Loving your c-section, embracing the bottle, and resenting your baby

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Loving your c-section, embracing the bottle, and resenting your baby (courtesy of Jezebel, The Washington Post, and Salon, respectively)

Let me get this out of the way first: I am not a mother. Also, I love the idea of natural childbirth, breastfeeding, wearing your baby, and making your own baby food from your vegetable garden. These are all valid goals and life choices. But they are also a symbol of privilege. They indicate you probably have good health, enough money to decide if or when to go back to work, not to mention help at home, giving you time to devote to additional tasks. So let’s acknowledge that.

Laura Jane of Jezebel had this to say of her cesarean section:

“The point is, very few people choose to have a C-section (I suspect partly because they’re incredibly expensive if not medically necessary) but many do. And despite the huge amount of babies born this way, and with the best intentions possible, this ‘birthing experience’ is seen as somehow unfortunate, a last resort, which you’ll have feel regret for in the months to come.

But it’s not. It is scary and weird to experience no pain in childbirth, but the fact that there is no pain doesn’t make it a lesser experience. It’s just a different one.

It’s taken these months to figure out how I feel about people unintentionally making me feel like I’ve missed out on something with my lame, over-medicalized birthing scene. But I’ve never had any confusion about the experience itself: it was great. It was an awesome day all around and I wouldn’t change a thing. The baby (who was both upside down and backwards in there) was calling the shots, so why wring my hands and wish it could have been another way?”

Am I all for minimizing unnecessary c-sections? Absolutely. Do I think giving birth has become overly medicalized, sterilized, and industrialized? You bet. Should we be shaming women who for one reason or another end up having a c-section? No. Guess what? They got a healthy baby. When that happens, all the rest falls by the wayside.

When strangers, nurses, acquaintances, and friends judged Emily Wax-Thibodeaux for formula feeding her baby, she couldn’t decide if it was worth it to go into her entire medical history to explain why she wasn’t. Since, you know, she’d had a double mastectomy and was in remission for breast cancer.

“So holding my day-old newborn on what was one of the most blissful days of my life, I had to tell the aggressive band of well-intentioned strangers my whole cancer saga.

It felt particularly exhausting because this was the first time in nearly a decade that I could forget about cancer and enjoy having had a fairly easy pregnancy and giving birth to a healthy child.”

Dr. Shawna C. Willey, Emily’s breast surgeon at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, said it best:

“I think that women who have made the difficult decision to have bilateral mastectomies have already grieved the loss of not being able to breastfeed. No group should make a woman feel guilty about the decisions she made . . . or make her feel inadequate about not being able to lactate.”

Women, why are we shaming each other? Parenting is hard enough. New motherhood was especially hard on Charlotte Hsu. She wrote, “I cried all the time. I missed the life that my husband and I once had. My friends tried to console me: It will get better, they said. But for me, in the months ahead, it only got worse.” And eventually, her quality of life did improve. But she didn’t experience that perfect bliss of new motherhood we’ve been told we must be feeling. Jessica Valenti addressed this as well in her fantastic book, Why Have Kids?: A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness. She didn’t feel that immediate bond, either, because her child had so many medical issues that attachment didn’t come as easily as expected.

Fads come and go. Today it’s all natural attachment parenting, but inevitably the pendulum will begin to swing the other way. Babies are supposed to sleep on their backs now; they used to sleep on their stomachs. The absolute right thing to do becomes the absolute wrong thing to do. Maybe we (and I’m including myself here) should stop worrying about what everyone else is doing wrong, and instead be a support system to one another. Let’s be sounding boards, shoulders to cry on, and most importantly, open to the possibility that there is more than one right way to properly procreate.

Study: Too Many Structured Activities May Hinder Children’s Executive Functioning

Study: Too Many Structured Activities May Hinder Children’s Executive Functioning (Education Week)

“When children spend more time in structured activities, they get worse at working toward goals, making decisions, and regulating their behavior, according to a new study.

Instead, kids might learn more when they have the responsibility to decide for themselves what they’re going to do with their time. Psychologists at the University of Colorado and the University of Denver studied the schedules of 70 six-year olds, and they found that the kids who spent more time in less-structured activities had more highly-developed self-directed executive function.

Self-directed executive function develops mostly during childhood, the researchers write, and it includes any mental processes that help us work toward achieving goals—like planning, decision making, manipulating information, switching between tasks, and inhibiting unwanted thoughts and feelings. It is an early indicator of school readiness and academic performance, according to previous research cited in the study, and it even predicts success into adulthood. Children with higher executive function will be healthier, wealthier, and more socially stable throughout their lives.”

Pretty fascinating study. Important caveat:

“The researchers acknowledge that their study only proves correlation, but not causation. That is, it’s possible that children with better executive functioning may prefer to participate in less-structured activities more often, they write, while children with worse executive functioning may be more likely to seek out activities already structured for them.”

Still, I suspect that more research will only serve to clarify these findings, not discredit them.

Hollywood’s Vaccine Wars: L.A.’s “Entitled” Westsiders Behind City’s Epidemic

Hollywood’s Vaccine Wars: L.A.’s “Entitled” Westsiders Behind City’s Epidemic (The Hollywood Reporter)

“Whether it’s measles or pertussis, the local children statistically at the greatest risk for infection aren’t, as one might imagine, the least privileged — far from it. An examination by The Hollywood Reporter of immunization records submitted to the state by educational facilities suggests that wealthy Westside kids — particularly those attending exclusive, entertainment-industry-favored child care centers, preschools and kindergartens — are far more likely to get sick (and potentially infect their siblings and playmates) than other kids in L.A. The reason is at once painfully simple and utterly complex: More parents in this demographic are choosing not to vaccinate their children as medical experts advise. They express their noncompliance by submitting a form known as a personal belief exemption (PBE) instead of paperwork documenting a completed shot schedule.

It’s no secret that anti-vaccine sentiments run high on the Westside. But the data reveals a community where ambiguous fears about the perceived threat of immunization have in fact caused a very real threat. This is a hard topic to discuss, especially here in Hollywood. It hinges on parental choices that directly impact your own children and other parents’ kids, too — a dinner-party land mine to be avoided at all costs. Few parents would speak to THR on the record about their decisions for fear of the backlash.

Yet this silence has turned the issue into a time bomb. At a time in which America is consumed with Ebola fears, a very real and preventable health crisis could explode in our backyard. With a whooping cough outbreak growing even faster than the swelling non-vaccination rate, questions of responsibility, both personal and collective, deserve urgent answers.”

Really well-researched, thought-provoking read. This is not mean-spirited anti-vaxxer propaganda, which I the article I started reading before I got to this one. I do support vaccinating children, but I don’t support vilifying people that don’t. We have to have a rational conversation about this, because people standing on either sides of a fence yelling at each other isn’t helping anyone, and it’s only making parents dig in further.

Steve Jobs Was a Low-Tech Parent

Steve Jobs Was a Low-Tech Parent (The New York Times)

“‘So, your kids must love the iPad?’ I asked Mr. Jobs, trying to change the subject. The company’s first tablet was just hitting the shelves. ‘They haven’t used it,’ he told me. ‘We limit how much technology our kids use at home.’

I’m sure I responded with a gasp and dumbfounded silence. I had imagined the Jobs’s household was like a nerd’s paradise: that the walls were giant touch screens, the dining table was made from tiles of iPads and that iPods were handed out to guests like chocolates on a pillow.

Nope, Mr. Jobs told me, not even close.

Since then, I’ve met a number of technology chief executives and venture capitalists who say similar things: they strictly limit their children’s screen time, often banning all gadgets on school nights, and allocating ascetic time limits on weekends.

I was perplexed by this parenting style. After all, most parents seem to take the opposite approach, letting their children bathe in the glow of tablets, smartphones and computers, day and night.

Yet these tech CEO’s seem to know something that the rest of us don’t.”

This is a really touchy subject; I’ve witnessed parents get very defensive in conversations about how much screen time they allow their children. My best friend is a pre-school teacher, and she’s gone off on rants about how children should be interacting with the world, not with a screen. Turns out technology CEO’s feel the same way.

Of course balance is key; our parents had these same conversations when we were kids about television. And of course there is the ideal – the kind of parents we want to be, versus the kind of parents we are. Because life gets in the way of ideals sometimes, but we have to keep trying anyway.

Global Parenting Habits That Haven’t Caught On In The U.S.

Global Parenting Habits That Haven’t Caught On In The U.S.

“If there’s one thing Tiger Mothers have in common with those bringing up Bébé, it’s that they both show us just how varied parenting styles can be. Argentine parents let their kids stay up until all hours; Japanese parents let 7-year-olds ride the subway by themselves; and Danish parents leave their kids sleeping in a stroller on the curb while they go inside to shop or eat. Some global parenting styles might make American parents cringe, but others sure could use a close study. Vietnamese mothers, for instance, get their kids out of diapers by 9 months.

Read on for a sampling of parenting lessons from around the world.”

Totally fascinating list, which really reiterates the point that there is not one right way or wrong way to parent. Something to remember the next time you get into a fight with someone over co-sleeping, cloth diapering, or whatever happens to be the latest trend in raising children.

 

This Is What Sex-Positive Parenting Really Looks Like

This Is What Sex-Positive Parenting Really Looks Like

“I’m what some people call ‘sex-positive.’ That doesn’t mean I talk with my 4-year-olds about how great sex is and how good it feels. It means I don’t pretend it’s something other than it is.

As parents, we lie all the time. About the Easter Bunny or Santa or the Tooth Fairy, about how long 10 minutes is, about whether or not we remembered they wanted to have grilled cheese for dinner again… We lie a lot. But one thing I never lie about is sex.

I don’t want them to grow up ashamed of their bodies or confused about what they do. I don’t tell them about cabbage patches or storks; I make an effort, always, to be honest about human reproduction. Every aspect of it.”

Another fantastic essay about being honest with your children about sex. (If you missed it, be sure to also check out “What If We Admitted to Children That Sex Is Primarily About Pleasure?”) I hope one day we can live in a world where shame about our bodies isn’t a dominant aspect of our culture, and ladies like this are leading the way.

America’s Baby Bust [Feb 2013]

America’s Baby Bust [Feb 2013]

Here in America, white, college-educated women—a good proxy for the middle class—have a fertility rate of 1.6. America has its very own one-child policy. And we have chosen it for ourselves.

Forget the debt ceiling. Forget the fiscal cliff, the sequestration cliff and the entitlement cliff. Those are all just symptoms. What America really faces is a demographic cliff: The root cause of most of our problems is our declining fertility rate.

Important note about this article: The author is coming from a significantly more conservative viewpoint than my own. I agree that America’s declining birth rate is a problem, but I don’t necessarily agree with what caused it or even the solution. But what he does well is to really examine why a low birth rate is a problem in the United States and other countries.

What do I think we can do about it? Subsidizing child care and making paid maternity/paternity leave a priority certainly wouldn’t hurt. I don’t think it would fix everything, but giving parents a support system is even more important now that most of us live far from our extended families. With our government being the complete clusterf*** that it is, however, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.