A Doctor Looks at Amniocentesis

Until recently, prenatal care involved primarily the care of the mother; the realm of the fetus remained largely a mystery. However, recent advances in our understanding of normal and abnormal fetal development and technological advances have helped us learn more about and give more care to the unborn child.

For example, in skilled hands prenatal ultrasound may allow a remarkably detailed physical examination of the fetus. Amniotic fluid analysis may, in certain circumstances, help assess the condition of the fetus in much the same way that an examination of mother’s blood can contribute to her care. In later pregnancy, the fetus’s reaction to various stimuli may provide insight into its ability to tolerate the stress of labor.

Unfortunately, such scientific and technological advancements have been paralleled by an increasingly common disregard for the sanctity of unborn human life. In all too many instances, detection of any physical imperfection in an unborn child leads to abortion. Such widespread practices need not lead LDS couples to refuse prenatal diagnostic procedures, however. The information gained from such tests could benefit both the parents and the child.

Certainly not all pregnant women need such specialized testing. However, a doctor who suspects that a couple has an increased risk of having a handicapped child may recommend diagnostic ultrasound and amniocentesis. Couples may benefit in several ways from this diagnostic procedure.

First, in the vast majority of cases, the woman is reassured that her child is normal. This removes a tremendous burden from her and her family during the remaining months of pregnancy. Unfortunately, some women will be found to be carrying a child with major or minor handicaps. In a few of these cases, medical, or in rare cases, surgical, therapy may be given while the child is still in the womb.

Other conditions may be diagnosed which require specialized treatment immediately after delivery if the infant is to survive. If such information is available before birth, arrangements can be made for delivery in a facility where such care will be immediately available.

Most abnormal fetuses, however, are found to have conditions which cannot be treated. Parents of such children usually prefer to receive this information early in pregnancy in the quiet, supportive atmosphere of the doctor’s office, rather than unexpectedly in the middle of the night, after nine months of hopeful expectation and several hours of exhausting labor. Such information, if obtained early, may allow parents to better prepare themselves for the physical and financial challenges which await them in caring for a handicapped child. Further, as one couple recently confided, “Finding out early in pregnancy about our baby’s condition gave us time to reconcile within ourselves and with the Lord all the questions of ‘why?’ It motivated us to get closer to God and prepare ourselves spiritually for the challenges to come.” Dr. Steven L. Clark, Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, University of Southern California

Building a Compost Pile

If you want a productive garden year after year, you need to replace the minerals used by the plants and lost to leaching. A compost pile is an excellent way to return these lost minerals to the soil.

The success of a compost pile often depends on the materials collected. These materials can be collected all year and saved in large airtight plastic bags until you are ready to make the pile (about six weeks before you prepare your garden for planting). During the year, mix a little soil with the materials and sprinkle them with water. This speeds up the decaying process and helps eliminate odors.

Materials which can be used in composting include almost any organic material. The following is a partial list:

  • Leaves (which can be collected in the autumn and mixed with animal waste)

  • Bales of wet or spoiled hay or alfalfa

  • Weeds pulled from your garden

  • Animal waste of herbivorous animals (carnivorous animal wastes may contaminate the soil)

  • Small amounts of sawdust and woodchips

  • Vegetable garbage from the kitchen

  • Oak leaf mold, decomposed pine needles, or other decaying matter

  • New grass clippings (which must be used within a few days, as they heat up quickly and begin to smell; don’t try to store them)

Once you have gathered materials and the weather is warming, you are ready to build your compost pile. In a compost pile, air and moisture must be able to reach the innermost parts of the pile. It is therefore more helpful to build several small piles rather than one large one. To keep air circulating under the pile, lift the base of the stack off the ground. This can be done by placing two-by-two boards lengthwise on the ground about three and one-half feet apart and using other boards (one to one and one-half inches wide) to form a grid on top of them.

Now you are ready to pile your materials in layers. Start with a firm base; hay works well. Spread this about four inches deep over the surface of the grid, patting it down with a pitchfork or shovel. If possible, place a three- or four-inch layer of grass clippings over the hay. Then add a layer of vegetable refuse, weeds, and grass. Lightly cover these layers with soil and sprinkle with just enough water to barely wet the layers. Next add a layer of animal waste about four inches thick and again spray the layers. Add new layers alternating the different materials you have collected. Add another light layer of soil and water about every foot.

When you are finished (the pile should be from three to four feet high), press down the middle, forming a three or four inch depression which holds and distributes water throughout the pile. Sprinkle a layer of soil on the top. The soil kills odors and the bacteria in the soil helps to break down the other materials in the pile. Make holes from the top to the bottom of the pile with a rake handle. This allows air to reach the center of the moist pile.

Check the pile occasionally to make sure these holes have not filled up and, if needed, spray the top with water. Cover the pile with something that will hold the materials in place and keep in the heat. Black plastic sheets with holes above the holes made by the rake handle work well. This cover also helps reduce the odor of the decaying materials. Put rocks around the bottom of the sheet firmly enough to keep the wind from blowing it off, but loose enough to let air seep in underneath, providing needed oxygen.

Occasionally check the layers to see if they are mixing together. When the different layers all look about the same (after three to four weeks), make another grid base and restack the pile. Use the top compost of the old pile as the bottom of the new one. As you repile the stack, shake the materials to break up any lumps and to let the air hit them. Pat the new pile firmly, but not too tightly; sprinkle it again. Cover this new pile and let it sit for another week or two. The compost pile is then ready to use. Gordon Claridge Young, Salt Lake City, Utah

Job Interviews—Preparation Pays

Job interviewing can be a frightening experience. Fortunately, much can be done to reduce the anxiety and make the experience more successful.

1. Prepare

First, create a record of past employment. Include the name, address, and phone number of each employer. Note starting and stopping dates; most job applications will ask for them. Include a brief description of your duties and activities. Include a similar account of training in school or elsewhere, non-paid activities, and a brief description of your employment-type activities at home.

Next, learn all you can about the employer. Is there a place for you and your training in the company? Will you enjoy working there, and for how long? How long has the employer been in business, and is the company financially sound? How far can you advance, and will you need to get additional training to do so? What would your salary range be? Are there other benefits? What type of clothing would you wear to work?

These and other important questions can be answered by people working at the company and through the career and business reference sections in your local library.

2. Present Yourself Well

Here are some guidelines you can follow to make the interview itself successful.

Be punctual. If possible, arrive early so you can review the information you have studied about the employer or fill out applications.

Take your cues from the interviewer. The interviewer will decide whether or not the two of you should shake hands, and so forth.

Avoid one-word answers. If the only answer the interviewer can get from you is either yes or no, the interview will not be productive. Obviously, some questions need be answered with only one word; however, you should elaborate on other questions to make the conversation more natural.

Use good posture. Many interviewers feel that your posture is a gauge of your mental and physical vigor.

Anticipate the interviewer’s questions and prepare your answers so they come out smoothly. Many of the questions asked during the interview will be repeated by other interviewers. If you were clumsy the first time in answering a question, think about the question and be prepared for later interviews.

Have goals. Be prepared to say what you would like to be doing in five or ten years, and be realistic. If your goals do not coincide with opportunities in the employer’s organization, you are not a good career prospect.

Be honest with the interviewer. Don’t give the answer you think he or she wants. The questions are designed to see if you would be successful in the job. If you succeed in fooling the interviewer, you may also succeed in getting a job in which you will be unsuccessful or unhappy.

Speak about your past employers and past experiences in favorable tones. Emphasize the positive contributions your past experiences have made to your career.

Look the interviewer in the eye without staring.

Have a good closing remark and listen closely to any last-minute instructions the interviewer gives you. The interviewer may say, “Think it over and let us know in a couple of weeks if you are still interested.” As a closing remark, you may want to tell the interviewer how interested you are in the employer’s opportunities.

Record the interview and the name of the interviewer in a permanent place so that you can send a follow-up letter in the near future.

3. Follow Up

Many people fail to follow up after their initial interviews. Arrange to call back as you finish the employment interview by simply saying: “When do you expect to make a decision? May I come back then to discuss it with you?”

When you arrive home, send a thank-you letter and indicate that you will return as agreed to talk with them. If several weeks will be involved, you may instead want to drop by occasionally, have someone else speak in your behalf if it is appropriate, or send new information (notice of your graduation, or further research, for example). Be guided by the situation, but stay visible. Then be prepared to receive their decision graciously. [For more suggestions, see the January/February 1985 issue of the New Era.] Lynn Eric Johnson, Associate Professor of Career Education, Brigham Young University

[illustrations] Illustrated by Beth Maryon Whittaker