Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Project Happy Scars (1)

Usually I stick to the concept of keeping my Wednesdays entirely wordless. However, this time I need a short paragraph to introduce a project that I am working on called ‘Happy Scars’.  I have spoken to so many women who dislike their caesarean section scars- not only because they think that the scars are ugly, but also because many women dislike the reminder of having had a surgical birth. I thought about it for quite a while and decided it would be nice if women could feel better about their scars and what they represent. While looking at myself in the mirror one day, I was messing with my own scar, making it smile and frown. I thought it would be fun to give my scar a smile and a face, which is exactly what my husband did for me one evening. Hopefully it will make some of you smile and maybe help some women view their own scars in a more positive light.
If you would like to participate, please contact me at tellvivien@yahoo.com. If you are local, I would love to work with you in person. Otherwise, please just send me your photos.
The before shot. This is what a c-section scar looks like.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Thank You to the Moms in My Life

I want to take a quick moment to reflect on the influence other mothers have had on me and my mothering. Be it mothers who I share opinions with or ones who disagree with my parenting style completely, they have all in some way- big or small- shaped the way I have developed into the mother I am today. And I am so grateful to each and every mommy I have met who has shared her ideas, opinions, tips, etc. with me because even if I disagreed with them, they made me re-evaluate what I was doing and try to make improvements or change direction.
When my daughter was only a few months old and I still felt completely insecure about my mothering, one of my best friends sent me a book dealing with the ideas of attachment parenting. It was such a significant book on my journey of motherhood- I had finally found a parenting philosophy that felt completely right. I often wonder if my path had been quite the same had I not read this book at the time that I did. I am so thankful for this!
I was very lonely during the first months of motherhood, as many other mothers are. My husband and I went to a barbeque and I met another breastfeeding mother- the first one I had ever really spoken to about nursing and been able to exchange some thoughts with. She persuaded me to come to a La Leche League meeting and introduced me to a local mommies group. Today, I am in training to become a LLL leader and have a whole network of local mothers to socialize with. This one friend was able to take me out of my lonely home life and out into the open. She brought me into an environment in which breastfeeding was normal . Who knows what kind of a mother I would have become without this incredible support network. I am incredibly grateful for this!
These are just two of the most significant examples that have shaped me as a person and have made me the mother I am today. Every mother I interact with makes her mark on me in some way- be it through the extreme love that she shows her children, the calm way she is able to interact with them, etc. You ladies may not know it, but you always make an impression on me.
I want to thank you all! Every single mother I know is incredible in her own way and I am so grateful to know you all on some level. Some mothers I know very well and can share most everything with. Others are ‘just’ Facebook friends, but are always supportive. Some I don’t even know in person- they are my wonderful Twitter mamas and the mothers in forums. You are all awesome! Thank you for helping me become a mother.

Friday, November 25, 2011

How Long Will I Breastfeed? As Long As He Wants To

Well, it’s that time now. That point in time when everyone thinks that they need to ask me how long I will be breastfeeding. The time when people- even the ones who had been supportive up until now- start giving me disapproving looks, etc. For some reason, after baby turns one, things seem to change in other people’s minds and they decide that breastfeeding can no longer be desirable.
The other day, I was talking to a friend of mine, who has a little one just a few months younger than E. She also breastfeeds, so we were casually discussing our little’s nursing habits. Then came the inevitable question: “So, how long are you going to breastfeed for?” She wasn’t prepared for the answer I gave her: “As long as he wants to.” My poor friend was utterly taken aback and, for a few moments, entirely speechless. She just couldn’t understand, asking me what I meant by that. I explained that I would like to breastfeed at least for another year, but ultimately for as long as he wants to. My friend’s reaction was to ask me- in a very bewildered fashion- why? Unfortunately, our children demanded our attention and the conversation moved on to another subject, but I know that it will come up again the next time we see each other.
My answer is quite simple: why not? I can give you a long list of reasons to continue breastfeeding beyond the first year, mostly health related and scientifically proven. I can also tell you that both the WHO and UNICEF recommend breastfeeding until the age of two or beyond. However, I feel like the critics and cynics won’t care about these cited benefits and recommendations. Breastfeeding a toddler is a taboo in our society and it is frowned upon, especially when done in public.
My reasons to continue breastfeeding are not hard to explain. For one, children do not have an inner calendar that determines when one stage in their life ends and another begins. To stop nursing on a particular date or at a particular age makes no sense to me, just as expecting my child to start walking on a particular date wouldn’t.
People say that the baby’s nutritional need for mother’s milk is no longer existent after the first year of life. However, it has to be replaced in the child’s diet with cow’s milk. This makes absolutely no sense to me. Either there is a nutritional need for milk or there isn’t. If there still is a need past the first year (which there is) it will be met by the milk my body produces- it is custom made to meet the needs of my child.
The world over, children completely wean themselves from the breast between the ages of two and seven. (I’m sure some of you are in utter shock right now. It’s ok, I promise you!) For some reason, in our culture it has become something that only young infants are supposed to do, even though there is no logical reasoning behind this opinion.
Lastly, I wish everyone would just mind their own business. I’m making an informed, conscious choice for the health of my child. I don’t run around commenting on what other mothers are doing and asking them questions regarding their methods, be it related to feeding or other things. I would never walk up to a mother and ask why she was allowing her one year old to drink a caffeinated soda, for example. Yet, everyone seems to think that they have the right to question breastfeeding behavior (which they mostly know nothing about) and give their unwanted opinion on the subject.
I am going to continue breastfeeding. My goal is to get to around two years of age and I will be happy if there is nothing that prevents us from getting there, such as sickness, etc. You can tell me that you think I am disgusting, that I am harming my child, etc. and I will take it, but it will not change my mind. Ask me how long I will be breastfeeding and I will tell you the truth: As long as he wants to.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Meet My New (Used) DSLR

A Nighttime Parenting Parable

Disclaimer: This is a purely fictional story. While there may be similarities to real life events, these are purely coincidental and not intended.

My father had a stroke. He requires round the clock care because he is unable to get out of bed by himself. He has also lost the ability to speak, but is able to communicate somewhat with gestures. During the day, a nurse comes in to care for him. However, at night, he is solely my responsibility.
Lately, my father hasn’t been sleeping well at night. I hear him waking up and moaning. When I go to check on him, he gestures for me to give him something to drink. Then he likes for me to sit with him and hold his hand until he falls back asleep. It’s getting to be ridiculous! He is a grown man and should be able to sleep through the night. I suspect that his nightly requests for water are at least in part manipulative- all he wants is my attention.
I am incredibly tired. I feel very irritated with the situation in our house at night. When I mentioned our problems to my father’s nurse the other day, she suggested I ignore his moans during the night. Last night, I decided to give her advice a try.
My father awoke as usual, moaning. I heard him, but decided that it was time to put a stop to his constant night wakings. I ignored him. His moans got louder and louder, then turned to quiet whimpering. It was very difficult for me to listen to, so I just put on some earphones and listened to music. Eventually, he stopped making noises and was able to put himself to sleep.
I am very happy with the way I handled the situation. After all, my father is 65 years old- there is no reason for him not to sleep through the night. I know he feels thirsty, but it won’t hurt him to go without a drink until the morning.

I hope you get where I’m going with this. Does this sound wrong to you?
 Please, don’t ignore your baby’s cries. Be an available parent- even at night.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The First Step: Admitting I Have a Problem

I have had a few addictions in my life, the most severe of them being smoking. I gave that up when I became pregnant with my daughter and had since then been almost addiction free. Unfortunately, I seem to have developed a new one over the course of the past year or so. I have been reluctant to believe it, but the evidence against me is starting to pile up: I’m on my iPhone wayyyy too much! More specifically, I am on FB and Twitter constantly throughout the day.
How do I know that I’ve been doing too much social networking? I have phone hand. Never heard of that before? That’s because I just made it up. It’s like tennis arm, carpel tunnel type problems. It occurs in the hand that you use to hold and type on your phone. Sadly, I’m not kidding. Between the ring and pinky fingers in my right hand I have developed a pain that is very similar to carpel tunnel pain and it’s from holding my iPhone. Yes, you may laugh at me now…
It’s a vicious cycle for me. Every day I wake up with the best intentions, telling myself I will only check my phone three times during the day. But then, I read something interesting on FB and comment on it. So I have to check an hour later to see if anyone has replied. Which leads to my reading other things I comment on. Then I jump to Twitter and start a conversation there. I feel obligated to check it often so as not to offend my conversational partners- or so I tell myself. To those of you who do not take part in social media interaction, I’m sure this sounds incredibly pathetic. To those of you who are in the same boat as me, you’re probably recognizing your own behaviors in some of this.
The thing is: life at home with the kids can be really lonely. I am a person who loves social interaction and I don’t do very well by myself. Since I have no adults to talk to during the day (except at play dates), I seek my social interaction elsewhere. In all honesty, FB and Twitter are my social support network- I get help if I need it, offer help to others, chat, joke, argue, philosophize, etc. In a way it’s ridiculous, but sometimes it really helps me stay sane while being yelled at by two little crazy people all day long.
The obvious down side is that I am missing out on things in the real world. Instead of talking to someone on the phone or in person, I do so in written form. When I’m really wrapped up in a heated argument, it is on my mind all day and can totally ruin my mood. The communication between my husband and I has definitely suffered.
What to do about this problem? I don’t know. The only solution I can come up with is to get rid of the ‘smart’ phone and go back to the old school version that is made for you to actually talk to people.
What do you think about the new ways we have of being connected via social media? Are smart phones a step in the right or the wrong direction?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Still Throwing Ideas Around

Those of you who know me know that I have always struggled to find my ‘thing’ professionally and at 32, I still don’t know exactly what I want to be when I grow up. The doula work is going well and it is interesting and fulfilling, but somehow I feel as though it is not going to be what I will be doing for the rest of my life. So, the search goes on…
I would really like to have an impact with what I do. I want to be able to help a lot of people. The money is really secondary- if I was interested in earning money I would go back to working at a bank. I am looking for personal fulfillment as well as something that will be valuable to society. It definitely needs to be something that I can do in any country I go to.
If I won the lottery today, I wouldn’t become a total bum, I would go to med school. Ever since I was a child, I have wanted to be a doctor of some sort (when I was very young, I wanted to be a vet- then the idea evolved) However, I always felt somehow inadequate and was scared to go down that path, doubting both my ability to get through school as well as my emotional capability of dealing with sickness and death on a daily basis. Now that I am older, the thought of med school is still intimidating. But now I feel as though I would be successful, as though I have enough drive to get through it.
The main question now is: Do I have that much time to spare? Can I really spend ten plus years on pursuing this career path? I honestly am not sure of the answer yet. Thankfully, I still have at least another year to make up my mind while I’m home with the kids. I can see myself in the medical field, be it as a doctor or in research, but I’m not sure I have what it takes to get there.
Another option would definitely be midwifery. The training would be a lot shorter- around three years. However, my professional field would be limited to only one very specific area of care. It is one that I enjoy very much, but I’m still undecided on whether I want pregnancy and childbirth to be the only field in which I could help people.
Right now, I’m just throwing ideas around. The great thing is that my husband supports whatever I want to do. The bad thing is that I just cannot make a decision. I’m always terrified I’ll end up doing the wrong thing or I’ll be too old when I’m finally doing what I want to do. If I decided to become a doctor, I wouldn’t be able to start really working until I was in my mid to late forties. Too old? I just don’t know…

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Is Santa To Be or Not To Be?

I always just assumed that my children would grow up believing in Santa Claus. Yet, when I read about a lady the other day who is deciding to opt out when it comes to Father Christmas, it really made me stop and think. Now I find myself in a state of confusion, torn between old traditions- both my family’s and society’s- and new points of view.
The pros:
 I just love Christmas! I love everything about it, including the mystical figure of Old Saint Nick. When I was a child, I adored Santa. I have so many wonderful memories of excitedly writing him letters with my Christmas wishes. I was always too excited to sleep the night before Christmas, hoping I might catch a glimpse of the jolly old man. I would love my children to have such wonderful memories of Christmas! I would love them to remember their Christmases as magical events. It would also be great for them to believe in Santa so that they do not spoil the secret for other children. They could all wonder about Santa together and enjoy talks about him, theorizing what he might really be like. Even as an adult, I like to sometimes go back to believing that their MUST be a Father Christmas out there!
The cons:
Looking at the whole myth in a completely unemotional and rational way, I would be creating a huge lie for my children to believe. The lie would be supported by family, friends, and the rest of our society, but it would be a big fat lie nonetheless. The prospect of having to lie to my children for a number of years, even if it is for their supposed enjoyment, just rubs me the wrong way.  The vivid childhood memories I mentioned above were all crushed when I discovered that there was no Santa. I was the last one in my school to believe that he existed and the other children made fun of me when I insisted that he was real. I was so disappointed- both in the fact that he did not exist and in discovering that my parents had deceived me for almost a decade.
I’m not sure what to do. If we don’t have a Santa, then we also won’t be able to have an Easter Bunny, a Tooth Fairy, etc. Is there any benefit to having the kids believe in these mystical beings? Will they be missing something if we don’t create this fantasy for them? I’m completely on the fence. I would hate for them to not have someone like Father Christmas to look up to and to look forward to. However, I also don’t want them to have to deal with the discovery of dishonest parents.
I wish Santa was here to answer the questions for me… What do you think? Are your kids going to be believers?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I Saw True Love Last Week

Disclaimer: If you are homophobe, please do not read!
One of my long time favorite people on television is Conan O’Brien. I have been watching him ever since he started hosting Late Night on NBC. In my opinion, his show just keeps getting better and better, despite his move to TBS late last year. (I’ve always had a bit of a celebrity crush on him, but don’t tell anyone…)
My husband and I DVR every episode because the show is on when it’s time for us to go to bed; then  we try watching them throughout the week. We hadn’t watched any episodes in a while until last week, when I saw that Conan was hosting his show from New York. I was excited to see Conan in front of a bigger audience, back in the city where his career really took flight. On the particular episode that I watched, it as announced that Conan was going to have the wedding of his costume designer and his partner on as part of his show on 11/03/2011.
I had slightly mixed feelings about this. With Conan, anything could turn into some sort of skit, so I wondered if this was going to be a wedding or just another comedy sketch. When I heard that Conan was going to be the person officiating it, I was even more skeptical, doubting the seriousness of it.
My doubts were unfounded. It was one of the most beautiful weddings I have ever witnessed! Ladies and gentlemen, if you want to see what true love looks like, find the video of that part of Conan’s show online and watch it. It was so full of emotion, so honest and straight-forward. Both A and I sat on the couch with tears in our eyes. I was so happy that these two men were so in love and were able to express this love by entering into an official, eternal commitment to each other.
I just wanted to share the joyful experience I had last week. It gave me such a feeling of hope that maybe not all is lost in the world, as long as love like this still exists. I hope some day soon, all people- regardless of gender- will be able to express their love for each other in the same way nation wide.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Smile and Nod, Smile and Nod...

Those of you who read my blog regularly or who follow me on Facebook or Twitter know that I am very opinionated on pretty much any topic in existence. That is just my nature. However, I try to also be tolerant of other opinions and ways of life, so I practically never give my opinion about something in a conversation without being asked for it, unless you are a good friend of mine whom I trust.
Something I keep encountering as a mother is other mothers pressing their opinions regarding child rearing on me. I have come to dread gatherings of women whom I do not know or don’t know very well because I know that the conversation will inevitably go towards a subject I am not comfortable with. Even though I would never think to ask another mother why she was doing xyz with her child, other women don’t seem to mind such questions at all.
It is always the same- I attempt to stay away as far as possible from subjects that are controversial in my opinion, but no matter how hard I try to avoid these conversations, they end up with the other ladies telling me exactly how they handled xyz situation and why. “Well, my daughter did ABC, so I had to do xyz. I had no other choice…” – followed by an indefinitely long monologue.
I would say that 95% of the time, I disagree with what I am being told. But I just smile and nod, smile and nod. They tell me about things that make me cringe on the inside and I can’t find the heart to tell them what I think. Because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. And because, at the end of the day, I really hate confrontations. They make my stomach hurt and keep me awake at night (even if the people I am having a discussion with are strangers on FB…)
Am I doing the wrong thing? Should I be more outspoken about my views? I’m not sure. On the one hand, I would love to share e.g. what I have learned about being a mother. On the other hand, I have learned that most people really aren’t interested in hearing different opinions and just want to believe that they are right in pretty much all they do.
So for now, I am choosing to continue my smile and nod technique. When I attend gatherings with multiple mothers, I do my best not to listen too hard to what they are telling me that I MUST do to avoid my child being too needy, too detached, scared of everything, not scared enough, etc. I am learning to accept that I really don’t fit in very well anywhere, be it politically or regarding my parenting. Hopefully, I can keep myself emotionally detached enough so that I won’t have to consider becoming a hermit.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Critical Questions About Physical Discipline

I keep coming back to the subject of physical discipline. Because somehow it is all around me, on Facebook status updates and discussions with mothers, etc. Today I saw a video of a teenager being beaten by her father with the support of his wife. It is all over the news and has sparked new discussions on the physical disciplining of children.
If you don’t know my opinion on the subject, here it is: I think it’s wrong. Always and under every circumstance. Which doesn’t mean that I automatically dislike parents who use physical discipline. I just don’t think that it is justifiable. If you want to read more about my personal opinion, click here.
While thinking about the subject, I always stumble upon the same questions that I cannot find answers to. Please don’t take this as my wanting to hear from parents who spank- I know that people can find answers to every question in existence if given the chance to voice their opinion. I am merely saying that, regardless of the reasons people cite for their methods of child rearing, I cannot make sense of them.
For example, I often ask myself what these people would do if it were suggested to them that spanking their spouse would benefit their marriage. Would they do it? Or would they feel that this was wrong? And if they do feel that this would be wrong, why would they feel like this regarding an adult who has the option to fight back- be it directly or indirectly- but not when it comes to their children, who have nobody to turn to for protection other than their own parents?
If spanking is necessary, then how do child care facilities and schools function without it? If physical discipline is the only effective way to ‘control’ children’s behavior, how do institutions who look after numerous children at the same time cope?
Considering spanking as an effective tool for keeping humans from exhibiting unwanted behavior, why not spank people who break the law? Instead of prisons there could just be facilities in which people were physically punished for bad behavior. That would teach them not to do it again, right?
If someone were to dislike your behavior, would it be acceptable for them to physically discipline you, as long as they were stronger than you or had authority over you in some way?
Just some thoughts I figured I’d throw out there for the discussion that is already going on due to the above mentioned news story. In the video, the father says (yells? It wasn’t very loud, but it was more forceful than just saying it…): “I will beat you into submission!” It has had my stomach turning all day. Hey, if you want a creature to live with you who will be submissive, why don’t you just get a dog? Actually, beating a dog like the man beat his daughter would be considered animal abuse and would be against the law…

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Car Seat Safety Rant

Disclaimer: I am not a saftey expert, I am just giving my personal opinion on this issue.  
Time and time again, I see parents who seem unaware of the importance of car seat safety. Even though most people in the US drive with their children in the car multiple times a week, they appear to think of car seats as more of a necessary nuisance rather than the life saving equipment that they are. I hate to be pessimistic, but accidents do happen!
According to the CDC, “Child safety seats reduce the risk of death in passenger cars by 71% for infants, and by 54% for toddlers ages 1 to 4 years” (Source:  http://www.cdc.gov/MotorVehicleSafety/Child_Passenger_Safety/CPS-Factsheet.html) I don’t know about you, but if someone told me that I could reduce my child’s chances of dying, I’d be all ears.
I can’t say this enough: if you are involved in a bad car accident, you only get one chance. You can’t go back and reposition your child or adjust the straps. You only get ONE. CHANCE. So you should make informed choices.
When purchasing your child’s seat, try not to pay attention to the design or which one looks the best. Choose the safest one for your child’s age and the car you drive. For example, if you have an SUV and don’t have to worry about space, you’ll be able to consider seats that someone with a Smart Car that hardly has any space can’t. There are several agencies that test car seats, so if you are not sure what to look for, just check out their ratings. Consumer Reports, e.g., is a great resource.
If you decide to purchase a used seat, make sure you verify that the seat was never in a car crash. Also check the expiration date of the seat- there is a sticker underneath the fabric that will have either the expiration date or the date of manufacture. Car seats expire six years from their date of manufacture and should no longer be used.
Personally, I would only buy a used car seat if I knew the person I was buying it from. I would not trust a stranger to be honest with me regarding the seat’s history. Car seats are such a small expense when you think of the amount of use they get. They are definitely one of the most important items you need for your child.
However, even the best of car seats is of little use if it is installed incorrectly. Parents, I beg you to read the instructions carefully and follow them! In cars that have the LATCH system, putting a car seat in is not too difficult. If you are unsure of your installation result, find someone who will double check it for you. Usually, someone at your local Department of Motor Vehicles or the fire station will be able to make sure your child’s seat is installed the way it should be.
One mistake we made when we turned my daughter’s car seat from rear to front facing is that we didn’t attach the tether strap to the appropriate anchor because we hadn’t read that part of the instruction manual. Thankfully, we weren't in an accident. After I read in an article to always read your vehicle’s manual as well, we found out that we cannot install a car seat using the LATCH system in the middle, but would have to use the regular seatbelt for installation in the middle position instead. We moved the seat to one of the side positions. Be informed- read all the manuals carefully!

Once you have installed your seat safely, it is time to learn how to strap your child in correctly. It is very important to ensure that the straps are not twisted and that they are adjusted to your child each time he/she gets into the seat. The straps should be very snug! A lot of parents are concerned that their children may not be comfortable enough and leave the straps too loose. This can be very dangerous, since the child- especially a very small infant- can slip right out of the straps in the event of a crash if the harness is not tight enough. Also, always make sure the chest clip is used at chest height. It should sit between nipple and armpit level.
Especially in winter time, avoid putting your child in the seat wearing a jacket or coat. Anything that sits between your child and the harness hinders the straps sitting properly. In the event of a crash, the jacket or coat will become compressed and practically non-existent, so that the fit of the safety harness will be too loose, putting your child in danger.
The most important piece of advice I have been given is to keep the car seat rear facing as long as possible within the weight limits allowed by the car seat specifications. The AAP altered its recommendation and now also suggests that parents keep their children rear facing as long as possible, at least until the age of two. I know many parents believe their children cannot be comfortable because they are unable to stretch out their legs completely while sitting in the car and turn their children to forward facing as soon as it is legally possible. While I understand this concern, I have to say that children who are always kept rear facing and don’t know any different do not mind sitting with their legs at a slight angle (I would sit like that myself if I could…) The most pressing argument for keeping your child rear facing is that it is FIVE TIMES safer! Again, anything that keeps my babies safer has my undivided attention. You only get one chance…
There are millions of great websites with wonderful tips on car seat safety. My favorite compilation can be found at http://www.drmomma.org/2010/02/common-car-seat-errors.html. Go take a look at them! Read your seat’s manual, even if you’ve been using it for ages. Read you car’s manual, just to be on the safe side. If you don’t like your child’s seat, buy a new one. We all want out children to be safe- don’t take any chances!