Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Another Year Passes Us By

I cannot believe I have not blogged in 2011 and it is more than half over...alas the life of a working (outside of the home) mother of two little ones! On top of that our baby boy is turning 1 tomorrow! It was about this time last year, when after dealing with contractions during the night and nothing during the day, I was beginning to wonder if he would ever show his face (although, I didn't know he was a he at the time!).

I'm not going to lie, when I found out I was pregnant for the second time there was some serious heart pounding, what the heck are we going to do fear (and disbelief) pulsing through me. While I knew we wanted another child (and planned on it down the line), I felt that it was too soon, our daughter was just barely 1 and the husband would be wrapping up the 2 year program he started when we had our daughter (which transitioned us to a one income family), right about the time this one was due. But, much like I have read time and time again, parenting is a journey that teaches you nothing if it doesn't teach you to give up on trying to control things. The husband who usually is the worrier stepped in in usual fashion when I lose it to say that "this is a good thing!" and "everything will be fine." While I certainly believed him and was happy with all the possibilities another child would bring our family, when you're the one carrying the bundle of joy it is impossible to escape the overwhelming weight (no pun intended) of the time bomb of responsibilities slowly ticking away.

Then there was the guilt. I did not know how but I knew this new addition to our family would change my relationship with my daughter. I already felt cheated that I didn't get to spend the amount of time I wished I could with her and now that time would be even less as I try to manage the task of trying to shower TWO babies with love, attention and affection in the 2 hours/day I get after work before bedtime. I mean I was still nursing her for Christ sake...I thought that was supposed to be some kind of safety net (don't count on it!). There were more than a few nights that I left her room in tears as her days of an only child dwindled and I felt increasingly more guilty of the change I was about to impose on her. Then on the other hand, I couldn't imagine my life without my brothers...I am certain that they are a big part of who I am today and I would not be the same person without could I deprive her of the joys, traumas, torture, unconditional love, trouble, partnership and connectedness that I have experienced with my brothers. But fear is illogical in most instances.

Fast forward about 7 months because, yes I was that oblivious (in denial) to the fact I was pregnant and didn't even bother to take a pregnancy test until I was nearly 10 weeks, to right about this time last year. I had been laboring off and on for days and had no idea that my plans for a peaceful home birth were going to get blown out of the water as I detailed here: http:// . But when I heard that cry (and the doctor say "you have a boy!") and saw that face, I knew our family was complete. As we've adjusted to being a family of four we have gotten to watch our daughter seamlessly transition from only child to big sister with such grace, love and joy that it fills my heart everyday. It only proves that our baby boy knew the right time to show up and that while I may not have felt "ready" (whatever that really means), much like with our daughter's pregnancy, he forced us to readjust, refocus on our goals and priorities as a family and I believe we are all the better for it.

So, the last year has been a challenging, joyful, tiring, fun, stressful, happy, overwhelming journey for us that has been filled with more love then we could have ever imagined and we have one small(ish) baby boy to thank for it all. Our lives will never be the same and for that, I am grateful.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Facing Fears

Becoming a mother was one of the most enlightening, challenging and fear enducing events of my life. It has completely changed my world, in some ways further cementing and lending proof to strong-held beliefs. In other ways blowing open other notions I thought I would never budge on. In the last 2 years, 5 months, I have learned a lot about myself and have come face to face with myself in both positive and negative ways.

One issue that I constantly struggle with is that of fear. It seems parenthood is rife with fear. Fear of failure, fear of irreparable emotional damage, fear of bumps and bruises, fear of toxins, fear of the worst. A lot of these fears are rational and justifiable some have more to do with our own personal baggage. One rather irrational fear that I am willing to admit to here is that nagging fear of not being my kids’ ‘favorite.’ I know how that sounds, I really do…how immature, right?

Well the truth is I am a working mamma who is the sole bread-winner for our family as the husband is a stay-at-home dad by day and full-time student by night. This is a decision we both made and even when we made it realized (at least in theory) that it would be difficult at times. Of course I enjoy seeing the bond that my daughter is forming with her father and I am overjoyed to be married to someone who is as committed to this parenting gig as I am. But, these facts do not change the feelings.

For those that have read some of my past posts, you know that my daughter was a rather difficult newborn who was very needy, wanting to nurse all.the.time. and would forgo sleep for nursing non-stop. You also know that I had some serious issues in the beginning with breastfeeding which were both physically and emotionally stressful for us both. While I had the support of the husband during these hard times, the fact of the matter was that at that point I was on maternity leave and he was still working so the burden mainly fell on me. Even through physical and emotional distress I tried to keep perspective and fell hopelessly in love with her in spite of all the crying, cracked nipples, mastitis, breast abscess and complete exhaustion. We were each other’s world, plain and simple. Even after I returned to work (one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do), she still preferred me in times of distress and of course in times of hunger, greeting me at the door with, in the beginning, outstretched arms and a smile, and later, squeals of delight and running into my arms. There was no denying my place in her world and needless to say, I was pretty invested in that place.

As she got older, more people became fixtures in her life, mainly through the wonderful world of Skype™ where she gets to see her grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins in real time. Then there were friends who are basically part of our family. As her world grew so did her connections with other people and in my mind, taking up space that was previously occupied by yours truly. I naturally wanted her to form bonds with other kids and hopefully form lasting friendships, but wasn’t really expecting or prepared for her to form bonds with other adults in her life. Seeing as we are pretty much on our own here with family hundreds of miles away, I expected her father and I would be the only real adult figures in her life, at least on any consistent basis.

When grandparents would visit, I would of course be happy that they got to share in the delight that is my daughter, their grand-daughter, but there was also a feeling of possessiveness that would overcome me when they wanted to feed her, hold her, bathe her…again, I know, how immature! I wanted to be the one to do all of those things, almost exclusively. I felt like I missed so much being at work during the day that these were my moments and I did not want to give them up to anyone…at least not willingly. I had such conflicting emotions about wanting them to have their time with her but from a distance almost like she was a valuable piece of art, I didn't want anyone else to touch in fear of her being ruined or broken. I realized the absurdity of it all and the husband tried to keep me in check and bring me back to reality by stating the obvious…they are only here for a little while, they deserve their time too.

Then, about a year ago, I found out I was pregnant. It was unexpected and a little sooner than I would have planned so I was pretty overwhelmed. The husband was overjoyed, albeit a little freaked out too as we had no idea what the heck we were going to do with the added responsibility on limited income. One of the first and most pervasive emotions throughout my pregnancy was that of guilt and fear. Guilt that I was ending her reign as the only child so soon, guilt that the little time I did get with her would now be lessened as I tried to spread my attention and time between two babies and fear that she would hate me for it. As the end of my pregnancy neared I literally would leave her room at bedtime in tears as the guilt was overcoming me and the fear of the uncertainly of how our relationship was going to change scared the crap out of me.

Turns out that she loves her little brother and watching her blossom into a nurturing, loving little girl is both heart warming and bittersweet. In the beginning it was such a dichotomy of feelings…being pulled toward this sweet little newborn that required nearly all of my attention and feeling pushed aside as my little girl’s needs were being met by others. Things have, I feel, leveled out now that the boy is nearing 6 months and I have more time to spend some one-on-one time with her. The overwhelming joy when I return home from work is sporadic and there are times where she prefers her father over me, which, I’m not going to lie, stings a bit. But, then there are times where she prefers me and just wants to cuddle, which are the moments I live for. So, were/are my fears rational? Probably not, but I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one either.

As I see my daughter form bonds with the other adults in her life and see her get excited to see her grandparents (either via Skype™ or a much anticipated visit) or to go play at our friend’s house I cannot help but see how it is contributing to her development and enriching her life. I want to nurture this and help her see that I am happy to see her give the people in her life hugs and kisses and attention. I want her to know that my feelings are not going to be hurt if she requests her bedtime stories read by her father. I want her to be a whole person, self-assured, loved, and to know that she is loved and supported by not only her parents but by those that see her as a person, not their daughter. So, this year, I resolve to remain confident in the bond I have formed with my daughter so as not to feel threatened by the other bonds in her life. I want to offer her opportunities to blossom into her own person while understanding that I will always love her and support her, but much like most relationships, holding on too tight is a sure fire way to have that person push even harder to break free, so I resolve to loosen my least a little bit.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Way It Was Meant To Be

We welcomed our beautiful baby boy on July 14, 2010 safely in the comfort of our home …That’s how I imagined the birth announcement would read. Unfortunately, as much as I planned, researched, prepared and waited for my peaceful home birth, it was not meant to be.

Deciding to have a home birth for our second baby was pretty easy for me and basically done before I even knew I was pregnant. After the experience of trying to have a natural birth in a hospital setting ended with what I felt was an unnecessary cesarean, I was bound and determined to have our second baby without all the interventions that normally lead to cesarean. Because we planned to have a natural birth for our first baby, we had done a lot of the research already so I saw our second pregnancy as really just brushing up on what we may have forgotten and learning all I could about vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). After finding a midwife who wasn’t scared off by the whole VBAC issue (which by the way is WAY overblown), we were on our way and feeling confident in our decision. We watched The Business of Being Born, only cementing in our minds that we were railroaded by the hospital protocols and policies resulting in the first cesarean. There was no looking back, only waiting and preparing.

I had my 40 week appointment with the midwife on my due date which was a Wednesday, where she started me on some supplements and said to get moving, swimming, walking, sex, whatever it took to get things going. So off I went trying to stay as active as possible and even though contractions came and went beginning the next day, it was an exhausting weekend of contractions during the night only to have them die off once the sun was up. We were both getting a little impatient wondering when things were going to actually get going.

Monday (7/12) night things started to feel different, soon after going to bed I was too uncomfortable to stay in bed but the contractions were still 10 or more minutes apart. I checked in with the midwife who said to try and get some rest and to call when they got within 5 minutes apart for at least an hour. By early morning they had teetered around the 5 minute mark but still sometimes as far apart as 6-7 minutes apart. I gave her a call and she decided to send her apprentice out to check me out and get things set up as she felt that things were definitely getting started. Soon after the apprentice midwife showed up and examined me (only 1 cm) and I had breakfast and went for a walk, the contractions died down again. I was beginning to feel like my body only wanted to labor in the middle of the night and it was getting to be tiring as I had a nearly 2 year old to deal with during the days so rest was fleeting at best. So, we spent Tuesday (7/13) trying to lay low and rest up as I figured it would be another eventful evening ahead of us.

Sure enough, that night the contractions began sporadically around dinner time and continued throughout the evening only picking up after I decided to go to bed. Around 10 pm I began walking the floors trying to get the contractions to pick up and remain steady. By 11 pm they were reaching the 4-6 minute mark and I was asking the husband to begin filling up the birthing tub. It was about half past midnight when I was getting some relief from the warm water and calling the midwife to tell her that the contractions had been within 5 minutes for over an hour and I felt they were getting more intense since getting in the tub. She and her team had just finished attending a birth around 10pm that night and she said she would call back-up to come out and check me while she got showered and notified the rest of the team. By 2 am our birthing team had arrived and got set up and the contractions were becoming more and more uncomfortable, requiring me to really concentrate through them and I had stopped keeping track of them at this point. When the midwife checked me she was shocked to find out that I was at 7 cm already and that I had apparently gotten there on my own with little discomfort, she was confident a baby would be born later that morning, we just needed to get the baby to move down since he was still pretty high.

So, the next 6 hours were spent squatting through contractions, breaking my water, walking the stairs in between contractions, and trying to stay hydrated. The contractions were getting pretty intense and there were several times where I complained of either being hungry or feeling like I wanted to throw up, the midwife said that was common during transition and that this was the hardest part of labor. Around 8 am, the midwife did a final exam and found the baby’s head still hadn’t budged in spite of all we were doing to get him to move down. At this point she felt that my level of exhaustion and his refusal to budge left us with only one option, a cesarean. To describe how I felt at that moment is so difficult when you think about the emotional and physical exhaustion of labor coupled with the emotions that accompany the impending arrival of a new baby; disappointment is an understatement, heartbreak also doesn’t quite encapsulate how I was feeling. I guess the best way to describe it is simultaneous disappointment, frustration, trepidation, relief, anxiety, confusion and that’s just to name a few. I was disappointed and sad that I wasn’t going to welcome our new baby in the comfort of our home and be able to recover from a natural birth at home, I was anxious about how the hospital staff would treat us when we got there as a home birth transport, I was fearful of having to undergo yet another surgery with the subsequent recovery, I was concerned about how our daughter was going to react to all this and I also couldn’t believe that I was going to have to get in a car and ride in rush hour traffic while in the peak of labor. All of this resulted in my blood pressure sky rocketing (much like it did during my first labor when they started talking about pitocin, epidurals and such) so it became even more necessary to get to the hospital but clearly it was not an emergent issue, the baby’s heart rate was perfect and it appeared he was still quite cozy.

From what I was told it took about 45 minutes to get to the hospital (I had my eyes closed most of the way while I focused on breathing through the contractions) and I felt every minute of it. Moving had become increasingly uncomfortable as it seemed like the contractions were right on top of each other by the time we got there and I was wheeled to labor and delivery. The midwife had called and let them know we were coming and she had established relationships with the doctors there so they were ready for us when we got there. I put on the customary hospital gown and was on the bed while the husband handed off our daughter to a wonderfully available friend who met us at the hospital.

Once they saw how high my blood pressure was they had me on my back, which was excruciating…no wonder most women complain about labor being so painful as most of them are lying in bed, I was so much more comfortable and the contractions were much more manageable when I was able to sit up, stand or adjust as needed but they were having none of that, they wouldn’t let me sit up even a little bit. While they did their initial tests and started pumping me with fluids, I was literally out of myself, I didn’t know which end was up and I just kept waiting for the relief of not being pregnant anymore, having the contractions stop and finally meeting this baby. It was so frustrating to have gotten so close to the end but still have to wait. What's more, the contractions are much easier to deal with when you are of the mind set that they will result in a baby, these contractions (in my mind) were now just pointless discomfort that weren't accomplishing a thing. When I asked about an epidural I was told that they needed to get the ‘two bags of fluid’ in me before that could happen and the doctor actually said, “Plus, we never know, once we get a good reading on what’s going on with the baby, it may just be time to go have this baby.” In my mind I was thinking “If you think I came here to push this baby out, you must be nuts!”

When finally the doctor came over to the husband and began explaining the situation, “blood pressure is very high, much higher than normally seen as a result of labor pain...” “...contractions are strong enough for a vaginal birth but baby is not moving down...,” the husband kept asking “how soon can we get this done?” When finally the doctor said “I think the best course of action at this point is a c-section,” the husband snapped “We get it! How soon can we get this done?!” Finally, I was getting prepped to have the baby we had worked so hard to have naturally, surgically. The time between us arriving at the hospital and the birth of our beautiful, healthy baby boy was approximately an hour…it felt like eternity.

Although we did not get the home birth we had hoped for, I do believe that our son benefited from my laboring at home and only going to the hospital once it was absolutely necessary. I never got the epidural, only the spinal required for surgery once I got in the operating room and afterwards I was glad for two reasons. First, the difference between the sound of a healthy, alert baby the minute he hit the open air was quite different than the groggily cries that our daughter gave after I had only been on the epidural for 2 hours before her birth were like night and day. Secondly, although I did have some mild shaking in the recovery room coming down from the spinal, it was nothing like the first experience of uncontrollable shaking and according to the husband ‘looking grey and dead’ coming down from the combined epidural and spinal. I will say that recovering from a second c-section was quite different and substantially more painful and I am thankful that the husband was home during the day for my maternity leave, entertaining our daughter and taking care of me. It's a gift I think all families should have, being home as a family while adjusting and getting to know the newest family member.

I’m sure most people would use my story as an example showing why babies should be born in the hospital, I would disagree. I believe my story shows how babies benefit from the least amount of intervention necessary. There are women that absolutely have no choice but to birth in the hospital in order to safely deliver their babies, unfortunately it appears I am one of those women. But the fact remains that most women are fully capable of delivering their babies at home or in a birthing center under the care of skilled midwives and if more women chose this option there would be fewer c-sections, healthier babies and mothers, and women would be getting quality prenatal and maternity care for a fraction of the cost. I share my story in the hopes that women can see that even when you find out during labor that you are unable to birth outside of the hospital, it does not have to be a horror story where someone dies, under the care of skilled midwives you are monitored and a decision is made to transport before it becomes an emergency. It is unfortunate that there are babies and mothers lost in childbirth; it is even more unfortunate that there are some losses that could have been prevented, both at home and in the hospital. I can only hope that more women will become educated about their options and demand quality maternity care in which doctors work cooperatively with midwives so only the women that absolutely need medical intervention can receive it in the most efficient process possible. As long as pregnancy is viewed as an illness, needing medical intervention or as a means for doctors and hospitals to make the most money while trying to avoid litigation, there will continue to be unnecessary interventions resulting in unnecessary loss.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Getting all fired up!

A couple of hotly debated parenting topics have been bombarding the web in the last couple weeks, first it was breastfeeding last week and now it is spanking. These also happen to be two issues that I feel pretty darn strongly about (as do a lot of people based on the responses on-line to the recent studies released about these topics). As I have mentioned before, my decision to become a parent did not come lightly, mainly because I believe that children should be born into a family, and since I happen to define ‘family’ pretty broadly I will say for this purpose, a family is at least 1 person willing to make the necessary commitment, sacrifices and prioritization to that a child or children (which I discuss in more detail in my post, Accountability) to be the best parent they can be. Throughout my career I have focused on strengthening families in an effort to make children’s lives better and now that I am a parent I am trying to implement a lot of the lessons I learned in my education and professional life to be the best parent I can be.

I had a brief stint working in the foster care system in Detroit (a true eye-opener to the struggles families are faced with) and as with any human service job, I had to go through regular trainings on a range of topics related to parenting, child development, etc. One of the trainings I attended discussed different discipline methods and the merits and shortcomings of each. The training specifically discussed how many parents still resort to corporal punishment or spanking their children, for a lot of reasons but mainly because that’s how they were raised. In fact a good portion of the training had to do with debunking the many excuses people use to justify spanking their children, from religious and cultural beliefs to the all too familiar “I was spanked and turned out ok” excuse. To the latter, the presenter pointed to children’s resilience to overcome many horrific circumstances and experiences to become well-adjusted, productive adults and reasoned that if you were spanked and ‘turned out ok’ it was IN SPITE OF spanking NOT because of spanking.

This makes so much sense when you think about it. It especially gives explanation to all the people that are currently trying to point out all the exceptions to the recent study linking spanking to aggressive behaviors in children. The fact of the matter is that each child is a unique individual with their own personality, reactions to different stimuli and temperament and that doesn’t even take into account the differences in their external environments. So, of course not ALL children who are spanked will end up being aggressive bullies, some will retreat within themselves and begin to question their worth, some will resort to numbing their feelings later in life with any number of addictions, some will become victims within their future relationships and still some will turn out “OK.” But to use those that turn out ok as an excuse to hit is like pointing to those of us that were abused in other types of ways that are clearly unacceptable in our society and saying that it’s ok to abuse children because some of them turn out ‘ok.’

Now, I came from a family that spanked and even though I was probably spanked fewer than a handful of times, my brothers were no strangers to being spanked and I can tell you how horrifying it is to have to listen to a sibling being spanked, so I can only assume the amount of emotional and physical pain as well as humiliation the victim is going through. Probably because of this in addition to my education in child development and chosen career path within children’s services, I have always been opposed to spanking. I have always known in my heart of hearts that this was not the way to discipline a child. Through my education, I learned what I always knew to be true, spanking only teaches children that it’s ok to hit. There has been more than one anecdotal report where a parent is asked why they are spanking only to hear the reply “to teach them not to fight/hit.” So, given the clear absurdity of that statement, I find it truly baffling that still, 90% of parents believe it is ok to spank.

The real issue comes down to figuring out a way to discipline our children that doesn’t have the possibility of disrupting their development or sending mixed messages about love, authority and discipline. It comes down to putting forth the effort in raising our children that doesn’t resort to heat of the moment reactions and violence. It is time to invest the time and energy to educate ourselves in being better parents, which includes the job of disciplining our children. Because I have yet to run across a study that points out the negative repercussions of time-out.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Breastfeeding Debate Heats Up

The blogosphere has been lit up this past week due to the recent report in the Journal of Pediatrics, highlighted in this CNN article, which discusses the possible implications of not breastfeeding. One blog post that I found exceptional was The Feminist Breeder’s In it, she points the finger at the severely lacking support system and misinformation in this country for women who attempt to breastfeed, causing many to turn to formula. What I found astounding was that even though she made it very clear that the current state of breastfeeding affairs is not the fault of the women who try and give up but the system and culture of the US, there were still quite a few women who voiced their displeasure with her post. A lot of the issues have to do with feelings of guilt that these women feel that yet another piece of research is saying what all of us with half a brain already knew…breast is best. I saw that a lot of women instead of embracing the Feminist Breeder’s point that a shift needs to happen within our maternity care system and the support available to new mothers wishing to breastfeed, they were trying to come up with anything to prove that her statement that MOST women are able to breastfeed with the right support wrong. From cancer diagnoses to antidepressant medications, women were trying to come up with all the different reasons women CAN’T breastfeed. I’m not saying that these issues would certainly add a whole other obstacle to breastfeeding but it seems like women are trying to find a way to agree with the mantra that our bodies are flawed by pointing to the very rare cases.

I have chronicled my own struggles with breastfeeding in spite of being pretty darn educated and how I overcame them even with a less than stellar Lactation Consultant (LC) experience. I feel pretty confident that I can not only empathize with those women that struggle in the beginning to breastfeed but also speak to the Feminist Breeder’s points in her post, which a lot of women, I think are still not getting. There were so many times in a very short period of time where I felt like giving up would have been so much easier on my self, my daughter, my husband and our family. I was even told by more than a few well-meaning people that said I had given it more than most women and there would be no shame in giving up or just giving formula until I worked it out. But instead of giving up I pushed through severe pain, extreme doubt and sought out the necessary support to ultimately succeed in my desire to breastfeed my daughter well past her first year of life and that was with four weeks where I only had one viable breast. Was it easy, absolutely not. Does this make me a better person/mom than those women that are overcome with the doubt and end up questioning whether they are doing the right thing for their babies, I don’t think so. I think it just indicates how stubborn I really am, but more to the point, it proves that even obstacles that seem insurmountable can be overcome.

Since the onslaught of the formula companies taking over the feeding of our newborns and infants, we are losing valuable resources that other countries have…a group of women in our immediate circle that have direct experience breastfeeding; a normalization of breastfeeding if you will. A friend of mine who gave birth to her children in Sweden over 30 years ago, told me that ‘you know, you just don’t hear about all the problems (not producing enough milk, being ‘unable’ to breastfeed, etc.) women have with breastfeeding that you hear in the US, women in Europe breastfeed and there’s very little discussion about it.’ This really got me thinking about the huge paradigm shift that must happen in this country in order for more women to be able to succeed in breastfeeding their children. Part of that paradigm is how women’s bodies are viewed (literally and figuratively). The Feminist Breeder points out that it is easy for women to believe a doctor, or who ever is telling them that they just can’t make enough milk because we as women have become accustomed to believing our bodies are flawed in some way.

I am truly baffled that in a country that supports a multi-billion dollar porn industry, the true repugnance that you hear and see when it comes to women breastfeeding. From stories of women being kicked out of retail stores or told to feed their babies in the restroom to nasty comments being made on public transportation when a breastfed baby, heaven forbid, gets hungry. I have even heard people refer to breastfeeding as disgusting. It seems that with the overload of nudity, sex and porn available to most Americans we have lost sight of what these breasts are really intended for, to nourish and sustain a growing baby, breasts are in fact, quite amazing when you think about it. A woman’s breasts produce the exact formula (pardon the pun) of nutrients her baby needs, adjusting the recipe as her baby grows and their needs change while also providing valuable antibodies that will protect her baby from illnesses and will boost their immunity more than any vaccine or over the counter remedy. So, I think the focus needs to be on how important women are to not only be able to grow a human being from a couple cells but to then be able to nourish that child completely for their first year of life and beyond if necessary. The paradigm shift needs to be within our culture of degrading women to believe that they are somehow less than or not valuable if their tits don’t stand up on their own, it needs to be within our men’s view of women’s bodies and what they are capable of and above all it needs to be within my fellow women’s minds and bodies. We need to take back the beauty, the miracle and incredible abilities we posses as our own and believe that our bodies are perfect the way they are and STOP believing the doctors, nurses and anyone else that tell us differently.

I think breastfeeding is a good analogy to parenting. In order to do it well, it takes educating yourself, putting forth the effort even when it isn’t a lot of fun and finding the necessary support when you need it. If someone chooses not to breastfeed for their own personal reasons in spite of all the common knowledge indicating its importance, they should feel comfortable with that decision and not require validation. For those that really tried and were made to feel like they couldn’t succeed, I truly am sorry, I hope you have made peace with it and can move on knowing that a lot of us were formula fed babies and turned out ok and whatever you gave your baby in those first few days/weeks/months were beneficial. But for those of you looking for an excuse to give up, I understand, I truly do, unfortunately the decision to give up is just that, a decision that you need to make based on all the information you have. Seek out the support you need be it through a lactation consultant (although, I highly recommend getting a recommendation from someone and lining this person up BEFORE you give birth), La Leche League International ( or other breastfeeding support group in your area, because I am here to tell you, you CAN do it, it DOES get easier and it is SO worth it!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The SAHD Conundrum

As I have mentioned before, our family is a tad non-traditional, for instance, currently I am working full-time (outside of the home) while my husband is staying home with our daughter during the day and is a full-time student during the evenings. Adjusting our lives to live on one income and some financial aid has certainly been a challenge but I am finding the emotions tied to this role reversal more of an issue for us, or at least me.

First of all, our current situation was born out of necessity and mainly my own emotional baggage. Even before I knew I wanted kids I knew that there was no way I would be able to hand over my three-month old to a stranger and be done with being the person they spent the majority of their time with, so when I became pregnant we were faced with quite the predicament. What the hell were we going to do after my maternity leave was up? We discussed several options but neither of us really made enough to support our current rate of expenses and needless to say neither one of us were enthused by the possibility of bargain shopping for child care either. The husband never finished college and had always wanted to even though he has been rather resourceful in finding pretty good employment that paid well (most of the time more than the jobs I had after earning two degrees!) and so the motivation was always lacking. At one point in our many discussions of what to do he said off-handedly “I can always go back to school and stay home with the baby during the day.” I went into full research mode to find out the possibilities. Neither one of us ever took out real student loans before, but when I needed a few thousand dollars to finish my masters program I was offered way more than I needed so I figured it was worth finding out more. Long story short, we decided after much deliberation, that it was worth the sacrifices that would have to be made in order to have one of us home with our child during their first year or so and it would put him in a better station in life working towards a career he was actually interested in with more earning potential in the long run (of course hoping that it would be enough to support all of us while I stayed home with the little one while bringing in a small income doing my own thing).

So, here we are in a situation born out of necessity that neither of us really envisioned ever really happening. Mostly, it has been a good thing, our daughter gets the love and security of being home with one of her parents every day and we have created quite the family unit. On the other hand, I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t created its own set of challenges. To begin with, other than some babysitting jobs in his late teens, the husband didn’t really have a whole lot of experience with kids and especially babies (in fact, I don’t know if he ever held a newborn before his own), but we both felt that we were both fairly educated people and even with his limited first-hand knowledge, would do a much better job than a lot of the people out there parenting. And, let’s face it he isn’t the only male in our group of friends I’ve heard say “I’ll gladly be the one to stay home with the kids while the wife goes out and earns the dough,” obviously oblivious to the overwhelmingly difficult task they are ‘signing up’ for. This has led to more than one misinterpreted recommendation or comment about how he spends his days with our daughter, which in turn has led to myself feeling more than a bit resentful, left out or disregarded.

Then there is the usual frustrations that I’m sure many stay-at-home moms have but because the majority of husbands in those situations aren’t feeling like their missing out on much shrug it off as the usual mommy gripes and there are plenty of blogs, mommy groups and such where similar mommies with similar gripes can commiserate. I find these gripes coming from the husband more than a little frustrating…first of all, one or both of us must have done something right in our lives to deserve this child from most accounts seems pretty darn close to perfect. Secondly, given some of the working environments (and bosses) he has had to deal with in his life, being in the comfort of our home with the cutest 1 year old around bossing him around, how bad can your day really be? Finally, the resentment that I want to be the one home with her watching her grow and develop and being the main contributor to that development is sometimes too much for me to handle when I hear him ‘complain’ about how she wanted to be held all day or wouldn’t let him out of her sight or wouldn’t let him cook dinner in peace.

Then there’s the reality that in spite of the fact that he does a lot and WAY more than most men, he still tends to spend her nap time on the couch watching TV or taking a nap (and this is after sleeping in until 8-9 am in the morning because oh yea, our perfect little one sleeps a good 13-14 hours/night). While, on the weekends when I am home, the TV would never come on during the day if it were up to me and I rarely take a nap (even though I am currently 7 months pregnant and always tired), mainly because there is always some pressing chore that hasn’t gotten done (yes, in my opinion), laundry, sweeping/mopping/vacuuming, bathroom cleaning, meal planning, etc. So, in my limited time at home it seems that a lot more would get done around the house if I were the one at home…again, resentment rears its ugly head.

So, when the husband came down with the flu last week, resulting in me staying home for a few days to take care of things, I expected to be overcome with the gripes of SAHMs or those that I have heard him voice. I would be lying if I said that it wasn’t exhausting, from 9 am to nearly 9pm every day I was not sitting still, there was always something that needed to be done, but instead of feeling exhausted at the end of the day like I normally do after ‘working’ all day, I felt invigorated. Spending all day with my daughter uninterrupted was like a dream, even in spite of figuring out a way of cooking a meal with a toddler tugging at my leg and wanting to be picked up, cleaning up after meals, moving along the laundry, running errands and maintaining some type of order during the day all while taking time to keep her engaged and entertained and then at the end of the day cleaning up. I’m sure what most SAHMs would say would be yea, you did it for a few days, give it a month and see how you feel. Besides taking a shower in the evening instead of the morning (which was my choosing by the way, if I had gotten up at 8am, instead of waiting for her to wake up around 9am, I would’ve had plenty of time to shower and get ready for the day) and realizing that my eyebrows were in some serious need of tweezing by the end of the 4th day, there was little discomfort in my days with her. This realization is yet another glaring illustration of how the one job I was meant to do with my life is be a mom. Even when I hear myself type that it sounds absurd given the majority of my adulthood I didn’t even think I wanted kids of my own, but since the moment I saw her perfect little face, I knew it in my bones to be the truth and at the same time I felt my heart breaking with the realization that it wouldn’t be reality any time soon.

So, here I am supporting my dearest while he goes to school to gain the knowledge to pursue a career that I hope will fulfill him and provide for our family, while I wait patiently to be the one at home with our child (or I guess by then it will be children!) and using this time to study, learn, practice and prepare to do my own thing. Photography has always been a passion of mine given that I was raised by a father who was equally obsessed and gifted with a photographer’s eye, so it seems fitting that my life has come full circle and I have realized that being a photographer would fulfill many of my enduring dreams. I say to myself and my husband that our daughter was a true gift in so many ways, she has been the catalyst for us to live better lives and be better people but more importantly she has lit the fire under us to get off the proverbial and literal couch and follow our dreams to a better life for ourselves and our family and for that I will be eternally grateful.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Our addiction to sugar

After watching Food, Inc., I expected to be more moved than I was. Although I did learn a lot and listening to farmers’ stories was a perspective I had never gotten before, most of the information, I already knew. There were several things that stood out to me though, one statistic in particular “1 in 3 of those born after 2000 will develop early on-set diabetes.” Another piece of this statistic is the fact that this is the first generation who will not live as long as their parents…now if that isn’t something that gets you thinking, I don’t know what will. That is truly frightening to me, probably more than all the horrific details that go into our meat centered eating, which may sound strange but let me explain.

First of all, because of my optimism and belief that knowledge is power, I believe that the shift to us eating less meat and more people realizing the economical, environmental, animal welfare and health benefits of a veggie or low-meat lifestyle will be inevitable. It just makes too much sense for it not to become more and more normal, and maybe part of it is because I live in Austin, Texas where there are quite a few veggie friendly restaurants and grocers and many people living what is currently called ‘alternative lifestyles’ when it comes to food. So, although I agree with the message of Food, Inc., I think the scariest of all the information had to do with Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s), namely the obscene uses of corn and our addiction to sugar.

The reason I feel like sugar is one of our biggest issues is that it truly is an addiction that once on that hamster wheel it is extremely difficult to get off of. The fact that sugar can be found in almost all prepackaged foods in one form or another, whether it’s high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), dextrose, fructose, cane sugar, etc. and don’t even get me started on all the sugar substitutes that hide in just about anything and everything, makes it nearly impossible to avoid. Because, as it’s mentioned in Food, Inc., we are programmed to respond to three tastes (salt, fat and sweet), manufacturers put either loads of salt and/or sugar/sweetener in their foods (especially if they are billed as low-fat/fat free) making them appeal to our need for these tastes.

As I’ve mentioned before, some of our parenting choices are looked at as a bit kooky, even by our well-meaning, supportive and loving parents. After reading Sarah Kamrath’s article,, I was struck by her statement that she felt little resistance to avoiding refined sugar with her five-year-old son. Although our friends probably think we go overboard with the whole sugar restriction, the biggest surprise for me is the overwhelming need of our daughter’s grandparents to push sugary treats on her in spite of our desire to limit them. She did not have any refined sugar before her first birthday and I was delighted to see her more interested in destroying her birthday cake than actually eating it. This in fact was my intent when I decided that we would be limiting her sugar intake, with less exposure you have less desire for these tastes. But feeding her some sugary treat was like a mad mission of her grandparents when they would visit.

Given the fact that we have diabetes on both sides of our family, I am further amazed that our parents do not fully respect our decision to limit her sugar intake more. Unfortunately, it seems in our country, sugary treats are seen as an expectation of growing up and who doesn’t want to see a child’s eyes light up with excitement when they taste something sweet? I guess I just can’t see that light in her eyes without feeling a sickening in the pit of my stomach that here I am with the power (currently, because I am not naive enough to believe I will always be able to control what she puts in her mouth) to control what she eats and I am allowing her to acquire a taste for something that literally could lead to serious illness and early death. I understand the addiction to sugar, I grew up loving the taste of candy, cookies and cake (as well as the other 2 tastes of salt and fat) and still struggle with resisting those urges, and because of it have struggled myself with excess weight and consequently gestational diabetes, so why wouldn’t I want to help shield my daughter from this struggle by preventing or at least curbing the desire for these tastes from the beginning.

The fact of the matter is that most sweet cravings can be satiated with a juicy orange, a crunchy apple or even a carrot. True, you shouldn’t over do it on fruit either but I would much rather have my daughter begging for another piece of fruit, the sugar of which is easily digested and absorbed by our bodies, than a sugary piece of candy or cake that will cause a blood sugar spike and ensuing melt down. I am all for having a treat here and there but in order for it to be considered a treat and not a normal event, it must happen rarely. I like to think that our daughter has improved our life in many ways, one of which is strengthening our desire to live a healthier lifestyle, which includes eating less meat, less sugar and a more varied diet of veggies.

With the holiday weekend upon us I find myself filled with dread as I will yet again be the only parent at a gathering concerned with limiting the sugar intake of my child. I have to become the police, always with a watchful eye on either another child or worse, another parent, slipping her some candy without my knowledge or consent. It makes for a stressful time especially considering that she will want to have what the other kids are eating so enthusiastically and once she has one taste the games begin with her begging for more and me either giving in ‘just one more time’ or having to continue to say no and having an even closer watchful eye that she doesn’t go to someone else for it. It’s no picnic to feel like I’m alone on this island and being criticized for my limits and even though my dearest does support me, he is much more willing to give in to the whole ‘it’s a party’ or ‘it’s a holiday’ excuse to give her more. So, this weekend when you are approached by someone else’s child who wants some candy, try checking with their parents first and don’t assume the answer is going to be yes. I’m fine with being the bad guy in this instance because I feel like it is my job, my duty to protect my child from all the dangers in the world, even if it is disguised as a bright pink pillowy soft bunny covered in sparkly sugar.