Friday, May 5, 2017

#InternationalMidwivesDay

Today was International Midwives Day, which for me, was bittersweet. I am so proud of all of the birth workers I have gotten to know throughout my pregnancy, and feel so strongly about the quality of care the midwifery model provides. I chose to birth with midwives because I was sure that they would guarantee me the best chance of a natural birth, free from unnecessary medical intervention. I trusted them to allow my body to do what I believed it was capable of.

But it didn't go like that, exactly. Somehow, after 20 hours of unmedicated labor and three hours of pushing, I found myself threatened with a C-section. I signed consent papers for anesthesia as my daughter's head crowned, and was wheeled into an OR across the hall from the beautiful birthing center I had imaged myself crossing the finish line in, "just in case." I watched my husband change into scrubs and my birth plan fly out the window, all because I had exceeded the number of hours I was "allowed" to push.

Did you know that 1 in 3 babies in America are born via cesarean section? That number is not only triple what the WHO recommends, but research indicates only 50% of those surgeries are medically indicated.

I was one of the "lucky" ones. I was lucky because I was able to lie there in that OR, terrified out of my mind, and push my daughter out through "only" vacuum assistance and sheer force of will. I was lucky that the ridiculous hospital protocol, in which a group of people who were probably not even doctors decided that three was the number of hours a woman got to push her baby out of her body, didn't mean that I ended up with a serious and undoubtedly unnecessary surgery to deliver my child. I believe, as much as I was failed by my providers, that had I not delivered with a midwife, I would not have been so lucky.
 
In the birthing tub with my husband and mom supporting me, prior to being transferred. Photo by Nicole Lahey.

And I was lucky that after a birth experience that shattered my mind and body, and fell short of almost everything I had hoped it would be, that I had people around me to support me in my disappointment and anger. People who at the first sign of depression, said, hey, let's deal with what happened to you so that you can move on and enjoy your baby. People who told me it wasn't my fault, that I did everything I could, who shared in my sorrow and pain over what I had lost and didn't just say, you have a healthy daughter, that's what really matters.

I was lucky that our broken healthcare system didn't get the best of me. That in the end, more than one person in my life took the time to remind me that I mattered. That it was ok for me to be open and honest about my struggles without repercussion.

So now, as I watch a group of white men make decisions about that already-broken system, not to fix it, but to make it even worse, I'm shocked. I'm horrified that someone in my shoes, one of the "lucky" ones, could still be considered ineligible for future care, because of things that were out of my control, or because I was brave enough to open up when I faltered in the aftermath.

And what about all the women out there who aren't so lucky?

Women who had c-sections, women who suffer from post-partum depression or anxiety, women who are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Women. All. Over.

But especially: Women of color. Trans women. Women from economically disadvantaged communities. Their children. And the  birth and healthcare workers who struggle to provide the best care they can for us all, under unimaginably difficult circumstances.

Today, as I was thinking about the disgusting hypocrisy of it all, I came across a piece of writing from a friend of mine, who is a midwife.

She wrote:

"The hubris of these old white men enacting laws they believe will never touch them fills me with a rage so overwhelming I can taste it. The patriarchy is strong.

But.

We are infinitely stronger. Because we give birth to the next generation. We adopt the next generation. We lovingly raise the next generation, providing safe space for their hearts and their minds to grow. 

In the end all these hateful old white men will die of their own personal pre-existing conditions.

And we won't even stop to dance on their graves because we'll be too busy." (Imogen Minton) 

Me after giving birth to my daughter Rafaela, the next generation. Photo by Nicole Lahey.
For anyone expecting, I strongly urge you to consider finding a midwife to catch your baby. You will find that the philosophy behind midwifery care is directed towards the needs of the individual, all while working to eliminate or minimize unnecessary interventions. Click here for more information about the laws in your state and to find a midwife near you.

xoxo
Angela


Sunday, April 9, 2017

More Than Just A Name: Rafaela Juliette

I recently came across an article about the work of illustrator Emma Block and a collaboration she did with diamond company Vashi about ways to describe love from around the world. Entitled "More Than Just A Word," each offered a nuanced perspective on a few of the hundreds of different ways to express affection outside of the English language, from the way a hug can feel warm and safe, to the tingles induced by running your fingers through a lover's hair. You can read them all and see her fabulous drawings here.
 
Two months ago I welcomed my first child, a daughter named Rafaela, into the world. The article got my thinking about how we agonized over what we would call her while she was growing in my belly. Or at least, I did. Josh spent most of his time vetoing crazy ideas I came up with at 3am (many of which I still consider awesome, and plan to campaign hard for when the time comes for baby number two). Naming a baby makes you realize how many people you really don't like ("Georgia? That was the name of that piano teacher I had in third grade and hated!") and how fashions change with time. I always loved the name Harper, for example, because of Harper Lee, my favorite author. Practically unheard of previously,  Harper is now the 9th most popular name for a girl in America. Go figure.

38 Weeks Pregnant (Image Courtesy of Rachel Gray Photography/Max Grey Studio)
We remained tight-lipped as family and friends asked us if we'd picked a name throughout my pregnancy, mostly because we hadn't. We'd try one on for a size for a few weeks, using it often in reference to my belly, until we'd decide it wasn't "quite right." I consolidated list after list until we narrowed it down to 5 or so, carefully penciled on a clean page of the journal I kept during my pregnancy, and tucked into my hospital bag.

My Promptly Journals pregnancy/baby book and a Louison Fine Pave Diamond necklace with Rafaela's Initials.
If you are like me and subscribe to the idea that children are sentient beings, you can understand how much pressure we felt to make the right choice. I imagined all the qualities I wanted my daughter to have - strength, kindness, individuality, to name a few - and wondered whether the names I liked did justice to the idea of her that had taken shape in my mind, and, more importantly, whether they were elastic enough to fit her no matter who she ended up becoming. I wanted the name we chose to be beautiful but meaningful, unusual but not so out there she'd be teased miserably on the playground. I'll admit that more than a few hormonal meltdowns were had as my due date approached and we still hadn't decided for sure ("She doesn't even have a NAME!" I'd sob to a perplexed Josh). Our procrastination over what word to choose to call her - no big deal, it would only follow her FOREVER - persisted following a tough delivery. She remained "Baby Girl Seidman" for the first day or two as we recovered and got to know her a little better.

"Baby Girl Seidman" on 1/25/17, her first day earthside.
Rafaela has origins in Portuguese, Italian, Hebrew and German, and it means "Healed by God." She is named to honor both of our families. Rafaela, for her paternal great-great-grandmother Rachel, affectionately known as "Ray," following the Jewish tradition of choosing a name that begins with the same letter. Her middle name, Juliette, for my grandmother, Juliette, who passed away a little over a year ago.  
 
Two Weeks Old (Image Courtesy of Rachel Gray Photography/Max Grey Studio)
I struggled a lot with wanting to call her Juliette as a first name. It is such a beautiful name, and so special to our family, there was no question we would use it somehow in tribute. We loved how it sounded with our last name, and I wished every day of my pregnancy (and still do) that I could have had the opportunity to tell my grandmother I was pregnant, and introduce her to my daughter before she died. But I am named for my father's mother, who passed away at a young age, and as much as I love my name, I always felt the weight of that growing up. We ultimately settled on using it as her middle name, figuring she could have something special all to herself as a first name, and have the option of using either once she was old enough to choose.

My sister Laura introducing her daughter Ida Rose, also her firstborn child, to the original Juliette.
For now she is known as Rafa, "Baby Ray," "Little Juliette" and, to her Dad and me, "Toots." Fun Fact: We love that we named her something that translates into several languages, because so many people we introduce her to - whether they be Latin or Italian - excitedly repeat her name with all sorts of rolling "r"s and amazing emphasis, depending on their accent. Unfortunately we didn't take into account that almost no one with a heavy New York accent (like 3/4 of our respective families, for example) can pronounce it properly in English - Rah-Fi-Ella, not "Raffy-yella." Proving, once again, that you win some and you lose some in the game of parenthood.
 
Two Weeks Post Partum (Image Courtesy of Rachel Gray Photography/Max Grey Studio)
xoxo
Angela

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Custom Pavé Diamond Engagement Ring

I recently had the pleasure of designing an engagement ring for one of my oldest and closest friends. I felt both honored and excited when her boyfriend messaged me saying "It's time for the ring!"

Designing an engagement ring without the knowledge of the bride is always somewhat of a gamble - and one that carries even more weight when the recipient is someone you know! As someone who picked out my own ring, I always prefer to have the input of the bride-to-be. Simply put, she has to wear the ring forever, so it's a lot less stressful when you know you are making something she will love! That being said, I always respect the wishes of the groom-to-be if he prefers to maintain the element of surprise, and after years of doing this, I now refer to myself as the world's best secret keeper. I even made my own sister's ring without spilling the beans to anyone in our family (that was a tough one, but her boyfriend swore me to secrecy, and thankfully, we pulled it off). I have now decided I am going to ask every yet-to-be-married gal I know about their idea of a dream ring and keep a book of their preferences juuuuuust in case.

Luckily in this case, my friend HAD discussed rings she loved with her mom, who I immediately called for a pow-wow. Pro tip: Tell your man/best friend/mom/someone what your dream ring would be. It makes the whole process much easier. Don't be shy! You'll end up with something you love rather than something you have to suffer wearing or even worse, broach the subject of changing. I knew she was drawn to pavé and that halos were a bonus. However I wanted to make something more unusual than a traditional ring, because my friend is an artist (we met in college, where we studied photography together), and I wanted her to have something timeless, but with a creative and unique twist. The next day after her boyfriend got in touch I was scrolling through my feed and came across this beautiful Art Deco ring via Erstwhile Jewelry. This is one of the things I love about the jewelry instagram community - I feel so inspired by the people I follow!  

Art Deco Sapphire + Emerald Ring via Erstwhile Jewelry
The first thing I thought of as I admired the ring was "Emily would love that." Adam and I agreed it was a great ring, but perhaps color wasn't the way to go for a surefire, longterm win. We both loved the shape though, so off I went on the hunt for the perfect hexagonal diamond to work with. I contacted my friend Jay, whose company, Perpetuum Jewels, specializes in antique + post-consumer diamonds. Post-consumer means the diamond must meet strict standards of having been worn, so it's truly recycled. He always has the best inventory and often has many unusual finds to choose from, so I knew he would be the perfect person to help me source the right stone. He did not disappoint, and we chose a beautiful step-cut hexagonal diamond (K/VS). The stone had the most beautiful clarity, with rosecut-like facets underneath. Every angle you looked at yielded a different prismatic explosion, the facets were so beautiful. 

A closeup of the hexa we chose (image via Perpetuum Jewels).

To accentuate the diamond's unusual shape, I designed a pavé halo setting with a delicate shank and low profile for maximum wearability. I loved the faceting on this particular stone, so I made sure to have each of the knife-edge prongs aligned to the points of the table. Whenever I make engagement rings I always make a point to practice the proposal moment on bended knee to my husband, Josh, to make sure there's enough of a "wow" factor to garner a yes. He promptly told me this was one of his favorite rings I had ever made, so I felt comfortable sending it off for my best and oldest friend. 

Louison Fine Bespoke Pavé Diamond Engagement Ring
Louison Fine Bespoke Pavé Diamond Engagement Ring - Side View
I waited anxiously for the big moment to arrive and finally got the text I'd been hoping for. He pulled off an epic proposal while on a trip to Iceland, asking her in front of a beautiful, snowy vista. I feel so grateful that the ring I made played a small part in their story, and couldn't be happier for them as a couple.

Moments after the big moment! On a mountain in Iceland.
Holding baby Rafaela with her ring front and center.
If you're in search of the perfect custom engagement ring or piece, have family stones to reset or just a beloved piece in need of a refresher, get in touch! You can learn more about our custom work and process, here.

xoxo
Angela