Monday, February 28, 2011

Giving Birth Hurts. My letter to midwives et al.

It takes a lot to get me angry, riled up and frustrated but right now I'm MAD. In true Canadian fashion i think i'd like to write a letter to someone- so here it is!

Dear crunchy granola mammas and midwives,

All of this talk about how childbirth is not actually painful is a bold faced lie. You've got all these first time mamas talking about how they don't buy into the "myth" about pain and then wind up stressed out running to Emergency because they have round ligament pain- which is normal and doesn't mean the baby is distressed. In fact it is just a mere taste of what is to come.

I think it is a real diservice not to prepare these women. I honestly felt like i was DYING b/c i was in real pain and i was told and read every stinking recommended book that all said - its not pain just uncomfortable pressure....and that it should be easy if i did my homework.....i did the drills......i did the perinnial massage......i did the breathing......and it still hurt! At one point in my first delivery I started trying to scan my memory for all of the movies where they did last rites for the dying and was mumbling prayers- AND I'M NOT EVEN CATHOLIC.

When my psycho nurse finally tells me she cannot take the screaming anymore and calls the anesthesiologist I was hoping for relief- but the epidural didn't take- only half of my body went numb and the other was in screaming bloody pain. I remember asking the nurse if I was dying. I asked if my body could literally shatter into pieces. She never answered me. (insert expletive of choice!)

I cannot take it anymore when I hear you going on about how it is all mental rather than physical pain.....RIIIIIIIIGHT....having a canonball shot through your vagina is just mentally uncomfortable. ARE YOU LISTENING TO YOURSELF?

I don't understand how you can lie to these girls- why not tell them that it hurts like heck but your body is made to withstand the pain and you'll make it through to the other side- it won't go on forever. I am a firm believer in the power of the mind........but to say it won't hurt frusterates me....and in all honestly it makes me feel bad- are you saying b/c my labor hurt i wasn't doing it right? wasn't good enough?

My second delivery (which involved spinach pizza, our stairwell and paramedics) and third delivery (peaceful water birth)were natural births and didn't last 30 + hours and only had minimal screaming. I've had great labours compared to many- my stories are not horror stories but probably closer to the average. And in each case it still hurt.

Please- for the sake of all of these woman who are now the walking wounded feeling like they didn't have the "birth experience" that they were lead to believe was possible- PLEASE tell the truth.

Giving. Birth. Hurts. Alot.

It's worth it.

You likely won't die.

And it hurts.

But the stitches and afterpains sometimes are even worse.

And it hurts to poo

And you likely will get hemorrhoids

And it will hurt.

Giving birth hurts.

Liar!! Bad Mommy Moment

I was upstairs today playing with the younger two while my oldest is in school and was remembering a moment that happened in december 2008 when my oldest wasn't quite 3 and my middle child was only about 6 months old. One of the many "oops bad mamma moments!"

I was ironing (one of those things that i used to do when i had 2 kids but don't do anymore now that i have 3!) N. was playing lego by my feet and S. was propped up on the couch with toys. N. doesn't even look up and says "mommy S.'s pants fell down". I look over at S sitting happy as a lark with pants.

I sigh- we're struggling with the truth sometimes.

I say " N. are you sure S.'s pants fell down? Maybe it was ona's (her imaginary big sister)?" (trying to give her an "out")

"no mom- S.'s pants fell down" giggle giggle (still not looking up from her lego)

"N. are you telling mommy a story that is not true?"


"N.- i want you to go and look at your sister- is she wearing pants?"

"yep she is"

"then how come you are telling mommy that her pants fell down?" (now in a stern i'm not impressed voice)

N. looks up at me- grabs the pair of S.'s pants that i just ironed that had fallen from the chair to the floor and says "mom- S.'s pants fell down".

Embarassed Embarassed Embarassed

Thursday, February 24, 2011

February Book Club - The Blessing of a Skinned Knee

Every once in a while there is a book that stops you in your tracks and forces you to pause and take stock and re-evaluate your life. This is one such book. Reading it made me excited to be a mother. I felt empowered. I felt relieved. I felt like this could be my manifesto. A book that made me feel like a good mother, and made me feel like I could be an even better one.

I've read literally hundreds (thousands?) of parenting books and articles and while some are interesting and some are informative, most of them leave me feeling - nothing. They are either so simplistic that they are not worth the time it took to read them, or so technical and detached that I cannot feel a connection or identify how they might work in my life or they simply make me feel like a lousy mother. Who wants to read a book about what you should have been doing or how you are ruining your child? The Blessing of a Skinned Knee is like a breath of fresh air- a positive and uplifting and genuine parenting guide.

Nationally known clinical psychologist and lecturer Wendy Mogel introduces parents to the time tested philosophies and approaches to child rearing that are focused on 9 blessings which are the titles of 9 chapters in the book

Chapter 2 The Blessing of Acceptance : Discovering Your Unique and Ordinary Child

Chapter 3 The Blessing of Having Someone to Look Up To: Honoring Mother and Father

Chapter 4 The Blessing of a Skinned Knee : Why God Doesn't want you to Overprotect Your Child

Chapter 5 The Blessing of Longing: Teaching Your Child an Attitude of Gratitude

Chapter 6 The Blessing of Work : Finding the Holy Sparks in Ordinary Chores

Chapter 7 The Blessing of Food: Bringing Moderation, Celebration and Sanctification to Your Table

Chapter 8 The Blessing of Self Control : Channeling Your Child's Yetzer Hara

Chapter 9 The Blessing of Time : Teaching Your Child the Value of the Present Moment

Chapter 10 The Blessing of Faith and Tradition : Losing your Fear of the G Word and Introducing Your Child to Spirituality

There are so many things that speak to me in this book- and while it is technically written from a Jewish perspective, the lessons of life and child rearing are Biblical and practical. In a society where parents seem to be attacked for not doing enough for their children Mogel gives parents permission to follow their hearts and encourages them to look to the future and make long term goals.

This book has literally changed our family, but not in the "lets all be vegetarians least until next week when I come up with something else" kind of way, but in little changes of perspective and attitudes. Mogel herself reminds us that " grand proclamations- "there are going to be some changes around here!!" - don't work. Judaism teaches us not to dive in all at once , but to take on mitzvot (ritual or ethical obligations) one at a time."

And step by step, she outlines the ideals and then builds the bridge for us as parents to work towards them, all the time reassuring us that our children are normal by reminding us that " no one is born feeling grateful; it's an acquired skill! "

The goal of the book centers around two philosophies one being “Jewish wisdom holds that our children don’t belong to us, They are both a loan and a gift from God, and the gift has strings attached. Our job is to raise our children to leave us. The children’s job is to find their own path in life. If they stay carefully protected in the nest of the family, children will become weak and fearful or feel too comfortable to want to leave.” The other philosophy being the realization and acknowledgment that we are not born as parents, but are growing and building character through each day, through each challenge and through each success.

It is most certainly in my top 5 parenting books ever and I would love to encourage you to read it and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Baby Baby Baby Dog

Please bear with me- I've got a theory I'd like to share and would appreciate some feedback.

A first born child is something uniquely wonderful. I often tell my oldest that she made me a mother, before her I was just a wanna be parent. I love her like crazy and am amazed by her constantly. After she was born I didn't think I needed any more children. She was wonderful. She was amazing. I felt complete.( She was also time consuming and she didn't sleep- not really ever.) I didn't think I could ever love another baby in the same way and I didn't think it was fair to her to have to share me.

I was wrong. Having our second daughter was the greatest thing that could have happened to our family. Her arrival brought sunshine and laughter and love- lots and lots and lots of love. She loves to snuggle and quickly found a place in all of our hearts ! She also brought structure to our daily tasks because it took more to juggle both kids, the household and everything else. She taught my oldest daughter about patience - "just a min honey i have to nurse your sister...again!" and about sharing and about what it means to be part of a family unit- not just the center of attention. Her arrival created a different family. I wondered if it was a complete family for us.

It wasn't! Our third daughter is amazing and arrived with a whirlwind and totally changed the family dynamics once again. She helped us build character, she taught us about perseverance and her very presence taught us all about how a family needs to work together. After she was born I couldn't do it all. I *needed* my girls to participate- sometimes in chores like setting and clearing the table, sometimes as "babysitters" while i went pee and often as "gophers" (getting diapers/wipes, etc). And even though things were sometimes busy, rushed, stressful and anxious- having a baby in the house again really slowed us down as a family. Gave us the opportunity to just enjoy our children and watch them grow and learn. We spent more time at home and more time together. I often wonder if my girls don't love each other more than they love us parents!

And now- we have decided that we would prefer not to have any more biological children for practical reasons and plan not to add any other child to our household in the near near future.

I should be thrilled- we have a great family and feel very blessed. But deep down I have a little nagging feeling that we need one more member of the family. Research says (and since this is my blog i don't have to site references- but trust me!) that the ideal number of children in a family is 4. Single children miss the opportunity to experience of loving a sibling and the social conditioning that a sibling provides. Two children - especially if they are the same gender- risk high competition between them. The third child in a family tends to take after the first child and in doing so often creates a 2 vs 1 scenario that is nicely balanced out by having a 4th child.

But what if you don't want to (or cannot ) have more children? What do you do ? Get a puppy.

Yep. This is my theory and has been for the last 10 years long before I had my own children and I'm stickin' to it! A dog provides a nice balance for a family once they are finished having children. If you already have a dog that's ok- getting another puppy should still fulfill the theory.

Why a puppy?
*A puppy is a project that requires the family to work together for success, thus building strength within the family
* Getting a puppy a couple of years after your last child is born helps to balance the "babying" effect that so often happens in families. Now your youngest child can also develop the patience and character that the older children developed while you were tending to your "baby!". They learn gentleness, compassion and even empathy!
* A puppy can also help a mamma partially fulfill the void left behind when she realizes her "baby" is now toddling towards childhood!
* Research continues to show that there are significant physical and mental health benefits to a family upon getting a pet!

So my hypothesis states that a family should round out their family once they are done bringing babies into the family, by adding a pet!

That being said- I think realistically it would probably be most successful to wait until the youngest child is at least 3 years old. And perhaps if the family doesn't have the time, ability, and inclination to get a baby pet /puppy then perhaps finding a trained/socialized pet from a rescue organization or shelter might be good option too - all of the benefits , less stress.

I'd love some of your feedback-do you agree with the baby-baby-baby- dog philosophy?

Monday, February 21, 2011

200 pounds of life

  • Do you know how much 200 pounds really is? If you had something that was 200 pounds you likely couldn't pick it up, and if you could carry it , it probably wouldn't be very far. Some of you get on the scale, or have at one point in your life, and seen the 200 pounds looming closer than you'd like.

    Last year 200 pounds changed my life- but this isn't a weightloss story, and this isn't an adventure story, this is a normal every day story being played out in communities across my country and yours. In commemoration of our daughter's birthday I'd like to share it with you.

    Feb 23 saw the arrival of our third daughter- she was 8 pounds 3 ounces and perfect. Since I
    'd had great success nursing our two other girls (until about 18 months and 16 months)I had no worry about nursing. I enjoyed nursing - and i was proud to watch my girls grow and feel that *I * did that. I had been through the ups and downs of nursing (thrush, mastitis, blanching, etc) but i still truely loved it and the bond that it created. In fact I was one of of those people that was so pro nursing it probably irritated everyone else- I dared the women of the world to just try it because I believed in the power of nursing.

    7 days after she was born at 8:45 am my life changed. I was just finishing up breakfast with my older girls, my husband had gone back to work, my mom had already left for the trip back home and my dad was finishing a project in the basement but he was about to leave as well. I got a phone call from my doctor saying that my baby had tested positive for
    PKU on the newborn heel prick screen and that I needed to get into the city (40km away) to the hospital by 10:00 am so that she could be tested again and the results had to be couriered off by 10:30am. She told me not to nurse anymore as the breastmilk was poisoning my baby. In tears I yelled to my dad to come watch the girls, called my husband and then threw a couple of sleepers in my hospital bag (from birth that i hadn't unpacked) and grabbed my baby and walked out the door still in my pj's. I met with a team at the Stollery Children's Hospital that were amazing and we were admitted and plunged into the strange and scary world of the metabolic disease PKU.
    My daughter has PKU which means that her body cannot properly process one of the amino acids found in protein. This meant she needs to rely on a specialized formula for most of her diet and she will stay on that formula for the rest of her life. But she is allowed a small measured bit of breastmilk (or other source of protein) each day. The trick is to make sure she didn't get too much because that would cause brain damage- and that she didn't get too little because that could prevent her from developing properly (and also could end up in brain damage) . It sounds so simple here in black and white- but it was scary and overwhelming.

    Once admitted to the hospital they taught me how to pump and suggested that I continue pumping 6x a day - every time i gave her a bottle of formula- so that i wouldn't lose my milk supply.I was able to nurse a little (used a scale at first and then timed how many nursing mins per day) . If I could maintain my supply for that little bit of protein she was allowed I would have
    breastmilk for her. I pumped day and night at first and then started slowly weaning down to 5x a day and then 4x a day. But my freezer was full and every time i opened the door I felt reminded of the fact that I couldn't exclusively feed my own baby. And I've never had a feeling of helplessness like that. I had to order the special formula from the hospital and I was terrified that one day I might run out (I'm still terrified that one day i might run out). I felt overwhelmed and like a failure- I was angry and hurt and confused- I had made nursing out to be the greatest thing ever and when i couldn't have the relaxing experience I was so anxious for I really struggled with accepting our new reality. And it was a vicious mental battle- I mourned the life we couldn't have.

  • Of course PKU also brings its own stress and i was often consumed with dealing with the illness. I didn't know what to do with this "white gold. I didn't want to throw it out- I couldn't admit that I was pumping for nothing.....but what do you *DO* with it? I had looked into donating at Vancover where they have Canada's only milk bank- but i needed to pay my own shipping costs and they suggested it might be around $75-100 per month based on how much i was pumping. So I called the LLL leaders and asked if they knew of anyone desperate and they guided me to an online yahoo group and the next day an urgent request came in. There was a two week old baby in the hospital- mamma couldn't produce enough and baby had a bad reaction to formula. I was standing in my kitchen reading the email and I started to cry. I started to pray. I prayed that this baby might use my milk because i NEEDED someone to.

  • I prayed that there was a reason that my daughter was suffering - that her
    PKU would mean that there was enough milk to help another baby in need. Within a week or so I gave my first freezerful. I continued to pump for this family for 6 months and helped try to recruit other donor mammas. They are a wonderful family- and I felt compelled to try to help - after-all I know how it feels to have to rely on someone else to feed your baby- and it is one of the worst feelings in the world.

    Pumping took me about 2 1/2 hours a day between pumping, sterilizing, storing the milk, etc and I hated it. I didn't have that time- i had three very young girls to care for and I was overwhelmed. But i didn't know what else to do. I needed to keep pumping or else I knew I'd lose the little milk I needed for my own baby girl. So every day I'd keep pumping - probably averaging 15-18 ounces most days- sometimes as much as 25 ounces a day and sometimes a little less. It wasn't a lot of milk day to day but it added up to about 200 pounds and it changed the way I saw my daughter's illness, it changed the way i saw my community and it changed the way I saw us as women in general and it changed the way I saw myself.

    "What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?" ~ George Eliot.

    Unfortunately the stress of our own situation was taking its toll and at the 6 months mark i started slowly weaning down. I'm no longer pumping now and my daughter will be one tomorrow. She is still getting the breastmilk and I have a small freezer stash but she'll be off of it by summer. We as a family are doing well- I believe that being a donor
    mamma gave a reason for the struggles we've had with PKU and saved me from post -partum depression. It gave me something positive to focus - something good I could do for someone else when I wanted to despair about my own situation. It wasn't always easy and required a great deal of patience and understanding from my family and friends but I'm so thankful that I was able to be a part of it.

    And if you want to be a part of this kind of a story- go to your local Human Milk 4 Human Babies - previously "eats on feets" group on facebook and find your local chapter. There are women sharing milk and sharing stories and sharing hope.