Parenthood: Birth plan, smirth plan

Has anyone made a birth plan? The birth plan I had for my first child was quite cute, I was convinced that I would have a natural birth, without an epidural and that my partner would be stoically mopping my brow and I’d been eating popsicles whilst listening to Bach… what an idiot. It did not turn out the way I thought at all. Being an uptight control freak did not help the situation, I have since learned that flexibility is key, as with most things in life, being able to adapt to changing circumstances.

The research I had done was limited to be fair. I had read Expecting Better by Emily Oster, What to Expect when You’re Expecting and chatted to friends, who I now realize were trying to tell me to be flexible about how the event would go, but I was too silly to listen. I didn’t think to read up on what was involved in Caesarian sections or stopped to think about how we would handle surgery if it came to that. I had candles, a birth ball, ice packs and heating packs and worried things like about ice pops vs. ice chips.

After a most wonderful evening of drinks with friends on a Saturday night, we went home and decided that we’d have a lazy Sunday morning of reading newspapers and making waffles. I had a new eyeshadow palette from Sephora(!) that I really wanted to try out and had set it out on the table in anticipation.

At about 4am my waters broke. In my panic, I stupidly ate a banana thinking that I wouldn’t be able to eat for a while. We grabbed our hospital things and headed off. No contractions, no pain, nothing. I was kind of terrified and excited at the same time.

At the hospital after what felt like hours of waiting around, a doctor examined me and sympathetically shook his head, waving his mini Dr. Beverly Krusher-ultrasound machine at me and my husband, he said “I’m so sorry, your baby is breech, you’ll be having a Caesarian.”

So cliché, but I really couldn’t hear, my ears started ringing and I think both of us went into shock. This can’t be happening, we don’t want this, this can’t be happening, we were supposed to have a normal birth, we have candles, we have a fucking birth ball and popsicles ok?

After some flailing around, crying and denial, my wonderful OB/GYN found us and talked to us calmly but firmly and promised that I could maybe try for a VBAC next time, if there was a next time. Because I had eaten the banana, I had to wait SIX hours for the surgery. It was a long, boring wait, especially uncomfortable with amniotic fluid leaking out.

The rest of the experience was pretty standard as far as I can tell. I was eventually whisked away to theatre, full of people – as the Lamaze class teacher had promised when she went through what happens during a Caesarian. Everyone was professional and kind, and someone talked my husband and I through each move the surgeon was making which was great.

This time around, I have to decide whether to try VBAC or just skip straight to Go and have a Caesarian section, as if there is much control!

Health: Pregnancy and exercise

After worrying times at the beginning of my pregnancy, I was feeling guilty about doing exercise. It’s been the one constant in the last few years that’s really helped me and I’ve finally got into a rhythm which helps me feel my best self: regular sessions where I both weight train and do some cardio if possible. After taking a break for two months at the beginning of the pregnancy, I thought i’d be back at square one and frustrated that I’d lost all the progress I’d made. However, it was actually much easier to get back into it than I thought. Obviously, nothing is intense anymore, in fact, running on the treadmill became uncomfortable for me (around 24 weeks) which was sad, but I switched to the dreaded Stairmaster which never seems to get easier. Who knows, as it’s just my feeling, but I suspect that regular exercise is helping me feel more energized than my last pregnancy.

Stretches also seem to have helped: some of the most useful to help things like sciatica have been hamstring and quad stretches. I have not made enough time for formal yoga lessons, but have been doing my own mini-practice in the mornings, mostly routine stuff: camel, cat/cow particularly helpful, tree, warrior and a some suriya namaskar.

So what do other people say? WebMD for example says recommends exercising, especially if you have no other complications, it can even:

– Reduce backaches, constipation, bloating and swelling

– Boost your mood and energy levels

– Help you sleep better

– Prevent excess weight gain

– Promote muscle tone, strength and endurance

Data Science: Linear Regression in Python

A linear regression finds a linear relationship between a random variable Y say, like house price and an explanatory variable X, like number of rooms. Linear regression usually looks to estimate the expected value of Y given X.

If you are using Python to do this, and a package, you need to import pandas, numpy and seaborn, then import your data which will probably be a csv file. I take a quick look at the data at this point just to get an idea of what’s in it. In the example dataset from Udemy, I have average house area income, average house age, average number of rooms etc. and the y variable, price.

You can also use the describe method now to look at statistics such as mean, standard deviation etc. A nice seaborn method is seaborn.pairplot which gives you a variety of diagrams for each of your variables.

Start ‘training’ a linear regression model:

This is very strange language to me still, as in economics, you’d probably manually write out the code in Python for a regression.

  1. Make a subset of the dataframe explanatory variables and call it X
  2. Make a subset o the dataframe for the outcome variable, called y,which will be a vector of house prices in my case.
  3. Split data into training and test data that you will use later (import train_test_split from sklearn)
  4. Import LinearRegression from sklearn
  5. Make a variable called lm
  7. Look at the output
  8. Prediction: make predictions of house prices using X_test from before, so all the explanatory variables that are in the test dataframe.
  9. Compare to the actual prices in your dataset
  10. Assess your predictions

I am working on how to do this from scratch, as I think it would be useful to know.

Autoimmune disease: Processed foods study

Do you eat a lot of processed foods, I think I do. Not deliberately, but things like breakfast cereal, museli and lots of the snacks and treats that I have are highly processed. A recent article in the Guardian made me think that where I can, I should try and do some swaps if possible.

What were the studies that the article was based on? There is a French observational study which has 105,159 people in it. They recorded the subjects’ diets using repeated 24-hour diaries. The follow-up time was around 5 years, and the researchers found that there was an association between ultra-processed food and the overall risk of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease. So not providing a causal relationship but a correlation.

The second study, also observational, examines the link between consumption of ultra-processed foods and all-cause mortality. This is a somewhat smaller study than the one above, at 19,899 participants. The participants were contacted every two years after consuming the ultra-processed foods. There were 335 deaths in total, which is a tiny proportion of 0.17% of the total follow-up population. The study found that the higher the processed content, the more likely associated all-cause death was, “for each additional serving of ultra-processed food, all cause mortality increased by 18%.”

Ultra-processed foods are those that contain things like “blending starches, sugar and saturated fats with additives such as preservatives, binders, bulkers, sweeteners, flavourings and “sensory enhancers”.” The scary things is that these foods represent 50% of the UK national diet!

So the lesson for me is that whilst these studies are still talking about correlation (versus actual causation which is soooo hard to establish) I might as well still think about my daily consumption of processed foods and try and make the following changes:

– Stop stop stop having white sugar in my tea, I should really stop the sugar altogether but it’s so hard…

– Switch away from giving my son processed cereal so often, and make oatmeal instead

– The daily treats I have “needed” whilst pregnant could be made at home, e.g. banana loaves and blueberry muffins. Might try to start a weekend tradition to bake these.

– Struggling a little on things like turkey jerky and meat sticks, as even if they are relatively “good” and organic, they are still highly processed. I can’t really see myself eating poached chicken breast as an afternoon snack, hmm.

– Night-time treats also need to change to more chocolate chips and peanut butter (another processed food I know!) instead of the cookies and cakes that we have stashed away.