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You Mad?

The 33 shares on Facebook for my last post means it was controversial.  And that’s the point.  Sometimes we say things other people don’t want to hear.  I was really cranky yesterday after twisting my knee and seeing a mommy blogger apologize for her voice which has helped so many people, so I’m sure the message was rough around the edges. The point was that natural parents who present their beliefs to the world- that breast is best, that corporal punishment is harmful, and other things- should continue to present this helpful information without being concerned with avoiding hurting feelings.  If I do something wrong, I feel bad for it.  I understand the mechanism of hurt feelings.  I also understand compassion and empathy and not wanting other moms to hurt.  Yes, we are all connected.

But they’ll get over it and maybe be better for it  Hey, they were reading your blog in the first place- which means they were probably looking for that information that may have hurt their feelings.  You can help remind them that we are all human.  We all make mistakes.  Then we learn from them.

Bottom line: psychologists wouldn’t be so plentiful and successful if we were not a society trained in avoiding emotion.  Avoiding emotion does not get my vote for best idea ever.  So speak, sisters.

P.S.  I’ll take the opportunity here to point out that I am on my THIRD child, have certainly not lived up to my original AP intentions, and still believe strongly in the principles that have guided the formation of those ideals.  Still- superior, bully, whatever you want to call it- I am not that.

Aside
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Disclaimer: Since many people have a hard time identifying sarcasm, irony, and the likes through text, please be advised that I do practice AP, I do not identify with the AP Crowd, and I am being quite sarcastic below.  But I am better than you.  Just kidding… the whole point of this post is actually the opposite of that.  I am not better than you, but I did benefit greatly from those who wanted to help me be better than a previous version of me.  

So this happened today.

This isn’t the first time one of my favorite mommy bloggers backed off her stance of whatever it was because she realized the internet is actually a large network of real people she didn’t actually want to offend.  I understand that.  In this world, there are people who just naturally get along.  Other people like them.  They don’t like conflict.

Natural parenting attracts a lot of conflict.  I’ll tell you why: in the same manner the Church is known for not representing literal Christian values, the AP crowd is known for their own sort of hypocrisy and hyperbole.  There happen to be seven Baby B’s of Attachment Parenting.  You probably know of breastfeeding, birthing naturally, babywearing, and maybe a few more.  I bet you didn’t know “Balance” is in fact one of the backbone principles of these popular parenting guidelines.  Yeah, if I read one more blog about not “forcing” a child to say “thank you” to strangers who compliment or help them, I might forget it myself.  Here is where I simply mention that I believe “Balance” includes a healthy understanding of basic social interactions, even though they might make a child uncomfortable, among other things.  And back to the topic at hand.

So the Church of AP is a bunch of in-group bullies, and that’s obviously an exaggeration, but bear with me.  You, you disposable-diapering, formula-feeding, non-co-sleeping, epidural-getting, time-out-using old hags, you are the outgroup.  Ahem, we are the outgroup.  (I’m not owning up to all of those, but I’ll admit to falling short of my Sears ideals.)  And I understand that there has been a lot of bullying because honestly, the folks who are reading up on Attachment Parenting are the folks who probably hate their own parents for screwing them up and needed to find a road map to anywhere that wasn’t where their own parents ended up.  Maybe they need to feel better about themselves because mom was kind of mean, and that might mean bullying (which is not okay- it’s just kind of obvious to put together).

That’s almost what happened to me.  I ate the stuff up.  At 20 years old, I’d already come up with a birth plan and a few weekly meal plans for toddlers and picked out a great preschool… maybe it wasn’t that intense, but maybe it was.  AP was my Bible.  The families I nannied for were my preachers.  I’d found my calling in life, and I was great at this caring-for-kids-in-the-superior-way stuff.  I could have been a total jerk, but then I had the ultimate humbling experience: children.

But I didn’t care that AP was supposed to be superior to other people’s ways.  I cared that it was often the best for the children.  I cared that breastfeeding, and my support of breastfeeding mothers, could mean fewer illnesses for those children.  I cared that getting on their level and listening to them helped them learn to value their voices and emotions.  I cared that wearing an infant would help her feel emotionally secure when she was off playing by herself.  I was, and am, so grateful for the information that doctors, psychologists, and mommy bloggers put out there for me to devour. Truly, I was never into searching out formula feeding moms and “educating” them- just really stuck to hanging out with people who saw things kind of the way I did.  That’s what people do in general, anyway.

I can’t imagine being apologetic for believing in what I believe or apologizing for the facts that helped form my beliefs.

“It made me realize that telling people to not let facts hurt them, was like expecting the rainfall to never touch a single body.” – Two Degrees of Suburbia

But you’re not giving the facts to just people.  You’re giving the facts to parents.  We shouldn’t be so concerned about hurting people’s feelings when we can educate large numbers of people.  We can change a person’s journey on a destructive path by simply linking a few articles on Facebook.  That’s worth a few defensive reactions, in my opinion.

And you know what?  When you believe something, don’t be chicken and say it isn’t worth believing in because a few of your friends don’t like it.

For instance: I have a couple of really wonderful hard core Christian friends.  But I’ll tell them to their faces that gay rights are important, I don’t see any logical way to continue to deny them, and I’ll back that up with facts.  Christians love their Jesus!  I have loved Jesus.  They might get their feelings hurt in that conversation, but it’s right.  I love those ladies, but the issue of civil rights is bigger than avoiding an uncomfortable conversation with a couple of really great friends.  In any case, they’ll still be my friends at the end of the day, because I think we all realize that differing opinions don’t mean you should cut someone out of your life.

Loving and advocating for children and families should be bigger than avoiding uncomfortable conversations with a couple of really great friends.

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On Our Decision to Delay Vaccination

I think doctors know their stuff.  If I’m taking courses as an undergrad psychology student on how to interpret numbers in scientific studies, I’m positive that doctors get that training times a bunch.  However, I’ve noticed that doctors have different approaches to different things.  Some doctors will tell you that you absolutely must have all vaccines on schedule, and all the scientific evidence backs that up.  Some doctors say that the common schedule has way too many vaccines given too close together.  Some doctors question vaccination either entirely or when very young children are the ones being stuck with needles.

When Gwenna was born, I found a pediatrician I felt I could trust and left the needle stuff to him.  I was too busy checking out articles and books on attachment parenting, baby wearing, breastfeeding, natural birth- all the new mom stuff.  Gwenna is up-to-date on her vaccines.  She had her vaccinations spaced out- one or so once a month.  We never had any bad reactions except for her first MMR, and that was the first time I experienced the horrible feeling of not being able to soothe my baby.  She got over it quickly.

I learned that it could have been much, much worse.  Just checking out the HRSA site (Health Resources and Services Administration- a government program) will tell you that there is a National Vaccine Injury Compensation program.  This program pays money to families of people who are injured by vaccines.  There’s a table that explains which vaccines are covered and how an injury (including death) can be reported to the HRSA and compensation be given for it.

“Since the first Vaccine Injury Compensation claims were made in 1989, 2,975 compensation payments have been made, $2,317,734,924.26 disbursed to petitioners…”  Also, “9,370 claims have been dismissed”- so only about a quarter of claimants were actually compensated.  Even paying only a fraction of claimants results in a huge bill for this program, and that’s a heck of a lot of money to be tossing around for something (vaccines) that claims “no fault”.

That creeps me out.

Nevermind that claims have been made that vaccines have dangerous and untested chemicals in them, that live virus vaccines are so controversial, that some studies/surveys show unvaccinated children to have stronger immune systems than vaccinated children, that vaccines could raise the risk of SIDS, that vaccines don’t truly provide immunity, and that vaccines should not actually be credited with the demise of certain epidemics- it just freaks me out that our country spends that much money on paying people who get hurt or die as a result of routine health procedures.

The bit about Japan moving its minimum age of vaccination to two years for a while really caught my attention.  Dr. Sears, if I remember correctly, encourages delaying vaccination for a while after birth- and he might even say until two years.  Basically, the SIDS rate really shot down.  When they moved the minimum age back to two months, SIDS shot back up.  Producers of vaccinations have not attempted to spin a response, as far as I know, except to say that no link has been scientifically proven.

As scary as some of these accusations are, I don’t think vaccinations are wholly unnecessary evils.  I think they can probably help, and I would prefer to be safe than sorry.  That’s why I compare my girls’ chances of contracting (or carrying) exotic diseases like those the early vaccines claim to prevent versus their chances of being negatively affected by the vaccines themselves.  Even barring outrageous circumstances, vaccines hurt.  They make babies fussy and are sometimes painful for a while.  For me, that poses the very basic question of why I’m hurting my baby when she has no capacity to understand the situation.  I don’t have an answer.

There’s also breast milk to consider: doesn’t my baby get immunity through my milk?  Breast milk contains live organisms, many of which build and strengthen a young child’s immune system.  There are no solid scientific studies which support or refute the idea that a vaccinated mother can pass on her immunity from vaccinations to her baby, but the child is at least getting some immunity.  If my baby and I were both exposed to a cold, for instance, I’d essentially be able to feed my baby antibodies that would work against the cold.

So that’s that.  I’m scared of the toxic backlash of vaccines on a very fragile new person, and I think that my family is suited for delayed vaccinations.  Both of my girls will be home for a couple more years.  I’m going to breastfeed again (and maybe slip some breast milk into some food for Gwenna).  I no longer work with the care of other children.  We don’t travel.  We have good nutrition.

That’s our call.  When Gwenna goes to school, we’ll resume vaccinations (probably).  If there’s an outbreak of some sort, we may consider a vaccination then.  But this is what fits us for now.  Am I a little worried about the possibility of someone in my family contracting a deadly virus?  Of course- but I’m more worried about bad reactions to chemicals and live virus vaccines.  I’m terrified of SIDS.  I am inherently distrustful of pharmaceutical companies.

So this is mothering… we researched, we listened to both sides.  And now we just keep our fingers crossed.

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“How to divorce proof your marriage”!!

This article was linked on my Facebook newsfeed this morning:

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/07/11/how-to-divorce-proof-your-marriage/

Anti-child, anti-woman bull crap.

Now hear me out: I value a healthy marriage.  I value my husband’s needs, and I need him, too.  We have a weekly date night, and it is SO very helpful.  But this?

“‘We tend to focus more on our children than our marriage, which is a formula for disaster,’ according to Michele Weiner-Davis, author of divorcebusting.com and The Sex-Starved Marriage, who said the best thing you can do for your children is to put your marriage first.”

First off, the blogger (Julie Relevant on foxnews.com) takes words out of the mouth of the author she is quoting and twists them into something entirely different.  You don’t need to take a course in logic to know the difference between not focusing more on your children than your marriage and putting your marriage first.  This is actually a very important distinction to make: not giving preference to your children over your husband is not the same as giving preference to your husband.  Obviously, the appropriate thing to do is balance as much as possible and not give preference to either.  After the birth of our first child, my husband was actually under the impression from several different childbirth educators, articles, etc., that I should be placing more value on our relationship than on my parenting relationship with Gwenna.

You can imagine how that situation went, infused with postpartum hormones and slack-jawed disbelief from my end.

The Mama Lion inside of me roars out with indignation at the thought that any human being could fancy themselves more important to me than my own children.  I assume that this notion that the husband comes first must have originated in a man’s head.

Luckily, there are men who have come around from what I can only imagine is a turn-of-the-last-century point of view (I have no idea how this ideology began, why, or a good plan to figure it out; I’ll leave that for later):

“Attachment Parenting is all about balance – finding the right balance between fostering a close relationship with your child and maintaining a close marriage relationship. These two sides do not necessarily have to be at conflict, especially if BOTH parents nurture an attachment with the child. When a mom and dad are fostering a close, attached relationship with their child, this naturally brings the parents closer together as well.” – Dr. Sears, from askdrsears.com

Image

My husband, wearing Gwenna in the Moby Wrap while she naps.  Attached Daddy.

Here is a pediatrician- a doctor who knows about the biology of children and has observed the biology of mothering with his own sizable family- who is suggesting that not only should you not give preference to your husband over your children, but your husband should be very involved with the children as well.

Dr. Sears includes a section in The Baby Book about balancing your marriage and your kids along with the rest of your life.  He suggests keeping newborns in a sling on date night, and sending older kids to Grandma’s or the sitter’s.  He acknowledges how important it is to give yourself time to breathe and bond quietly with your spouse while not downplaying the importance of having such a brand new baby close to mommy.  Now that is a real man.

Perhaps I should explain in more detail why I am so annoyed by this notion of the husband coming first: it’s because it’s stupid.

Anyone who has ever had a child, and even moreso anyone who has ever nursed a child, knows that mothers of newborns have enormous hormonal reactions to being separated from their baby.  These attachment hormones fluctuate with the level of attachment a mother chooses to foster or to deny- and attachment is quite a healthy function in new mothers.  It’s probably appropriate for me to mention that, as the baby grows and nursing becomes more spaced or the baby weans, these hormones ease, and a mother begins to enjoy her sparse time away from the little ones again. But back to the healthy, appropriate function of attachment: there is an entire branch of science dedicated to tracking and deciphering the ramifications of whether or not a baby has a strong attachment with a caregiver.  Most of what you will find, should you choose to pursue more information on the subject, is that having an attached, present parent during early years is intensely related to how that child will act and perceive events and relationships throughout life.

Anyway, why am I focusing on newborns and new mothers?  Because this article, like many many many others, was geared toward women who are concerned about changes in family life after a new baby arrives.  This article, and all the others like it, gives an inexperienced mother the impression that she has to stifle those feelings of attachment and need to be by her baby’s side in order to “do the right thing”, which, on Fox News, is apparently making sure the husband is always happy and has a sandwich and sex whenever he wants it.

The bottom line is that this approach is not very scientific.  It completely ignores the importance and value of a strong attachment between parents and children.  It doesn’t shed light on the fact that families can create very secure attachments between each member through spending time together as a group.  It doesn’t mention that a woman’s love for her husband likely grows exponentially in the days and weeks following her baby’s birth, and vice versa, if the birth was a good experience.  It doesn’t give advice for fathers to bond with their babies and get the heck over themselves, because you know what?  Mommy can’t have sex for a few weeks after birth anyway, and that has zero to do with how much she wants him.  It doesn’t tell women that they shouldn’t ignore the strong urges to nurture their babies, and they shouldn’t feel pressured to go out for a night without the baby when, for good reason, all they can think about is the baby.  It doesn’t tell women that they shouldn’t feel guilty for not being able to meet their husbands’ needs during the postpartum period, because her body has done an amazing and transformative thing and needs to recover.

So can we please address these things?  Can we acknowledge that men can have insecurities, and a woman’s duty to her man who might have these insecurities is not about pawning her new baby off on relatives she might not totally trust in order to calm his feelings?  How about we start talking about these things?  How about, before we write blogs on foxnews.com about how a woman should act in the postpartum phase, we make sure we’re not twisting words around or perpetuating some ill-formed idea that a man can only feel loved by his wife if they are not around a baby?

Also, I’m not saying date nights are bad, even if you take a date night the very first week.  I just would prefer that mothers not be surprised at how guilty they feel about doing something that some “expert” on foxnews.com told them was the right thing to do.  Those hormones don’t play, and there’s a reason for that.

Alright then.  Off to bake.