Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year

We made cinnamon rolls and potato-leek soup and coffee cake. We played with Christmas presents in front of the tree and hung out at home. We are happy, healthy, and cozy at home. This is my favorite way to close out the old and ring in the new.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Magic

Bird explained to me yesterday that magic is real. I did not disabuse him of this, as I know it to be true. Indeed, Bird's very existence is proof that magic is real.

Bird's statement was out of the blue. I'm beginning to think, though, that it was also perfectly timed. I've been needing a reminder that magic is real, that magic is around me, even that I might make magic myself now and again.

Magic doesn't have to be amazing or miraculous or obvious. Magic can be simple and subtle. Magic might be laughter conjured from a silly radio commercial, or a moment of conversation when you and another person understand each other just a little more, or enjoying a cool breeze through the car windows when sitting in traffic, or a flower bed of perfect blooms....

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Time

David proposed to me ten years ago. We were married nearly nine years ago. Our first kiss was almost twenty years ago. All of it happened yesterday.

Yesterday I walked into our house for the first time, four years ago. I laid my hand on my big belly and listened to my footsteps echo in the empty rooms wondering what sounds our baby Bird would make within these walls.

It seems that just last week I slept in on a Thursday and wandered to the bathroom in my favorite gray maternity t-shirt thinking about our precious baby arriving in three weeks when I felt that first clutch of a contraction. It was four years ago that I knew I would not being going to work that day and instead sat on a the edge of the bed making notes on what I was feeling and wondering if it was time to call the doctor.

I cried. I broke down and cried and spoke out loud to my Bird about how I had no idea how to be a mom and how much help I would need. I asked for Bird's help with labor and delivery. I promised to do my best. And then I called my doctor.

I can remember every smell and sound in the kitchen while I tried to eat some cold cereal after I called David at work and asked him to come home. Quickly. I wasn't ready. I didn't have a bag packed. We had just washed the baby clothes we got at a shower the Saturday before. The car seat was not installed. The ugly tile floor was cold beneath my bare feet. I was hungry, but the cereal did not appeal to me. I gripped the front of the stove and made a primal noise like I never had before and realized it was really happening.

I recovered enough to dump the cereal after only two bites and took a few profile shots of my pregnant belly. I knew it would not be long and that belly would be deflated. I wanted to somehow preserve this moment. I was not ready for my pregnancy to be over and Bird to be here. I decided I had better get ready. A second call to the doctor's office confirmed that we would go in to get things checked out.

By the time David got home I had thrown some things in a bag and was experiencing regular, strong contractions. I thought I might have leaked some fluid, but it was hard to tell, as strange as that sounds. I was pacing and debating whether I should bring a towel to sit on. I could tell David was nervous. He wasn't worried, but nervous. But he tried to hide even that as he comforted me and took charge. He didn't even change out of his work clothes. We went out the back door into the spring air and got in the car. By then it was about 11:00am.

I had been to the doctor on Tuesday, March 20. I was 37 weeks pregnant and had recently started weekly visits. My appointments were with other doctors in the practice so that we would have the chance to meet each other in case someone other than my doctor did the delivery. That week's visit saw a slight rise in my blood pressure that caused the doctor to say "The best way to handle that is to go into labor. Feel free to go into labor any day now." I laughed. I had three more weeks! Doesn't everyone go past their due date for their first? We still had boxes to unpack and baby stuff to set up. I was still working. Ha, go into labor. I wasn't due until April 9.

My laughing stopped when the doctor did an internal exam -- the first I'd had. Not comfortable. Not pleasant. Particularly not pleasant when I gazed over my massive belly in order to figure out if she in fact had her arm up to her elbow inside me (because that's what it felt like), and she announced that she was touching Bird's head. Surreal. Then alarming when she informed me that I should not be alarmed about blood on her hand or any bleeding for the rest of the day. This woman did not know me -- pregnancy and I had a tenuous enough relationship, me and pregnancy and blood were not a good combination.

I waddled out of the appointment and was content that everything still looked good. Bird was head down and engaged (thus, the waddling), I was term as of the day before, Bird's size looked good, amount of fluid was good, and I kept my mind off the bleeding by attempting to avoid bathroom trips (not possible). I had not had even one Braxton Hicks contraction, my back didn't hurt. My ankles were huge and my belly was hard and sleep was near impossible, but things were good.

On Wednesday, March 21, I had a hair appointment. I spent a blissful evening being pampered. I got a nice shorter cut and waddled away feeling like I looked pretty good for a very pregnant old lady. I went to bed that night thinking about all the things I wanted to care of at work before the end of March.

I woke up on Thursday, March 22 after David had already left for work, and soon knew I would not be going to work. My sister Lucy had predicted that Bird would arrive on March 22. She announced that to me during a baby shower the Saturday before. I told her she was crazy.

On the way to the hospital, I rolled down the car window and tried to lean my face out into the spring air. I thought about timing the contractions, but I could not relax enough between them to focus on my watch. They just kept coming. I thought about all the war tales I had heard about 30 hours of labor. I thought about all the times women had complained that they had rushed off to the hospital only to be sent home later. I thought "Holy God, the next time I'm in this car it might be with my baby in a car seat."

David was a rock. I moaned and writhed under the seat belt and tried to suck oxygen through the open window. I tried to relax. I was scared shitless. Wasn't nature or instinct or something supposed to take over? Wasn't I supposed to be overcome with calm or acceptance or something? Wasn't I supposed to be able to rest between contractions?

We were instructed to go directly up to the labor and delivery floor. Understandably, that area is highly restricted. It felt strange to stand outside of huge, locked doors, swaying my hips in an attempt to relieve the discomfort, clutching my big towel, trying to figure out what to say into the speaker. "Hi, my name is Kate Hahn. My doctor told me to come in because I think I'm in labor."

The doors whooshed open and we entered another world. We went to the desk and were immediately peppered with questions. I just wanted to move. I wobbled like some kind of overweight, amateur hula dancer. We were directed to a room divided by a curtain that held another woman potentially in labor. (I won't get into her story here, but let me say she was not happy.)

A nurse told me to go to the bathroom (shared by another room that held two women), pee in a cup, get naked, put on a gown, and come back. So much easier said than done. David looked so brave. So serious. I wanted to make noise. Please God, if they would just let me press my hands into the wall while I rolled my hips and grunted out a combination of a low moan and hum, I would be okay.

That lasted only a few minutes. Then into the bed, on my back, with monitors strapped on me. I will admit that the monitor on Bird's heart rate did give me some comfort as I had not felt Bird move in some time, but I was ready to get all those straps off much earlier than the nurses were.

I don't remember my eyes being open. David was always near me, always talking to me in a soothing voice, so I didn't feel like I needed them open. Later, though, when a nurse and an on-call resident were discussing whether I might get sent home (??!), I did open my eyes. (I will let David provide his own account of what he thought and said when he heard that.)

Apparently, something like nine other women were in labor. (No, it was not a full moon -- I checked.) Given that I was just past 37 weeks in my first pregnancy to make it that far, and I had not, apparently, started to leak fluid, they were feeling out whether my labor was progressing and whether I needed to stay.

As my eyes were open, I noticed that there was a panel screwed into the wall. It had several circle cut outs in it with the diameter in centimeters listed below each circle. Slowly I realized that it was intended as an aid for those who would be examining me to determine how far dilated I was. My next thought was something along the lines of "Holy Christ, there is no way that my body will open up like that." The thought I had after that was "Dear God, that is still not big enough for an entire human baby to pass through."

About this time, more health professionals (I could not keep track of who was what) came to my side of the curtain to ask me stupid questions -- how are you doing? -- and look at the output of the monitors. They were juggling many women in different stage of labor. I felt like we had put our name down on a list (Hahn, party of two soon to be three) for an available room. Some sort of doctor in training was brought into the room. She was young. She looked nervous. I imagined that she was suffering through a required OB rotation and never had any plans at all to become an OBGYN. She and a nurse were very polite and explained that she was learning and would it be okay for her to examine me? At this point in things I figured that periodic internal exams could not be any worse than the waves of contractions taking over my body (What about those women and their partners on those stupid movies we watched in our "birth class"? They were holding coherent conversations between contractions -- with their eyes open, no less! They were getting back rubs and sitting on exercise balls and picking out music to give birth to!). And I'll add here that we had gotten to this point after years of fertility treatment. You lose all modesty and sense of propriety over your private parts when you go through years of fertility treatment. I cannot count the individuals or instruments that have been intimate with me, so to speak.

Where was I? Oh yes, how far dilated is Kate? So the doctor in training gloves up and grabs the lube. I could see her hand shaking as she prepared. She probed. The nurse followed suit. Then the doctor in training asked the nurse "so, how far dilated is she?" The nurse said to the doctor in training, "you tell me what you think, and I'll tell you if you're right."

I was suddenly fascinated. What a great game! I found myself trying to guess a number myself. The doctor in training said "three, maybe three plus?" The nurse said "seven and a half." I pointed to the nurse and said "I like her answer."

They let me get out of bed -- thank all of the saints of labor. The doctor in training left (and never returned) and we were told we were getting a room. Victory! I assumed my position again -- THE position, come to think of it: palms spread on the wall, legs spread, hips rotating. I felt so much better.

And then I didn't. I can count on one hand the number of times I have vomited since I was in grade school. In those rare cases, the nausea seemed to gradually build and finally culminate in the horrifying, yet satisfying conclusion of actually puking my guts out. In this case I went from just fine to ohmygod (gasp) i'mgoing (gasp) tothrowup (gasp) in a heartbeat. I turned towards David as he handed me one of those tiny kidney-shaped things. (Seriously? Who invented those things?) Proving the psychic connection between us, David looked into my eyes and smoothly yet swiftly exchanged the kidney for a full-sized bed pan. I know this post has gotten long, but if you remember, I had had two spoons of cereal that day. I will never fully understand the nature of human digestion, because I can tell you with complete certainty that more than two spoon fulls of that cereal (which I will never eat again) came back up. Twice.

And so we reached transition. This is when my mind started (finally) taking over and attempted to separate me from the pain in my body. It was not exactly an out-of-body experience, but I think it was close. I was there. I was feeling pain like I did not know was possible without passing out or dying, but I was almost watching myself go through it. I distinctly remember being in incredible pain -- I kept swatting at David's hands to push them away from me, and I thought "huh, usually I like it when he touches me, and he is feeling so helpless right now, I should really let him hold my hands, but if he lays one finger on me I'm going to rip his arms from his body."

Somehow David got a hold of each of my elbows, leaned over to look me right in the eye, and told me that I had to walk down the hall to the room. It felt kind of good to walk. Sure, it wasn't the happy couple stroll down the hallway to try to get labor going -- we had no problems in that area. The next thing I knew we were walking down a busy hallway following the nurse. I felt wet. I looked down and was horrified to discover that I was leaking all over the hallway. (I won't describe what, exactly, I was leaking.) I clutched at David and tried to discretely tell him about the mess I was making. David was not nearly as concerned about the state of the hallway as I was.

We got into a comfortable room. A room just for us. With our own bathroom. The lights were dim, the furnishings were comfortable. It didn't even really look like a hospital room. I remember standing at a sink outside the bathroom and murmuring to myself. It may sound crazy, but there were times during labor when I felt like my body was talking to me -- I felt like the DNA of all the women who birthed all the women before me was telling me what to do.

And then I was in bed. Someone asked me if I wanted an epidural. Um, yes please? I'll be honest here. I had no "birth plan." I had no illusions of doing anything "naturally." Hell, my baby was conceived in a petri dish. Why go natural now? (I'm exaggerating. Even if my baby had been conceived "naturally" i.e., the old-fashioned way, I would not have signed up voluntarily for labor and delivery with no treatment for pain.) Get me an anesthesiologist, stat!

Knowing that this stranger to me, this man who was a good three inches shorter and 75 pounds lighter than I was going to stick a long needle into my back did not frighten me. I was nervous that the never-ending waves of contractions would make it impossible for me to stay still long enough to allow him to do so. Something took over. I like to think that Bird stepped in here. I was able to stay still and stay calm. I let David hold me. I felt the cool sensation that was described to me. I hesitated only briefly about lying back down. The nurse showed me how to click, click, click my way to relief.

And then nothing happened.

The nurse stayed right next to me through the next two contractions. No relief. Christ, did he make it worse? She clicked, clicked, clicked and calmly told me we just had to wait a little bit. Did I feel a cool sensation? Okay, we're almost there.

Nope.

Oh God, it hurt. It hurt so very, very badly. I remember my mother telling me that labor was terrible, terrible pain, but that you forgot about it once you held your beautiful baby. I have not forgotten. The flicker of a memory of how it felt still makes me break out in a sweat. "Thanks a lot, Eve," I thought, "this is just great. I hope you enjoyed that freaking apple, because this sucks." I was out of my body again. Or, maybe I should say I was in my mind. It was like I was more aware of some things that made me less aware of my surroundings.

According to David, the doctor (as in, doctor doctor -- fully trained and experienced OB, just not mine) and several nurses were coming and going and chit-chatting about weekend plans. They did not seem alarmed, so he tried not to be. I did not know it at the time, but they were also very supportive of him -- encouraged him, had him take breaks from his crazy wife, snuck him M&Ms and who knows what else (the poor guy had not eaten since breakfast, and we were now at dinner time).

I remember coming to the surface enough to look clearly at the nurse and tell her that the epidural was not working. With each new contraction I exclaimed that that one was the worst one I had had. She had beautiful skin and a Jamaican accent. She told me that it was likely that they would have to call the anesthesiologist back and have him try again. I said that was okay with me. He was a busy man that night. He eventually made it back into the room and started with the same crap that most medical professionals do "So I hear you're not feeling so well." I might have laughed. I wanted to laugh. Men are so funny when they talk about pregnancy, labor, and birth. I might not have laughed or said anything, but my Jamaican nurse decided to intervene. She thought it best to check me again before the do-over on the epidural.

I don't remember how many times people checked to see how dilated I was. I've watched A Baby Story and every other possible program dedicated to women giving birth -- the rosy ones, the gritty ones, and, yes, the I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant ones. I feel like I got checked a lot fewer times. And I'm okay with that. The OB checked me. She announced I was a full 10 centimeters and ready to push. No epidural for me.

I don't remember how I reacted, if I reacted. David recalls that then the room changed. The doctor left and returned in doctor garb and splatter protection. The bottom half of the bed was removed and huge stirrups and handlebars (for lack of a better term) appeared. They uncovered an isolette. A huge light descended from the ceiling like the face of God. It was game time.

Somewhere in the midst of this I lost our Jamaican nurse. Shift change? I don't know. She was replaced by a tiny Korean nurse who took up residence on my left side. She and the doctor coached me and David into a position. (Who knew a giant, pregnant old lady could be so limber?) The Korean nurse who weighed no more than my left leg, picked up my left leg. David picked up my right. Time to push.

Mother of God, it felt good. Oh, that was so right. Finally, I felt some control. I felt like there was something I could do. I felt powerful. I did not open my eyes -- except once to get a look at the Korean nurse who was encouraging me to "push like you make poo poo." I kid you not. I got competitive with myself. I felt like I could do better with each push. I remember telling David, "Okay, that one was not bad, but I can do better on the next one, oh, oh here it comes!"

I pushed and pushed. The doctor kept saying I was close. David told me he could see Bird's head. I was lost in myself. I was doing it, and I knew what was happening, but I was inside myself. I could hear my heartbeat. I felt each push from the top of my head down to my toes. I grunted. I prayed. I felt like suddenly, it was happening too fast.

The doctor yelled out for me to stop. (Um, excuse me?) I could see David shift his position. She told me to give her a little push. I felt a tremendous gush, a massive release, and Bird was no longer only mine.

Before Bird was born, I remember being worried about that moment before Bird would cry. I remember thinking what a terrible wait that must be -- the purgatory before you hear your baby breathe in oxygen and cry out. When it happened, it was an epiphany for me. A perfect suspension of time. I knew things in that moment. I felt everything in that instant. Perhaps I am romanticizing, but I felt closer to God in that second before Bird's first breath than I thought possible. All of it was worth it. Everything was right. This was how it was meant to be.

I understood.

Bird cried out immediately. There was no wait. People clapped. Congratulations were called out. I sobbed and sobbed. I cried to let something out.

I asked David what we had. His eyes locked on mine and he told me we had a boy. Our boy. I had felt he was a boy from early on. I remember thinking "well, of course." He was squirming on my chest. This beautiful creation. This perfect product of my love for David and his for me. And he was here.

Finally.

Things moved more quickly after that. David cut the cord. I missed out on the placenta -- I really wanted to see it, but only got a glance. David, I think, saw more than he wanted. I got a couple of stitches. David called my parents. My dad answered. I said "Dad, the count is even" (he now had three granddaughters and three grandsons). He laughed and asked if Bird was okay and if I was okay. When I reported so, he told me I should talk to my mother. Bird was cleaned up, weighed, measured, APGARed again, swaddled, and adorned with a tiny hat (with a Cubs logo on it).

Bird was born at 7:30pm -- almost exactly 12 hours after the first sign of labor earlier that day.


David -- poor, hungry, exhausted David, made sure that Bird and I were situated and cared for. I got a turkey sandwich served in a plastic triangle, two little cups of gloriously cold cranberry juice, and a stool softener. (The cafeteria was no longer serving dinner at that point, the nurses apologized.) It was the best goddammed turkey sandwich I have ever eaten. It tasted so good. David said he would dash home, finally change out of his work clothes, grab some things, install the car seat, and come right back.

I was euphoric. Everything was right. My hair even looked great! Bird was tucked in with me. He slept. And grunted. He made the sweetest little grunts.

David returned refreshed. And giddy. We were so happy. He took pictures of Bird and me. I took pictures of Bird and him. One picture stays with me. I watched my husband pick up our son. Sure, the hormones were helping me out, but I was overwhelmed with love for these two people. I felt more love watching David love Bird.


David took care of the second round of birth announcement calls, and we settled in for our first night together. David sat on my bed and pulled out a jeweler's box -- the same jeweler we used for our wedding rings. Remember that Bird arrived nearly three weeks earlier than our due date. And yet. My most wonderful husband had taken the time to think of this perfect gift, contact the jeweler, commission it, and have it in hand before Bird was born. Inside was a white gold chain with a white gold pendant on it about the size of saint medal. Carved into the pendant is the image of a bird.

That night, time did not exist. I think I stayed awake all night. David tried to get comfortable on a pull-out chair bed. He snored. For the first (and last?) time, I found it soothing. Bird grunted. Nurses came and went. They checked on Bird, they checked on me. We tried breastfeeding. It did not go as smoothly in those first days as I had hoped, but I enjoyed it so much. When I would relax enough to not over-analyze and try to dictate things, Bird and I did an okay job. Bird and I talked and talked. I told him so many things.

Naturally, I believed he was the most beautiful baby ever born. I spent hours investigating all of his tiny inches. I was so awed by the miracle that he is.

At some point, a nurse helped me to the bathroom. She showed me how to build perfect, postpartum underpants: a tiny cold pack, a layer of witch hazel patches, on top of a massive pad, all held together with funny stretch pants. It was bliss.

Someone came and took Bird's picture. My OB stopped by to congratulate us, ask me about breastfeeding, and cancel my other appointments. A woman came to coach me on breastfeeding and gave me a wonderfully supportive pep talk. Vaccines, a hearing test, and a circumcision for Bird. A shot for me. We had stacks of paperwork to fill out. Oh, and we had to choose his name.

On Saturday morning, they told us to go home. David got a photocopy of a picture of a stork to put in the car window so that he could park in a spot right next to the door. I put maternity clothes back on, and we put Bird in a tiny onesie and strapped him into the car seat bucket. We signed the last forms, packed some donated supplies, and pocketed a prescription for me.

I then took the wheelchair ride I had dreamt about for so long. We packed up the car. I got in (oh so carefully) next to Bird. And we drove home. We made a quick stop to fill my pain pill prescription. While I waited I realized that it might be a good idea to pick up some diapers, wipes, ointment....we weren't very prepared at home.

And then we were alone.

Our house felt so different when we brought Bird inside. We bought the house for Bird. We were expecting more time to prepare the house, so more than a few rooms were still littered with moving boxes and lacked furniture. It was getting to be dinner time. David ordered Chinese food. We kept the lights off and spread a comforter on the floor. I laid a sleeping Bird on the comforter. We sat on the floor and watched NCAA March Madness with the sound turned down low. I watched the flickering light of the television on my baby's face and marveled that my love had become my loves. I had my husband and my son tucked into our house together.

It was four years ago. It was yesterday. It is every day that I have with David and Bird.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Out With the Old...

We are hours away from the end of 2009. While there many things that I am thankful for in this past year, I have to say that I am looking forward to being rid of this year (or it being rid of me?).

I have ranted before that I don't make resolutions for new years -- I don't like them, they don't work, I am only setting myself up for disappointment and failure. And yet.....goodness, how do I always end up doing this?

Make better use of time. Focus on priorities. Correspond more frequently with friends and family. Simple, right?

I am very blessed. I have a wonderful life. I intend to live life to the fullest in 2010.

Wishing you many blessings, much prosperity, and a joyful and peaceful new year.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

Women can be awful. I hate to generalize or stereotype, but honestly, women can be downright awful -- and especially to other women.

Have I ranted here about feminism? Why are people (especially women) afraid of that word? Why don't people (women included) understand what that word means? I spoke very briefly at a colleague's retirement party and told a story about how he actually helped to make me a better feminist. To start the story, I stated simply "I am a feminist." I was hoping it was kind of a funny story. People laughed. It was fine. Afterward a woman (a professor, no less) came up to me to ask me "Are you really a feminist? I was so surprised to hear you say that." Huh? It was like I had stated my name and taken that first step and admitted to a room full of people who go by first names only that I am a feminist.

All of this is a roundabout path to my main theme here -- women who are mothers making proclamations about how all other women should mother. Have you seen this yet? If you don't read the Atlantic or if you don't follow news on breastfeeding, you may not have seen the article that started this for me. (And since it takes me months now to get a post up, it is likely now old news, and probably not appropriate for Mothers Day...)

The Case Against Breast-Feeding by Hanna Rosin

I'm not even sure what to say about the article anymore. It makes me angry and sad at the same time. Basically, Rosin does a cursory run through some of the literature about the possible benefits of breastfeeding. She concludes that there are no scientific data to support the benefits of breastfeeding, therefore, women should not breastfeed. Her line of reasoning makes me angry.

Rosin also spends time discussing/revealing the pressure she feels to breastfeed. Even though she believes that there are no data to support the benefits of breastfeeding, she does it anyway. And she feels bad about it. And she seems to blame medical professionals and other women for this --
I could not bring myself to stop breast-feeding—too many years of Sears’s conditioning, too many playground spies. So I was left feeling trapped, like many women before me, in the middle-class mother’s prison of vague discontent.
Give me a break. If you do not wish to breastfeed, if breastfeeding is not working for you and your baby (the only people who should be considered in this equation), if breastfeeding is not possible, if you have made the choice to not breastfeed (for whatever reason), then do not breastfeed. Simple. Are women so impressionable and weak that they do things even against their own judgment because of "playground spies"? This is the part that makes me sad.

What's worse, she implies that all women -- particularly privileged women in first-world countries -- should opt to not breastfeed due to the lack of scientific evidence strong enough to convince Rosin that it is the right thing to do.
Given what we know so far, it seems reasonable to put breast-feeding's health benefits on the plus side of the ledger and other things -- modesty, independence, career, sanity -- on the minus side, and then tally them up and make a decision. But in this risk-averse age of parenting, that's not how it's done.
It's not? Why not? Because women are afraid of what other people might think of them?

Judith Warner of The New York Times added to the discussion with a piece called Ban the Breast Pump. I read it thinking that she was taking an extreme position to make a point. She concludes the piece with
In fact, I hope that some day, not too long in the future, books on women’s history will feature photos of breast pumps to illustrate what it was like back in the day when mothers were consistently given the shaft. Future generations of female college students will gaze upon the pumps, aghast.

“Did you actually use one of those?” they’ll ask their mothers, in horror.

And the moms, with a shudder, will proudly say no.
Given the shaft indeed. Women who have work outside of the home, and choose to continue to offer breast milk to their children, and have the flexibility at work (if not also legal protections) to pump at work are given the shaft. What is the point of this debate? What if we focused on the reality that the choice to use a breast pump is framed in the context of a woman having to make this choice since family leave is limited in this country. Talk about a shaft. And what if a woman stays at home but chooses to use a pump to regulate her milk production and/or allow other loved ones and caregivers to feed the baby? What if she pumps because her baby is not able to nurse due to a medical or physical condition? Again, a shaft indeed.

The key word throughout this is choice -- a dangerous word when discussing women and their bodies.

Most data indicate that breast milk is better than formula. This does not mean that breast milk is the only good choice and formula is evil. Women need to educate themselves, consider the factors that impact their choice, and make that choice. If pumping is so awful, don't do it. If you are not comfortable nursing, don't do it. Some of these discussions about feeling pressure to parent or mother in certain ways makes me wonder if most women would jump off a bridge if Dr. Sears told them to.

When will women take responsibility for their choices regarding their pregnancies and mothering and not worry about what everyone else thinks? When will women focus their anger and energy on reforming the sad state of family leave in this country instead of on their judgment of the choices other women make?

Shortly after I was comfortable enough being public about my pregnancy with Bird, I learned that many women (and, to be fair, some men) want to know everything about your pregnancy and parenting plans and are comfortable offering advice, and, in some cases, passing judgment.

On how my child was conceived -- "So your baby isn't natural?"
On my plan for childbirth -- "Oh, I didn't take any drugs."
On the consumption of caffeine, tuna, soft cheese, alcohol, et al. while pregnant or nursing -- "It's harmful to the baby."
On the use of pacifiers or bottles -- "Nipple confusion!"
On sleeping arrangements -- "Babies should sleep in their own crib" and "Your baby should sleep with you."
On textiles and toys -- "You really should choose only organic cotton and renewable wood..."

The list is lengthy -- disposable or cloth diapers, plastic or glass bottles, when to start solid foods, homemade solid foods or store bought, baby wearing, diaper ointments, crying it out....and let's not even mention the debate on vaccinations....

But I was trying to comment on the breastfeeding debate.

A blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Judith Graham entered the conversation with a piece titled Science Supports Breast-Feeding But it's a Woman's Choice. She wrote a succinct critique of Rosin's and Warner's contributions. On Rosin, she posits that
Rosin’s real gripe is that the benefits of breast-feeding have been oversold, making moms guilty if they chose to feed their babies formula. Without question, mistakes have been made.
The mistakes she is referring to were the ads in 2006 that depicted mothers who choose not to breastfeed as mothers who were actually harming their babies. Yes, a mistake. I think she is right in particular about "making moms feel guilty." Rosin needs to decide that others can't make her feel guilty -- that guilt is not a reason why she should do something she doesn't want to do and is certainly not reason enough for other women to not do what she doesn't want to do.

Graham concludes that Warner

understands the real argument here is about women who feel put-upon by all the expectations associated with modern motherhood. For her, the symbol is the breast pump, that device that lets women give breast milk to infants even when they’re at work. Clearly, something is missing in that picture.

But again, the problem isn’t with the science behind breast-feeding. It’s with what people make of it.

Yes, exactly -- what people make of it. Most of the comments I read that were posted in reply to these articles and posts and in myriad other blogs contained some sort of personal statement such as "I breastfed...." "I exclusively breastfed..." "I was not able to breastfeed due to health, work, etc." "I tried to breastfeed, but...." Most of these also included some sort of statement that everything turned out okay.

So, why should breastfeeding be viewed so negatively? Why does breastfeeding have to be measurably better than formula to justify that choice? In all of the complaining about being trapped at 2am with a baby attached to her breast, why did no one mention the convenience of whipping out a boob to nourish or calm a baby? Why was the cost of the wonderful formulas that are available today not factored in? Why didn't the discussion include the need for flexible work situations that would allow women more freedom in their choices about how to nourish their babies?

Why can't we agree that breastfeeding (or not breastfeeding) is not for every mother? A mother can choose not to breastfeed, but still offer breast milk. A mother can choose not to breastfeed, but offer breast milk that is not her own! A mother can choose not to breastfeed, but offer one of the formulas made today with technology much better than when many of us were young. Have you looked at the choices in formula and how they are packaged? There are countless choices and options for feeding infants today with convenient and healthy formula.

What's important is that in the end, each of these choices is a viable choice to raise healthy, happy children. What's important, is that each of these truly is a choice that women and their parenting partners need to make for themselves and their children without pressure or judgment from other women.

I wish we could learn how to get along and support each other in our choices.

Happy Mothers Day!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Scrooge the Squirrel



Christmas is the season of lights. One of my favorite parts of the season is decorating the house -- inside and outside -- with lights. Candle lights in the windows, star light in the dining room, lights in the kitchen and over the doorways to our bedrooms.

Since this was only our second Christmas in our house, we are still figuring out how we want to decorate, and we are in the early stages of acquiring decorations. One of the best ways to acquire nice decorations is to wait for the holiday to pass and then buy decorations that stores are trying to unload at a nice discount.

Last year we picked up a few things right after Christmas. David suggested that we get some lights to string along the deck. We use the back entrance to the house the most, and we can see the deck from our family room -- so buying lights was an easy decision. I tend to be a white light person, David pushed for colors. He won. Oh, and the lights we bought have something like 15 settings -- we can select anything from strobe, to Vegas, to night club, to seizure-inducing flashes. Lovely.

To be fair, when we got the lights on the deck and the tiny trees with lights along the sidewalk and a tangle of outdoor extension cords and the light sensor all set up, it was very nice. We got a beautiful snow just a couple of days after we had everything set up, and the lights looked great through the snow. We all enjoyed watching them from the warm family room.


And then one night I noticed that one of the strands was not lit. I thought it might have been due to the amount of snow piled on the connections. We've had some snow this winter.... But then the whole length of lights was out. We had had some difficulty with the light sensor timers we used on all the outside lights. However, the little trees along the walkway were on the same timer as the porch lights and they were still lit.

We let it go for a few days until one of us had the opportunity to be on the deck in daylight and check out the electrical anomaly. David got out there first. He suspected foul play. In particular, he suspected a squirrel.

David is not a big fan of a squirrel that's been hanging around our deck. The squirrel (or squirrels?) has pulled petunias out of pots, actually chewed on deck railings, and is generally a pest. He reminds me of the fearless squirrels you encounter on college campuses. This squirrel has actually stood outside our sliding glass door, placed small claws (do squirrels have claws?) on the glass, and stared at us. Odd.

So it turns out that it appears that the squirrel chewed through the electrical cord of our Christmas lights -- not in one place, but in three different locations (see pics above). No squirrel carcasses were found. Surprisingly.

I'm still a little pissed about it -- the destruction of our new lights, not the lack of frozen bodies. What kind of scrooge eats through wires to kill our Christmas joy?

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Junk Room

Everyone has a junk drawer, right? I remember that we even called it that when I was growing up. In need of something? Look in the junk drawer. It sometimes had magical qualities like Mary Poppins' bag -- it seemed a limitless drawer of odds, ends, tools, pens, and orphan parts of all kinds.

When I got older and lived in places of my own I gradually developed my own junk drawer. In my pursuit of controlling my environment since I cannot seem to control any other aspect of my life, I organized my junk drawer with small, plastic bins. It was still a junk drawer, but it was forced into the submission of categories -- tools (ruler, scissors, tape measure, utility knife, tiny screwdriver, etc.), adhesives (clear tape, masking tape, electrical tape, left-over velcro tabs, and that cool stuff that you can stick window stickers onto it so that the stickers cling to your car windows thereby eliminating the need for razor blades every year), stuff (buttons, last bit of yarn, a cork, a key chain that floats, etc.), and a bin of batteries. That drawer also received all weird bits and scraps that had no other home and would no longer be tolerated out in the open.

We have been in our new house for almost two years. Our Birdie arrived about four weeks after we moved into the house (and about three weeks early). We did not have time to get all parts of the house set up the way we wanted it. (No, really, I have convinced myself that three more weeks of pregnancy would have allowed us to get things set up.) And then, of course, people say that it takes a year of living someplace to figure out how you want things set up. Bird has impacted our plans by distracting us from thinking about how to organize the house and by introducing so much stuff to the house.

So, while our kitchen has developed its own kitchen-specific junk drawer, we have grown beyond junk drawers and generated a junk room -- a whole room of orphans, misfits, and stuff-in-transition. It started simply enough -- Birdie's first birthday and the impending arrival of more than thirty people for his party (we kept it small -- family only). We needed space for chairs for people and tables for food. Jumperoos, Bumbos, toys, baskets of blankets and bibs and toys were all relegated to the office. The stroller, the push car, and un-needed parts of the pack n' play were exiled to the office. Piles of mail and newspapers, school bags, work bags, extra throw pillows and a half-dead plant were thrown in for good measure.

And thus was the foundation laid for our junk room.

Now the junk room is utilized every time we get one of those phone calls -- "Hey! We're in the city. Are you guys home?" -- and need to shovel our real lives behind closed door to make it possible for guests to be comfortable and to allow us to act like we live clutter free.

Bird's second birthday is three months away. (How is that possible?) I have been successful this week in skimming off the top layer and have made discoveries such as the light fixtures we bought for the first floor bathroom. The stroller and push-car have been stored in the basement. I have not made it as far as the closet. God knows what awaits me in the closet. Items were shoved in the closet the week we moved in and have not been touched since. I imagine it will be like an archaeological dig. And a horror film. And potentially a documentary on paper hoarding.

I am hopeful that in the new year I can rid us of much paper, determine and establish a system for storing the minimal amount of paper we do need to store, and keep junk out of our office. It would be so nice to have an office again.

I will not, however, make any move to rid us of our junk drawer.