A new look for Birth Story

Regular readers of Birth Story may be surprised to see that its look has changed. I was surprised, too.

Updating to the latest edition of WordPress stripped off the custom features that used to be here. I had been merrily backing up my site to my computer. I had not realized that, for the year I have had Mac OS X Lion software, the backups were not worth the virtual space they were occupying.

I have gleaned from various forums that Apple Inc. apparently has decided that material that comes from an FTP server is not sufficiently secure to allow in . Or something. I regret to say that bit got right past me.

It looks like there are some easy fixes to try, you know, before your site comes down. (And now here comes OS X Mountain Lion.)

Anyway, this is 2011, a WordPress default theme that was hanging around on my computer. It turns out I like the lighter look, and now I'm thinking of other things I might like to try.

The truth is, I'm practically giddy that the wreckage wasn't worse — I lost my whole site in a past upgrade, when thankfully I had a functional backup — and I'm grateful that a few little fixes were all I had to do. So I'm backing up to the cloud now, which of course is in the news for faltering during the storms this past weekend.

Nothing is certain. If you're lucky, everything turns out all right in the end.

Independence Day weekend 2011

We here in the United States will be celebrating the birth of our country on Monday, July 4 — a different kind of birth story from the one we usually consider at Birth Story.

Given the difficult times many Americans (and others) are now experiencing, Paul Simon's wistful "American Tune," performed here during a 1981 reunion concert with Art Garfunkel, seems to me a suitably reflective way to head into the holiday weekend.

The rousing anthems and the fireworks will still be there on the holiday itself. I hope it's a happy one for you.

Hands off Mother’s Day!

This year it looks as if we are moving beyond shooing moms out onto the street at the crack of dawn on Mother's Day to raise funds to fight cancer. This year we are going after their brunch and posy money as well.

A new organization called the Mother's Day Movement pronounces itself "shocked to learn that $14 billion was spent in the US in 2010 on Mother’s Day celebrations including flowers, cards and meals."

Nora's roses

Roses from my daughter Nora

The group's website says that, "given the number of women and children suffering globally, and here at home, it is time for everyone to rethink this holiday and donate a portion of Mother’s Day spending to those less fortunate."

Actually, last year was a low point for mom on her "special day," probably due to the weak economy. This year, the National Retail Federation estimates Americans will spend upwards of $16 billion on mom, even though the NRF opines in its press release that "mom doesn’t expect much for Mother’s Day."

And why is that, do you think? Perhaps because while more three-quarters of all mothers are in the work force, including more than 60 percent of those with very young children,  women still make only 83 percent of their male counterparts' wages?

I am all for supporting needy women and children, for working to bring down maternal mortality and for curing cancer.

But boy, do I hate it when proponents of these projects tie them to Mother's Day.

That nice Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, who writes so compellingly about victimized women around the world, has suggested "we move the apostrophe so as to celebrate not so much Mother’s Day — honoring a single mother — but Mothers’ Day, to help save mothers’ lives around the world as well."

To which I say, talk to me about these issues on Monday.

Sunday represents one of two days all year — the other is my birthday — when I guiltlessly look my dear family members in the eye and say, "I don't know what's for lunch. I don't want to go to the park. I don't intend to get out of bed until the sun goes down."

Perhaps you think I am being humorous, but I'm not. Why do you think women around the world are in such wretched shape? It's because their needs come in dead last, behind the livestock in some places, and nobody thinks a thing of it.

No one should consider pilfering the small comforts society extends to mothers on this day.

Sure, affluent women will score even more great stuff on Mother's Day than they usually get. (People celebrating the holiday will spend an average of $140.73, the NRF reports.) But plenty of moms whose grown children call them a handful of times a year* might actually get flowers or a gift on Sunday or even — woo-hoo! — a meal they don't have to cook themselves.

On Mother's Day, every individual should look at the woman who gave him life, or think about her, and if she is a kind and decent woman, thank her for all that she was willing and able to do — and by the way, do something to bring her a little pleasure.

Because if we can't even do that, then heaven have mercy on the women of the world.

(*I am lucky enough to have a far more attentive grown daughter.)

Birth news

Yipes! That was a long hiatus! So sorry. Hope not to do that again.

I am back on Birth Story with huge new respect for teachers, after serving winter quarter as an undergraduate lab instructor at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. What teachers do in the classroom, I discovered, is the tip of the iceberg of the job.

I am back. Yes! So back to our topic, sort of. Well, a tangent, actually.

Nearly every time I Google "birth news" looking for, you know, something to blog about — my topic is birth — I come up with some permutation on the "birther" flap calling for President Obama to produce (on a daily basis, as far as I can tell) his birth certificate. Otherwise, critics will assume he was born in Kenya, his father's country of origin.

Barack Obama

Is he? Or isn't he?

Donald Trump and Whoopi Goldberg got into a dustup on "The View" last week about Obama's alleged reluctance to produce his birth certificate. (Just Google "birth news.")

The next day, "The View" ladies showed what they said was a copy of Obama's birth certificate.

Ben Smith at Politico wrote yesterday that the document Trump claimed was his own birth certificate, produced to needle the President, is not in fact Trump's official birth certificate. (But then Trump did come up with the right one.)

All of which just tells you that you can't go wrong, publicity-wise, getting a corner of this issue, or non-issue, as the case may be. Maybe I'll get a lot more hits today than I do ordinarily, writing about boring old childbirth.

The Arizona legislature is considering legislation that would require the state to sign off on proof of U.S. birth from presidential candidates. (They wouldn't let me teach at Medill until I produced proof of U.S. birth. Surely presidential candidates don't get a pass on that.)

The House version of the Arizona bill calls for evidence that that baby dropped onto U.S. soil, while the Senate version of the bill includes a definition of a "natural" U.S. birth as one to individuals who were U.S. citizens at the time.

I think both those elements have to be there, actually. That is, proof of either of those things ought to be enough, and I think maybe we need some laws to clarify that.

Even though some people go to great lengths to manipulate the law to convey U.S. citizenship to their infants like, allegedly, the Chinese women Jennifer Medina writes about in the New York Times today, it is important for anyone born in the United States to be an "automatic" citizen. Anything else is a total repudiation of what the United States has been, and stood for, for more than two centuries.

At the same time, we live in a small world. Pregnant U.S. citizens travel all the time for work and pleasure, and probably some other reasons, too, and they shouldn't be terrified about losing their children's full rights of citizenship if they happen to be abroad when their water breaks.

The Administration and numerous officials of the state of Hawaii, where Obama was by all accounts born on Aug. 4, 1961, have repeatedly confirmed the President's birth to a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil. Two for two. (So that's settled, right?)

And whatever you think of Barack Obama, he is a stellar example of the promise the United States has made to its residents, going even beyond its citizens — that if you work hard, the sky is the limit on what you can achieve.

Well, that's my two cents for today. It's nice to be back, although like teaching, blogging is a whole lot more time-consuming than I thought it would be before I actually tried it.

Happy spring, dear reader!