Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Getting unplugged and tuned in

We've had a few problems with electronics in our home recently. My personal laptop is having major problems connecting to the internet, Brennan's old laptop is a dinosaur waiting to kill over and is currently donning a space bar that refuses to work half of the time, and I mistakenly let Hyrum play with our cell phone the other day and later found it in a pool of water. Ugh. One thing after another. (P.S. Tried putting it in rice with minimal success...any other ideas?)

But, there is a very large silver lining in all of that--I haven't been online as much lately and when I am, it's with a purpose. I don't think there's anything wrong with being on Facebook, cruising blogs, or hitting the refresh button in Gmail over and over and over...and over again. However, I've definitely found myself in a little bit of a quandary: I never seemed to be getting anything done. The house was generally messier than I would like, the dinners less nutritious and less delicious than intended, and all of those craft projects I had were lying idly by. But by golly, I knew what was happening with that second cousin's best friend in Bangkok.

Obviously I'm still online--publishing this blog post has proven that. But after the last week and a half of being a little more unplugged, I find myself being much more purposeful while perusing the internet. I have a few blogs I really like to follow, I check my email, I read through my Facebook newsfeed and then jump offline and spend time doing something else. It's amazing what I can get done when my attention isn't divided between the babe and the wedding pictures posted on Facebook, the soup I was trying to cook on the stove and the random blog I just came across, and that load of laundry that never seems to get folded and a NY Times article published 5 months ago.

In any case, I think I like this new life. I like what it does to me as a mom, a wife, a homemaker, and an individual. It helps me to realize that my online life is just that--its own life. It's fine for it to come out and play from time to time but perhaps my online life can become more of an acquaintance than a hands-all-over-each-other romantic relationship.

Do you find there are things in your life that are bringing you down or distracting you from things you find more important? How do you deal with those things?

Monday, August 29, 2011

I am grateful for today

A number of you may the family I am referring to in this post. I know their struggles and trials have been on my mind a lot lately, almost constantly.

One of my dear friends just had her baby a few days ago. From what I have been able to ascertain, labor and delivery all went very smoothly after an uncomplicated pregnancy. However, her baby had some unknown complications that have resulted in him being rushed to the NICU. I know that his condition is currently stable but very serious and they do not know when they will be able to bring him home with them.

I have become very good friends with this wonderful young woman, especially since our move to Calgary. She has inspired me in my journey as a mother, been a support in times of need, and has overall been a very dear friend though we live quite a distance apart. There's something remarkably painful about watching others in pain. My heart overflows with love for them and yet I feel so helpless. I'm sure they feel much the same way.

As I have watched for updates one Facebook status at a time, I am compelled to hug my son more frequently, treasure our days even more, and kiss him as much as possible. It has reminded me of that which is the most important part of parenting--our love and devotion to our families. Perhaps this is morbid, but a lot of my decisions in mothering have resulted from this one thought, "If today/tonight was our last day/night together, how would I want us to remember it?" I've found amazing strength and support from that little question.

And so my prayers will continue to plead--beg--for comfort, health and strength for this little family. While I may not be able to put my arms around this new mother, father and tiny baby; I will put my arms around my own little family. I hope in some way that will make a difference.

I thank the Lord for my family. I thank Him that we are well. I thank Him for today.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Baby #2

Made ya look!

Okay, in all seriousness now.

While I was pregnant with babe #1, I was already talking about when we could/would/should have babe #2. You see, I'm a little older than I planned to be when beginning this whole childbearing thing. Those of you who knew me in my adolescent years probably remember the days of the plan for 14 children--all of whom would be donning handmade clothing and would be homeschooled on our ranch in Montana. And, well, then I married an accountant, not a rancher. And then we had baby #1 at age 26 rather than 20 and I finally got over the delusions of being able to make all (or even much) of my kiddos clothing. But I still had plans for a semi-big family. Probably not 14 or anything, but you know, 6 or 7...or 8. And, maybe that's still in the works. Only time will tell.

And so we agreed that around 9 months old we could start trying for baby #2. That was as low as I could get the hubby to go. He had the attitude of, "well, we'll see what happens and how we feel. Let's take this child thing one at a time." I was like, "if I am going to have all of the kiddos we can/want/should have then we've gotta get a move on!!!" If you can't tell, the hubby is a little more easy going than I am. I'm a little more, shall we say, tightly wound? An over-scheduler? Nutty? We'll go with that. Nutty.

Here's how nutty I was. Baby #1 is two weeks old and I'm already talking about having Baby #2. I blame the hormones. Here I am, sore as all get-out, having gotten about zero hours of sleep in the last two weeks, and the last time I had a shower was....well, I probably couldn't remember. And I was already talking about Baby #2. Yeah, gotta be those hormones.

But here we are, only a little over a month away from the agreed upon 9 month mark and I've dropped the mayhem and begging for baby #2. A lot of is because I want a VBAC something fierce and from everything I've read and researched, 24 months between pregnancies seems the minimal length for a best shot...well, and for some providers to even consider you for one.

At first this really got me down because it meant that I might not have the opportunity to 1) have as many children as I wanted and 2) have another little newborn in my arms as soon as I want it (anyone have a newborn I can hold? Do you ship to Canada? I'll pay the international fees!). I felt a little sorry for myself for a while. It just didn't seem fair!

Then I got to thinking of all of the really great things that come from waiting a little longer: Perhaps baby #1 will no longer be in diapers anymore. Perhaps he'll become my little helper who can open doors and at least put away his own shoes. Perhaps he'll be able to communicate on a semi-decent level and there will be some reciprocal conversation in my life during waking hours.

But here was the biggest selling point for me: Baby #1 will get his baby time. Now, I know there are some incredible women out there who can divide their time and their attention (and be pleasant during their pregnancies) to ensure that happens. I happen to be friends with a number of these incredible women. But I'm coming to the realization that I just don't think I'm one of those people. At least not yet. And so Baby #1 will get his time to be the nursling, his time to cuddle in bed, his time to get all of the grandma hugs when we visit. I don't think that mommies have to really "divide" their time, but I do think things get trickier.

And so I look back on that 9-month agreement (funny how I didn't even consider that my mommy's-milk-loving-baby would put the cork on that idea) and remind myself that what matters most is the quality of our relationships, not the quantity. If we can have both quality and quantity then great! If not, well, that's fine too. We'll work for quality in the meantime. I firmly believe that all things happen for a reason and that our Heavenly Father has provided a way that we can be happy, whether or not it aligns with our previously held notions of happiness. And sometimes, especially then.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Why all the talk about co-sleeping

I read this quote today and I think it captured a lot of the feelings I’ve tried, at times unsuccessfully, to portray on this blog.

“I don’t begrudge Ferber the right to preach Ferberization or parents who prefer sleeping sans child the right to practice it. Live and let live. What’s annoying is the refusal of Ferber and other experts to reciprocate my magnanimity. They act as if parents like me are derelict, as if children need to fall asleep in a room alone.”—Robert Wright, Time magazine

I know I’ve talked a lot about co-sleeping on this blog and I have perhaps given the impression that it’s the only way to go. Truth is, I think it’s much better for a family to sleep happily apart than to sleep unhappily together. I truly do not mean to be pushy about the subject. If solitary sleeping is working well for you, then by all means, continue.

So, why do I talk about it so much?

There are so many negative things written and said about co-sleeping. Of all of the decisions that we have made as a family, it’s the one that gets the most flack and I just don’t think that’s fair. In being a co-sleeping mom I’m accused of putting my baby at risk of suffocation, neglecting my sexual relationship with my husband, causing sleep problems, creating an unhealthy co-dependence between mother and child, and some even go so far as to say that I’m somehow sexually abusing my child simply by having him in my proximity while we sleep. At least in my experience, none of this can possibly true. I’ve taken great precautions to make our bed a safe place for the baby; found ways to continue sexual intimacies with my husband; prevented a whole host of sleep problems by modeling how sleep is a pleasant thing to enter, stay in, and exit; and I feel I’ve created an environment in which my children will grow up with an intact sense of self and others around them rather than a dependence on material objects. As for the accusation about inappropriate sexual behavior, my thought is that something has gone wrong in our society where people do not get the love and touch they need in appropriate ways and in turn, seek for it in inappropriate ones. In no way do I believe appropriate co-sleeping can or will cause inappropriate behavior later in life.

In any case, can you see why I get a little excited about talking about its merits? There is so much negative stuff out there and I feel that if I can change even one person’s mind about the practice, whether or not they choose to do so in their family, then I feel I’ve made life a little easier for the other co-sleeping families out there.

There’s also a part of me that wants to say, “It’s okay if you want to do it.” Before and right after Hyrum was born, I was so terrified of letting him into our bed for the reasons I stated above. I loved holding him and feeling him near me, and what’s not natural about that? You’ve shared a body with this little person for his entire existence. I think it’s only natural and intuitive to want to keep them near you at the time when they’re most vulnerable—in a state of sleep. And yet I was terrified. I was terrified because I had read these words in the self-purported book of infant care:

“It is common for children in third-world countries to sleep in the same bed with their parents…poverty forces the sleeping arrangement…The family bed is unsafe….Sleeping with your baby creates needs but doesn’t fulfill them...There is not a single benefit gained that can possibly outweigh the risks.”—Ezzo and Bucknam (223-25).

Those are some pretty strong words--and I, somehow, believed them. And so, I dutifully put Hyrum in his cradle every night and after a few weeks, moved him to his own room. I did so because I thought, as the authors seem to suggest, that here in America we’re above co-sleeping. Here we know that it is unsafe. Here we know that only bad things can come of it.

And then I stumbled upon co-sleeping by sheer accident after my husband brought my baby to me one time in the middle of the night to feed. From my memory it was during those ridiculous few weeks in grad school where I had a 15-page paper due in my pedagogy class, my graduate recital to give, my theatre comps, two rounds of grad orals, and my recital paper due one right after the other—all with a newborn. There was no rest for this weary mommy. That night, before I could even get myself ready to feed him, my baby had fallen back asleep. He just wanted his mommy. He didn’t need to eat, he just wanted physical contact and touch. In my exhaustion, I fell asleep with him in the crook of my arm and didn’t awake until Brennan found me asleep in this state and asked if he should take Hyrum back to his crib for me. I was reluctant because it felt so pleasant, but I said yes because that’s what I was supposed to do.

Over the next few weeks I thought to myself, “hmmm…I don’t think I would have rolled over on to him.” After having him there with me and noticing how natural it felt, it just seemed like a ridiculous claim. Upon further investigation, I realized my gut instinct on that one was right. Breastfeeding moms don’t roll over on their babies unless there is something altering their judgment—drugs, smoking, medical sedation, or extreme exhaustion—as long as they have taken proper safety precautions to make their sleeping environment suitable for their babies. I also learned that in countries where breastfeeding and co-sleeping are the norm, overlaying is unheard of and SIDS is a pure anomaly. In fact, natural birthing pioneer Dr. Michel Odent, upon his visit to China in 1977, inquired as to the number of incidents of "cot death" (SIDS) in China. He reported:

"Nobody understood my questions; the conept o sudden infant death or cot death was apparently unknown amonth professionals and lay people in such different places as Peking, Hsian, Loyang, Nanking, Shanghai, and Canton. Furthermore I learned that Chinese babies sleep with their mothers, even in the most westernized families, such as the families of interpreters. Ever since then I have held the view that, even if it happens during the day, cot death is a disease of babies who spend their nights in an atmosphere of loneliness and that cot death is a disease of societies where the nuclear family [rather than the extended family] has taken over."

And so I started questioning what I had read and heard. When I shared my discovery with people, I almost always received negative criticism. Hardly anyone told me to go with my gut on this one. Even people who believed that the standard claims were incorrect would instill fear by saying, “You’ll never be able to move him out” or “you’ll need to break that habit now rather than later.”

I’ve concluded that we live in a culture afraid of weaning—at least from some things. From pacifiers, to breastfeeding, to co-sleeping—we spend so much time worrying about how we’ll stop that we don’t enjoy it while it’s there. I wonder how many people don’t make changes in their lives—from quitting smoking to better health—simply because they’re afraid of the weaning process. However, we put children in diapers knowing full-well that they’ll potty-train someday and few mothers are afraid of weaning their child off of infant formula. As with all things, children wean from the family bed when they, and their parents, are ready.

In any case, I hope I don’t come across as overbearing in my praising of co-sleeping. My intention isn’t to convert, simply to explore the option. And if there’s anyone out there looking for permission, I hope they find it here. It’s okay to co-sleep, it’s okay not to co-sleep. It’s okay to breastfeed, it’s okay not to breastfeed. It’s okay to cry-it-out, it’s okay to not cry-it-out. Everything has its pros and its cons so I hope the mud slaying stops her—and that goes for me too.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

How breastfeeding changed my life

I was chatting with my friend Kim the other day, another young mom in our ward who shares a lot of the same thoughts and philosophies I do. Truth be told, Kim is kind of one of my heroes. Natural-eating, co-sleeping, home birth mama with a beautiful bond and attachment to her baby girl. She shared with me some of her struggles with breastfeeding in the early months of her baby's life. As she told me some of the things that she had to do to continue breastfeeding I thought, "Goodness, I wonder if I would have gone through all of the trouble."

I absolutely love breastfeeding. I love how Hyrum will snuggle in. I love how it calms him when he's upset. I love how he gets so excited for our nursing sessions. I even love how rambunctious he's getting when he nurses. It just reminds me of how the breastfeeding relationship is constantly developing, constantly changing. In the early days you wonder if you'll ever move from the chair and then suddenly one day your nursing sessions are down to 5-10 minutes. They go from being cuddly to kicky, from lying to sitting. I just think it's amazing to watch the relationship mirror the baby's learning and growing.

And yet I think back to my early days of Hyrum's life. I'm pretty sure if it had been much of a struggle I would have thrown in the towel. I just wasn't committed enough. Truth be told, I was terrified of breastfeeding. Not on a philosophical level, just terrified that I wouldn't be able to figure it out. Thankfully, breastfeeding was not one of those things that came with difficulty for Hyrum and me. I thank Heavenly Father for that blessing because honestly, breastfeeding has changed my life.

Because I loved breastfeeding so much and it felt so natural, I began questioning some of the things I had read/learned/heard/thought about infant care. Because breastfeeding came easily, I transitioned from wanting to schedule feed to demand feed. Because I started feeding on demand, I found breastfeeding to be more than just food but also a time of comfort and cuddles for both my baby and mommy. Because breastfeeding was established, I desired to learn about other natural ways of living, including birthing. Because I breastfed and wanted to make my life a little easier, I moved our baby from the crib to our bed. Because I moved him to our bed, my husband and I have had some wonderful bonding moments as a whole family. Because I wanted my breastfed baby to grow up healthy and strong, I started taking better care of my own body. Because I wanted to take better care of my body I started eating healthy foods and exercising. Because I eat healthy foods and exercise, I have more energy and find greater enjoyment in my life. Because I love breastfeeding so much, I joined a La Leche League and met many wonderful mothers who live in my city. Because I met other moms, Calgary is starting to feel more and more like home. Because it feels more and more like home, I feel happy. '

And so now I realize that Heavenly Father provided me with a beautiful gift. If, for me, breastfeeding had been quite difficult in the beginning, I probably would have given up. But, if I had given up, I wonder how different my life would be today. I really like my life just as it is now. A number of things have changed, a lot have stayed the same, but I like the changes. I like how breastfeeding has changed my life.

How has breastfeeding affected your life?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Teaching independence

I've made good friends with a couple of women here in Calgary. One of them is my upstairs neighbor who also has a baby boy who's about 2 months older than Hyrum. We got chatting yesterday about independence while we were on our walk. She also has her son in her room. She recently moved him from their bed to a mattress on the floor and has been having a lot of success with that. But a few friends were really pushing her to not give up on the crib. She decided it wasn't worth it for her. But then there's all that talk about independence. So, we got to thinking, how do you teach it and how do you gain it?

Lots of people talk about instilling independence in your children--leaving them to play by themselves or having a separate sleeping space. But, here are my personal thoughts on independence---it can't be pushed. I personally don't think it's independence if there wasn't any choice involved in it. It's just the way life is. So, how do you encourage without forcing?

I thought of ways that my parents taught me independence. Since my memory doesn't serve me very well in infanthood, I think mostly about my teenage years. Partially from tight finances and partially from wanting to teach me responsibility, my parents told me that if I wanted things--new school clothes, a driver's license, insurance, etc.--then I needed to have a job. Thus began a great career at Little Caesar's Pizza (har har). My parents also had me pay for my own college education. There were a few times when they would spot me $20 here or there, but for the most part, I payed for it (or at least mortgaged my future...)

But since I don't have a teenager, I have an infant, I wonder what sorts of ways I can help encourage independence and responsibility at a young age. One of the ways we've come up with is letting him feed himself. If he doesn't want to eat, he doesn't have to. If he wants to, we provide the food but he does the feeding. My plan for separate sleeping spaces is that when he wants it, we'll provide the means and some gentle encouragement to stay in his own bed.

What are some ways you've found to encourage independence in your youngsters?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sending "good" vibes

I often think about dropping this blog all together. I mean, I like blogging...actually, maybe love it. But, there is so much negative stuff out there and I don't want to be one of those people contributing to it. I've realized it's incredibly hard to critique something without it being internalized as a personal attack. I honestly, truly, hope that while I may vehemently disagree with a method or philosophy, I do not want anyone, especially those that I love, to walk away feeling as if I somehow disapprove of them personally. I haven't found a consistently good way of communicating that, but please know that the intent is there.

At the end of the day, here's what I wish. Of course I wish everyone out there thought the same way I did. It would make life a lot easier and selfishly, I'm tired of feeling like others think I'm a "bad" mom or a "weird" mom.

When I was living in Utah it was a lot easier to get together with other moms and talk about our thoughts on childrearing. I didn't feel any need to write then. I had my support team right there.

Then I moved far from home, far from friends, and far from any life that I knew. Fact is, it gets kinda lonely and my brain gets a racin'. I can't go over to those friends' homes anymore and just talk. The hubby is incredibly busy at work and comes home very late in the evening, completely exhausted, and after a quick kiss goodnight, we both hit the sack without much conversation beyond "how did today go? Oh good, you survived. Here's to another one..." Not much time to sit down and discuss the ins and outs of our thoughts and feelings. It will get better soon (September 15th, you need to come NOW! I feel like I'm waiting for my due date all over again...) but in the meantime, I blog. You know how your partner is usually the person you vent to and keeps you sane? Mine should reappear after the tax deadline. I hate tax season.

Anyway, enough of the griping and complaining already! Here's my overall point, please realize that when I blog, I'm coming from a place where I'm still conversing, still figuring out exactly what it is that I actually think. Some of my thoughts are well thought-out, others are some rant that I'm currently feeling the need to get off my chest. However, I love the discussion we have here either way. If I seem illogical, please call me out on it. But please also know that I don't necessarily think that I'm being logical. I'm just writing. And writing. And then thinking later.

But no matter what, know that I don't ever want anyone walking away from this blog thinking they're "bad." Gosh, there is nothing less productive in this world than making someone feel awful about themselves. Do I wish everyone who read my posts agreed with them? Sure! Do I wish people would walk away thinking, "now that Amy, she's got some great ideas." Definitely! But here's what I don't want, "Golly, she must think I'm a bad parent." No way, Jose! (thanks Michelle Tanner) Do I necessarily agree with you? Maybe not. But by Jove, I hope everyone feels empowered to do what is best for them and their families. Do I wish no one ever cried-it-out again or that everyone loved babywearing? You betcha! Are you a "bad" mom (or dad) if you do, or don't do (respectively), those things? Not at all.

Here's to sending some "good" vibes. Goodness knows there are enough bad ones out there. Let's not make this place one of them.

Sex and co-sleeping

I'm not really going to give a lengthy response to the issue of sexual intimacy and co-sleeping. I think this sums up all of my thoughts pretty well.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The feminist clarifies

I received a few different private responses from various people who read my post about questioning the hegemony behind the the labeling of "unsafe" to the practice of co-sleeping. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the responses were predominantly from men. One thought I was unfair and another thought the post was great. I'm not sure if different people read things differently, if they're at other places in their lives, or whatever, but I thought that maybe my previous post deserved a little bit of clarification.

My allusion to a male hegemony that exists was a critique of Western philosophy, pediatrics, and parenting practices--not a critique of all males. Certainly there are a great many men who believe in gentle parenting, who would lovingly put the needs of their wives and children far above there own, and who are supportive of alternative ways of doing things. In fact, I will even entertain the thought that most men would be okay with co-sleeping, even if their wives wouldn't.

My post was mainly critiquing what I believe to be a shift in parenting practice that certainly seems to favor a male-dominated society's priorities and outlooks. While, at least to my knowledge, there is no publication regarding the overall history of parenting practices throughout time (such a publication would be monstrous, and would likely, as most history textbooks do, give a one-sided account). But here's what I've been able to ascertain through the reading of a number of parenting books and articles that address such a topic.

It is quite clear that the extended family was replaced by the nuclear family during the Industrial Revolution as families left the farms and communities of their extended family and headed for single family dwellings in the cities. At the same time, women began to leave the home to work in factories rather than being at home with their children. This naturally led to a stark change in who and what was the authority on parenting because unlike today, they couldn't simply call up mom or grandma to get advice. No longer were mothers and grandmothers sharing their knowledge of breastfeeding and childrearing, and so doctors became the voice of authority. As a result, at least as far as I can see, the opportunity arose for doctor's personal preferences (all of whom were male at the time) to override the longstanding traditions of pre-Industrial Europe and America. Also, as is only natural, male doctors could not offer help to breastfeeding mothers because they simply had never breastfed themselves (something to consider even today when male doctors/authors give breastfeeding advice).

Since a woman's body naturally produces milk and other animals naturally nurse their young, at least in my mind, it's not hard to see that there was a bit of conflict over ownership of the woman's body and a confusion regarding proper breastfeeding techniques and information, that led to the move toward infant formula rather than the mother nursing the baby herself. With the decline of breastfeeding naturally came the decline of co-sleeping (and the introduction of "sleep training"...but we won't get into that). Since one would have to get out of bed to make a bottle rather than simply attach the child to the breast, it was no longer natural for a woman to bring the child to bed with her.

I don't blame men, or even the authors I stated in my previous post, for perpetuating incorrect information about breastfeeding and scaring families away from co-sleeping. I just think that in large part they're not considering the differences in safety between a breastfeeding mother and fathers, grandparents, siblings,etc. who could sleep next to a small baby. One of the main rules for safe co-sleeping is that only the breastfeeding mother should be sleeping next to the infant. This is the only person who is in tune enough with her baby to prevent "overlaying." (There are a number of other precautions which should be taken and are necessary for safe co-sleeping.)

In the end, I don't think families who choose not to co-sleep are being unsafe. Rather, I believe that the incorrect labeling of co-sleeping as being unsafe needs to be removed. I do believe that until the male authors who have staked themselves as the"authority" on infant care change their instructions, mothers will continue to believe them. I wish this were not the case. I wish mothers and all women felt empowered enough to turn to other women, other mothers, before needing to rely on "experts," But, in our male-dominated society, that just isn't the case. I believe it is changing though and I continue to hope in a society that will return to what it once was--mothers learning from their mothers and fathers learning from their fathers, and each respecting one another in their respective roles (whatever those roles happen to be for their own family). I would also like to see doctors maintaining their roles as educators of child development and those who treat sick children rather than the experts on parenting practices.

Monday, August 15, 2011

What my kiddo taught me today

As a parent I often think of all of the things I need and want to teach to my children--empathy, kindness, responsibility, obedience, respect, etc. Sometimes I forget to notice all of the things he teaches me. When he smiles at a stranger even though he's feeling a little grumpy, he teaches me about putting others first. When he wakes up for that 6am feeding, he teaches me about love and patience. When I am trying to tidy up the house and he wants to play, he teaches me about keeping proper priorities in this life. I'm positive Heavenly Father sent these little souls to Earth to teach the parents at least as much as he sent the children to learn from their earthly fathers and mothers.

Today Hyrum taught me about forgiveness. Oh how I felt like a terrible mommy today. When we were out for our morning walk I somehow tripped as I was getting onto the sidewalk. He was in the baby carrier at the time and even though my hands and knees took the brunt of the fall, his poor little head scraped the sidewalk. He cried and cried, probably mostly from fear and shock. But after a few minutes of cuddling, a little nursing (on the sidewalk, might I add) he calmed down, snuggled in, and was ready to continue on home.

After spending the better part of the day in the ER just to make sure everything was okie dokie (since we don't have to pay to see a doctor here, being safe rather than sorry isn't going to break the bank!), Hyrum didn't even seem phased by the whole incident. I felt awful but he seemed to be doing great. Isn't it so wonderful how children are so forgiving? They don't hold a grudge like we do and question why. They don't continually bring up our mistakes as a way to make us feel bad. They simply ask for the comfort they need in the moment and then move on.

Sometimes I think about how much an attitude like that would change my life. Instead of remembering the hurt someone has caused me, remember the comfort they gave. Instead of questioning why, offer forgiveness. Instead of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, live in the present. Think of how different the world would be if we would all learn from our children.

Goodness knows I have a lot to learn.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A feminist questions the hegemony behind no co-sleeping

I guess you could call me a feminist. It's hard to embrace that term when it has such a negative connotation. You know, the bra burners of the 60s and such. That's all anyone thinks about. Never mind that feminism began with women winning the vote, wearing pants, women attending college, and reproductive rights. Even those who shrink at the word "feminist" believe that it's okay for women to wear a pair of blue jeans, cast a vote, obtain a college degree, and take a birth control pill if she wants to. But whatever. We can keep thinking the word is dirty if that is desired. But for the record, I wear pants. And I went to college. I vote. And, well, I've taken birth control in my life.

So, let's take it I'm a feminist and go from there.

I don't like men telling me how to be a woman. Period. As a mom who loves to read about parenting, I've noticed how many parenting books out there --almost exclusively aimed at the mother--are written by men. And not surprisingly, most of them are aimed at sleeping. Oh sleep...it seems as if that's all anyone can talk about when it comes to babies and young children. "Is he sleeping through the night?" "Are you sleep training him?" "How did he sleep last night?" "Does he take good naps?" To be honest, it kind of drives me batty. In fact, it's gotten to the point where I've started telling people that yes, he does sleep through the night. Because guess what, he does sleep during the night. Maybe not without waking for a little bit of comfort but he surely does sleep through the night.

And then I started wondering, why is this such a big deal to people? Here's where I pull out my feminist card...male authors. With few exceptions (i.e. the Sears family doctors) most male authors place enormous weight on sleep (Ezzo, Weissbluth, Ferber)--how long, how they get to sleep, and most importantly, where they sleep.

Is it that big of a surprise that male authors would be the ones to suggest moving the baby to his own bed, in his own room? While there's a baby there he's got to be a little more creative to get some action between the covers. So the simply solution is obviously to move the baby to his own bed, in his own room, and to help mothers feel better about it, they use the word "safety."

Whether you're a co-sleeper or not, it ain't hard to see where all of the fuel for solitary sleeping is coming from. After analyzing the statistics, as much as many pediatricians will give a thumbs down to co-sleeping, your baby actually has a higher chance of survival in the night if he's in your bed rather than in a crib. (Statistics gathered in 1997 suggest that while 515 infants died of "overlaying" in an adult bed, 2705 died of SIDS--the large majority of which were sleeping solitary). And yet, sleeping with your infant or young child is scolded, something that many families do but don't tell because if your kid sleeps with you, you're a "bad parent."

But here's the thing, families across the world have been sleeping with their infants for thousands of years. Why? Most white Americans say it's a cultural decision. People from "other cultures" do it, but we're above that. We should note that white American (mostly males) were also the ones to say that infant formula (which used to be nothing more than flour mixed with water and perhaps a little bit of cow's milk) was superior to breast milk. Throughout the 18th-early 20th centuries, women were told to feed their babies on schedules. When their milk supply slowly dropped, they had the advantage of turning to the "superior" infant formulas. Again, men were telling women how to feed their children when for thousands of years they had been doing just fine. However, with the turn to infant formula, the adult male, not the baby, was the owner of the woman's body.

Since we've been able to acknowledge that the "experts" of the past were incorrect about breastfeeding, why is it that we haven't acknowledged that they are also incorrect regarding the location of baby in the nighttime? If you talk to most (by choice) co-sleeping mothers they'll tell you they love the feel of their baby next to them. They love waking in the morning to her family being together. She'll tell you it feels natural and wonderful. She'll more than likely tell you that she's well-rested. Hmmm...sleep for all, feels natural, allows for the continuation of the breastfeeding relationship...sounds like a positive thing to me.

If nothing else, I'm curious as to how this will pan out in 50-100 years. Will our grandchildren look back on our time the way we look back at the advice of doctors of the 1940s and 50s? A time when they told women their breasts were too small to breastfeed? A time when they told women to feed on a strict 4 hour schedule for the good of the baby and themselves? Will our children's children have the information that proves that what families have been doing for hundreds of thousands of years is safest? I'm curious to watch.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bad habits

When I was a brand-new mommy I heard lots of talk about "bad habits." Don't give your baby a pacifier, you'll just have to break them of it later. If you let him nurse to sleep you'll never be able to put him down awake. You let him sleep in your arms?!? Good luck ever getting anything done! You need to help him be independent--don't let him sleep with you or pick him up every time he cries. Always do this, never do that, you'll hate yourself if you let him...

So, here I am 7 months later with a baby who still prefers to nurse to sleep, who wants to be held pretty frequently, who takes to the idea of sleeping alone the way most of us take to seeing the dentist. And guess what? I love my life. I love that my little buddy wants his mommy. I love that I have superwoman breasts with magical powers to put to sleep, comfort bumped heads, and calm a cranky baby. I love hugging, cuddling, rocking, bouncing, reading to, bathing, massaging, slinging--you name it--this little baby who won't be a baby forever.

Mind you, there are a few things I would do differently next time. There always are. We live, we learn. But I don't regret letting my baby sleep in my arm. I don't regret holding him so much. I don't regret letting him move into our bed. I'm not sure I ever will.

There is one thing I regret though--all that stress over bad habits. We moms, we've got it tough. Supposedly, our kids ENTIRE LIVES will somehow be cursed by us doing (or not doing) this, that or the other. Somehow I forgot that I don't know any 12-year-old who still rocks or nurses to sleep. Or any 17-year-old who's fighting to stay in the family bed. Is it really THAT big of a deal to put your baby down to sleep when he's already asleep? I mean, sure, it's got consequences. He's going to want you again when he wakes up. But is that really that bad of a thing? Maybe it is for some people, but it really isn't for me or my husband.

From what I can see, all of those "bad habits" are just preferences. Maybe we should save the word "bad" for things that are actually bad--you know, beating your kids and such.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Quote of the day: A Mother's Love

In her book Rights of Infants, author Margaret Ribble in 1943 described infant marasmus (an infant wasting disease) and the seemingly peculiar difference in outcome between better-class Edwardian infants and those born in poverty-stricken slums. Per her account, half of the babies in Britain at the time suffered from the disease.

"...babies in the best homes and hospitals, given the most careful attention, often drifted into this condition of slow dying, while infants in the poorest homes, with a good mother, often overcame the handicaps of poverty and unhygienic surroundings and became bouncing babies. It was found that the element lacking in the sterilized lives of the former class...was mother love."
(Rights of Infants)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Growing to our full potential

I attended my first La Leche League meeting the other day. As we were talking about baby sizes and percentiles, it was interesting to hear how each mom, regardless of how big or small her baby was, worried about them growing correctly. The mothers of smaller babies worried that they weren't doing "good enough" because their babies were small. Others with chubby babies worried that somehow their babies were now overweight because of something they had done. And, even the mom's with babies in the 50th percentile commented on how they thought, "well, that means I could be doing better.

Moms...we're so blasted hard on ourselves. No matter how things are going, it's all our fault. I really liked a comment the leader made about our babies growing to their full potential. As long as a baby is being fed on-demand (or my preference, "on-cue"), then we're doing exactly what we should be doing. From there our babies will grow to their full potential, no matter how large or how small they be. We're all different shapes and sizes and so are our babies.

I began thinking about how this applies in all aspects of life. As women, we're so quick to compare ourselves to one another, be it as moms, as wives, as scholars, with our bodies, with our minds, etc. But truth is that our job is to "grow to our full potential." As much as I want to be the mom who sews every toy, makes every meal delicious, takes care of the garden, goes running every day, stays spiritually in tune at all times, and makes every correct decision, a lot of that just isn't possible all the time. But, we work, we play, and we just try to become who we can possibly become.