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.