Come read us on Babble
We are currently blogging every day on babble.com on a blog called "Being Pregnant" so come read us over there...
get off the bus
It was a struggle to get past the opening paragraph (when will it stop being necessary to describe the streets of Park Slope as clogged with mothers and nannies? Can we just slap a stroller symbol onto that part of Brooklyn in the next version of the MTA map and be done with it?). But I powered through and was rewarded with that trademark Modern Love Aggravation. This week's Urban Agita subject: saying I love you to babies. I have a vague memory of feeling a little dopey saying I love you to my son at first, so I get what the author is saying. I'm actually just as interested in the phenomenon of the "Wheels on the Bus" lyric evolution as anything else. I always thought it was kind of nasty that the moms had to spend their bus rides trying to shut their kids up. But the kindler, gentler version (more apropos to the current mommy model) apparently has its down sides too.
taking drugs to make art for other people to not take drugs to
The other day, I took my four year old and nine month old to the big summer show at the Whitney: Summer of Love: The Art of Psychedelia. My son went nuts in the room with the strobe lights and the dayglo tiled floor. The baby was Oh!ing with excitement at every turn. And you should have seen her rocking to the fuzz-wah riff in "Defecting Grey", silhouetted against an oil and water film backdrop. There were a few other kids at the show, and they were all really into it. Now and again a passerby would complain to their cohorts about it being inappropriate; drugs and sex and all. While I did stop short of the explicit Yayoi Kusama film (annoyingly enough, for me) there was nothing else in the show that felt wrong for my son to see. In fact, it seemed to be right up a kid's alley. Bright colors, great music, fun shapes… what's not to like? I've often thought that the Baby Einstein videos were oddly similar to psychedelia. I curled into a half-womb segment of Panton's Phantasy Landscape Visiona II , switched the audio tour to the Velvets and watched my kid climb crazy over the art.
It was strange to return home from this groovy wonderworld to the (very minor and possibly contrived) controversy of Babble's pot mom story . The Three Martini Playdate is a well-marketed parenting ethos, complete with a sequel. But one toke, and the pot mom gets, gotta say it, stoned by the villagers. I'm not suggesting that piece would have been any better received had she said she was taking swigs of vodka out of a flask…or maybe I am. Cocktails are the acceptable freedom of autonomous adults. Pot is for the young and irresponsible. A glass of wine or two? Of course, mommy's gotta unwind. But no one's going to say that being high around your kids is ok. We just don't live in that kind of world. But we don't live in the kind of world that people who chastise mothers who smoke talk about either, where everyone sits in lifeguard chairs waiting at the ready for a threat.
In this world, parents wouldn't be impaired or distracted in any way. No phone calls, no checking email, no cooking dinner. True, these things don't affect your nervous system. but they certainly affect your attention. And don't they affect your response time? Many of the angry mobsters railed at the idea that as a parent, you need to be ready to act at any instant. What if that instant happens while you're finally on the phone with the insurance company after twenty minutes on hold? Or while the UPS guy's buzzing, or your office suddenly needs a file that you swear was right here on your desktop yesterday? Pot may impair your reflexes, but from what I can remember from my own wild oats, whenever something scary happened while I was impaired, the buzz vanished instantly.
Although my parents were less hippies than "hippie style", there was some passing of joints around the Passover seder. Oral history has me arbitrating the order of smokers at a Tanglewood concert circa 1973.* I have not repurposed my son's preschool bossiness in such a manner and have no intention of making pot smoking part of his family experience...especially not after my just-say-no-fueled confrontation of my mom, at the aforementioned seder table.) Using drugs of any kind to "get through" something (parenting or otherwise) is a semi-questionable situation. While neither of us here at thenewmom has personally smoked pot in quite awhile, we do have a deep respect for its benefits (from a purely hypothetical/historical standpoint). There must be a reason that stoned people and children have a shared appreciation of things. Could shared appreciation lead to more attention, rather than less? They recently discovered that driving while talking on the phone is actually more dangerous than driving drunk.
So who knows?
*my mother would like you to know that she "hardly ever smoked pot". Also, she says, it was the time.
coming out about co-sleeping
A nicely argued case for co-sleeping.
circumcision back in the news
CNN reports that the circumcision numbers for 2004 are in and they're down. In some places less than 50% of boys were circumcised. Gawker chimes in with the help of some foreskin-championing "hos." We have discussed this before. I do not think CNN (or those dears at Gawker) really addressed how the more recent HIV/Africa study could change this trend. I have a hunch the circumcision rates will sneak back up a little. Stay tuned for 2007 numbers (in 2010) so we can see where we are now. Then.
debt is the best medicine
We've just been alerted (via Gawker) to this list of the blingiest baby bling from Forbes Magazine. Of particular interest is the $17,000 pacifier, replete with tiny diamond choking hazards. And the suggestion that spending outrageous dough will somehow assuage postpartum depression. Ka-ching!
mother stoned by youtube viewers
Not sure if you've had the pleasure of watching this hugely popular youtube clip of a toddler getting accidentally kicked into the air by a Times Square breakdancer. I have to issue a parental advisory that, despite hundreds of gleeful viewer comments, this is NOT an OMG LOL situation for the new mom. It's more of a WTF-is-wrong-with-these-viewers situation. The overwhelming response has been nothing shy of a public stoning of the mother.
She gets the following support from her community:
stupid ass woman who couldnt control her child.
fucked up for the baby, well yea, if you got parents like those all you can do is LOL, so fuck off
stupid mom. what were you doing?
what a b-tch of a mother to ignore her kid like that
Fuck the kid, fuck the parent.
damn i hate irresponsible parents like that woman... someone else should got that kick
accident my fucking ass! keep an eye on your child god dammit! beter still go to parenting class! see that what you get!!!!hahahahahahahaha
When I saw this video my first reaction was: wow what an amazing example of how quickly this kind of thing can happen. It was about three seconds in real time...you turn around to find a toy for your other crying kid, the stroller gets knocked over by a passer-by and your wallet hits the floor... I'll leave it to your imagination to think of more reasons why this could have happened. It happens to me all the time. We can't cage our toddlers 24/7. Things happen. But what explains this intense vitriol for the mother???
depressing situations increase risk of depression
New research suggests that women whose husbands have been sent to war while they're home having babies have a higher risk of experiencing postpartum depression. Women who have more exhaustion are more likely to be depressed. Women who have less support and more anxiety are more likely to be depressed. Is it just me, or is this another sort of obvious revelation? Maybe people are slowly (very slowly) realizing that hormones are not always the whole story....
from the hips on sale today!!
After three long years of intensive study, outreach, debate and pumping we are so thrilled to be able to say our book, From the Hips, is finally on the shelves! We're really happy with the way the book turned out, and we hope you like it, too. Also, if you ever filled out a survey at thenewmom.com check the book for your own words-- we used tons of real quotes from real parents to show the many ways pregnancy, birth and having a baby can go down.
Check back here for press info, we'll be coming to an ivory leather couch near you sometime very soon.
from attachment to neglect in a few easy steps
So here's my unsolicited advice to parents: take a step back. Relax. Enjoy. Your baby will sleep without an expert consultant coming to your house. Your toddler will eventually leave diapers behind. I promise... Let your preschooler play in the dirt, and your kindergartener deal with the classmate who pinches her.
Of course, hearing all about the importance of a hands-off parenting style involving what she calls, "benign neglect" may seem a little surprising coming from someone who has spent so much time extolling the virtues of demand feeding, co-sleeping and baby-wearing. But, it seems, the two aren’t mutually exclusive.
I have often described my parenting philosophy as "benign neglect." Responsive parenting means just that: we respond to children's needs. It's not the same as over-parenting, in which we anticipate, preempt, or take control of our children's needs and developmental tasks.
In my extensive research of three actual bonafide AP moms, the switch from “intensive mothering” (literally years of demand breastfeeding, co-sleeping) to a completely non-hovering approach (kids doing the crazy sh*t on jungle gyms, moms gasp, yards! away) in the older years was pretty seamless.
I was talking to Robin Aronson (who co-wrote The Whole Pregnancy Handbook) about all this AP/OP jazz and she was noting that the AP approach is all about reading cues. So, it would make sense that when the kids get older the parents would pick up on the fact that they need to be left alone. (Still I can hear you crying out, What about the AP moms who breastfeed till 5??? Is that leaving them alone? I encourage you to duke it out in the comments box.)
AP shenanigans aside...
... the transition from anticipating the baby’s every need to letting the kid suck on a dirt-encrusted thumb, and climb every mountain so he won’t be afraid of life is neither a bad nor new idea. In a previous decade of intense over-parenting (the 1950s), British psychoanalyst DW Winnicott treated a lot of anxious kids and their over-bearing mothers. His research led him to the concept of the “good enough mother.” Though "good enough" mothering has come to stand in for anything a mother does that's less than ideal or perfect, Winnicott was talking about something very specific. He was describing the healthy psychological process by which the mother gradually withdraws her attention from her child over time. Though she starts off with "an almost complete adaptation to her infant's needs" she gradually eases up and "adapts less and less completely." The mother who resists the impulse to withdraw and be "good enough," and instead stays hovering over that child, is pathological. I find that theory explains how one could go from All Night Breastfeeding to to Benign Neglect without contradicting oneself. (I like to think I have made this transition myself-- I breastfed for an eternity and my two-year-old is currently eating a dirt cake while dangling from the ceiling fan).
It's worth noting that Winnicott also came up with the idea of the “transitional object.” I have a hunch that his timeline for healthy separation came a tad earlier than it does for Attachment Parents for whom the transitional object is a big no, no.
But that's another story! For now, I'm happy to just remain benignly neglectful. And, as always, grateful to anyone who tells me I'm perfect for being that way!
The International Baby Code
When I was extremely pregnant, forbidden to fly and anticipating a dark winter of newborn incarceration, I was of course consumed by the idea of getting the hell out of town. I knew that flying with a nursing infant is a whole lot easier than flying with a baby or toddler with any hope of mobility. I got it in my head that spring break was the time. The place was somewhat more vague, but we ended up in Buenos Aires, lured by the company of my cousin, among other rarely-seen relatives. Plus, the food’s great, the dollar is 3 to 1, and my cousin promised that she and her boyfriend would babysit for a night! Sold.
In Argentina, people don't start eating dinner until 9pm. Though we knew this before we left, we somehow failed to imagine it in reality. Our son was okay, if a little unruly and cranked out. The baby was a nightmare. She cried through every meal, and service was “relaxed”, so meals were endless. She was such a miserable wreck that we couldn’t even take anyone up on their babysitting offers. And did I mention it rained the entire time?
Bad weather and impractical dinner hour aside, Buenos Aires was amazingly kid-friendly. During the worst of those wailing restaurant fiascos, there was a family of locals seated next to us. The man, in his fifties, kept glaring over his blood sausage at whoever had the screaming infant. Was he pissed off at the inappropriate soundtrack? (I would have been.) Were we violating some unknown cultural taboo? When our food arrived, he clarified: Could he hold the baby, so we could enjoy our dinner? He then got up, put a napkin gingerly on his shoulder, and walked around with the baby for a good ten minutes, patting her softly on the back and singing to her while we wolfed down the world’s best steak.
But the biggest surprise was that this acceptance of baby reality is not just about individuals; it’s actually CODIFIED. I discovered this while waiting in line at the drugstore. There were three people ahead of me. The cashier motioned to me and said something to the other customers, something I might have understood, had I been a bit more diligent with the “Coffee Break Spanish” podcasts. They stepped aside. I came forward and paid, and asked my relatives to translate the situation. But of course, they said, if you have a baby, you go to the front of the line. You don’t have this in the U.S.? I laughed. We don’t even have paid maternity leave. And just to rub it in, we were assured we wouldn’t have a long wait at the airport, because we’d be ushered up front with our children. Two hours and four lines later, we realized that they had failed to take into account our airline: American. Diapers be damned: this is democracy.
one very crabby mommy
If you've been looking for the AbFab of rural mommy blogs, look no further: Here's Crabmommy, a former Brooklyn mom decamped to Wyoming where she crab-parents her crabtot with serious rural panache. Just to give you a sense of it, here's the start of entry called "The Cure for Whining."
I cannot tolerate whining. From children. In my opinion only mothers should be allowed to whine. Our voices are (generally) deeper and our reasons for whining (always) more compelling. And as you know, I love a good whine. I try to whine about something at least twice a day, and indeed, I think mothers should be encouraged to whine whether it comes naturally to them or not. But children can and should be trained not to. Especially if they live in Wyoming and have rural western accents at age two. Rural western accent+carping/whinnying =appalling din.
She goes on to give actual, useful tips for shutting up your whining kid.
What she has to say about spanking is honest and interesting and certainly something people should talk more about. It's so easy to condemn spanking. Obviously, it's BAD bad. And ineffective. And not a good example. And reflective of a mother who is not ON TOP of her emotions. Etc. Etc. But Crabmommy gives her daughter the occasional whack on the leg-- when, for example, she lurches into the street, when she has, obviously, been told not to! If you're a loving mother and a guilty spanker, or you just want to read a very funny rant-- by a mother who takes the idea of "good enough" mothering very seriously--check it out. Here's a taste:
Do I “believe” in spanking? I don’t. I also don’t believe in wearing purple robes (or purple anything); nor do I believe in being mean to one’s really fantastic breadwinner husband; nor do I believe in eating lunch standing up, but these are all things that I do. And there are moments when I have and do spank Astrid, albeit not very effectively, with light taps on inward-arcing diapered bottom –the sort of weak hand-flaps that don’t do much of anything. But occasionally I slap a bare leg to sting. Occasionally I slap and mean it.
brooklyn mom turns to elton john
Author Jenny Offil has written a stunning piece about listening to music in Rite Aid (the only place her baby would sleep) and, in the process, slowly developing a deep appreciation for "Rocketman."
Because "Rocketman" although written and performed by two of the gayest men ever to walk the earth, is actually about having a kid. It's about finding yourself suddenly at a distance from the world you once walked through and took for granted. It's about the applause of strangers and the alienation of friends. It's about how what is supposed to be a transcendent experience can also be a profoundly lonely one. Or maybe it's just another song about being a junkie, I don't know. It doesn't much matter to me because "Rocketman" showed me the musical corollary for my new life which turned out to be songs about hurtling through space.
It's up at moistworks.com. (You have to scroll down to Monday, March 26th to read it.)
my pet project
In an attempt to get enthused about a second child-- not expecting, just deciding-- I thought I'd look at some baby name sites. After all, that always worked for me when I was ... fifteen. After futzing around a bit in the Welsh section, I found myself in urgent need of a name like Lola or Gigi and the next thing you know I was here and utterly inspired!
One of the most distressing of the potential benefits of breastfeeding—that it increases IQ in the breastfed child—has been refuted in this new study.Though breast milk has been proven beneficial for child and mother’s heath, it’s nice to know that the tricky issue of intelligence can be left out of the equation. The whole notion of making your child “smarter” with every let-down or, worse, withholding IQ points by not breastfeeding (for whatever reason) can get new parents off to an unnecessarily competitive and insecure start.
Of course mom is still to blame if the kid turns out to be a dullard: this study also suggests that a child's IQ is more determined by maternal IQ than anything else. I guess that means all the breastfeeding in the world will not save my son from a C- in geometry.
the passion of the cruise
Heather B. Armstrong (who had a massively harsh dose of postpartum depression and was saved by anti-depressants, all of which is documented on her awesome blog Dooce) offers some amazingly enlightened, touching insights into the humanity of Tom Cruise at Alphamom.
....But I haven't ever been interested in the man behind the actor either, because to me he hasn't ever been human. I haven't ever wanted him to be human because as the central figure of my pre-adolescent sexual awakening I've always wanted him to be an untouchable wax figure, something that can't be hurt or show weakness or wake up in the morning with bad breath...
the perks of work
Taking on work and a family may improve a woman's health according to a recent British study.
"Juggling a career along with being a wife or partner and parent may help to keep women healthy, scientists said on Monday.
After analyzing data from a study that tracked the health of Britons born in 1946, they found that women who had multiple roles were less likely than homemakers, single mothers or childless females to report poor health or to be obese in middle age."
This is certainly good news for working mothers. And it's not that surprising that varied roles and pursuits lead to a boost in health and happiness.
Of course stay-at-home, single and non-mothers do plenty of working and juggling. I wonder what factors are involved in the weight gain and poor health. Did the "homemakers" choose to stay home? (They were born in 1946 and lived through some pretty big changes in terms of what women are expected to do.) Did the working mothers have more education, money and resources--the kinds of things that go hand-in-hand with good food, good healthcare and good health? Was depression a factor?
I hope this doesn't add some fresh wood to the dying flames of the annoying mommy wars. It's really great to hear that the stress of work and family is not sending women to their graves! As for stay-at-home health, I want more info...
so after years of telling pregnant women that stress could be harming their babies, it seems like there may actually be some benefits to getting bent out of shape after all. A recent study at Johns Hopkins showed that offspring of mothers who reported higher than normal stress levels during pregnancy actually tested higher than average on tests at age 2. At least it's one less thing to stress out about...
This headline, Most New Moms Exhausted: Study, is so obvious it looks like it might have been ripped from the pages of The Onion. But it's no joke. A new study from the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota shows that nearly 1 in 6 women are back to work within ONE MONTH of having a baby and concludes that women need way more support (and time off) for post-partum healing. Too often the focus shifts radically from mom to baby, and she's left in the dirt (or at least in the office bathroom, sweating and tending to plugged ducts, hemorrhoids or who knows what). Maybe this study will help spread the word that for many of us, bouncing back is much more complicated than fitting into pre-pregnancy jeans.
the happy homemaker
Ladies, start your engines. In reverse. Caitlin Flanagan is here to tell you how much you are screwing up your lives, your kids and your marriages by not being a good housewife, old school style. Here's a long, remarkably evenhanded profile from Elle, and a short, suitably scathing quip from Gawker to tell you what it's all about.
Perhaps the most offensive nugget presented in the Elle piece is Flanagan's assertion that her husband's kindness after her chemo was payback for all those years of domestic servitude. "If marriage is like a bank account, filled not only with affection but also with a commitment to the other person's well-being as much as to one's own, I suppose my balance was high. I suppose that all the days I had made a home for my husband, and all the times I had ended my writing days early so that he could work late or come home to a hot dinner and not a scene of domestic chaos—all that, as much as the desire and intensity that originally brought us together, were stores in my account.”
First, there's the horrifying fact that she's implying those who don't similarly subvert themselves are less deserving of care. Then, there's the fact that a woman's "well-being" might actually benefit from being able to work late herself, or from just having a career at all. C.Flanagan simply doesn't seem to think this is so. The problem, for us, with her as so many of the other mommy reactionaries, is the homogeneity. How is it possible to steamroll details like financial need and personality and ambition and fulfillment out of the picture? Are we hoping that our ever-growing drug industry will smooth out the edges for anyone who isn't happy doing what Flanagan suggests? Little yellow pill style? Her technique seems to be to boldly deny difference, or to scare the dissenters into submission. Either way, yuck.
a voice of reason?
Points for Liv Tyler for calling bullsh*t on the epidemic of postpartum celebrity insta-weight-loss. It's a nice counterpoint, for example, to the terrifying baby-as-accessory spread in this month's Vogue. We can't find a link but in case you miss it, there are lots of pictures of a sterile, dominatrix-style super (model) mom spoon-feeding and transporting her baby around town (and suburbs) in platform heels, huge sunglasses and the odd trench-coat. The fantasy of impossible shoes and motherhood is certainly an interesting one--a blatant rejection of safety precautions?? But there is one pair of platform mules that should probably be given a once over by The Consumer Product Safety Commission.
sleeping through what night?
This NY Times article about the popularity of sleep drugs offers some insight into why "sleeping through the night" is more about cultural expectations than biology. The article includes explanations for why we drift in and out of sleep (and lie awake at 4 AM) based in part on the sleep habits of the oft-studied !Kung bushmen of the Kalahari desert.
I must not think bad thoughts...
A study at the Mayo clinic found that 89% of parents had weird, scary thoughts about their new babies ... and almost none of them had a "problem." 89%! We feel so much better.
way too real
In case you were considering taking up (or continuing) serious binge drinking and/or heavy recreational use of crack cocaine throughout pregnancy, you may want to consider spending a little time with this little girl. She may be plastic but she has the "high-pitched, warbled cry of an actual drug-affected infant and has withdrawal tremors." She is one of many other dolls designed by a parent education company mostly used for teens--is this what became of Home Economics? The program promises that "powerful emotional impact ensures the lessons will be remembered."
Non-drug-affected babies are also available as a part of the "BABY THINK IT OVER®" curriculum which introduces young girls to the reality of infant care by sending them home with lifelike plastic babies who will fuss and cry and need diaper changing and feedings, burping and rocking around the clock. Teens walk away horrified as noted in the testimonials: "Baby Think It Over® showed me that I don't have the time, money, or patience to care for a baby." It's great, and maybe even a contributing factor to a drop in teen pregnancy rates. But it does make me wonder if these kinds of programs should be available to all potential mothers, no matter their age.
Just after we posted the foreskin epic, I took a break to change my son's diaper. It was a poop, a big messy one of the sort that gets all over and sticks to everything. Some was stuck to the penis. He, as usual, protested at my attempts to remove the stuff from the penis area. I try to minimize the efforts, but there's poop all over, and I am worried about it irritating him so I forge on through his NO!
As I'm puttting on his pants, he says: "Next time, please cooperate with my penis."
dishing on the knife
A new article on circumcision brought up some old anxieties for us. We both have boys, but took opposite routes below the belt: Rebecca's son is circumcised, Ceridwen's son is uncircumcised. Though we generally feel good about our choices (at this admittedly early stage in the game) it's not hard to wonder sometimes if the grass is greener on the other side of the knife. The article (and further discussion on daddytypes) inspired us to dig up this old transcribed conversation in which we explained to each other what we were thinking, before (during) and after the snip:
Well, when I was coming up on Ezra’s bris—which I had not really thought about at all until basically two days before it was happening and everyone was invited and the whole thing was set—I felt that as a progressive person, I was misrepresenting myself by participating in the brutality of circumcision.It was a total “What kind of mother am I?” moment… like, how can I be so cruel to my new baby? That’s what it felt like to me when we got there and the old guy started taping his asshole shut (which was his way of keeping the baby from shitting during the trauma.) It was horrible.
My doctor said she was really glad I wasn’t doing it, because she hates doing them… but she circumcised her own kid!
What was kind of cool for me about the bris was that it was the first moment for me of really realizing that I had love for this baby. I was so shell-shocked and out of it and not consciously understanding my relationship to him. Then at the moment that they took him away to do this thing that I knew was going to cause him pain, I felt, Ohmigod, I’m this kid’s mother, and I need to protect him, and I felt a rush of relationship to the whole history of women before me with sons who had been hurt…and it was just a real feeling of tribal connection to the human race.
The decision was hard for my husband. He's Jewish but he's never been observant, nor has his family. But he started thinking a lot about his Jewish identity. He'd married a non-Jewish woman, now he’s going to have a half-Australian, non-circumcised son, is he a total sellout? But then, the kid’s not Jewish anyway if we’re playing by those rules. And he reasoned that Jews are also "people of Science," and every pediatric association said it was not medically necessary.
Right, there are things about it that are better, and things about it that are worse. It’s an unnecessary surgery. That said, there are risks it lessens, like the risk of cervical cancer in women. That was my mom’s big defense when I was freaking out about circumcising… “Think of it as a feminist choice.” For us because we are Jewish in an active way, and we come from families who are strongly identified that way, it would have been a major, major thing to not do it. And I just didn’t feel strongly enough about it to make that choice, even though I felt bad about the act and about causing him pain. And I felt bad about the supposed sensation loss, too, although I did have that dream about guys who are circumcised getting more blow jobs which I found strangely reassuring.
I'd had sex with uncircumcised men when I went to college in Melbourne and recall being far more concerned with what to do with a penis in general than what to do with a foreskin in particular. They certainly never skeezed me out, or smelled bad or anything. I do think in this country it’s a really, really difficult choice to make, though, because 80% of people do circumcise.
A lot of people are like, how are you going to explain it? Like it’s so impossible to explain. And my answer to that is: there are so many complicated things we’re going to have to explain to this kid about the world, it’s unbelievable the kinds of contradictions that are out there and the hypocrisy, and all these things that don’t really add up or make sense. And just to say, look, when your Daddy was a little baby this is what they did, when you were born we made the decision to do it this way. The question of whether a boy should "look like" his daddy runs pretty deep—the real issue seems to be less about "matching outfits" and more about acknowledging the father's penis as the "model"—the ideal. So then I thought, will we be saving the baby from a primal wound but opening one in the father?
Since I'm English/Australian all the men in my family have foreskins so I was sort of used to the idea. And we both shared an impulse to just NOT DO things. It felt like more of an effort for us to justify doing it than not doing it.
There are people who are 100% on one side or the other, but neither of us seemed to be in that place. For us the religion thing definitely tipped the scales, but it still left us with some angst.
We debated it for the entire time I was pregnant. And we still think about it. When I read in Slate about a new study showing that risk of AIDS can be significantly reduced if a man is circumcised I got that familiar sinking feeling. You make a choice based on science thinking that's the rational way to go, but science just ain't that certain. Study refutes study... and we're left in the dust. As a parent you put in all this effort, and you think about the research, your values, your beliefs but it just seems there are just some decisions you can never be that certain about.
Meanwhile, we just really need to find a pediatrician who knows more about toddler foreskin care than we do.
SIDS Secrets Revealed
UK researchers have a promising new theory about SIDS (over there, they call it "cot death".) Studies have isolated a set of "pacemaker" brain cells that control the impulse to gasp for air when normal breathing has stopped. A defect in these cells, researchers theorize, can cause the backup system to fail, potentially causing death. The idea that SIDS results from an inability to kickstart breathing when it stops isn't new. The discovery here is about the way in which this breathing is regulated, and how it is unique.
"What we have clearly identified is the mechanism that is essential for auto-resuscitation." Fellow researcher, Professor Walter St-John of Dartmouth Medical School in the U.S., said: "Our findings are exciting. They demonstrate that emergency breathing, or gasping, is regulated by different mechanisms than those for normal breathing.
The next step is seeing whether these theories correlate to differences in babies' brains. There are lots of theories about what causes SIDS. Some suspect a variety of different causes. How great would it be if they figured out this mystery? And found a way to prevent it from happening....?
wipes... they're not just for baby butts
I know it's been said before: "baby products are great for mom, too!" But maybe not specifically regarding the flu. This last week I've been able to surf the waves of influenza with the help of my two year-old's medicine cabinet.
Here's what I've discovered:
Wiping your sore nose with Seventh Generation Wipes: WAY better than tissues.
Using Lansinoh Breast Cream for a red and scaly dry nose: Immediate relief!
Taking children's Advil cold medicine: gives a nice buzz without the full-on vibrating coma feeling. (The grape is not THAT bad, but...)
The cool mist humidifier we bought for our stuffed-up infant last year has been on steady blast next to my bed.
And if the cough keeps up I'm going to hit the Vicks Baby Rub.
pissing and proud
This is not good news for me personally. Or for any other woman who has to change underwear after a good sneeze. Stress Urinary Incontinence (peeing in your pants) is no joke. I mean it's no joke to feel a little involuntary squirt every time you laugh, or jog, or cough. But it's also no joke as in 'it's real' and boring and common for a majority of women ... eventually. Though it's not talked about much. Apparently there's a stigma to pissing your pants and other related, common issues like uterine prolapse (this is when your uterus slips down into your vagina or even out of it). An ob/gyn friend and mother of four once told me casually, "oh yeah, I piss when I jog all the time, and I have to pop my cervix back up every now and then, too." Her candor may sound shocking. But it's a lot better than some other coping mechanisms (like never leaving the house, which is apparently common among those with severe SUI). Most women keep it a secret from everyone (62% waited a year or longer before even discussing their condition with a doctor.)
So, I'm trying to come out about my--granted, still delicate--postpartum SUI situation in an attempt to pave the way for a out-and-proud future generation of pants pissers. Maybe when I'm 60, Jennifer Anniston will play a geezer with diapers and we'll all think it's cool. (Depends, take note). Kegels do help.
trippy fun for the whole family
We went to the hypnogoogia exhibit at Deitch Projects on Saturday. Swirly spheres, a huge rotating ottoman spinning to the sounds of Sonic Boom (or similar), a giant video kaleidoscope. High concept psychedelia, equally appropriate for toddlers!
breast pump mystique
New mom and Brokeback Mountain actress Michelle Williams recently told USA Today: "I love being a young parent ... It's me, the baby and the breast pump." So nice to hear reference to the breast pump! The pump seems to be such a weird sort of secret. I get why we use it in private but I just still cannot get over how little (NOTHING) I knew about the breast pump until fairly close to the point where I actually needed one. When I first saw one in use I was shocked and thought it was actually pretty hilarious. Like something out of Woody Allen's Sleeper. I have since told non-mother friends about the pump (the suction cups, the tubes, the squirting of the milk into plastic receptacles, the "hands free" bra contraptions, the signs on my office door, the swirl of teary hormones in the middle of a workday, the freezer packs, storage guidelines... ) and they laughed, too. Surprised not so much that we do all this stuff but that it's so UNKNOWN to the uninitiated. Some reasons I can think of that it's meant to be mother's little secret:
Dairy farm imagery is too big an affront to Madonna & Child breastfeeding fantasy.
The pump is like a box of maxi-pads--something women need but details of usage need not be aired.
We're supposed to "cover" our identities as mothers when in workplace (where many women pump).
Boobs are just not supposed to be functional... and nothing says functional like a battery operated suction cup clamped to an engorged teat.
clicking on guys
Ferber and Sears stepping off?
This article talks about how new books from both authors show slightly modified, softened versions of their former adamant positions: Ferber concedes that crying isn't always the solution, Sears offers that sometimes it is. It's a good politcal move for these best selling authors to show some veneer of acceptance. It's become too nasty and damning for parents and we're all beyond sick of it (even if the debates are slightly fun.)
But are they really making us feel better? In Sears' new book there's still a huge push for super attention (co-sleeping, all night breastfeeding) even if he eventually *allows* parents to let the kid cry but only if it's just gotten so bad you feel like throwing the kid out the window. Also, sounds like--we haven't yet read this one--Ferber isn't exactly making the parents of demanding sleepers feel all that good when he says, "some children such as those suffering from anxiety will not be helped by the crying method." Now he's saying my baby has an anxiety disorder? Harsh toke.
study refutes other study (again)
Over in Japan it appears that another semi-accepted correlation has been disproven. Nursing mothers have been vaguely advised for years to avoid allergenic foods so their babies wouldn't become allergic to those foods (through exposure to breast milk after a mother has eaten them.) This new study says that the opposite is true: Women who eat eggs and dairy products while nursing are less likely to have babies with allergies, not more. Also, something about greasy food and dermatitis, which is both mind-boggling and queasy-making.
Bad Study Habits
Two big bombs were dropped this week, shattering parenting paradigms from coast to coast. First Penelope Leach announced the results of her massive study on maternal versus non-maternal child care. Result? Kids who spend a large amount of time away from their mothers "tended to show higher levels of aggression or were inclined to become more withdrawn, compliant and unhappy." The second hit came courtesy of the AAP who, as a consequence of recent studies, have come out against co-sleeping and in favor of the pacifier.
The studies may be true to a point. And they may have valid things to say about these issues. But there's a larger question at stake here. How do we proceed as rational, informed parents with so much official and contradictory advice a Google search away?
When we read the Penelope Leach report, our hearts raced as we envisioned a future of after-school detention and delinquency court for our children. But then we wondered about those other "studies," the ones that informed us that the kids of working moms are more confident. What happened to that particular positive outcome of non-maternal care? Or is Leach's adjective "aggressive" the flipside of confidence? Our confusion deepens. Meanwhile, does anyone study the older children of working parents? Or the home enviornments? Or the circumstances of the childcare? Or kids' DNA? Maybe they do, and studies are out there, intersecting with each other, colliding, canceling each other out. Has anyone proven that a three-year-old who aggressively grabs a toy truck grows up to be a mean boss or a date rapist? Of course not. There are too many variables. So we search onwards, for more answers, from more studies.
Our first thought after reading the AAP announcement was how the recommendation for pacifier use contradicted their recently restated breast-feeding endorsement. We also wondered if all the benefits of co-sleeping (for both the tired breastfeeding mom and breathing rhythms of the baby) are now disqualified. What about co-sleeping under optimal conditions? What are the studies the AAP used to come to their conclusions? What were the parameters? As Sara Gilbert points out in her excellent rant against the AAP recommendations: "I just have a problem with the science behind these recommendations. It’s so murky, so imprecise, so much guesswork."
And so we Google some more. How do we resist the TYRANNY of the STUDIES while still reaping their benefits?
Maybe we just have to train ourselves to read them critically. To figure out what makes sense in the context of what we've been doing, what has been working and what hasn't. Your hunch may be just as reliable as the latest news from headquarters. If you feel like your mattress is firm and your family is sleeping, use that information to make a judgment. And your own powers of observation can tell you whether your caregiver is doing a good job. Besides, unless Ms. Leach is going to share her royalties with you so you can stay at home and cultivate your child's gentler side, you might not have much choice in the matter. Where you do have choice is in how to handle this endless influx of studies. We all want to be informed parents, but we can't spend our time panicking, running from one corner of the room to the other. No. When considering these studies we need to assess ourselves, our children, our lives as they exist on the ground. Then we can take what we need and scrap the rest. Besides, whatever you do, sooner or later a study will denounce it, followed by another one that says you were right all along.
new rules to sleep by
The AAP just came out with a new statement on SIDS and sleep. The big changes: they're now explicitly anti-cosleeping. So much for our theory that Dr. Sears had hijacked the AAP, per their new breastfeeding policy. When they mentioned the benefits of maternal proximity in the February policy, we were half-expecting an endorsement of co-sleeping in this one. Au contraire. According to the new policy, Room sharing=good. Bed sharing=bad. The story on co-sleeping is awfully confusing. The stats on babies being suffocated are so scary, but we wonder...What if risk factors like parental smoking, drinking, and unsafe bedding were removed from the picture? Does a study exist that accounts for these variables?
The new recommendations also discourage side-sleeping, formerly presented as an alternative to back sleeping, especially for babies who wouldn't sleep on their backs. We both relied on side sleeping a lot in our babies' early days. Again, you can't argue with safety, but if side sleeping is discouraged because of instability, is it possible to define safe parameters for side sleeping, or are parents simply being asked to remove this entirely from their toolbox?
One tool that parents are being actively encouraged to use by the AAP is the pacifier. Pacifier use may be associated with lower SIDS rates, maybe because pacifiers discourage babies from entering the deepest sleep states (interestingly, co-sleeping is also associated with less deep sleep). However, the pacifier advice seems a wee bit unrealistic:
"Consider offering a pacifier at nap time and bedtime: The pacifier should be used when placing infant down for sleep and not be reinserted once the infant falls asleep."
If there is a parent in the world who has successfully trained a baby to use a pacifier to get to sleep but not to get back to sleep, please come forward. As far as we know, it's impossible.
Because the AAP is the ultimate authority on child safety, we often feel like we have no choice but to do what they say. After all, who wants to put their baby at risk? But our question is, how real are these risks in the contexts of our lives? As parents who make educated choices, are we obligated to follow these recommendations to the letter, or should we assume that they're coming from the same alarmist/paranoid better-scared-than-sorry universe that drives the whole freakin' medical industrial complex? We're at a loss.
Here's what some other people have to say on the subject:
majoring in mommy, minoring in ...?
Has Perfect Madness made its way to the undergraduate level? This NYTimes article claims a trend among women at competitive colleges to see motherhood as an ultimate career goal rather than something to be integrated with other ambitions. Take this data, from Yale women:
"The interviews found that 85 of the students, or roughly 60 percent, said that when they had children, they planned to cut back on work or stop working entirely. About half of those women said they planned to work part time, and about half wanted to stop work for at least a few years."
It's hard to know what to think about this, or how these numbers compare to other ones. But this article points to a bigger picture. Our system is set up (role models, reality of care, economic pressures) with so little flexibility; moms are either "in the game" or "out" of it: raising kids is often described as "dropping out" of the race, or "opting out". Even "stay at home" has a passive ring to it. Raising a kid is very hard and very important work to be sure. But the fact that we treat our childcare workers like dirt (no security, benefits, or much respect) and dads rarely consider child-rearing for themselves... one has to wonder, do we really, as a culture, have respect for it? Since women are given virtually no cultural support for the other options, they may well find themselves with the "instinct" to stay home and do right by the kids.
"Two of the women interviewed said they expected their husbands to stay home with the children while they pursued their careers. Two others said either they or their husbands would stay home, depending on whose career was furthest along. "
That's four out of 138 women who entered college after the year 2000.
In the words of Peter Salovey, the dean of Yale College, "What does concern me...is that so few students seem to be able to think outside the box; so few students seem to be able to imagine a life for themselves that isn't constructed along traditional gender roles."
No shit. We are all for people doing what makes them happy. And we think caring for children is as lofty a goal as any. But we can't understand how these women can be so... resigned. So complacent about the status quo. These are our future leaders, after all. And that fact that some male students find the idea of a stay-at-home mom sexy? MILF meets domesticated woman fantasy? Or is it just the lack of ambition that turns them on?
What's sad to us is that mothers are still expected to bear the burden almost entirely. So rather than taking it on ourselves as a culture to make things easier for everyone, and better for our kids, we tell women that if they want to ensure a good future for their children, they have to do all the giving up. Plus, mothers are complicated people, and to imply that every one of them is best suited to being at home is to steamroll the individuality of a good chunk of the human race.
Maybe all these young, smart young college students can put their priorities to slightly more global use. Instead of accepting the status quo, they can aim for a culture where both parents can pursue personal, intellectual and/or breadwinning goals while being confident their children are being cared for appropriately—and there's lots of data to support the theory that children of working mothers are not at a disadvantage. They can help define a workforce with more flexibility and a world of options between "in" and "out". They can encourage this country to make it possible for women who have fewer advantages and assets to support their families and take care of their kids, both physically and emotionally. And they can make child-rearing a dignified line of work not just by doing it themselves, but by improving conditions for childcare workers and encouraging dads to participate.
And then, of course, when they have babies, they can quit if they want.
Is it just us, or do all those fables we read as hippie children about man destroying the earth seem to be coming to fruition a lot sooner than everyone expected? First, there's the fish problem. Then, this terrifying Greenpeace report. This workshop dedicated to analyzing the toxins in human milk offers a bit of good news...
According to The Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, moms should not be scared off by chemicals in breast milk:
"We strongly emphasize that the mere presence of an environmental chemical in human milk does not indicate that a health risk exists for breast-fed infants...All information gathered to date supports the positive health value of breast-feeding for infants."
Still, it seems like by the time our kids are reading The Lorax, It's going to feel less like a warning and more like the truth.
moms helping moms
One of the organizations working to shelter and care for the people evacuated to Houston has set up an Amazon wishlist of badly needed baby items. This allows you to give what is needed directly to the people who need it. The Amazon site provides you with a link to the organization's website.
Society of St. Vincent de Paul's Wish List
For futher reference, here is a link from the Houston Chronicle listing organizations involved in the relief.
watching over you
When my husband and I put our son into an unofficial neighborhood daycare (with a very loving, take-charge neighborhood woman down the street who juggles the needs of 4-6 kids every day in a house crammed with plastic stoves and dinged up babydolls), I did a little research. Daycare is actually a good idea. Even for small babies (mine was 8 months when he started). In the book MOTHER NATURE, Sarah Hrdy looked at cultures where babies are literally raised by "a village" and they were just as happy, confident and intelligent as children rasied by one primary caregiver (i.e., the mother). This all made me feel better about the fact that my kid would be coming home with a fever every other month (which he has). Anyway recently I signed up to get daily "Google Alerts" linking me to all stories containing the word "DAYCARE." It's so depressing, I rarely have the stomach to read them... just one horror story after another. Day after day, the same horrific stuff. I guess not all villages are so great.
When this article came to my attention, it seemed comparatively optimistic. A daycare in San Fran has kids (and caretakers) on "Big Brother" style cameras all day so that moms and dads can watch the goings on from their computers at work. This certainly does ensure maximum security, but it's pretty sad. Is this another step in the Security Mom direction or a really cool idea to stop anxiety from ruling a parent's life? Will mom and dad get any work done when they can easily log in to find out who is bullying who in the sandbox?
baby Kim Gordons
I just got my first "Mini Boden" catalog in the mail and flipped. The clothes are beautiful and the suntanned, surfer children wearing them are very sexy. I'm just going to have to have a girl and spend all our money on seductive Velour Bootlegs. Thing is, a funny feeling came over me as I perved the flowery tights... I made it go away by deciding that it's not that weird to dress your kid in the same clothes you wore when you were 22, fucked up, and trying to get laid.
My husband and I watched a DVD for the first time since our baby was born a year ago. It was spectacular. Not just to lay back in the A/C and watch a movie but to watch the specific movie we chose to watch: CLOSER. I have no idea what anyone else thought of this movie. Was it discussed? Was it a hit? I must have been preoccupied with umbilical cord care when it came out last summer. I thought it was a horror movie, or some kind of thrill ride. But it's actually about immature, beautiful people fucking each other's husbands or girlfriends and setting each other up for emotional ruin. It was full of close-ups of Julia Roberts' brown eyes and Jude Law's bed hair. And though you'd think a new mom might find all of this immaturity and idiocy completely tedious, I loved every last moronic minute of it. The characters had no children, for starters. Their problems were blissfully narcissistic. Had this movie come out before I had kids, I’m sure I would have stormed out of the theater:“I can’t believe I just had to spend two hours with stupid, idiot people I hate!!!” But these days I can’t seem to get enough of narcissistic single characters. I saw the ending of “St Elmo’s Fire” a few weeks back and left my high school best friend a very long voicemail message about how truly genius the movie is and how right we were in 10th grade to have quoted it incessantly. Hollywood marketing departments take note: new parents don’t really want to watch some movie about family life! We want stupid, irresponsible, narcissistic characters with shallow, first-class problems, impossible apartments in glamorous cities and great clothes. Maybe it's time to Netflix "Less Then Zero."
another Modern Love mommy moment
What is it with this column? Are they actually looking for writers their audience will find irritating? Ever since Ayelet Waldman's "What's wrong with me for wanting to blow my husband more than I want to hug my children?" piece , which riled people up so much that it actually inspired an Oprah episode, I haven't met a Modern Love column I didn't hate. Or at the very least, Love/Hate.
Today's confessional comes from a Brooklyn mom who feels really really nostalgic for her messy youth...and who found reading her nanny's blog really really disturbing. I'm guessing most parents/employers would not be thrilled to hear the semi-sordid details this girl was disclosing, but I think the mom's response was equally creepy. Mostly I think this brings up some interesting issues about the deeply underappreciated value of childcare... what we expect from the people who care from our children, and how we deal with them when they don't meet our expectations. Here's the mom's side of the story, and the nanny's.
carseats a bust?
An article by the Freakonomics guys in yesterday's Times claims that carseats are actually no safer than seatbelts for kids over two. On their blog, they cite other studies with the same findings. Didn't New York law just change to make carseats mandatory up to age seven or something? Is this guy off base, or are we being duped? Regardless of how true his thesis may be, the following quote rings mega-true to me, if not all parents who have had countless hours and dollars siphoned into the carseat nation:
"Considering that Americans spend a few hundred million dollars annually on complicated contraptions that may not add much lifesaving value, how much better off might we be if that money was spent to make existing seat belts fit children? Some automakers do in fact make integrated child seats (in which, for example, the car's seat back flips down for the child to sit on); other solutions might include lap-and-shoulder belts that vertically adjust to fit children, or even a built-in five-point harness."
I'm sayin'. Start designing some shit so we can stop schlepping and strapping... especially if it's not doing us any good.
not the best kind of bellyache...
A one year old boy in India was operated on earlier this week to remove a swelling in his stomach...which turned out to be the fetus he had apparently ingested in utero.
Brooke rocks the Times
Pregnant moms are prodded, measured, monitored, advised and interrogated about their health for nine long months. Then the baby comes out and suddenly mom's body is literally yesterday's news. The follow-up for mom's health is pathetic... BOTH physical and mental health (both of which have quite a bit to do with chemical im/balances, thank you Mr. Cruise!). Brooke Shields is so eloquent in her NY TIMES Op-Ed. She's absolutely right that obstetricians and pediatricians need to get on the ball as far as mom's postpartum health and start screening for postpartum depression ASAP. One in ten new moms recommend it.
"... If any good can come of Mr. Cruise's ridiculous rant, let's hope that it gives much-needed attention to a serious disease. Perhaps now is the time to call on doctors, particularly obstetricians and pediatricians, to screen for postpartum depression. After all, during the first three months after childbirth, you see a pediatrician at least three times. While pediatricians are trained to take care of children, it would make sense for them to talk with new mothers, ask questions and inform them of the symptoms and treatment should they show signs of postpartum depression.
In a strange way, it was comforting to me when my obstetrician told me that my feelings of extreme despair and my suicidal thoughts were directly tied to a biochemical shift in my body. Once we admit that postpartum is a serious medical condition, then the treatment becomes more available and socially acceptable. With a doctor's care, I have since tapered off the medication, but without it, I wouldn't have become the loving parent I am today."
I'm so proud of Brooke. I worshipped her in her Calvin's when I was 12, but I never thought my admiration would be revived in this kind of enlightened and politicized context.
so much TV, so little sleep
After a week of all-night baby action (and...a marathon of leftover episodes of Alias), I had the following apocalyptic fantasy:
If you could somehow make it so all the babies in the world were up all night long, you could really do a lot of damage to the planet.
No, really...is it the moon or something? I heard another kid was awake all night this week too. Coincidence?
Getting around New York City with a baby via means other than feet is, quite frankly, kind of a pain in the ass. The initial shock I felt upon realizing that I could no longer just hail a cab and stuff baby and self in there continues to reverberate almost two years later. Now, plenty of people do just hoist kids of all ages into the back seat and pray...maybe this works better if you're a Hope For The Best type, but Imagine The Worst types (like me) may not find this solution feasible. In fact, if you happen to be both anxious and lazy, you may find that there are few options available to you in the world of public city baby transport that don't serve to discourage your escape from the house altogether.
Here's my breakdown of the major options and what sucks about them, just because that's the kind of mood I'm in.
TAXI: Cabs are exempt from the NY State law requiring all kids up to seven to ride in a carseat. But it is often pointed out that cabs, although yellow, are still cars, and cab drivers are not famous for their careful driving techniques. There is a periodic raging debate on Urban Baby about whether or it's ok to take a baby in a taxi. Some people schelp carseats on cab rides. This is no big deal in the infant seat phase, but far less convenient when you're talking about that behemoth of a toddler seat. We went so far as to have someone import a European baby carseat and kept stuffing our son in there when he was way too big in hopes that it would provide some protection...but we eventually had to let it go. There are also a couple of travel carset options, both of which I own, and both of which seem to be fairly flawed products: the Sit N Stroll (a carseat/stroller combo) and the Tote N Go (a portable carseat). With these options, it's easy to see why people might not even bother.
CAR SERVICE: I hear that there are car services which will come to your house with a pre-installed carseat. But I have had little luck with them: carseats have been the wrong size (like a toddler seat for an infant, and vice versa) or installed totally wrong. And since many people travel without carseats in car services (because they can) drivers tend to be cranky about complaints. Or maybe car service drivers tend to be cranky about complaints altogether. Hard to say.
SUBWAY: The umbrella stroller should make traveling by subway easy enough, except for one major aggravation. The MTA's elimination of token booth personnel has also eliminated the ability to exit most subway stations through the service gate. Leaving the station requires taking the baby out of the stroller, folding it up, carrying both, and squishing adult, baby, stroller, and any accompanying children into an obscenely small wedge of space on the way through the egress turnstile. I'm always afraid we'll get stuck somehow. And although I know that's my four year old self talking, I still worry about it.
BUS: That leaves the bus, transportation method of choice for New Yorkers too poor for cabs, and too old, scared, or otherwise unable to venture underground into the subway system. Contrary to my pre-birth fantasies, stroller-pushers cannot, like people in wheelchairs, simply wheel themselves onto the hydraulicly lowered bus. Strollers must be folded up and babies must be held. Why people think the bus is safe when a cab is not is a bit murky to me—something about less statistical chance of an accident. The bus works. But the bus, of course, is slow as snails.
So the situation leaves a lot to be desired...including, say, your own car. I see a business opportunity here. There's a doggie taxi, why not a baby transport service? Hmm. Let me know if you want to invest.
bank on these
New research shows that the pulp inside baby teeth contains valuable stem cells. If baby teeth are plucked at the right time (when they first wiggle free) and stored at an official baby teeth bank (coming soon?) the stem cells might just come in handy for your child later in life. Baby teeth stem cells may help with bone growth and repair nerve cells damaged by diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Research still needs to be done, but the idea is that by the time your baby needs them (which, of course, will hopefully be never) scientists will have figured out how to use them. It's a gamble, but it's a lot less pricey than last year's How Could You Not Do Whatever You Can For Your Precious Baby moment, umbilical cord blood banking. You'll have to take up the tooth fairy issue on your own, however.
things I thought I needed (before I knew better)
I used to think this was the coolest high chair ever. And, in fact, it may be. But I'm damn glad that those hours spent scouring the internet and cursing the international shipping mess did not produce one of these groovy little gadgets in my home...because it now seems like a thoroughly bad idea. Lovely, for sure. But here's why it sucks:
1. it's too tall. how can you even reach your kids mouth from your seat, especially if you've got low-riding modern furniture?
2. pins and needles are not an appetite booster. who wants to dangle your feet at meals until you're four?
3. there are two camps in the world of baby feeding... high chairs and booster seats. We joined the second camp by necessity (must conserve every square inch of space in our NYC apartment). But now I'd recommend it to anyone, and here's why. Using a booster helped our kid understand from day one (or day 185, which was around when he started eating solids) that eating was a family affair. He was at the table with us from the get-go, start to finish. Yes, it's true that we had to cover our fine, hand-crafted walnut table with a far less fine piece of fluorescent pink vinyl. And while I can't say with any authority that his seating had anything to do with it, our kid, so far, has been eating up a storm with a minimum of food-based home decoration. (Of course, tonight may be the night he grinds his soup into the couch.) But in this house, meals are a social event, and I think putting your kid on a pedestal, even if it's an ultra-cool Jacobsen-egg inspired one, goes against that grain.
So, a word of thanks to the red tape I encountered a year and a half ago. I'm so glad we got this instead!
I'm taking suggestions for a new word for "sippy cup."
you are what you hate
Sometimes it's instantaneous, vaporizing its unsuspecting victim like an A bomb...she succumbs immediately to the insurmountable force of schedules and structure, defending bedtime and forsaking all else. Then there are the ones who resist: pushing (strollers) blindly on, telling themselves that liberty lives just around the corner. They drag their kids out to parties, on to planes. But no matter how cool your gear, how laid-back your lifestyle, it's inevitable. It creeps up on you, or smacks you in the face: that ol' feeling... it ain't coming back.
You are the mom who rains on the spontaneous afternoon martini parade. You are the mom whose kid keeps everyone up on the red-eye. You are the mom who runs over a guy's foot with your stroller on the way to mommy-and-me. Maybe not now, but someday.
some RESPEKT on mother's day
A twisted Mother's Day message with a happy ending:
I often feel like Rodney Dangerfield (in a nursing bra) now that I'm a mom. Sometimes I wonder if the general populace devalues mothers just because we don't actually need that many new babies right now. In the old days procreation was a given... these days breeding is a "lifestyle choice". And a vain choice at that. Now that Britney's jumped on the bandwagon, motherhood's seeming more and more like just another cool thing to "get" (like a Louis Vuitton diaper bag). And, the fact is we do have to "get" (lay out serious sums of cash) when we have a kid. Children were once thought of as a resource, now they're a drain on the pocketbook, with no guarantee of return on the investment. We have very little support in terms of health and education. Our vanity projects cost a bundle. Sure, we may have someone around to book our room at the old age home, but we may not be able to pay the bill... even with the trickle of social security benefits paid by our kids' generation.
Now for the happy ending:
Moms may not get the respect they deserve, but new studies prove that they're quietly accruing skills along with the bills. Motherhood makes us smarter,more capable, more confident, and generally damn good to have around when the shit hits the fan. Tell that to the other 364 days of the year.
british boob freakout
British newspapers are going nuts over reports about Rosie Stamp, a woman who recently cut a trip to America short and flew home (3,500 miles) to breastfeed her baby. The one-year-old was refusing expressed milk (or any other liquids) from a bottle. Apparently, their Dr. said the infant was at risk of dehydrating. Rosie flew home and was back breastfeeding within 36 hours of leaving the home. Now Rosie is asking British Airways to refund the extra ticket she had to buy as she considers this a medical emergency. British Airways has different ideas... and the UK press is having a real field day with this story.
Mostly there are reactionary articles ranting on about how unnecessary (and bad) "extended" breastfeeding is (even though one year, according the AAP, and WHO, is not "extended," but recommended). On the other side, there are breastfeeding advocates talking about how it's "natural" for us to feed wellbeyond a year. As usual, both sides are firmly planted on extremist ground: you're either suffocating your baby with smothering attachment, or you're denying her the nutrition, trust and connection she needs.
As a breastfeeding mother, I read this and immediately thought such boring thoughts as "Had she introduced a bottle prior to leaving?... Did the husband try feeding her with a sippy cup? Had they never been separated before?" Maybe this was an emergency—the doctor seemed concerned, for one thing—but maybe it could have been avoided if Rosie had prepared the kid for the separation. Unfortunately, all these details are not getting any airtime so I can't attempt to break it down, pick apart Rosie's weaning strategy with La Leche League-like precision. I did, however, have the urge to write Kate Sharp, a Lactation Consultant and LLLI member, and ask her if she had any comments (from a technical stand-point). Here's what she had to say:
"It really depends on the mother and baby. If the baby was breastfeeding extensively at one year, and was not a large person, she could become a little dehydrated. Some people recommend " a trip away from baby so you can wean without fuss". Of course, this combines separation anxiety with the denial of the physical sustenance of nursing: common sense would say that there is a cruel element to this advice. This is not a nursing strike, it was an enforced sudden weaning, most likely. If the baby was fed soupy liquids it would seem the danger was minimal, but individual cases could exist."
doing it on the subway
Yesterday I breastfed my ten-month-old at a subway stop in Brooklyn, on the Q train in Manhattan and on the W train from Manhattan to Astoria.
I have always been nervous about feeding on the subway. I've done a lot of pumping and bottle-toting to avoid it. But the trek from Brooklyn to Queens was just too long. I found a seat at the end of the car, asked my husband to stand guard and let Alfred stretch out on my lap... within minutes he was drifting off, all that screeching train noise lulling him to sleep.
I remember when my baby was born I was so frightened that I would never be able to “get out” that I insisted on dragging my wounded postpartum animal self to the nearest subway—tiny, days-old, crusty-bellybuttoned baby in arms—so that we could enjoy a summer afternoon at the Frick. What could be more civilized? Well, turns out they wouldn’t let us in with the stroller, so we spent the afternoon in Central Park. The sun was very healing. Alfred and I, both squinty-eyed, vulnerable and pale, fell in and out of sleep under a tree. I was sore and scared, but the trip made me feel that “getting out" was still possible. That Alfred could be my buddy in life rather than an obstacle to my life. Feeding Alfred on the subway yesterday gave me a similar boost. In fact, getting over the feeding-on-subway hurdle has made me feel more confident to try it again. Maybe soon I can try it without the husband?
a new phase of parenting?
This morning Catherine Walsh writes in the Sydney Morning Herald about moms trying too hard to please their kids. It's another agood article about the need for a new "phase of parenting."
" ... Motherhood has probably never been more difficult. We do it in isolation, without preparation, without support. We do it in a world that values the economy over care. The expert advice keeps changing and we're constantly being told that we're wrong. No wonder mothers are crying.
But the present phase of parenting is taking a lot from mothers, without any benefit. We need a new parenting phase which empowers mothers. We give up enough to become mothers; to some extent our bodies, our sleep, earnings, friendships, hobbies. We don't need to sacrifice our self-respect..."
Judith Warner's Call to Arms
Whew. Just read PERFECT MADNESS: MOTHERHOOD IN THE AGE OF ANXIETY by Judith Warner. Ate it up. And now, as a card-carrying member of the bulimic generation, I feel the need to purge. How convenient that Rebecca and I just started a newmom blog. Here goes.
Warner describes a history of American ideas about mothering that is straight-up riveting (I read the book in about two days -- and felt pretty good about tossing my nine-month-old baby the remote control as I read, since Warner is sall about taking the edge off perfect parenting). Here’s the breakdown: Motherhood was meant to be an all-encompassing, total immersion style gig for women in 19th century (Saintly “good”) and in the first half of 20th century (promoted by experts to be scientifically “good”). Then, soon after those Beaver days of Spock and Valium, women started to make real progress. By the 70s moms were chilling out, feeling good about work, about motherhood, no drama, gleefully imperfect. It would have been considered fairly insane, for example, if a 70s mom had devoted all her time to researching brain-power activities or if her kid showed up with some insanely crafty Halloween costume. No, in those days moms were proud of their laid-back mothering and felt guilt-free in the work place. However, the 80s turned this hopeful working mom reality into a kind of power mom "you can have it all" movement. And the increasing “winner-takes-it all” reality of our economy was starting to make a decent life very hard to achieve. Meanwhile, all of us young moms-to-be were still in college learning that we had “it all” in addition to a kind of watered down feminism (politics of victimization, deconstructing Madonna). We started to wonder why we felt so crappy even though we had won the "choice" to do with our bodies what we wanted to do. So, we all started micromanaging our angst with a whole array of eating disorders. We learned that “control” was everything. Which has lead to some serious “control freakishness” in our grown-up mom lives. Perfection! I can do it all! If I get organized…
PART TWO: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Motherhood
According to Warner, we’re so busy wigging about whether we SUCK that we never stop to ask, why oh why isn't there any god damn support for us!? Is Warner blaming us (and our neurotic “dressing-on-the-side” narcissistic search for perfection) for dropping the ball on women’s rights? Not really. (You can tell she gets annoyed when yet another perky upper middle class friend of hers shows up for a dinner party with lactose intolerance, but…) In fact, in many wonderful ways this book is a call to arms. She points to how we have been systematically shafted. And paints a damn good picture of our lives and the big myth of all of our "choices."
Her point, in short, is that we DO NOT HAVE CHOICES. She argues rightly, for example, that women are basically meant to work (have sense of agency, and ability to provide) AND raise children. (She even uses one primate study to help with this claim.) She argues that we need to stop blaming ourselves and start demanding things like more support for daycare, less slanted studies about how important maternal bonding is, a better work reality (ie: not a 90 hour work week, etc). We need to banish this “Mommy War” idea. It is a lose-lose situation: We either live a somewhat mind-numbing Baby Einstein sing-a-long life all day, or we grind our asses in the workplace and feel like crap for missing our baby's first steps (not to mention wonder if our career is really *that* important when our whole salary is going to the nanny or daycare).
Despite all this drama and horror, this book made me feel great. It made me feel secure in my decision to send my infant to daycare and confident to back off from that feeling that mommy is "the only one" who can do this or that (the control freakishness). It made me feel like my desire to work was not in competition with my desire to nurture my baby. My feelings about the standards of public education and healthcare remained unshaken: As Warner explains, these are our real enemies.
What sucks about the book, however, is that for all her on-the-money descriptions (sometimes I felt like she had been spying on me for about 25 years), she keeps quoting women who say they want to be "PERFECT” moms. Who are these women? To give us credit, us bulimic daughters of the Reagan era are also the slacker, “grunge” generation of women who spent a fair amount of time rejecting notions of perfection (even as we spent good money "perfecting" our Courtney-Love-circa-Malibu hair-cuts in the late “boom" nineties). Maybe we do have a weakness for turning on ourselves when it gets rough (it's all *MY* fault things are not working out) but we are also a demanding new generation of moms, and I have some faith that we can start to turn the dial back to a more accommodating 70s-style momming (pass the Indian skirt and Molson Golden). Reading this book can help us see the light.
I just wish Warner could have peppered those quotes from high-achieving, super-perked NW Washington, DC moms with a few down-home quotes from some of the sisters I know who, when asked "How do you do it all?" say, with a smile, "That's easy, I suck at my job and I'm a lousy mom!"
damned day care
From today's Wall Street Journal:
"In very young children, even 10 hours of nonmaternal child care a week is linked to a weaker attachment, or bond, with the mother at 15 months old. But that is only if the mother also is highly insensitive, or unresponsive, to her child's needs. Child care wasn't linked to poorer bonding when mothers were sensitive and engaged. Researchers found similar results when they looked again at the same children at three years of age."
Maybe it's just me, but doesn't insensitivity and unresponsiveness seem like a fairly reliable recipe for weak attachment whether or not the kid's in daycare?
Before I had a baby I used to be a lazy ass. Every piddling effort I made to keep my house at a state above toxic dump level was seen as, well, a chore. But now that I’m a mother, more often than not, I’m grateful for any activity in which my mind can wander relatively undistracted. I'm a good multi-tasker, but not good enough (or maybe bad enough) to think productively while changing a diaper. So, after a day of baby, I'll often take cleaning up after dinner over cleaning up the kid. Suddenly, a sink full of dishes feels like freedom.
posted by rebecca at 9:56 PM