the case against breastfeeding

i recently read an article titled “the case against breastfeeding” which, incidentally, is not at all a case against breasfeeding, but more of a list of (valid, i thought) complaints about parents oppression, sexisim, and patriarchy. but the title made me mad (i’m pretty sure it was meant to). the tone reminded me of pretty much everything i’ve been reading these days. like the recent time magazine article which talked of “mothers driven to extremes” (sleeping with your baby and breastfeeding past age 1). i’ve been noticing that pretty much everything i read about parenting takes a very polarizing “we are right, they are wrong” sort of a view. even the sweet books about waldorf inspired childhood and attachment parenting imply that other philosophies are misguided at best and cruel abuse at worst. and it’s not just the literature. at play dates and la leche league meetings i hear moms speaking defensively about their views and casting harsh judgment on parents who do things differently. i hear almost nothing but blanket statements condoning or condemning everything. bottle feeding is horrible, breastfeeding past infancy is twisted. sleeping with your baby is dangerous (you could roll over and smother them), putting your baby in a crib is dangerous (they could stop breathing and die). disposable diapers? you hate mother earth, cloth diapers? you’re a fanatical hippie. diapers of any kind? you’re forcing your child to sit in his own excrement, how horrible. diaper free? now that’s just crazy. sending your kids to daycare means you don’t love them, but if you stay home you better not try calling yourself a feminist. and on and on and on.

it’s just too bad that all this judgement leads to more parents feeling more insecure and defensive, which leads to more seeking of the one right way, which leads to more judgment of ourselves and other parents.

so here’s a thought. what if we all just do like mayim bialik suggests and “reserve judgment for people who beat their children, sell their daughters into prostitution, or deny women the right to make decisions about their bodies and their lives.” we could channel all the energy it takes to give advice into actually supporting parents. it seems one thing that all sides of the “mommy wars” agree on is that our culture does not adequately value caring for children, and whether it’s a stack of dr sears or babywise books on your shelf, it’s a heck of a lot of work.

i’m trying to catch myself when i judge other parents. when i find myself thinking how they should be doing it differently, i want to ask myself instead what i could do to support them as a parent. that could be actual physical support -doing some cleaning or running errands together, or it could be emotional support- listening to the complaints without giving advice. i’ve found that for me, exercising just a little empathy -putting myself in their shoes and seeing what’s hard about it, goes a long way in quelling my urge to judge. and when i judge less, i find i feel less judged. i’m probably being judged the same amount either way, but it feels a lot better.

care to join me?

letter to my baby

dear baby,

as i write this you are napping on our king-sized bed with your bum pointed at the ceiling. you are 13 months old and i’ll admit i often have a hard time keeping up with you. your walking skills are excellent, you’re practically running around. when we go outside to hang up the laundry you bolt for the hose spigot or the swamp cooler line. you  have a great fondness for hoses, electrical cords, and ceiling fans. cell phones, lap tops, and dvd players are also very appealing. when we are over at your grandparents house, you love to try to get to the entertainment system. but i think what you love more than pushing the buttons is that when you are about to, somebody tries to stop you. you giggle hysterically and often fall over when somebody blocks you or grabs an ankle to drag you away from the switches. i love how expressive you are. you crack me up with your funny faces and antics. i think you do it on purpose. you have so much intention in your actions. when i watch you play, i imagine you have a clear idea for how you want things to be. “this goes here. who put these books on the shelf? they belong on the floor!” your latest skill is nodding. you do it with your whole spine. when your dad and i are discussing things, you chime in with an appropriate nod or head shake cued by our language. for example:
damian: i don’t want to drive to LA during rush hour.
ollie: <shakes head no>
maya: right. well, lets leave at about 11, that could be good…
ollie: <nods head>

you love exploring and you love your family. when you see your auntie reanna or nana honey you practically leap into her arms.

the other day i watched as you played frisbee with your papa and uncle gabe. it was such a beautiful sight. they would pass the frisbee back and forth a couple times, and then hand it to you, and you proudly marched it over to whoever needed a turn. this went on for some time.

i could go on about all your recent skills and what i love about you, but i better get some housework done before you wake up and start re-organizing the house again.

i love you, baby. thanks for the light you bring.

Oliver’s Birth Story

Oliver turned 1 year old today. I’ve been meaning to publish his birth story, and this seems like an appropriate day to share it.

3 days shy of 40 weeks I had been feeling a lot of pressure on my cervix and was thinking it couldn’t be too much longer. June 2nd, 2011 I had been having frequent Braxton-hicks type contractions all day, I was feeling tired. At 10pm the contractions were getting a bit painful. The same thing had happened the night before so I thought I better drink some water and go to bed. I lay in bed feeling the contractions increase in intensity and could feel energy rushing through my body starting at the top of my head going down through my uterus with each one. At 11, I got up to tell Damian what I was feeling.  He was working on doing the days dishes and nightly clean up. I sat on the couch and we timed some contractions. To my surprise, they were averaging 1 min long and 4 min apart. That was the timing where we were supposed to call the midwife. We called Karen who told us to wait an hour and check in again.  An hour went by and contractions felt strong enough to warrant some moaning and leaning on Damian. In between contractions Damian tried to do as many dishes as he could until I called him over for the next one. It’s hard to get much done in 4 minutes… We called the midwife again who said she’d mobilize. Karen the assistant midwife (both my midwives are named Karen) showed up at 3am, she lives about 45 min away. I spent my contractions on the birth ball, in bed and leaning on Damian. Damian fed me snacks and coconut water. My primary midwife, Karen, showed up at 4am. She lives more than an hour away. She checked me and said I was 2cm dilated. Even though I was trying to prepare myself for a small number, it was pretty disappointing after working so hard for 6 hours. Part of me was thinking she must be about to say, “10 centimeters! Well done!” but no.

After the disappointing dilation report, we decided to go to bed.  I was able to sleep a little between contractions, but poor Damian didn’t get any sleep at all.  Like I said, 4 minutes is not very long. Karen and Karen went out to the trailer to get some shut eye too. I napped, had contractions, threw up a couple times, drank more coconut water and then suddenly it was dawn.

Karen and Karen came back in at 8am (June 3rd) and checked me. I was –wait for it- 2cm dilated. It was hard not to get discouraged about this news. It had been a rough night. Contractions were more and more intense and I didn’t feel like I had much to show for it. Karen gave me a pep talk and then went for breakfast.  Damian made me a smoothie, which I drank some of, and then threw up. He fed me watermelon, which I threw up, then went back to coconut water. Did I mention Damian is my hero?

At 10am the contractions had spaced to 6 min apart and I was uncomfortable, to say the least. We decided to fill the birth pool so I could try to relax a little more and get some relief.

Best decision ever.  I slept between contractions and could actually get comfortable with the water lessening gravity. Damian got a nap too. After a couple hours I decided I was ready to get this labor going and meet my baby! We decided to go for a walk to help things along. But bay the time I got myself out of the pool, to the bathroom, dressed, and half way to the front door though, it was clear something had shifted. I threw up a couple more times, went back to the bathroom and stayed on the toilet for about an hour. Damian was in there with me. I swear, my Damian… he was right there for every contraction. What a man… I was feeling a lot of pressure and feeling nauseous. But I was ‘in the zone’ there was a timelessness to it. We just rode one contraction at a time, and rested between. At 2pm I threw up again (thank goodness for the labor record, I would have forgotten how many times I vomited!) and the midwives were filling up the pool for me. I timidly asked them, “if you are filling up the pool, does that mean I’m in active labor?” they smiled and said yes, it was true, this baby was on it’s way and I could notify my mom (who was in Germany) to light her labor candle for me. This was exciting.

I got in the pool. Again, best thing ever, and rode the very intense contractions while Damian and Karen sweetly poured water on my belly and told me I was doing great.

At 4pm I was 9 cm dialated, finally! Karen said I could push whenever I felt like it.  At 4:25 the contractions were so painful I was worried the neighbors would think something terrible was happening to me, since I was being very, um, vocal. According to my labor record I asked Karen, “is it supposed to hurt this much?” she didn’t write down her answer…

At 5pm, I still didn’t have a strong urge to push but Karen said I could bear down with the contractions a bit, as it might help the pain.  Before I knew it, I was pushing with every cell in my body and I felt my baby’s giant body powering through me. I screamed, and his head was born! After 8 minutes of pushing! They held up a mirror for me to see his head. I don’t think any amount of birth videos can prepare you for the sight of a human head coming out of your vagina. That is a crazy, crazy, sight, I tell ya. I felt his body turn inside me (also super crazy feeling) and whoosh! It’s a boy! Oliver had arrived. It was 5:08pm. Karen baker “caught” him, and put him on my chest. Damian and I cried and laughed and cried and touched him. I said “oh my god” a lot. Karen called Darlene and told her she could come over. We got in bed, where I delivered the placenta. Karen baker checked me for tears and then Karen Dobbins helped me shower and get set up with ice packs and giant menstrual pads. The midwives did the newborn exam. Damian cut the cord and weighed our still unnamed son. 7lbs 4oz. Perfect apgar scores, perfect everything. We skyped with Nathen and marveled at our beautiful baby. We ate some lasagna (and I didn’t throw it up!). At 8:30pm the midwives packed up and left and we went to bed.

As the midwives pulled out, Damian and I marveled at what kind of person would choose to be a midwife as a career. Birth is such an intense, intimate, raw, thing. I can’t imagine hanging out in that zone several times a month. But I sure am glad that some women do, because it was such a blessing to be able to birth my baby at home, with calm, nurturing experts I trusted, and who trusted me and my body to do what needed to be done. They let me take my time, and let Damian and I go through our journey feeling safe and supported.