Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Back to School Pencils

All pencils aren't created equal.

ForestEthics has a ranking system for pencil-making companies and only two are on the A-list.

These two companies, according to ForestEthics, do not clear cut forests and are not destroying the Sierra Nevadas in their pencil making.

So, when you go to purchase pencils, buy from either ForestChoice or Greenline Paper Company, NOT from any of the others.

Here's the ForestEthicss report card:

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mama, Ph.D. Upcoming Literary Events

Check out one of these upcoming literary events for the new anthology, "Mama Ph.D.," which is a new book that explores the intersection of women and academics (and includes a story by Jennifer Margulis, "Recovering Academic"):
October 11, 7:15pm San Francisco
co-editor Caroline Grant reading (with Literary Mama columnists) at LitCrawl

October 20, 7pm New York City
co-editors Caroline Grant & Elrena Evans, along with contributors Susan O'Doherty and Nicole Cooley reading at Bluestockings Bookstore

October 21, 7:15pm New York City
the same quartet reading at KGB Bar

October 27, 7:30pm San Francisco Public Radio (KALW)
Caroline Grant in conversation with Joan Williams and Mary Ann Mason

November 13, 6pm, Berkeley
Caroline Grant, Lisa Harper, Jennifer Eyre White and Irena Smith reading at University Press Books

February 13, 7pm Chicago
Caroline Grant reading (with other Literary Mama editors) at Women & Children First bookstore

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Pregnancy is the Time of Your Life?

Check out Jennifer's essay in the 15th anniversary issue of Fit Pregnancy Magazine. Here's an excerpt:
This Is The Time Of Your Life

Enjoy every moment, even the icky ones. pregnancy flies by faster than you can imagine.

By Jennifer Margulis

There are things nobody tells you: That your belly will itch so much it feels like the prickle is on the inside. That when traffic makes your husband an hour late, you'll have the phone in hand ready to call the police, absolutely positive that he's become a paraplegic in a five-car pileup. That your "morning" sickness will happen at night and last for more than six stomach-churning months, and your husband's breath will smell like rotting meat. Then you'll do a Google search or pick up The Girlfriends' Guide to Pregnancy and realize that the warnings were there all along, but your eyes had skipped over them, that you can't understand what it means to be pregnant until you are throwing up into your purse at the mall. Until, that is, you are living it yourself.

Even then, there are phases of pregnancy you couldn't possibly have anticipated, like when the sidewalk can resemble a comfortable place to nap and how at first you can't tell whether the baby's kicking or you just have indigestion. Nor can anyone really describe to you how your body and heart suddenly will feel full of purpose and promise. How the fact that you're cooking a baby who will undoubtedly have the funny ears that run in your husband's family and the impossibly long eyelashes that run in yours—that you're creating an ancestral DNA of your own!—trumps every annoying, weird symptom that comes along. People forget to mention how this mysterious little person will keep you company every hour of every day, banishing every notion of loneliness for the unforeseeable future, how even though you've yet to meet, you'll love your growing baby with a ferocity that makes Superwoman look wimpy, and how glad you'll be that your body knows how to make eyelashes without consulting you.

At first your pregnancy is a delicious, almost licentious, secret. Then you start to show and find yourself a member of a club that you didn't know existed, part of an underworld of intimacy among moms-to-be and moms-that-are. You are privy to details about other women's labors, the ones that lasted 36 hours and the ones so abrupt that the baby emerged in a shower stall ...

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Premature Birth

By Jennifer Margulis

When my friend Nora’s son was born the team of doctors went into Code Red. She and her husband Frank only glimpsed the baby before he was whisked away for tests. It looked like one of his lungs was collapsing, the doctors explained. They were so concerned they sent Danny immediately to a larger hospital with a neo-natal intensive care unit. Instead of drinking champagne and counting toes, Frank found himself riding in an ambulance beside his newborn son, who was hooked up to so many life supports you could barely see his tiny self.

“Do ya think it’s possible they cut me open too early?” Nora, who is a doctor herself, asked a few months later. She was ostensibly talking to me but really musing to herself. “Full term babies don’t usually have lung problems. I keep wondering if we got the dates wrong…” Because they were concerned about uterine rupture, the doctors scheduled a C-section for Danny at 38 weeks, two weeks before Nora’s due date. But if the baby’s due date had been miscalculated by two weeks, it might mean that Danny was born at 36 weeks instead of 38.

The difference is not just semantic. A 36-week-old Danny would be considered a preemie. The March of Dimes defines premature birth as any birth occurring before 37 weeks of gestation. And preterm babies often suffer from a host of health problems, the most common caused by premature lung capacity. Disturbingly, the numbers of babies born prematurely in America has been rising steadily in the past ten years.

In 2004 12.5% of live births, or one in eight babies, were premature. That translates into half a million babies. This number is even more striking if we take a longer view: “The incident of preterm birth was 12.1% in 2002, which is up 27% from 1982,” says Dr. Siobhan Dolan, M.D., an assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Women’s Health at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. “The rate is high and it’s rising. It’s going in the wrong direction.”

While doctors and researchers are not exactly sure why, several reasons that premature birth is on the increase have been identified. One major culprit is the use of fertility drugs like Chlomid, which results in a much greater likelihood of becoming pregnant with multiples, and which doctors are prescribing with increasing frequency to help couples conceive.

“Fifty percent of mothers who have a twin gestation have babies born prematurely,” says Durlin Hickok, M.D., who specializes in preterm birth. Hickok also says that African American women are twice as likely to give birth prematurely than white women: “Poverty, poor access to prenatal care, lack of health insurance, low pre-pregnancy weight, and poor lifestyle habits—drinking, smoking, drug use—can all contribute to preterm birth.” Scientists also believe that pregnant women who work long hours standing up, women younger than 17 and older than 35, and women who don’t receive adequate prenatal care are at higher risk.

My friend Sara was carrying twins when her water broke unexpectedly four years ago. She was 41 years old and pregnant after seven years of trying. The doctors wanted to keep the babies in utero as long as possible to allow them more time for their lungs to develop. At 35 weeks, 11 days after she was hospitalized, Sara went into labor. Her son was born weighing 5.5 lbs, her daughter was much smaller. At 3.75 pounds and 14 inches long, Maya could only wear doll’s clothes.

Having her twins in the NICU was the most emotionally devastating and draining experience of her life. “All you want to do is hold those babies and nurse them and have them home,” she told me. “Instead they’re hooked up to bells and whistles and wires and IVs through their heads and IVs through their belly button.”

Frank’s mom came to care for their older son while Nora was in the hospital and Frank stayed at a Ronald MacDonald House nearby. I drove her to see Danny. He looked big and healthy compared to the micro-preemies who weighed only one or two pounds, tiny babies in heated incubators whose lives, for whatever reason, started too soon.

A version of this post was originally published in the Ashland Daily Tidings