Saturday, December 13, 2014

Perrin 1.5

Smunchie Face is now 18 months old. 18 whole months since he came earth side. This feels like the last milestone before we just start sticking to years. A lot has happened in the last 6 months. I have started working part time. We started using a babysitter occasionally. Joey and I have started a new and exciting journey of growth through some intensive therapy. So what is 18 month old Perrin like? Well….

He is very communicative, though he is still not incredibly verbal. He has several words, but his annunciation is so that a person on the street probably wouldn’t recognize any of them. However, he also signs a lot.
Among his verbal words are: llama, giraffe, turtle, puppy dog, kitty cat, fishy, yum, snack, other side, no, um-hmm, please, cheese, night night, bye, high five, Mama, Daddy, Granddaddy, Mimi, Gigi, Diggle, chicken, duck, cow, rhino, dinosaur, teeth, eyes, nose, toes, owl.
He signs: More, please, thank you, elephant, bird, duck, chicken, frog, pig, cat, hot, giraffe, sad, help, hurt, outside, all done, plane, hard, potty, happy.

Speaking of potty- this kid is freaking teaching himself all about the potty. Potty learning was not even near being on my radar. We have done very relaxed/part time style elimination communication since he was about 8 months old. He has known what the potty is and what it’s for and used it off and on since then. But lately he will tell me before he pees and ask to use the potty. In the past week there has been a couple days when his diapers were mostly dry for the day. It seems surreal that diaper laundry might soon be in our (well, Joey’s) past.

He still nurses like a champ. Some days less than others, but he loves his milkies. And yes, he still nurses at night. But luckily he is also still in our bed with us, so I remain pretty oblivious to most of his night time snacking. I feel like 6 months to about 14 months was a really good stride for nursing. We had figured things out for the most part and it felt easy and was relaxed. It’s still easy, but now we are navigating toddlerisms like setting personal boundaries and using respectful manners (i.e. “milk please” or “other side” instead of “AAAAHAHHHHHHHH!!!!” and clawing at my shirt). Also, as his mouth changes and he slowly (oh so slowly…) gets more teeth, his latch goes through stages of being fairly uncomfortable.

So. Many. Feels. Huge, terrifying explosive feelings trapped inside a tiny toddler body. Oh my goodness. But he’s learning to recognize them in himself and others and can identify happy and sad.

Book: Nose and Toes, Animals Everywhere, Farm Book
Music: Shake it Off, the new Foo Fighters, Godsmack, the princess potty at Target
Animal: Llamas, otters, and rhinos.
Toy: Blocks, train, puzzles, balls
Activity: Swinging, anything with water, reading books, throwing stuff
Food: Cheese, apples, green beans, broccoli, yogurt, mandarin oranges, bananas.
Dislikes: the carseat, being stung by bees, fake Cheerios

Height: About 35 inches
Weight: 28 lbs. even
Eyes: Bright blue
Hair: White blonde
Teeth: 8 (all the incisors)
Shoe size: 7
Clothing size: 2T

Other fun tidbits- Perrin has started to do some imaginative play. He will feed his toys and make smacking sounds. He likes to help me cook and has gotten really good at cutting veggies and mushrooms with a butter knife. He also loves getting his nails trimmed and painted. I swear it’s the only time this kid will sit still. He can climb the ladders on the playground all by himself and now he sits on the big kid swing, too. He can almost jump, but doesn’t quite get both feet of the ground. He is really, really into high-fives. Like, we have to high-five all the mannequins we walk by in a store. He’s a pretty cool kid. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The D

No, not that D. This is a post about divorce. Before you freak out and call me (Mom....), no, Joey and I aren't getting a divorce. This is a post about divorce as an institution, nothing personal. Speaking of not taking things personally, a quick disclaimer:

   I almost didn't write this because I'm sure someone out there in the world will take it the wrong way. I hate offending people and I hate the possibility that somewhere out there in the universe someone is mad at me. But what I hate more is feeling like I have no voice- that I'm constantly silencing myself for other's convenience. So in an act of self-care and therapeutic catharsis, I'm going to speak my truth. You (that is, those "you"s who feel the need to act as if everyone is living AT you) need to either kindly get the fuck over yourself or skip this post. Me sharing my thoughts and experience does not equal me judging people with different thoughts or experiences. Disagree with every word in this post? Cool. That's why we are two different people. There is no need to explain to me why my experience does not apply to you or in what situations it would be completely different or the importance of another perspective. This is my perspective; that's it. I'm not giving relationship advice or claiming to have any sort of answers. So onto the actual post...

   Even though I'm not giving advice or anything, I feel like I should be upfront about my personal experiences with divorce. My parents divorced when I was a year old and I myself have been divorced. My first marriage lasted a whopping 18 months. So if you want to get psychoanalytical about things and dissect the rest of this post with that in mind, go for it. I'm not pretending that these past experiences don't have any affect on my thoughts and beliefs about the subject.

 So why I am writing about divorce anyway? It's honestly pretty random. I see a variety of Facebook memes about all sorts of things and that includes divorce. I have seen a few along the lines of "Back in the day.." or "For my grandparents" attesting to how much more wonderful the institution of marriage was before divorce became more prevalent. I also see a lot of memes along the lines of "We don't throw away something broken, we fix it" and "First marriage is the only marriage". So these two types of sentiments, which I will address separately, get me thinking sometimes. Joey and I have discussed them and seem to be in agreement about the ideas in general and our own thoughts on divorce. So I'll start by addressing the two specific things I mentioned, and then also more general ideas.

"Back in the Day"
     Ok, so yeah, there used to be less divorce. But that doesn't mean that divorce is inherently bad AND more importantly, that doesn't mean marriages were necessarily better. There were women who were stuck in horribly abusive relationships, children stuck in abusive or otherwise unhealthy families, and families of people who were absolutely miserable. Are there people who overuse divorce or don't take marriage seriously? Well yeah, but why do you care? My thoughts on divorce are similar to those on abortion- if you don't like it, don't get one.

"Don't give up, just fix it!"
   I am by no means advocating that you not put time and effort into marriage. It is super hard sometimes and that means putting in 110% and pushing the boulder up hill and all those other metaphors. I get that. But you know how on Hoarders, half of the house is full of broken junk and every time the host is like "Hey, how about you throw out this broken thing?" the Hoarder always responds with "But I can fix it!!!!!"....? Yeah, my feelings are kind of like that. Sure, you can hypothetically fix whatever. You can painstakingly super glue a shattered windshield back together piece by piece if you really want to. Or melt it down and reform it, even. The point is- we all know damn well that Hoarder isn't going to fix shit. Having the potential to fix something doesn't mean it's going to get fixed and there is a good chance you could just spend your entire life lugging around broken trash. I think some people can legitimately recognize when they are delaying the inevitable and just need to let something go. And I don't think that is a bad thing.

   So another general thing that I have noticed is the fact that divorce is still very much a taboo. Liz Taylor and other celebrities aside, we still have a lot of socio-cultural baggage surrounding divorce. This really hits home for me in the number of relationship help columns, books, and articles (as well as some personal accounts) that state simply uttering the word 'divorce' is bad for a marriage. The "it can never be taken back" superstition around the word divorce is slightly confusing to me. I mean, I get that for some people (for either religious of philosophical reasons), they don't consider divorce an option. But if leaving isn't an option, then staying isn't either.

  Which brings me to Joey and I's general agreement about divorce and it's place in our marriage (interesting concept, huh?). We most certainly want divorce to be an option. We want it to have a place in our discussions about our relationship and our family. We recognize that for some people, having separate parents creates a healthier overall family. And we acknowledge that we don't want the other person to be miserable. Neither of us hold any particular religious or philosophical beliefs that would preclude divorce. Finally, we want to know that if we are in this, if we are still together, it is because we absolutely without a shadow of a doubt want to be. Not because we feel guilty about leaving or because we are scared of what people will say. So we talk about divorce a lot. When we are having rough spots in our marriage (which is a lot now that Perrin is here), we talk about it. Do you think it would be better if we had time apart? Do we need space? Are we at the end of this road? Do we need to rethink our family and relationship? And so far, the answers have been decidedly, No. We like where we are at. It is hard. It sucks sometimes. But we still both want to be here. But if one of us ever answers yes, it will be in a safe place. Because there is an understanding that we are both open and committed to whatever family arrangement is best for all three of us. And sometimes that includes divorce. And that can be okay. And that we are willing to sacrifice our marriage for our family and our relationship. I am thankful for that.

  So when I see some of those memes with those cute little quips about divorce and the sanctity of marriage, I smile- because I know that divorce has a place in our marriage. And I know that that statement probably horrifies some people. But for Joey and I, it brings us comfort. Because we want to be stuck together. And we want to want it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Boxes and Babies Don't Mix

   Perrin and I are big fans of the public library story times around town. We go pretty regularly. There is this one song they sing where they give all the kids little musical shakers to shake along during the chorus. It's annoying and gets stuck in your head for days, but they kids love it. And then when the song is over, all the kids go and put their shakers back in the box. At least, you hope they do. The story time lady always says it's okay if they hang onto it, but all the parents secretly hope that their kid will politely follow directions and put the shaker back in the box. Now, this is technically 18 month- 4 year story time, so Perrin is a little young. The other kids have an advantage when it comes to direction following and general compliance. But he's generally good at imitating, so when all the other kids go up to the front to put their shakers in the box, he will usually follow along. So the other day after the shaker song, Perrin follows the herd of toddlers up to the box and drops his shaker in. I'm clapping and cheering for him from the back of the room because I am totally "that" mom. But as everyone is returning to their spots on the floor, Perrin nonchalantly picks up the entire box of shakers that everyone just spent 10 minutes cheering and clapping and mind-medling their toddlers into giving up and dumps that shit out on the floor.

   And then I realized this is a metaphor. The above did happen, but it symbolized a lot more to me than my 15 month old's love for noisy toys. Babies don't get boxes. They just don't. They don't understand the adult compulsion to contain and compartmentalize. Just spent 3 hours separating the train tracks from the building blocks? Fuck it. Alphabet blocks all up in your Brio set! Alphabetized the story books? Bahahaha.....

   And it's not just the children as individuals- childhood, and therefore parenthood do not respect boxes and boundaries either. So why do we see so many things trying to force us into these narrow contraptions? Articles on how to balance work and home. Being a wife and being a mother. Taking care of the home and taking care of the children. Heck, taking care of the children and taking care of ourselves. Alone time versus family time. None of these things are concrete ideas or categories. You can't just chip off a piece of yourself and put it in a box with a nice neat label. They aren't discrete receptacles of our being that we have to measure and calibrate. A little more here does not necessarily mean a little less there.  It's all part of life, and life is messy. Life is especially messy with children. That's just how it goes. Let's pretend all of your roles and priorities and interests are different colors. From the sound of a lot of the self-help articles floating around out there, your goal is to arrange your life into a beautiful rainbow. Fucking Roy G. Biv. Neat and orderly and sensible. But that's not how it works. Because real life in throwing all of those colors into a blender and accidentally flipping the switch before you put a lid on it. Brown. Life is brown. Beautiful, glorious, unpredictable, brown that everyone else thinks is gross and kind of looks like poop (and let's face it, there's a chance it's poop), but that you love and appreciate just as much as your toddler the first time they figured out they can mash all the Play Dough colors together. But you know what colors you mashed in there. You can appreciate the flecks of purple and red and indigo that are floating around in your brown messy life.

   For a while I felt bad because my week wasn't scheduled. There weren't distinct hours of me time or family time or couples time. My roles in my life weren't distinct and wife Rox bled into Mommy Rox and Daughter Rox and Chicken keeper Rox. I didn't always have a plan and there aren't enough lists and spreadsheets in the world to make me feel like I actually know what the hell I'm doing at any given moment. But that's ok. Forest, people. Look for the forest. And forests would be much more ugly and much less magical if all the trees were arranged by height and species. This is why parenthood is simultaneously beautiful and terrifying- because the messy, blended, scattered kaleidoscope of your life just wouldn't be the same sorted out tucked away into a pretty box on the shelf. And that's hard, especially for people like me who hold on to patterns and order. But that's why the universe gave me Perrin- to dump out all my boxes.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Stop Marathoning At Me

    You know who you are. You who post pictures of yourself in your running shorts with your gold medal and the little paper number pinned to your shirt. So what? You ran a marathon! You don't have to be so judgmental about it. Just because I never ran a marathon doesn't make me a bad person , you know. I could have run a marathon if I had wanted to, but I didn't want to. I actually had a friend who wanted to run a marathon, but she would have DIED had the doctors not told her she couldn't run a marathon! Have you thought about that? Or what about all the people in the world who can't run marathons? Some people don't have legs! You should really think about these things before bragging to everyone and showing off your stupid medal. Who cares if you worked really hard for it. Who cares if it is something that means a lot to you. Who cares if it was the coolest moment in your life. Obviously the only reason you are posting your finish line pictures is to make all of us non-runners feel like shitty horrible human beings. Maybe that's why you run in the first place! It's all just some grand ploy to show everyone else that you're better than them. It has nothing to do with your health or enjoyment or the fact that it means something to you on a personal level. It's all about making ME feel bad.

      Because really, everything is about ME. My insecurities and apprehensions and regrets and guilt. And instead of accepting my truth and finding pride in my own situation (I actually made it to yoga class this week! I am badass!) I would rather lash out at you for being different. In fact, I'm going to accuse you of being judgmental while I assign arbitrary intention to your actions and words and then judge you on it. Because I'm scared to lift you up, because I'm not comfortable enough with my position in the world. So I'd rather tear you down.

    See what you made me do? You and your stupid marathon running turned me into a petty angry person. Obviously you are the problem here. The only possible solution is for you to stop being so fulfilled by your marathon experience. Or at the very least, pretend like you aren't. Stop talking about endorphins and runner's highs. From now on, just tell people about the shin splints and chaffing and all the horrible stuff. That way those of us who don't run can sit back and say "See!? Why would anyone want to run a marathon? That is so dumb. Obviously they are just doing it for attention." And the next generation of people can continue this cycle and never ever have meaningful conversations about all the different exercise options and how to find what is right for you and honor other people's journeys. Instead, we can all just sit back and hate on you for your running all those marathons at us.

*In case the metaphor escaped you, just go back and reread replacing "marathon" and "running" with "natural birth" or "breastfeeding". There ya go. *

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Punching PPD in the Throat

     Well, that's what I feel like I'm doing anyway. I think I've turned a corner. The past few weeks have been different. I've still been feeling my normal levels of anxiety and irritability, but something has changed. I'm sick of being sick. I'm tired of worrying about my moods and medication and coping skills. I'm just over it. My counselor thinks that is a pretty big step. I'm ready to move on with my life and close this chapter on PPD. I'm also ready to be done with this medication and all the lovely side effects- headaches, insomnia, and eczema. I'm also sick of being told to take Ibuprofen for my head, cortisone cream for my eczema, etc. So I recently took two big steps- I got a new general doctor and a new psychiatrist.

    My new doctor's concentration is in naturopathy and it was a complete breath of fresh air. Our appointment lasted an hour and a half and most of it was me sitting in an armchair chatting with her and discussing different aspects of my lifestyle and health history. At the end of it all, she suggested I look into at least lowering my SSRI dosage to see if it would help with any of the side effects. She also suggested some simple lifestyle changes that I should have been doing all along, but somehow just never thought about. I now try to eat much more regularly throughout the day to avoid blood sugar fluctuations. I also am much more aware of my protein and fatty acid intake and have added a fish oil supplement. I've cut back on caffeine, especially later in the day.

   My new psychiatrist has also been very helpful. She suggested weaning off my SSRI completely. She gave me the choice of either weaning off the SSRI and going med-free, or crossing over to Wellbutrin. Even though Wellbutrin isn't necessarily contraindicated for breastfeeding, it is an L3 medication, so I opted to try going med free first. I feel comfortable with that decision at this point in time. If any of my PPD/PPA recurs, I can always add in the Wellbutrin later. So far I have weaned down to half my original dosage and I should be completely med free by mid-August. The adjustment has made me feel a little sleepy and sometimes jittery, but so far my mood seems to be holding pretty steady.

   I hope all of these new events mean I am "cured" and well on my way back to good health. I am excited about no loner having to worry about the depression and anxiety. I just hope I can get back to where I was pre-Perrin. That is my new goal. But I am also realistic and know that it could still be a long way out. But at least it seems like things are moving forward after quite a long lull.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

7 Tips for Breastfeeding Discreetly

   In a funny twist of the universe, this wonderfully written article has been circulating lately which is not all that dissimilar to this post I have been working on. So, my apologies if you have had your fill of satirical breastfeeding activism.
   However, nursing in public (NIP) has been getting a lot of media attention lately, so I thought I would make this nifty guide for moms whose unruly spawn refuse to only eat in the confines of their own home like decent human beings. One refrain I see over and over again in NIP discussions is "I support moms who breastfeed, but you should at least be discreet about it." Odd thing though- the would "discreet" is actually quite subjective. So what is a mom to do? How do you know if you are being discreet or not? Well, worry no more! I have made this handy little guide just for you. Or, on the flip side, if you are a person who is not breastfeeding but you are worried that the woman tending to her child in the same public space as you is being inappropriate, feel free to check her behavior against this guide to determine whether you should complain or politely calm the fuck down.
   Now, please take note- you are still completely allowed to nurse INdiscreetly if you choose to. In fact, your right to do so is protected by law in almost every single state. However, if you would like to conform to cultural notions of "appropriateness", just keep these tips in mind.

What to Do

1. You can nurse with a cover, if you like and the baby likes. Up sides- you have a cover which seems to be some kind of threshold for some people. Down sides- It's hot. Babies are wiggly. Latching can be hard enough without going in blind. And you don't get to look at the super cute human you worked your ass off 9 months to grow.

I mean, it's only 106 F today. They weren't joking when they said modest is hottest! 

Stop struggling and have some respect for others, sheesh!

2. If you don't want to use a cover, you have the option of just lifting up your shirt. Upsides- This keeps the topmost part of the breast covered, which seems to be the most offensive. Unless of course it's peeking out of a v-neck, bikini top, or lace bra. Downsides- I found out the hard way that the pressure of the shirt on top of your breast can really send an overactive letdown out of control. Use with caution.

3. If you have experienced the aforementioned overactive letdown issues or simply don't like pulling your shirt up, you can always use the pull down method. Simply take your breast out over the top of your shirt. Upsides- easy access. Downsides- Depending on the cut of your shirt, this can be difficult. When Perrin was itty-bitty and I was super engorged, I used a variation of this where I would also slip the strap of my tank top of my shoulder completely in order to get my ginormous boob out.

4. When nursing in close proximity to others, just makes sure they are able to look in any other direction just in case they don't want to look directly at your beautiful cherub (psh, as if). Upsides- this is pretty much always possible. Downsides- It may be difficult if you are sitting directly across from an individual in an orthopedic halo whose eyelids are either missing or propped open and who does not have enough muscle control to move their eyeballs. 

This man is being 0% affected by the baby eating next to him.

  Seems simple, right? BUT WAIT! While you are employing all of these awesome tips, make sure you are also avoiding the following behaviors.

What NOT to Do

5. It's cool if you want to NIP, but you don't have to be all up in everyone's face about it.

6. Try to make sure you aren't just looking for attention. 

7. Don't be an exhibitionist.

So there you have it. As long as you avoid those three behaviors, you qualify as a perfectly decent and discreet breastfeeder! Nurse on, mamas!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Our Rebirth Ceremony

    Rebirth ceremonies can hold many different meanings for different people. Often times, a rebirth ceremony is chance for a mother to heal after a traumatic birth experience or even a fulfilling birth experience that didn't go as expected. Sometimes the birth itself was wonderful but the baby had a hard start, such as a NICU stay. Or some people just like to celebrate the most amazing day of their life by doing it all over again! The ceremony can be as long and drawn out as you want it to be, or simple and sweet. A lot of people like to incorporate a bath since the water represents the baby's life in the womb. Some include prayer or meditation. It's really up to you.
     Our birth went wonderfully, but I was very tired from the long labor and felt like I wasn't all "there" for those first few moments with Perrin. I also suffered from severe post-partum depression, so those first few weeks were especially rough. So to celebrate Perrin's birthday, I wanted a do-over, a fresh start. Joey suggested going around town to the different places we visited while in labor. We didn't go to every single place, but we hit the big ones and reminisced about those few days that led up to Perrin. For dinner, we made eggs and toast- the same meal that the midwives prepared for us after Perrin was born. Then Perrin and I shared a special bath. I filled the tub with warm water, bath salts, and lavender oil and dimmed the lights and lit some candles. We snuggled in the bath and nursed while I talked to him about our past year together. I told him his birth story, laid him back in the water in my arms, then pulled him up onto my chest just like when he was born. By that time he had had enough of pomp and circumstance and wanted to play, so Joey came in and sat with us while Perrin played and splashed and snuggled some more. After the bath was done, we all went and cuddled in bed. The whole thing was barely half an hour. But it was a nice way to reflect on Perrin's first year and commemorate the event of his birth.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Happy Birthday Perrin

   Today Perrin turns one year old. We made it! We all survived! We may have barely stumbled across the finish line, but we finished. Only it's more of a first mile marker than a finish line. The only thing even that even remotely resembles a finish line is still 17 years away. So, what is one year old Perrin like?

  Well, he's an adult portion of crazy stuck in a two year old's body with a one year old's brain development and motor skills. Imagine if you gave a kangaroo crack then set it loose in the McDonald's play place. It's slightly exhausting. I know I write a lot about the struggles of motherhood in an effort to help normalize the unromantic parenting experience. But today is not that day. Today is the day to celebrate all the stuff that doesn't suck and is actually pretty fun. So Perrin, these are the things I love about you:

- You are super affectionate. You started giving hugs and kisses around six months old and they have only gotten better. Now you'll get in our laps to snuggle and hang on to our necks so tight it's hard to breath sometimes.

-You are a really good climber and have great adventures. You are always willing to explore and take the risks and leaps that make me feel like I'm going to have a heart attack. But you usually reach whatever it is you were going for and then you look back at me with a huge smile to make sure I saw you. Sometimes you don't make it, and you cry and it hurts, but all it takes is snuggles and milks and you are right back at it.

-You are incredibly social, which is strange because neither your dad or I are. You make friends easily and will play with anyone. You warm up to new places and new people quickly. You are generally pretty at ease, which makes me feel better because I worry that my anxiousness will rub off on you sometimes.

-You are INTENSE. Happy, sad, mad,'s all 100% emotion. You don't hold back. You have feelings and you make them known. You are incredibly confident in yourself and never hesitate to express!

-You are the most curious baby I have ever met. You watch and observe with purpose. You explore and investigate and try new things without a second thought.

-You barely got your 4th tooth before this birthday. Your gummy smile is fading fast but I love it and miss it.

-You are still the world's worst latcher, but you nurse like a champ and your preference for nursing probably has a lot to do with us getting this far. I'm so glad you are getting so much out of our breastfeeding relationship and that you stuck through it with me even though we struggled so much at first.

-You are an adventurous eater. You love spicy foods, and sushi, and pretty much any vegetable you've ever tried. You LOVE when we get Ethiopian take out. And if you had it your way you would eat yogurt with everything.

-You like being in groups with mixed ages. You like to watch the older kids and interact with adults. We could be at the museum or zoo when it is complete chaos and you will make your way across the room, in between people's legs if need be, to do your own thing. You are so sure of your place in the world.

-You nurse less at night now. Sometimes I wake up and you aren't even touching me; you're sleeping on your own in your own space. So I scoot closer and snuggle you up.

-You are my tiny little side-kick. This has been the hardest thing to get used to- having you with me all the time, never being able to do anything on my own whim but always having to plan you into daily life. But it's also fun, because for you everything is an adventure. It's all new and exciting. And you don't need to have a plan or purpose. We can roam around or just sit in the floor with blocks all day or lay in bed and read books. We kind of rock. Some days are really rough, but then are others where I feel like we really "get" each other.

So here's to you, Perrin! Happy Birthday! I'm sorry this year has been a bit of a bumpy ride, but straight and narrow just doesn't seem to be your style. As much as I am sure it may kill me some days, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

A Scary New Trend

    My apologies if this seems like one of my ranty posts, but I’m starting to get kind of annoyed with a new trend that seems to be popping up. This is purely anecdotal, but from what I can tell natural and or evidence based birth has become some kind of marketing strategy. Now, part of this is desirable and to be expected. More women are being informed about their rights and options and are pushing providers to, well, provide. So in a way it is kind of encouraging to see hospitals remodeling L&D to be more family friendly and comfortable and to see places offering tools like birth tubs, stability balls, and wireless fetal monitors.  One would expect that more doctors and midwives would be looking at the actual research on things like doulas and VBACs and the hydrotherapy and adjusting their practices accordingly. These are all wonderful things.
   The problem is- from what I can tell, there also seems to be trend of providers paying lipservice to these practices and the failing to deliver. I’m talking about OBs saying they are supportive or pro natural birth and VBACs, but then at 38 weeks talking big babies, ruptures, inductions, failure to progress, and c-sections.  Or OBs and even pediatricians who claim to be pro breastfeeding or even having lactation credentials suggesting formula and supplementation without even addressing latch issues or supply. It’s like they realize that women want these things, but they aren’t invested enough to actually help them achieve it. There could also be a more insidious reason, which I hope isn’t the case- providers patronizingly assume that these women are jumping on some trendy natural birth bandwagon and don’t really know what they are asking for (and I guess ignoring the fact that these practices are based on the best medical evidence).
   Whatever the reason, it’s a worrisome trap because we have women who are well informed who are actively seeking out support for their choices- they know they need to find a OB who is on board and seek one out- only to find out at the eleventh hour that they were mislead.  So how do you tell the phonies apart from the real deal?
-          Interview. You are hiring this person to assist you in the birth of your child. Get recommendations, interview several people, and pick the one who feels like a good fit.
Red flags: If you don’t have enough time in your initial visit to go over your questions or the provider seems annoyed with you, it’s a good indication that they are not going to be very helpful or supportive. They are used to doing things their way and everyone else is just along for the ride.
-          Ask them to walk you through a typical birth of theirs. What procedures are standard? It is true that you can opt out of whatever you choose, but if your provider is used to doing things the exact opposite of what you want, there will be stress and friction and that is bad birthing mojo.
Red flags: If they say “everyone” or “all of my patients,” be suspicious. Unless they have only had one patient, I highly doubt that every birth, mother, and baby were exactly the same. You want someone who can recognize each birth as a unique and individual situation and can do what is best for YOU and YOUR BABY.
-          Ask for stats to back up their claims. They say they are pro-VBAC? Ask what their VBAC success rate is. Ask for their c-section rate, their rate of induction.
Red flags: If they don’t know or won’t tell you, it’s a bad sign. Doctors with good rates are proud of them and they are happy to tell you.
-          Get the specifics. Under what circumstances would they recommend induction? C-section? Supplementation?
Red flags: Be wary of dismissive language. Any “you don’t need to worry about that” or “just leave that to me”s. You are asking for their professional expertise. Hell, you are paying them for it. It shouldn’t be guessing game.
-          Don’t be afraid to switch. This is your birth and your baby. It’s kind of a big deal- like, way more of a big deal than some doctor’s ego. If you don’t feel 100% comfortable with that person, find someone else. There are way too many amazing doctors and midwives out there for you to be giving the shitty ones your business.

Other red flags: Watch out for the words “try” or “let” or “see how it goes”, i.e. “we can try a VBAC” or “I will only let you go to 40 weeks before inducing”.  You need someone who is completely supported and invested in your birth. You need a provider who is going to say “you will have a wonderful natural birth”, “you are going to VBAC this baby”, “ I recommend X, but the decision is up to you”.
You have a right to change your mind. If you decide you want that epidural, or that induction, or that c-section, or that you don’t want to breastfeed- that is totally okay. It’s one thing for people to try and help you stick by your original decisions (the “Are you sure?” and “But you said…”s), but no one should make fun or belittle you or make you feel guilty about changing your mind.
Don’t put up with providers who make fun of or talk down doulas, birth plans, etc. It’s not uncommon to hear statements like “one way ticket to the OR” or “oh, one of THOSE patients”. These birth practices are based on the soundest medical research and backed by ACOG. Would you go to a heart surgeon who scoffed at evidence-based medicine?

I know it seems sad and suspicious to be so distrusting of providers, but I have seen too many people get railroaded into a disappointing and even traumatic birth experience by someone they thought had their back. Do your homework and trust your gut. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

On Entitlement and Respect

          This may be another hard to follow post due to the sheer amount of ideas floating around in my brain. Most people have probably read about the recent shooting in Santa Barbara and the vitriol that the shooter had been spewing beforehand. The incident is disturbing, if unfortunately not surprising, and brought up some familiar thoughts that I have in regards to raising Perrin. What strikes me the most about these events is the sense of entitlement. Not entitlement as in “kids nowadays have no respect” blah blah blah, but entitlement to other people. To their bodies and their behavior. This man thought he was entitled to other people’s bodies for his own personal gratification and when he didn’t get what he wanted he threw a tantrum- with a gun. This situation is not uncommon. Those in power feel that they have the right to get their way from the disempowered. The disempowered are not individuals in their own right but a means to an end- the gratification of the empowered.
     So what does all of this have to do with Perrin? Well, two things. First of all, these same exploitive power structures can be found in parent-child relationships. Because the parent is bigger, older, more cognitively developed, they have the ability to exact their will on the child without regard to the child as an individual. Second, my hope is that Perrin will understand how to respect others as people and not be given a sense entitlement. I truly feel that the best way to teach him this is by treating him with respect  Because if I tell him he must respect others while not showing him that same respect and dignity, all he is learning is that respect is something that the disempowered owe the powerful. And that when you are in power, you can demand respect without ever having to give it. That is not the lesson I want to bestow on Perrin. But I think for some this is a hard distinction to make. How do you parent- guide, teach, and keep safe- without overstepping your role and infringing on your child’s rights (because let’s be clear, children are people and just as deserving as basic human rights and dignity as anyone else)?
   With this in mind, there are a few things we try to be very aware of with Perrin in order to try and instill this sense of respect and empathy. I am by no means saying that families who don’t do these things are disrespecting their children and the list is by no means exhaustive, but these are a few ways in which we try to respect Perrin.
-Bodily autonomy. This is a big one for us. Perrin’s body is his own and we try our best to not make any decisions about it that do not have to be made for medical or safety reasons. We don’t cut his hair because it’s not our hair. We don’t try to discourage him from touching or exploring any part of his body. It’s his body. Obviously there will a conversation about privacy when he is older and can understand, but for now we keep our expectations developmentally appropriate. This also is a partial factor in our decision not to vaccinate as I explained in this post. Preventative medicine is tricky because you aren’t actually addressing an issue, you are acting on a “what if…” and we carefully weigh what risks we are willing to incur without Perrin’s consent. We present him with healthy choices, but at the end of the day he eats what he wants and how much he wants. He eats when he is hungry and stops when he is full. As he gets older and is more capable of making decisions about his body (such as clothing choices, body modifications, vaccines, etc.) we will leave those decisions up to him. We ask before picking him up. We put him down when he wants to get down. If he doesn’t want to interact with someone, we don’t force it. He doesn’t owe anyone affection or attention.
-Giving him a voice. Just because he doesn’t yet say actual words doesn’t mean he doesn’t communicate. He has been communicating since day one and we have done our best to acknowledge what he is trying to tell us. We work very hard to read his body language to and remember that even crying and “fussiness” is communication and not something to be ignored anymore than I should be ignored when I’m trying to talk to Joey and upset.
- We don’t downplay or dismiss his emotions. When he falls down or is upset, I don’t tell him he is “fine”. I don’t know if he’s fine. He may not be physically hurt, but he could be scared or tired or frustrated. Those feelings are real and he has a right to express them. He isn’t punished for expressing frustration or anger. As he gets older we can help him learn healthy ways to display those feelings, but he has a right to let them out.

     It may not seem like much, but I hope that by instilling a sense of self in Perrin, he will learn that respect and dignity are the default ways in which to treat human beings. A person does not have to earn the right to common decency. I hope he learns that kindness isn’t something you do expecting something in return. It’s something you do because it’s the right way to treat each other. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Update on the PPD

      As most people know because I try to be very vocal about it, I have been dealing with post-partum depression and anxiety since Perrin was born. I was put on a low dose of Sertraline (Zoloft) when he was about 5 months old and have been doing individual and couples counseling with Joey this whole time. I haven't mentioned it in a while, so I thought I'd be honest about where things are currently at.

  I am currently still taking the medication but have been talking with my FNP and counselor about possibly starting to wean off of it soon. I'm excited to be done with the stupid pills, but also kind of scared that I won't be able to manage without them. However, because I now have new insurance, I also have a new counselor and I am very excited to be working with her. My previous counseling has mainly focused on developing tools to cope with my issues and find healthy ways to deal. However, my goal with this new counselor is to actually start working through some of the underlying baggage that leaves me so disposed to depression and anxiety in the first place. I'm glad because I feel like I will finally be solving the problem rather than just sticking a band-aid over it. It does feel weird to be paying someone to basically just ask random open-ended questions, but I really feel like this talk therapy may be the "cure" I've been hoping for.

  Mostly I am excited about it because I feel like by letting go of my own baggage I can save Perrin from it becoming his baggage. I know he will accumulate his own junk to deal with as he gets older, but at least I don't have to worry about contributing to it before he's walking. It's odd how much clearer our own psyches become when we are suddenly responsible for the development of someone else's. I want to get rid of all of the negative energy in my own life so that I'm not radiating any of that onto Perrin's fragile little being. The wonderful side affect will also be my own mental health, which is nice.

   So that is where things currently stand. It could still be months or even years of recovery, but I am okay with that. As Perrin's first birthday approaches, I'm partially in awe of how far we have come and at the same time completely surprised at how much today still feels like that very first day he was born. He is still that same incredibly spirited little person he always has been and this whole parenting thing is still so incredibly hard. I still wonder sometimes- if I had known it was going to be this hard, would we have made the decision to have a baby? I really think we would have, if only because we would otherwise always have wondered what would have been. But we have done our best and continue to try and do better. I just hope that if Perrin chooses to have his own children, I can be honest with him about our own journey.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

My Two Cents on Baby Gear

    I love reading lists of "Top 10 Things to Buy for Baby" or "5 Thing You Don't Really Need for Baby". I think for the most part what baby stuff you will end up needing or even using at all is highly dependent on your own preferences and your family situation. I always find it interesting to see what other people couldn't live without and which things just didn't do it for them. So for what it's worth, here are my baby gear opinions. Also, know that no matter what you decide you need, you can always borrow or buy used. Baby stuff is everywhere.


   These are the things I would bring if stranded on a desert island. You'll notice this is the shortest list. I am kind of minimalist sometimes, especially when it comes to Perrin stuff. Babies really don't *need* anything other than YOU, but the following items can make parenthood, especially the early days, a little bit easier.

1. Baby carrier. Do you like doing things, ever? Get one. You can nurse, hold, rock your baby while you make dinner or vacuum or build a chicken coop or do any other random tasks. Babywearing is great for fussy babies who need to be in arms and for colicy and reflux babies who are more comfortable upright. There are a thousand different kinds, so find one that works for you. Some of them can get kind of pricey, but since you will be cutting out all the unnecessary crap, you should have sufficient funds. Borrow different carriers from other mamas to find out what your style is, then try to look for a used one if you want to save some money. They are out there aplenty.
2. Pillow for nursing. Note I did not say a "nursing pillow". While there are some great pillows made specifically for nursing (i.e. Boppy and My Breastfriend), you don't have to get anything fancy. Just make sure you have a thick, firm pillow that makes you comfortable. They key to a comfortable nursing position is to bring the baby to the breast, not the breast to the baby, which means unless you are wearing the baby or side-lying, you are going to either need a pillow or some wicked biceps.
3. Cloth diapers. I love our cloth diapers. We have saved so much money. I honestly don't even know how to use disposables. What size would I buy? How often do you change them? How many do you need? Like babywearing, there are a million different ways to cloth diaper. We kept things simple. I have 18 one size pocket diapers. The same diapers Perrin wears now and for the foreseeable future are the same ones he wore when he was a week old (we did use one pack of newborn disposables for the meconium phase). We have moved up to the larger inserts, but the diapers came with a set of large and small. The only extras I have bought were a set of large hemp inserts I use for nighttime diapers. I strip them once every six weeks and voila! Brand new.

Maybe for some folks

  These are things may not be usefully for everyone, but may be a life saver for others.

1. Baby monitor. We never had a baby monitor. Even if Perrin didn't always sleep in-arms, our house is tiny and there is no place where I could not hear him. However, if you do have a baby who sleeps alone for naps or goes to bed before you and your house is large, this might be a good idea.
2. Double electric pump. If you aren't planning on working or going to school while breastfeeding, you may not ever need to pump. Or you may find a manual pump or hand expression to be easier for you. I however LOVE my Hygeia Enjoye double electric. I have been able to donate over 3,000 ounces at this point and it has been great when I have had to leave Perrin for a few hours. That being said, if I wasn't donating I could probably have gotten by with just a manual pump.
3. Moses basket/ Bassinet. Since you will be skipping out on a crib (which we will discuss below), you may want to have a moses basket or bassinet for when the baby naps or goes to bed before you. Perrin always slept either worn or in arms, so we didn't end up using his much, but most babies will sleep by themselves at some point. When are they are too big, you can just put them to sleep in the family bed and either use a side rail, pillow wall, or pillow landing pad in case they wake up feeling adventurous. (*Note- young babies should not be in a bed with pillows or thick blankets due to the risk of suffocation.)
4. Baby bath. Once again, we never had a baby bath. For starters Perrin didn't get his first bath until he was a month old, and then usually only got one a week or so. When he did get a bath, Joey always bathed with him. It's a great way for the non-breastfeeding parent to bond with the baby and get some of that amazing skin to skin time. Once Perrin was old enough to support his head well, we would sometimes bathe him in the sink. And then once he could sit up, we would just sit him in the bottom of the shower with us. However, if you don't plan on bathing with the baby in the beginning, you will probably need some sort of baby bath. My recommendation is to once again buy one used or borrow one from a friend.

Don't bother

    These are things I really see no point in spending your money on. Save the money and put it towards a labor and post-partum doula. 

1. Bibs. Ok, I may be alone in this but I just don't see the point of bibs. We have a metric shit ton of bibs that we were given and we never ever use them. I don't understand when I was supposed to use them. We tried putting one on Perrin when we introduced solids and yeah, it kept that one part of his shirt clean but the rest of him was filthy so what difference does it make? He still got changed and bathed. I know some people use them for drooling and teething, but for whatever reason they just never were that useful for us. If you do need bibs, let me know and I will send you a bunch.
2. Crib (or nursery for that matter). Newborns should be cosleeping- that is room or bedsharing- with you. It is the safest place for them to sleep as it reduces their risk of SIDS. They need to be near their mothers because her heart rate, breathing, and sleep patterns will help their young brains regulate their own bodies. If you don't want to bed share or something precludes you from bedsharing safely, all you need to do is use a bassinet or cosleeper. Instead of buying a crib that they will grow out of, just get a twin or even double bed for them. By the time they are done cosleeping, they will do fine in a real bed. If you are worried, you can always just start with a mattress directly on the floor. One day when I get around to it we will set up Perrin's "room". I ordered him a day bed from Ikea, but I doubt he will be using it anytime soon.
3. Baby receptacles. I include in this bouncy seats, swings, Bumbos, Exersaucers, Jumperoos, walkers, and the like. Just wear your baby. He will be happier and get more developmentally important stimulation. Now, I know there are times when you need to put the baby down, but I suggest waiting it out and learning a bit more about your baby before dropping a ton of money. We found out that we needed somewhere safe to place Perrin while I showered in the mornings, so we bought a $30 bouncy seat (which I should have gotten used but didn't think about at the time). Other than that, I just wore him because that is what worked for us.
4. Infant bucket seat. Just go ahead and buy a convertible seat. Our Graco My Ride goes from 5 to 40 lbs. rear facing and up to 70 pounds forward facing. I know it can be tempting to carry baby around in the little bucket seat, but it's not great for the baby. Wear the baby and save yourself the expense of buying two separate carseats.
5. Changing table. You can change diapers on the floor, the couch, the bed, the top of a dresser, the back seat of the car, a patch of cushy grass. There is no reason to buy a changing table.
6. Baby food maker. You can even skip "baby food" altogether. Learn more about baby-led solids and just feed your baby (who is at least 6 months old) whatever you are eating. No disgusting rice cereal or jarred food. No need to buy some kind of expensive food processor or spend all that time preparing extra food.
7. Nursing cover. Ok, this one should probably go in the "Maybe for Some Folks" category, but I'm going to be selfish here. I know there are some moms who just prefer to use a nursing cover, and I know there are even some babies who get distracted a nurse better with one at certain times. But I am going to ask you, beg you, to not get a nursing cover. If some one gives you one, return it. Do it for me. Do it for people like me who had almost no exposure to breastfeeding and have no clue what they are doing and need the camaraderie and support. Do it for my child and your child so they grow up in a world where feeding your baby is so normal and commonplace that it is completely unremarkable. It's not a topic for magazine covers or talk shows. Twitter doesn't flip out every time a celebrity does "it". It's just- normal. Normalize breastfeeding, please?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Crunchy Confessions: Household Products

    Continuing on with the series, I figured I'd share some of the household products we use. Much like our personal hygiene products, we make it a priority to avoid toxic or harsh chemicals as well as those that are damaging to the environment. An added bonus is that most of what we use is also dirt cheap. Yayness!

   So let's start with cleaners. Vinegar. Baking Soda. Yup, that's about it. Seriously though- I have a spray bottle with half vinegar and half water. I use that for the laminate floors, glass, kitchen and bathroom. I use baking soda for stuck on grime or anything that needs a little extra scrubbing power. I've found they work just as good as most commercial cleaners; they just require a little more elbow grease. But really, who out there is adverse to burning a few extra calories? Vinegar is antibacterial, so it's a great replacement for bleach and other harsh chemicals.

   I also make our own laundry detergent. I make 5 gallons at a time and it only costs a couple of bucks per batch. Here is the recipe I use:
      Fill a 5 gallon bucket half way with hot water.
      Add 1 cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda and 1/2 Borax and stir until dissolved.
      Grate 1 bar of soap (we use a castille soap with tea tree oil)
      Heat a pot of water on the stove and gradually stir in the soap flakes until completely dissolved.
      Mix into bucket.
      Fill the rest of the way with hot water.
      Let sit for 24 hours.
       Stir before each use

That's it! We have an old plastic detergent dispenser that we fill with our soap so that we don't have to get the big heavy bucket out each time. I think the original recipe said to fill the dispenser with half soap half water, but Joey gets really sweaty so we've always just used our double strength (it still lasts forever, so why not?). This works great for us. Joey has a reaction to some detergents so this is a good option. We used in on Perrin's newborn clothes and I even use it on our cloth diapers. If I need to get something extra clean (like dingy whites or stripping the diapers) I just do a prewash with some vinegar and baking soda (you can also add a little Borax if you have hard water).

   Another thing we try to limit is our consumption of paper products. We still use toilet paper (so far...) but Perrin's diapers are all cloth. We also don't buy paper towels. I have a ton of rags made of cut up t-shirts that we didn't want anymore and we use those to clean up day to day messes. We even stopped buying paper coffee filters and got a reusable metal one.

   The few things we do still buy are hand-soap, dishwasher detergent, and dish-soap. I have found some good recipes to try to make our own, but I just haven't gotten around to it yet. But we like the money we save and it's nice that I don't have to worry about Perrin or the animals being affected by any of the products. And did I mention how cheap vinegar and baking soda are?!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Project Real Life- My House

     I had a great conversation with a friend the other day. She had invited some other moms and I over for a get together with the babies and she was telling me about how stressed out she was over getting her house in order. And about how stupid she thought it was that she was letting it stress her out. We are all moms, we all have messes, and we are all friends. What did she feel like she had to prove? I do the same thing. When I have people over I am frantically cleaning for at least two days before and straightening up until the first person shows. But why? The condition of our house is good enough for us to live in day after day, surely our friends can survive it for a few hours. But I'm sure most of us will admit that we would be embarrassed if people saw our home on a regular day. And why? Who cares?

   I get it. A clean house is supposed to be part of the package. Right along with cooking healthy homemade meals and having a color-coordinated wardrobe. But come on...haven't we moved beyond this June  Cleaver ideal of what it means to be a good mother or woman or person? Does the state of your house really have any bearing on your identity or worth? Obviously we're not talking about basic levels of sanitation and hygiene. What we are talking about is a particular aesthetic, and more importantly an aesthetic that is not necessarily appealing to ourselves but that we adopt because we feel it is expected of us. So I'm calling bullshit.

   I'm a messy person. I always have been. I *know* that it's easier to put things away as I use them and clean as I go, but I am still going to set whatever is in my hands on the kitchen island every. damn. time. Every now and then the mess starts to make me feel anxious- so I clean it up. Then I feel better. Then I make the mess again. And that is completely fine because it's just how I roll. In years B.P. (before Perrin), Joey and I cleaned the house top to bottom every week. Every Saturday we picked up, mopped, vacuumed, dusted, and cleaned the kitchen and bathroom. But it only took about 24 hours for the counters to become cluttered again. Now that we are in A.P. (after Perrin), we're lucky if we mop the floors once every two weeks. And Perrin eats off those floors (to be fair he also eats dirt, so I refuse to beat myself up about some dog drool and floor Cheerios- organic floor Cheerios I might add). I don't think to clean the bathroom until the shower curtain get mildewy. At first it drove me insane. But now...I have accepted it. It won't last forever. And even if it does- so what? We are all happy and healthy, what else really matters? Why should I stress myself out over something I couldn't care less about?

   Sometimes I find myself rationalizing it in my head. Perrin is really high maintenance. He lap naps. We are just really busy. If things were different, our house would be much cleaner. But the truth is, I don't think it would be. And I'm sure I could find the time to stay on top of things if I tried harder. I spend a lot of time cruising online home improvement stores. We don't have to go to the zoo AND Children's Museum AND library AND park every single week. But I want to do those things. I like doing them. I like laying in bed with Perrin and snuggling and watching the animals chase each other.  And who knows- maybe some moms are able to do all those things AND have a sparkling clean home. I guess I just don't want it bad enough. And that is ok.

   So the purpose of this post is for everyone to see the different variations of a normal household. Some are minimalist and sparkling. Some look like a tornado hit. But you know what? I doesn't make a bit of difference. Some people are just really good at the house keeping thing. I'm not one of them. I'm good at building things, but I don't expect my friends to build elaborate arbors and remodel their bathroom every time I come over. So here are some pictures submitted by some wonderful friends. We openly and unapologetically invite you into our homes as we live in them. No explanations of why we clean or don't. No lists of the things we do instead. No good intentions. Because we shouldn't have to explain ourselves. We don't owe anyone some arbitrary aesthetic lifestyle. So here is the clean and dirty.  Enjoy.

    We don't make our bed. Ever. I just don't see the point. I don't plan to ever start making my bed. I've read that you sleep better if you do, so I tried it for a little while. Meh. Not worth it. But it looks like I'm not the only one!

Sarah Harris would like to claim her fame for this snuggle fest.

Have I ever mentioned that I HATE folding clothes?

Oh my God! These living rooms look LIVED IN! The horror!

It's like they have baby or something!


I guess I have to own this one.

And then there is the rest..
This will be Perrin's day.

I will set it on the counter. 

Another lovely example from the Harris household
Oh my god Sarah, you can keep a baby AND a plant alive?!

Rodgers in the house! 

So there you have it! Real life in a few of our houses. Feel free to continue sending me pictures. And don't feel bad about leaving those dishes in the sink. Unless you want to wash the dishes. Then go for it! 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

If School House Rock did a parenting series- Elimination Communication

      Ok, so here is my super informative post on elimination communication (EC). Let me first start by saying I am not a potty expert. I have zero EC credentials. I read a book and started letting Perrin running around like a naked little hooligan a couple times a day. However, a couple people have expressed interest in learning more about EC and what I am doing with Perrin, so I'll tell you as much as I know. I got most of my information from the book Diaper Free Baby as well as The Other Parenting Book. Joey and I discussed EC when I was pregnant and agreed we wanted to try it, but it was never much of a priority. I knew I was going to breastfeed, I wanted to cosleep, I had every intention of using cloth diapers, but EC was just an idea that seemed interesting that I wanted to try out. I originally said I would start at 3 months because I figured I would have a handle on the whole baby thing by then...ha. So then I said 6 months, but that didn't happen. So I ended up starting at 7 1/2 months. Better late than never? I apologize if this isn't super organized; EC can be a done a bajillion different ways so there is a lot to go over. Let's start with some EC basics.

      EC is not "potty training." You are not using rewards and punishments to elicit a behavior and the main goal is not to have a child who is completely toilet independent. EC is first and foremost about communicating with your baby. The example the Diaper Free Baby gives that made a lot of sense likens it to reading your baby's hunger and sleep cues (versus sleep training and scheduled feeding). It's baby-led elimination. It's based off the premise that newborns have a natural instinct to not soil themselves. Ever notice how new babies like to go as soon as you are trying to change them? That is the instinct at work. This is also culturally based. Diapers are very modern and very western. In other places, the practices we associate with EC are normal infant care practices, just like feeding them.
    So, the basic gist of EC is to create an awareness between you and your baby about their elimination needs so that you can help them to maintain the awareness of their bodily functions that they are born with. When we diaper babies, over time we essentially teach them to become accustomed to soiling themselves (since it goes against that natural instinct) and then have to un-teach that for conventional potty training. When you are aware of their elimination, you can give them an alternative place to pee or poop besides a diaper such as a potty, bowl, or toilet. The benefits are mainly allowing your baby to follow their natural instincts and becoming closer to your child through a new form of awareness and communication. However, many times EC also includes the added bonuses of less diaper use, and easier and earlier toilet independence.
     There are about a million different approaches to EC. You can do it full time or only occasionally. You can use diapers all the time, some times, or never at all. You can start on day one or wait until toddlerhood (although the book states that 3-8 months is the ideal starting time due to the child's abilities and the existence of that initial instinct). You can buy a bunch of props and gear or go minimalist. It really depends on your goals and needs.

    Our goals are pretty simple. I want to help Perrin maintain his awareness of his elimination and give him opportunities to potty outside of a diaper. I like the idea of learning his cues better and I am also hoping that it will make his transition to toilet independence smoother and faster since he will already be familiar with the process.
   The book suggests starting out with just an hour or so of diaper free time a day do let your baby get used to being naked. If he pees, cue him with a sound or word you intend on using to bring his attention to what is happening and letting him associate the action with the sound (we say "peepee" over and over again, almost like a baby chick sound and sign for 'toilet'). You can also pay attention when they have their diapers on and if they are obviously going to bathroom, cue as well and try to change them as soon as possible.
The first few days I aimed to give him at least an hour a day with no diaper. Now I usually let him go diaper free whenever we are home as long as I'm not wearing him or he's not napping.
   The book also gives suggestions for key times when babies usually pee so that you can try to "catch" the opportunity on the potty. After a day or two of diaper free time, I noticed Perrin usually goes after waking up from a nap, so now I give him a few minutes after waking up then let him sit on his potty for a bit. Also at the suggestion of the book, I offer a potty opportunity when I take him out of a carrier because babies generally don't like to go to the bathroom while being worn. So these are the two keys times where we try to put him on the potty, and then while home we provide lots of naked time. We still use diapers when we go out and when Perrin sleeps. It is totally possible to EC over night as well, but since Perrin sleep nurses in a side lying position and I barely have to roll over, I'm not willing to wake both of us up to try it. We also have only been focusing on pee. The book suggests starting with bowel movements since they are usually much more obvious than pee, but Perrin usually goes first thing in the morning as he's waking up and I don't want to rush around trying to get him on the potty.
    So basically we are just taking it slow and trying to have very low expectations, though I will say both Joey and I have been impressed by how much success we have had. Today, less than a week from starting, Perrin peed on the potty four times (plus twice on the floor :) ). I really think he is starting to trust that we will provide opportunities on the potty and as a result is developing a preference to not go in his diaper. Above all, this is a journey and a process- an experience to learn from. It's not supposed to be stressful for us or Perrin. If he doesn't want to sit on the potty, he doesn't have to. If he gets up and immediately pees on the floor, so be it. But I must say, he looks pretty adorable while he is on there.

   Oh, and before I forget- the potty itself. You can just hold the baby over the toilet or help support them on it, but I wanted a potty to keep in the living room so I didn't have to take him back and forth. You just use a bowl or something if you want. A friend recommended this Beco potty. It's made from recycled plant waste and is completely biodegradable. It's the perfect size for Perrin.

    I hope this explanation made at least a little sense. If have any questions, please feel free to ask!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Crunchy Confessions: #1 Clean Hippies

   I'm finally getting around to officially starting my series that I've been thinking of doing for a while (though I already did my vaccine post a few weeks ago). For those of you who are unaware, the term "crunchy" (derived from the concept of being "granola") is a slang label often used to refer to more natural minded individuals of varying degrees and interests. A neo-hippie, if you will. In all fairness, it's a pretty meaningless label. As Joey likes to lament, some people are "birth crunchy" or crunchy in certain aspects but don't seem to let the same philosophies affect other aspects of their lives. I myself used to take offense to the term, but have since learned to laugh at and embrace it. I'm fairly certain there is no official crunchy barometer (though this crunchy Moh's scale is a great start), but I once didn't get a yoga teaching position because I was "too granola" so I feel like I probably pass whatever arbitrary threshold exists.
  For some of you these topics may not seem crunchy at all (this will probably include some of our AZ pals. Maybe Holly and JB) and others may think we are f*cking insane. But these are some topics that have either garnered questions or concern from others, so they might be of interest to you. Either you'll gain insight into how other, stranger people live or you will take comfort in the knowledge that you are not alone.

  So here goes our first installation. Our hygiene practices may be slightly different from some people's. Mostly they revolve around two basic ideas- 1) That our bodies are usually healthiest and best functioning when left alone in their natural state. 2) Trying to limit our exposure to toxins and chemicals. So what does this look like for us?

  We didn't bathe Perrin until he was a month old. He was born, laid on my chest, covered with a blanket, and that was that. After one month, we started doing family bath time as just another activity, but we still have never used any kind of soap or product on him. Nothing but water. Putting off newborn baths has shown some pretty awesome health benefits. For one, the baths result in unnecessary separation of the mother-infant dyad during a super important time for bonding and breastfeeding. Also, infants who are bathed after birth have a harder time regulating body temperature. It can also interfere with the development of a healthy flora for the baby- one big advantage of a vaginal birth that more and more science is looking to to explain life long health trends. Finally, the vernix that covers the baby's skin at birth has antibacterial properties and can help keep baby protected from germs in their new world. Babies don't need soap. Their skin is sensitive and many products can be irritating. Rinsing with a little water is all they need. Speaking of bath water, we filter ours. No chlorine for us! The majority of toxins in the body enter through the skin.

  Also, Joey and I don't use soap very often. Only when we are especially dirty or smelly. I find that my skin is much clearer and healthy when I don't use soap. I had aspirations to go "no poo" for a while, but could never stick it out long enough for my scalp to find a good balance. So I just use non-toxic plant based shampoo. And instead of mousse or gel, I just scrunch in a little aloe vera.

  Deodorizing. Joey doesn't. He stopped using deodorant a while ago. He doesn't smell, I promise. You'd be amazed at how much a clean diet affects things like body odor. When he does get very sweaty, he just takes a shower or simply changes clothes. I still use a deodorant, but have not used antiperspirants in years due to the aluminum and other chemicals. Which reminds me...

  There a few key ingredients we actively avoid- aluminum, sodium lauryl sulfates, parabens, any fragrances and dyes, and fluoride. But fluoride? How do we clean our teeth? I make our toothpaste. Equal parts coconut oil (which is antibacterial) and baking soda, plus a little xylitol and peppermint oil. No pesky fluoride to increase aluminum absorption or interfere with bone density. No glycerin to prevent remineralizing of our teeth. Just minty fresh breath and sparkly white chompers.

  And my personal favorite- female hygiene. I gave up tampons and pads (which at best are wasteful and at worst are full of dioxins) about a year before I got pregnant with Perrin. Instead I use a menstrual cup, the Diva Cup actually. I found that although there was a bit of a learning curve it really wasn't that hard to figure out. And I love being able to go worry free for 12 hours without having to change anything out. Plus the money I save not having to buy tampons every month? Love it!

  I'm sure I'm forgetting a few other quirky items, but just know it most likely involves breastmilk or coconut oil.


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Sushi Dip

     Interrupting my other post AGAIN to address something else- something delicious. I haven't put any other recipes on here, but I'm really proud of this one and it seemed to go over well at the Super Bowl party debut, so here it is. Sushi Dip. We like to make sushi at home, but after making it we usually have no left over rice or nori, just all the other stuff. So last time I mixed all the extras up and put it on crackers and realized it was pretty tasty. I tweaked it a bit and added a few other things for the formal trial run, but the great thing about this dip is that you can customize it however you like.

Sushi Dip

One package cream cheese
One avocado
One tin of crab meat
Wasabi (to taste)
1/2 cup finely diced cucumber
1/2 cup shredded carrot

Mix cream cheese, avocado, and wasabi until smooth. Add crab meat and veggies and mix until combined.
Serve with crackers, toasted seaweed chips, and smoked salmon. Can also have pickled ginger and extra wasabi on the side.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Crunchy Confessions: The V-word That Isn't Vagina


   I was working on a completely different post to start off the Crunchy Confessions series, but then I found dumb on the internet and got side-tracked. So this is my vaccine post. Spoiler alert: we don't vaccinate. I haven't been vaccinated since 2000 (though I still show titers), Joey since 2005, and Perrin not at all. Commence your judging. This post was supposed to be a simple explanation of why we made this decision, for the benefit of those who are curious. But then this happened:,0,5576371.story#axzz2rHWps5hT

  So now I feel the need to address this article and unpack the misunderstandings that it represents before explaining our choices. Somethings I want to make clear- I think it's great that people are writing articles on this subject, even ones that are "pro-vaccine". I'm not anti-vaccine in any way. I just don't find them appropriate for our family. I think it is important that people openly discuss the subject and seek out as much information as possible to make their own decisions. That being said, I think those people who wish to present information should do their best to make sure it is accurate and not misrepresent it in anyway or rely on fear mongering to "win" the debate. Why is it even considered a debate, anyway? To me, a debate is a competition where someone comes out right. But that's not how this works. What is right for you may not be right for me. In fact, even when presented with the exact same information, you and I may come to different conclusions about what is appropriate. And that's ok- we are different people. That is part of this wonderful human experience. What's more is that this "us vs. them" mentality is incredibly inaccurate. There are people who vaccinate fully, including all the little extras like flu and HPV. There are people who get everything required for school and work, but nothing more. There are people who get everything required, but delay and separate on a modified schedule. There are people who selectively vaccinate getting some but not all that are recommended. And there are people who don't vaccinate at all. This isn't Westside Story; it's not about picking sides. So the reason that above article irks me is not because it is in favor of vaccines but because I feel it is poorly written and presented to purposefully misrepresent a few things.

   For starters, let's talk about that awesome map. This "devastating graphic" is supposed to show the toll of the "anti-vaccination movement." I'm not really sure there is a movement. I've never been invited to meetings or anything, but whatever. But if you take two seconds to read the map, you will realize that this depicts measles and whooping cough outbreaks across the globe. You know what it doesn't show? Which of these outbreaks occurred in non-vaccinated people. The whooping cough outbreaks in the U.S. for instance have largely been in vaccinated individuals. You know what else it doesn't show? The reason people were not vaccinated. The author later talks about the unavailability of the MMR vaccine in Africa. How exactly is my decision not to vaccinate my child responsible for drug shortages on the African continent? I am all for making vaccines available in African countries and I agree that they will save millions of lives. I would never argue for restricting anyone's access to vaccines. I understand that the decision not to vaccinate is a truly privileged one dependent on access to excellent medical care. So showing a map of disease prevalence and then blaming parents in the U.S. in one grand swoop just makes absolutely no sense and is incredibly inflammatory.
   Next we have one of my favorites- "But in the developed world it's an artifact of the anti-vaccination movement, which has associated the vaccine with autism." I have never met anyone who made the decision not to vaccinate because of autism. This is one of the most rampant misconceptions about parents who choose not to vaccinate. Are there people out there who do believe this? Sure. But that is in no way representative of everyone who makes that decision. Our reasons not to vaccinate, which I will address shortly, have nothing to do with autism. You may not agree with the decision I have made, but trying to make me out as a crazy conspiracy theorist is just rude. 
  And then we have the part that really pisses me off- "The lesson of all this is that vaccination is not an individual choice to be made by a parent for his or her own offspring." Excuse me...what? You really want to open that can of worms? Who exactly will be making the decision about what will be injected into my body against my will? What is worse is that this argument seems to be predicated on the idea that unvaccinated people are a threat to the total population, which is nonsense. This plays back to the theory of herd immunity, or the idea that once 95% of the population is vaccinated against a disease, the disease will not longer be able to exist. The only problem is that this theory has never been proven. Even if it had been theoretically viable in the past, the size of the global population and the ease of travel would make this impossible to achieve. If vaccines work, the vaccinated have nothing to fear from the rest of us. 
  Another common error that this author is making is that he seemingly uses "unvaccinated" to refer only to those individuals who actively decline vaccination. What few people realize is that a large portion of adults are "unvaccinated" without being aware of it. Unlike natural immunities, vaccines wear off overtime and require boosters. If you have not had regular boosters and haven't been checking your titers, there is a possibility that you are unvaccinated. 

   I would love to discuss the risks associated with vaccines and the negative externalities that can occur, but I really don't have the time right now and I would hate for people to think this is simply a vaccine-bashing post. So instead, I am going to explain the main reasons why we choose not to vaccinate and I will discuss this in terms of Perrin, since he is the only one of us who is completely unvaccinated. 

1. The eradication of diseases in many parts of the world has nothing to do with vaccines. Instead, many diseases disappeared because of improvements in sanitation and general health.
2. The mortality of many diseases was more a result of the inability to treat secondary infections such as pneumonia. The measles for instance is generally harmless in people with healthy immune systems. If by chance a patient does experience complications, modern medicine now has appropriate ways to treat them. Varicella is one of the most mild illnesses. The decision to vaccinate for varicella wasn't even due to public health- it was money. The push for the vaccines was to prevent parents from having to take time off to be with their kids, thereby loosing productivity for businesses.
3. Many diseases haven't been present in the U.S. for decades. Polio is a good example- add in that it is transmitted through fecal matter and there is almost 0% chance of Perrin ever coming in contact with the live virus.
4. Many diseases aren't even a risk to certain populations. Take Hep B for example. The first shot given to babies in the U.S. You know who is at risk for Hep B? Intravenous drug users and prostitutes. Seriously, the CDCs decision to administer Hep B at birth was based solely on the fact that it's hard to convince promiscuous drug addicts to schedule yearly exams. It was a decision made out of convenience, not necessity.
5. Common reactions to vaccines are fever, aches, and chills. The same, if not more, symptoms that present for young children had they actually contracted the disease. Why not just get the natural, life-long immunity?
6. The immune system is not fully functioning until after two years of age. There is reason to believe that in children under two, the immune system is not able to effectively integrate the vaccine and it may be damaging to overall immune development.
7. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of most vaccine preventable diseases.
8. You can always choose to vaccinate later on. Perrin can make the choice for himself when he is older. I can always change my mind. You can never unvaccinate. I am not comfortable injecting foreign substances into an unconsenting individual.

    So there you have it. There is not one vaccine preventable disease that I feel we have a reasonable chance of encountering that also presents a large enough threat to justify vaccinating for. Does this decision come with risks? Absolutely. So does the decision to vaccinate. Or drive a car. Or do any number of things. We make risk-analysis decisions everyday. Do people still die from these diseases in the U.S. ? Yes. You know what even more people die from? Heart disease. Cancer. But no one is up their neighbor's ass picking apart the different carcinogens they have in their home and what they are serving for dinner tonight. Maybe you aren't comfortable with the same risks that I am comfortable with, and that is ok. You want to get every vaccine in existence? Go for it! But don't get offended that I don't make the same decision. And for the love of God, don't blame me for a case of measles in Ethiopia.

Here are two other opinions that I feel explain the above pretty well.
This one is a blogger that also does not vaccinate, and she breaks down the risks of each disease and the corresponding vaccine.

This book, though the title sounds a bit juvenile, is actually not an "Anti-vaccine" book. In fact, the author's suggestion is a selective and delayed vaccine schedule. That being said, after reading it I still felt comfortable with our decision.