Archive for February, 2009

Lactivism

I’ve recently seen some great breastfeeding stories, and they’ve made me proud to be a nursing mom. I am sure that most of you heard about this little moment with Salma Hayek, and there was a totally devastating, three Kleenex story in O magazine about a mother who donated so much milk after losing her triplets (!!!). I read that article while hanging out in BabyK’s crib trying to help him get used to his primo, luxurious baby jail in the wee hours of the morning, and had to keep myself from crying out  loud so as not wake up my sleepy boys.

I never had to think much about the decision to nurse my baby. It was best for him, it was cheap, it was the option that didn’t involve washing baby bottles. But like lots of things that I figured out after becoming a mother, it meant (and continues to mean) something very important to me as well. I suck at conceiving. I suck at pregnancy. I completely suck at delivering a  healthy baby. But I can nurse, dammit! I can nourish my baby and give him a sense of love and comfort and security while I’m doing it. Because of the difficult circumstances of his birth, I didn’t fall madly in love with him right away. I really wanted to, but it didn’t happen. Part of that was the experience of the birth, I think, with them whisking him directly from uterus to NICU nurses (although I got him back rather shortly).  And part of it was just my being so life-threateningly ill even when I didn’t realize it. But I nursed him from the mintue I was off the operating table. I nursed him through his low blood sugar, his formula supplementation, his jaundice, his acid reflux, his protein allergies. I could love him physically even when I wasn’t IN love with him emotionally. When I decided to stay home with him, a large part of that decision had to do with protecting our ‘breastfeeding relationship’.  Looking back now, after 8 months of nursing, I don’t regret a minute of it, even when I can’t eat beef or broccoli or chocolate. Yes, I’ll be passing on the chocolate until after he’s weaned. Sigh.

So why is it that less than 12% of moms are exclusively nursing (no formula supplementation) at six months  of age? That’s more than a 50% decrease from the mothers who start breastfeeding their babies. That seems crazy to me, and I think there are really two things about breastfeeding in America that make it hard for moms to keep nursing:

1. Lack of support. Moms who give birth in hospitals that don’t aggressively encourage and support breastfeeding don’t get the right start, and have a much harder time finding help if (really, when) problems crop up after they come home. This is bullshit and every new mom deserves AT LEAST two sessions with a good lactation consultant. When I say aggressively encourage, I mean,  it’s probably easier on the staff to just give the baby some formula rather than protect and nurture and support that breastfeeding relationship, so let’s be aggressive in making that our first priority.  Then, as so often happens, moms have to go back to work and then they have to pump. I personally don’t mind pumping so much, but IT IS NOT THE SAME AS NURSING YOUR BABY. Yeah rah, empowerment and designated ‘wellness’ rooms and government mandated pumping breaks. I don’t think that the 7 point IQ advantage they’ve found in breastfed babies is only about DHA, no matter what Similac would like you to believe. Can we all agree that babies need their moms and there are a million different things that we could do to help them get more time with them? And that moms who are already stressed with juggling work and family could really use some snuggly downtime with their little ones instead of an anxious and sort of shameful and rushed 20 minutes in a bathroom with a machine?

My beef here is entirely with our culture and workplace attitudes and shameful lack of support for families in general, not  the moms who find themselves in these positions.  One of the things I’m most hopeful about is Michelle Obama, and the emphasis she is putting on work-life balance. I hope that includes pushing family friendly policies even farther. I want to see more babies in the workplace. I want to see more moms in the workplace. But let’s cut the crap and acknowledge that 6 weeks of maternity leave is bullshit, there’s no reason why our maternity leave is unpaid and sucks so very hard, and babies in slings could make workplaces so much happier and authentic and yes! productive.

2. Cultural squickiness. Why does the Wikipedia entry for breastfeeding display five pictures of ethnic babies and one picture of a white baby about to get a bottle? Are you kidding me? Right next to the list of breastfeeding benefits there are 4 pictures of tribal African mamas. Because you can’t show a white woman’s breast without violating terms of use policies? You can’t show Salma Hayek nursing an African baby on YouTube,  a totally loving, maternal, and socially conscious moment, because it’s salacious? This isn’t just about paternalistic attitudes and the objectification of women and the totally inappropriate and contradictory messages we get about women’s bodies all the time. You’d be surprised by the shaming experiences all sorts of regular, caring and non-pornographic moms get all the time. I  know of a mom who nursed her baby for seven months whose husband seriously disapproved of her nursing the baby in public and made her pump! Even though she was home with the baby full time! Not to mention all the moms nursing tiny babies who say things like, “when they can ask for it, it’s time to stop”. Wha?? According to who? The WHO recommends nursing for 2 years, and the APA says at least one year and as long as you both desire after that.  Can we not just get over ourselves? Can we accept that breasts are made for babies and while men might enjoy them, they certainly don’t have full and exclusive rights to them?

I know, I’m high up on my soapbox here. It seriously pisses me off that babies in this first world country get second rate nutrition and even lower quality support from their government. I’m not saying that all moms need to be at home with a baby on their breast all day.  I am saying that we know it’s what they need, and it’s ridiculous all the ways that we as a country make it difficult or nearly impossible for them to get it. I can’t donate my milk because I have to take allergy medicine daily, but I certainly believe in their cause and support it. I’ve never attended a nurse-in, and I’ll be honest and say that I do try to keep it on the DL in public because I don’t want to be confronted or shamed by someone who has no business commenting on my child’s nutrition or my breasts as sexual objects. But I’ve reached the point in my mothering (and nursing) when I’ve had enough, and if I can speak out and sign petitions and support my fellow nursing moms (working or not), then I’ll be damned if I keep quiet. Emily, I’m borrowing your intention. I’m daring. I hope you’ll borrow mine and enjoy nursing your sweet, lovely baby!!

I’m leaving the comments open even though I am sure there will be some choice responses. How’s that for daring?

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Value Added

I realize I’ve been light on the posting lately, and I swear to you that there are good reasons for that. Not much I can do about it, but at least you can rest assured I have been writing posts to you in my head at least daily. The sub-functional space bar is a killer.

However, even in the midst of this posting drought, I have been presented with a Dardos award by Light Scott!  (Mr. K and I have now taken to calling them ‘Light Scott‘ and ‘Dark Scott’ to differentiate. We’re so clever!) Here is the link to Scott’s award posting: All I’m Saying…: Ricky Re-Dardos: Recognizing my faves. I am touched and flattered. And now you all know my first name, even though most of you probably know it already. 😉 Part of the conditions placed on this award are that I pass it along, and I most certainly will when I have a little bit more time to get myself put together. Thank you so much, Scott!!

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Earth-Friendly Friday: The Kitchen

Let's pretend I make bread all the time. And since we're pretending, let's leave out the second degree burns. Kay?

Let's pretend I make bread all the time. And since we're pretending, let's leave out the second degree burns. Kay?

Kitchen:

  • Breastfeeding = brilliant! I hate doing the dishes, and baby bottles are a total pain. Also, hungry baby’s screaming lasts only as long as it takes for me to sit down (or not!) and arrange my clothes. Easy peasy.
  • We are so lucky to have an organic delivery service in our town, and we get a box of fresh fruit and veggies every other week. We also add groceries, so sometimes I get local eggs, organic milk (or soy milk) and once a whole chicken! I try to order one new or different veggie in each box for us to try something that we normally wouldn’t choose. So far, that includes acorn squash, golden beets, and butternut squash. It’s a rather spendy little endeavor, and with cash being as tight as it is right now, I’ve paused it for the month of February.
  • Now that BabyK is experimenting with the real food, I’ve been taking fruits and veggies from our organic delivery box and making baby food. I freeze them in our ice cube trays so they’re in little portion sizes and I don’t have to wash anything other than the bowl I use to heat it up and feed it to him. When this is too much of a hassle (see: sweet potatoes) or we are out and about, he is rocking the Earth’s Best first foods.
  • Paper towels are my nemesis in the kitchen. I love them. But I recently cut up one of my favorite (and 13 year old) shirts into rags and put them under the sink. It’s been pretty simple to grab one to wipe off a counter or spill or what have you. Now the paper towels are reserved for the worst messes. I just throw the rags in the little basket for kitchen laundry with the cloth napkins and regular dish towels. I need to be better about washing it promptly though, because the towels have gotten moldy more than once. It’s just out of the way and hard to see, okay?
  • My other nemeses are plastic bags from the store. I have market bags. I have some of these and one of these and lots of these, which inevitably have the logo of the store’s competitors all over them. But with hauling the carseat and the diaper bag and my purse and the library books… it’s hard to remember to grab them on the way out the door. If they’re already in the car it’s not so bad, I can usually grab them. It’s when I’ve brought them back into the house full that they get stuck. I always see cool bags and think that they are lovely and would make a great gift…but then I never choose them because I think the giftee would be nonplussed to open their gift and find a bag. What do you think? Someone gave me a bag from Ikea recently and it totally made my day.

Happy Friday, everyone! Here’s hoping your Valentine’s weekend is a green one!

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Snow blind

I’ve been  rather quiet on the personal front lately, and I think this is mostly okay, because I’ve been chewing on some things and wasn’t sure when or how or even what would come out if I sat down to write. But I think I’m starting to bubble over, so here it goes.

If I am being very honest, I can safely say that I have no idea who I am right now. I think on most days this is okay, but when it’s not okay it’s really not okay. I did this to myself so that helps, but it also makes every decision heavy with second guessing and guilt and doubt. I love reading the blogs of all the crafy, creative, loving mothers who are home full time with their multiple children. I love the world that they have created for their kids. I hope that I’ve at least laid the foundations for some of that here in our house. But honestly, when I think of myself in a year or even a few months, I can’t picture my life like that. I can’t see myself home all day. I like being crafty and I’ve even adapted to making dinner every night, which was not a sure thing by any stretch of the imagination. But I feel like I have work to do in the greater world, that I have a larger purpose than this narrow sphere. I am smart and capable and effective, and the constant sense of being thwarted and interrupted and redirected that makes up the majority of life with an infant is starting to chafe.

I find that I am also not the mother that I want to be right now, that this sense of being frustrated so often is leading me to be much less attentive, much less engaged. I wake up in the morning and work to get to my laptop, where I can connect with the outer world. This breaks my heart, but I find that every morning I do the same thing, even when I am conscious of it. I feel blinded by him, as if he is so bright and shining that my eyes can no longer distinguish his features. Snow blinded. I feel like I need some time in the shade, some time to rest my eyes, so that when I look at him, I can actually see him for who he is right now, see what he is learning and enjoying and afraid of and clinging to. I don’t know that I can always do that right now, but I get glimpses.

Knowing that my most sharply honed skill is that of self-flagellation, I’m sure you can imagine how I’m dealing with this right now. I don’t for a minute regret my choice to leave my last job. I think enough time has passed that I can say it was the right decision and be done with it.  But I do wonder if I am just not as a good as those other mothers, or not as committed. Or that I am so shallow that I am just tired of living on one income and lacking all that adult recognition. I also wonder if this is just what happens when you don’t sleep for eight months.  Are all those other babies  sleeping? Or is it winter, and feeling even more coooped up and isolated and trapped in the house? If we’d spent a weekend at home lately that theory might be a bit stronger, but we’ve been out and about plenty. So I’m left once again looking at myself.

What it all boils down to is:  I’ve been considering a career change. Really, I’m mostly committed to this career change. It will require a second degree, which will be expensive and intense. On the other side of that, I’d actually get paid to help people, have a flexible schedule, and do work that really matters. Once again with the getting paid well without trapping myself inside a cubicle and wearing heels every day. They are desperate for people to get this degree and get a job – scholarships, externships, on and on. So. The good news is I have a few options right here in town. I’m a ‘competitive candidate’ for the 8th ranked program in the nation. I have about three semesters of part time school to complete in pre-reqs, the first two semesters of which I can do online and stay home with BabyK until after his birthday, when day care is cheaper and he’ll be much better equipped to be without Mommy. After I get this degree, I can take it a million different directions and do more schooling and make even more money. I can cut back to working weekends only and be home with my kid(s?) while still making a meaningful contribution to the family finances. This seems like a great decision, right? Almost a no-brainer.

But.

Maybe it’s the sleep deprivation, maybe it’s my good old friend toxic shame, maybe it’s the eternal conflict between working and mothering, but I am scared. What if I don’t really like it, and I’ll have put my family through all that hard work and acquired more debt and sent the baby to day care only to be unhappy? Having typed it out, that sounds dumb, because, hello, find a different job! Take a different direction! Or just give it a chance, for the love of God. But I can’t just make decisions anymore, I have to weigh them carefully and count the cost because I have a tiny person to think about and the complicated balance between our little trio can leave lasting scars if it gets too damaged or out of whack. Maybe more than anything I am afraid of doing something to change those dynamics and to be honest, we’re all still kind of new at this being a family thing. We don’t have much practice at this yet.  I really think that having this degree will be the best thing for my family in the end: the money, the flexibility, the high demand that would make opting out and back in even easier. I’m good at this field, I understand it and I’m comfortable in it and I have the skills to be really great at it. But I can’t know how it’s going to affect us until we’re there, and I’m terrified of that.

Now that I’ve laid all that out there, I can take a breath and say, “yes, and?” And what? Life is scary. Parenting is hard. Change can be awful. But you will most certainly die without it, and living a full and vibrant and purposeful life does not come from refusing to take chances. I can’t know for certain that this is the right decision. Can’t guarantee that this will be the right answer. But it may very well be the step that takes me to the place where the path picks up again, and that’s the only way to take this journey.  I may be blinded and confused and not able to see the future.  That’s not a good feeling. But I can see the next steps, and when I put out my hands there are people there willing to hold them. Not only willing to hold  them, but offering support and encouragement and free babysitting.

I guess I will just keep moving forward and we will see what we shall see.

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Prose covered hearts for Erin!

erinheartToday’s Valentine is a special treat! Everyone: meet Erin, who blogs at A few of Mrs. Dude’s favorite things. Hey Erin!

Erin and I were friends in middle school. Then I changed high schools and she was more friends with Mr. K. Then we lost touch. Thanks to the magic of MySpace, we became virtual friends again (and later Facebook friends too). Mrs. Dude has become a loyal blog reader, and I enjoy that very much!! Many times when I am reading Facebook with my multiple Erin-named friends, I call her by her very old nickname, Slatep. Because backward nicknames are the coolest.

Erin is very cool, and I feel like we are totally on the same page when it comes to honesty and trying to create a life worth living and find some books worth losing yourself in. It’s strange to be friends with someone you knew in those awkward, strange middle school years and then find them again when you are grown and married and out in the world.  But it’s also awesome, because it seems like they suddenly sprouted overnight into the blooming flower version of themselves and you were last acquainted with the tender sprout.

And now, the lovely plant that is Erin:

What are you going to enjoy this year?
I’m going to enjoy turning 30. I know everybody says you’re supposed to be morose about turning 30, but I’m not. My 20s were a mix of awesome and not-so-awesome, and that mix of experiences has made me who I am. That being said, I’m totally ready to say goodbye to my 20s. I’m going to have an awesome party in Vegas which, admittedly, takes some of the sting out of it.

What is your own personal quality or achievement that you like most about yourself?
I like how inquisitive I am. I ask a lot of questions and really enjoy learning new things.

What three things would you most like to change about your life?
I wish I was a little bit taller.
I wish I was a baller.
I was I had a girl who looked good. I would call her.

I’m kidding… 🙂

I wish I was more patient and let things unfold in God’s time.
I wish I was naturally motivated to exercise.
I wish I was better with money.

Molly the Obedience School Graduate

Erin's Fave Thing: Molly the Obedience School Graduate

Erin says:  This is my dog Molly wearing her graduation cap at the end of her second round of obedience school. Those are my feet, so technically I’m cheating, but I love this picture. Molly makes that adorable, dopy face about 95% of the time and it warms my heart no matter how rough of a time I’m having. Molly’s exuberance for life has helped me realize that doesn’t always have to be stress and angst. Also, she did much better the second time through obedience school than she did the first time.

What new thing is revving your engines right now?
I love The Sound of Young America (http://www.maximumfun.org/) podcast. It’s a “public radio show about things that are awesome.” The host, Jesse Thorn, interviews people I’d totally love to talk to. Recent shows have included Ben Folds, John Hodgman, and Gideon Yago.

Do you have a wall calendar? What is the design?
The calendar on my wall at work features homes that Frank Lloyd Wright designed. The page-a-day calendar on my desk at work is Peanuts cartoons. At home we have a Futurama calendar downstairs and a Sierra Club calendar upstairs.

That seems like an awful lot of calendars, doesn’t it?

Do you have a word or intention for the year? Will you share it with us?

I want to make this year be about letting go of all of the things that need to be let go of to usher in a new decade in my life. I need to get rid of a lot of clutter from my house, get to a healthy weight through exercise and healthy eating, start learning to say “no” to the things that matter less and “yes” to the things that matter more, and finally start taking control of my financial well-being.

I also intend to read 1 non-fiction book every month.

Honestly, I’m not sure which intention is less realistic.

What is the most influential book (or author) you have ever read?

The Weetzie Bat books by Francesca Lia Block–especially Witch Baby. Of all the characters in Shangri-L.A., I identified most with Witch Baby as a teenager and probably still do.

I got to hear Block read at the 2008 American Library Association annual conference. I got to meet her and had her sign a book but I was too nervous and star struck to actually say anything. I stood next to my friend while she did all the talking.

Happiest Moment of Erin's Life On Film So Far

Happiest Moment of Erin's Life On Film So Far

Erin says:  These are the bracelets we got for being Media (my husband) and Guest of Media (Me) at Bonnaroo. We’d been talking about going to Bonnaroo forever and finally got the opportunity in June 2008. This picture was taken right before the first show we saw on the first full day–Drive By Truckers. My husband and I are at are happiest when we’re together, when we’re traveling, and when we’re listening to live music. Bonnaroo was a perfect combination of the three.

Looking back on your childhood, what do you appreciate most about your parents?
I appreciate the fact that they required me to take responsibility for my actions, even when it would’ve been easier for them to rescue me. Seeing your child fail has to be torture for a parent, especially when you could’ve prevented it. It taught me that the things you do don’t happen in a vacuum and that you can’t expect other people to do your work for you.

What is your favorite memory with AnonymousK?
I spent a long time thinking about this. I think it was spending time chatting with you at my 10 year HS reunion. I felt a little bit like no time had passed at all and a little bit like life couldn’t have been more different than it was when we were younger. It was nice. Also, I think my husband talked to more of my classmates than I did.

Is there anything you would like to say to AnonymousK? Please say it here:
I appreciate your willingness to share your story so openly and honestly, even the parts that others would’ve hidden from view because they were too raw or ugly. If we lived closer to each other, I would totally make you be my friend. Okay…maybe not “make you,” but hope that you would be willing to. Because “make you” sounds kind of creepy, doesn’t it? Since we’re so far apart, I guess I’ll just have to be content being your loyal reader.

Thank you, Erin!! I can guarantee that no coercion would be required for us to be real life friends. 🙂 Happy, happy Valentine’s Day!

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Earth-Friendly Friday: The Living Room

BabyK auditions as a furniture model

BabyK auditions as a furniture model

I realize that I missed Earth-Friendly Friday last week, and I blame it 100% on my sister for getting married last Saturday. Please don’t hate her too much. 😉 And now, the living room!

  • I need to get a power strip with an on/off switch so that I can turn off the electronics before bed. Hasn’t happened yet. Still, we are very good about sticking to our ‘no TV until Daddy comes home’ rule. Whether this is for the environment or infant brain development or just to protect myself from the dangers of daytime television, I can’t really say.
  • Beginning this summer I got crazy about recycling paper. So every single scrap of paper that I can salvage for the recycling is sitting in a bin by the front door. We pay the city $5 a month to come and pick up our recycling, and it is AWESOME. Still only plastics 1 & 2, though. We occasionally take a bag of other plastics to the recycling center, but we are far from perfect with that.
  • We try to avoid batteries in BabyK’s toys as much as possible. However, the baby swing and vibrating chair are often lifesavers, so we invested in some rechargeable batteries and a charger. This worked well for a few months, until the week before Christmas when the charger said that all the swing batteries were ‘BAD’. So Mr. K is going to look into that. We may have inadvertantly weaned ourselves from the swing though, so maybe that’s a good thing.
  • Plastic is the other biggie we try to avoid in his toys. We aren’t fanatical about it, because apparently grandparents want nothing more from life than to bestow brightly colored and preferably noisy toys on their grandchildren and we have enough parental issues without denying them that. Santa brought all wood or cloth toys from our fave toy site, oompa.com.
  • Is there some kind of  magical baby attractant in electronic devices or what? Because BabyK wants to eat every remote and power cord he sees SO. VERY. BADLY. I am sure that this is bad on several levels, but short of getting rid of our electronics (not an option) I am at a loss here.
  • BabyK has recently mastered sitting and is therefore spending more time on the floor. This has nicely coincided with large snowfalls, so people are taking off their shoes when they enter. I am going to try to encourage this to continue.

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Pixellated hearts for Scott!

I know, you’re totally thinking, “We already met Scott. WTF??” But this is a totally new and different Scott! Surprise!

Scott and I have known each other since middle school. Scott wasn’t in band so I can’t really claim him as my own friend, he is an inheritance from Mr. K. So I wouldn’t say that we were actually friends until later high school. (Still, that’s more than a decade.) Scott is fun. He leads a life of mostly leisure, has a DVD collection that numbers in the high hundreds if not thousands, drives to Michigan breweries regularly, and doesn’t go on vacation without at least one type of gaming system. When I try to describe our friendship to people, I often say that he’s like our Joey Tribbiani – but much, much smarter. He is a great writer  and although I can’t link to my favorite piece of his work for NSFW reasons, it contains the phrase, ‘that’s a lot of rump for your ruble’. He also is my source for all sorts of  entertainment, legally obtained or otherwise. I don’t know how I would have survived pregnancy and life  with a newborn without his Buffy and Angel collections. He will always throw in a little extra that he thinks I will like with whatever I’ve asked him for.  He’s usually on target, because he is very thoughtful and kind under that funny exterior. Kids love him, and how could they not? Check out his internet superstardom:

I enjoy Scott because Scott makes enjoying life his number one priority. And I am sure that you will enjoy hearing from him yourself:

Scott says: I just totally pwned your questionnaire. Do not read at a close distance or you might get a digital blast of Awesomsauce!

What are you going to enjoy this year?

Hanging out on my mega yacht, bedding super models, watching the final
season of Battlestar Galactica and NOT watching the final season of
Scrubs.

What is your own personal quality or achievement that you like most about yourself?

Doing as little as possible in life, while still maintaining a high
level of Super-Coolness (see item #7).

What three things would you most like to change about your life?

-Stop donating so much of my time to help feed starving children in Africa.
-Cut back on collecting Hummels.
-Watch more Jean Claude Van Damme movies so I can master the splits.

Fellini The Great - A Maine Coon Masterpiece
Scott’s Fave Thing: Fellini The Great – A Maine Coon Masterpiece

What new thing is revving your engines right now?

Metamucil Fibersure.

Do you have a wall calendar? What is the design?

Yes. It features my favorite members of the Church of Scientology.
Chaka Khan is January!

Do you have a word or intention for the year? Will you share it with us?

Trepanning.

What is the most influential book (or author) you have ever read?

Steve Urkel’s Super-Cool Guide to Success! by C. M. Appleton

Looking back on your childhood, what do you appreciate most about your  parents?

The fact they let me eat Play-Doh. SALTY!

Happiest Moment of Scott's Life On Film So Far
Happiest Moment of Scott’s Life On Film So Far

Scott says: I couldn’t find any pics of when I was in Hawaii, so I’ll just use a close approximation of what I looked like enjoying a swim in the Pacific. Damn, I’m sexy…

What is your favorite memory with AnonymousK?

That one time, when there was that one thing with that one girl! OMG.
That was so funny I pee’d myself! Just a little…

Is there anything you would like to say to AnonymousK? Please say it here:

AnonymousK sounds like a species of bottom-dwelling marine life.

Er, thanks, Scott. Happy Valentine’s Day! I heart you!

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