Without Further Adieu…My Son!

Last week, January 5th at 2:40 in the morning, Theodore Wallace Reynaldo Oldham came into the world. He weighed 6 pounds 6 ounces and measured 20 inches in length. These stats pale in comparison to the circumference of his head – 13 inches. Christina had to push that dome through her pelvis!!! Let’s go back in time before this herculean feat to fully grasp the immensity of her labor. The date was January 4th, and my wife was very pregnant; a state of pregnancy that requires not only a pregnancy pillow but also regular back massages, pep talks, and trips to the bathroom. There is a joke that fits Christina’s state of mind at this point…

How many days are there in a month?

Each month has an average of 30-31 days, except the last month of pregnancy, which has 5,489,234.

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In short, she was ready for Teddy to come out. Her readiness escalated on January 3rd when we went to her OB appointment and found out that she was already 5 cm dilated. Later that day, we went to the hospital because we thought her water broke. She wasn’t having intense contractions, but we wanted to be cautious – after three hours and Christina’s only complaint being chapped lips – we were sent home. The next day, January 4th, Christina was off work and tried everything possible to induce labor. The morning entailed three hours of bouncing on a yoga ball. The afternoon entailed a nice walk outdoors. The evening entailed a spicy burrito at our favorite Mexican restaurant. There was no progression, and by the time I went to sleep at 10 PM, there were no signs of labor. Now I want to be honest and give you guys the real story – the story that gets censured in polite conversation. When I went to sleep, I prayed to God that if He thought it best, we would have sex to induce labor. You may be wondering why I would pray this odd prayer. Without going into to much detail, our sex life at this point was far from honeymoon status. I was scared to death of poking Teddy in the head, and Christina felt the opposite of attractive.

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Hence the prayer and the unlikelihood of us having intercourse the night of January 4th. Yet something strange happened. I woke up at midnight because I was restless and decided to hit the bathroom. Before going back to sleep, I noticed Christina was still up watching TV. Our eyes met, and something clicked in our loins – the dirty commenced like we were fresh fawns in a field. Immediately afterward, and I mean immediately afterward, Christina went into full blown labor! She had contractions that bent her body in half, and she felt a strong urge to push. I told her to push on the toilet, and we waited to see if the contractions would abate – they got stronger, and her water conveniently broke. By that point it was 12:45 AM and we rushed to the hospital. At 1:00 AM I dropped her off at the Emergency Department, and a tech wheeled her to the labor and delivery floor – when I say wheeled I mean he ran like hell through the hospital. I parked the car, and by the time I got to the room it was 1:15 am. The nurse checked her cervix, and she was 8 centimeters dilated. Contractions were getting worse, and because her dilation was so advanced, there was no time for pain medications. At 1:30 AM, Christina was notified that she would have to go through a natural labor. When I told her to embrace the pain, she looked at me like our marriage was on the line. The contractions continued to worsen, and she got on her knees to relieve the pain. By 2:15 AM the doctor was in a position to catch the baby – his head kept prairie dogging. Chistina looked exhausted, and her face had broken blood vessels from all the pushing. By 2:35 AM she was about to give up – another contraction was out of the question. I tried to coach her. I tried to relieve her pain. I tried to videotape.

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The final contraction came, and with all her might Christina pushed out the behemoth 13-inch head. Teddy slid into the world crying and needing a hair cut. Both Christina and Teddy came out healthy; Christina had to be stitched up but she is healing nicely, and now she has a war story to tell. Teddy lost 20% of his body weight after two days but is now back to his birth weight after 24 hours of constant feeding. I am so proud of my wife and new family. My son is beautiful, and I am thankful to God for answering all of my prayers :). I am tired, and I apologize for the delayed post – my writing feels a little choppy but bear with me – we’ll have many more refined Teddy posts in the future.

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The Congo’s Hidden “Holocaust”

We all know of the Holocaust and the 11 million Jews who were killed by Hitler. Many of us know about the Armenian genocide which took place during WWI – over two million Armenians, Assyrians, and Pontic Greeks were killed during that time. Unfortunately, these were not isolated incidents in the history of humanity, and I have just learned about yet another mass murder. This particular slaughter of people was not a genocide but rather an indiscriminate killing for the sake of prophet. It occurred over a hundred years ago in the area we now call the Congo. These evils came from the most unsuspecting country – Belgium. The nation of waffles and Brussels sprouts – has a hidden history which not many people know about. To learn how Belgium terrorized the Congo, I read King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa by Adam Hochschild. The real villain in this story is not Belgium but rather Belgium’s King – Leopold II.

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King Leopold II was viewed as the world’s greatest African philanthropist. His generous donations to the continent and his desire for funding scientific explorations were proclaimed across Europe as progressive measures to bring civilization to the savages. Unfortunately, there was a hidden objective in Leopold’s philanthropy – he was collecting as much research as possible so he could found his own colony. In the 19th century, Africa was a piecemeal conglomerate of European colonies – England, France, Germany, and Italy all claimed a portion of the raw material pie. Leopold had a small country complex – Belgium was nowhere close to competing with the big dogs regarding intercontinental control. Nevertheless, the King of a country the size of Maryland was able to weasel his way into Africa. He performed this feat of diplomatic chicanery by founding his own company which was designed to provide humanitarian needs for the newly discovered Congo. This company had its own flag and was technically independent of the Belgian government – allowing King Leopold complete control. The other European forces permitted the company to control the Congo with the aim to promote free trade while preventing major disputes between land-hungry countries. In short order, King Leopold II confiscated all of the native’s property for his “state” and began exploiting the virgin land for elephant tusks and rubber.

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Vast quantities of raw materials left the Congolese ports – the only import for the people of the Congo was hired soldiers who enforced the status quo of exploitation. This military force ruled by the rifle and the chicotte – a whip made of hippopotamus hide cut into long corkscrew strips. These “humanitarians” were given commissions based on how much ivory could be collected. This capitalistic motivation led to the forced labor of the Congolese at a time when Europe was aghast at all forms of slavery. Things only got worse after scientists discovered new and useful applications for rubber – the pneumatic tire being one example. The Congo was full of wild rubber, and this brought new terror for the natives. Men of all ages were forced to meet quotas of rubber; If they did not comply they were shot, or their families were forced into labor. As the rubber began to run out, the Congolese were required to travel longer and longer distances – draining villages of work for harvest and subsequently causing thousands to starve. A typical punishment for the Congolese was to cut off a member of their body – a missing right hand was a ubiquitous sight.

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Between murder, starvation, susceptibility to disease, and labor exhaustion, the population of the Congo dropped by half during Leopold’s control: 1885 – 1908. That is a total of 10 million people! A scary number, especially since very few people know about this history. It is as if I were writing this blog post about the Holocaust and people were reading about the acts of Hitler for the first time. Of course, this was not a pure genocide, but it was a well-documented atrocity which affected the lives of various Congolese tribes; that is why many are beginning to call this point in history the “Hidden Holocaust” and why I think it is more important than ever to keep learning about our past. If WWII is our only knowledge of the mass murder, we will think it is an isolated occurrence – something that was an anomaly and will never happen again. I wish I could say it was an anomaly but it is a sad pattern which we need to understand to truly prevent. Did you know anything about King Leopold before this post? What are your thoughts on history repeating itself? Should schools do a better job of teaching these lessons? I love your comments.

“The Congo Free State is unique in its kind. It has nothing to hide and no secrets and is not beholden to anyone except its founder.” – King Leopold II (Founder)

The Upside of Down

What makes America great? Is it the people? The beautiful landscape? The election process? I think a lot of citizens define the greatness of America through her economic and military prowess. Over the past 10 years there has been a lot of news about America’s dominance fading in the world. I hear things like, “China owns half of our country!” “Their is a new Cold War with Russia!””There are going to be taco stands at every corner!” “All of our jobs are being shipped overseas!” I never really looked into these claims before so I wanted to read a book about the true economic status of the developed world compared to the developing. I picked up The Upside of Down: Why the Rise of the Rest is Good for the West by Charles Kenny. Kenny was previously a senior economist at the World Bank and is now a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development and writes for Bloomberg Businessweek and Foreign Policy magazines. To put it simply, this guy knows his stuff.

First off, China is definitely going to surpass the United States economy very soon – some economists argue that is has already happened. The math is simple: China has 1.3 billion people and the United States has roughly 350 million people. That is a billion more workers and consumers with an ever widening middle class that is ready to spend.

“…by 2030 the world will have four major economic players. China will be the heavyweight, with a share of global GDP around 24 percent (measured at purchasing power parity). Next will be India, the European Union and the United States – each with 10 to 12 percent of the global output. Brazil, Indonesia, and Japan will each control a little more than 3 percent of global GDP.”

Should this fact worry the United States? Not at all. It is great news. For one, the average Chinese or Indian will one day be able to buy more products from the United States. With more money flowing into America, there will be more jobs created and more services needed. Second, countries with large economies love trade agreements – allowing them to easily import and export. This increases alliances and decreases the risks of wars. Thirdly, with greater partnerships with other countries, the United States can reduce military spending and focus more on improving quality of life measures for her citizens (health care, infrastructure, worker benefits, etc.).

Now what about all the worries of immigration and jobs being taken by the “rest” of the world.

“…US offshoring may have been responsible for a 1.6 percent decline in manufacturing jobs over the period 1997 to 2007, but the impact on long-term productivity may actually increase employment (which may also be better paid). The idea is that firms save money by offshoring, which, by allowing them to sell more for less, increases both their own revenues and the revenues of those that purchase the goods they sell. As a result, they can hire more people, or their shareholders have more money to buy goods and services from other Americans.”

Yes, America has lost jobs overseas but the economy as a whole has benefited immensely from affordable goods and greater domestic purchasing power – the result being a net increase in job creation. So what about jobs at home being taken by immigrants? The United States attracts some of the best and brightest students from around the world. Our universities, with the help of foreign students, foster innovation that continues to make America a leader in patents and technology. Immigrants are vital to our growing economy, because as earlier explained, the number of people in a country is one of the biggest factors in economic health. With an aging population and a decreasing birth rate, the United States should be happy to take all the skilled labor she can get. What about the “illegal” immigrants? Shouldn’t we build a wall? It was found that immigrants from Mexico do not take jobs from Americans but rather help create new jobs (click here for clear example). By paying less for labor, businesses have more money for investments, purchases, and new job creation. Furthermore, between 2009-2014 there was net loss of Mexicans leaving the United States. This is due to an improving Mexican economy and better family reunification programs. It was found that increased border control actually increased the number of illegal immigrants in the country; due to the fact that it was harder for Mexicans to reenter their country.

All of this points to the need for more investment and economic teamwork throughout the world. We should not become a isolated country that is afraid of immigrants or the success of other countries. We need to remember that immigrants founded this country and that the rise of the rest is good for the west. If you liked this article please a related post, The World is Flat.