Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘babies’

It’s a Baby!

HavingMyBabyHaving My Baby Short stories by Imari Jade, Daphne Olivier, Tori L. Ridgewood, and Joanne Rawson.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Having My Baby is fun to read whether you want a baby, have had a baby, don’t like babies, know nothing about babies, or are just curious. The book consists of four fictional stories that look at pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood in the present, past and future, and which are uniquely told in first and third person.

The Family Plan, by Imari Jade, follows the heir to a well-know clothes designer, Emily, and her unplanned pregnancy with Bekim, a man she despises. Emily has never wanted a child, let alone marriage, and Bekim is not the settling down kind of a guy. Can either of them change? The odds are forever not in there favor.

In Daphne Olivier’s futuristic Rock-a-bye-Baby, Cela and Cane win the lottery to have a perfect, modified child of whichever gender they choose. When they must decide what level of intelligence, and physical features, there son, or daughter, will have, they question there life-long desire to conceive, as well as the idea of “perfection”.

Tabitha’s Solution, by Tori L. Ridgewood, finds Tabitha and Alex desperately trying to induce labor, in order to avoid the hospital and any medical interventions. Issues many parents discuss, and must decide, before, during pregnancy, and at the time of birth, take on a personal and intimate nature, as the couple struggle with their preconceptions, beliefs, and desires.

The final story in the collection, Learner Mum, by Joanne Rawson, takes a confirmed child and baby avoider, Polly Wilkins, to her sister Wendy’s home to take care of her nephew, Josh, for two days. Polly tries to get out of it, but ends up in the thick of panic, and being overwhelmed by a person one quarter her size. Will this experience confirm her worst fears about children, or force her to see another side?

If you haven’t thought about pregnancy, childbearing, or raising children before, read Having My Baby. Though fictional, these stories ring true, in most cases. If you have already had a child, or are in the throws of doing so, you will laugh and cry with these characters, because they will be all too familiar.

There Goes Our Sex Life

imgresWhen your newborn is literally sucking the energy from you twenty-four hours a day, will the energy to make love with your partner ever return? How do you nurture your relationship, and find time for sex, when you have young children wanting and needing your attention 24 hours a day?

You may find yourself replying to these questions by exclaiming, “Never.” “It’s impossible.” “You’re kidding!” or “We’ve given up trying.” The reality is that you DO have to make adjustments, continually negotiate with your partner and practice the patience of saints, but you DON’T have to give up your sex life altogether.

From the moment your baby comes into the world your lives are changed forever. No matter how long you’ve been together before the birth or how much you’ve read about it, there is nothing that prepares you for the overwhelming responsibility, attention and energy that parenting requires. Rarely do couples talk about how having a baby will effect their sexual lives, yet it can be one of the most difficult aspects of becoming a mother or father.

After having time to lavish each other with affection for months or years, before giving birth or adopting a child, you are unceremoniously thrust into EVERYTHING being structured around the baby. In terms of upsetting the apple cart of domestic tranquility, newborns are the most powerful force on the planet. When you sleep, eat, work and make love is predicated and influenced by the newest member of the family. It is utterly amazing how such a little bundle of flesh and bones can have so much control on our full-grown adult lives.

New fathers are particularly vulnerable during this change in life and often come down with the “whoa is me” syndrome. Not only does the baby literally come “between” the mother and father, the baby takes ALL of her attention. The physical bond between mother and child is very powerful. It can be difficult for father’s to accept this reality, even if they thought about it ahead of time. And if, like many men, a father associates sex with love, he may begin to fear that he isn’t loved anymore. This is especially true when the babies mother doesn’t have as much time, energy or desire to make love as often or as long as she used to. In the beginning months she may not want to at all.

Most women do not love their partners any less after the birth of a child; they simply do not have the time, energy and stamina to sexually express their love the same as they did before. Without denying the physical attraction that is part of the relationship dance, most healthy unions consist of more ingredients than just sex. This is where men (and women) can allow patience and understanding to take root, instead of frustration and anger and appreciate the many ways we can communicate our feelings for one another.

Give each other long hugs and kisses. Massage her/his back, neck, hands, arms, legs, feet and/or face. Cook and serve a special meal. Talk to each other and take the time to be present and listen. Don’t assume you each know what the other is thinking or feeling.

If you simply want sex, then find time alone to pleasure yourself. There is nothing wrong with some self-loving and care. Don’t expect your partner to supply all your needs or fulfill all your desires.

Usually, as a child develops, stops nursing and needs less physical attention, a woman’s libido also returns. If you’re the mother’s partner, let her be in the driver’s seat. She’ll let you know when she’s ready. Absence of sex doesn’t mean she loves or desires you any less, it is simply a physical and emotional reality that can arise from having a baby.

As your child grows physically and cognitively, steps into the toddler stage and enters their first years in school, an array of options for intimacy with your sweetheart will be presented. If your child is sleeping in your bed, once they have fallen asleep you can take a mat and go to another room for some mutual pleasure. Make sure to be aware of and adjust the sounds you allow yourselves to make, depending on how deeply your child sleeps.

Another wonderful opportunity is to develop a community of other parents with similar aged children and exchange childcare two to three mornings or afternoons a week. This is not only emotionally beneficial in sharing the experience of parenting, but also allows you to arrange your time, whenever possible, for you and your mate to get together and have a romantic morning or afternoon. If you have other family and/or friends who offer to provide childcare, don’t pass it up, always say, “Thank you. Yes. When and where?”

You can also carry on your romance without having to physically touch each other. Write a love letter, send a card, a gift or some flowers with a note. Stop by your partner’s place of work. If you’re son or daughter is with you, bring them along. You don’t have to stay long. Just stop by, let them know you were thinking about them and can’t wait to see them when they get home. If you’re the person working, take a break on your lunch hour, go home and give everyone hugs and kisses. If you work to far away to drive by give them a call. Let them know that even in the midst of your busy day, you are thinking of them.

As your child or children, move on into their adolescence, teens and early twenties, they become more aware of themselves and of their parent’s sexuality. It isn’t as easy to sneak off into the bedroom or bath while the kids are watching their favorite show or playing a video game. Nor can you linger in bed on a weekend morning, without them figuring out what’s going on. Make sure to have sound proof doors to your bedroom and teach your kids about privacy and knocking before entering a room with the door closed. They will want to have the same respect for their privacy as they age.

Once your child begins attending school there are more chances to rendezvous in a variety of locations. If you can’t make it home, call and talk sex on the phone.

At this age it is much easier to have them stay overnight at a friend or relatives, thus giving you the entire night to indulge in your fantasies or just go out to dinner, dance, a play, movie, etc. You may be able to swing a night at a bed and breakfast or go for a long ride in the country and make love outdoors. The possibilities are almost endless.

One’s relationship will change with or without children. Don’t let being a parent put a total stop to your sex life. You can experience the ecstasy and the agony of having children and the joy and pleasure of a satisfying love life. One does not preclude the other. It depends on your expectations, your ability to adapt and change and to love one another exactly where you are. Learn to love without trying to manipulate, control or coerce the other into some memory you have of how you think things were “before children” or having them match an imaginary image of “perfect sex”.

If you look, listen, feel and pause long enough to see what you have in your relationship and not what is temporarily missing, you may come to appreciate and value your partner in an entirely new light. Yes, having a child will change your relationship and your lives forever, but it doesn’t have to stop you from growing, sharing and loving one another in the most intimate and loving ways.

Embryo Mama

LastConception-CoverAn excerpt from The Last Conception by Gabriel Constans.

Savarna was the first to arrive at five that morning. She placed her bicycle in the storage room, washed and put on her scrubs. She checked all of the incubators, work surfaces and electronic readouts, to make sure everything was operating as close to body temperature as possible. The machines were on twenty-four seven and alarmed. After all, she and her colleagues literally held the possibility of new life in their hands day after day. If anything goes out of whack, emergency calls are automatically made until someone responds. They have backup systems for backup systems. So far, in her eight years of working at Conception Sciences, the alarm had gone off only once, and that turned out to be a faulty reading.

“Hey, Embryo Mama, how are our babies doing?”

Savarna had just started looking at the results from the previous day when her work partner Johnny Cranston walked in. She’d known Johnny for five years and trusted him completely. If she were ever in the position of their patients, she’d want Johnny to be her embryologist. He was very tech savvy and gave a damn. Personally, he’d been through the ringer, was divorced and had his adored teenage daughter living with him part-time. He’d recently moved to a nice neighborhood just twenty minutes from work. Johnny was handsome, and he knew it, but he never let his guard down, especially in front of beautiful women. He considered Savarna to fall in the category of beautiful, but she was an exception to his well-practiced defenses.

“Good morning Sperm Daddy,” she replied.

“Where we at, darling? Everything cooking at the right temp?”

“I was just checking yesterday’s records and laying out our schedule. Will you take a look and sign off?”

“It would be my pleasure.”

Savarna always noticed the contrasts between them when they stood side by side. He had big hands with long fingers, and his skin was darker than hers. She was brown, like a lightly baked brownie, and he was as black as dark chocolate. He stood a foot taller, had broad shoulders, a muscular chest and shaved head. She had long jet-black hair braided and tied up in a knot for work, a distinguished nose, and hips that seemed to trump everything else from the waist down.

“Looks like we’ve got a lot of D1 and D3s to switch out today,” Johnny said, as he signed the checklist.

“Yes, and two D5s. I really hope Mrs. Shcneider’s takes this time and her Inner Cell Mass doesn’t get screwed up like her last two attempts. She was so devastated.”

“You got that right. Nothing we could do though. Hear what I’m saying?”

“Yeah, yeah. I know the mantra. Don’t beat ourselves up for what’s out of our control.”

“Well, well. You actually remember your own advice.”

They both chuckled underneath their masks.

Everything in the laboratory had to be done perfectly and on schedule. Mistakes were not allowed, though inevitable.

Day zero, which they referred to as DO, was egg retrieval day. That was when they retrieved eggs from the woman and sperm from the man and put them together in a dish. On Day Two, which they called D1, they checked to see how many of the eggs were fertilized. They looked through the microscope to see if there were two pronuclei inside. If they couldn’t see any or what they saw consisted of only one or three pronuclei, that meant it was a wash and they couldn’t be used.

Day Two is when the embryos start to divide. A healthy embryo consists of two to four cells. That is when Savarna and Johnny would start to grade or evaluate the embryos on a scale of one to five, with one being perfect and five being poor. It takes about one minute to look at fifteen embryos. They had to do it quickly, so they were not outside of the incubator for long.

Day Three should be showing six to eight cells per embryo. If some of these are healthy, they can transfer them on the same day or put them into an extended culture for a Day Five transfer. If they go into extended cultures, they need to move them into a new growth medium that is made for the next stage of development.

On Day Five embryos have grown much bigger and gone from six to eight cells to fifty to one hundred cells. The coating around the egg is very thin at this stage and each embryo has two cell types – the inner cell mass, which becomes the baby and the trophectoderm, which becomes the placenta. This is the day when transfer usually takes place. One to two embryos are transferred to the patient’s uterus. Any extras are frozen or cultured to Day Six. On Day Six, anything that is left is either frozen or discarded.

“You can have the honor of icing any leftovers today,” Savarna told Johnny.

“Thank you, great ice queen. It will be an honor to preserve someone who may one day be our next Albert Einstein or Maya Angelou.”

“Or Charlie Manson or Hitler,” she said, half-joking.

“Not possible. These children are too wanted and adored to turn out like that.”

Freezing embryos is no minor task, though it may appear to be a simple procedure. When a healthy and viable embryo is frozen, it is placed into a computer- driven freezer in liquid nitrogen and is slowly brought down to minus thirty-five degrees centigrade. When cells are frozen, they are made up mostly of water and have to be dehydrated before freezing or ice cycles can destroy them. They are passed through solutions that by osmosis move in and out of a fluid buffer. Freezing takes about an hour and a half. When they are thawed, it is important to get rid of the ice crystals right away, so they are pulled out, held in the air for thirty counts and put in a thirty-degree water bath for forty-five seconds until they are thawed. They are then placed in solutions that reverse the process and put water back in. Within forty minutes of being de-thawed, an embryo can be transferred. Some patients successfully use an embryo that has been frozen for over ten years.

Savarna and Johnny sent out the morning report to all the physicians and case managers by 7:30, so they would know which patients to call to come in for their procedures or which ones needed to change their medications. Then they started working on egg retrievals, sperm analysis and triple-verification with each, to make sure they had the correct specimen for each individual. Retrievals started around 8:00 a.m. and continued every forty-five minutes, while transfers generally began at 10:00 and took place every thirty minutes. By noon, they were inseminating the eggs. Somewhere in the controlled chaos, they tried to make their way to the bathroom and catch a bite to eat. At 1:00 they made a break for the small lunchroom squeezed into the back corner of the two-story medical building.

“What?” she asked, looking up from her salad bowl.

“Come on. I’m about to burst. Did you tell them?” Savarna smiled, took a drink from her homemade chocolate smoothie and sheepishly looked down at her Greek salad. “You’ve got to be kidding?”

She shook her head. “My Mom was–”

“This is crazy… after all these years. They’re adults. They’ll understand.”

“Let me explain.”

“What’s there to explain? You chickened out again.”

“No, I didn’t. We were interrupted. My mother was trying to get me married off for the umpteenth time and just as I was about to tell her why I would never marry a man, the rest of the family burst in. There wasn’t any good time after that. It was her birthday after all, and I didn’t want to ruin it.”

“Ruin it?”

“You don’t understand.”

“Try me.”

“In Indian culture marriage is the biggest and most important celebration there is.”

“And you don’t think that’s true for other cultures?”

“Well, yes, of course,” she replied, taking a deep breath and looking him straight in the eyes. “But in India it can actually be a matter of life and death. Women are still defined by whom, when and if they marry. I don’t care if this is California and my parents have lived here for decades. I don’t think they even realize how deep this tradition is ingrained in their psyches.”

“So, its fair to keep them in the dark and keep hoping?”

“Of course not, but I’m not always as strong or as confident with my family, as I am with you. I don’t want to hurt them.”

“I think you’re hurting them more, let alone yourself, by not standing up and letting yourself be counted. They just want you to be happy, and they see marriage as the means to attain that happiness. We both know it’s not always what it’s cracked up to be, but I don’t see anything wrong with them hoping it’s the answer for their spinster daughter whose childbearing clock is ticking.”

“Spinster, my ass.”

“Tell them I’ll take you off their hands, but only for a good dowry.”

Savarna raised her glass, as if to throw it in Johnny’s face. He backed up his chair in mock surprise. Savarna’s phone rang. She put down her cup, laughing, and took the call.

“Hi, Magdalena. What’s up?”

Johnny winked.

“Tonight? It’s only Monday.”

Savarna closed her eyes for a moment as she listened.

“Which club?”

She nodded, “OK. OK. Pick me up at nine.” She clicked her phone shut and put it on the table while Johnny went to the sink to put away his plate.

“She’s a wild woman,” he said upon returning to the table.

“It’s fun. Nothing serious.”

“Yeah, I know about fun, but is that all you want?”

Her phone rang again.

“Hey, Charley. How ya doing?” Johnny rolled his eyes. “This weekend? I don’t know, I’m usually pretty wiped out by then.”

She turned away slightly in her chair, as if to keep the conversation private.

“In that case, let’s do it. I’ll call you later. Take care.”

“Wish I had that many women calling me up,” Johnny wisecracked, as they stood and both prepared to re-gown and get back to work. “Where to this weekend?”

“Charley got a great deal on a bed and breakfast place in the redwoods over in Santa Cruz. She says it’s just what I need for some rest and relaxation.”

“So, you really prefer men after all.”

“You know Charley is–”

“I know, I know. Just goofing. You know my offer is always good. If you ever want to get turned around, I’ll show you what a real man is like.”

“Yeah.” They both laughed. “You and a thousand other men.”

“Hey, did you hear what one egg said to another when they saw millions of sperm on the horizon?”

“Only a zillion times,” she said. They made their way down the hall and entered the pressurized lab. “But if it floats your boat, go ahead and give me the punch line. I’ll act like I’ve never heard it before.”

“Now you’ve ruined it,” he said.

The automatic door opened and she went ahead. A cartoon they had taped on the door had two eggs and millions of sperm surrounding them. The caption next to the first egg read, “This doesn’t look good, I think the odds are against us.” The other egg said, “Looks good to me. It’s just what the doctor ordered.”

The Last conception:

Passionate embryologist, Savarna Sikand, is in a complicated relationship, with two different women, when she is told that she MUST have a baby. Her conservative East Indian American parents are desperate for her to conceive, in spite of her “not being married”. They insist that she is the last in line of a great spiritual lineage. In the process of choosing her lover and having doubts about her ability, or desire to conceive, Savarna begins to question the necessity of biology and lineage within her parents’ beliefs and becomes forever fascinated with the process of conception and the definition of family. Threads of Dan Brown (DaVinci Code), Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (Sister of My Heart) and the film The Kids Are All Right, are tied together in this colorful tale of awakening, romance and mystery.

Available at: Melange Books and Amazon.

Adopt A Dolphin

Dear Gabriel,

dolphin_adoptionDolphins, like humans, use calls to communicate and stay together.

But if blasted constantly by seismic testing for oil, it’s easy for babies and mothers to get separated.

Adopt a dolphin»

Dolphins are among the most intelligent animals on Earth. A mother and baby will use calls to communicate, just like humans.

They also form tight bonds with each other, seeming to grieve for lost family members.

Those emotional bonds are too often ripped apart. Seismic testing for oil drilling can send noise blasts hundreds of miles, every 10 seconds for weeks, which harm dolphins and drown out their voices.

With one simple act – adopting a dolphin – you can play a big role in saving baby dolphins from that deafening noise.

Oceana’s comprehensive campaign to stop seismic testing in the Atlantic and implement stronger international bycatch rules is pushing us closer to a day when these gentle, smart creatures are safe.

Adopting a dolphin with the Dolphin Gift Pack Adoption means getting:

• A cozy stuffed dolphin for you or your loved one
• Personalized adoption certificate
• Dolphin cookie cutter
• Seasonal cookie recipe

We’ll do the gift wrapping for you for just $5!

Each adoption helps fund our work around the world – from protecting sea turtles and whales from drowning in fishing nets, to keeping oil drilling out of the Arctic, to stopping seismic blasts from harming dolphins.

Cross some gifts off your list with animal adoptions from Oceana.

If you’re interested in adopting a different ocean animal, browse our online adoption center to see all of our great selections.

For dolphins and all other ocean creatures,
Emily Fisher
Oceana

9,000 A Day

Dear Gabriel,

My name is Amy Brenneman and I am an actress and a CARE supporter. But, before anything else, I am a mother.

That’s why I was so shocked when I heard this horrifying statistic: Every day, close to 1,000 pregnant and new moms and more than 8,000 infants younger than one month old will die. That means 9,000 mothers and newborns tragically lost their lives last Sunday – Mother’s Day – and every day since.

As a mom, I can’t imagine the pain of losing your child before you even have a chance to watch her grow. And, I can only wonder about the life-long devastation a child experiences when he loses his mom so early in life.

You can help bring attention to this tragic situation today by sharing your voice on CARE’s interactive petition. CARE is collecting 9,000 signatures for the 9,000 moms and babies who die every day.

Possibly the most heartbreaking fact of all is almost every one of these deaths is preventable. We just need the political will and resources to save lives, which is why your voice is so important.

Tell the world why you are speaking out on behalf of the 9,000 mothers and newborns who are silenced every day because the world is failing to help!

Thank you for joining me in this important endeavor. I look forward to reading your message soon.

Sincerely,

Amy

Father Doesn’t Know Best

Father Knows Best was a show from the late fifties, that portrayed the father as someone who always had the answers and wisdom for life’s lessons and problems. He freely shared his insight when asked and it was of course, always right. In later years, The Cosby Show had a similar father figure, though he could also make you laugh. In my experience, I’ve never had all the answers, known what to do (for sure) or imparted any great wisdom to our children. I’ve tried to be the best example I can, but it seems to be an ongoing education that continues regardless of their age or circumstances.

First, our oldest daughter moved out. The next to oldest daughter left soon after. Then, our first-born son went his way and his older brother followed suit. There is one remaining at home. He just graduated and starts community college this fall.

Our oldest daughter and her wife, who lives just 1/2 mile away, had a beautiful baby daughter a few months ago. Her childhood friend (who we have known for almost 2 decades) just had a little boy a week before that and we’ve gladly offered to babysit. Our daughter and her husband, who lives in Seattle, have an amazing 2 year old son. Then, there are our friends who are in the process of adopting a brother and sister (5 & 7), who they have foster cared for almost 2 years, whom I also love to support and spend time with. And two of our 3 sons plan to have children some day.

When it comes down to it, we haven’t “lost” anybody who has left home, but only gained more wonderful beings to the family and increased the amount of love and care to go around. Completing the circle, are all the wonderful children at the ROP Center for Street Children in Rwanda and those there caring for them.

I’ve known I wanted to parent children since I was sixteen. It looks like my wish has come true 10 fold and will always be a part of my life until my last breath as a human. Sure, I love my wife and our time alone and being able to do things we couldn’t always do when children were living with us 24X7, but it is also an awesome and wonderful responsibility to support, perhaps guide and nurture other precious beings and make a difference in their lives and hopefully, their hearts. I know I rarely know anything or have any answers like the Dad’s on those old TV shows, but that’s doesn’t matter. I’m OK with not knowing or being perfect and hopefully they are too.

Bombs Away

Excerpt from biography Paging Dr. Leff: Pride, Patriotism & Protest.

Fred Branfman emerged from the jungles of Laos carrying a heavy load. He wasn’t weighed down with ammunition, guns or rations. The international volunteer, who had been in and out of Laos for over three years, was burdened with something far greater than goods or a heavy backpack.

What he carried were photographs, drawings, documents and stories of the Laotian people and the devastation that had been inflicted upon them by United States bombs – bombs that officially didn’t exist; bombs that burned flesh and chopped off limbs; took the lives of mothers, children, elders and babies; bombs that destroyed homes, crops and entire villages; bombs that were intended for the communist Pathet Lao.

If was 1969, and the war in Vietnam was in full swing, though much of the fighting had been diverted from ground troops to killing by air. From 1968 through 1974, Laos had more ordnance, including cluster, fragmentation, Napalm, and 500 pound bombs – dropped on their lands and their people than did the Koreans, Europeans and Japanese during the entirety of the Korean War and World War II. The Pentagon estimated that they were dropping about six million pounds of bombs per day. Historically a gentle land of farmers, most Laotians had no idea what was happening or why America was trying to destroy them.

Few Americans had heard of the destruction taking place on The Plain of Jars and its 50,000 inhabitants, let alone that Laos and the U. S. government was intent on keeping it that way. U. S. reporters were not allowed on bombing runs into Laos and were restricted from speaking to military brass. Everything surrounding the raids was classified, but not all the people who witnessed or knew of the carnage could be silenced.

Fred Branfman carried pictures of people on the ground, the victims of impersonal high altitude air strikes authorized by U. S. Ambassador Godley and frequently directed by the CIA. He had close-ups of unexploded bombs bearing the symbol of the US; bombs dropped by American pilots who had never met a Laotian, let alone knew one. But Fred knew them personally; he had been to their homes, talked to the elders, and shared meals with families and communities. Fred was in bed, not with the military, but with the stories of the Laotian people. He was embedded with scenes and images he would rather not hold. He was embedded with unbearable atrocities that had been committed by his fellow Americans and was determined that the truth of these events not be buried with the Laotian people or minimized by U.S. propaganda that denied civilians were ever targeted.

Some Laotian Peace Corps friends of Fred’s told him about a young captain in the Air Force who was going to Washington to testify about the bombing of Laos to the Fulbright Foreign Relations Committee, the most powerful committee in the senate, chaired by Senator William Fulbright. They’d said this captain was a physician at the Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base In Northeast Thailand, just over the Laotian border. The base was a hub for the US and CIA aircraft that were bombing the very people he held so dear. This officer had put out the word, through his civilian friends and employees of Air America (a front for the CIA), that he was looking for informational ammo about the situation in Laos.

How this captain had been so blatant about his mission and survived being thrown out of the Air Force was beyond Fred’s comprehension. He was just glad there was somebody sane enough to listen, someone who might be able to help stop the madness.

In late fall of 1969, Fred Branfman met Capt. Arnie Leff, MD, USAF, at The Bungalow, a counter-culture way station for off-duty military and civilians traveling throughout Southeast Asia. He entrusted all his papers, files, interviews and photographs about the bombing of Laos to Dr. Leff, a passionate Jewish-American kid from Brooklyn who had the guts, chutzpah, or naivete to stand up to the U. S. military and political regime and say, “This is wrong. This isn’t the America I believe in.”

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