Sunday, October 24, 2010

Birth Stories

There are lots of types of blog posts that I like to read: funny, serious, life changing, overcoming challenges, funny, but one of my favourite narratives is the birth story. There's a birth story bonanza going on at Mommypotamus, go on and check it out!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dropping some products

I remember a couple of years ago, I could go to the drug store and buy something I allegedly needed at least twice a week. Today I was in a drug store and bought socks and a baby toothbrush, and wandered around looking for something else I needed. Couldn't find a thing. (The baby keeps hiding her toothbrush!)

First, my tweeps, Amber and Amber, inspired me to stop using shampoo. I have been using a water and baking soda solution to wash and apple cider vinegar to condition my hair for a couple of months and I love it. I had a link with some great #nopoo troubleshooting tips but I can't find it; this page has some helpful ideas but is less comprehensive than the page I misplaced. Both Ambers have good info on how to wash and condition your hair this way. Each head is different: you'll need to experiment a bit to get it right for you.

A lot of the #nopoo people go on about how their hair is nicer without shampoo. I'm not sure if my hair is softer or nicer: it might be, but it might be that I want it to be. What is indisputable, and DH even commented on before I told him I'd stopped using shampoo, is my horrendous dandruff has totally gone away. I used to be very uncomfortable about the snowfall from my shoulders, and it especially made me crazy when I was wearing black, which I do a lot. A couple of weeks into the #nopoo experiment and it's gone. Not a flake. Awesome.

I've also stopped using antiperspirant. Instead, I'm using a paste of baking soda and coconut oil. I'm a bit meh about this, as it doesn't have the redeeming quality of no dandruff. Of course, I don't have armpit dander that I am aware of... It's more of a 12 - 15 hour thing. After 24 hours of BS/CO, I'm a bit stinky. But I'm using less plastic and putting less chemicals on my body and into the environment, so a wee bit of stinky isn't the end of the world.

Finally, I've also dropped facial wash. I'm using honey to wash my face. No really. Amber also inspired me to try this, and I totally dig it. We are calling it #honeyface. As noted in yesterday's post on the post-partum body, I have adult acne going on again, but I did when using expensive product on my face, so it's just fine. I miss using retinol on my face: it was awesome for the pimples, but apparently it can cause birth defects. Since our method of birth control is a bit sketchy, I'm not seeking out more retinol for the moment.

After washing my face with honey, my face feels clean but not tight and thirsty as it often does after commercial cleansers.

So here's my question: the other big chemical stuff I'm using is to clean my teeth: what are you crunchy people using instead of mainstream toothpaste/mouthwash/floss? I assume these products are also chemical laden and problematic and that I just haven't read about why yet. There is certainly a lot of packaging involved. I have used a BS/peroxide combo to clean my teeth from time to time but it tastes seriously nasty. Any recommendations out there?

Also, any questions from would be nopoo-ers or honeyface-ers?

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Post-Partum Body

So since my post on weird pregnancy symptoms is by far and away the most popular post ever, on my wee blog (50% of all traffic, thanks to accidentally hitting on a popular search term), I've been meaning to write a bit about what's happened since.
  • Regarding what I wrote about hair loss: during pregnancy I may or may not have stopped losing hair. About four months after I gave birth, WHOMP out went half my hair. Seriously, there was so much hair falling out of my head that DH and I were worried I was going bald. The hairstyle wasn't noticeably affected, to me at any rate. Ask my hair stylist if you want to know for sure.
  • All that stuff I mentioned about darker body hair and moles: no change. Ahem.
  • Belly: still no stretch marks, but poochy and jiggly. I haven't done a lot to try to change it. I've been exercising intermittently and eating like I'm still pregnant but with the addition of a moderate amount of wine... so... no change expected.
  • Breasts: fourteen months of breastfeeding and every once in awhile, I look in the mirror and say 'hey I've finally got the cleavage I've always wanted. Meh.' 
  • Lady bits: the small tear took longer than I expected to fully heal. And by fully heal, well, I'm not going to explain that. But it was six months or so before... I was going to say back in the saddle but that's not quite right. Sad face.
  • Behind the lady bits: also, the side effects of my intestinal slow down took a long time to heal. I wouldn't say things are totally back to my pre-pregnancy state even now but thankfully a lot better. 
  • Birth control: around one year post-partum, menstruation returned for me (thank you lactational amenorrhea!) so we gave up the condoms (yay!) and I went back on the pill. Or rather, I thought my period had returned. So far she's made only one appearance. At any rate, being back on the pill has changed my...
  • Skin! Nasty old adult acne that I used to get while on the pill, if not using retinol, is back with a vengeance. Ah well.
A couple notes on the post-partum mind:
  • I was never much for horror and suspense genre entertainment. I find it totally unwatchable now. I am writing this with an episode of Bones running in the background. The storyline involves a kidnapped 8 year old boy. I can barely tolerate it and it helps to be distracted by writing this and watching the twitterstream flow by. I'm just watching for the shots of DC. I should watch Legally Blonde or something instead. Blog posts about miscarriage and sick children are pretty much guaranteed to get me bawling.
  • Don't get me started on long distance commercials. I will cry at the drop of a hanky, or the sound of a kid saying 'Mom?'
  • Pre-birth, I gave myself a manicure every Sunday night, and a pedicure every two weeks. I think I've half heartedly painted my nails three or four times in the past year. I miss it but I often can't be bothered. 
Poor kidnapped kid in Bones had a finger cut off. I want to throw up.

Speaking of nauseated, after almost a year of unplanned bedsharing with the baby, I love it. It made life easier and mornings are so snuggly and delicious with the baby right there. She wakes up in such a happy mood. Oh right, on nauseated: I just feel sad for the babies being left alone to cry themselves to sleep every night. I wish I could snuggle them all. 

Some of these things have been a surprise, some not so much. All of them, I hardly notice, especially when I'm schmooshing my baby girl!

What has your post-partum or post-adoption body, mind and life been like?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Magical Anti-Fungal Breastmilk

No really.

I too have been told the wonders of the human breastmilk. That it'll cure eye infections, skin rashes, stomach upset, maybe even cancer... You name it, some has said breastmilk will cure it.

I listen, and think about it, and I got to the point where I think perhaps a bit too much is being made over the wonders of human breastmilk. It can probably do some of those things, some of the time, depending on the type of infection or cancer it's being asked to fight. I'd love to be proven wrong.

As I've mentioned, I believe in science, and figure I'd wait until I saw some a few peer reviewed papers showing support for these things before I started going off on the other powers of human breastmilk. I haven't gone looking for them, I'm busy. I'm sure some of them are there.

Of course human breastmilk is good for babies and mamas, and useful too. But so much magic and other benefits? I was a little skeptical.

The bottle, insert & sippy top
Well, we feed the little one pumped human breastmilk in a Born Free (tm) nipple topped bottle when she's in daycare, and we feed her filtered tap water in a Born Free (tm) sippy cup topped bottle at daycare and at home. The nipple bottle has been our preferred for probably ten months. The sippy cup bottle is new to the home, probably as of about four months ago.

Both bottle configurations require an insert. It's part of their probably patented bottle design that is supposed to reduce colic or something. All I know is the bottle leaks if you don't put it in there. The insert looks at first glance like it's all one solid state unit. We never bothered to try to clean inside it (though I'm now sure the directions we never read probably say to do so. Sleep deprivation. It does wonders for your literacy).

Didn't occur to us that this is a two piece unit
Until this evening, when I was giving the water sippy bottle a swipe before leaving it out to dry for tomorrow. I noticed some black ooky looking stuff inside the insert. I showed my husband. We decide it's mold. YUCK! Mold in my baby's water bottle. We clean it out.

We remember the milk bottle, which we've also never cleaned and been using much longer. It's clean and shiny like new. No mold.

The cleaned insert in two pieces
It's NEVER BEEN CLEANED. It's just had pumped human breastmilk. Which, to add to all the other magical properties of human breastmilk, is now anti-fungal. Wow. So, I'm sold. Human breastmilk might just cure cancer too for all I know.

PS: The insert that we'd never cleaned doesn't pass liquid through it, it just lets air vent out the side or something.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Nursing Baby to Sleep

Every evening, and afternoons when I'm not working, I breastfeed the baby to sleep for her nap or for the night. I've noticed that lately, she'll be fussy and acting tired, so we'll go lie down in her bed and she'll nurse, and look like she's about to fall asleep. Suddenly, she perks up and she's ready to play for a few hours! Now that she's just past one year, I guess she's reducing how much sleep she needs each day. Not long ago, she needed two to three naps every day, and now it looks like one.

An acquaintance who is also a breastfeeding mom referred to the time spent nursing her baby to sleep as baby jail - that is, she said "Last night, in baby jail..." I had to ask what she meant.

I was a bit taken aback. There are lots of times that I'd rather be doing something else, and sometimes I kick myself for not bringing my beloved iPhone to bed with us, so I can read/tweet while she dozes. But to call it jail?

Someone needs to parent her to sleep, I'm firmly committed to not leaving her to cry her way to sleep. (Here are some good reasons, other than one's gut instinct, on why not to let babies cry every night to go to sleep.)

It's usually easier for me to breastfeed her to sleep that it would be for my husband or I to rock/walk/stroller/pat her to sleep. She loves to nurse.

We fought hard to be able to breastfeed and overcame a big obstacle (that shouldn't have been so big). I feel like I won that battle and I don't want to stop doing it just because it's inconvenient or I might be better off blogging/talking on the phone/... um what else might I be doing this evening?

I'm glad I can help her sleep this way and will continue to do so as long as she wants. Unless she wants me to come to college with her!

Any odd things you've heard lately from committed breastfeeders?

BlogHer 2010 Pity Party

Last weekend, the little one and I drove across town in insensible traffic to park in the wrong spot, enter the park in the wrong side, not take a stroller or baby carrier for the 27 pound not quite walking yet baby, walk way to far along the wrong side of the park, finally phone Amber and get directions to the

Not Going to BlogHer 2010 Pity Party!

In which there are free burgers, and I finally get to meet Crunchy Carpets and Pomo Mama in person.

The little one enjoyed eating everything she could get in her mouth, including quite a bit of coleslaw and roasted veggies. It was loads of fun, once we got there.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

On Trying to Conceive

First, I'm not. We're not. Not yet, not sure if/when.


Gina's recent wonderful post announcing her pregnancy reminded me of how I felt when we were trying to get pregnant.

I was working full time and going to school part time. We waited to start trying to conceive until after the theoretical due date had passed my expected graduation from grad school date. And then we got busy.

And got busy.

After a few months of trying - right, I know, I'm not a very patient person - I read that stress can negatively impact chances of conception. I felt very stressed.

(Thinking back on that time now, I think HA! You, young lady, don't know from stress. But, back to our story.)

I figured I would get pregnant after I graduated, which was quite alright with me. So that moment when we were getting busy, right around Obama's election, I probably only had the most fleeting of thoughts that this time it might be baby making time.

For someone trying to conceive, it took me a hilarious amount of time to get around to taking a pregnancy test: LMP was Oct 24 and my sore breasts weren't enough to prompt me to go pee on a stick until Nov 30. How about that for pessimism?

What has surprised you about fertility recently?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Nursing with Pierced Nips

I've had this in my drafts folder for too long... and my friend, Melodie at Breastfeeding Moms Unite, just posted this nice bit on breastfeeding with pierced nipples. She's spurred me on to flesh this out a bit more and finally post it!

I had my nipples pierced over ten years ago at a professional piercing and tattoo shop in Victoria. I remember even back then, when I was pretty sure I wasn't ever going to have babies, that I asked the piercer if it could harm my chances of breastfeeding, if I changed my mind about babies. He said it was very unlikely to cause a problem - like Melodie writes above, the nipple has lots of holes for the milk to come out of.

I wore rings in my piercings much as Oscar (or Oscar's model) does in the photo on Melodie's page. I chose a hematite or Alaskan Black Diamond as the stone to close the rings.

They healed over well - my perception was it was much less than a year before they were healed, but I don't know if it just seemed like they were healed or if they really were.

I took them out about five years later. It's hard to pin down why, but they were to mark a particular time in my life and I was no longer enjoying having the rings in my body. I still wasn't seriously considering having a baby - I was just done with the piercings. I kept the rings and the hematites in a little box with other jewelry I don't wear anymore.

When I got pregnant, I worried a bit about the piercings, as they were still quite visible on the sides of my nipples. I asked my doula who'd just done a breastfeeding seminar, if she'd heard anything about breastfeeding post-piercing. She thought about it, I believe she said she hadn't heard anything along those lines, and that she'd look into it but wasn't really worried about it.

We did have a big fat tongue tie problem with breastfeeding, but that had pretty much absolutely nothing to do with the piercings. I have noticed that milk does come out the holes in the sides of my nipples, but it's not a problem at all. It's mostly funny.

I don't think I leak any more than normal - after the first couple of weeks post-partum, I stopped needing to wear breastpads. I always keep some at work, in case I am stuck and unable to express milk, but I've never needed to use them.

Thanks for prompting me to finally post this Melodie!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

World Breastfeeding Week

Last year during World Breastfeeding Week, my baby and I started breastfeeding and I noted it here.

For World Breastfeeding Week this year, my baby and I have finished our first year of breastfeeding. She's still going strong and while giving me a little bite every once in awhile with her new teeth, I doubt she'll wean any time soon. It works for the both of us so I expect next year I'll be saying that we've completed our second year!

A whole lot is being written about World Breastfeeding Week. Here are a quick few of my favourite breastfeeding related posts (though they may not be strictly WBW posts) (of the few I've had time to read!):
  • Annie at PhD in Parenting outlined the original and some new reasons to boycott Nestle
  • Honest to Betsy wrote a lighthearted bit on four and a half years of breastfeeding and worked in the polar bears.
  • Elita at Blacktating asks where are the images of black women breastfeeding?
  • Melodie of Breastfeeding Moms Unite! has done a nice round of some other posts.
Any standout favourite posts on breastfeeding that you've read recently?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I less than three Metro Vancouver

Can't quite believe it's been since May that I've posted. The few of you still checking my RSS feed, goodness, you're optimistic, or family.

However, as I was carrying the baby to the garage where we do our laundry, and thinking about our landlords who live in the rest of our house with their extended family, I realize that the lifestyle change that was part of the motivation, hasn't entirely taken place.

Yes, I can now drive to see my parents and siblings in between four and six hours, assuming light traffic. However, the six hour trip is ridiculously expensive with the cost of the ferries we have to take. The drive isn't too bad - I haven't done the math on the gas but it's much less than what we're blowing on the ferries.

But somehow I had this vision of having people around us when we got here. We'd maybe not be dropping in distance from family, but we would be close to friends.

What friends? I've seen them once or twice each. I'm too busy/tired/cranky to return their call/email. Apparently they are in the same boat.

And holy cats, four hours in the car with the baby sucks balls. And while yes I can walk to work, I'm still spending 1.5 hours every day dropping off and picking up the baby from daycare. In the car. Yucko.

It's been rather disappointing. I'm responsible for daycare drop off and pick up, meaning I have to go back to (telecommuting) work in the evenings after the baby is asleep.

Weekends I'm so exhausted I can't think, and I sleep as long as the baby lets me.

I was not this tired all the time in DC. I made a fuckload lot more money. Here, if DH isn't working, we're screwed in under a month.

This climate is nice, and it's nice being closer to family. I know that it usually ends up being ok but right now, I feel like this move has been a huge mistake.

So the draft blog posts will go on as drafts until someone issues me less need for sleep.

Monday, May 17, 2010

I Believe in Science

So, back in the old days, infant mortality was a lot higher than it is today. Here is data covering Canada from 1921 to 1974. Science advances, generally causing more babies to survive.

(Don't get me started on our growing cesarean rates. That's not supported by science.)

Here's my brief overview on my position, informed by what I understand is the science on...

I am a committed breastfeeding mama. I have just passed my first year of breastfeeding, and hope we continue on for a long time.

Like Arwyn in her post on things we don't speak about, I feel like I need to state that. I'm a huge believer in the benefits of breastfeeding. It's a good thing for the baby, and it's a good thing for mama. Not only that, it's good for the planet, and once you get the early bumps out of the way, it's easy and convenient when it's working. So, I breastfeed because I've read about it and it sounds like today's science supports it as the best choice.

(See The Fearless Formula Feeder for thought provoking and often heart-wrenching stories one when breastfeeding doesn't work.)

I have also adhered to the CDC and Health Canada's schedule for infant vaccinations. I believe the studies I have read about that say that the risk of not vaccinating is much greater than the risk of the vaccines themselves (link below). I've read about vaccinations, and it sounds to me like today's science supports them as the best choice.

Vitamin D Supplementation?
What I've just started hearing about is vitamin D supplements for breastfed babies. Science is saying that most North Americans are vitamin D deficient and should take supplements, including breastfed babies. When I first heard someone say this, I scoffed, thinking to myself the long repeated "breastmilk is the perfect food for babies." But... what if I'm deficient in vitamin D? What if my baby is dark skinned or growing up in a region with little sunlight? Vitamin D deficiency can be very serious.

Breastmilk probably was perfect, before we started messing with ourselves - spending loads of time indoors, not making enough vitamin D, eating weird processed foods. Maybe with a supplement (not a replacement), we could make it better.

So, having read a bit more about it, maybe I would give my baby vitamin D supplements, if I were having a do-over. And of course, maybe someday I will. Because it seems that today's science supports it.

Tongue Tie:
As I've written a lot about, my baby and I had latching problems due to tongue tie. If we were left alone to manage, maybe she would have survived, maybe not. But I have read that in the recent old days, midwives would clip tongue tie at birth. That tongue tie clipping is arguably an intervention in what would have naturally occurred.

Much as today's science supports co-sleeping, an old tradition which I was initially against, but started doing when our baby slept very fitfully after her two month vaccinations. After we started co-sleeping, we all slept much better!

This is an interesting article that covers what they call the war on science in more depth if you're interested. Some people might see being a vaccine supporter and a breastfeeding supporter as contradictory. To me it makes sense, based on what I've read.

Vaccines, breastfeeding, clipping tongue ties, maybe vitamin D supplementation. Some old fashion, some new fangled. All largely supported by today's science showing this is good for babies.

The fact is, naturally, babies don't always survive. Sadly, even with the best that science and mama's milk have to offer, they still don't all survive today. We all do our best to make the right choices for our babies and families.

What scientific findings have intrigued or surprised you lately?

PS: incidentally, since I'm writing about infant mortality, here are two inspiring mamas working to make meaning from the loss of their babies: Kayce and Kristine.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Parenting in Public, the Cover Up

Reading about some "reality" TV show about people's reaction to nursing in public raised in my mind my experience with being asked to cover up while nursing the Baby Piranha.

I was in Texas due to a death in the family, at a restaurant eating lunch alone with the BP.

Lunch had just been served to me, and the BP also wanted to eat. She was only four months old at the time and not wiggling around a whole lot, so there was probably almost no skin showing.

A server (not the one assigned to my table) asked if I would like to cover up, not specifying what needed covering but gestured towards the BP with her hand.

I was stunned and the only thing I could manage as a response was something along the lines of "my right to nurse in public is protected by Texas state law."

The server looked taken aback, and muttered something along the lines of "protecting children who don't know about breastfeeding" and left.

I was alone, feeling nauseated and shaking with anger. I couldn't believe anything as simple as breastfeeding my precious baby could be reason to ask me to cover up. I doubt she felt she was doing anything wrong; on the other hand, I felt attacked and singled out.

I wanted to leave, to go somewhere and hide under a rock, but I figured that would be letting them win. So I stayed, and picked at my lunch half heartedly.

Later, a manager came by to check on my meal. I was sure to let him know how unhappy I was to have been treated this way. He quickly agreed I was in the right and said he'd speak to the server, though in retrospect, I'm not sure how he'd know who it was.

This critique of my parenting in public bugs me. I had someone come up to me out of the blue the other day and tell me the BP's arm was squished in the Ergo. (It wasn't, I'm squishier than I look).

Later the same day, a woman helped me get a bag of frozen blueberries out of a freezer at Costco - out of the blue, as it was - when I was holding the BP's sleeping head with one hand and trying to hold the door open and remove the bag with the other. I'm glad I had the grace to thank her profusely.

I'm reminded of Gina's call to help each other out at The Feminist Breeder. I think she has a really good point.

Have you been hassled for your parenting in public?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Go Read This Instead...

Because I'm too busy to write up my own thoughts, go check out these posts that are resonating with me these days:
  • Annie of PhD in Parenting is in Berlin and finding processed food in Europe are less problematic...
  • and links to the interesting, typically off the handle Fox News coverage of bed-sharing with your baby.
  • Harriet of See Theo Run shares her thoughts on the Angel's Cradle at St Paul's Hospital. I'm glad she brought this up - it's so sad that it's needed but important that it exists, because it is needed.
  • Gina of The Feminist Breeder writes about and gets great comments back on leaving kids in cars.
  • Arwyn of Raising Boychick writes, as always thoughtfully and provocatively, on teaching patience to children...
  • and in an older post, writes about hating pink and rejecting the feminine.
  • The Fearless Formula Feeder shares a provocative story about why one mom did not try to breastfeed her child.
Do you have any favourite all time or favourite right now posts you want to share?

Off to Northern Voice

So we've been in the Lower Mainland since April 13th and we've been having a great time.

The job search continues - I've had some promising leads which I'm following up, and I'm happy with how many places have onsite daycare. Wish there were more of course.

I've several posts bumbling around in my head but it's hard for me to find time to write much when I'm supposed to be taking care of the baby, finding her daycare and finding me a job.

I am going to the first day of the Northern Voice conference tomorrow and looking forward to meeting some of the bloggers I've been following for a long time. I've met a few already - I'm glad to have had playdates with Amber and Harriet, and we had a near miss with Lexi too!

So after the first day of the conference, I'll be gathering with great old friends for a walk in the park, and then probably off to visit my parents in the Okanagan for what's left of the weekend, if daycare interviews don't intervene.

In the meantime, hang tough and be sure to let me know if you know anyone looking for geeks in Vancouver!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Happy to be Female

Being pregnant and having a baby made me happy to have a female body.

This sounds like a truism, or something any mother would say. For me, it’s a bit more complicated. I don't take being female for granted anymore.

When I was born, I was labeled female and given a female name and raised as a girl. I don’t remember ever feeling strongly about my sex or gender identity until recently. My sense of self and my perception of how my physical body and how society expected me to be meshed well enough for me to get by.

I think I went through my tomboy and princess phases. I might have even insisted that I was a boy once or twice, but never had a long lasting discomfort with my cisgenderness.

During my undergraduate days, I took some courses with a great professor which provoked me to more closely explore my sex and gender identity: am I really who I’ve been labeled?

I decided I was cool where I was. I could see advantages on either side of the artificially binary gender fence, but I could accept being a ciswoman. I didn’t care enough to go through a transition; I mostly just accepted it and moved on.

Fast forward another decade and my male partner wants to have a baby. I’d long discarded childbearing as something I didn't want or need to do, but he provoked my interest. My biggest fear, I realized, was of replicating my mother's abuse and neglect. Once I decided I would overcome that, I jumped in.

I was fortunate to fairly quickly be able to conceive and carry a baby. While I was pregnant, I became very aware of this femaleness and womaness that I had taken for granted. It was all I could do not to be overwhelmed by the sensation of being happy to be able to become pregnant.

In my head I was all "look at my belly/breasts, isn't this awesome?" I revelled in a bikini on a beach vacation while pregnant. (That's me, above, 34 weeks pregnant in Barbados having a grand time)

There was a moment late in pregnancy when I looked at myself undressed in the mirror, and thought “oh, I look like a mom.” It was a very certain thought. Not parent, not caregiver, not beached whale, but mom, a role I’d never considered trying out for until recently.

After giving birth and getting to know my little one, this new sensation continues to develop. I don’t think I’ll ever feel ambivalent about being female again. I’m so glad to be female. I guess I didn’t really care much before, but I’m here now, and reveling in it.

My breasts are lopsided now, larger and floppier than they used to be, and they are a source of both comfort and nutrition to my baby. I love them. My belly was never a loved part of my body. It is more or less the same size that it used to be before pregnancy, but with a lot of extra skin. It was my baby's home before she was born and I try to love it now. I treasure my body and what I have been able to accomplish with it, and I treat it much better now than I used to.

I want to add a disclaimer that of course women who can’t or won't reproduce for any reason, whether choosing not to, not having the right equipment or the right equipment not working for any reason, or not being allowed to become a parent, are equally women or possibly more so than I, in that they consciously chose to be women, or chose not to birth their own child, or may continue to have to fight to be recognized as complete, as whole women.

Have you struggled with your sex or gender identity? Was there a moment where it just fell into place?

This post is participating in the Body Image Carnival being hosted by Melodie at Breastfeeding Moms Unite! and MamanADroit who will be posting articles on themes pertaining to body image all week! Make sure you check out their blogs everyday between April 12-18 for links to other participants' posts as well as product reviews, a giveaway, and some links to research, information and resources pertaining to body image.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Breastfeeding Wasn't Painful

Over and over again when I was reading about breastfeeding when I was pregnant, one message was repeated: it shouldn't hurt. If you have sore nipples, you're doing something wrong.

So when breastfeeding didn't hurt, I figured all was well. Baby seemed as happy as any newborn could be expected to be. DH once worried aloud, ironically about half an hour before my mature milk came in and I started leaking all over the place, that she wasn't eating enough. I confidently said she's fine.

I'm still not sure about that now, in retrospect.

The next day, at four days old, we had to take her in to see our pediatrician, because the hospital ped had been worried about her potential exposure to GBS during labour. He wouldn't release her from the hospital unless I promised to bring her to see our ped when she was four days old. Her birth weight was 9 lb 4 oz and at four days, she'd dropped to 7 lb 13 oz.

As Whozat sagely points out, having IV fluids during labour can artificially inflate your baby's birth weight. So I'm not sure if Em really wasn't eating enough and I should be glad that we had to see the doctor so early, or...

If she was fine, just lost a bit more quickly that extra fluid weight, and the subsequent cascade of pumping and feeding her other ways might have caused her to forget how to latch on properly and exacerbate her posterior tongue tie. I'll probably never know.

We fed Em with a bottle, with a spoon, with a cup, with a tube beside our gloved finger. I feed her with a tube beside my nipple, with a tube under the nipple shield. For seven weeks, we kept this up and I kept thinking maybe we were making progress. But feeding her in ways involving my breasts was so cumbersome and time consuming that I was about ready to give up and just pump full time, when we finally went to an ENT and got her tongue tie clipped.

Then, for a couple of days, as she learned to latch onto my breast as a seven week old, I had sore nipples for a few days. Stinging, ouch, this is what they're talking about, dreading nursing a little bit. And then it got better. And now I worry that she'll be one of these babies who wean really early.

Note: Not until months after my baby was born did Annie at PhD in Parenting publish this great post on pain in breastfeeding. Go read it! In case you don't have time, the short story is that some discomfort is normal.

Another note: I was in some pain during the first few days of pumping because I had a really crappy, cheap breast pump. Chapped, cracked, milk blisters, the works. As soon as I rented a good hospital grade pump, all was well.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

On The Sexualization of Breasts

Have you read any anthropological work looking at cultures where long term breastfeeding is more common than it is in North America and whether people there who are sexually attracted to women are any less obsessed with breasts as a sexual organ?

I have a hunch.

I suspect that where long term breastfeeding is more or less the norm, breasts are more like elbows or noses - generally unremarkable body parts, ones with a very important function for mothers who are able to breastfeed, but just body parts.

I think what tipped me off to this was the ever provocative Wonderkarin who awhile back tweeted a question, something to the effect of do your partners suck on your breasts during sexual play? It hadn't occurred to me that this might not be normal, but trust me, after using my breasts to feed my baby, I've definitely felt squeamish about them still being sexual. Wonderkarin lives in Sweden where long term breastfeeding rates are much higher than in North America.

So, anyone have any data on breast obsession versus long term breastfeeding rates, or am I on my own here? Maybe this is the real reason I did an undergrad degree in Sociology: to get me started on this. Because I have so much time on my hands!

Please tell me this work has already been done?

Some Partially Formed Thoughts On the Word Breast

This is not a manifesto. This is the post I've been chewing on and talking about for awhile. I think what it comes down to is discomfort with the word breast.

Breast. Breasts. I have a couple and they work well.

I used to think of them as sexual and to the disappointment of someone to whom I'm married, I don't really feel that way any more. They're just bits of me I use to feed the baby. Maybe someday they'll be sexy in my mind again.

And all milk is breastmilk. Just some come from human breasts and some come from other animals' breasts. Human milk is best for human babies. I think that's all given.

I want to say that we need to stop calling it breastmilk and breastfeeding, because that helps to linguistically maintain the sense that feeding our babies naturally is unnatural, and that it needs qualification; that we need to distinguish it from bottle and/or formula feeding. However, with corporate advertising normalizing bottle feeding of babies, if we lactivists just start talking about feeding our babies, we might disappear linguistically.

So what to do?

I propose we continue what we are already doing: campaigning for supporting parents through all feeding decisions like Best For Babes, help to educate the public on the reasons why breastfeeding is a Good Thing (as so many are working to do, see La Leche League, Kelly Mom, so many awesome bloggers), but also:

We need to destigmatize the word BREAST. Desexualize them and the word, normalize natural feeding along with bottle and / or formula feeding. Make breasts obviously dual purposed - sure they can be sexy, but for a special period of a mother's life, they are baby food making equipment.

Still chewing this one over. Your thoughts on where to go from here very welcome.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

So You're Off to the Hospital?

Packing, especially packing light, is not my strong point. I often get over-excited, forget important stuff and pack completely absurd things. I lived up to this norm when, in the middle of the night, I had to re-pack my go bag.

As faithful readers of the blog may recall, after I'd been in what we decided to call labour, but really wasn't, for about 24 hours, we got booted from the birth center and told to go have the baby in the hospital.

We were in no rush to transfer so we went home and napped for a few hours first. Or at least my husband did. I think I lay down for awhile.

And then I took some phone calls. And then I started repacking, as my go bag had been packed for a happy birth experience at the birth center, and a quick trip home afterwards. Suddenly a whole different set of rules would apply: I'd be stuck there much longer afterwards, I'd not be allowed to eat, etc.

So, from my go bag, I removed:
  • food that couldn't be eaten sneakily (glad I kept nuts and granola bars - the hospital rations were not enough to labour or start lactating on)
  • iPod and speakers (figuring I'd not be allowed to use them)
  • diapers (the birth center said to bring them, but I knew the hospital would be provide them)
I added in:
  • our last will and testament, our medical power of attorney and our medical insurance cards
  • my laptop (birth center has no wifi but I guessed correctly that the hospital would)
  • underwear and nursing bras
  • chargers for various devices (camera, mobile phones, laptop)
I was really glad I had:
  • chargers! The hospital kept the baby, and thus me, for 48 hours after birth, and I had a lot of calls to make.
  • laptop. The hospital had free wifi and for the few hours I wasn't sleeping and the baby was, I was glad to have some distraction from the sterility of the place and my anxiety about what to do with this gorgeous little creature.
I'm still not sure what I was thinking when I included:
  • underwear and bras. The hospital provided disposable underwear because, like a normal woman who's just given birth, I was bleeding a bit more than normal monthlies. And a bra? As if I'm going to put on a bra when I was in so uncomfortable that I was afraid to pass gas because I was worried my bits would fall out.
  • last will and testament. If I didn't survive whatever medical intervention they were going to inflict on me, I'm sure my affairs could wait until my husband located the document in the apartment.
Finally, I wish I'd had more snack food. The food served by the hospital unfortunately really lived up to the stereotype of hospital food, plus was exceedingly modest in quantity. I know I was looking forward to losing some pregnancy weight, but I wasn't ready to start just yet!

I'm glad to report that on a recent trip with the baby to see her great-grandmother, I packed much more appropriately. I wore all clothes at least once and the only thing I felt I should have brought more of was trousers for the baby. I don't think anyone else noticed she only had two pair for four days.

Got any packing wisdom to share? Birth or baby pick up hospital packing stories on tap?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Quickie: Some of My Favourite Parenting Posts

After a week of snowbound staying home with the baby joy, you might think I'd have some original thought to share. I do. I'm just having difficulty deciding how I want to frame it.

In the meantime, here's a new favourite and some old favourites that I'd like to share with you. The first I just got fwd'd today. The others are ones I literally return to re-read periodically. I hope you find them as interesting and wonderful as I have:
I'll leave you with these to chew on and I hope to be back with you soon on some other stuff I'm chewing on.

Would you like to leave me with some of your favourite (re)reading material?

UPDATE: Almost - well, briefly actually did - forgot:
  • Venusimo. Honest to Betsy on the female equivalent of machismo. It speaks to a lot my ongoing - not dissatisfaction but - lack of satisfaction with my birth experience.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Woe of the WOHM

I don't get where all of you find the time to blog! My personal relationships are neglected, my marital relationship worse, I barely spend two hours a week on my job search... and just realized it's now been more than a month since I posted.

And to honest, I'm typing one handed whilst the BP snoozes on one arm during day three of snowbound! Sigh.

How is winter treating you?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Breastfeeding and Tongue Tie

In all my recent breastfeeding blogging and tweeting, I realized I never finished documenting our current state of affairs with breastfeeding the Baby Piranha.

At 4 days, my pediatrician was concerned about her weight loss (birth weight was 9 lb 4 oz, 4 days was 7 lb 14 oz) and suggested it was due to her not latching well. She suggested I start pumping and syringe feeding, and that I try using a nipple shield. Done.

In retrospect, I realize that part of the reason for the dramatic weight loss was that I was given IV fluids during labour, and that inflated my weight - I only weighed 3 pounds less the day after I came home from the hospital, than I weighed going it! It can also inflate babies' weight - so her birth weight was probably higher than it would have been naturally, making her normal post-natal weight loss look more dramatic. I've since mentioned this to my ped and she agrees this could have been a factor.

At 11 days, the BP was gaining weight but not latching, so I went to see an IBCLC, who wrote in her notes that the BP has a posterior tongue tie. She encouraged me to continue pumping, offering the breast with and without the shield, trying out finger feeding, and sold us a larger syringe. Done. Nothing was said about tongue tie, it was just written down.

At 3 or 4 weeks, after only getting the BP to eat directly from my breast by manually expressing into her mouth, we returned to the IBCLC to be told to keep up the good work and get some coaching on side lying nursing. Done.

All of this time, my friend whose baby not only was tongue tied but after having the tie clipped, had to have it re-clipped at 4 months because it regrew, was encouraging me to visit her ENT to have the BP's mouth evaluated for tongue tie. I resisted because the IBCLC surely would have told me if that were the cause of our woe.

By 7 weeks, however, I was ready to throw in the towel on breastfeeding directly, and just buy two pumps: one for work, where I would be soon returning, and one for home. My friend made another appeal to call her ENT.

I thought it couldn't hurt and even if he clipped her tongue and it didn't help, the clipping was not supposed to be that traumatic.

I phoned the ENT, said the BP was losing weight (not precisely true, but I didn't have the patience to wait three weeks for an appointment) and was able to come in for an appointment two days later - on my second day back at work.

We drove waaay out into the suburbs where the ENT's office is - he is reputed to be the best ENT for tongue tie in the DC area. He's a nice, short, older man clearly fond of babies. He looked in the BP's mouth and said he thought her tongue tie was the cause of our latch problems and recommended clipping it.

I immediately agreed - it was really what we were there for.

Minutes later, I'm in an examining chair, holding the BP in my lap. A nurse is holding her head and the ENT is opening her mouth. An observer, possibly a student, is watching behind the ENT, and he is explaining to her what he's diagnosed and is about to do.

The BP starts to cry when her mouth is opened up. The ENT makes a quick clip - I can see the motion of his hands when the clip is made. The BP doesn't cry any harder, which makes me think the clipping really didn't hurt much. The ENT pops a bit of gauze in her mouth to absorb the few drops of blood that is coming from under her tongue.

The BP continues to cry for a few minutes. We're shown to a nice waiting area, not the main reception room, where we're encouraged to sit and try to nurse.

I'm told that after the clipping, it's important to try to nurse as much as possible - I'm not sure, but I assume it's either to help heal the wound in a way the tongue can keep moving well, or for the baby to have a good first day on the breast, to really learn to latch well.

She calms down fairly quickly - though I'm sure any caregiver will agree than even a few minutes of crying caused by something YOU CHOSE TO DO TO THEM! is hard to listen to. Those few minutes, I was busy doubting myself and my decision. I was thinking "oh I should have just given in and pumped for her, this wasn't necessary, I'm a horrible person, succumbing to the medical-industrial complex."

While I was busy berating myself, I was dutifully offering my breast to her. Suddenly, I noticed the BP had stopped crying and had latched on. Really latched on, and was sucking and gulping milk.

I'd never heard her gulp before. It was amazing. I got a little verklempt.

Since then, I've really only had to pump while at work and once or twice for car rides. Any time we're together, I can feed her directly from the breast. It is soooo much easier than all the pumping and bottles!

I also realized a day or two later, while watching her stick out her tongue in preparation to latch on, that I'd previously never seen her stick her tongue out of her mouth before. I'd seen her tongue, but it'd never before extended beyond her lips. Now it does!

I also spoke with the supervisor of the IBCLC I had seen twice, and let them know that I felt I should have been referred to an ENT much earlier. Their response was that they hesitate to make that referral other than in the most severe cases, because they don't want new moms to think their baby is deformed. I think that's the most absurd thing I've ever heard, but maybe I'm too much of a pragmatist.

The BP is a few days over 5 months old now, and still latching and eating like there's no tomorrow. She's rather big for her age, but tall as well as chubby. DH and I were big babies too, so it's probably genetic. We were at a party recently where she was about the same size as a 9 month old baby!

She's also tolerating me reintroducing a bit of dairy into my diet. I'm not eating dairy like the old days yet, but a bit of cheesecake here, a bit of pizza there, and we're both happy campers. (When I say tolerating, I mean she is showing no signs of having trouble with the dairy - no screaming when pooping, no green poo, etc...)

So, that's really the full breastfeeding saga thus far. I'm reading Baby Lead Weaning now, and I'm so excited to have found out about it. It seems like a very natural and sensible approach.

Anyone else have thoughts on tongue tie and clipping of tongues?

Photo courtesy of Qole Pejorian on Flickr.