Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Please, dirty ob/gyn secrets

In the past week, I have read this blog post, which heavily praises a male OB who supported a mom in a VBAC after 3 previous c-sections.

I have also read this Washington Post article (and also this and this) about Nikita Levy, the male OB/gyn who committed suicide after being caught out for secretly filming and photographing his patients. And no, he wasn't working in some sketchy, no-name practice. He worked for Johns Hopkins.

I can't link to this because it was in Birth as an American Rite of Passage, but I have also read the birth story of a woman who had a male OB with major anger/control issues who repeatedly screamed at her while she was in labor and cut a huge, ugly episiotomy apparently for spite, since she would not consent to a c-section when there was nothing complicated going on with her labor.

I've also thought about my mother, who had an awesome first birth with a progressive, naturally-minded male OB, but who was severely abused and disrespected by all of the other male OBs she ever had to work with--hence why 3 of us, including me, were born at home with midwives.

What is to be done? I have written before about my general feelings on male ob/gyns. Yes, I'm aware that there are honest, hard-working, high-quality male ob/gyns in the world. I'm glad that they exist. I'm glad there are awesome, natural-friendly, VBAC supporting male OBs out there. Some of them have made all the difference for their patients. Some of them have helped women achieve their dream birth. Male ob/gyns can be very good doctors. But honestly, how as a woman can you make sure you're not seeing a Nikita Levy?

It's just hard for me to understand how so many women are comfortable with male care providers for their reproductive health. I feel really uncomfortable when other women casually talk about weekly "cervical" checks by their male OBs, or go into detail about their male OB's assessment of their vagina. And then there's the even more nauseating premarital gynecological exam recommended to young women in certain states out west--young LDS women who have probably never had any sexual encounters of any kind, and who are encouraged to have a gynecologist--often a male gynecologist--"stretch them out" before their wedding night so that their wedding night isn't painful. Wow, I can't believe I just got through typing up that description without vomiting. It is something I have been aware of for a long time, but has horrified and revolted me so much that I have rarely, if ever, been able to bear thinking about it.

We're talking about the most personal part of your body, and biologically, the only reason a male would have interest in/access to that part of a female is for sex. I think that a male who can successfully repress all sexuality when looking at and touching a woman's lady parts is the exception, not the rule. I'm not saying 100% professional male ob/gyns don't exist. I'm just saying...Nikita Levy created a lot of evidence about his secret rapes. There are probably thousands of other male ob/gyns who are just as creepy and sexually abusive but don't fill up 10 computer hard drives worth of images and video.

Okay, I'm going to say it--it's not probable. With the jacked-up sexuality of our culture and the INSANE porn industry in today's world, it is certain that there are thousands of other male ob/gyns who are just as creepy and sexually abusive as Nikita Levy. It is certain that many, many male ob/gyns get sexual pleasure out of examining their patients. In the Post article, a rep from Johns Hopkins said this was "such a unique situation." I don't agree. I don't think male ob/gyns just flip a switch and turn off their biology when they walk into an exam room. It is not impossible. I just don't think it's common.

This is all conjecture, of course. I doubt there have been surveys/studies done of male ob/gyns that ask, "Oh, by the way, do you get sexual pleasure out of doing pelvic exams on your patients?" Even if there were research done, what ob/gyn would ever admit it? It would be completely damning for them individually and for their colleagues as a whole. Nikita Levy killed himself after being caught.

So how can a woman ensure her own safety and privacy when it comes to reproductive health care? There's no easy answer, especially since most of Nikita Levy's patients loved and trusted him. But some possible ideas?

  • Choose midwife care or a high quality female ob/gyn
  • Only use a male ob/gyn if absolutely necessary--ie, female care providers are not available or cannot provide the particular medical care that you need 
  • Go to appointments with a spouse or friend? This may be more possible/comfortable for some people than others.
  • Minimize pelvic exams. Cervical checks during pregnancy really truly mean nothing and can do more harm than good. Sometime, I may write an entire blog entry about why I plan to never have a pelvic exam during pregnancy again. For non-pregnant state, the recommendation for a pap smear is every 3 years, so unless you have specific reason for concern, you shouldn't need a pelvic exam more often than that. 
  • I'm not saying you shouldn't be nice to your care provider, but...I dunno. If it's a male care provider, consider keeping things strictly, strictly business. It makes me feel pretty queasy to read about how all these women were confiding in Nikita Levy and telling him private emotional things all while he was sexually exploiting them. 
  • Be informed about what is supposed to happen during pelvic exams. Be informed about what instruments need to be around. (Nikita Levy was finally caught because a female colleague noticed an unusual pen hanging around his neck during appointments. Turned out to be a pen camera). Even if it feels awkward, ask questions about what is happening and make sure there is no extra or unexplained time taken.
  • Listen to your instincts and keep your creepo sensors set to high. Never hesitate to change care providers for any reason!
Yeah, those are just my thoughts. I'd love to hear some more ideas about this, because...I have felt really disconcerted by this news about Nikita Levy.

Some people may think I'm being paranoid, harsh, or overly cynical. But my mama didn't raise no fool.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Thank you, natural-friendly hospitals

So, the latest book I've been reading for my CAPPA childbirth educator course is Birth as an American Rite of Passage, by Robbie Davis-Floyd.  It's a very technical anthropological treatise on birth, definitely addressed to fellow anthropologists. Much of the jargon is unfamiliar to me. Robbie is quite thorough and analyzes every tiny detail of typical hospital birth and its impact, physiologically and anthropologically, on women. I have felt pretty depressed reading it, mostly because the first edition of it was published in 1992 and so little has changed. In fact, in many ways typical hospital birth has gotten worse. Reading it has made me despair of women ever rising up and taking charge of their births.

But despair is not productive. Hope is productive. I have to keep hoping, and I have to keep doing all that I can in my own sphere. So goes the mantra, anyway.

Based on her own research, Robbie also presents several different outlooks on birth and pregnancy. She categorizes these outlooks and analyzes them. She states, "Generally speaking, women who give birth in hospitals are seeking to be prepared but not to be 'natural,' and women who aspire to truly natural childbirth are choosing to give birth in freestanding birth centers or at home." She emphasizes a number of times that by choosing to give birth in a hospital, women are at least in some degree showing agreement with the technocratic birth philosophy of the hospital.

Is it possible to have a natural birth in the hospital? Is it possible to have an earthy, homey, happy, spiritual natural birth in the hospital? Is it possible to be in the hospital but not of the hospital?

Yes.

But it is not easy, and you have to be ready.

Many people know this already, which is great. But I think it's important to talk about, because many people still see natural birth and hospital birth as mutually exclusive. Many people still think that if you go to the hospital, that you are stuck laboring/giving birth on their terms. And that's just not true.

I have absolutely loved both of my natural hospital births. They have hands-down been the most exciting, beautiful, exhilarating, romantic, challenging, spiritual, and joyful experiences of my life. Nick and I have never felt so close, so united, so in love.

I have birthed in hospital instead of at home or at a birth center because both times, we've been eligible for Medicaid and so it was a choice between a 100% free birth or spending money we don't have on an out-of-hospital midwife. (Midwives are not expensive; in fact, they are RADICALLY more affordable than typical prenatal care/hospital birth. We're just in a stage in our lives where we don't have any money to spare). If you are drawn toward natural birth but are obliged to birth in hospital as I have been, here are some things that have helped me:

1. Be confident about birth and your body. If you have any fear at all, it will make you vulnerable to accepting unnecessary interventions. You need to utterly believe in your body and in your ability to give birth to a healthy, happy baby.

2. Get a care provider who respects you and regularly attends natural births. This may be a midwife, and this may be an OB. Whichever it is, do not be afraid to ask questions. Detailed questions about their own practices and about hospital policy. Ask if they have had patients before who did what you want to do in labor. Some care providers seem perfectly friendly...until you start asking questions or expressing opinions. If your care provider brushes off your questions or seems contrary to any of your desires for labor, switch care providers. If you have any doubt or any discomfort with your care provider, have the respect for yourself and for your baby to get out! It is never too late. My sister switched care providers at 37 weeks and had a beautiful natural birth to a healthy baby instead of the unnecessary C-section she was threatened with.

If your care provider is someone who is familiar with natural births and has low intervention rates, then you will be able to trust them if for some reason any particular intervention might be helpful. Most interventions most of the time just interfere and make things harder for mom and baby, but everything has its place. I know great natural birth stories that have involved vacuum or even episiotomy or induction. In each of those stories, the mother had a care provider that she knew was comfortable with natural birth. Not just a care provider she thought was nice, or that was gentle, or friendly--a care provider that actually knows how to assist a woman having a natural labor/birth.

3. Read books that offer an evidence-based critique of hospital birth. Some of these books are Pushed by Jennifer Block, Born in the USA by Marsden Wagner of the WHO, The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer, and of course, Birth as an American Rite of Passage. There are many more. My favorite is Pushed. I recommend reading a critique of hospital birth early in your pregnancy or before you're pregnant. If you are a feminist at all, then these books will make you angry. They will make you extremely upset. They will make you want to cry and scream.  I say to read these books because I think if you want to have a natural birth in the hospital, you need to be angry/disgusted enough to break up with the hospital, and then slowly come back to the point where you can be friends--guarded, wary friends, but friends. If you feel too trusting/comfortable with the hospital, you're pretty much guaranteed that you will get unnecessary interventions.

4. Read lots and lots of positive natural birth stories/materials. After you get super upset from reading critiques of hospital birth, you'll need to feel better. You'll need to be reminded that the point of all of this isn't to be mad at the hospital--it's to have an AMAZING birth experience that will change your life and will be the absolute healthiest for your baby. Anger is not an emotion you need to carry with you into labor. Anger at the system can help shape what you want for your birth, the way that heat helps you shape metal into a sword. But you can't use a sword while it's still red-hot, and you can't have that earthy, spiritual natural birth if you're super angry. When I was pregnant with Luke, I had major anxiety/anger issues about the hospital. It plagued me well into my second trimester. I finally read a section from Birthing From Within about making peace with your birth place that really helped me. I also read lots of wonderful birth stories on the Mama Birth blog. Reading natural birth stories is the only antidote for the poison of how birth is portrayed in our culture. You will find birth stories that inspire you. You will read perspectives that resonate with you. You will get ideas about labor comforts. You will get ideas about how to feel peace during labor. The more you read, the more you will see that no birth is the same.

5. Take a natural birth class with your birth partner. There's Bradley, Hypnobirthing, Birth Boot Camp, Birthing from Within, and lots of local, natural birth classes that don't associate themselves with any one method (when I am a childbirth educator, I will fit into that last category!). Find one that fits your schedule and your philosophy, shell out the money, and TAKE IT! There are about a billion reasons to do this, most important of which is that it gives you and whoever will be assisting you at your birth many chances to practice and talk deeply about birth. Start thinking about this early on, because many of these classes run for between 8-12 weeks and you want to be done before you're full term. So, you'll most likely start your class in the second trimester.

6. Deliver at a natural-friendly hospital. Guess what? The hospital nearest you might really suck for natural birth. It may be extremely busy and crowded, such that there is a time limit placed on how long women can labor before getting bullied/duped into labor-speeding interventions. The staff may be really unfamiliar with natural birth and have no idea how to assist you OR be completely antagonistic to you. There may be no resources for natural birth, such as birth balls or jetted tubs in the delivery room. There may be policies about IVs and continuous fetal monitoring that are extremely hard to buck. You want a place where women regularly have natural births--and a place with a jetted tub in each labor room! Water is REALLY IMPORTANT WHEN YOU'RE HAVING A NATURAL BIRTH.

I admire women who are strong enough to be the pioneer, to be the first woman in a hospital to buck a trend.  I love women and I believe women are inherently strong, but I also know women are  powerfully socialized to please and cooperate. In Birth...Passage, Robbie talks a lot about the psychological openness/vulnerability of the laboring woman. Reading her descriptions of this, I understood for the first time just why it is so difficult for women to resist when they are pressured over and over again to do interventions. You need to be able to stand up for yourself and what you want in labor, but it is very hard to fight while you are in labor. You don't want to birth in a hostile environment. Your body will rebel against it, and unless you are a particularly mighty woman, you will likely lose your natural birth. Both times, I have given birth at a hospital that was about half an hour away, and it was totally worth the drive. Birth is not an emergency, so don't feel obligated to be within 10 minutes of your birth place.

(7. Be prepared for how they will try to treat your baby. Both times, my labor and delivery were GREAT, but the second my baby was born the pathology claws came out again. Be prepared to say no, A LOT.)

There are other things that are important for preparing to have a natural birth, certainly, but I think these were some of the things that enabled me to have awesome births with extremely healthy, alert babies who nursed well and had absolutely no health issues--even in the hospital.

(If you are thinking about this on a personal level, I am always happy to talk about this in more detail. Feel free to email me). 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Thank you, Todd and Ray

Last night was pretty rough for sleep, because a mean cough was keeping poor Luke up. So, I started today feeling not so great. I wasn't successful getting baby girl to take a morning nap, which is always a little frustrating. Let's get out of the house, I thought. We'll go to open play at the rec center and everything will be great. Come home, have lunch, kids will be worn out and ready to nap...golden.

The rec center was fun, as usual. Luke didn't even get upset when we left, so I was feeling great. But...(you knew there was a but coming) then driving home I felt that sad, distinctive rumble of a tire going flat. My good spirits went flat with it.

I wish I could say that I was super awesome and capable and changed my own tire lickety-split. I was prepared to try, though I have never done it before. Baby girl had blessedly fallen asleep, and Luke was sitting patiently for the moment. I had the spare and everything out, and was kneeling dejectedly on the sidewalk, looking at the owner's manual diagrams. Genius me had gone out in February without a jacket, so my hands and arms felt like they'd been playing Tetris with the contents of a freezer. Will I even be physically strong enough to do this? I wondered.

But then Todd appeared. About my height, paint-spattered sweatshirt and work boots. "Do you need help?" he asked. I honestly hadn't even heard his massive pickup pull off the side of the road, I was so focused on the tire and manual. My mind immediately went hot from the friction of a million safety/instinct calculations going at once. My mother raised me and my sisters to have certain levels of paranoia. Just last night I had to go to Target with the kids when it was dark, and I got an employee to walk me out to my car (my sister narrowly missed a carjacking on an evening run to the grocery store with her baby. A spiritual impression to get in the car and lock the door even while her baby was still strapped to her in the Ergo is the only thing that saved her.) Was I willing to accept help from a man I didn't know?

In such a situation, you can only go by spiritual impressions. After a moment of awkward conversation and Todd pointing out that his father was there in the truck as well, I felt right accepting his help. I felt safe and incredibly grateful. I was able to take the kids out of the car and care for them while Todd jacked up the car and started removing the lug nuts.

Then came the humorous problem of the lug nut lock. The great thing about being young and having used cars is the many things you get to learn the hard way. Did we check/ask about a key for the lug nut lock when we bought our Fit Sport used a few months ago? No, of course not. So, even though I had a friendly neighborhood Samaritan right there, the spare couldn't be put on. The rim and tire couldn't be removed.

Todd's father, Ray, didn't miss a beat. He drove over to an auto parts store around the corner to find a lug nut lock. While he was gone, I found out that Todd and Ray aren't even from here; they're just in town doing some contract work and were willing to spend their lunch hour helping me.

Ray returned from the auto parts store. No lug nut key. But he bought a can of Fix-a-Flat. which seemed marvelously sci-fi to me. I didn't even know this stuff existed. By now my tired, hungry kiddos were getting impatient, and so it was so nice to be able to take care of them while Todd sprayed in the Fix-a-Flat. Then, we all went to a gas station near by and put extra air in the tire. When it was clear I could safely get home, Todd and Ray headed off to find lunch.

I tried to give them this nice box of chocolates I happened to have with me as a thank-you, but they'd have none of it. "Please," I said, "You made my day better, and these chocolates can make your day better." Ray insisted, "My day's better helping you."

I've always slightly dreaded having a flat tire, because in the back of my mind I've had the guilty knowledge that I'm not a responsible car owner who is facile with tire changes. Today could have degenerated quickly into an extended, horrible ordeal with tow companies and waiting around forever with the kids in the cold with no more snacks. But two Christian gentlemen were able to re-inflate my happy day as easily as Fix-a-Flat re-inflated my tire.

Thank you, thank you, Todd and Ray.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Please, pacifiers

This sucks.
Before I go off on my own rant, let's see what some breastfeeding books have to say about pacifiers:

The Politics of Breastfeeding: "It is remarkable how rare thumb or object sucking is in societies where unrestricted access to the breast is the norm. It has become socially acceptable for a baby to suck anything, be it bottle, dummy, soft toy, blanket, or the nearest adult finger while the ideal object, a breast, is denied."

Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding: "Pacifiers can also be the culprit for a slow weight gain. Do you ever give your baby a pacifier? If so, put it away. Any sucking that she does should be on your breast. If not, the pacifier is getting the stimulation that should be telling your breasts to make more milk. Don't forget that night feedings are important for delivering the most milk during a nursing session to your baby."

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding: "If she has fallen asleep nursing, it's partly because her level of cholecystokinin (CCK) has risen. In a newborn, a high level of this hormone makes a baby sleepy and tells her that she's full; a low level can wake her and tell her she's hungry. After maybe twenty minutes of sucking (not necessarily eating) your baby's CCK has risen enough to put her to sleep and give her a rest from all her hard work. About twenty minutes after she's stopped sucking, her CCK level has fallen again. Your baby may wake up, convinced she's never eaten before in her life, giving her a chance to "top off her tank" with renewed energy. Another sucking bout, another CCK rise, and she's likely to zonk out completely...Sucking on a pacifier releases CCK, too. A baby can fall asleep with a pacifier, thinking she's been fed. But really she's been fooled out of a meal, and your breasts have lost a feeding's worth of milk removal. Result: slower weight gain and lower supply.

Womanly Art, cont'd: "Pacifiers, also called dummies, have their place, but not necessarily in your baby's mouth. They were designed to substitute for your breast, and they sometimes do it too well...In the early weeks especially, if a baby wants to suck, he wants to eat, pure and simple. A pacifier is like a sugarless gum for someone who's trying to double his weight in a matter of months. It can reduce intake at a time when a baby is meant to grow quickly. Pacifiers are linked to early weaning, though the reason for the connection isn't clear. They may be associated with sucking problems, too, especially if they're started in the first few days, though again the reason isn't clear. Mothers who rely on pacifiers tend to develop fewer baby-calming skills of their own...Prolonged use can affect mouth development, raising a child's palate and crowding his teeth as well as narrowing his nasal passages and leading to an increased risk of sleep apnea and speech problems."

Did your baby have a lot of trouble with latch?
Did you have trouble with milk supply?
Did your baby gain weight slowly?
Did you "have to" supplement?
Do you feel like your baby or toddler "isn't cuddly?"
Has your toddler lagged at all with speech development?

Do you or did you use a pacifier?

Yes, pacifiers are germy and gross and cause all sorts of technical problems with breastfeeding and anatomy and speech. Parents seem to be increasingly aware of the problems of prolonged pacifier use; some try to take away the pacifier at a certain age, and some blow off the warnings with remarks like "They'll have to have braces anyway, so why does it matter if it messes up their teeth?" Some parents are aware and maybe even feel guilty or insecure about how much their child uses the pacifier, but struggle mightily with day-to-day functioning when they've tried to take it away.

It's upsetting to me how common pacifiers are and how much they undermine breastfeeding. It's upsetting to me that the AAP recommends pacifiers for nighttime instead of co-sleeping and nursing. But one point on which I wanted to wax philosophical is the line from Womanly Art, "Mothers who rely on pacifiers tend to develop fewer baby-calming skills of their own."

Here's the thing about pacifiers--they're not just substitute breasts. They are substitute mothers and fathers. Pacifiers don't just deny babies of milk and deny milk ducts of stimulation. Pacifiers (paired with infant car seats, strollers, cribs, swings, or bouncers, etc) deny babies of physical human contact. Pacifiers deny mothers and fathers of precious moments holding their baby close, whether in their own arms or through use of a baby-friendly cloth carrier like a ring-sling or wrap. Pacifiers make mothers and fathers bond less with their baby.

I am busy being a mom and don't get to perform vast studies on pacifier use, so fortunately other people have thought alike and have studied the effect of pacifiers on emotional maturity. Surprise, surprise, it's a negative impact. I couldn't find any studies about how using a pacifier impacts a mother's emotional connection with her baby. But I cringe every time I see a mom putting one of those things into a carseat-ridden baby. I always think, Just pick her up! Nurse him! Put her in a wrap! Rock him! Talk to her! Sing him a song! Anything, anything, anything but that freaking plastic plug! And anecdotally,  I have personally noticed a correlation between moms who routinely use pacifiers and moms who are willing to do cry-it-out. When the vast majority of mothers are already prevented from crucial, evolutionarily-tested post-birth hormonal bonding with their child because of epidurals and c-sections, what we don't need as a society is a piece of manufactured garbage to distance mothers and babies even further.

Sure, it's possible that there are routine pacifier users who somehow experience no ill effects for themselves or their babies. And there are probably people reading this who think, "Oh, I don't use it that much," or "It's not that serious; I still comfort my baby other ways, I still interact with my baby." When you use the pacifier, you gain a silent baby. But what are you losing? What is your baby losing? Every time you stick it in your baby's mouth, you could be interacting with/comforting them in a way that promotes bonding and physical, mental, and emotional development. You could be doing something else. The pacifier is just such a slippery slope. Even if parents start out with good intentions, like "Oh it's for the baby's comfort; she just wants to suck all the time." That illusion quickly gives way to the reality that pacifiers are for parents' convenience--not for babies' best interests. Compromising overall and dental health, breastfeeding, speech, and emotional development is not in a baby's best interest.

So is there any place for pacifiers? Again, let's see what The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding has to say about it. In the entire book, they only suggest one possible use for the pacifier--in the car. The car is kind of the worst place EVER for a naturally parented baby. They can't be held, nursed, rocked or wrapped, and when they are very little, auditory/visual stimulation doesn't do too much for them.

So yes, we do own a pacifier. It stays in the car, where it belongs, all of the time.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Thank you, Dr. Greene

Last night, we went to a Chinese New Year pot-luck. Everyone brought Asian food of some kind.

I have a two-year-old. When we went to this party, I did not bring him a yogurt pouch and crackers. I did not coax him into eating plain rice. I did not feed him Kraft Mac beforehand.

We went to the party, and he ate everything there, of his own free will. And he was happy about it.

This is the normal state of affairs with Luke. He loves good food. He loves fruits and vegetables of any variety, fresh or cooked. He loves the cuisine of the whole world. Ask him what is favorite food is, and he will tell you Indian food in all honesty. There is not even a hint of pickiness in him.

I'm not trying to brag. I don't think I am a particularly smart or awesome mom or that Luke is a particularly gifted child in the taste bud department. But I do think that pickiness is often an assumed trait of young children, and I am here to say that pickiness doesn't have to happen. Parents are in charge of palette development. What you feed your baby from day 1 of their existence--even their fetal existence--impacts their tastes.

I know there are other moms out there who have had great success with food and also don't have picky toddlers/children. I don't know what all factored into their decisions (and if you have a toddler that eats well I'd love to hear what you did!) but for me, I attribute almost all of Luke's vast palette to the book Feeding Baby Green, by Dr. Alan Greene.

Who is Dr. Greene? His website announces, "Dr. Greene is a graduate of Princeton University and the University of California at San Francisco. He entered primary care pediatrics in 1993, and is currently a clinical professor of pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine, attending pediatrician at Packard Children’s Hospital, and a senior fellow at the University of California San Francisco Center for the Health Professions."

That's a pretty impressive resume. So why would someone with all those credentials care so much about...baby food? Because, as I've discussed before, our nation has a serious problem with food and obesity, and it starts with babies and toddlers. There is a reason kids menus are all identical, ladies and gents.  There is a reason the Stroke Belt exists. We're not going to change the obesity numbers by cutting back on a few calories here or there.  Seriously! We're not!

Dr. Greene spends so much time and energy thinking, researching, and writing about baby food because baby food is really, really important to the health of an individual, the health of a family, and the health of a nation.

I know that not everyone gets really hyped up about food. Some people just don't really care about organic food vs. standard food. And that's the thing about Dr. Greene's book--I feel like the title is misleading, like people will assume it's just a treatise on organic food. And while he does talk about the benefits of organic food a bit, the primary thrust of the book is palette development and nutritional intelligence. A large portion of the book covers eating during pregnancy and breastfeeding. One really valuable component is that he does talk about formula, and how to achieve palette development even if your child is formula-fed. His wife had breast cancer while their youngest child was still nursing, and could no longer breastfeed, and so he personally had to find the best formula and the best way to do solids with a formula-fed baby. I'm glad that there is relevant info for formula-feeding moms, since that is the current majority by a long shot.

Some of the basic ideas in the book are...
-Starting babies on real solids, not processed solids (ie, don't use rice cereal and don't buy pre-made baby food!)
-Starting babies on food with texture, not uniform purees (mash it up by hand, not always with a food processor)
-Avoiding fruit/sweet solids for a while (we didn't feed Luke any fruit till he was about 9 months old, and didn't give him any refined sugar at all till he was after 1 year old. We still hardly ever give him sugary foods, and I can't think of anything we feed him that has artificial flavorings/colors...occasionally a little cereal as a snack?)
-Including spices and herbs, especially those found around the world, from the beginning! (I would cook Indian food for dinner and just mash it up for Luke if all the ingredients were age-safe!)

And there is so, so much more. Information about how many times to try a food, and how to make food fun and joyful and not stressful, and what health impacts various foods and seasonings have has all been priceless to me. And since he is a fellow scientist, Dr. Greene of course approaches all of this with lots of studies and research back-up. Feeding Baby Green is a happy read, not a dark expose. You read it and feel the stress of baby feeding just drain out of you.

If your child is already a picky eater, I am truly sorry. It seems really stressful and really frustrating. As a parent, you are told over and over and over to feed your child healthy foods, but what are you supposed to do when they seem to hate everything? I don't have any ideas about how to change that late into toddler-hood. I honestly don't know what sort of eater Luke would be if I hadn't been exposed to Dr. Greene's book.

But I do know that it is possible to feed your baby fabulous, flavorful food from the get-go. Renée is just starting on her journey with solids, and I am so excited to help her love good food. At the moment, I need to go put a sweet potato in the oven for her. Yum yum!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Thank you, Saucony

One of the most physically grueling tasks I do on a regular basis is going to Sam's Club. Luke sits in the cart, Renée rides in the Ergo. Slowly, the cart gets heavier...and heavier...and HEAVIER, until it is a genuine struggle to overcome the cart's static friction, and heaven help me when it comes to fine maneuvering. I think I bump/crash into someone every time I go there. And on days where I shop around lunch time and can't resist doubling back...and tripling back...and maybe even quadrupling back...for tasty samples, well--let's just say I cover a lot of territory while pushing that monstrosity, all with a ~20lb baby strapped to me. Not easy, as many moms can tell you!

Last week, as I ferried all my Sam's Club bounty into the house, I happened to notice my shoes. My beautiful, beautiful Saucony Originals. 

Saucony  Women's Jazz Low ProSaucony  Women's Jazz Low Pro
Saucony  Women's Jazz Original
My current Sauconys are mint green with dark, Crayola Jungle Green accents. That color combo is not being made anymore, but no worries--Saucony is constantly producing fun, new iterations of the Original. I am on my third pair. And besides the fun colors, one of the most important aesthetic features of the Original is that it scales well--as in, when a clerk brings me a pair in my size 9 or 9 1/2, it doesn't look like a clown shoe. If your foot is bigger than size 7 1/2 or 8, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Oh sure, the cute lil size 6 on display looks nice, but look out for the size 10! It might have an old woman with all her children living inside! I can verify that Sauconys look great all the way up the size scale. 

Why did I notice my Sauconys after the Sam's Club trip? It wasn't just their vibrant color. I noticed them because after all that hard work, my feet/calves were not tired or sore at all. To the contrary, they felt energized. I felt like I could walk around for hours more with no ill effects. I felt the same way when I was full-term pregnant with a 9lb, 3oz baby, grocery shopping and hauling a toddler all over the universe. 

There was a time in my life where I was without Sauconys. I needed a new pair, because my mother had, to my HORROR, thrown away my Sauconys while I was living in Europe (and for the record, I regretted not bringing them with me every Euro-city trompin' day). I thought Saucony had stopped producing Originals. Maybe they did for a time, or maybe I was mistaken? I'm not sure. This time spanned my last year and a half of college and my first year and a half as a mother. Those were dark days. I like to wear supportive shoes; I don't know if I have sensitive feet or what. But I really, really hate the look of athletic shoes for everyday wear (for me personally--because I am not athletic or sporty at all and I just think it looks bad with my wardrobe. Plenty of people can rock it). I was Sauconyless, adrift in a sea of Vans and Toms, which, while cute, CANNOT hold up under the pressures of bushwhacking around BYU with a backpack full of 1000-page biology textbooks! Neither can they properly prop up a pregnant pedestrian. 

Needless to say, I was one miserable mama. My feet and calves were always getting worn out. It was sad sad sad sad sad. 

But then, one miraculous day early in my pregnancy with Renée, I discovered that Saucony had amped up production of Originals again! There were many pairs to be had, both on their site and elsewhere. I deliberated over color for a long time, and with absolute rapture, put on my latest pair of Sauconys when they arrived in the mail.

I seriously contemplated at that time whether Saucony designer-ninjas had come in the night to create a mold of my foot--the Original just fits me soooo well. But considering the fact that I've known other people who are equally obsessed with the magical comfort+style of Originals...AND the fact that Originals have a full five star rating on saucony.com, Amazon, and Zappos...I'd say maybe it's more like Saucony designer-angels deigned to gift humanity with the casual shoe of the busy gods. THEY ARE SUPERNATURALLY COMFORTABLE. IT IS SERIOUSLY INSANE.

I think a nice pair of Originals would be perfect for:
Students of any kind--high school, college, med school
ALL MOTHERS. 
Anyone who works with children
Anyone who has an active job
Anyone who runs errands
Anyone.
ANYONE!

And no, Saucony is not giving me any sort of money for this entry. But I wouldn't even want money from them. I would just want a lifetime supply of Originals. Maybe if they happen to have a kooky executive, I could convince them to do a factory tour involving golden tickets, rivers of Originals, and the pure-in-heart getting to inherit the factory.

But no Oompa-Loompas. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Thank you, judgment

It's no surprise to anyone that I am a religious person. I'm pretty sure the phrase, "Hate the sin, not the sinner," is common to many Christian religions, not just The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Is that really possible? some people might wonder. Can you really befriend/associate with/love people if you don't approve of what they're doing?

Well, I sure hope so. Because there are an awful lot of people I love, who I consider my dearest friends, who do not share my religion and do not abide by the same precepts I do.

When it comes to pregnancy/birth/baby-raisin', my religion has only so much to say. The Book of Mormon doesn't cover baby sleep habits. Old Testament doesn't give the lowdown on formula vs. breastfeeding. Or birthing positions. So, as a mother, where do I look to make a call on these subjects? Friends and family? My doctor? AAP? ACOG? My own feelings?

None of those things. Maybe it's because I majored in biology and I'm a nerd and I love science, but when I need to make a call about what is best for my children I look to evolution.

Why do I exercise and eat healthy when pregnant? Evolution.
Why do I see midwives instead of OBs? Evolution.
Why do I birth naturally? Evolution.
Why do I co-sleep? Evolution.
Why do I breastfeed exclusively? Evolution.
Why do I extend breastfeeding?
Why do I not use pacifiers?
Why do I not sleep train?
Why do I wear my baby?
Why do I feed my babies hand-mashed bits of foods we eat and never rice cereal or canned baby food?

The human race is God's creation. I believe He guided the way we evolved in general and the way we evolved to raise our young in specific. And unfortunately, the current American way of baby-raising does not coincide with human evolution. So, in my mind, it doesn't coincide with the models God provided us for giving birth and caring for young children. And yes, it does make a difference to our children whether how we treat them matches up with evolution-tested best practices.

The human race is God's creation. I don't believe God gave us broken bodies. Occasionally, yes, there are struggles with the body that individuals have to overcome. On rare occasions, c-sections are truly needed. On equally rare occasions, women can't breastfeed their baby for a true, biological reason. But when you load up a whole cart full of anti-evolution practices (like inductions, epidurals, pacifiers, exclusive crib sleeping...) what you're really buying is a body that can't function the way that it evolved to. A labor that doesn't progress because of drugs and bad positioning. A milk supply that's  not enough because it was never stimulated enough. A baby that doesn't gain weight very well because of ill-advised breastfeeding practices. The list goes on and on.

The human race is God's creation. We got to where we are as a species with God's hand. It is utterly laughable to me to think that we, as a small, hairless, toothless, sightless, scentless, clawless, strengthless species with our weak young could have ever hacked it in the animal world without help from God. I don't care how big our brains are or how advanced our tools became. I know human evolution happened, but without God figuring in, it just doesn't make sense at all. That being said, our bodies did not evolve so that women and babies would just die in childbirth left and right. Our bodies did not evolve so that women would require wet  nurses all the time until formula was invented. If you believe either of those myths, I refer you to The Politics of Breastfeeding. Evolution didn't make it that way, and God didn't make it that way.

The human race is God's creation. We are individuals and we make our own choices. It's meant to be that way. Reading this blog, especially lately, you might think I am judgmental of other parents. I definitely am judgmental--of parenting practices, not of other parents. "Hate the parenting, not the parent," is a reality for me. I love and admire many fellow moms for a variety of reasons, regardless of whether we make the same choices. I am not a perfect mother, and not all of my choices are perfect. Sometimes, I feel so aware of my weaknesses and inadequacies that it is hard to move. It's hard to go to sleep at night and know that tomorrow I will still be such a horribly flawed mother and wife.

I am not perfect, and I don't expect everyone to do things exactly the same as me. I don't expect everyone to breastfeed for the same amount of time I did. I don't expect everyone to cope with labor the same way I did. But I don't think that all parenting options are equal. I don't think we as moms should just pat each other on the back and say, "We all love our kids and we're all just doing SUCH A GREAT JOB!" If there's anything I can't stand, it's a blog entry by a mom that's full of feelgoodery and don'tfeelguiltyisms that gets reposted on Facebook a thousand times. I think we should feel bad sometimes about our parenting. I think we should feel guilty sometimes. We should pay attention to parenting habits that make us feel bad or guilty, not post on Facebook about what we're doing and expect our friends to swoop in and say, "Oh you're such a good mom! Be strong. Don't give up, crying it out is worth it. You're so awesome. You can do it."

Because guess what? There are things I could do better. There are things you could do better. There are things I'm doing that I want to stop, that I am really trying to stop, because they are not good for my children. There are things you are doing that you should stop, because they are not good for your children. Sometimes, I feel like there is this worship of The Mother as an entity, as if a mother can do no wrong and should only be propped up and given emotional bon-bons. Mothers can and do make mistakes, and the human race didn't get where it is by mothers endlessly complimenting each other and not trying to make positive changes.

While religion, evolution, and scientific studies (and I do mean the actual studies, not "scientific" organizations like AAP and ACOG. They're highly suspect, but I'll address that another time) can't tell us every single thing we should do for our children at every stage, they can tell us certain things not to do. They can tell us certain things that we ought to do. They can provide something more than just our own judgment as a basis for our decisions.