All my feels about the Measles

My princess Aurora is 7 (!!) months old. Happy, healthy, home birthed, breastfed …. and fully vaccinated.

And I’m mildly terrified.

Babies cannot receive the MMR vaccine until they are 12 months old, per the CDC recommended vaccine schedule. That means, in the midst of a growing outbreak, including every state surrounding ours (one of two ways Wisconsin is ahead of Minnesota … that and alcohol sales on Sundays), my baby is at the mercy of the herd for another 5 months.

New Case Of Measles Reported At Santa Monica Infant Toddler Center

This is the stuff my anxiety is made of.

My fear means that even though our family is fully vaccinated, I find myself circumscribing activities. No church. Baby stays home when I go to breastfeeding support groups. Can’t decide if story time is too risky. A sigh of relief when daycare confirms all the kids follow the vaccine schedule.

The science is clear that vaccines are effective – when we all participate. High levels of participation made it safe for our babies too young to be vaccinated to be out in the world. High levels of participation made it relatively safe to decline vaccines for a long time – I understand that it can seem a little silly to vaccinate against a disease considered eliminated in your community, especially if you don’t plan to travel. But our world is small and moves fast. How wonderful! I can hop on a plane and take my kids places I never dreamed I would be able to! How terrifying, how easy it is to bring a vaccine preventable disease home.

How easy to pass it to my baby.

How do I best protect her? Wash our hands. Breastfeed on demand. And now, stay home.

Honestly, I don’t expect folks to change their stance based on my little blog post. I honestly don’t expect anyone to run out and vaccinate their kids to help protect my peanut. But if you notice she’s out and about less, if you miss her smiley face, now you know why.

Please be gentle with me. I’m terrified.

For a more reasoned approach, Seattle Mama Doc covers measles outbreak with babies at home.

(Mommy) War is Over, If You Want It.

Or: why I’m not into the formula commercial everyone is sharing.

Infant formula is a life saving gift. Throughout human history, there have been families that could not or did not provide their own human milk for their children. Substitutions were made with varying levels of success. The development of infant formula as a pharmaceutical product no doubt is life giving to to children whose parents cannot, for a number of reasons, provide human milk. Furthermore, families make a number of choices every day based on their unique needs, desires, cultural preferences, and resources. There will always be parents who will desire or require a substitute to human milk, and infant formula is a modern miracle.

But the mommy wars? That’s bull shit.

Let me be clear: I don’t care. If you are not harming your child, I really don’t care. If you think I am judging you when I breastfeed and you use formula, when I refuse pain medication and you loved your epidural, when I whip out cloth diapers and you grab you disposables, allow me to be very clear: I do not care. I have my own family to worry about, my own struggles, my own bodily needs.

The “mommy wars” are nothing more than:

1) Brilliant marketing.

2) A patriarchal ploy to keep us distracted from unifying in meaningful ways to actually improve the well-being of childbearing people and parents.

No parent is safe, we all find ourselves caught in the cross hairs. I had a homebirth, I breastfeed, I bed share. I went back to school at two weeks postpartum. My kids go to day care. I have pumped on soooo many conference calls.

The mommy wars exist because marketers and media want to distract us from the larger issues that keep childbearing people and parents down. The language of choice can easily distract us from a lack of choices with regard to combining work or education, parenting, and infant feeding. If you can call it “choice,” that excuses any societal responsibility for creating more just structures for birth, infant feeding, and infant care. If formula is a “choice,” then we don’t have to make sure everyone has access to high quality breastfeeding support and education. If working is a “choice,” then who cares about paid maternity leave or adequate breaks and space to express breastmilk? And if it’s a “choice,” you can separate people along those lines. And if we are separate, we are less powerful.

Keep in mind that when a formula company makes a commercial that encourages us to embrace the sisterhood of motherhood, they are not a benevolent voice for reason – they are trying to sell you their product. And I’m not trying to vilify Similac, or formula manufacturers in general, but the point of a commercial is to sell a company’s product. And it’s even better for them if they don’t have to pay for airtime, but can capitalize on the “Awww…” factor and get bloggers, Tweeters, and Facebook land to do it for them. (Look, even I’m doing it right now. Well played, Similac!) Just as distribution of infant formula samples are not a benevolent gift from formula manufacturers, they are marketing tools to encourage brand loyalty. Formula manufacturers are corporations, their goal is to make money. Making you feel good about buying their product makes them money. Creating warm fuzzy associations makes them money. Attaching an air of approval from the medical profession makes their product seem like a better choice than others.

Corporations want to make money. I’m not even judging them for that. That is the purpose of a business. But let’s not pretend it’s any more than that. Even the HoneyMaid commercial with two dads, as warm and fuzzy as it made me feel inside, was designed to appeal to a certain consumer (like me) to encourage them to buy their product – and it worked!

In the case of infant formula, who pays? Families that rely on infant formula. And they have to pay an extraordinary amount to subsidize clever advertising and free gift bags. Who benefits from inadequate support for breastfeeding? Formula manufacturers. How is that fair to families trying to feed their babies?

You can keep people busy if you convince them that they need to be on the defensive because someone is inevitably judging them. You can shame people into silence about their choices for fear of being perceived as “judgmental.” You can get people to buy your product. And in it’s own backhanded way, when Similac calls for an end to the mommy wars, it is continuing false dichotomies about who is a good parent and perpetuating the myth that by examining the options presented to us, we are “judging” those who need or want a different path, navigating the complexities of parenting in a culture that doesn’t value caring labor.

Similac is selling one thing: formula. Not sisterhood, not solidarity.

Confidential to formula feeding moms: It’s really, really true. You ARE a good parent. You will not get a whiff of judgement from me. You feed your child with love and care. I trust you – implicitly and explicity – to do what is best for you. I do not second guess. But even more importantly: you don’t need my approval.

The World My Son Will Inherit: Pink Toes

Real Men Wear Pink

Real Men Wear Pink

J. Crew ad stirs up controversy with pink nail polish

When I heard the teaser for this on the Today Show this morning, my first thought was “OMG, this is NEWS?”  I mean, really, do we have nothing more important to discuss than some kid’s toes are painted pink?  How can this be important enough to warrant coverage?

I read the little blog linked above, then I read the comments.  Hold on to your lunch.

It’s not just the color that’s a concern, although it certainly doesn’t help.  (I better not let them into our kitchen, with the PINK Kitchen Aid appliances that Evan brought into the marriage.  He gets the most use out of the mixer when making his award-winning pie.) Playing with our sons when they want to mimic us is leading them down the path to gender confusion, epic destruction that will keep him from getting a job on Wall Street (gasp!), make him gay (horror!) or force him to be transgender (OH SH*T!).

I had no idea this was a problem.  Liam is obsessed with my pearls, barettes, and sunglasses.  I gave him one of my old purses so he could have his own bag and stop stealing mine.  In fact, this is such a common phenomenon that his daycare has a large selection of old purses for kids to cart around.  To be fair, he’s also obsessed with Dad’s hat, wallet, glasses, and shoes.  He’s a toddler.  He’s curious.  He mimics everything.  Which is great when he wants to brush his teeth with us, less great when he steals our phones.  It really, honestly, never occurred to me that his insistence on wearing my scarves was anything more than that.

I wrote a little about this on the From the Pews in the Back blog:

Anything associated with women and femininity is met with derision. The obsession with maintaining masculinity has even, tragically, led to a child’s death.

It seems to me (and maybe I’m just reading too much into it) that there’s still a deep, misogynistic undercurrent in our culture that sees anything we code as “feminine” as weak, bad, yucky, yet powerful enough to destroy a masculine identity.  Stories like this stir it up and bring it to the surface.  It shows how fragile and rigid masculinity is in our culture.  There’s no room for creativity and play.

No doubt, the photo in question was staged for the ad.  But I imagine the scenario that inspired it went something like this:

“Mom, whatareya doing?’

“Painting my toenails.”

“Willyoupaintmine?  Willyoupaintmine?  Willyoupaintmine? Pleeeeeeease??”

“HOLY BUCKETS KID.  Okay, come here.”

Kids like to dress up, pretend, be goofy and creative.  How many boys have played dress up or Barbie with their sisters and grew up to be straight macho men?  We dressed up my little bothers all the time (sorry boys), and while I can’t call them normal (ha, ha), they’ve turned out pretty good so far.

But, the gay!  What if the boy in this ad, or my kid, grows and turns out GAY?

Who cares?

If you have a problem with some kid growing up to be gay, the problem might be with you.

Comment turned post: Why I chose natural birth

The NYT Motherlode blog posted “Debating Home Birth,” following a flame war on the parenting website Babble that ended up pulling in two of the most recognizable names to those who follow that debate in the US: Dr. Amy Teuter of The Skeptical OB and midwife Ina May Gaskin, founder of The Farm Midwifery Center in Tennessee (which, it should be noted, has low cesarean section and maternal mortality rates that should be studied by hospitals everywhere).  I wasn’t involved in this wild flame war.  I try to avoid becoming wrapped up in cases of people being wrong on the internets.

Someone is wrong on the internet.

It’s a problem that will never go away.  But when I read Dr. Amy’s comment on Motherlode, I had to reply.

This isn’t a post about numbers.  This isn’t a post about the maternal mortality rate – those startling and disturbing numbers have been reported over and over.  This isn’t even a post about how a gender studies nerd banged her head against the keyboard over the continued misuse of the term “radical feminism” to describe any sort of feminism the author doesn’t like, and that it’s not the same as the essentialist feminism that Dr. Amy dislikes (as do I) so much.  This is about why I chose a natural, low-intervention birth.  I’m giving Dr. Amy the benefit of the doubt that she has simply only encountered those in the natural childbirth “movement” who fit her view of it.  I’ll give it once, state my case, and let it be after that.

My spouse and I are rational people.  Arguably, he’s more rational than me.  I’m the one who insists on garden gnomes to ensure a bumper crop of lettuce and cilantro on the porch.  But we’re pretty average when it comes to healthcare.  We visit a local family practice clinic run by a local university health system.  We follow the CDC vaccine schedule.

I didn’t want a natural birth for any spiritual reason, or to prove or lay claim to some essential “womanliness.”  I wanted a natural birth because I didn’t want a cesarean section.  I wanted to breastfeed.  From my reading and research, everything I found showed that getting an epidural could reduce those chances.  So, rationally, what would be the best way for me to meet those goals?  Forgo the epidural, prepare for a natural birth.

I should insert here the caveat that I am also aware of the privilege and plain dumb luck that played into my ability to meet these goals.  I was already interested in natural birth, in the process of becoming a doula.  My spouse had a job with great health coverage, and I found out I was pregnant during open enrollment, so we could switch our coverage to a plan that covered midwife attending births at a local hospital. Heck, I HAD health insurance, which is lucky in and of itself!  We were able to afford private childbirth education classes with a local Bradley instructor.  I could afford healthy food.  I could take time off for prenatal appointments.

I was also a voracious reader.  Every book I could get my hand on from the library or our childbirth educator or the local La Leche League.  I exercised.  I ate very carefully (once I got past the morning sickness and Taco Bell craving phase).

I was healthy, and an informed consumer of my healthcare.  My pregnancy WASN’T a disease, it was the healthy function of a healthy body.  It didn’t require the management of a surgeon.  It needed the supervision of someone who understood that it was a normal, healthy function, and who could be aware of potential dangers, but also aware of the relative low risk.  That person was a midwife.  Frankly, it seems irrational to me to treat pregnancy and birth as a catastrophe just waiting to happen when, most of the time, it’s just … not.  It’s not irrational to desire a healthy outcome for both myself and my child, both from birth and for the initiation of breastfeeding.

“In nature, women give birth in agony,” Dr. Amy writes.  But I didn’t.  I was in labor for 24 hours, pushing for the last 4, and I wouldn’t describe it as agony.  In the early first stage, I labored at home, knit, grocery shopped, bounced on my yoga ball, talked to my mom, sister, and friends.  I carbo-loaded.  I took a bath.  Once at the hospital, I walked, took a bath, ate and drank and moved as I chose.  I was exhausted.  It was hard.  Sometimes it hurt.  Sometimes it hurt a LOT.  But so does running a marathon.  So does doing the Ironman.  And when it was over, it was over, and I was fully aware and engaged in what was happening.  And Liam, well, he was perfect, obviously (but really, what shiny little newborn isn’t?).  I felt good, strong, happy.

Family immediately after birth

And Dr. Amy, in declaring that women should “take back” childbirth from the extreme minority that labor without pain medication and/or birth outside of a hospital, seems to deny the existence of those of us who don’t fit into her worldview.  Furthermore, by pushing us aside, she further denies those women who have been brutalized -brutalized- by doctors and hospital systems, and as a result feel that their only option for a safe birth is outside of those systems.  It ignores that cesarean sections are major abdominal surgery that come with their own risks.  Yes, I know women that benefited from quick access to surgery.  I think we all do.  And I can’t say how grateful I am that they had that option and are healthy and happy.  And that’s what cesareans are for, not at the rate many hospitals parcel them out.

As many of the commenters at Motherlode point out, perhaps there’s a middle way – giving pregnant and laboring patients more options in midwife attended, low-intervention birth in a hospital setting.  Perhaps there could be a meeting of the minds between OBs, midwives of all stripes, birthing people, and public health experts to find a way forward that would ensure the health and dignity of the birthing experience for all, addressing the roots of racial disparities in maternal and neonatal health, and overly high cesarean rates.

But Dr. Amy isn’t fostering that conversation by calling me irrational for desiring and having a healthy, normal, natural birth.

Win a Sling for Christmas!

Rixa at Stand and Deliver is giving away two beautiful handmade slings from her Second Womb Slings.  I’ve long lusted after Rixa’s gorgeous slings (even before becoming pregnant), but I can’t decide what to do if I win one!  Should I keep it, or share the babywearing love with our new nephew?

For the deets on how to enter, head over to Stand and Deliver.

Recycled Diapers

So, I finally got the sewing machine out this weekend to fix the velcro tabs on some of our Kushies all-in-one diapers.  I got these very well loved diapers on Diaper Swappers for a song when I was pregnant with Liam.  These diapers had already had their waterproof covers replaced by the previous family’s dad by the time they got to me.

Well loved, rescued diapers.

They aren’t the prettiest diapers, but they fit Liam well and are as easy to use as disposables.  On some of the re-covered diapers, the velcro tabs were starting to come apart, which was a quick and easy fix.

Evan loves cloth diapers because they’re cheap.  I love them because they’re so much easier on the planet.  These re-loved diapers meet everyone’s needs.  Fix the tabs, save some bucks, keep them out of the trash.  Everyone’s happy!

I love recycling, reusing, and repurposing things, but especially baby things.  My obsessive watching of “16 and Pregnant” has led me to believe that it’s quite possible no one else buys anything used for their kids (except the Duggars … yeah, I watched a lot of bad TV during maternity leave).  I get a lot of satisfaction from keeping our child’s impact on the earth as low as we can, from saving money that would otherwise (literally) go in the trash, and opting out of the formal economy whenever I can.

Things and Stuff

So I’ve let my blog languish, and now that Solstice and Christmas and New Year are around the corner, perhaps it’s a good time to take stock of what we’ve been up to here …

Liam crawls, and walks, and talks. Yes, the last developmental update was that he was almost crawling, but he quickly took off on all fours.  Two weeks before his first birthday, he delighted us all by walking across the kitchen one evening after Evan got home from work.  His vocabulary includes Mama, Dad, yeah, dog, more, and that.

I’m back on student mode.  I made the switch to part time consulting so that I could spend more time with Liam and go back to school to work toward my goals of being a doula, childbirth educator, and IBCLC.  I finished the coursework for the CBE certification through Aviva Institute and basically just need my certifying births to finish my doula certification through Birth Arts International.  I’m also slowly working my way through the coursework I need to sit for the IBCLC exam.  I aced Medical Terminology and Anatomy and Physiology 1, also through Aviva Institute, and start A&P 2 on January 3.  This also means that I’m currently in the process of writing a six week CBE curriculum.  More on that in another post …

Holidays! Grammy and Grandpa, along with Auntie and Uncles, came to visit for Thanksgiving.  We had an awesome dinner, busting out some new recipes in the crock pot and baking Martha Stewart’s carrot cupcakes for Liam’s first birthday.  The only thing that didn’t go according to plan was how the norovirus cascaded through the entire crew, including me.  We gave Grammy and Grandpa a donut pan as an early Christmas gift, and it looks like they are having lots of fun with it! We’re planning on visiting the Minnesota family for Christmas, and will hopefully be able to introduce Liam to some of our Twin Cities and central MN friends while we’re there.

I’m gonna work on giving this blog a bit more love as an early New Year’s resolution.  I’ve got lots of stuff to post about – CBE, knitting, thoughts on milk sharing.  Stay tuned!