Month: August 2014

This is not a bookstore.

This is not what bookstores are supposed to be like. This is wrong. 

The bookstores on Guam are limited to one chain, aptly titled “Bestseller Books.” What it does well:

  • It carries all the newest bestsellers (albeit about three months after they’re released in the States)
  • It boasts a ridiculously wide variety of magazines
  • It has a relatively impressive collection of the latest young adult dystopian novels, vampire books, and Hunger Games lookalikes

What it does poorly:

  • Encourages people to, ahem, actually read

When you walk through the door, one of the first things you’ll notice are the paper signs Scotch-taped to the end of almost every shelf: “No Free Reading.” And, in case those signs didn’t dissuade you from hiding behind a shelf to skim through a book: “No sitting on floor.”

Not that there are chairs. Or empty spaces to lean. Or any other semblance of a way to get comfortable while you’re browsing a Bestseller Books. Because there’s not. It’s like the McDonald’s of bookstores: You go in, buy whatever the latest release is that you’re planning to read because everybody else is reading it, and you get out as fast as they can politely shove you out the door. Preferably without having even peeked into the spine of a book to see if it looks interesting.

When you check out, you’ll be warned that the store doesn’t accept returns, and exchanges must be processed within three days of the book’s purchase. If you ask about a damaged book, they’ll tell you they can’t offer a discount, even though the publisher couldn’t manage to cut the pages straight, or the customer who (illegally) flipped through the book before you broke the spine in half. And if you (heaven forbid) sit on the floor, you’ll be kindly asked to clear the way for other customers.

The classic literature section consists of one narrow set of shelves with mass market paperback versions of, I’m guessing, this year’s required high school reading. There are more magazines than non-fiction books of any kind. You’ll find greeting cards and the latest issues of Cosmopolitan or Sports Illustrated (or even Architectural Digest!), but you’d be hard pressed to find, say, Dickens. You’ll find The Dummies’ Guide to Korean, but no unabridged dictionaries.

I’m not saying every bookstore has to be like Barnes & Noble. But every bookstore worth the shingle it hangs out front should encourage actual reading. Occasionally. Maybe. Just a thought.

I think for the remainder of my time on Guam, I’m going to stick to Oyster and whatever I can find online. This is one case in which Amazon might be a better choice than buying locally, because I’m not sure I want to support whoever thought Bestseller Books was a good idea.


Why I decided to plan for a natural childbirth

I never thought I’d write a post like this.

Anyway. Maybe I’m just noticing it more, but it seems like everyone is having children. I just got an email from a friend I hadn’t talked to in several months, and we caught up a bit. “You’re pregnant??” she said. “So am I!”

My sister-in-law is expecting her first child sometime this month (I’m gonna be an aunt!!! Eep!), a good friend who just left island had her first child–a beautiful little girl–last month, and I’m finding more and more people in my circles who are either expectant or toting very small people around with them everywhere.

Since finding out I’m going to have a child, I’ve read some (okay, a lot of) books, talked to a lot of people, and done my share of research on pregnancy and childbirth. I’ve learned a lot, stressed out a lot, prayed a lot, and come to several conclusions, including the following:

1. Pregnancy and childbirth are normal (albeit huge and life-altering), and almost never need to be treated like an illness or disease.

2. Most (not all) obstetricians are trained surgeons who view pregnancy more as a medical problem that needs to be solved than as a normal event.

3. Even the most innocuous-seeming interventions can have very dramatic effects on the outcome of your labor and delivery.

4. Just because your doctor says something is “standard” does not mean it is beneficial. You have a right to ask questions and to deny any test or procedure.

5. The midwife model of care is much more mother- and baby- friendly than the standard obstetrical method, and there’s a reason midwifery is the standard in countless other Western countries (which also have dramatically lower C-section and maternal mortality rates than the U.S.).

Now, those concerns would have been much easier to address if I didn’t live in Guam. Because I’m blessed with government-provided health insurance, a hospital birth would have been free–complete with every technological advantage and diagnostic test under the sun.

Great, right? Except after one appointment, and a little asking around, I figured out that I wasn’t really interested in that hospital’s model of care and their “standard” treatment of pregnant patients, which involves more intervention than necessary for low-risk pregnancies.

As it is, it took a few months for me to get everything in line to transfer my care from the military hospital to a local birthing center which, though not perfect, embraces a much more normal, natural approach to pregnancy and labor. That means I’ll be able to:

  • Walk around, shower, or bathe while I’m in labor–all techniques which, I’m told, make pain much more bearable and help gravity move the birthing process along (not easy if you’re hooked up to an IV; not possible if you’ve had an epidural)
  • Eat and drink while in labor (many hospitals prohibit this)
  • Maintain privacy (no vaginal “checks” that do more to introduce bacteria than anything else) in a private, home-like room
  • Labor with the attendance of a skilled practitioner who has years of experience with natural, unmedicated childbirth
  • Keep my baby in the room with me from the time he or she is born until we leave the birthing center

I learned a few other things about U.S. maternity care that really, really bother me:

  • In some states, it’s illegal to plan on having your baby at home. In some states, it’s also illegal for even certified nurse midwives to deliver babies.
  • Inductions, epidurals, and constant monitoring reduce (or eliminate) a woman’s ability to labor normally and increase the probability of interventions like C-sections, which now account for around 30% of births in the U.S.
  • Countless women choose to plan a C-section or an induction based on their or their doctor’s convenience, even though inductions and C-sections result in more interventions and more negative outcomes for both the mother and baby than women who go into labor naturally.
  • These interventions often also make it significantly more difficult to get started breastfeeding, which provides countless health benefits that formulas simply cannot match.

So, for all the new mamas out there–I’m begging you to do research on your own and make your decision mindfully, after weighing your options. If your doctor makes it sound like you don’t really have options, don’t be afraid to question what they say, and get a second opinion.

Any practitioner worth your time and money will be thrilled you want to be truly involved in your own pregnancy.

Websites on natural birth: 

Birth Without Fear Blog

What to Reject When You’re Expecting from Consumer Reports

Natural Birth Options from Wellness Mama

Books that helped me: 

Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care. If you’ve ever really wondered how important certain specific interventions are, this book offers a fantastic, in-depth look at common interventions and whether or not they actually result in better outcomes.

Natural Pregnancy: Practical Childbirth Advice and Holistic Wisdom for a Healthy Pregnancy and Childbirth. Lots of great advice for choosing a practitioner, deciding what kind of pregnancy you want, and homeopathic remedies to keep things more comfortable.

I could recommend tons more resources, but I’m going to stop now, before this post gets unwieldy. I guess mostly I just want to encourage you and the new mothers in your life to stay informed and know your options before just going along with the “standard” model of care.