Thursday, December 26, 2013

I'm Sorry

  To the little girl we saw while out and about the other day, I am sorry. I am sorry I didn't stick up for you. It was wrong. I was wrong, the other adults were wrong. What happened was not okay.

  For everyone else, here is the back story. Joey and I were out with Perrin. They had gone off to look at something and I was just taking in my surroundings. I saw a family group near by. A little girl, probably 3 or 4, was walking over to her mother to say something when one of the men sitting nearby reached out and grabbed the little girl and pulled her up into his lap. She immediately started protesting, kicking her legs and trying to wiggle away. Instead of letting go, the adult laughed. She realized he wasn't letting her go and she started to cry. Still holding onto her, the adult told her to "stop whining." Her mother, finally addressing the situation, said only "You were excited to see Uncle so-and-so earlier."

  I wanted to say something. I wanted to yell "Stop it!" I wanted to tell him to put her down. To take his hands off her. To LISTEN to her. But I didn't. I kept my mouth shut. I didn't want to be "that person." And I am so sorry. I should have been that person- that person to let the little girl know that her voice does matter. That no one is allowed to touch you without your permission. That no means no. That you have a right to stick up for yourself and it doesn't make you whiny or bad. That just because you were excited about seeing someone early in the day doesn't mean they have a right to your body.

  THIS is rape culture. This is how deep in we are. When we don't realize the messages we are sending our children. If someone is bigger, stronger, has more authority, they can do what they want with you. And you are expected to be polite. To protest, to fight back- that's being whiny, bitchy, cold. What's your problem? He was just joking around. Why can't you just have a sense of humor? You liked him earlier. You flirted/kissed him/went home with him...what right do you have to say no now? Don't be a tease.

  I doubt the lesson was that blatant for the little girl. She probably couldn't even articulate what she had learned from the experience. But how many times has she been taught that lesson? Don't pull away when Uncle Bob hugs you, it's rude. Don't shy away when Aunt Gertrude kisses you, you'll hurt her feelings. If something makes you uncomfortable, just ignore it because you need to be nice. Because your body is not your own; it exists for the gratification of others.

  No one has a right to anyone else's body. Not even parents. Tickling, hugging, kissing, cuddling, holding- these are gifts for an individual to give freely, not things to be taken. Children are so small and so helpless and instead of protecting them we take advantage of them. We ignore their voices. We violate their bodies. Strangers in public like to walk up and try to touch Perrin on the head or grab his hand. How many adults do you think they walk up to and touch without permission? Children are not public property. They are not anyone's property. They are people. Let's start treating them with some basic respect and human dignity.

Friday, December 20, 2013


    I received a request for a post about baby scheduling, or rather the nuances between attachment parenting approaches and baby scheduling approaches. This can be a surprisingly hot-button issue and the theory behind it can get a little complicated, so to start I want to lay out some basic premises.

   First of all, there is no one right way to go about everything. No one book or parenting approach is going to make complete sense to anyone person. You have to find what works for your family and that is almost always going to be a mix of different approaches and strategies. The problems occur when people approach different books and tool sets like some sort of religious text that cannot be deviated from-- that's not likely to work for anyone.
  So, the two approaches that I was specifically asked about were attachment parenting and Babywise in terms of scheduling infants. These aren't exactly comparable because attachment parenting is a very broad philosophy of child rearing (though for whatever reason people like to focus on specific tools) while Babywise is a specific book. For the purpose of this post, I will compare the attachment approach with an equally broad approach I'll call "scheduling" that I will explain later. However, I feel like the specifics of Babywise need to be briefly addressed.
  Now, as I said above, most people aren't going to follow everything single thing in a single book. I'm sure there are people out there who have read Babywise and even used parts of it and would still consider themselves attachment parents. And I know for a fact that there tons of people willing to avow that they followed Babywise and it saved their life, or marriage, or whatever and their kid turned out "fine". But I will never be able to recommend Babywise to anyone and in fact can only advise against it on the basis that it has been linked to some very problematic outcomes in infants. Specifically, the American Academy of Pediatrics  issued a statement in 1998 stating concern because Babywise was associated with "reports of dehydration, slow growth and development, and failure to thrive."  That PSA aside, let's dive right in to different approaches to infant scheduling.

   The first thing to keep in mind is that there is a big difference between schedules and routines. Routines are simply doing things in a specific order. I wake up, I feed the dog, I pump, I get ready, I eat breakfast, I feed Perrin, he takes a nap...etc. It doesn't really matter what time I wake up, my morning routine looks pretty much the same. Routines are pliable and can be adjusted or tweaked depending on a given situation. Schedules on the other hand are much more rigid. I wake up at 7:15. I have to be at work by 9:00 a.m. Dinner is served promptly at 6:00. Now of course there are some things, like the job example, that must operate on a schedule. But the distinction is important to note for the rest of this post.

  We'll start with the attachment/evolutionary/anthropological approach. Whatever you call it (I prefer anthropological parenting), the basic premise is that children thrive best when their needs are responded to and met in a developmentally appropriate way in order to foster a secure connection between the care giver and child. That connection becomes the foundation for their relationship with themselves and others and therefore a healthy attachment leads to a healthy well-rounded individual. The key things to keep in mind for our current discussion are 1) meeting needs and 2) developmental appropriateness.
  There is definitely lots of gray area between attachment parenting and other approaches and often some overlap. Attachment parenting and scheduling aren't mutually exclusive. However, for arguments sake I'm going to define "scheduling" as approaches that minimize flexibility and focus only on the physical (think eat, sleep, poop) needs of infants. There is also a common trend among these approaches to describe infants in behavioralist terms.
  Although not entirely accurate, it may be helpful to think of these two approaches as ends on a spectrum with one extreme being a completely baby-led approach where you rely on the babies own cues all of the time and the other extreme being a rigid schedule that you never deviate from. Neither of these extremes is likely to be optimal. You need to find a balance that works for you. When making this decision, there are a few things to keep in mind. Namely, we need to start off having realistic expectations. It has been my experience that often times parents who struggle the most with infant behaviors aren't really dealing with anything that different from anyone else. The issue is usually that they went into parenting with very unrealistic expectations of how infants behave and what "normal" looks like.

Babies are not adults. Mindblowing, right? But seriously...stop and think about this for a moment. There are some things that are just not going to be developmentally appropriate for an infant.

Babies can't tell time. Schedules are never going to be appropriate for infants because babies can't read clocks. It is that simple. Expecting a baby to do the same thing at the same time everyday isn't going to work out for anyone. When it comes to "time", babies suck even worse because their circadian rhythms aren't developed yet. It takes a while for them to get in sync with the day/night cycle and to learn to pace their environmental cues with the time of day.

Babies sleep cycles are much shorter than adults (about half as short). That means they have twice as many light sleep stages, or twice as many opportunities for night waking. While this may be inconvenient for us it is very, very convenient for baby. Waking often helps make sure the brain is staying alert enough to keep regulating things like body temperature, heart rate, and breathing protecting the baby against SIDS. It also gives them the opportunity to eat more frequently, keeping their blood sugar stable, ensuring a good milk supply, and keeping up their caloric intake.

Babies don't have "wants". Babies wants and needs are the same, and they are not just physical. Infants need touch and human contact to develop properly and thrive. They need emotional comfort. An infant is not cognitively developed enough to "manipulate" a caregiver. If they want something, it's because they need it, not because they are trying to scam you.

Babies can't talk. Babies have certain cues to let you know when they are getting hungry or sleepy (rooting, yawning, etc.) and at the end of the day,  crying is a babies number one communication tool.

Babies don't have object permanence. If they aren't looking directly at something, they are not aware of its existence. They have no concept that you are just in the other room. If you aren't there, for all they know they are completely alone.

Babies don't understand delayed gratification. They can't tell you in advance when they need something. If they have a need, it is immediate. Delaying response to that need isn't "teaching" them anything. On a physiological level, their cues (such as crying) may wane over time as they fail to elicit an appropriate response. But there is no cognitive learning taking place.

Babies change. As an adult, it's easy to get used to a status quo. We get to wear the same clothes for years without buying new sizes. We like the same things. We have the same abilities. Not a whole lot changes. Babies are constantly changing. Growing, teething, developing motor skills, never ends. Expecting a baby to act the same today as he did a month ago is only ever going to end in disappointment. There is always something new happening and that can easily throw a wrench in even the most entrenched patterns of behavior. And these changes aren't always linear. Regressions in eating and sleeping habits are common.

    So knowing these things, it's easy to see how expecting much in the way of schedules in unlikely to work out for baby. But babies don't exist in a vacuum. They have families and other family members have to get shit done sometimes. I get that. This is where finding balance comes in. However, that balance will work out for everyone the best when we keep our expectations reasonable. This is one reason why routines may be a good compromise. Getting a good routine down will ensure that  you know how to accomplish X tasks in Y amount of time. Then, you can start, stop, and pause your routine as needed when other non-flexible needs get in the way. You know baby likes to wake up, poop, then eat and you know you have to be at work at 9. Maybe that means most days you both wake up at 6. Let baby play while you get ready, change his diaper and feed him, then take him to daycare at 8:30. But what if one day he doesn't wake up at 6? Maybe this means you go ahead and get ready without him. At 7:30 he wakes up, but you are already done getting ready so you go ahead and drive to day care, giving him the ride to wake up and do his business, then feed him at daycare before heading to work. See? You can maintain the routine and still keep somethings scheduled while including enough flexibility that you don't have to wake a sleeping baby and have a cranky monster pants on your hands later that day. Now are there going to be sometimes you have to wake a sleeping baby or miss a nap? Of course. But what is important is that needs are getting met.
   What is worrisome is when we start saying that certain needs aren't as important. Just because a baby is fed and diapered doesn't mean he doesn't need something. He may have some emotional needs. And those needs may occur at inopportune moments. Babies don't know that adults like to sleep for 8 uninterrupted hours every night or that your favorite sitcom comes on at 8:30. So knowing what we know about babies' needs and what is appropriate behavior, what is a parent to do when trying to balance baby and the rest of their life?

   As I said before, this is incredibly situational. You have to find what works for you. That being said, I think one thing that everyone should keep in mind is the "golden rule"- treat your baby how you would want to be treated. I don't know about you, but I'm not one of those people who can just fall asleep anywhere. I need it to be dark and quiet, and if I'm not tired it's just not going to happen. I don't like to eat when I'm not hungry and if I am hungry I don't particularly like to put off eating. Some nights I wake up and can't sleep or feel like getting a snack. And sometimes I just have a bad day. I'm in a bad mood and I don't know why or I just feel sad. I can't imagine coming home and telling Joey that I feel sad and just need a hug or some cuddle time, only to have him ignore me.  Or to have him tell me that since I'm not hungry I'm "fine". Or to have him tell me that he doesn't have to deal with me between 8 pm and 6 am so I need to learn how to comfort myself. And this is me- a grown adult who has fully functioning cognitive abilities. I know that Joey is still there for me even when he isn't in the room. When someone tells me it's still an hour until dinner, I have a concept of how long that is and I know that food is coming eventually. I can communicate my needs directly and I can move and meet them on my own if I need to.

  I know that for a lot of people this sounds nice in theory, but may be harder to implement. However, in these situations it is important to understand that it is not the baby that is the problem. The baby is doing what it is designed to do- what babies have been doing for centuries. It is our society that has changed and made the equation unbalanced. In a culture with incredibly weak community ties, small nuclear families, and non-existent parental leave, there aren't many options. We as a society have dismissed and devalued children and child-rearing to the point that they have become expendable. So I don't think the answer to our problems is any book on training babies. We need to train our culture. We need to write books on how to train lawmakers and employers to respect and support parenting. Paid parental leave, flexible work schedules, better access to quality childcare...these things shouldn't be luxuries. These are basic necessities for a healthy functioning society.

  If you would like to read more on appropriate expectations for infants, the following links have some valuable insight.
(This is the last and most relevant of a five part series but all of them are worth your time.)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Hairy Situation

    One of the things Joey and have always striven (that is the correct past participle, I double checked) for that is now even more important is living intentionally. That is, we want to make sure that the choices we make have meaning and purpose behind them and we aren't just mindlessly bobbing along. We like to examine our actions and choices and their consequences as well as our intentions to make sure we're keeping the vibes good. Like I said, this is even more important now that Perrin is here because he will learn from how we live more than he will ever learn from what we tell him about living.

   One of the ways this intentional living has manifested itself lately is my recent decision to stop shaving- legs, underarms, ...everything. Let me back up for a minute. I'm not saying there is anything wrong whatsoever with shaving. That's the great thing about your body- you can do whatever you want with it. But for *ME*, I started shaving before there was really anything to shave save some peach fuzz on my calves. And more importantly I started shaving because I just thought that's what girls did. I was a girl, so I had to shave. Girls with hair are gross. If I didn't shave I wouldn't be sexy/pretty/whatever. And this is a problem for me. It's one thing to alter your body because it makes you happy. Altering your body to make other people happy is another thing all together.

   Being comfortable in your own skin and normalizing the human body is very important in our family. Perrin will be bombarded with airbrushed, photo shopped, perfectly groomed images of the human form his entire life. One way to combat this is by promoting media literacy- teaching Perrin how to ask questions and think critically about the images and values that he encounters and where those ideas are coming from and what they mean for him. Another way is make sure he is also exposed to normal bodies and normal expectations.

  So what does this have to do with me shaving my legs? At some point, Perrin is going to want to know why I shave them. Or why Daddy has hairy legs and I don't. Or some variation of those questions. Or maybe he won't ask, but he will notice. And that will become part of his inner understanding of what it means to look feminine. But really, what the hell does body hair have to do with feminity? So to prepare for these seemingly minor lessons, I will be going au naturel for a while.

   Maybe I will find I like not having to shave. Or maybe I will miss being hairless. In that case, when the day comes and Perrin asks me why I do it, I can honestly say "Because it's my body and that's how I like it. Just like some people like to cut the hair on their heads, some people cut their hair in other places." But right now that isn't the case. Right now if someone asked me why I remove body hair, I would honestly have to answer "Because I feel like I'm supposed to. Because I feel like I'm unattractive if I don't." And that is not a lesson I want to teach him. So now I am beginning an experiment to return to my natural form and see how it suits me.

Monday, December 9, 2013

    This has got to stop. I mean, excuse my language, but are you fucking kidding me? This morning this article came up in my newsfeed.

I honestly don't know where to start. I am so tired of seeing the same shit over and over and over again.
    "The computer program is limited in that it doesn't include movements of the perineal muscles of the mother's pelvis, nor does it include movements of the fetus." 

So basically it tells you diddly squat about whether or not you can birth your baby (here is a hint: you can). It can't tell you what your body or your baby will do during birth. All it can do is kind of guess if two static estimates of two very dynamic entities may or may not be compatible at a very specific moment in time that  likely in no way resembles real life conditions. So, for the last time...

  • How much you are dilated/effaced at any given moment tells you NOTHING about whether or not you can birth your baby. (Same goes for the position of your cervix) You could be at 6 cm and anterior for months before birth or you could be at 1 cm and posterior hours before birth. The only time you know for sure that birth is eminent is when you are crowning. 

  • Ultrasounds tell you NOTHING about how big your baby is or when he/she will arrive. After 20 weeks, estimating size off of ultrasounds is incredibly unreliable. 

  • Knowing how big your baby is tells you NOTHING about whether or not you will be able to birth your baby. This is coming from a size 2 woman who delivered an almost 10lb. baby. Your body changes during labor. Your hips spread, your tailbone flexes, your ligaments loosen up. The baby is squishy and rotates during birth. None of these things can be determined before you are actually giving birth.

  • Your due date tells you VERY LITTLE about when your baby will get here.  All a due date will tell you is when you are 38 weeks past ovulation (40th week of the pregnancy cycle). That is assuming you know when you ovulated. If not, it's based off of your last period, which means it's even less accurate. "Normal" gestation is anywhere from 38-42 weeks, which means even if you know exactly when you ovulated you still have a 4 week window of when to expect your baby, and that's on average. It could still be more and less and you and the baby still be perfectly healthy. 

So for the love of everything holy, stop. Let's all just STOP trying to medicalize birth. Birth is not medical. It is biological. So is sex. But you wouldn't want a hundred different tests and procedures and screenings to take place every time you have sex, right? And sometimes sex is risky. But you take precautions and if and only if there is a concern to seek medical help for sex related issues. Birth SHOULD be no different. You can birth your baby. By yourself. In the middle of nowhere. If you were stranded on a desert island, you would still give birth to your baby and the odds are highly in your favor that you would both be hunky dory. I get it. I know a lot of women feel more comfortable birthing in a hospital "just in case". And that makes perfect sense. IF something goes wrong, you will want a medical intervention. What does not make sense is turning a normal, biological act into a medical nightmare for no damn reason at all. The testing, the estimating, the guessing...for what? For a cesarean section rate twice the level considered safe and normal? For the worst mortality rate in the developed world? How is that working out for us? If you want a safe birth for you and your baby, the best thing you can do (supported by medical research) is to just stop and trust your body. Your body knows what it is doing. We would not have survived as a species if that were not the case.

    All these products and gadgets exist now- breastfeeding screening kits, birth-assisting apparatuses, and now computer simulations- to feed off of the idea that we are not good enough. Just like the beauty industry, the birth industry has made trillions off of the idea that our bodies are somehow less than. That we are lacking and just can't quite live up to what is demanded of us. Listen to me now and repeat this to yourself. Write it down. Tape it to your mirror. Put it in your car. Say it to yourself before every OB appointment.

You are enough.

You can birth your baby.

You can feed your baby.

And if anyone tries to tell you otherwise, get the hell away from that person. Do not let anyone bully or scare you into believing anything else. But what if?

Well, what if? What if you couldn't pass college math and didn't get your degree? What if that interview went really horribly and you'll never get that job? We don't let  people control our lives with this kind of negativity in any other area, so why birth? Because in birth they tell us we need to "think about the baby." Let me tell you something- you are that baby's mother. You are thinking about that baby every second of everyday. You care more about that baby than any other person on this planet. You will NEVER make a decision that doesn't take that baby into consideration and for someone to assume otherwise is fucking insulting.

You fucking matter. YOU matter. Just as much as that baby who matters more to you than any other thing you've ever known in your life. And all that negativity- the fear and the self-doubt- is just as poisonous for your baby as it is for you. Get rid of it.  Let go of this pervasive idea, this culture of misogyny, that tells you that you are broken.

You are enough.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Adventures in Breastfeeding

    I didn't have a whole lot of exposure to breastfeeding in my life, so most of my views about breastfeeding came from what I saw in the media. From what I could gather, your baby would lie in your arms and gaze up at you lovingly as they nursed and you smiled down at them and it was all beautiful and what not.

Ah, bliss...

   Fast forward to me actually breastfeeding. We struggled in the beginning with lots of pain and difficulty, so it was by no means the romanticized exchange I had pictured. But we got all of our problems sorted out and are coming up on 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding. However, while breastfeeding is now enjoyable, it is still by no means the idyllic experience I expected. 

  Perrin marches to the beat of his own drum in everything he does; breastfeeding is no exception. He likes to free style. No proper latching or formal positions. He likes to climb around in my lap, come on and off as he pleases and talk to me the entire time he's breastfeeding. Eventually he settles down and sleep-nurses, but the beginning of our sessions are always high energy to say the least. Some times I feel like I am wrestling an alligator while listening to a wounded pterodactyl. So here is a shout out to all the mommas of active breastfeeders and here is small example of what it's like nursing a ball of adorable energy (who recently mastered blowing raspberries). 

********My right breast is exposed in this video because it's a BREASTfeeding video, so if you                    can't deal, don't watch.********

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Why I Want to Do Birth Work (And Why I Don't Hate Doctors)

   Before I get into the particulars of why I want to pursue birth related work, I want to get some things straight. I know there is a stigma for those that are involved in natural birth or alternative medicine in general that they hate doctors or Western medicine, or whatever. I chose to wear a green shirt today. This doesn't mean I hate the color red. Or people who wear red. It doesn't mean that I won't ever wear red myself...follow? Basically, one person's choices are not a judgement on other people's choices.
   Moving on from there. Do I think some doctors and nurses are idiots and totally suck at their jobs? Yup. I also know of a few midwives and doulas who suck. Some people just suck, in all professions. I also know some great nurses and doctors. The reason why I am so adamant about advocacy in this field is because there is a cultural perception that all doctors/nurses/whoever are good and competent just because they are wearing the scrubs. Medical school is hard, yes, but it is not the end-all, be-all litmus test for competency. I have heard or been told of some pretty terrible things medical professionals have told pregnant and birthing women. Things that directly contradict medical evidence and actually have proven to have negative outcomes. Let's see...
    I have heard a birthing mother told her body was progressing well so she only needed a "little              pitocin" despite the fact that pitocin is contraindicated for non-emergency births.
    I have heard of doctors making episiotomies so that women don't "tear" despite evidence that              shows episiotomies increase tearing.
   I have heard nurses suggest feeding on schedules or supplementing with artificial nipples despite            these practices being associated with low milk supply, slow weight gain, and failure to thrive.
   I have a friend who had a nurse break her water without telling her or asking during a vaginal                check.
   I have known countless people who have been induced based on baby size estimated from late                pregnancy ultrasounds, despite evidence showing ultrasounds after 24 weeks are unreliable and baby size is NOT a medical indication for induction.
   I know of only one person who birthed at a hospital with intermittent rather than continuous fetal          monitoring, despite the fact that continuous monitoring is associated with an increased risk of  surgical birth.

The list goes on and on. Now, I have also heard a lot of good things, like the doctor here in Tucson who is always on call for breech births because he is the only doctor who was appropriately trained to vaginally deliver breech babies (even twins!). Or some truly wonderful nurses who ended up being doulas as well for many of their patients. So please, don't mistake my passion as stemming from a hatred and mistrust of medical personnel. It's actually quite the opposite. I don't advocate for women because of the "bad" OBs. I advocate for women because there are too many great OBs and nurses for us to continue giving the bad ones our business. We can change the birth culture (and the god-awful maternal and infant mortality rates) of this country by demanding evidence-based care and seeking out those professionals who provide it. But how is a woman supposed to know the difference between providers?

   THIS is why I want to do this work. I want to help women make the best choice for them in their birth instead of having to just roll the dice and take what they get. I don't care what you want for your birth- unassisted birth in the woods or scheduled c-section. I just want you to make that decision based on evidence and knowledge, not fear and lack of options. Because no matter how you want to give birth or how you need to give birth, it should still be the most amazing moment of your life. Birth shouldn't be a scary, painful obstacle to having a baby. Birth itself should be an incredible experience. You are doing something wonderful- it should make you feel wonderful. Not scared, or sad, or angry. To achieve this, it is my experience that women need three things- they need to be informed, they need to be empowered, and they need to be supported.
  How is someone supposed to know if what her doctor or midwife suggests is best for her if she doesn't know her options or the risks and benefits of each choice? Medicine is just a drop of water in the 5 gallon bucket of knowledge that exists in the world. Obstetrics is an even smaller part. Then take into account where the person went to school, what books they used, which journals they follow and can't expect a person to know everything. Women need the tools and knowledge so that they can be educated about their own care. So that when they hear bad advice or are offered procedures that contradict evidence-based care, they see a red flag.
   When women have this knowledge, they are empowered. They can take control of their pregnancies and births and advocate for themselves. They don't have to close their eyes and hope that their providers know what they are doing. They can make decisions, including the decision of which providers to hire. Did you hear that? You are HIRING your providers. You pay them to provide a service. If you don't like their service, don't pay them. Find someone else. So many women stay with their OBGYN for their births just because that was who did their annual pap smear. Swiping your cervix with a q-tip has nothing to do with having a baby. Interview your providers. Find one that works for you. Make a birth plan. Prepare for your birth.
   Then surround yourself with support. Find supportive providers, for sure, but make sure whoever else is invited to take part in this experience with you is 100% on board. This may mean they need to be educated about the decisions you made so that they understand. If someone is not supportive, they have no business being in your birth space. This is YOUR body, YOUR baby, and YOUR birth. I have seen women with all the information and capabilities available to them let go of their birth experience because when it came down to it, they weren't supported.

   This is what I hope to accomplish. I want to provide women with the tools they need to be informed, empowered, and supported. I want women to be able to own their birth experience. This doesn't mean that everything will always go perfectly. Sometimes, rarely, complications do occur. But if you are an active participant in your birth and you own the experience, you will be the one dealing with problems if they arise and you can still be empowered and supported in those situations. Birth should be something you accomplish, not something that happens to you.

For more information about the movement to improve childbirth, check out

Here is an awesome album from their Facebook page of why women want to improve birth

For more information about evidence-based birth, and are great resources!