succumbing to peer pressure

Saturday, January 06, 2007


Driving home tonight, from game night with the Canadians et al, I'm listening to Shame on You, and I'm thinking of the Indigo Girls concert that Janette and I went to for free (we got people to sign Amnesty International petitions during the opening act), watching the Agnes Scott girls sway with their arms around each other...and then halfway through the song I'm seeing Amy dancing across Kim's kitchen (perhaps more accurately now, Kim's parents' kitchen; but then, it was Kim's kitchen). It's Christmas, approximately, either our senior year of high school or freshman year of college. And we're feeling all smug, no grown-up supervision, did all the cooking and the washing of dishes, even had wine and toasts to good friends! I remember very clearly thinking a) this must be what it's like to be grown-up and b) we should make this an annual (or semi-annual) thing, getting together for dinner, a little mini-reunion. Well, next year will be my tenth high school reunion, and there are only two girls from that night whom I've seen more than a handful of times since. I guess that's really what it's like to grow up, isn't it?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

As a little warm-up to next week's bloggerfest at the NAPW summit, I'm finally getting around to the notes I took weeks ago during a conference call with various NAPW folk and fellow bloggers. The issue at hand was a woman named Sherri Lohnstein, her underweight baby who died shortly after delivery, and an article about these events in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The story is certainly tragic, and at first glance Lohnstein doesn't make much of a sympathetic character. Her baby weighed about two pounds and was born with a blood alcohol level of 0.17. I have to confess, much as I dig NAPW and what they're doing, I'm slow to get on the defensive side of these stories. But as a member of the public health community (and, you know, a thoughtful human being) I find it a reasonable argument to make that imprisoning this woman for manslaughter is perhaps not the place to begin trying to 'fix' things. As someone on the conference call said, "Many people see a pregnant woman who is drinking or who is using drugs and feel permission to hate her," and fail to ask why that person may be drinking or using drugs.

In Missouri, a trend has developed of hospitals turning patient records over to police, rather than social services, if a pregnant woman comes to them with an addiction problem. Rather than even attempting to provide these women with treatment (which would be a feat in itself, since only one drug/alcohol treatment center in the entire country accepts women with children) they merely wait for her to be arrested.

So, a hypothetical woman, someone like Ms. Lohnstein is in trouble. She knows she's in trouble. But going to her doctor and admitting that she's in trouble is more likely to result in loss of custody of any existing children and potential jail time, than treatment. So why admit to anything in the first place? How is arresting women like Ms. Lohnstein encouraging other women to seek help? How are cases like these improving the health of newborns? They aren't.

If local government really, truly has as its goal improving healthy outcomes for pregnant women, they will stop wasting time indicting them on manslaughter and instead will open treatment centers, will provide avenues for doctors to contact social services instead of the police, and stop creating environments that actively discourage women from seeking medical help. As someone else on the conference call pointed out, these sorts of laws and trials implicitly guarantee a fetus the right to perfect health provided by the woman, yet fails to assist that woman in providing that health.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


After the family being here, Mom's birthday, Christmas, brother's birthday, then new year's, my system needs a reboot. The vacation has been mostly fabulous - new pillows and a new faux down comforter from Mom and Dad meant I practically never got out of bed, and when I did I spent it hugh hefner style in my bathrobe and new fluffy slippers. Nevertheless, I need to get back on a more normal eating and sleeping schedule. I'm making slow progress - trip to the grocery store this morning, and a couple of hours of work yesterday and today. But I can sense my calendar barreling down on me and I need to snap out of it. In about a month I'll be treated to PC and (hopefully!) AWB in the flesh, courtesy of a couple of conveniently timed and located conferences. And I got the good news this morning that one of my abstracts was accepted at another conference, in March, so I'm supposed to be working on two posters and one paper and oh yeah, another chapter of that pesky dissertation. And in a couple of weeks I'll be blogging the NAPW conference, where I'll have the pleasure of meeting a few of my blogger idols! Whew. Zero to 60 folks, nothing in between.

Monday, January 01, 2007

So I came home tonight and put my red sparkly new year's tiara next to last year's silver sparkly one. And turned on the same PBS special my parents and I watched two nights ago. The thing is, as much fun as I had tonight, and as great as my friends are, there's a part of my brain asking, what's the point? What was the point in shaving all the way up my thigh? What was the point in getting all dolled up? Why put out the effort if the only guys paying me any attention were already my friends, and the one drunk guy who was a friend of a friend and who most likely spent the evening puking his guts out? What's the point if I didn't even get my requisite harry to my sally new year's kiss? I'm not trying to get pity or anything like that, I'm just saying, and I know it makes me sound like an old fuddy duddy, but I can certainly appreciate the appeal of spending the evening in. I manage to avoid the fabricated social pressure most days and holidays. But somehow tonight it managed to get to me. Blah.