Tuesday, December 24, 2013

When The Internet Calls You Names

In case this is the first post you are reading- I subscribe, at least partially, to multiple controversial parenting philosophies.  This makes me (along with everyone else who reads the internet with an opinion) an anonymous target. And yes, sometimes it hurts- and not just in the way that stupid hurts. 

One of the crappiest things about parenting in this era of the internet (which has a LOT of benefits) is that you cannot realistically shield yourself from the plethora of anonymous voices out there who, no matter what you choose to do or not to do, no matter whether you follow the mainstream or the beat of a distant drummer, they will call you names. They will call you ignorant, naive, foolish, irresponsible, and even abusive. And that can cut deep.

You would think I would be accustomed to web-based vitriol directed towards those groups with whom I count myself, since I have been very politically involved and opinionated since at least middle school. I grew up noticing the political slant in subtly political stories and recognizing when my views were being called names. And sometimes it infuriated me, and sometimes I took it a little personally, but as I grew up I found that I took it personally less and less frequently. I knew how "the other side" perceived my views and how they categorized my intellect, compassion, and soul. And I could live with that.

But with parenting, its different. When people attack my political views my vulnerable part turns off- it doesn't have to be personal. But when people attack my religion, and when people attack my parenting, it seems to hit the same soft spot. The main difference is that with religion you will almost always have that moral majority expressing their disgust with those who openly attack others for their religious views- whatever they are. You don't need to be Amish to feel a bursting of compassion towards them and anger or frustration towards any anonymous internet commentator who is purposely attacking their religion.  Essentially, you don't have to be with them to be for them. But with these explosive parenting decisions, the philosophy seems to be far more harsh.

Like religion, parenting frequently comes down to faith. No matter how many people begin their accusations of you and your philosophy with phrases like "FACT-- studies x, y & z PROVE..." or "this link to this well-respected organization's website...." or "history shows..." the miserable truth is that there are studies that demonstrate, or suggest, or imply almost anything you want. There are organizations that are well-respected that are wrong, or that change their position on all sorts of topics throughout their existence. And history can be studied and interpreted a whole host of different ways- and many of them are valid. You will have to decide, for example, whether or not to circumcise your son. You can't decide to stay out of it- your son will either be circumcised or intact. And whichever you choose, you will likely have the studies and the documentaries, and the organizations and whatever else, that convinced you to make whichever decision you did. But the fact is, that these are the things that you decided to trust. There are studies and organizations that suggest this procedure carries benefits that make it worthwhile, there are studies and organizations that suggest the opposite. Some will be more convincing to you than others. Those are the ones you have faith in. It will still come down to faith. As scientific as the medical field tries to be, it isn't that simple. A friend of mine recently graduated from her nursing program. As she was studying for her test she posted the following on facebook:
So sick of studying for nursing. Graduation is riding on an exam worth 40% of my grade and this is the crap I have to deal with!Textbook:"dont splint fractured ribs it increases the Risk for ineffective breathing"Teachers:"use splinting to decrease pain of breathing""
Don't tell me that you are either with the science or against the science! It isn't that simple.

I hope as I "grow up in parenting" I will find that I take it personally less and less frequently, but in the meantime, I will try to practice compassion and understanding for others' parenting as I travel this wide opinionated world.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Little About Vaccines

Oh yay, another one of those topics one must avoid in polite company... actually ALL company. Luckily my sisters aren't company- they are family. So here we go.

This post will be just an intro to the miserable lose-lose of the vaccine controversy. Partly because it is an overwhelmingly broad topic and partly because I don't have access to most of my saved links on the subject since my computer is currently not working.

So, as I am sure my sisters are at least vaguely aware, the sides fall approximately thus: mainstream medicine claims all legally available vaccines (FDA approved, etc) are safe, worthy, and effective; the alternative view would naturally be that that is not the case. The concerns include everything from autism to asthma to the possibility of incorrectly programming our immune systems. However, most people, I would venture to say, don't believe it is as simple as all or nothing.

Sadly, this issue is even more inflammatory than any other controversial issue I have looked into (which really is saying a lot since the internet is full of angry and hateful words directed at people who disagree with them). Perhaps this is because it is perceived to be a decision that may have a uniquely direct effect on other people's children. I can certainly understand how frightening and frustrating it would feel to think that just anybody could make decisions that might put my baby at risk. And, it turns out that both sides of this debate have that concern. The Healthy Home Economist explains how the government has set up the debate to pit parent against parent in THIS insightful post.

I don't want to make it seem like I am trying to argue on behalf of one side of this debate because I believe that there is no simple one-size-fits-all answer to this decision, and I truly do believe in parental rights and parental decisions. I really do think that only a child's parents should decide what is right for that child at that time. As is usually the case, that doesn't mean that they always make the right decision, but it is still theirs to make. Of course parents are most likely to make the right decision for their child if they get as much information as they can ahead of time, since reading one or two articles will hardly make you "well-informed.". Unfortunately educating yourself on tough decisions doesn't always make them less intimidating or more obvious- you can read every study, article, and opinion on the internet and find yourself more confused than ever, and that is why I am finding that as a parent especially, I have more need than ever to be guided by the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Much of the information I share will be about concerns for the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, but let me explain why. Your pediatrician, the prominent news outlets, and the government entities such as the CDC and FDA, will all be happy to share will you their arguments and anecdotes on behalf of vaccine safety and effectiveness. That information is easy to find. But the opposing information can be harder to find, sift though, and determine merit. I am trying to bring together some of that information that I have found intriguing.

Disclaimer: Of course I am not going to be able to find and share only websites that I agree with entirely; there will be statements and theories in most articles, videos, and websites I share that that I disagree with, or have not yet decided whether I agree or not. My main criteria for what I share is that the information was interesting, somewhat well-explained, and not mainstream.

One of the first sites I want to share is National Vaccine Information Center because it is a non profit organization that stands for informed consent, which is something I very enthusiastically support. Here is a video from the president of NVIC, Barbara Loe Fisher. They also have a page called "If you vaccinate, ask 8" with a checklist to go through before the vaccine appointment. 

Herd Immunity

Vaccine Illusion: Herd Immunity this is a much more in-depth explanation than I have read anywhere else, and parts of it are a bit different than most of the "herd immunity does not apply" arguments I have read.

The Gianelloni Family Blog also has a lot of information on herd immunity theory and practical information. There are several posts from their blog that touch on this subject, but there is a great deal of overlap information in them.
The Myth of Herd Immunity
Exposing Myths...Herd Immunity
Why All The Measles Outbreaks...

Some other videos

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Blessed with Life

THIS has to be one of the most amazing and surprising articles I have come across in a long time! I can't remember exactly where I was introduced to the story, anyway it is from LifeSiteNews.com and the headline reads "Unborn child just a ‘parasite’? Cutting edge science shows fetal cells heal mother for life" by Peter Baklinski.  So, as usual, I have highlighted my favorite portions, and have some additional thoughts at the end.

January 4, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A standard pro-abortion argument hinges on the premise that a baby inside his mom’s womb attacks her bodily integrity. The developing baby is seen in this light as an intruder, a parasite, a threat to the woman’s autonomy. From this perspective the pregnant woman is viewed as being occupied. The only way she can continue to exercise her interest in bodily integrity, the argument goes, is to be liberated through the termination and expulsion of the invader.
But science paints a vastly different picture about the actual relationship between a baby in utero and his or her mother, showing that, far from being a parasite, the unborn child can help heal his mother for the rest of her life, as beneficial cells from the child pass into the mother’s body during pregnancy.
Science writer Jena Pinctott explores this relationship in her October 2011 book “Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies?: The Surprising Science of Pregnancy.
Science has been studying the phenomena of fetal cell microchimerism for more than 30 years, after researchers at Stanford University were shocked in 1979 to discover a pregnant mother’s blood containing cells with Y sex chromosomes. Since women only have X chromosomes, they concluded that the cells must have entered into her body from the male baby she carried within her.
Drawing on studies in biology, reproductive genetics, and epigenetics, Pincott outlined in her book what science has learned since the Stanford discovery. “During pregnancy,” she wrote, “cells sneak across the placenta in both directions. The fetus’s cells enter his mother, and the mother’s cells enter the fetus.”
Scientists have discovered, she said, that a baby’s fetal cells show up more often in a mother’s healthy breast tissue and less often in a woman who has breast cancer (43 versus 14 percent).
Pinctott pointed out that as the quantity of fetal cells in a mother’s body increase the activity of autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis decreases. She called the evidence “tantalizing” that fetal cells may offer the mother increased resistance to certain diseases.
One kind of fetal cells that enter into the mother’s body is the baby’s stem cells. Stem cells have what Pinctott calls “magical properties” in that they can “morph” into other types of cells through a process called differentiation. The baby’s fetal stem cells can actually become the mother’s own cells that make up her liver, heart, or brain.
In what any ethicist might declare to be legitimate ‘embryonic stem cell therapy,’ the baby’s fetal stem cells migrate to the mother’s injured sites and offer themselves as a healing remedy, becoming part of the mother’s very body. Pinctott writes that such cells have been found in “diseased thyroid and liver tissue and have turned themselves into thyroid and liver cells respectively.”
Pinctott calls the evidence “striking” that a baby’s fetal cells “repair and rejuvenate moms.”Genetics specialist Dr. Kirby Johnson of Tufts Medical Center, Boston, and professor Carol Artlett, a researcher at Philadelphia’s Thomas Jefferson University, back up Pinctott’s ideas. Their research shows that when a woman becomes pregnant she acquires an army of protective cells - what might be called a gift from her child - that remains with her for decades, perhaps till the end of her life.
Johnson and Artlett spoke to NPR’s Robert Krulwich in a 2006 interview.  In their research, Johnson found that a teaspoon of blood from a pregnant mother contained “dozens, perhaps even hundreds of cells… from the baby.” Science has shown that at the end of a mother’s pregnancy, up to 6 percent of the DNA in her blood plasma comes from her baby.
“One would expect them [the fetal cells in the mother’s body] to be attacked fairly rapidly. You would expect them to be cleared within hours, if not days. What we found is that that is not the case, not anywhere near the case,” Johnson said.
Artlett pointed out that even if a woman miscarries or deliberately aborts her child, the cells of the unborn child nonetheless remain with the mother, even for decades.Both Johnson and Artlett defend the hypothesis that the baby’s fetal cells have a beneficent purpose, not to hurt the mother, but to protect, defend, and repair her for the rest of her life, especially when she becomes seriously ill.“There’s a lot of evidence now starting to come out that these cells may actually be repairing tissue,” said Artlett.
During the interview, Johnson told the story of one woman who was admitted into a Boston hospital with symptoms of hepatitis. She was an intravenous drug user with five pregnancies on record: one birth, two miscarriages, and two abortions. Johnson speculated that she would be carrying a lot of fetal cells.In the process of examining her, the medical team performed a liver biopsy. A sample of her liver was sent to a lab to see if any fetal cells had congregated in the diseased area of her liver. What they found surprised them. “We found hundreds… and hundreds of fetal cells,” said Johnson, adding that they saw “literally sheets of cells, whole areas that seemed to be normal.”
Scientists are still trying to determine what causes the baby’s cells to work with the mother’s body in such a synergetic fashion. Pinctott wonders how many people have left their DNA in a mother’s body. “Any baby we’ve ever conceived,” she concludes.
Pinctott sees something “beautiful” in this. “Long post postpartum, we mothers continue to carry our children, at least in a sense. Our babies become part of us, just as we are a part of them. The barriers have broken down; the lines are no longer fixed.”
Perhaps it is not at all poetic to say along with Pinctott that a baby lives a lifetime in a mother’s heart and mind.
It may be that further research finds that this effect is much less significant than this research suggests, or that it is possible for this effect to be unhelpful in some cases. But for right now, it is a really beautiful thought that every baby I conceive, whether or not I am able to raise them, will leave a physical legacy in my body as a testament to their beginnings. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

3 Rules for Bedtime Reading by Melanie Mayo and Marcy Axness

I wanted to share THIS article from mothering.com. The authors share 3 rules (which they later suggest are "more like guidelines") for bedtime reading in addition to some GREAT information about the reasoning behind them. I have quoted below the three rules and paragraphs explaining them and have, as usual, highlighted my favorite portions and added my own commentary in green.

Rule #1:  Choose Beauty, Reverence & Wonder
There is a mind-numbingly massive selection of so-called children's literature out there, and my first 2 rules will help you cut through the glut in making your choices of which books to share with your child. Although this post was inspired by last week's Flavorwire list of "50 Books Every Parent Should Read to Their Child" and there are indeed several of our family favorites in there, I cannot vouch for the fact that all 50 meet my Rule #1 criteria: the book must feature beauty (as opposed to just cleverness) in the illustrations, especially in the depiction of the human form. So many illustrations portray people in caricatured, exaggerated and even grotesque ways, which has a subtly discouraging effect upon a child’s psyche.  The so-called "children's book" that first comes to mind when she mentions grotesque depiction of the human form is No, David! which probably doesn't meet any of the criteria of a good book for any time of day. The illustrations in that book have a discouraging effect on my psyche!
Also, the story and its illustrations should draw on wonder, imagination, and reverence for its subject. (I have written much here on the importance of wonder in the life of the young child.) Countless books that purport to be for children feature overly adult perspectives and tones, such as irony or sarcasm. (Sarcasm is poison to the soul of a young child, who cleaves to goodness, kindness and wonder.) And whatever you read together before bed are impressions your child will take into his or her sleep and dreams.
Rule #2:  Choose Books You Like
When you read to your child books that you enjoy, your little one will be nurtured by the resonance you feel with the story and illustrations. Also, through the never-to-be-underestimated power of example, if you are forcing yourself to read something that doesn't appeal to you, you shouldn't be surprised if not so many years from now your child is resistant to reading!
Rule #3:  Offer Conversation, Not Interrogation
This is probably the trickiest rule of the three. It will require that you really put some mindfulness into action while reading with your child. While research overwhelmingly demonstrates the value of reading to children, there is a slight catch:
"...being read to does not by itself automatically lead to literacy. The real link seems to lie in the verbal interaction that occurs between adult and child during story reading (Snow 1996). Since children learn language by actively constructing meaning (Vgotsky 1962; Lindfors 1987), the seeds of literacy lie in the social construction of meaning around print, that is, the talk—“scaffolding,” explaining, clarifying—between the reader and child listener as they look at, point to, and label objects, and discuss print and its meaning." [Click here for more info]

The key here is to avoid the pitfall of slipping into what I call "interrogation mode" with your child--peppering him with endless questions like a running pop quiz. I remember our R.I.E. teacher explaining that it is the child's role to ask questions of the parent, not the other way around. But what do we parents so often do? We love to see and hear our child demonstrate her precocious brilliance, so we drill her: "Where's George?" "What did he put on his head?" "What color is it?"

There are a couple of issues here. First of all, this isn't the most fruitful approach to interacting with your child, and it can have the opposite effect as you'd like over time: rather than opening up and chatting with you, he may clam up. Because there's a subtle disrespect inherent in the interrogation mode, and it can erode your child's trust in you. I know at least one person who reads this may feel that that last statement is too broad- and I would agree. I don't think that there is always a "subtle disrespect" in interrogation mode, but I think the tendency is something to be cautious and aware of.  

While I'm not a fan of the treat-your-small-child-like-an-adult school of thought, in this case it has merit. Imagine sharing an interesting story with an adult you like and respect. Let's say you're reading it at the same time on a computer screen. Could you imagine quizzing them like we do our kids? Of course not! Instead, you might share an impression or insight or puzzlement you have about the story, and see what they think about it. You might engage in some open-ended dialogue about some of the meanings behind the characters' actions or what they might have been feeling. That's the same way we can more richly interact with our children about the books we read with them.

Another issue, though, is that bedtime reading is a time for DE-escalating stimulation, including mental stimulation. The time for engaging in lively discussion over the meaning of stories is sometime else during the day. This depends a lot on your child; some kids have no problem shifting from mental high-gear into readiness for sleep, but I think that's unusual. Bedtime reading (in my humble opinion) is more of a slow-paced, dreamy-time mode that serves as your child's soft gateway to sleep. Books I used for our children's bedtime reading often had the quality and pacing of a lullaby. Goodnight Moon is of course one of the best examples of this. A lesser-known one that was one of our favorites in this style is The Midnight Farm.

I hope to keep these "guidelines" in mind as I continue the rich tradition of bed-time-stories that I loved so much as a child.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Feet Feet Feet

There are some things that, as parents, we have been thinking and worrying about since before our children were even born. There are other things that we started thinking about and worrying about as soon as they were born. But sometimes, there are things that never occurred to us to worry about, until someone else says something.

So, feet.  Not something I had been worrying about. Then, when my daughter was a few weeks old we were at a mama group when one of the mothers started talking about how the only things she bought new for her daughters were shoes- because foot development was so important. Everything else could be used, but the shoes had to be $75 brand new ones. Whoa! I thought. What was so scary about foot development, and why was this the first I had heard of it?!

I only recently, finally, did some digging into what the deal is with foot development- and THIS seems to be the best website to explain the details, although I also got some good basic info HERE.

Basically, what I learned sums up to this (although this certainly doesn't go into enough detail so read the real articles if you can)

  • The first five years are the most important for foot development.
  • From the very beginning (as in, from the time you bring your baby home) babies need to be able to have a wide range of motion for their feet and toes to allow them to stretch and flex for proper development. This means, no tight socks or swaddles that significantly limit their ability to do these things (or, if you must tightly swaddle legs and feet for certain sleep periods, make sure they have lots of other opportunities during the day to flex and stretch and play with feet and toes).
  • Continue to keep your child's feet as uninhibited as possible as they learn to sit and crawl. Make sure socks are not tight (when they are necessary, which often is not the case- apparently, if the floor is warm enough for baby's hands to be bare, his/her feet can be bare also) and avoid shoes as much as possible (this was natural for us since money is so tight and it didn't seem to make financial sense to invest is shoes for a child that does not walk).
  • Crawling is very important for foot development- give your baby as much opportunity to crawl as possible (unshod.org recommends putting your baby in a play pen rather than a swing when you need to keep him/her out from underfoot, but really, use common sense and moderation people; do that many people keep kids in swings for so much of the day that they don't get enough opportunities to crawl? Really?)
  • Once your child is walking and needs shoes the recommendations are for shoes that are "flexible, roomy, and simply made are best. Remember, children's toes and feet must be allowed to grow naturally without restrictions and pressures.... [it should be] flexible through the arch. Having found a flexible arch, make certain that the sole itself is not so thick that the shoe becomes hard to bend..." Also, avoid pointed toes, arch-support features, and heels (the flatter the better). As far as length and width are concerned, get shoes as wide as possible and "[t]here should be at least one adult thumb width or three-fourths of one inch of space between the end of the child's toes and the end of the shoe"
  • Go barefoot as much as possible. Period. "It is not enough that children's feet be free from deforming shoes-foot health also depends upon going barefoot in order to develop agility and strength in the feet. . . . For toddlers, shoes should be worn outdoors only during inclement weather and indoors only for infrequent dress-up occasions."

The article also suggests that after your child's first five years, you should compare his/her feet to some peer's. "If you will have your child follow the directions just outlined, until he is five, you will find that he has perfectly functioning, almost entirely unimpaired feet. (The ends of the first, fourth and fifth toes may be curled in a little, no matter how great care is taken, because there are presently no shoes on the market which are entirely non-deforming). Compare your child's feet with those of his playmates the same age - with whom this care was not taken. Your child will have straighter, stronger toes and denser muscles on the bottom of his feet. You will be amazed to discover that other children's toes will be skinny and weak, even gnarled. When you see the ease with which your child moves about on his feet you will feel rewarded for the care you have taken of his feet." I don't know how well I can follow all the guidelines given, but we will certainly do bare feet as much as possible (which I now know is more than I would have thought) and I just might look at some other children's feet when my daughter is five!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Remembering Pregnancy Loss- by Olivia Hinebaugh

So it seems last month was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month and Olivia Hinebaugh wrote a particularly touching article for mothering.com entitled Remembering Pregnancy Loss.  She was able to put into words many of the feelings I remember experiencing that I struggled to define and explain. 

I do not share my experience with everyone, and I try to be selective about who I share it with and how I share it. But, I am not always careful enough, and there have been one or two times that I have regretted it. Interestingly, it has always been with women who have suffered a miscarriage themselves. Not everyone, it seems, feels a deep emotional pain of loss with early miscarriage. But I do. I didn't know how to explain it before, but Olivia's words were perfect: "But when I saw that line [confirming that she was pregnant], my heart made some extra space for that baby--a space that is still there, still empty.

Later she says, (emphasis mine)
"My friends who knew I was pregnant did their best. They said: “You’ll have another,” and “it wasn’t meant to be.” But I loved this baby. How could they say that? I wanted a sympathy card. Or flowers. Or acknowledgement that I hadn’t made this whole thing up. One of my friends heard of the miscarriage and immediately came over and fixed me dinner. This was truly a kindness. My grandmother sent me an email of condolence. I saved it. I saved the home pregnancy test. I saved the onesies and the bib. I needed to know that this baby was real and that I loved it.

When I hear that friends of mine have lost a pregnancy. I remember how I felt. I write them a card of condolence. I give a little memento for their baby. Something they can look at. Something to know that it was real. Perhaps my friends don’t need these to grieve, but in case they do, they know that I grieve with them and remember their baby."

I love these suggestions and wish I had thought of them myself when I found out a friend of mine was suffering though this experience. 

If you have experienced early pregnancy loss, or if you are close to someone who is experiencing pregnancy loss, I recommend you read this piece in its entirety.  To some, pregnancy loss is not a big deal, but it was for me and for Olivia and it may be for you- and that is a perfectly valid feeling. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Tips For Visiting The New Momma

I wanted to share THIS fantastic article about how you can genuinely help after a new baby is born. The article is a "primer on how to be a good visitor to a family with a newborn in the house-- the kind of visitor who will make the family feel loved, supported, and forever grateful!"

I can't even tell you how much the following points resonated with my experience.  These are a few I wanted to comment on. (As usual, the highlights are mine and my notes are in maroon)

  • Always call/message in advance to schedule the visit.  Do not drop in unannounced.  Be on time. YES! I was in a relatively unique situation my first weeks postpartum, in terms of both health and living arrangements. Unfortunately there was more than one occasion where someone "dropped by" and I was caught wearing nothing but a bed sheet (no, I am not even exaggerating a little bit). It was NOT OK for people that were both completely unexpected and completely unrelated to me, to just drop by (and let themselves in no less). If you are my sister- drop by, if you are my mother drop by (and never leave), if you are an acquaintance, CALL (and don't just call to tell me you are on your way- find out what time works for me). 
  • Very close friends/family may be invited to come for longer or more frequent visits to help in the early weeks, but should always ask the mother what type of visit — short or long — would be most helpful to her.
  • If the mother will be home alone with the baby most of the time (single parent, spouse deployed or working long hours), she may wish for visitors to stay longer.  Ask. It is really all about the communication. Don't assume things that you can easily check on.
  • Remember that the purpose of the visit is for you to help the family, not for you to spend time with the baby.  Now is the time for you – not the family — to prepare food and clean up any messes made during the visit.
  • Wash your hands when you arrive, and let the mother know that you have washed them before touching her baby [or anyone, actually]. I know that I should not have felt awkward about being assertive about this- but I was full of hormones, low on blood and energy, and very dazed-- I should not have had to worry about this. It was hard for me to ask people to wash their hands- especially if the visitor was more acquainted with my husband than me. And, please don't think for a second that washing your hands before you arrive counts in any way. This is also not something that should wait until you are about to hold or touch the baby- this is a first thing. Letting the mother know is also VERY IMPORTANT.
  • Do not expect or ask to hold the baby.  (Yes, this can be difficult — new babies are so snuggle-able!)  Wait for the mother to offer.  Many won’t.  One big exception is offering to hold the baby after a feeding so the mother can take a shower or a nap.  One of my most awkward moments (even more awkward than being caught in a bed sheet) was when a visitor whom I did not actually know very well asked to hold my baby. I was uncomfortable with it, but had no polite way of turning her down. I could hardly focus on a word she said the whole time. As a hormonal mama-bear I have a one-track mind with one all-consuming thought-- and that is the safety of my baby. Don't put anyone in that position. 
  • Follow the mother’s cues about how long a visit she’d like. Remember that it can be very difficult for her to ask you to leave once you are there, even if she truly needs privacy to nurse or pump or perform postpartum self-care. Once again, it is all about communication. For a visit scheduled more than an hour in advance (which is good), a mother will likely not know where it will fall in the baby's care for the early weeks (we can plan not to have a bath at that time, but napping and nursing happen on their own cycles all day long). The mother may wish to nurse in private or may just want to get it started in private but continue to have company- try to be sensitive to her cues and if you are not sure, ask her (make sure to phrase it in a way that encourages her to feel comfortable giving you an honest answer).
There are many more GREAT tips and reminders in the article. I HIGHLY recommend you check out the whole thing!

Friday, October 4, 2013

What I Want My Sisters to Know About Circumcision

There are some topics that I actually try to stay away from in conversations with people.  Circumcision is definitely one of them- luckily it doesn't come up often.  However, this blog isn't for people, it is for my sisters- and I don't want to avoid any important topics with them.  In fact, I want to make sure I cover all the important topics with them- and that is why I have decided to write this post.

Circumcision is a tough subject though. A really tough subject. It is so very personal and, at least when we were faced with the question of whether we would circumcise or not, it felt so pressing.  The problem was, as much as those against it would say that if you didn't do it, you could always change your mind later, that didn't really ring true for us... for my husband in particular. Yes, you could circumcise your 2, or 4, or 8 year-old, but it would be a memorable traumatic experience.  As far as my husband was concerned, if it was going to happen it had to happen early- very early. And I can't blame him for being very grateful that he doesn't remember his.

But we found that there is a great deal of conflicting information out there- much of it in angry and alarmist tones- on both sides. Both sides 'debunk' the 'myths' perpetuated by the other side.  They can't seem to concede a single assertion- babies do get adequate pain blockers (or any other argument for or against)- they don't- they do, back and forth all day long. You will find that most mainstream publications from the US lean in favor of the procedure to varying degrees, and most 'studies' about the procedure are either outdated or performed under questionable conditions.  Which makes all the (often redundant) information even harder to sift through.  Things may not have actually been worded that strongly, but it felt like if we didn't do it our son would get cancer after a never-ending series of UTIs and HIV susceptibility and if we did do it he would bear emotional scars, never enjoy sex, and discover through primal therapy that he could remember the experience! It felt like a lose-lose (and made having a girl seem so much simpler).

And yet, we were able to come to a decision. Since we had a girl it is a decision we have not yet implemented, but at least it is settled for when the time comes.

So, let me start with my strongest feelings about circumcision. I am a strong believer in parental rights (those of you to whom I am not related who are joining this conversation: don't be obtuse- I am not advocating the idea that parents should be able to do anything with or to their children- just hold on to your hats).  I do consider circumcision to be a parental decision (ie; not a government decision); however, like all parental decisions, circumcision is not a decision to make based on convenience or ignorance. I also believe parents have a responsibility to make
informed decisions, which should reduce the likelihood of regretting that decision later.  

I will share the information that had the most influence on my decision and perhaps in subsequent posts I will share some additional relevant info.

Of course I first considered circumcision from my religious perspective. I was familiar with the fact that circumcision was commanded by God in the old testament, and that, as
the Bible Dictionary explains "The Church under direction of Peter and the Twelve, and acting under the guidance of the Spirit, declared that circumcision was not obligatory for gentile converts. However, it apparently did not settle the matter of whether or not Jewish members of the Church should have their children circumcised." I appreciate that it also adds "As one reads the scriptures on the matter, it becomes evident that the real issue was not circumcision only but also the larger question as to continued observance of the law of Moses by members of the Church. The word circumcision seems to have been representative of the law in these instances." However, this did not make it clear to me what the best course of action was for my baby. Clearly new converts are under no obligation to be circumcised- but is it still preferable? It can't be a requirement for exaltation (or else it would be required for converts), but are there benefits to having it done anyway? I appreciated these scriptures, but still felt unsure.

Ultimately, the piece of information that had the biggest influence on me personally was learning that biblical circumcision and modern circumcision are NOT the same thing. When I first started learning about this, all I knew about circumcision was that it was a surgical procedure done to the foreskin, which is part of a baby boy's penis- which is about as much as a lot of baby-books tell you. In some health class I remember hearing about some medical benefit(s) of circumcision (which may or may not be 'debunked'), and thinking "oh, well that must be why God commanded the Jews to practice circumcision." But, because I don't believe God intended our bodies, which are made in His image, to have useless parts (which we have already found about most of those 'useless' organs we used to surgically remove without much thought, such as the appendix), this did seem to be a rather unusual case to me.  As it turns out, the circumcisions practiced by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, were more of a cut (Zipporah was able to circumcise her son with a stone in Exodas 4:25) that was intended to supply some drops of blood for a covenant and leave a scar to mark the person with the covenant. I really like the way this this blog explains it. The circumcisions practiced in modern hospitals are more like amputations which remove hundreds of feet of nerves, and tens of thousands of nerve-endings.  Fatal hemorrhaging is a risk of the procedure even today. All of this information had a profound effect on the way I thought about the possibility of having my son circumcised.  

So, I told my husband that I was comfortable with two options: leaving our son intact or circumcising him the biblical way. This settled the discussion since he answered that he was comfortable with two options as well: circumcising or not circumcising- but he was not okay with our son having something done to him that nobody does anymore.

If you would like additional circumcision information from an LDS perspective THIS is a neat pamphlet of info. Please note that the pamphlet was not created, nor is it distributed by, the leaders of the church.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

What I Want my Sisters to Know About Babywearing

I want my sisters to know that Babywearing is a WONDERFUL thing- for babies, mommies, daddies, grandparents, and aunts & uncles! There are a lot of benefits that have been noted for babies who are worn regularly- the Dr. Sears website has a good list HERE which includes things like security, socialization, and learning. I just recently discovered an article by Dr. Andrew Dodge called Benefits of Babywearing vs. Carseat carrying on the Onya Baby website and I highly recommend it.

I also want to share some important safety information because, unfortunately, there are some methods of babywearing that are fairly common but that I would recommend against.

This will involve some information on babies' spines. Much of this information was inspired by THIS article and THIS article (I recommend checking them out). 

Babies' spines start out with only two curves, the adult spine has four. Rochelle L. Casses notes regarding the two additional curves that develop 
"The curve in the cervical spine develops as the child begins to lift his head and the neck muscles are strengthened. The curve in the lumbar spine results as the child starts to crawl. ... These four curves — two primary and two secondary — are extremely important in the spine (both adult and child), for this is how the body handles the stress of gravity. If these curves do not exist, the body's center of balance is shifted, causing undue stress on the spinal column and spinal cord.
Unfortunately some popular carriers put babies' developing spines under stress.  The (sometimes offensive) slang term for these carriers is "crotch-danglers".  Officially they are usually front carriers that allow the baby's knees to fall below his/her bum.  Here is a picture that I have used without permission from an ebay listing for such a carrier. I have used a red airbrush to show the U-shape formed by the baby's legs and bum.

This U-shape is one of the signs of a carrier that will put undue stress on an infant's spine.

A while back I found (and bookmarked, of course) a fabulous webpage that had a practical how-to guide for recognizing carriers that properly supported babies. Unfortunately when I went back to add it to this post the link was dead. So, to try to re-create their demonstration of a carrier that puts baby's leg in an M-shape (instead of a U-shape) I have used the picture below without permission from another ebay listing. I have added the red airbrush to help show you the shape.

Unfortunately the angle of the camera is not straight-on, but hopefully you get the idea. 

I really loved these photos that allow you a better view of the baby in the ideal positions

These photos were used without permission from this website

TheSchoolOfBabywearing.com has this great pdf with this information on the TICKS rule for safe babywearing:

T: Tight. Baby should be tight to you to prevent slumping.
I: In view at all times. You should always be able to see your baby's face (which is also good for your peace of mind).
C: Close enough to kiss. Baby should be worn high on your body
K: Keep baby's chin off of their chest to prevent positional asphyxia (infants' airways get blocked if their chin gets tucked in their chest), and keep baby's Knees above bum. Fabric should extend from knee to knee, and baby's knees should be higher than their bum.
S: Supported back. Baby's back should be supported in it's natural curve.

An important warning: there is one type of carrier that has been recalled multiple times for infant death and should not be used- it is called a bag sling please check out THIS page explaining how bag slings are dangerous and how to recognize a safe sling (because safe slings are wonderful things). 

Well, I am out of time. But, to sum up, here is a list of links I recommend checking out on the topic of safe babywearing and associated benefits:
P.S. While putting together my links for this post I accidentally ran into this article. I had not been aware of any controversy regarding the term "Babywearing" before, but I am interested in any comments you may have on the subject. (Any comments deemed offensive will be removed).

Friday, September 20, 2013

25 Things That Have Changed Since You Were The New Baby

Occasionally I come up with my own stuff.  Last year I had a baby- the first grand-baby on my side of the family. I had the opportunity to have a lot of great discussions about taking care of babies and what babies need and what the recommendations are for babies with my sweet and wonderful mother. Together we discovered that a few things have changed... and I was inspired to put together this list. 

25 Things That Have Changed Since You Were The New Baby

  1. Car seats -The infant car seat base- a total game-changer
  2. Car seats- The new [twenty]-five point harness: if your child can move at all it is either too loose or you have done it wrong… again.
  3. Car seats- They expire, usually before the second child can outgrow them.
  4. Car seat boosters… for 12-year olds 
  5. Baby powder is hazardous to your baby’s health 
  6. Formula… for breast-fed babies
  7. Breast-feeding supplies are now tax-deductable
  8. “Baby-led weaning” has almost nothing to do with the common US usage of the word “weaning” 
  9. You must get a special mat and a timer and designate “tummy time” to watch your baby flail and scream, but no matter what they must not fall asleep on their stomachs. 
  10. Cloth diapers are the hip thing to do
  11. People expect YOUR diaper bag to match your BABY’S gender
  12. Real people (not just celebrities) buy $200 diaper bags
  13. Between the recommendations against crib bumpers, and blankets being labeled a “SIDS risk,” there is no fun to be had in baby bedding.
  14. The great crib recall… it’s a miracle you survived your drop-side crib
  15. Recalls for “parental stupidity” 
  16. The toxins in your baby’s flame retardant clothing are a greater threat than fire
  17. Everything is a SIDS risk, but we still don’t know what causes SIDS.
  18. If your baby starts solids too early they will get allergies; if your baby starts solids too late they will get allergies; too early is before 4 months… or before 6 months… or before they are demonstrating all the proper physiological signals of readiness… too late is after 4 months… or after 6 months… or….
  19. Speaking of starting solids, those “forbidden foods” are no longer a problem (except honey- don’t give your baby honey until after 1 year)
  20. No more Vicks VapoRub for sick babies
  21. Circumcision is no longer a “given”
  22. Scheduled vaccinations from birth to age six in 1983 total 10. Scheduled vaccinations from birth to age six for 2013 total 38.
  23. 3D and 4D Ultrasounds
  24. Watch your baby (or your neighbor’s baby) with a video baby monitor
  25. Names! Unique names are common, gender-benders are in, and the internet gives everyone easy access to the most recent social security name data

Cervical Scar Tissue – A Big Issue That No One Is Talking About by Dawn Thompson

One of the first articles I ever bookmarked was this one.  Reading this story made me wish there was a way I could share this information with everyone I meet!  If it never came up in conversation before then let me share it with you now.  As before, my comments are in maroon, I have also highlighted some of Dawn's words.  The original article can be found HERE 

In my first year of being a birth doula, I had this client. She desperately wanted a VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section). She told me how in her first birth that she was in labor for hours. Waters broken, Pitocin, epidural, tubes and wires coming from every direction. During her extremely long ordeal the only change to her cervix was the effacement (the thinning of the cervix). Her cervix never opened at all. I assumed at the time that this was because her baby was just not ready to come out. This time could and would be different. She would wait for labor to start. We would stay at home and labor where she was comfortable. When the day came, that is exactly what she did. Her labor seemed to be moving right along. When we got to the hospital I expected they would tell her that she was 4-5 cms. Instead what we got was, 100% effaced but only a finger tip dilated. I think I may have even gasped out loud. I immediately started beating myself up in my head. How could I have read her labor so wrong? 6 more hours would pass with her, her husband and I working hard. Moving from the birth ball to the shower and I swear every inch of that hospital room in between. After 6 hours, still a finger tip dilated. Obviously there is something wrong with her cervix, but what. No one seemed to know. Not the two different nurses that we had the pleasure of getting to know or the doctor who we saw just once when he was coming to explain that she would be having yet another c-section. This is one of those moments in my career that I really wish I knew then what I know now.
I have never stopped thinking of her. There has always been this part of me that wanted to call her and say “I know what it is now, can you have another baby so we can fix it?” I just know this would not make her feel any better. Instead, I keep her close to me whenever I ask the question now during each and every prenatal visit, “Have you ever had any procedures done to your cervix?” Every single birth professional that is assisting clients should be asking this question.
I would like to point out here that procedures done to your cervix would include a D&C which is not only performed in abortions but also sometimes for miscarriages (and other things). Look, I’m not a scientist, researcher, doctor and anything else that would know how to study this stuff. What I am is a doula that has had the pleasure of attending over 100 births. I know that the client I mentionead above was not the only one who had a c-section because of scar tissue during my earlier days. I can look back and think of all the clients that seemed to be in transition (7-10 cms) but when checked were still only 4cm. Stuck there for hours and hours. Then wondering for days after their c-section if there was something I could have done differently to help.
A New Day! 
The day that changed my life as a doula forever, my very own sister was having a baby. She was having her second baby. I told her how great it would be and it would be so much faster than her first. When she started having surges just a few days before her due date, we were excited. I went to her home (3 hrs away) and stayed the whole weekend. She had surges off and on all weekend but nothing really steady. I went home after three days and decided that maybe my being there was freaking her out. For the next week, she had surges every day. I kept telling her it was going to be great. All this work would get her cervix open slowly and gently.  Then she visited her midwife. She was just a finger tip dilated. I chalk this up to my sister being a big drama queen. All the surges have been Braxton Hicks! The next weekend comes and I find myself making the drive because this time her water broke. Now we know this baby is coming. She has mild labor, 7 minutes apart for 16 hours. Nothing is changing. I suggest we head in. Something is just not right. We get to the hospital and a different midwife she has never met comes to check her. 100% effaced but only a finger tip dilated. What?! Are you kidding me?! Then the words that changed my life. “Have you even had any procedures done to your cervix?” My sister says “yes, I had cryo surgery done a couple of years ago to remove pre cancer cells”. Midwife “ok well that makes sense, you have scar tissue on your cervix, and I can feel it.” Huh? Scar tissue on the cervix? Why had I never heard of this? My client from before comes rushing back to my head. Of course! The midwife proceeds to explain to my sister that she is going to try and massage the cervix and break the scar up. With some discomfort for my sister, she went from a finger tip dilated to 3 cms in a matter of minutes. An hour later she was 4 cms and an hour after that my nephew was born. Once the scar tissue had completely released, she flew to 10 cms.
As you can imagine, I asked that Midwife a ton of questions. I wanted to know all I could about this scar tissue stuff. Besides “massaging”, what can you do before hand? She shared her knowledge with me. Told me that HPV is so very common and more and more women are having these  standard procedures done, but are never informed that it most likely will leave scar tissue. Although less common, this includes women who have ever had a D & C after a miscarriage or abortion.
Once I was armed with the knowledge, my successful VBAC rate shot up as did my vaginal birth rate in general. I would ask the question and if the answer was yes, I would tell them what I knew. I would suggest that they mention it to their doctor so that if anything came up during labor, would he or she be willing to massage the cervix. Also I learned from that Midwife that evening primrose oil taken orally and vaginally would help break up the scar tissue before labor. (Orally taken the entire pregnancy and vaginally each night only after 36 weeks).
My midwives had me use evening primrose oil vaginally after 36 or 38 weeks (the details are fuzzy) to help ripen and prepare my cervix even though I did not have scar tissue.  However, I would definitely make sure to talk to your midwife about this before hand. Since this very important day 3 1/2 years ago, I know I have prevented c-sections. Several times in the hospital I have asked the doctor to please, when he is checking mama to feel for scar tissue.  Almost every time the doctor has said “oh yeah, I feel some sort of knot here” or some other variation of that statement. This then leads to a question of; can you try and rub it out?
Why Doctors aren’t talking about this is beyond me. I honestly think they don’t know that it is an issue. If you believe this could be an issue for you, ask your care provider if they are willing to break up scar tissue during labor. If they blow you off or tell you that they don't do that, find a new provider. It does not matter how far you are into your pregnancy, you can change. I have had clients change at 40 weeks.
We all need to start talking about it because unless women are being asked the question, they just don’t know.
by: Dawn Thompson 
Doula Dawn Thompson has been a Labor and Postpartum Doula since 2003. She is considered these days as the VBAC queen. It has become her passion to assist families through the VBAC journey and educate first time moms on how to avoid the many pitfalls of our modern day medicalized birth. You can get more information about her at www.douladawn.com.
Doctors should know about this. Midwives should know about this. Women should know about this. And not just during labor, women need to be informed about this whenever a procedure that can leave cervical scar tissue is discussed.  I have a friend who was offered an optional D&C to help with her miscarriage- the main reason she decided to avoid it if possible was because she knew about the risk of scar tissue to her cervix. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

5 Ways to Revolutionize How We Think About Pregnancy Loss by Jessica Zucker, Ph.D.

Not to start on a sad note, but this has been on my radar lately and I will start with some of the tabs that are on my browser right now.  I will quote the article in full below, with my comments embedded in maroon throughout. The original article can be found HERE 

There is no one "right" way to feel after experiencing pregnancy loss. Stop. Re-read that. It is so true, and important to recognize whether you are the soul experiencing it or the soul trying to help. The trauma continuum is vast and varied. Every woman comes to this loss with differing maternal hopes, historical disappointments, pregnancy fantasies, relationships with their bodies, interpersonal support, psychological and spiritual resources and mental health landscapes. And these things do have a strong influence. However, in my clinical practice, I have witnessed an overriding shame-laden thread that invariably weaves through the grief-stricken stories I am privileged to hear. Why are women blaming themselves for something over which they have zero control? My hunch is that the pain of wanting something so badly and not knowing if it can be attained, or having no control over something so elusive as fetal development, is too terrifying to sit with. As a result, we scurry around, desperate for definitive answers and when there are none, blame ends up clutching onto our shoulders, leaking into our psyches and settling into our bodies.
Whether it has happened to you or someone you love, here are five ways we can revolutionize how we think about pregnancy loss and its aftermath, with the aim of unraveling the thread of shame:
1. Endeavor to Understand Self-blame. I have heard countless stories of pregnancy loss and a subsequent rush toward self-blame. Here's a sampling of ruminating what-if's:
"What if I miscarried because I don't deserve to experience the mystery of motherhood, exercised too much, am too old, too young, wasn't sure if I wanted a child, had a sip of wine, stopped believing in God when I was a kid, had too much sex while pregnant, desperately wanted to be a mother-- maybe I wanted it too much.""What if I was too obsessive, too invested, too aloof, too attached....?"All of these thought patterns underscore how steadfast the mind/heart can be in tirelessly trying to make sense of the dizzying despair that can accompany pregnancy loss. It might hurt too much to resist chasing every line of thinking, every possible pregnancy indulgence, every behavioral regret, every everything. Please know that just because you feel this way, does not make your blame justified. Take validation in knowing that it is easy to feel this way and many women do, but just because you may feel it is your fault and you may find arguments to justify that feeling, does not make it true. But, here's the thing: self-blame spirals into shame in a millisecond. As researcher Brene Brown aptly states, "Shame is lethal. And I think we are swimming in it deep. Here's the bottom line with shame. The less you talk about it, the more you got it. Shame needs three things to grow exponentially in our lives: secrecy, silence, and judgment." Can we attempt to sit in solace, rather than create more angst through appropriating misinformation or believing misguided stories we tell ourselves? Can we disband self-judgment and rest in the unknown?
2. Forfeit Control. There is an illusion that by pinpointing a reason why this happened, a solution can be harnessed and straddled for next time. Why? Because we prefer to act than to feel, to strive rather than to be, and to problem "solve" as opposed to wading through psychological discomfort. But do we really have control over our fertility? Over something as minuscule as chromosomes? Reproductive technologies often provide further confusion over what we have ultimate control over. But even when technologies assist women in achieving the family they long for, the health and development of a fetus is out of everyone's hands, no matter the level of scientific expertise. The American Congress of Obstetricians Gynecologists reports that 10-25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage sorry to interrupt mid-sentence, but I just want to point out that with that statistic note how likely it is that your sisters, mother, or friends have experienced this -- a glaring statistic which further serves to inform us that no matter how driven, accomplished or psychologically sturdy we are, we can't necessarily escape the unfortunate numerical facts.
3. Honor Uniqueness. Even if your sister, best friend, colleague and/or neighbor had a miscarriage too, trauma reverberates, hibernates and maybe even evaporates differently for everyone. Rather than comparing and contrasting stories and possibly projecting our own experience elsewhere, we might simply ask how she is feeling and inquire about what her emotional temperature is at any given moment. Checking in again, even months after the trauma, might be the very thing she was yearning for. Every day is different and grief knows no timeline. This. A thousand times this. It might be tempting to compare, by minimizing or magnifying, the pain of a loss at six weeks versus 20 weeks, but why go there? Loss is excruciating, no matter how far along we are in days/weeks/months. "Well, at least you were only six weeks. You can always try again in a few months," doesn't necessarily help assuage the sadness, the numbness or the fear of the future.
4. Lean into the Trauma. Despite how counterintuitive it seems, leaning into trauma might be the very antidote to drowning in it. Most people are poised to eschew trauma at any cost rather than excavate it, with the determined hope that avoiding/denying will magically whisk away dark experiences. In Dr. Mark Epstein's New York Times article "The Trauma of Being Alive," he states: "In resisting trauma and in defending ourselves from feeling its full impact, we deprive ourselves of its truth. The reflexive rush to normal is counterproductive. In the attempt to fit in, to be normal, the traumatized person (and this is most of us) feels estranged." We benefit from disbanding the notion that mourning is avoidable and has a finite end point.
5. Acknowledge the Courage. The courage it takes to endeavor to conceive again after trauma is noteworthy. I'm in awe over the millions of women who experience pregnancy loss and muster the physical and psychological wherewithal to enter into the unknown yet again. I am equally amazed by the courage it takes to declare that one is opting not to wade back into potentially painful or maybe potentially joyful waters. It takes a certain kind of self-understanding to know when to stop, to understand our limits and to honor them.

On a personal note, I believe having the right support system can make a big difference.  I want my sisters to know that I am honored to play whatever role in that support system you may need.