Mothering http://www.mothering.com/articles Wed, 30 Jul 2014 22:05:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Is Natural Birth in the Hospital Really Possible? http://www.mothering.com/articles/natural-hospital-birth/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/natural-hospital-birth/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 22:04:33 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=26473 I read a book recently specifically directed to women who want a natural birth, but for whatever reason, don’t want (or can’t have) a home birth. There is this fallacy out there that to have a natural birth you must be outside of the hospital. I hate this, and not just because my first birth (and […]

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birth_photoI read a book recently specifically directed to women who want a natural birth, but for whatever reason, don’t want (or can’t have) a home birth.

There is this fallacy out there that to have a natural birth you must be outside of the hospital.

I hate this, and not just because my first birth (and first natural birth) was in a wonderful hospital. I dislike this idea because all by itself it discourages women from even trying to have the birth they want because they are birthing in the hospital.

Truth: You can have a great birth anywhere. Yes, even in many hospitals.

Lauren Rauseo recently wrote a book on just this subject: Natural Birth for the Mainstream Mama. Easy to read and both humorous and practical, it is a great guide to getting the birth you want in the place you want to have it.

Here are some more tips from the author herself:

Sarah: Welcome to Mothering and congratulations on your book! First, I would love for you to tell us why you decided to undertake something this big. Did you see a need and decide to fill it?

Lauren: When I was pregnant with my first baby in 2009, I wanted to have a natural birth in the hospital. In preparation, I read many books and articles about natural birth, but most of them were targeted to women having a home birth. It seemed that I would be up against many obstacles having a natural birth in the hospital. Ultimately, I had a wonderful hospital birth, even with some unforeseen circumstances. After I had my baby, friends and acquaintances started reaching out to me for advice about having a natural birth in the hospital, and I talked to each of them on the phone for hours. I thought to myself: I should just write all of this down to make it easier next time someone asks me! And that’s how the idea for the book began.

Sarah: Tell me, why did you choose hospital birth and why do you feel it is a perfectly valid choice for women, even those planning a natural birth?

Lauren: For some women, especially having their first baby, the hospital provides a safety net in the unlikely event that there is an emergency. Even though birth centers and homes can be safe places to give birth in most scenarios, some families just feel more comfortable being at the hospital. For me, I would have considered a birth center had there been one closer to my house. But once I found a wonderful midwife practice at a nearby hospital, I was so happy that I no longer minded giving birth at the hospital. Having a supportive care provider is the most important factor in having your birth plan respected, no matter where you give birth.

Sarah: I know you have three babies, all born in the hospital. Could you give us a quick rundown of how those births went?

Lauren: My first ended up coming early at 34 weeks. For this reason, I was glad to be planning a hospital birth, because even if I hadn’t, I would have ended up there when my water broke so early. I was at the hospital for 2 days before my contractions really began. I was “allowed” to stay pregnant for so long even though my water had broken because the baby would be a preemie and it was better that he stay in longer. Once labor began on its own, he was born 6 hours later. I was afraid I wasn’t really in labor at first and we didn’t call my doula to come until I was ready to push. Rookie mistake!

With my second, my body held out until 37 weeks (officially full-term!) before my water broke. And again, my labor didn’t start right away. I stayed at home trying everything I could to naturally bring on contractions. After 36 unsuccessful hours, I went to the hospital to be induced. So depending on your definition, you might say this birth wasn’t completely natural since I had an intervention (Pitocin). But because my voice was heard and respected, it was an empowering experience for me. And I didn’t use pain medication despite the induction, which was very difficult and made me very proud of myself, and grateful for my husband and doula who made it possible. My husband caught our daughter.

They say third time’s a charm, and for me, it was. I stayed pregnant for 38 weeks and 2 days (a record for me!), and then of course, my water broke. This time, thankfully, contractions started on their own right away. I labored at home for about 9 hours. When I got to the hospital, I was 6 cm dilated. I’d never experienced a car ride while in labor before and it was one of the worst parts about the whole thing! The hospital had installed a birthing tub only a few weeks earlier, and my baby was the fourth to be born in it, just one hour after we arrived. I caught her myself, which was amazing. The whole thing went exactly how I’d imagined it: full term baby, no interventions, and water birth.

Sarah: Beautiful stories. I love how you were able to have great, informed, natural births even against what many would consider great odds. It speaks to how capable you were in writing this book and speaking from a place of personal knowledge.

I love quick lists- so tell the people- what are the three most important things a woman can do to ensure a positive and natural hospital birth experience?

Lauren:

1) First and foremost, choose a care provider who is truly supportive of natural birth and a hospital without policies that hinder it. If I were giving only one tip, this would be it. With a care provider who knows your intention and respects your wishes, you can trust that you won’t be offered or forced into interventions that aren’t necessary.

2) Second, assemble a supportive birth team. This will most likely include your partner (who needs to be completely on board with natural birth) and a birth doula. In the hospital setting, your midwife or doctor will only pop in your room from time to time if everything is going smoothly. The rest of your birth team will be there for the long haul. Choose people you are super comfortable with so that their presence doesn’t inhibit your labor.

3) And number 3, make a commitment to see your plan through. Having natural birth at the hospital is hard because all the interventions you are trying to avoid are right there. And in the midst of labor, an epidural can be tempting, even to someone who has spent 9 months planning not to have one. Do whatever is necessary to retrain your brain to know that you CAN do it.

Sarah: I know that everybody loves to check things out on the internet. What are your favorite resources online for women interested in natural hospital birth?

Lauren: I’m a huge Googler so I don’t have just a couple sites in mind. When something comes up that I want to learn about, I research it until I start reading the same information over and over again. For instance, with my last baby, she was breech for a few weeks during my pregnancy. I knew this would ruin my plans for a natural birth at the hospital, so I became an expert on ways to turn a baby.DSC_2583

Many women planning a natural hospital birth don’t have friends who are doing the same, so I recommend that they find a like-minded community online by following natural birth bloggers (such as yourself!) through social media. It’s a great way to get small bursts of inspiration and put you in the right frame of mind.

Sarah: Last but not least, how can we find your book?!

Lauren: It’s available on Amazon in paperback and e-book.

I hope you enjoy it! You can also follow me on Facebook.

 

Photo credits: Right: Twist PhotographyTop: Stumberg Photography

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Miscarriage: The Silent Box http://www.mothering.com/articles/miscarriage-silent-box/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/miscarriage-silent-box/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 18:44:14 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=28681 By Megan Oteri, blogger at APtly Said, Attachment Parenting International To be filled with life is something.  To be pregnant with a growing little miracle of science and nature in your belly is beautiful.  To lose a pregnancy is sad.  The feeling is surrounded with so many emotions.  Guilt, loss, nothing, emptiness, aching, breaking, bending into shadows dark.  […]

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11409024824_20e6b098e8_oBy Megan Oteri, blogger at APtly Said, Attachment Parenting International

To be filled with life is something.  To be pregnant with a growing little miracle of science and nature in your belly is beautiful.  To lose a pregnancy is sad.  The feeling is surrounded with so many emotions.  Guilt, loss, nothing, emptiness, aching, breaking, bending into shadows dark.  I had to take a break today and submerge myself in some creative work.  I wanted to shake this feeling of empty.  Shake it loose from the empty box it resides in now.  Like a box with nothing inside.  Just invisible strings connecting back to my heart.  I don’t know how to put it in words so I am not going to worry about using dazzling adverbs or catchy phrases, but they may just happen to come out that way.  I just want to write a post about it.

There are so many women out there feeling this same feeling today, yesterday, tomorrow.  It covers me like a vine nobody can see.  Much like a bean pole vine grasping to anything its tendril can reach.

Something sturdy, mounted in dirt, standing upright.  This vine of sadness can’t grasp onto nothing.  So I grasp and curl around words.  Around people I trust.  Around acknowledgement that it happened. That’s its over. That I need to grieve.

As my mind curls and bends in thoughts of what may have been, what was just yesterday, before the bleeding started, before the sadness erupted.  Before yesterday, I was cocooning into a ball of beauty, growing inside, feelings of joy and elation surrounded me.  Flowers and fruits of joy rippled in the sun.

Layers of light echoed over me, through me, around me, spinning into thick spidery webs.  Now there is nothing.  Just this box of invisible sadness nobody can see with the naked eye.

Long story short – I went to visit my dying mother in Colorado three weeks ago.  The night before I left, my husband and I made love.  I went home to Wyoming and Colorado where I feel the most alive and vibrant, for it is home and my place on this earth.  I have been transplanted to North Carolina and I am trying to make the most of it.  But back home, where I come from, just as the Kenny Chesney song sings, I love it there.  On this journey where I thought I was going to say goodbye to my mother, I was surrounded by a land that knows me.  That I know.  That I love.  This journey home, this journey to say goodbye, something magical happened.  We conceived a baby.  A miracle.  A seed that sprouted into life.  I found out last week I was pregnant.  I took three home pregnancy tests and was more surprised with each positive test, as I have struggled with infertility in the past.  My son is just thirteen months old.  We were not actively trying to get pregnant.  So it was a surprise to find out we were pregnant without even a blink of the eye, without a blink of the heart.

I took a home pregnancy test on Monday, then Wednesday, and then Saturday.  All positive.  The faint blue line got thicker with each test.  I took a urine test at the doctor on Monday and they told me to come back in a week because it was, not without a doubt, positive, but there was a shadow line.  So I took two more home tests that week, Wednesday and Saturday.  And sure enough, positive.  I started to feel the pregnancy symptoms, fatigue and drop to the floor tired.

I went in to take another urine test at the doctor yesterday,  feeling it wasn’t needed, feeling pregnant, feeling sure a life was growing and thriving inside me.  I didn’t need a doctor or lab technician to tell me I was pregnant.  Something bigger happened - a life bloomed from my journey to say goodbye to my mother.  How serendipitous.  How miraculous.  How joyous. It made the fact that my mother is dying a soft sleeve to rest on.  To rejoice on.  I was sure this baby was a girl and I was going to name her Eleanor Elizabeth and call her Ellie Elizabeth.

Elizabeth, named after my mother. I had visions of her soft curls, her big blue eyes, her big heart.

When I took the test at the doctor just yesterday, I noticed some blood.  Frightened, I told the nurse.  Then the results from the lab technician came in.  The test was negative.   I fumbled with my paperwork to hand to the check out clerk at the doctors.  She gave me a silent nod and a sweet abbreviation of sugar, “You’re all set, Sug.”   I wanted so badly to walk out the back door, nobody to see my sadness or my tears, as they began to gush. I walked past all the ripe bellies, round and plump with life.

Sometimes I wish there was a sign women going through the grief of miscarriage could wear on their back.  “Please treat with kindness - grieving heart – may slumber slowly today and tomorrow and certainly the day after next.”  But it is invisible.  Our eyes are swollen, sad, and watered with tears only time can heal.  There is no clock for this time passage.  It is not an hour, a week, a month, or a year.  It is a hole in our heart.  We go on.  And on. And hopefully you can give a hug to someone in need.  Perhaps, you just don’t know.  And what do you say? There are no words.  Just invisible tendrils trying to clutch at something strong, sturdy.  For it may be the hope of another chance at conceiving.

Perhaps it is the smile from a toddler in your arms.  Perhaps it is the earthy soil in your hands as you plant a memorial garden.  Perhaps, the box is still empty when you shake it, although you are sure something is inside.  Something thick. Something heavy.  Because something like a life just doesn’t vanish when you bleed.

Image credit: Ley

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7 Things I Will Do Differently With Baby Number Two http://www.mothering.com/articles/7-things-will-differently-baby-number-two/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/7-things-will-differently-baby-number-two/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 18:38:12 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=28617 So, about that whole balance thing. I’m bad at it. Really bad. And as we mothers tend to do when expecting baby number two, I’m going through my mental list of things I want to do differently now that I have some experience under my belt.

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baby_number_2By Courtney Sperlazza, blogger at APtly Said, Attachment Parenting International.

So, about that whole balance thing. I’m bad at it. Really bad. And as we mothers tend to do when expecting baby number two, I’m going through my mental list of things I want to do differently now that I have some experience under my belt. My list seems to revolve around achieving balance. Which, I haven’t yet learned to do with my firstborn. Here are some things I plan to try to get better at this time.

1. I will put the baby down. Sometimes. Once upon a time, I thought bouncy seats and swings were for mean mommies. But you know what? We need both of our hands and a full range of motion from time to time. To feed ourselves, to tend to the needs of our other children, to wipe up that dust bunny that brings our hormonal selves to tears because we’ve been staring at it for a week with a sleeping baby in our arms. Even the fanciest slings and carriers come with limitations. Tending to other things, including, you know, basic hygiene, is part of the program. And the baby will be no less content and secure. If she is, I trust that my instincts will pick up on it. Which brings me to…

2. I will trust my instincts. I had a hard time with this one early on. Could you blame me? What did I know? First, I’d never been a mother, so it was all new territory for me. Second, my mother had passed away years before my first was born, so I didn’t have that person I felt I could call to give me the right answer every time. I relied on books, where each one contradicts the next, and instinct. In retrospect, I’ve realized that instinct usually trumped what I found in print. This time around, I’ll acknowledge that my mothering instincts are there and in working order. We are equipped with them for a reason.

3. I won’t be so paranoid about nursing in public. More often than I’d like to admit, I left a cartful of groceries in the middle of the aisle to run out to the car, or ducked into a bedroom, or surveyed a building upon arrival to find a hidden place to nurse, or lugged around an extra 15 lbs of bottles, pumped milk and ice, or made my crying, hungry child wait for a bottle to warm. And for what? For the comfort of the few squeamish who, in my humble opinion, need to lighten up? Wow, I prioritized rude strangers’ comfort over my child’s and my own. Not cool. I can’t whine that breastfeeding isn’t the norm if I’m not willing to be a part of the change I’d like to see.

4. I will try to remember that I’m a person, too. And I shouldn’t feel guilty about passing off parent duty to the husband or a caregiver to go to that yoga class I wanted to try, or to take a hot shower, or go to an actual store to find post-partum clothes that fit (vs. buying online). True, the baby might cry. And if I’m not there, Dad or the person in charge will do their best to soothe her.

Confession: I still feel guilty if I take a shower while my toddler is awake. My husband would think this is stupid.

5. I will live in the moment. As soon as my little guy was born, I started my mental panic countdown to the day I would have to go back to my full-time job. How much time must I have wasted feeling sad about someday being apart from him when I could have been enjoying my time with him?

Although I will be able to stay home with my kids this time around, being present is just as important. Sometimes it’s hard to do the day-to-day thing mindfully in our multi-tasking, over-scheduling culture. I need to remind myself to slow down and enjoy every moment as much as one can on just a few hours of sleep here and there.

6. I won’t feel guilty when I don’t get it all done. Heck, I don’t get it all done now. I would love to be superhuman, but see #4. I’m just a plain ol’ person. Even if it doesn’t get done, it’ll all be okay. It always turns out okay.

7. I’ll ask for help. Well, I say that now, but when the time comes I probably won’t. Those who know me know that if I’ve asked for something, it’s pretty much a life-or-death emergency and they should rush to my side. Hey, I listed it, which means I’m going to try. (I hope I don’t alarm anyone.)

Maybe I should revisit this list once the baby is born.

Image Credit: Pawel Loj

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Ava, This One’s For You http://www.mothering.com/articles/ava-ones/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/ava-ones/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 18:20:42 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=27777 By Emily Cappo for Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers Moments after we arrived at our temporary apartment at Christopher’s Haven, a little girl with a blonde bob poked her head out of the door to see who was moving in. Seconds later, she bopped down the hall to meet us and seconds after that, […]

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Ava

By Emily Cappo for Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers

Moments after we arrived at our temporary apartment at Christopher’s Haven, a little girl with a blonde bob poked her head out of the door to see who was moving in. Seconds later, she bopped down the hall to meet us and seconds after that, she asked my son if he wanted to play with her in the communal playroom. Her mother immediately apologized for her assertiveness, explaining that they had been the only family living on the hallway for the past two weeks. Her daughter was starved for interaction with another kid.

Playing hard to get, my son declined and said, “maybe later.” He didn’t dare tell her that the real reason he didn’t want to play was because his uncle was already inside the apartment hooking up the used XBox machine that he managed to purchase at a bargain price. My son and I both knew that the XBox was going to be a key component to saving our sanity over the next six weeks living away from the usual comforts of home.

As we quickly discovered, the girl who lived next door to us on the hallway was named Ava [name changed to protect identity]. I knew Ava was there to receive proton radiation just like my son because that was why families stayed at Christopher’s Haven, an organization that provided housing to out-of-town families receiving this treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital. I didn’t know what her diagnosis was, but to me she looked healthy, strong, and completely un-phased by her illness. And she had more energy than five girls combined. I guessed she was about the same age as my son, around 8 or 9. I also assumed that she was in the early stages of treatment or perhaps she was wearing a wig or else maybe she did not have to endure as extensive a treatment regimen as my son.

I was wrong.

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To My Future Teen Girls http://www.mothering.com/articles/future-teens/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/future-teens/#comments Sat, 26 Jul 2014 18:19:17 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=20034 I'm probably the last person you want to take advice from on being a teen. After all, I am your mom and so old. But old though I may be, I was once a teen. I have lived through it. I have come out the other side. And I have a few words of wisdom for you.

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To My Girls as Teens,

I’m probably the last person you want to take advice from on being a teen.  After all, I am your mom and so old. But old though I may be, I was once a teen. I have lived through it. I have come out the other side.  And I have a few words of wisdom for you.

After all, it can be overwhelming to be a teenager, can’t it?  Just a couple of years ago you were playing with dolls and reading books and magazines about animals.  You wanted to spend all of your time at home, and the pictures on your walls were of your family and perhaps some nursery rhymes from when you were younger.

Since then, you have put the dolls to the side. The books you read now, when you have time to read something non-school related, are about relationships and growing up and entering into new worlds. Your magazines no longer tell cute stories. Instead they teach you how to protect yourself against rape and how to appear sexy enough for the boys to like you. Every single issue has stories about losing weight and hiding problem areas and cultivating the perfect abs. I know this because the stories are about the same exact things they were about twenty years ago–only the fashion and technology have changed.

You might wonder where this leaves you.  All the media you consume tells you that you are now becoming an adult.  But sometimes you really don’t feel like it, do you?  (That feeling, by the way might never go away.  I’m 36 and I still find myself confused by being an adult.)

But why I am writing is to talk to you about those ideas of being a woman.

If our culture teaches us anything, it’s that being a woman means being sexy and smart and accomplished and nurturing and educated and inquisitive, and any number of other things.  Most of these things are great.  The one that concerns me is the sexiness.

There’s nothing wrong with a person being sexy once they are of an age where they fully understand and accept what that means. But the problem is that people who want to make money off of you make it seem like all of us should be sexy — even those who aren’t ready to accept what that means.

And the thing is that this is a really effective way for people to make money off of you.  Teenagers want to be liked.  They want to be noticed by the opposite sex.  And they want to grow up.  And marketers are right there to tell you that the best way to do all of these things is to make yourself sexy.  To use your body to sell your sexiness.

But let’s look at that for a moment.

You are a person.  A whole person.  You have strengths and weaknesses.  You have aspects of your life you are proud of.  You have a brain that hopefully you like to share with the world.  You are kind.  You have big dreams and big goals.  You have multiple interests.  There are some things you really dislike.  You have groups of friends and a family.  Perhaps you are involved in sports, or perhaps you are an artist or a writer or an aspiring fashion designer.  Maybe you have dreams of being a biologist or a doctor or a stay-at-home mom.  Maybe you really aren’t sure yet what you want to be, and maybe that simultaneously excites and terrifies you.

These are really great, cool things that make you you…  They make you into such an interesting and rich character.  If you show them to the world, they will draw people to you.  The unabashed sharing of your passions will give others permission to live their own passions.  You are really cool.

So of all of those things that make you interesting and unique, which are the ones you want to emphasize in the way you dress? Which are the ones that you want to put on the billboard that is your body? Do you want to emphasize the sexiness, or would you prefer to advertise your sense of style or your artistry or your intelligence or your class?

Please don’t get me wrong. No one has a right to treat you any way they choose based upon how you dress. No one has a right to expect things from you, and most especially, no one has a right to take from you. Regardless of whether you dress in turtle necks and long pants or you wear a string bikini year round, your body is your own and will always be your own and no one else’s. I’m not implying you should dress in any way for any person ever.

What I’m asking you to consider is how you want to dress for yourself. How do you want to present yourself to the world? Sexuality is part of being human. But is it always the number one aspect of yourself that you want to portray? Is it the most important aspect? Is it really what makes you you? And if you find it’s what draws others to you, I would gently caution you to consider whether those are the people you want to draw.

I wish you luck and laughter and peace and confidence during these years. They aren’t easy. But they can be beautiful. For perhaps the first time in your life, you have the freedom to make some choices about who you want to be. Make those decisions with wisdom, with the future in mind, with your self respect in mind. You are an awesome person. Let the world see that.

Image credit: Irelynkiss

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Modeling Acceptance http://www.mothering.com/articles/modeling-acceptance/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/modeling-acceptance/#comments Sat, 26 Jul 2014 00:20:09 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=23018 I write young adult novels, and in the writing community, there is an ongoing discussion about needing more diversity in the books that are published for children. A lot of these discussions have informed more than just my writing.

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I write young adult novels, and in the writing community, there is an ongoing discussion about needing more diversity in the books that are published for children. A lot of these discussions have informed more than just my writing.

Kids are open and accepting in ways we have perhaps learned not to be. I’ve heard people say that kids are born colorblind. That is to say they won’t notice differences. In my experience, this isn’t really true. They notice differences, they just don’t equate one thing as being “normal” and another as being “abnormal.”

And as accepting as kids might naturally be, they are also blunt. They might loudly ask questions that we find embarrassing. It’s because they acknowledge differences. Sometimes very loudly. I was lucky to find advice for these circumstances within children’s literature in the beautiful book Wonder by RJ Palacio. Nothing was more hurtful to the main character, a middle-schooler named Auggie who was born with facial anomalies, than when kids pointed and their parents hurried them away in an attempt to diffuse the situation. As if Auggie didn’t know his face looked different. As if it wasn’t natural for kids to ask questions.

WONDER cover

Reading this book really started me thinking how I would handle this with my kids. I’d probably say it isn’t polite to point, and I might encourage my kids to say “hi” just like I do when my kids are staring at other kids in the coffee shop or grocery store.

We should be open to these discussions, but we needn’t make a bigger deal out of these questions than they need to be. Our kids guide us. They ask the things they wonder about and accept the rest.

I had a well-meaning friend very proudly say that she had explained homosexual couples to her kids, pointing out examples in her own family. And while it’s great that she was saying: “they are just like us and an equally legitimate kind of family” I would argue that having a formal discussion about differences makes it more of an issue than it needs to be.

I handled this difference another way. When my son asks about when his dad and I got married, I tell him it’s because I loved Dad and wanted him in my family and getting married was how we did that. My son asked about if he would get married one day. The most inclusive way I could answer that question was to say that “one day you might meet someone you love and want to be in your family and then, yes, you can marry him or her.” This answer was acceptable to my son.

Another well-meaning discussion I’ve heard is how grateful parents are when their child’s class has a special needs child. And someone pointed out, the kids are not there to be a lesson for your typical kid, they are simply there to learn.

That really got me thinking. Especially because my son is fortunate enough to go to public preschool. He is in a class for deaf/hard of hearing students. As a hearing student, he attends to be a peer model. And, yes, I had thoughts of: how wonderful! He’ll learn that these are kids just like him despite their hearing devices and the fact that they used cued speech. But the truth is, this is such a small part of his schooling experience.

We’ve talked about it, and the discussion goes like this:

Son: Mom, do I have a hearing aid?
Me: Nope.
Son: Why not?
Me: Your ears don’t need any help hearing.
Son: Can I have a cookie?

So I do think our kids can teach us a lot about acceptance. And I think we need to merely model it to our best ability. When our kids notice differences, acknowledge it, discuss it as much as your kid wants. But, likely, they don’t need a whole speech about differences and what they mean, and that even though the other kid is different they still have feelings like we do and how great is it that the world is so diverse and…

This is all just my take on this new wonderful world in which we get to parent. Acceptance and equality is something we all strive for. And surely, there are other approaches to modeling acceptance. I want to hear them! I want my kids to grow up to be accepting, compassionate, and kind people. And the best I can figure, the way to teach them this, is to be that way myself, the best that I can.

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Stop the Unsolicited Tummy Touching (and other pregnancy requests) http://www.mothering.com/articles/stop-unsolicited-tummy-touching/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/stop-unsolicited-tummy-touching/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 19:55:20 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=26265 I came to recognize the gleam in the eye early on--the zeal in the eyes of would-be tummy touchers is unmistakable. At work, these women would spot my stomach and their eyes would light up like a sea of Bics at a Widespread Panic concert.

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Pregnant_mom

Anxiety and depression aside, it didn’t take long for me to realize I didn’t care much for being pregnant. With the exception of near-uncontrollable catastrophic vegan pregnancy farts that cleared entire floors and feeling the baby treat my uterus like her own private Soul Train line, I found the whole thing unpalatable.

My list of grievances ran the gamut from minor to major. I abhorred the many common, maddeningly nonsensical abbreviated terms used to denote pregnancy: preggers, prego, pregs. I strictly forbade everyone I knew from using those terms around me, both verbally and in writing. I remember a woman at work g-chatting me to ask if I was pregnant. It went precisely like this:

Her: “Hi! Can I ask you a personal question? Are you preggers?”

Me: “I will answer that only if you swear to never use that term around me again.”

For me, one of the greatest ironies about pregnancy was the increasing visibility of something I considered deeply personal and private. I detested the way other people felt inclined to discuss it with me, and was routinely irritated and put-off by people’s comments. Work presented its own unique set of irritations. As both the circumference of my stomach and word spread around the office, people began to treat me differently. Female coworkers I once mistook for intelligent started commenting on my size. Generously, I returned the favor “Oh my God, look how huge you are!” a particularly astute coworker said as she passed me in the hall one day. “Wow, you too!” I replied brightly as her expression fell and soured.

One of my superiors developed the habit of stopping by my desk to quietly ask how I was doing. Humorously, before he knew I was pregnant we would typically share a robust greeting as he bulldozed his way into the office in the mornings. But once he found out I was in the family way, he took to approaching me almost deferentially, tilting his head and using a tone of voice akin to one commonly used in times of tragedy: hushed, sympathetic, almost tentative.

The first time he did it, I was so baffled and vexed I could do nothing but guffaw. “How are….you?” he asked quietly, tilting his head to the side and gesturing gingerly toward my stomach. I stared at him blankly for a second before realizing what he meant. Hoping my face didn’t reveal my realization that he was an even bigger idiot than I thought, I responded equally deliberately. “Fine,” I said slowly. He continued to look at me with concern and something akin to pity as an awkward amount of time passed in silence. “I’m fine. I’m not sick, you know. I’m just pregnant,” I said pointedly. “Oh, I know,” he said, smiling weakly as he backed away. “Just checking on you!”

With one revelation about my womb, I had gone from Brook the Copywriter to Brook the Pregnant Woman. Looking back, I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised by that. It stands to reason that this man, like most other people, largely digests mainstream information without interrogating it. In this case, most mainstream information on pregnancy positions it as a delicate, dangerous condition (not unlike an illness) that also dulls the senses of the fetal host.

My first Google search on pregnancy informed me all about “pregnancy brain” or “mommy brain,” which would stunt my intellect, memory, and general acuity. The information was presented to me as if from a kindly old chap–male, of course–who seemed to pat my hand reassuringly while he explained to me that it was normal and natural for me to dumb the fuck out while I gestated. All these super complicated, confusing things were going on inside my body that were part and parcel of the realization of my greatest biological fulfillment and destiny. My brain function–already naturally compromised by virtue of my womanhood–would just be temporarily offset more than usual. I sat in my living room, alone save for my pitbull daughter, sobbing as I realized I would not only get fat, but stupid, too.

As much as I hated all of that, though, what I loathed most of all was the unsolicited tummy touch. In my estimation, few mentally sound, socially well-adjusted people randomly touch other people in such intimate places. It’s a very private area, primarily reserved for lovers, physicians and personal trainers. Yet some otherwise sane people feel compelled to touch pregnant women there.

I came to recognize the gleam in the eye early on–the zeal in the eyes of would-be tummy touchers is unmistakable. At work, these women would spot my stomach and their eyes would light up like a sea of Bics at a Widespread Panic concert. Not unlike zombies, they came at me outstretched hands first. While telling people outright not to touch me worked perfectly well, I figured I might as well have fun with it, so I decided to start treating non-pregnant people the way many of them treated me.

One day, as I stood to leave a  meeting, I noticed a coworker making a beeline for my belly. As she approached me, hands first, I angled my body away from her and proactively placed my hand on her stomach. “Hi! How are you doing?” I asked, rubbing gently. She looked at me blankly, completely lost. “Fine,” she stammered, backing away. “Great!” I beamed. It only took a few more aggressive tummy rubs before people around the office stopped attempting to touch mine altogether. Mission accomplished!

While my actions helped make my pregnancy more tolerable, I also hope I helped blaze a trail–however small–for those pregnant women who came after me. May they have the  freedom, consideration, and comfort all pregnant bodies deserve. At the very least, I hope they can wield their pregnant flatulence like the lethal weapon it is against those who deserve it most.

Image credit: David Leo Veksler

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A Numbers Game http://www.mothering.com/articles/numbers-game/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/numbers-game/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 19:38:24 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=26218 By Lauren Apfel for Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers I have always been a woman of words, so it came as something of a surprise how motherhood has made me fixated on numbers. And not necessarily in a good way. It seems to be a thing these days, a tendency: to tally, to count, […]

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By Lauren Apfel for Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers

I have always been a woman of words, so it came as something of a surprise how motherhood has made me fixated on numbers. And not necessarily in a good way. It seems to be a thing these days, a tendency: to tally, to count, to know where your children stand in one numerical line or other. A normal means of marking time and gauging development, for sure. But also, let’s be honest, a confidence booster in the face of the uncertain work of parenting that all is well and, in some instances, that all is better than well.

It started in the hospital, this obsession, when my first child was born. Actually, no, it started before that, with the ticking off of months then weeks then days until he arrived. 8 days late, but he was big and I was proud. An Apgar score of 9 after 1 minute, his hands and feet a dusky blue, but a perfect 10 after 5. 8 pounds 13 ounces, or as the cupped scale in the UK hospital told me: 4 kilograms precisely. I began to breastfeed him, watching the clock as I went, 25 minutes on one side, 10 minutes on the other. I couldn’t see how much was going in, so I counted what was coming out instead. How many pees today, how many poos? Let’s get him back on the scale. 75% for weight, 91% for height, we charted his growth intently that first year, the dots on the page stretching out like a broken constellation.

Read More

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I’m Not Supposed to Wear a Bikini But I Wore One Anyway http://www.mothering.com/articles/im-supposed-wear-bikini-wore-one-anyway/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/im-supposed-wear-bikini-wore-one-anyway/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 17:53:01 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=26505 I wore a bikini to the beach yesterday. At three months postpartum, my tummy is soft, squishy, and covered with stretch marks (despite an excellent diet and regular exercise, embarked upon because it makes me feel good). I am a woman who, according to our society, is Not Supposed to Wear a Bikini. But I […]

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I wore a bikini to the beach yesterday. At three months postpartum, my tummy is soft, squishy, and covered with stretch marks (despite an excellent diet and regular exercise, embarked upon because it makes me feel good).

I am a woman who, according to our society, is Not Supposed to Wear a Bikini.

But I wore one anyway, because I love the way it feels and looks. I love the sun on my skin. I think of my stretch marks as radical, powerful decorations. My body has obvious signs of growing and carrying a human in it. Our culture tells us that we are supposed to hate and hide all evidence of pregnancy; that our bodies are somehow “ruined” by having children.

The opposite is true. Our bodies are beautiful just because they are. Not because they are tan and skinny or pale and curvy or tall or short or “perfect.” Not because we have a thigh gap or no thigh gap or strong ab muscles or a soft postpartum pooch.

Despite what we’ve been told, our bodies do not exist merely to be gazed upon.  Our worth is not determined by how closely we resemble an arbitrary archetype of beauty. Our bodies are beautiful just because they are. And– much more important than being beautiful– our bodies are amazing because they work. They function. They grow and birth children. They lactate the most perfect food for our babies. We have arms to carry our kids, lips to kiss their wounds, strong legs to squat and change diapers, core muscles that support us as we wear our children around. Blood, brain, and a heart that keeps it all functioning well.

Take care of it. Honor it. Don’t hate your body because our society has deemed us Not Good Enough. You are good enough. Love yourself!

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Breastfeeding is the Bomb: Here’s Why http://www.mothering.com/articles/breastfeeding-bomb/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/breastfeeding-bomb/#comments Mon, 21 Jul 2014 20:41:35 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=26066 Breast milk is beyond science. We have yet to fully understand it, and we will certainly never reproduce its equal in a laboratory. It is a mystery, like quantum physics and black holes and the appeal of Bikram yoga. I get a bit fired up about breast milk.

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I get a kick out of that title, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. This is the name of the book published by La Leche League, and it’s the Bible of Breastfeeding. The Maxim for Mammilla. The Tome for Teats.

What can I say? The title of the book makes me giggle.

Whenever I tell Gwen that the title amuses me, she looks at me as if I’ve just called Canada the 51st state or let out a very large, wet belch.

I just think there’s something funny and awkward about the title. Not about breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is the bomb. It’s dope.

Breast milk is beyond science. We have yet to fully understand it, and we will certainly never reproduce its equal in a laboratory. It is a mystery, like quantum physics and black holes and the appeal of Bikram yoga. It is God manifest in the material world. I get a bit fired up about breast milk.

Here are some of the wondrous perks of breasts. I mean breast milk.

The first milk that comes out after baby is born is called colostrum. Colostrum contains gentle laxatives that help baby poop out the meconium. It contains probiotics that set up the proper flora in the baby’s gastrointestinal tract and is higher in protein than ordinary milk. Colostrum also contains antibodies to protect the newborn against disease. These antibodies set up the infant early on with a healthy immune system. They contain the combined disease prevention protocol of mama. And when mama gets a fresh cold, she passes her newly-created antibodiesto fight that cold right to her baby. When my wife was nursing, she’d be thrilled to get colds so she could give this gift to our son. She’d be in tears of joy.

Every mammal produces colostrum for their babies. It seems so sacred to me, a special bond between mom and newborn baby. In Southern India they sell a special sweet cheese made from cow colostrum. When I first read this I literally choked back a vomit, and then I realized that it was no different from cheese made from regular cow milk. New things can seem so scary.

Breastfeeding bonds mama and baby. There is no better soother or TLC than a nice, warm nipple. Visualize this. You’ve had a tough day of learning to use your fingers. You’re frustrated after the fifteenth time you dropped the ring that dangles above your head. You’re craving some touch. Well, now, there’s that warm soft fleshy mama who smells so good. The warm nipple that fits just perfectly in your mouth. And the milk, oh, the milk, let me tell you! Delicious. And you always fall asleep after drinking it. Ah, sweet ambrosia.

Breast milk is a panacea. It generates hormones in mama that battle baby blues. A few drops heals pink eye. I’ve seen this firsthand, and it’s amazing. Noah had pink eye. Gwen posted this to Facebook and asked for advice (yes, we get our medical advice from Facebook). A friend told her to express a few drops of breast milk right into Noah’s eye. And that cleared it up. You could see the redness disappearing as in time-lapse photography.

Studies demonstrate that breast-fed children are less likely to develop juvenile diabetes, multiple sclerosis and heart disease, and mothers who breastfeed are less apt to have osteoporosis later in life, are able to lose weight gained during pregnancy more easily and have a lower risk of breast, uterine and ovarian cancer.

I bet when you read that list just now, you were like, “less likely to develop multiple sclerosis, yup, heart disease, (yawn) yup, osteoporosis, yup, lose weight more easily… wait, what? I’m in!” We live in a strange culture.

Breastfeeding generates hormones in mama that battle baby blues and is far cheaper than buying formula. Breast milk also cures chapped nipples and lips and fights baby acne, and the list goes on. I suspect that it could loosen tight lids and finally get my car door to stop squeaking. But Gwen is always so hesitant to try these things.

There are hard times. Pain, clogged ducts, infection. For these, our midwife taught Gwen to use cabbage leaves. And they worked. More than once, Gwen sent me out to the market for a head of cabbage. She’d take a large leaf and cup it over the affected area. Have you ever heard of the doctrine of signatures? It’s the idea that herbs and plants in nature give us clues by looking like what they help. Well, all I can say is that a cabbage leaf looks an awful lot like a breast. It even has veins and a nipple bump.

If supply seems low, get help. Whatever the problem, be it pain, infection, or simply fear, ask for help. Midwives, doulas, breastfeeding support groups and La Leche League educators can help. You are not alone. I promise they have seen the problem before, and I promise they will help. They are true experts in The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.

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