Thursday, December 26, 2013

I'm Sorry

  To the little girl we saw while out and about the other day, I am sorry. I am sorry I didn't stick up for you. It was wrong. I was wrong, the other adults were wrong. What happened was not okay.

  For everyone else, here is the back story. Joey and I were out with Perrin. They had gone off to look at something and I was just taking in my surroundings. I saw a family group near by. A little girl, probably 3 or 4, was walking over to her mother to say something when one of the men sitting nearby reached out and grabbed the little girl and pulled her up into his lap. She immediately started protesting, kicking her legs and trying to wiggle away. Instead of letting go, the adult laughed. She realized he wasn't letting her go and she started to cry. Still holding onto her, the adult told her to "stop whining." Her mother, finally addressing the situation, said only "You were excited to see Uncle so-and-so earlier."

  I wanted to say something. I wanted to yell "Stop it!" I wanted to tell him to put her down. To take his hands off her. To LISTEN to her. But I didn't. I kept my mouth shut. I didn't want to be "that person." And I am so sorry. I should have been that person- that person to let the little girl know that her voice does matter. That no one is allowed to touch you without your permission. That no means no. That you have a right to stick up for yourself and it doesn't make you whiny or bad. That just because you were excited about seeing someone early in the day doesn't mean they have a right to your body.

  THIS is rape culture. This is how deep in we are. When we don't realize the messages we are sending our children. If someone is bigger, stronger, has more authority, they can do what they want with you. And you are expected to be polite. To protest, to fight back- that's being whiny, bitchy, cold. What's your problem? He was just joking around. Why can't you just have a sense of humor? You liked him earlier. You flirted/kissed him/went home with him...what right do you have to say no now? Don't be a tease.

  I doubt the lesson was that blatant for the little girl. She probably couldn't even articulate what she had learned from the experience. But how many times has she been taught that lesson? Don't pull away when Uncle Bob hugs you, it's rude. Don't shy away when Aunt Gertrude kisses you, you'll hurt her feelings. If something makes you uncomfortable, just ignore it because you need to be nice. Because your body is not your own; it exists for the gratification of others.

  No one has a right to anyone else's body. Not even parents. Tickling, hugging, kissing, cuddling, holding- these are gifts for an individual to give freely, not things to be taken. Children are so small and so helpless and instead of protecting them we take advantage of them. We ignore their voices. We violate their bodies. Strangers in public like to walk up and try to touch Perrin on the head or grab his hand. How many adults do you think they walk up to and touch without permission? Children are not public property. They are not anyone's property. They are people. Let's start treating them with some basic respect and human dignity.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Baby-Not-So-Wise

    I received a request for a post about baby scheduling, or rather the nuances between attachment parenting approaches and baby scheduling approaches. This can be a surprisingly hot-button issue and the theory behind it can get a little complicated, so to start I want to lay out some basic premises.

   First of all, there is no one right way to go about everything. No one book or parenting approach is going to make complete sense to anyone person. You have to find what works for your family and that is almost always going to be a mix of different approaches and strategies. The problems occur when people approach different books and tool sets like some sort of religious text that cannot be deviated from-- that's not likely to work for anyone.
  So, the two approaches that I was specifically asked about were attachment parenting and Babywise in terms of scheduling infants. These aren't exactly comparable because attachment parenting is a very broad philosophy of child rearing (though for whatever reason people like to focus on specific tools) while Babywise is a specific book. For the purpose of this post, I will compare the attachment approach with an equally broad approach I'll call "scheduling" that I will explain later. However, I feel like the specifics of Babywise need to be briefly addressed.
  Now, as I said above, most people aren't going to follow everything single thing in a single book. I'm sure there are people out there who have read Babywise and even used parts of it and would still consider themselves attachment parents. And I know for a fact that there tons of people willing to avow that they followed Babywise and it saved their life, or marriage, or whatever and their kid turned out "fine". But I will never be able to recommend Babywise to anyone and in fact can only advise against it on the basis that it has been linked to some very problematic outcomes in infants. Specifically, the American Academy of Pediatrics  issued a statement in 1998 stating concern because Babywise was associated with "reports of dehydration, slow growth and development, and failure to thrive."  That PSA aside, let's dive right in to different approaches to infant scheduling.

   The first thing to keep in mind is that there is a big difference between schedules and routines. Routines are simply doing things in a specific order. I wake up, I feed the dog, I pump, I get ready, I eat breakfast, I feed Perrin, he takes a nap...etc. It doesn't really matter what time I wake up, my morning routine looks pretty much the same. Routines are pliable and can be adjusted or tweaked depending on a given situation. Schedules on the other hand are much more rigid. I wake up at 7:15. I have to be at work by 9:00 a.m. Dinner is served promptly at 6:00. Now of course there are some things, like the job example, that must operate on a schedule. But the distinction is important to note for the rest of this post.

  We'll start with the attachment/evolutionary/anthropological approach. Whatever you call it (I prefer anthropological parenting), the basic premise is that children thrive best when their needs are responded to and met in a developmentally appropriate way in order to foster a secure connection between the care giver and child. That connection becomes the foundation for their relationship with themselves and others and therefore a healthy attachment leads to a healthy well-rounded individual. The key things to keep in mind for our current discussion are 1) meeting needs and 2) developmental appropriateness.
  There is definitely lots of gray area between attachment parenting and other approaches and often some overlap. Attachment parenting and scheduling aren't mutually exclusive. However, for arguments sake I'm going to define "scheduling" as approaches that minimize flexibility and focus only on the physical (think eat, sleep, poop) needs of infants. There is also a common trend among these approaches to describe infants in behavioralist terms.
  Although not entirely accurate, it may be helpful to think of these two approaches as ends on a spectrum with one extreme being a completely baby-led approach where you rely on the babies own cues all of the time and the other extreme being a rigid schedule that you never deviate from. Neither of these extremes is likely to be optimal. You need to find a balance that works for you. When making this decision, there are a few things to keep in mind. Namely, we need to start off having realistic expectations. It has been my experience that often times parents who struggle the most with infant behaviors aren't really dealing with anything that different from anyone else. The issue is usually that they went into parenting with very unrealistic expectations of how infants behave and what "normal" looks like.

Babies are not adults. Mindblowing, right? But seriously...stop and think about this for a moment. There are some things that are just not going to be developmentally appropriate for an infant.

Babies can't tell time. Schedules are never going to be appropriate for infants because babies can't read clocks. It is that simple. Expecting a baby to do the same thing at the same time everyday isn't going to work out for anyone. When it comes to "time", babies suck even worse because their circadian rhythms aren't developed yet. It takes a while for them to get in sync with the day/night cycle and to learn to pace their environmental cues with the time of day.

Babies sleep cycles are much shorter than adults (about half as short). That means they have twice as many light sleep stages, or twice as many opportunities for night waking. While this may be inconvenient for us it is very, very convenient for baby. Waking often helps make sure the brain is staying alert enough to keep regulating things like body temperature, heart rate, and breathing protecting the baby against SIDS. It also gives them the opportunity to eat more frequently, keeping their blood sugar stable, ensuring a good milk supply, and keeping up their caloric intake.

Babies don't have "wants". Babies wants and needs are the same, and they are not just physical. Infants need touch and human contact to develop properly and thrive. They need emotional comfort. An infant is not cognitively developed enough to "manipulate" a caregiver. If they want something, it's because they need it, not because they are trying to scam you.

Babies can't talk. Babies have certain cues to let you know when they are getting hungry or sleepy (rooting, yawning, etc.) and at the end of the day,  crying is a babies number one communication tool.

Babies don't have object permanence. If they aren't looking directly at something, they are not aware of its existence. They have no concept that you are just in the other room. If you aren't there, for all they know they are completely alone.

Babies don't understand delayed gratification. They can't tell you in advance when they need something. If they have a need, it is immediate. Delaying response to that need isn't "teaching" them anything. On a physiological level, their cues (such as crying) may wane over time as they fail to elicit an appropriate response. But there is no cognitive learning taking place.

Babies change. As an adult, it's easy to get used to a status quo. We get to wear the same clothes for years without buying new sizes. We like the same things. We have the same abilities. Not a whole lot changes. Babies are constantly changing. Growing, teething, developing motor skills, language...it never ends. Expecting a baby to act the same today as he did a month ago is only ever going to end in disappointment. There is always something new happening and that can easily throw a wrench in even the most entrenched patterns of behavior. And these changes aren't always linear. Regressions in eating and sleeping habits are common.

    So knowing these things, it's easy to see how expecting much in the way of schedules in unlikely to work out for baby. But babies don't exist in a vacuum. They have families and other family members have to get shit done sometimes. I get that. This is where finding balance comes in. However, that balance will work out for everyone the best when we keep our expectations reasonable. This is one reason why routines may be a good compromise. Getting a good routine down will ensure that  you know how to accomplish X tasks in Y amount of time. Then, you can start, stop, and pause your routine as needed when other non-flexible needs get in the way. You know baby likes to wake up, poop, then eat and you know you have to be at work at 9. Maybe that means most days you both wake up at 6. Let baby play while you get ready, change his diaper and feed him, then take him to daycare at 8:30. But what if one day he doesn't wake up at 6? Maybe this means you go ahead and get ready without him. At 7:30 he wakes up, but you are already done getting ready so you go ahead and drive to day care, giving him the ride to wake up and do his business, then feed him at daycare before heading to work. See? You can maintain the routine and still keep somethings scheduled while including enough flexibility that you don't have to wake a sleeping baby and have a cranky monster pants on your hands later that day. Now are there going to be sometimes you have to wake a sleeping baby or miss a nap? Of course. But what is important is that needs are getting met.
   What is worrisome is when we start saying that certain needs aren't as important. Just because a baby is fed and diapered doesn't mean he doesn't need something. He may have some emotional needs. And those needs may occur at inopportune moments. Babies don't know that adults like to sleep for 8 uninterrupted hours every night or that your favorite sitcom comes on at 8:30. So knowing what we know about babies' needs and what is appropriate behavior, what is a parent to do when trying to balance baby and the rest of their life?

   As I said before, this is incredibly situational. You have to find what works for you. That being said, I think one thing that everyone should keep in mind is the "golden rule"- treat your baby how you would want to be treated. I don't know about you, but I'm not one of those people who can just fall asleep anywhere. I need it to be dark and quiet, and if I'm not tired it's just not going to happen. I don't like to eat when I'm not hungry and if I am hungry I don't particularly like to put off eating. Some nights I wake up and can't sleep or feel like getting a snack. And sometimes I just have a bad day. I'm in a bad mood and I don't know why or I just feel sad. I can't imagine coming home and telling Joey that I feel sad and just need a hug or some cuddle time, only to have him ignore me.  Or to have him tell me that since I'm not hungry I'm "fine". Or to have him tell me that he doesn't have to deal with me between 8 pm and 6 am so I need to learn how to comfort myself. And this is me- a grown adult who has fully functioning cognitive abilities. I know that Joey is still there for me even when he isn't in the room. When someone tells me it's still an hour until dinner, I have a concept of how long that is and I know that food is coming eventually. I can communicate my needs directly and I can move and meet them on my own if I need to.

  I know that for a lot of people this sounds nice in theory, but may be harder to implement. However, in these situations it is important to understand that it is not the baby that is the problem. The baby is doing what it is designed to do- what babies have been doing for centuries. It is our society that has changed and made the equation unbalanced. In a culture with incredibly weak community ties, small nuclear families, and non-existent parental leave, there aren't many options. We as a society have dismissed and devalued children and child-rearing to the point that they have become expendable. So I don't think the answer to our problems is any book on training babies. We need to train our culture. We need to write books on how to train lawmakers and employers to respect and support parenting. Paid parental leave, flexible work schedules, better access to quality childcare...these things shouldn't be luxuries. These are basic necessities for a healthy functioning society.

  If you would like to read more on appropriate expectations for infants, the following links have some valuable insight.

http://evolutionaryparenting.com/educating-the-experts-lesson-five-schedules/
(This is the last and most relevant of a five part series but all of them are worth your time.)

http://evolutionaryparenting.com/my-baby-cries-too/

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/moral-landscapes/201312/ten-things-everyone-should-know-about-babies

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Hairy Situation

    One of the things Joey and have always striven (that is the correct past participle, I double checked) for that is now even more important is living intentionally. That is, we want to make sure that the choices we make have meaning and purpose behind them and we aren't just mindlessly bobbing along. We like to examine our actions and choices and their consequences as well as our intentions to make sure we're keeping the vibes good. Like I said, this is even more important now that Perrin is here because he will learn from how we live more than he will ever learn from what we tell him about living.

   One of the ways this intentional living has manifested itself lately is my recent decision to stop shaving- legs, underarms, ...everything. Let me back up for a minute. I'm not saying there is anything wrong whatsoever with shaving. That's the great thing about your body- you can do whatever you want with it. But for *ME*, I started shaving before there was really anything to shave save some peach fuzz on my calves. And more importantly I started shaving because I just thought that's what girls did. I was a girl, so I had to shave. Girls with hair are gross. If I didn't shave I wouldn't be sexy/pretty/whatever. And this is a problem for me. It's one thing to alter your body because it makes you happy. Altering your body to make other people happy is another thing all together.

   Being comfortable in your own skin and normalizing the human body is very important in our family. Perrin will be bombarded with airbrushed, photo shopped, perfectly groomed images of the human form his entire life. One way to combat this is by promoting media literacy- teaching Perrin how to ask questions and think critically about the images and values that he encounters and where those ideas are coming from and what they mean for him. Another way is make sure he is also exposed to normal bodies and normal expectations.

  So what does this have to do with me shaving my legs? At some point, Perrin is going to want to know why I shave them. Or why Daddy has hairy legs and I don't. Or some variation of those questions. Or maybe he won't ask, but he will notice. And that will become part of his inner understanding of what it means to look feminine. But really, what the hell does body hair have to do with feminity? So to prepare for these seemingly minor lessons, I will be going au naturel for a while.

   Maybe I will find I like not having to shave. Or maybe I will miss being hairless. In that case, when the day comes and Perrin asks me why I do it, I can honestly say "Because it's my body and that's how I like it. Just like some people like to cut the hair on their heads, some people cut their hair in other places." But right now that isn't the case. Right now if someone asked me why I remove body hair, I would honestly have to answer "Because I feel like I'm supposed to. Because I feel like I'm unattractive if I don't." And that is not a lesson I want to teach him. So now I am beginning an experiment to return to my natural form and see how it suits me.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Just...no.

    This has got to stop. I mean, excuse my language, but are you fucking kidding me? This morning this article came up in my newsfeed.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/06/3d-birth-simulator_n_4393960.html

I honestly don't know where to start. I am so tired of seeing the same shit over and over and over again.
    "The computer program is limited in that it doesn't include movements of the perineal muscles of the mother's pelvis, nor does it include movements of the fetus." 

So basically it tells you diddly squat about whether or not you can birth your baby (here is a hint: you can). It can't tell you what your body or your baby will do during birth. All it can do is kind of guess if two static estimates of two very dynamic entities may or may not be compatible at a very specific moment in time that  likely in no way resembles real life conditions. So, for the last time...


  • How much you are dilated/effaced at any given moment tells you NOTHING about whether or not you can birth your baby. (Same goes for the position of your cervix) You could be at 6 cm and anterior for months before birth or you could be at 1 cm and posterior hours before birth. The only time you know for sure that birth is eminent is when you are crowning. 



  • Ultrasounds tell you NOTHING about how big your baby is or when he/she will arrive. After 20 weeks, estimating size off of ultrasounds is incredibly unreliable. 



  • Knowing how big your baby is tells you NOTHING about whether or not you will be able to birth your baby. This is coming from a size 2 woman who delivered an almost 10lb. baby. Your body changes during labor. Your hips spread, your tailbone flexes, your ligaments loosen up. The baby is squishy and rotates during birth. None of these things can be determined before you are actually giving birth.

  • Your due date tells you VERY LITTLE about when your baby will get here.  All a due date will tell you is when you are 38 weeks past ovulation (40th week of the pregnancy cycle). That is assuming you know when you ovulated. If not, it's based off of your last period, which means it's even less accurate. "Normal" gestation is anywhere from 38-42 weeks, which means even if you know exactly when you ovulated you still have a 4 week window of when to expect your baby, and that's on average. It could still be more and less and you and the baby still be perfectly healthy. 

So for the love of everything holy, stop. Let's all just STOP trying to medicalize birth. Birth is not medical. It is biological. So is sex. But you wouldn't want a hundred different tests and procedures and screenings to take place every time you have sex, right? And sometimes sex is risky. But you take precautions and if and only if there is a concern to seek medical help for sex related issues. Birth SHOULD be no different. You can birth your baby. By yourself. In the middle of nowhere. If you were stranded on a desert island, you would still give birth to your baby and the odds are highly in your favor that you would both be hunky dory. I get it. I know a lot of women feel more comfortable birthing in a hospital "just in case". And that makes perfect sense. IF something goes wrong, you will want a medical intervention. What does not make sense is turning a normal, biological act into a medical nightmare for no damn reason at all. The testing, the estimating, the guessing...for what? For a cesarean section rate twice the level considered safe and normal? For the worst mortality rate in the developed world? How is that working out for us? If you want a safe birth for you and your baby, the best thing you can do (supported by medical research) is to just stop and trust your body. Your body knows what it is doing. We would not have survived as a species if that were not the case.

    All these products and gadgets exist now- breastfeeding screening kits, birth-assisting apparatuses, and now computer simulations- to feed off of the idea that we are not good enough. Just like the beauty industry, the birth industry has made trillions off of the idea that our bodies are somehow less than. That we are lacking and just can't quite live up to what is demanded of us. Listen to me now and repeat this to yourself. Write it down. Tape it to your mirror. Put it in your car. Say it to yourself before every OB appointment.

You are enough.

You can birth your baby.

You can feed your baby.

And if anyone tries to tell you otherwise, get the hell away from that person. Do not let anyone bully or scare you into believing anything else. But what if?

Well, what if? What if you couldn't pass college math and didn't get your degree? What if that interview went really horribly and you'll never get that job? We don't let  people control our lives with this kind of negativity in any other area, so why birth? Because in birth they tell us we need to "think about the baby." Let me tell you something- you are that baby's mother. You are thinking about that baby every second of everyday. You care more about that baby than any other person on this planet. You will NEVER make a decision that doesn't take that baby into consideration and for someone to assume otherwise is fucking insulting.

You fucking matter. YOU matter. Just as much as that baby who matters more to you than any other thing you've ever known in your life. And all that negativity- the fear and the self-doubt- is just as poisonous for your baby as it is for you. Get rid of it.  Let go of this pervasive idea, this culture of misogyny, that tells you that you are broken.

You are enough.


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Adventures in Breastfeeding

    I didn't have a whole lot of exposure to breastfeeding in my life, so most of my views about breastfeeding came from what I saw in the media. From what I could gather, your baby would lie in your arms and gaze up at you lovingly as they nursed and you smiled down at them and it was all beautiful and what not.

Ah, bliss...

   Fast forward to me actually breastfeeding. We struggled in the beginning with lots of pain and difficulty, so it was by no means the romanticized exchange I had pictured. But we got all of our problems sorted out and are coming up on 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding. However, while breastfeeding is now enjoyable, it is still by no means the idyllic experience I expected. 

  Perrin marches to the beat of his own drum in everything he does; breastfeeding is no exception. He likes to free style. No proper latching or formal positions. He likes to climb around in my lap, come on and off as he pleases and talk to me the entire time he's breastfeeding. Eventually he settles down and sleep-nurses, but the beginning of our sessions are always high energy to say the least. Some times I feel like I am wrestling an alligator while listening to a wounded pterodactyl. So here is a shout out to all the mommas of active breastfeeders and here is small example of what it's like nursing a ball of adorable energy (who recently mastered blowing raspberries). 

********My right breast is exposed in this video because it's a BREASTfeeding video, so if you                    can't deal, don't watch.********












Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Why I Want to Do Birth Work (And Why I Don't Hate Doctors)

   Before I get into the particulars of why I want to pursue birth related work, I want to get some things straight. I know there is a stigma for those that are involved in natural birth or alternative medicine in general that they hate doctors or Western medicine, or whatever. I chose to wear a green shirt today. This doesn't mean I hate the color red. Or people who wear red. It doesn't mean that I won't ever wear red myself...follow? Basically, one person's choices are not a judgement on other people's choices.
   Moving on from there. Do I think some doctors and nurses are idiots and totally suck at their jobs? Yup. I also know of a few midwives and doulas who suck. Some people just suck, in all professions. I also know some great nurses and doctors. The reason why I am so adamant about advocacy in this field is because there is a cultural perception that all doctors/nurses/whoever are good and competent just because they are wearing the scrubs. Medical school is hard, yes, but it is not the end-all, be-all litmus test for competency. I have heard or been told of some pretty terrible things medical professionals have told pregnant and birthing women. Things that directly contradict medical evidence and actually have proven to have negative outcomes. Let's see...
    I have heard a birthing mother told her body was progressing well so she only needed a "little              pitocin" despite the fact that pitocin is contraindicated for non-emergency births.
    I have heard of doctors making episiotomies so that women don't "tear" despite evidence that              shows episiotomies increase tearing.
   I have heard nurses suggest feeding on schedules or supplementing with artificial nipples despite            these practices being associated with low milk supply, slow weight gain, and failure to thrive.
   I have a friend who had a nurse break her water without telling her or asking during a vaginal                check.
   I have known countless people who have been induced based on baby size estimated from late                pregnancy ultrasounds, despite evidence showing ultrasounds after 24 weeks are unreliable and baby size is NOT a medical indication for induction.
   I know of only one person who birthed at a hospital with intermittent rather than continuous fetal          monitoring, despite the fact that continuous monitoring is associated with an increased risk of  surgical birth.

The list goes on and on. Now, I have also heard a lot of good things, like the doctor here in Tucson who is always on call for breech births because he is the only doctor who was appropriately trained to vaginally deliver breech babies (even twins!). Or some truly wonderful nurses who ended up being doulas as well for many of their patients. So please, don't mistake my passion as stemming from a hatred and mistrust of medical personnel. It's actually quite the opposite. I don't advocate for women because of the "bad" OBs. I advocate for women because there are too many great OBs and nurses for us to continue giving the bad ones our business. We can change the birth culture (and the god-awful maternal and infant mortality rates) of this country by demanding evidence-based care and seeking out those professionals who provide it. But how is a woman supposed to know the difference between providers?

   THIS is why I want to do this work. I want to help women make the best choice for them in their birth instead of having to just roll the dice and take what they get. I don't care what you want for your birth- unassisted birth in the woods or scheduled c-section. I just want you to make that decision based on evidence and knowledge, not fear and lack of options. Because no matter how you want to give birth or how you need to give birth, it should still be the most amazing moment of your life. Birth shouldn't be a scary, painful obstacle to having a baby. Birth itself should be an incredible experience. You are doing something wonderful- it should make you feel wonderful. Not scared, or sad, or angry. To achieve this, it is my experience that women need three things- they need to be informed, they need to be empowered, and they need to be supported.
  How is someone supposed to know if what her doctor or midwife suggests is best for her if she doesn't know her options or the risks and benefits of each choice? Medicine is just a drop of water in the 5 gallon bucket of knowledge that exists in the world. Obstetrics is an even smaller part. Then take into account where the person went to school, what books they used, which journals they follow and read...you can't expect a person to know everything. Women need the tools and knowledge so that they can be educated about their own care. So that when they hear bad advice or are offered procedures that contradict evidence-based care, they see a red flag.
   When women have this knowledge, they are empowered. They can take control of their pregnancies and births and advocate for themselves. They don't have to close their eyes and hope that their providers know what they are doing. They can make decisions, including the decision of which providers to hire. Did you hear that? You are HIRING your providers. You pay them to provide a service. If you don't like their service, don't pay them. Find someone else. So many women stay with their OBGYN for their births just because that was who did their annual pap smear. Swiping your cervix with a q-tip has nothing to do with having a baby. Interview your providers. Find one that works for you. Make a birth plan. Prepare for your birth.
   Then surround yourself with support. Find supportive providers, for sure, but make sure whoever else is invited to take part in this experience with you is 100% on board. This may mean they need to be educated about the decisions you made so that they understand. If someone is not supportive, they have no business being in your birth space. This is YOUR body, YOUR baby, and YOUR birth. I have seen women with all the information and capabilities available to them let go of their birth experience because when it came down to it, they weren't supported.

   This is what I hope to accomplish. I want to provide women with the tools they need to be informed, empowered, and supported. I want women to be able to own their birth experience. This doesn't mean that everything will always go perfectly. Sometimes, rarely, complications do occur. But if you are an active participant in your birth and you own the experience, you will be the one dealing with problems if they arise and you can still be empowered and supported in those situations. Birth should be something you accomplish, not something that happens to you.


For more information about the movement to improve childbirth, check out Improvingbirth.org

Here is an awesome album from their Facebook page of why women want to improve birth https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.509315189141974.1073741832.255657527841076&type=3

For more information about evidence-based birth, evolutionaryparenting.com and evidencebasedbirth.com are great resources!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

My Big Life Changing Decision

   I'm a quitter. A big fat quitter. I have always been a "finish what you start" type, but not any more. I resigned from the PhD program. There was a lot of very existential reasoning behind this decision as well as some more practical concerns, but at the end of the day, it just wasn't fun anymore. It wasn't fulfilling. And I can't rationalize spending time doing something that isn't making me a more complete person if I don't have to be doing it.

  So what am I going to do instead? Well, I'm going to do what I have been doing as a hobby for over 2 years now. Birth work. Over the next year I will be certified as a child-birth educator and a lactation counselor. It's something I feel very passionate about, something that I am good at, and something I can see myself doing for a very long time. While we are in Tucson, I will probably just offer childbirth and breastfeeding classes independently and through hospitals and birth centers. However, my goal is to one day have my own space to offer childbirth, breastfeeding, prenatal yoga and post-partum yoga classes.

  This will also give me time to pursue some other interests that I have been putting off for years at the expense of school. While I have enjoyed my educational experience thus far and am very grateful for the opportunities I was given, I am looking forward to living more in the present and enjoying each day rather than constantly looking to some future date for contentment. Stay tuned for a follow up post about why I want to do birth related work.
     

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

50mg of Motherhood


    It's time. Tomorrow I start taking 50mg of Sertraline (Zoloft) a day for post-partum depression and anxiety. For those of you who are unaware, I have been dealing with post-partum depression since Perrin was about 2 weeks old. It went from debilitating depression to a nice mix of depression and anxiety. My symptoms have included severe weight loss, fatigue, body aches, listlessness, anger, rage, self-destructive behaviors, and suicidal thoughts. It was the worst in the beginning. I honestly remember very little about the first 6 weeks of Perrin's life. Joey tells me it wasn't a good time. While we did see some major improvements once I started counseling (around 3 weeks) and have since seen more improvement with the addition of our marriage counseling, it also feels like we've hit a wall. 
   You see, we have been dealing with a lot on top of the high needs baby stuff. Shortly after getting pregnant, we found out that Joey's dad's cancer had returned and was terminal. We lost him a little over 2 weeks ago.For the last half of the pregnancy and the entirety of Perrin's life, Joey has been dealing with losing father on top of everything else. We had family in and out once Perrin was born and have traveled back to Memphis twice since September. With everything going on, I feel like I just can't get ahead of this PPD/PPA. As was made clearly evident during Perrin's labor and birth, when I have stuff going on, I need my quiet dark space to work through things and that just isn't possible right now. There is no time or space to be quiet and heal, so I'm going to need help that I normally wouldn't turn to.
  I don't really know what else to say about it. I'm sad, because I feel like my body failed. Because I truly feel that when left alone, our bodies are perfectly equipped to thrive. But sometimes you just can't be left alone. We live in a society whose pressures and influences are inescapable and sometimes that means unnatural problems arise which need unnatural solutions. When you have no tribe, where do you turn? I plan on continuing all of my other treatments and therapies (flower essence, herbs, supplements, diet, exercise, chiropractic care, accupressure, and intensive counseling). But I can recognize that I need something more, so I'm taking that step. I know a lot of people are under the impression that I am completely anti-Western medicine. It's not true. I believe medicine has a place, and this is one of those instances. It's just not my first course of action. 
   The good news is that I will be able to continue to breastfeed. After doing a lot of research, I have found that the consensus is that most SSRIs are compatible with breastfeeding, especially Zoloft. In studies it was found that only some babies showed traces of the medication and of those only some showed any effects. The effects of the medication were found to be less risky than weaning and introducing formula, so it is recommended that breastfeeding continue. This information is what sealed the decision for me. 
   So there you have it. I guess my one lingering fear is that this little blue pill will just be a band-aid for the real problem. There is an underlying issue, whether it be psychological, hormonal, or otherwise chemical. I don't want to lose focus on fixing that problem. This pill is a temporary aid to give me the ability to heal. How am I supposed to focus on healing myself when I don't have the energy or desire to focus on anything? That is what I hope to gain. I'll keep everyone updated. And as always, questions are welcome. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

That one thing...

 


   Often time when reading Mommy blogs or talking to other people, the question arises, "What is one thing that is a deal breaker when it comes to having mommy friends?"

   In other words, is there some practice that other parents use or something they do that makes it impossible for you to be friends with them. Now I will be honest. There are quite a few practices that I do not like and will not have in my parenting tool box. They range from issues of preference (i.e. purees just seem like a pain in the ass so we aren't going to do them, but that doesn't mean I think there is anything wrong with purees) to issues that I truly feel like there is a "right" answer to (whether or not you turn your child forward in their carseat at the legal limit of 1 year old doesn't change the fact that it's 500% safer to have them rear facing until they reach the height/weight limit). But I can honestly say that I don't have any parent friends who do everything exactly the way I do it. I think it would be impossible. I know parents who are way more natural minded in some respects but more mainstream in others. I am friends with parents all over the spectrum. Just because I do things the way I do doesn't mean I think I found the perfect way to parent or that I think the way other people parent is wrong. We are different people and our children are different people so what comes out of the mix is going to look different.

   However, I do notice that I distance myself from some parents. They may say something or do something and slowly, over time, I realize they are no longer on my list of people to go to for advice or people I would seek out to spend time with. I don't think they are bad people or bad parents, but I start to feel that "something" that everyone always talks about. It took me a while and I think I found out what "it" is. Some parents see their children as people, and some don't.

   Some parents make it apparent through their words and actions that they respect their children as individuals in their own right and afford them basic human dignity. Others make it clear they think they own their children like property. That is my deal breaker. Because if you don't see your children as people and treat them accordingly, we are operating from two completely different philosophical perspectives. Most of what I do will not make sense to you, and most of what you do will not make sense to me. It's not like I am going to cross the street to avoid anyone. It's more the acceptance that our exchanges are likely to be unproductive and pointless. So yeah, I guess I do have a line. And maybe that makes me judgmental. But unless you think all people are people, you're not *my* kind of people.

**This is not meant to be framed within the Person-hood movement. I do not agree with Personhood legislation and do not support it. Do not use it as such.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Babywearing

 


   In honor of International Babywearing Week, I figured I would take some time to talk about why I like babywearing and the different carriers I use regularly. For those not familiar with the terminology, babywearing refers to carrying your child on your body using any number of devices (so not just holding them because babies are heavy and we have stuff to get done!). There are numerous benefits to wearing your child on your body, both for mom and for baby. Our family didn't even bother with a stroller or one of those infant car seat carrier thingies. They just seemed so clunky and like they were more pain than they were worth. We opted for a convertible carseat that goes from newborn to 70lbs. and babywearing. This worked out well since Perrin turned out to be very high needs and I wear him quite a bit throughout the day.

*Also, please note the in some of these pictures Perrin is lower down on my body than he would be if properly positioned. I wear him looser when he is nursing (which is almost all of the time, lol) and then tighten him up to proper position when he is done/asleep. Babies should be tight against your body with their head right up under your chin, close enough for you to lean down and kiss.

Perrin in the hip carry in our sling

   First up is my ring sling. I use it the least, but I still really enjoy it. It's nice because I can stuff it in my purse for quick trips. Perrin also really enjoys the hip carry where he can see out and still be snuggled up. The down side to ring slings is they get uncomfortable fast since all the weight is on one shoulder. I wouldn't recommend them for older kids (or at least heavier older kids).

Perrin tummy to tummy at 6 weeks


Hug-hold in the Moby
   We also have a stretchy wrap, a Moby. I use this one the most around the house. It's comfy enough that I can sit back in the recliner with Perrin in it (no buckles digging into my back or anything) and take a nap or watch a movie while he snoozes. Moby's are great for kangaroo care and little ones who like to be snuggled up. Although, stretchy wraps don't do as well with heavier kids since most of the weight is on your shoulders and the heavier they are, the more the wrap will stretch and sag with them in it. (I have a similar wrap made of mesh that we use for the pool)

Nursing in the water wrap while taking a swim

Joey wearing 3 day old Perrin in the Boba

  My third and favorite carrier is our Boba 3G. I have always thought soft-structure carriers were a little lack-luster and not nearly as artsy as Mei Tais or woven wraps, but truth be told if I could only pick one carrier in the world to have, it would be our Boba. These types of carriers generally can be used from newborn to toddlerhood (some like the Ergo require an extra insert for the teeny tiny babies). They distribute some of the weight across your hips so they are more comfortable to wear larger kids in for longer periods. They are fairly versatile, many can be worn with the baby on your back. For a full review of some of the most common soft-structure carriers, see this great chart.
Perrin helping me vacuum

Using the front carry for the Improving Birth Rally!

   There are plenty other types of carriers you can look into. Mei Tais are beautiful and a good option in between a wrap and soft-structure carrier. Woven wraps are also wonderful, but I confess I'm slightly intimidated some of the more advanced wrapping techniques. Honestly, the possibilities are endless. The only ones I would stay away from are the narrow based, forward facing varieties such as the Baby Bjorn. They just aren't made ergonomically and can be uncomfortable and/or cause problems if the baby is in them for long periods of time. Plus there is nothing they offer that you can't get with another type of carrier. So that's it! Get out there and wear those babies!

Trying out a Mei Tai we picked up for a friend. This one is an Infantino.

 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Watch Your Language



   And I don't mean 4-letter words. While there are some swear words I'd rather Perrin not use because of the connotation (i.e. the sexual implication of f*ck), cursing is waaayyyy down on my list of concerns for my son. So what kind of language am I talking about? Well...

   Gendered language. I have already lost count of how many times some one has told me about what to expect from Perrin or how Perrin will act or what kind of child he will be solely based on the fact that he has a penis. Stop it. Just...stop. There are no...I repeat...NO differences between boys and girls, other than anatomy, that are biological. Everything else is learned behavior. The only reason he will ever be black-boxed into any of those behaviors is through having it drilled into him by all of you people. So cut it out.

   Sexualized language. Perrin is not "flirting" with the little girl at the grocery store. He is being social. The girl in baby group is his friend (I guess, he could hate her guts for all I know) not his "girlfriend". He is not a "stud" or "hot" or anything else. He is 3 months old. Not only are you applying an adult sexuality to my INFANT, you are assuming heterosexuality. Stop it.

   Valuated language. Don't ask me if my baby is a "good" baby. Don't tell me he is spoiled. Don't tell him he did a good job or congratulate him for being quiet in any given situation. He is a baby. He could scream his head off for an hour straight in the middle of your great-grandmother's eulogy. He is still a "good" baby and he is behaving normally. His self-value is not dependent on your opinions of what infant behavior should be. My parenting skills are not judged based on your evaluation of his behavior.

   Shaming language. Don't be a bully. Period. Don't tell my kid he should be ashamed or embarrassed or feel silly or any other drivel that people come up with because you have an opinion on the clothes he wears, toys he plays with, things he likes, whatever.

   I know, I know. His brain is tiny. He doesn't have a clue what we are all saying, so I just need to come off it, right? That would be great, but I have a few problems with that type of thinking. Habits are hard to break. If you are saying these things around him now, it's going to be harder to stop saying them later. Practice makes perfect, so get to it and stop saying dumb shit in front of my kid. Also, it's not like he is going to wake up one morning and be all "Oh, I understand what you people are saying now! Right on!" The shift will be gradual and there it will not be apparent when he starts absorbing these types of social cues. And children are ALWAYS absorbing these cues. I remember, verbatim, some of the comments that adults made to me when I was very little. They probably forgot seconds later but some of those things stayed with me. So, I would like to rein in the bad ones and give him some more well-rounded material to work with. Okay?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth...

    The two questions I get asked most often about Perrin are "Is he a good baby?" and "How long does he sleep at night?" or some variation of those two.
    The first one is stupid. All babies are good babies. What people really mean is the second- does the baby sleep? Is he/she relatively quiet? And people ask this question like there is a right answer. Some people really think there is. Your baby should sleep the entire night by some arbitrary age. My baby never cried because I did this one thing, and if you do it too, all your problems will be solved. Blah, blah, bullshit.
     I'm not saying that there aren't some people who have amazingly easy, quiet babies. All I'm saying is that those are exceptions, not the rule. In fact, I think many parent's lie or exaggerate how easy their child is because generally the people who ask the above questions ask them like there is a right answer. And if you don't say what they are expecting, it's a reflection on you as a parent. Whether or not that is what the asker intends, I don't know. But I know as a parent that is how it feels and even I sometimes feel the pressure to stretch the truth or at least qualify it for others. So for all of you out there who's two-week old hasn't figured out how to tuck him/herself in for the night yet, here is my reality- the truthful answers to all those fun questions.

Is he a good baby?
    He only fuses when he needs something. This is always my answer. All babies are good babies. They have biologically imperative needs which they are completely dependent on you to meet and they are working with limited communication skills, how cooperative would you be? If a baby is not acting contentedly it is because he/she is not content. There are many types of needs and they are all important for proper growth and development.
    Perrin is actually a half-way easy baby. He is very high needs, but over all he is good natured and generally happy. He rarely cries because we have learned to communicate well and can usually figure what he needs when he is just starting to get fussy. We haven't had to deal with anything like colic or reflux, so it could honestly be a lot worse. Perrin needs to be held. That is what makes him feel secure and allows him to sleep best. I honestly forget that a lot of kids get "put down" for naps. Perrin doesn't. He either sleeps being held in a chair or being worn for all of his naps. His moses basket is basically a changing table (which we don't have, so score!). Perrin also doesn't entertain himself for long periods of time. This is probably because he is only 3 months old and not that entertaining. We play with him in the floor or on our laps. About the longest he will be content by himself is while I get a shower and he is in his bouncy seat in the morning (sometimes about 20-30 minutes at best).
 
Is he sleeping through the night?
    Hahahaha. No. There are plenty of biological reasons why babies aren't designed to sleep through the night and shouldn't. For the first 8 weeks, Perrin would go a maximum of 2 hours (sometimes only 45 minutes) at a time sleeping at night. However, his sleep cycle (I use this to describe the time in which he exhibits a night time sleep pattern versus his day time pattern, which became differentiated around week 2) has always lasted 10-12 hours.
   I honestly couldn't tell you how often he wakes at night now, because at around 8 weeks he finally got to where he would nurse well in a side-lying position. We cosleep, so now if we wakes up at night all I have to do is latch him on and fall back asleep. I rarely remember exactly how many times he woke up. Sometimes he actually latches and nurses, sometimes he just needs help changing positions. I don't really pay attention because the most he ever requires me to do is roll over. My bladder gives me more sleep trouble than he does.

How often/how much does he eat?
    I have no idea. He is breastfed, so there is no measuring involved. You cannot overfeed a breastfed baby. If he seems discontent and I'm not sure the cause, I usually offer the breast as a first recourse. He eats whenever he wants for however long he wants. He often nurses all the way through nap times. When he was younger, he would cluster feed a lot, sometimes for 6 hours at a time. He nurses whenever he wants at night, because like I said we cosleep and side-lie nurse so I barely even wake up. He is gaining weight and healthy and happy. If it's not broke, don't fix it.

How many naps does he take?
   No clue. Usually he takes several and they only last for 30-45 minutes. Sometimes he'll sleep for two hours, sometimes only for fifteen minutes. Some days it seems like he's up all day, some days he sleeps constantly. He sleeps when he is tired. We don't plan around his schedule because he doesn't have one. Sometimes he naps while we are running errands, sometimes he is awake and feeding the whole time.

So there you have it. I can't answer most of the questions because honestly, I don't pay attention. He doesn't sleep through the night, he never sleeps by himself. He needs one on one attention about 23 hours of the day and eats and sleeps whenever he feels like it.

It makes me sad when I hear people tell new moms that there baby should be on some kind of schedule or meeting some kind of deadline or doing this or doing that. Especially because the reason is often for convenience rather than necessity. The whole "don't make a rod for your own back" argument. This at best leads to a lot of stress and at worst can interfere with breastfeeding and cause low supply, poor weight gain, an overly fussy baby, and a very tired parent.

Two things about that argument, while we are on the subject: 1) That is not anthropogically accurate. Babies have needs that should be met and their little bodies and brains do not conform well to our adult schedules. They are designed to be needy and to have immediate and appropriate responses to those needs.
2) Our way is easier. I don't stress about watching clocks or recording feedings or this or that. We can just go with the flow. And those same people who tell me that Perrin will be 16 and still nursing and sleeping in my bed are generally the same people trying to convince their toddler to give up a pacifier or running out to buy a lovey because the other one got lost or dirty and the little one just can't get along with out. Or who's kids fall apart if the daily schedule has to be changed. All kids need things in their lives to make them feel secure. Sometimes it is a relationship, sometimes it is an object, sometimes it's a combination of both. But don't tell me that an attached and biologically appropriate relationship with a child is any more of a crutch than dependence on a schedule or inanimate object.

So for parent's who feel uncertain because their child isn't doing everything the way they "should" be...it's normal. You are normal. If there is one thing that talking with tons of moms has taught me, it's that everything is normal. If baby is happy and healthy and you are at least partially sane, you are doing it right. Don't sweat it. And don't listen to those naysayers who are telling you that you will ruin your child by meeting his or her needs. You can't spoil a baby.They will be grown and independent soon enough. Giving them the time and attention now will give them a firm foundation to stand on.
 

Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Boobs

   This morning, Joey shared a dream with me that he had last night. He maintains it was just a weird, random dream, but I felt the need to read a little more into it. That, and it reminded me of some things I wanted to write up for a post. So here's the dream...

   Joey, his family, and I are driving in a car in Memphis when all of a sudden they say we need to go by Hooters to pick up Joey. Joey is of course confused because he's right there. So they clarify- no, baby Joey. So we go to Hooters and pick up this baby named Joey who is apparently hungry. I keep offering to feed him, but everyone keeps saying to just give him a bottle.

  So there. That's it. You might agree with Joey that it is just some random conglomeration of firing neurons. I, being me, read a little more into it. I saw an amazingly symbolic representation of Joey's infantalized self being rescued from rampant hypersexualization of breasts. Then, in an attempt to reestablish breasts with their natural purpose, he is constrained by the cultural beliefs in regards to socially acceptable infant feeding.

  Regardless of how you see it, it brings up something that I often think about and discuss with Joey- how his view of breasts has changed since having Perrin. Honestly, I think I had more of a transition in seeing my breast sexually to seeing them in a more utilitarian way. Joey maintained from the beginning that it was my body and I could use my breasts (or not use them) however I wanted. That being said, I still expected there to be a bit of a transition for him.

   I asked him once if he felt like he lost part of his youthful sexuality after Perrin. He said it didn't feel like that at all, though he admits that he doesn't really see breasts as sexual anymore. And he has seen lots of breasts. We are usually surrounded by nursing moms, so even without oggling, you see your fair share.

   What's even more interesting is that when he does catch a glimpse, he is actually being fairly productive. He studies latch technique! Because I was struggling with feeding so much in the beginning, Joey basically became a lactation consultant. He read everything he could get his hands on and talked to everyone he could find. He knows all the lingo and can trouble shoot a latch or weight gain problem with the best of them. It's pretty impressive.

  And even when it was hard for him to watch me cry and writhe in pain with every feeding, he was nothing but supportive. He never suggested I just give him a bottle. The one time I was "going to the store to buy formula" he very gently asked if that was what I really wanted to do. Of course it wasn't. He has also never claimed that not feeding Perrin interrupted their bonding. He actually isn't a big fan of giving him a bottle; it's kind of a pain. Instead he takes Perrin for walks, bathes with him, and changes his diapers. They play in the floor and we all snuggle together in bed. He gets plenty of bonding time.

 I always read stories of other women who had less than supportive partners because apparently breastfeeding was sexually threatening and traumatizing for men. Apparently it prevented them from loving their babies. Maybe it is more of an individual phenomena, but that is definitely not the case for us, which would suggest that it doesn't have to be the case for anyone. Appreciating breasts for their ability to feed babies does not have to be some huge thought-altering life transition. So maybe that is why the dream lacked meaning for Joey. Maybe the huge event that I saw it representing wasn't an "event" for Joey at all.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

If you're a teenage girl in about 13 years...

  In case  you missed it, this post has been floating around the interwebs: http://givenbreath.com/2013/09/03/fyi-if-youre-a-teenage-girl/
 I think it sucks. So here is my version.

    I have some information that is probably of no interest to you, because you are busy living your own life. But just in case you are unusually bored today and have nothing better to do, I will continue.  My son is only 12 weeks old and not really that in to social media at this point in time, but let’s pretend he is almost grown and really into Facebook, or whatever you youngsters are into nowadays.

   It has come to my attention that some families sit around the dinner table passing around their I Phone (version 20s, I suppose). This seems fairly odd to me, but I suppose this may be a normal occurrence once I have an adolescent boy. Whatever. But let’s say we were doing this and for whatever reason decided to internet stalk young girls…

  We noticed you weren’t wearing a bra. Don’t you love that feeling of freedom? My favorite thing to do at the end of the day is to take off my bra.  Or sometimes not because I was never wearing one to begin with. It just depends. My son may or may not have noticed. He probably wouldn’t feel the need to comment on it anyway because, crazy story, he has nipples too! And he knows what breasts are. He spent the first few years of his life attached to mine. He knows what they are for and that they do amazing things to feed young people. He knows they are part of the body and the body is beautiful in its myriad of shapes and forms. He also knows that people, him included, can wear whatever the hell they want and it says nothing about them other than that is what they felt like wearing that day.

  We also noticed that you were posing a certain way. Far be it from me to assume your intentions, and it really is none of my business. But if for some reason you were trying to be sexy, I want you to know that it is okay and perfectly normal. You are entering a time in your life when you are exploring your new-found sexuality. I hope you have had mentors in your life that have taught you how to do this in a healthy and age appropriate way and I hope you enjoy this new aspect of your life. I hope this for my son, too.

  So, please understand that we don’t intend to make a habit of stalking you on Facebook, because let’s face it- that’s kind of creepy. Unless of course you decide to friend  me or something, which would make me feel hip and kind of cool again. And know that whatever interaction you have with my son in private will remain private unless he decides to share them with me. Because he is his own person and I trust him and  the fact that he has a Facebook demonstrates that I think he is mature enough to handle it.

  You posts reflect the part of you that you want to share with people and all of those facets of yourself wonderful. They do not retract at all from any other aspect of yourself- intelligence, beauty, and kindness.

  But here is the bummer- some people may judge you. They may tell you that you don’t have the right to be yourself. That there is something shameful about your body or that you are somehow responsible for how their children react you. They may even have the audacity to post a picture of their half-naked son in the same post as they are telling you to put some clothes on.  I just want you to know that it’s bullshit. They are hypocritical, judgmental, and misogynist. You are only responsible for you.

  So wear whatever you want and do whatever you want. My son will decide if he would like to be friends with you based on your character, not your profile picture. And if he does treat you like an object, please let me know because I raised him better.

  This may sound odd, but you see- in our family we respect each other as unique individuals who have control over their own bodies. If my son decides to linger over your picture, that is his choice and if I for some reason have a problem with that, I will hold him accountable, not you.

  I spend time thinking about who my boy will love, and I don’t assume that person will have a vagina. I only hope that the person will love him and encourage him in life, and that my son will love this person for their heart and not how they choose to dress themselves. In the meantime, I hope he also gets the chance to explore his own sexuality and grow as a person and not feel wrong or dirty or dishonorable for acknowledging his real emotions.

   If you decide to dress differently or act differently- don’t be afraid to try new things. Just make sure you are doing it for yourself and not to fit into any predetermined labels seeking to ascertain your worth. You can’t control other people’s imaginations.

  There are plenty of people out there who love you for exactly who you are.

   Just be yourself.

Love,
Roxanne

  

The Breastest Post

   *I had big plans for this post. It was supposed to be chock full of links and outside information. I was working on those links for two days...then the site crashed and I lost it all. I just don't have the energy to do it again. So if you have any questions or want more info, either message me or, you know, Google. Typing with one hand is a bitch.

Ugh use a cover, whore!

  I have limited time when I have two hands free, so I'm going to have to condense three different posts into one. Luckily, all three are about boobs. Or breasts. Tits. Jugs. Cans. Hooters. Knockers. Fun Bags. Chesticles.  Whatever you like to call them.

Breastfeeding

  Let's begin with a recap since some of you probably remember my last mammary-related post. Breastfeeding has gotten so much easier. The clouds have parted and the sun is shining just like everyone said it would. But it wasn't easy. I now completely understand why so many women either don't attempt to breastfeed or don't do so for very long. The odds just aren't in their favor. I did everything *right* before hand. I avoided all the booby traps. Lots of research before hand. Unmedicated labor. Immediate skin to skin. No artificial nipples. No circumcision. Feeding on demand. You name it, I did it. And I still had SO MUCH TROUBLE. We had a bad latch. Perrin is an uncoordinated nurser. My nipples blistered and bled. I was missing a chunk out of one of  them. I had to pump on the bad side and nurse on the good side so the chunk could heal. But the "good side" didn't produce enough to pull double duty, so I had to use an SNS with the pumped milk from the other side. At night I would wake up, heat up the pump milked and set up the SNS, nurse Perrin (which took about an hour at the time because he was the World's Slowest Nurser) then pump the other side, then go to bed and do it all over again in an hour. But then the "good side" was damaged from all the extra abuse, so I switched. Both times I had to pump, I got mastitis. Three days of fever, chills, cold sweats, and pain. He wouldn't cup feed, or finger feed. I wouldn't risk a bottle and nipple confusion. We saw two lactation consultants, a pediatrician, and our midwife. Cranio-sacral and chiropractic treatments.
   Finally, it started to "click" for us. His latch hurt a little less. But I could only get him to latch with me sitting up leaning over him. My back was so sore. Joey and I had to both get up for every feed (which was about every hour and half at night) and arrange the pillows just right. He would comfort nurse a lot, sometimes all day. I would be stuck on the couch for hours on end. It seemed like each  hour lasted a day and half. But you know what? He comfort nurses less now. His feeding sessions have spaced out. He sometimes goes 5 hours at a time at night. We are finally in our groove. I can fix almost any of his problems with nothing but my own body. He can nurse lying down now, which means I barely wake up for night feedings. And because I had to nurse exclusively on one side so many times and he was at the breast so often, I have an amazing supply. Oversupply comes with some of it's own unique issues, but it is not that bad. I pump every morning now. I have a nice stash in our freezer for Perrin and I've also been able to start donating. Which brings me to my next topic...

Milksharing

   There is a hierarchy of feeding for babies. The first and most beneficial method of feeding is to be breastfed by the mother, straight from the tap. The contact of the infant with the mother's nipple provides a unique give and take relationship that creates a customized source of nutrition. The second best method is for the baby to get the mother's expressed milk, i.e. from pumping. Third is for the baby to receive the breastmilk of another woman. And last- formula. There are lots of ways to donate milk, including formal milk banks. I'm glad we have these. They are important for many reasons, including the use by hospitals for babies that don't have access to breast milk otherwise. But I have noticed that many moms don't know about milk banks. Or don't have one near by. Or can't afford to get milk from them. It is for this reason that I chose to donate through informal milk sharing. Basically, I have extra milk and some mom might not have enough, so why wouldn't it make sense for me to give her some of mine? This (in addition to wet nursing) is how babies have been kept alive for millenia even when their mother's couldn't produce enough milk.
  I chose to do this because it's easy to say "breast is best" (thought this statement is problematic for other reasons), but in reality it can be incredibly hard. A woman shouldn't have to result to formula. Let me be clear, I'm not saying there is anything wrong if a woman chooses to give formula to her baby. But that should be an actual choice- not a lack of options. So I want to make breastmilk available for free to women who would like to have it. I don't care why the woman doesn't have breastmilk of her own. Maybe she had breast surgery. Maybe she has insufficient tissue. Maybe she was the victim of booby traps that decimated her supply. Maybe her work doesn't let her pump regularly. Or maybe she just doesn't want to. I don't really care. It's about nutrition for the baby, not the mother's personal choices.

NIP (Nursing in Public)

   The final topic I want to address is nursing in public. This topic seems to get a lot of press. There is always some news story about some celebrity who was spotted breastfeeding, or some store that told a nursing mother to stop, and then everyone wants to give their two cents about why they do or do not approve. Those who don't approve have a litany of reasons why women shouldn't nurse anywhere where others can see them. To those people, all I have to say is...
   I could explain to you that babies need to eat, and sometimes this occurs while their mothers are out doing things.
   I could explain about the importance of breastfeeding on demand.
   I could tell you how difficult it is to pump and lug around milk and bottles and icepacks and what not.
   I could give you information on the importance of normalizing breastfeeding and combating the hypersexualization of the female body.
   I could explain that breastfeeding is not at all like urinating or having sex.
   I could tell you that modesty is incredibly subjective.
   I could point out that you don't have a problem with the countless advertisements and women in revealing outfits who are showing just as much skin as a nursing mother.
   I could point out that I see people doing stuff I don't particularly like all the time in public, but I don't get to tell them to leave whatever place they are in.
  I could also explain that you are capable of turning your head in any direction and no one is forcing you to stare at a breastfeeding mother.

  But I'm not going to waste my breath. Because at the end of the day, I don't really care what you think. I would prefer you not harass mothers feeding their babies because that can be damaging to their overall breastfeeding relationship, but the fact of the matter is your opinion is meaningless. A woman's right to breastfeed in public is protected by law in almost every single state. Your objections are irrelevant.

So there you have it. All of my thoughts on breasts.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Low Bar of Fatherhood Part II

    I've been trying to write the follow-up to my first post. We had family in town, then Joey started doing more work stuff on campus, and Perrin has been weird lately...suffice to say, this will be short. The point I want to drive home is that both tropes- Super Dad and Blithering Idiot, are one and the same. They undermine both the value of men and women by creating a culture in which neither has any depth or breadth in personality or personal choice. As a final testament to how damaging these ideas are, I'll leave you with the following video:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/30/fox-female-breadwinners_n_3358926.html


   You see- aside from the fact that they are complete and utter asshats in general- what these, erm, gentlemen are failing to grasp is that even if their apocalytic rendition of the current state of affairs were accurate, they are missing the root of the issue completely. There is plenty of evidence that having a working mother has no independent effect on the well being of children or families. Because you see- the issue isn't who works or who stays home or who is caregiver or who is breadwinner. The important thing for healthy families is that there is some kind of caregiver. And of course, out of necessity (at least for the majority of us) someone must be making ends meet as well.

   The "issue" that the men above have stumbled upon is not that women are allowed in the workplace, it's that men are not allowed (or at least acknowledged) in the home. Families are a unit- a team. There are X amount of things that need to get done, and if the family is functioning well, everyone steps up and fills in where needed. The dysfunction comes when a gap occurs and the  available members of the family are precluded from filling it because of arbitrary and baseless cultural ideas about gender.

For a more sunny side of things, here is an excellent list for new dads that doesn't treat them like Neanderthals.

http://www.babble.com/dad/babys-first-week-at-home-invaluable-tips-for-brand-new-dads/

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Low Bar of Fatherhood

   This post will probably be all over the place and slightly incoherent simply because there are so many related topics all wound up together that I'm not sure how to cover everything in an orderly fashion.
   Let's begin with the basics. Patriarchy sucks. And one of the most poignant examples of the insidious nature of patriarchy is the often heard statement "I'm not a feminist because I like men/don't hate men/don't think women are better than men, etc." This perpetrates a straw-person version of feminism that undermines and delegitimizes the actual idea. Are there some self-proclaimed feminists that think men are scum? Yeah, of course. There are also non-feminists who think men are scum. That's like saying because there are some self-identified Christians that are also racist bigots, all Christians are racist bigots or being a racist bigot is an integral part of Christianity. At the end of the day, feminism is about equality for both genders- women AND men. Feminism is as important for masculinity as it is for femininity. So, with that being established, being a parent has definitely made certain aspects of our patriarchal system more apparent. There is the obvious restriction of women's birth and reproductive rights as well as the restrictive and hypergendered views of motherhood. But what is also interesting is the way in which fathers get screwed.
   There are two basic depictions of fatherhood in our culture. We'll call them "Superdad" and "The Blithering Idiot". Superdad is the man who, despite having a penis, still makes a decent parent. And apparently this is noteworthy. This is the idea behind "mom porn" which is generally depictions of attractive male celebrities taking part in childrearing activities like babywearing. Or why our Mom Parent and Baby group leader nearly fell over herself trying to tell Joey how glad she was to have him (the only male) there. Seriously, the group description says "open to fathers" but they call it Mom and Baby? This depiction of father's idolizes men for being parents. Now, I'm not hating on fathers. Being a parent is incredibly hard and deserves recognition- much more than it currently gets. But that is the problem- this isn't about parenting, it's about fathering. A woman doing any of these things goes completely under the radar, because of course a woman takes care of her child (even though there are plenty who don't). But a father taking care of his child apparently deserves a medal. Once again, I'm not hating on dads. They deserve all the praise they get. The point is, so do mothers. There is something odd when a dad taking care of his kid is referred to as "babysitting". Or when single fathers are idolized as martyrs while single mothers are labeled as irresponsible welfare queens. As well intentioned as the "Superdad" idea may seem, when we really get down to it, it's incredibly insulting. Imagine if at your work place, every time you attended a mandatory staff meeting, your boss singled you out and congratulated you on making it to the meeting and how proud he was that you made it there and were present. You'd feel like an idiot, am I right? Like somehow it was extraordinary that you were able to find your way out of your own cubicle. That's kind of what we are saying when we act like dads walk on water for doing what mom's do every. single. day. without mention.
   Which brings us to the blithering idiot. This is more obvious. This is the punch line of countless sitcoms. The mom goes on vacation, or to a friends house, and everything falls apart without her there and the whole is episode is a mad scramble to fix everything before she returns. Or this Huggies commercial that claims dads are the ultimate test of ineptitude. Or this car commercial that claims the first role fathers play in pregnancy, birth, and infanthood is buckling the kid in the friggin' careseat. Not only are dads completely incapable of caring for their children, but it's not seen as bad. It's hilarious, because what did you think would happen? Obviously only people with vaginas are capable of raising kids!
   Then of course, there is the melding of these two. We'll call it the Super-idiot. Think Three Men and a Baby, Mrs. Doubtfire, Big Daddy. The male character starts out as any penis-baring individual would- completely clueless when it comes to children and domestic work. But over the course of the overused plot line, he endures some kind of transformation where it turns out he actual is a good dad...better than good...he's a great dad! Because A) he still has a penis, and B) the child(ren) are still breathing. Those are apparently the only qualifications. Now, we can go deeper with these plotlines and make some connections to the journey that every parent faces as they set aside their selfish, youthful ways for the good of the child and their family and come through a process of growth and self-reflection. But once again, these are rarely stories of parenthood. It is almost always fathers who are depicted. Because women as capable mothers is apparently a given.
  So all in all, we are left with some troubling repercussions for all parents and for families in general. These ideas lead to:

  • De facto custody for mothers over fathers
  • Pretty much non-existent paternity leave in the wake of already crappy maternity policies
  • Social and professional stigma for those who do take paternity leave
  • A complete disregard for non-traditional families, such as same sex couples. 
  • A lack of support for struggling mothers (because they are supposed to just pick it up "naturally")
  • A lack of support for struggling fathers (because everyone assumes they aren't really involved)
  • Societal acceptance of poor fathering
  • Societal apathy towards good mothering
  • Child-related services aimed at mothers (Mom & Baby classes, Mother's Day Out, etc.) at the risk of excluding involved and present parents who happen to have a penis.
    And it sucks, because this creates an environment that perpetuates these ideas whether the individuals want to or not. Like dads who would LOVE to stay home with the newborn, but can't because their workplace doesn't offer leave. And in turn, these ideas are being passed down to the next generation, because the children are observing the fact that dad goes to work and mom takes them to the park. Luckily, some aspects of this are getting better. But as long as the "Superdad" and "Blithering Idiot" figures are go-to characters in our culture and media, it's going to be really hard to represent the "Father" figure.

 


Friday, July 12, 2013

At least we don't have yellow wallpaper...

 

 If you're missing the Charlotte Perkins Gilman reference, we can't be friends anymore. Go read some decent American-feminist literature and get back to me.

   I have a wicked case of post-partum depression. It's getting better (obviously I'm coherent enough to write this). I basically have done nothing except nurse the baby and sit. I had absolutely no appetite to eat anything, so I lost a ridiculous amount of weight and had no energy (in addition to being sleep deprived in general). I cried throughout the day. If Perrin started crying, I shut down completely. I couldn't do anything except stare at him. Joey would take him and calm him down. Joey changed his diapers, and held him, and basically did everything aside from nurse. He brought me whatever food I did eat, and my vitamins. He called psych counselors and lactation consultants and basically anyone who could help. I just couldn't get myself to do anything. I hated everything- especially the baby. The baby was nothing to me except pain. I knew, in my head, that it he wasn't being mean on purpose and that he is just a baby...but there were times when I could swear he was trying to inflict as much pain on me as humanly possible. It's a strange feeling to be so sad and so angry and then to feel guilty for feeling those emotions.
  I really don't know what else to say except that things got bad. I never wanted to hurt the baby, but Perrin and I coexisting didn't seem to be working out. One of us had to go, and I was the adult (sort of), so it seemed like it had to be me. I needed to go away- back to Memphis, somewhere else, I don't know...something had to give. Finally I wasn't able to handle it anymore. Joey stepped in and insisted I get help. He called our midwife and found some local PPD resources.
  I started seeing a counselor and she (as well as our midwife) agreed that fixing the breastfeeding relationship ASAP was key. The pain was driving a lot of my resentment towards Perrin. They brought up the possibility of me pumping and bottle feeding to eliminate the stress of nursing, but I refused for two reasons. First, I wasn't quite desperate enough to risk our future nursing relationship just yet. Second, and most importantly, nursing was all I had. That was my only interaction with Perrin. I did it because I absolutely had to. If we introduced bottles and Joey could feed him...I knew I wouldn't look at Perrin again. So I hung on to our nursing relationship and Joey called every lactation specialist in the state he could find until we started making progress. Now nursing is almost pain free.The counselor also stated she thought I was scared to interact with Perrin and that was one of the reasons I would just shut down. She suggested attending some Mom and Baby classes to get some tips and help on interacting with my baby. Joey and I now attend a Parent and Baby class on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
   Our midwife assigned me some homework as well. The first was eating and sleeping more, for obvious reasons. She also stressed my need for socialization. We don't really have many close friends in Tucson, and definitely not lots of kid experience. We don't have a tribe. So my midwife put in contact with some like-minded parents near by. We have had two social get-togethers this week.
  So things are slowly getting better. It is still ridiculously hard. I'm living off of gluten-free Oreos and Lucky Charms. Our house is a wreck and completely filthy. Every ounce of our energy is going towards just surviving until tomorrow..but it's getting better.

  So to those people who are offended by my experience- the people who tell me I should think of all the childless couples in the world and appreciate my baby more and get over the "difficulties of motherhood" (their condescending quotation marks, not mine)- Screw you. I'm in enough of a mental hell with plenty of guilt all by myself, I don't need your baggage. If I could snap my fingers make it all pretty, I would do it in a heartbeat. But guess what, I can't. It hurts and it's hard and I don't know what to do except work my way through it. So I can either pretend this isn't happening, or I can be honest and maybe help someone else out there know they aren't the only one. I saw another mom at one of our groups- she looked exactly how I felt. But we were both there and both dealing, and we will both be okay. So if I ever hear a person tell another PPD woman to just get over it and be happy with her baby, I'm going to punch them in face, ahimsa be damned.