2009 in Review

So, I haven’t posted anything really talking about the details of my life in 2009. This is likely attributed to my extremely busy schedule for the majority of the year, amongst being overwhelmed at times with the changes going on that directly and indirectly affect me and my family. I hope to cover the highlights of the year, and then wrap up with great news that has changed Melissa’s and my life forever. 2009 started out relatively relaxing. Melissa and I kicked off the new year in Red River, NM with my mother and sister Courtney. We did a little skiing and snowmobiling, but in general were just resting and enjoying some time off from a busy 2008. I finished the Fall semester with a 4.0 GPA and was eager to take the next 2 courses in the Spring since I was rather bored with the simplicity of the Fall classes. I was still working at the College of Architecture, and the pressure to deliver a newly revised College home page and to really prove that we will help to get the College out of the “dark ages” and bring it forward as a technically proficient division of Texas A&M University. Furthermore, I had a consulting gig with the CFEgroup, a division of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, to redevelop their online education system. In all, things were really well both personally and professionally.

Melissa continued attending Sam Houston State University in the Spring, taking a 16 hour course load. Because of the need to reduce the number of credit hours as required by the State of Texas, however, many of her 1 hour courses met for 3-5 hours per week, thus making her week well more than just a full-time job. My courses in the Spring continued to be rather uninteresting (nonetheless demanding, however) which led to a particularly stressful semester for both of us.

The semester definitely introduced an interesting turn in the road for Melissa and I. Before the Spring semester, we had talked about “starting” a family (rather, adding a new addition to the family). So, Melissa went off her birth control around January, but as the semester started to get really tough, Melissa and I stopped really trying for kids because we were too stressed out and concerned with school. However, around April, Melissa came to me with news that she was pregnant. We hadn’t really gotten careless, nor did either of us forget she was off birth control. I suppose we both were still wanting to get pregnant, without being so assertive of trying to get pregnant.

As with this news, we were both pretty excited. However, this came at a time that was stressful for me for consulting work. The CFEgroup project was coming to a close, and so I had to dedicate a lot of time on the evenings and weekends to finish up the project, thus not getting to spend much time with Melissa. This was really painful and stressful for me, but moreso for her. When she was going through the pains and miserable feelings that accompany early pregnancy (e.g. morning sickness), it’s not easy being alone during these stages. I’m only very grateful that I have such a supporting wife who understands that sometimes my consulting work does become very demanding and that I’m trying to earn some extra income so she doesn’t have to work.

After the semester ended, Melissa had a decent amount of free time on her hands. Although she had sought out an OB/GYN for the initial couple of appointments to make sure she was indeed pregnant, she started doing some research and reading about birth and the process. This is where she had come across a plethora of information on midwivery and home births. The top of the surface information wasn’t really new - we had heard about it through friends and various news stories. However, the deeper analysis and benefits of planned home births over physician-assisted births in a hospital was amazing.

Melissa basically found that anyone wanting to use an OB/GYN would really only spend about an hour (on average) with a laboring woman in the hospital. At all other times, nurses that are on rotating schedules and responsible for many other women in the birthing wards would be responsible for monitoring the mother’s and baby’s progress. Additionally, should the woman labor for longer than 12 hours (which is typical of first-time mothers), some physicians will insist upon a C-section as opposed to giving mother nature time to run its course. Statistical facts indicate that a woman (or animal) in labor that is disturbed or not in a comfortable area will either slow or completely stop progress of labor. For those who are willing to obey their client’s wishes, they will insist on using artificial medications (e.g. pitocin, cytotec, etc.) to help augment labor and try to make it go faster. Combine artificial labor inducers with an uncomfortable environment and you have immense pain and a lengthy labor likely ahead of you.

No studies have yet to prove the relationship of drugs given during labor and childhood intelligence/ADD/ADHD, and other skyrocketing childhood problems. However, when you look at the rate of interventions in labor compared to the rates children are being diagnosed with these problems, it makes one wonder whether or not these unnatural methods are causing more harm than doing good for the children and mothers that actually live. However, that number is continuing to decrease as well. The infant mortality rate in the nation is increasing, particularly in the realm of physician-assisted births in a hospital setting. More women are receiving C-sections, episiotomies, and are being induced before they even show signs of labor or after labor has stopped. More and more women complain that the birthing process was anything but miserable when leaving the hospital, yet it’s shocking that they don’t consider the possibility that they can have their kids at home.

It didn’t take Melissa long to convince me. I was skeptical at first, but once she started pushing the research materials towards me, I was instantly in love with the idea. Unfortunately, there weren’t a lot of midwives here in the B/CS area - only 1. Most of the rest of the midwives were from Austin or Houston - which would be problemmatic in case Melissa’s birth went really quickly. We heard the woman from Bryan (Erin Burow) had received high praise from other women who had used them for home birth locally. Thus, we decided to interview and hire Erin to be our Midwife. She turned out to be a fairly laid-back, sweet, and enjoyable midwife who definitely had a lengthy history of home births and no infant or maternal mortalities. She met with us about once a month at first - very infrequently. The thing I immediately noticed was different was she spent about an hour (or two) at each appointment. This was different from the traditional medical model where physicians are only able to meet with their patients from between 5 and 15 minutes. Furthermore, we were able to meet with her in the comfort of our own home. We didn’t have to leave - she came to us. In short, everything was already starting to seem like it centered around Melissa as opposed to the provider.

The other great benefit to doing a home birth was that it was cheap! Erin’s services only ended up costing around $2250. This includes all appointments, the birth, and post-partum appointments. Since we wouldn’t have to go to the hospital, there would be no charges for that. We would have had to pay $1250 + 30% of the cost of the hospital and doctor for both Melissa and $1250 + 30% for Tristan if we had gone the hospital & OB/GYN route. In all, I was really excited at the prospect of using a midwife and delivering our child at home - a truly natural birth.

As I got back into consulting, the CFEgroup project lasted through the summer and came to a close roughly around September. However, the later couple of months didn’t require me to continue spending every evening and weekend day working on the project, so I was able to spend some time comforting Melissa and trying to make her feel good through her morning sickness.

Unfortunately, though, another curve ball was thrown my way with regards to friendship and work. My best friend Tom had finished his degree in April and was looking for a full-time gig. I had mentioned to him that the College of Architecture was going to be hiring into a position that had been vacant for over a year and that he should apply for the position. We also were looking for a temp, so we decided to hire Tom as a temp employee until the position was finalized and he could apply for it. He moved down roughly at the end of April and started working for the College and for me (on a part-time basis).

On July 3, my other great friend Ben, Melissa, and I decided to go to the Guadalupe river for some R&R. Ben had been going through a lot of struggles with his wife, and floating down the river seemed like a great idea. We invited Tom, but he decided not to go. When we returned, he and all of his belongings were gone. He decided to go home to Kentucky to deal with a problem that he chose to keep secret from everyone - literally a week before he was to be hired into the full time position. What frustrated me the most about this was he didn’t want to talk to me about this problem ahead of time. He felt it necessary to keep his thoughts, concerns, and plans secret from even his most close friend. He put a rift between our friendship that will never be fully repaired.

Amid all this stress, I did manage to get the new ITS web site launched, with little help from our Help Desk and other staff. Had I received the adequate support I was calling for, we would have launched the site in June instead of July. However, with the mounting stress to succeed, the next month (August) Joe Hanna, the other software developer we had in-house, had decided to quit with one day’s notice. He never gave anyone else any reason why he was quitting, other than citing that his consulting business was starting to get really busy and he couldn’t keep up with the demand of both the College of Architecture and his consulting gig. This left me the sole developer, and responsible for completing the new College of Architecture site and the revamped semester load software (which creates accounts for all students registered in the College of Architecture). Needless to say, August and September were extremely busy months in which I was extremely stressed out.

But, I managed to make it through those months and start another semester of school. This time, I felt it was important for me to take more challenging courses, and start knocking out both undergraduate and graduate credits at the same time. The undergrad classes were no longer challenging me, and thus leaving me bored and wanting more information that I had never discovered before. Enter graduate-level software engineering and graduate-level artificial intelligence. Throughout the semester, these courses were challenging, yet very informative. I learned more through artificial intelligence than I had learned in almost all of my computer science courses combined. My software engineering professor (Dr. Lively) was actually a really fun individual, despite being a little unorthodox in his teaching style.

Around the beginning of the semester, Melissa started to show that she was pregnant, and I started to get even more excited and enthusiastic. Most of her friends at school and her teachers were not completely able to tell, so only those who really needed to know that she was pregnant were told. Eventually (around October or November), almost everyone at school for her started to recognize that Melissa was not just getting fat - she was pregnant. It was funny how Melissa and I had talked about the fact that when she was really gonna start showing, random people were gonna try coming up to her and start touching her belly. Sure enough, around this period in time, people started coming up and touching her belly. Strangely enough, some of them thought that the baby was kicking inside, even though Melissa definitely didn’t feel it move. Some people are just hopeful I guess.

October was a fun month. We had the baby shower, in which a lot more people came than I thought would. Most of those that came were either family or friends from CIS Help Desk Central (or at least, old employees of the help desk). I’m glad to know that the friends that did came are (and continue to be) very supportive of us, and they will always remain close and dear to our hearts. For those friends who RSVP’ed yes and didn’t end up showing - shame on you! :-P

November was an interesting and yet frustrating month. Since around the end of September, I had started having these weird headaches. Some of them were tension headaches, but weren’t like the dull constant throbbing that I’m used to with tension headaches. Furthermore, I had started feeling tingling around my head in different places from time-to-time. They would come for about a minute and then go away for several hours. After a few weeks of dealing with it, I decided to try to kick caffiene at the recommendation of my father. It made some, but minimal difference. The headaches continued coming back, and when I picked caffiene back up, they seemed to be induced by it, rather than be an after effect. This led to me having a severe headache breaking out at the back of my neck / base of my skull at around 1:30 AM. It woke me up from a dream because in the middle of my dream, my mind started repeating itself like a scratched CD. I can best describe the pain as a charlie horse at the back of my head. Furthermore, I was running a slight fever. Lots of different possible diseases or problems were going through my head, such as bacterial meningitis, a stroke, or an anyeurism. My father recommended that I go to the ER to make sure it wasn’t serious. They ran a CT scan and discovered nothing of any problem. They sent me home with Benadryl and Phenraginn (?) and told me to get a good night’s rest.

This is where the frustrating part began. I had read in our Employee Benefits handbook that the deductible that applies to our benefits policy is only for hospital admittances - e.g. I stay at the hospital overnight and not for a couple of hours in the ER. However, it turns out that the deductible does indeed apply to ER visits. Thus, I owed what turned out to be > 50% of the hospital bill ($900) and a whopping $540 bill just for a physician. It was outrageous and astonishing that I had been a diligent payer to my insurance company for so long, and yet the one time that I truly needed them, they pay less than 50% of my overall bill.

What’s worse about this is I have been a huge advocate of health care reform. Yet, as is typical with the problems of this nation, those bureaucrats in Washington D.C. are screwing up the one opportunity that we have at fixing this problem so the nation can actually enjoy the one benefit that everyone should have - good health without going broke. I honestly have to say that if health care reform does not pass, I will be looking to leave the country to find employment in a country that has nationalized medicine. Those individuals who have been brainwashed by the false rumors and other lies spread by Republicans and health insurance companies, stop and research the facts before flaming to me about how countries with nationalized health care are worse off than we are. In my honest opinion, the United States is at the bottom of the rung right now. With a significant percentage of the population without health insurance, and a widening middle class that’s supposed to pick up the tab of those uninsured individuals by paying outrageously high premiums (and deductibles) out-of-pocket, the only individuals who can really afford decent health care are the wealthy. That’s all America has seem to become about lately - the wealthy - and I’m TIRED of it.

Anywho, December 17th, the official full-term mark for Melissa’s pregnancy came and passed without so much as a potential for the pregnancy to be over soon. Christmas Eve proved hopeful, however, as Melissa started having regular contractions (2 minutes and 30 seconds apart). Yet, the midwife told us that unless they were 60 seconds long, they were not considered real labor contractions. Eventually they did die off on Christmas and we were left to wait for the baby to come.

On January 9, 2010, Tristan Randall Weldon was born! Stay tuned for more updates on our little bundle of joy and how the first month of his life has been for us and him!