private school that complied with *my* specific way of thinking. I understand that with history and social studies there is always a slightly skewed view...the winner of any skirmish, after all, shapes how things are perceived. But this isn't skewing like that. This is basically turning the textbooks of our children into conservative Christian tracts. And that just isn't right.

I want my child to learn facts at school. Facts that will prepare her for higher education, for making her way in the world. If she wants to search further for a spiritual meaning, or look into the religious exploits of the founding fathers, or cast a closer eye at what political ideology shaped certain things, then we can research it, and we can look at the conflicting sources and viewpoints, and she can draw a conclusion on her own. She can learn to explore further, become a critical thinker, and form her own beliefs that way. She'll learn to sort through propaganda and be a better person for it.

Forcing kids to parrot back the agenda you support isn't teaching. It's dictating.

Shame on you, Texas Board of Education.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Drugs and Herbs

I'm a pretty big fan of science. I think scientific advances have done many, many wonderful things for humanity. And one of the most notable places that science has helped us prosper is in health care. We have vaccines that keep us from getting diseases that used to wipe out thousands of people. We have drugs that can help even HIV positive people lead long, fairly healthy lives. We have advances in detection of disease, in treatment, and even more are on the way. It's amazing.

Yet, I'm cursed with being one of those people who can see the grey in a lot of areas.

I recognize that some drugs are released before we know long term effects of them. I know that some times, the list of side effects with a medication is so daunting, you wonder if it's going to create more problems than it's worth. It's something of a mixed bag.

And I can't identify with the people who don't understand that.

There are people who are super into homeopathic remedies, ready to take any herbal supplement that's chic to do everything from stopping the clock on aging to cure cancer. And I understand that in a dire, terminal situation, most people would do *anything* to try to save themselves, so that's not the kind of person I'm thinking of. No, I'm thinking of, say, people who have HIV who refuse to take the medication to pretty much ensure that their unborn child won't have HIV, because "Big Pharma" is just trying to profit off the "AIDS myth." I'm talking about people who shun medications for their very sick selves or children to take herbs and heal with prayer. People who think upping their vitamin C will cure their breast cancer with no help from that pesky medical community. There are those people. I don't understand them. Because while I absolutely think YOU are ultimately in charge of your health, and that EVERYONE should be more proactive about that - knowing what they're taking, the benefits and risks involved, if there are other treatments available - basically taking some time to truly understand what's wrong with you and how you're trying to fix it - I don't think that that means shunning every medical advance ever made in a quest to make your life ultra natural. You have to make some compromises somewhere.

But, I also don't get the people who instantly scoff off *any* alternate treatment as ridiculous, either. These people think that *anything* that hasn't been dispensed by a pharmacist or prescribed by a doctor can't possibly be worth anything. They'd rather pop some pills - even if the benefits don't really outweigh the risks - than try anything even hinting at homeopathic. Even things that have actually been proven to do some good in some cases. People who would rather have extensive back surgery than see a chiropractor. People who would pop a handful of pills for that cold before using a Neti-Pot to relieve some congestion.

Listen, I *know* herbal does not equal safe. I know homeopathic stuff is, quite often, a bs way people make some money. After all, ephedrine was marketed as a "safe, herbal way to lose weight" and we all see how that worked out. But there are a few things out there that actually do some good. Fenugreek certainly helped amp up my milk production, my Neti-Pot has been simply invaluable during this pregnancy, and even obs recommend taking a DHA supplement. Some things are worth trying out. Especially when they've been shown to do good, with less side effects. Most of these things won't work for anything super huge - you wouldn't try to use chiropractic services to handle a broken back, for instance - but for smaller situations, they can be very worthwhile.

I feel like, in health care, it's important to be skeptically open-minded. A contradiction in terms, but the way to be. Be skeptical enough to not immediately take someone else's word without checking yourself, and be open minded enough to acknowledge that there's possibility in different things.