Tuesday, March 30, 2010

An Essay on Circumcision

Making recent provincial and international headlines, the topic of male infant circumcision (herein referred to as MIC), brought up in any forum, is considered by some one of the most controversial debates of the century, with personal views ranging from dead set against it to why wouldn’t you. Many say it is a personal decision, but people are now asking whose decision is it: the boy’s or his parents’? According to a Men’s Health article, MIC became popular in the late 1800s after Lewis Sayre, MD claimed it could cure many diseases including epilepsy and TB; MIC soon became routine after John Harvey Kellogg, MD stated it was a successful remedy for masturbation, considered a major problem in those days.

There are many arguments for leaving a baby boy intact and here are four of the most common. First, MIC is a surgery, even though it is routinely done without sedation or local anaesthetic, with surgical side effects including bleeding and severe pain and surgical risks such as infection, various types of deformities and dysfunctions of the penis, and of course, death. Second, MIC frequently interferes with mother-child bonding and early breastfeeding. Third, recent studies, including Taddio’s, have shown it has detrimental effects of the developing brain and alters pain perception, decreasing pain thresholds in circumcised males. Finally, in later life, MIC causes significantly reduced sexual pleasure.

The four of the most common arguments for MIC are as follow. First, religious reasons including the covenant between Abraham and his descendants and God as written in Genesis 17:10-14 are often cited. Second, there are generations-old family traditions where boys are circumcised and the decision is not questioned as to why. Third, there is a belief that MIC results in decreased urinary tract infections, sexually transmitted infections including HIV and penile cancer, which has recently been disproved by newer studies. Finally, there is the thought that if done early enough in life the boy will not feel the pain or remember the procedure.

More and more research is coming out, or becoming public, about circumcision. Since 1975, the Canadian Association of Paediatricians has recommended against routine circumcision. Their US counterpart had taken a lighter approach until 1999 when they too, began recommending against routine MIC. According to the Canadian Paediatric Society's statement on circumcision in 1975 (and restated in 1982, 1989 and again in 1996), there is no medical indication for circumcision during the neonatal period.

Most of the commonly known reasons for routine circumcision are misunderstood or blown out of proportion. For example, the rate of UTI (urinary tract infection) for an intact baby boy is about 7/1000 and for a circumcised baby is about 2/1000. BUT, the rate of complication from the circumcision surgery is 20-30/1000 with 2-3/1000 being serious complications. Approximately 10/1000 circumcised babies need to have the surgery repeated in later life and only 10/1000 intact boys need to be circumcised in later life.

There is also a belief that the boy should look like his peers, but according to recent studies, Canada has a 31.9% circumcision rate, meaning 68.9% of new baby boys are intact. Currently, Alberta is the highest province with approximately 44% circumcised and Nova Scotia is the lowest with only 6%.
One cannot forget that foreskin has a purpose. It is designed to protect the glans, keeping it soft, moist and warm; it protects the boy from UTIs; it provides the extra skin needed for an erection; it reduces friction during sex and it maintains sexual sensitivity. Every circumcised male experiences an estimated 15% decrease in sexual sensitivity.

I am so glad that I am cheap and questioned getting my son circumcised because it cost so much (almost $400 is Alberta after doctors fee and tray fee). This led me to start researching why they charge for it, and, in turn, led me to question it in general. I have found that circumcision is one subject that the more I read and learn, the more against it I become. Therefore, yes, I am very pro-intact, anticircumcision. I intentionally did not use the word uncircumcised in any of my writing because that makes it sound like circumcision is the norm, which it is not. I also had a little difficulty getting in the opposing arguments, because some are no longer backed by fact and I do not want somebody to believe that some of the old arguments are valid.

While this debate rages on, more research is being done in hopes of ending the controversy. In the meantime, many are choosing to delay the procedure until the boy can decide for himself.

Jenkins, Mark. Separated at Birth. Men’s Health, July/August 1998, pages 130-135,163
Taddio, A. et al. Effect of neonatal circumcision on pain responses during vaccination in boys. The Lancet Volume 345, Number 8945: Pages 291-292, 4 February 1995.
Taddio, A. et al. Effect of neonatal circumcision on pain response during subsequent routine vaccination The Lancet, Volume 349, Number 9052: Pages 599-603, March 1, 1997.
Canadian Paediatric Society’s webpage: www.cps.ca
American Paediatric Society’s webpage: www.aap.org
Peaceful Parenting’s webpage: www.drmomma.org,
Circumcision Information and Research Pages: www.cirp.org

By Alicia Farvolden

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Start of a Food Revolution

I watched Jamie Oliver's show "Food revolution" on TV the other night. I was shocked and horrified, but frankly not very surprised. Watching the show (and if you haven't yet you should) really made me think about how we (as a culture) feel about our food and what we know about our food. I wasn't at all surprised that the lunch ladies didn't feel that there was anything wrong with serving the kiddos processed chicken nuggets, and when Jamie asked them to read the list of ingredients on the package, the were not at all concerned about the paragraph of ingredients with unpronouncable names. "The first ingredient is chicken, it's fine". One lady said that if it wasn't ok to eat, the government wouldn't serve it to us right? Right.

This is what got me going. We expect the government to stand up for us little guys and protect us from the big bad corporations, but what we are expecting isn't reality. This is just not happening. AT ALL. Not in North America. We are all fools if we sit idly by and expect the government to save us from making choices that are killing us. In the food biz it may be hard to get at good information about the real value of what we are eating, but it is out there. We need to be responsible to ourselves and our families about what we put in our mouths. When we get this information we need to shout it from the roof tops.

This is the challenge. This is what Jamie is trying to do, and this is what I want you to do too. It might be hard, and we might feel regretful or even guilty examining some of the choices we have made in the past, but I feel like this is very necessary because we are KILLING ourselves and our children, and we should be FIGHTING for their health.

"I believe that every child in America has the right to fresh, nutritious school meals, and that every family deserves real, honest, wholesome food. Too many people are being affected by what they eat. It's time for a national revolution. America needs to stand up for better food!" - Jamie Oliver

Makes you think doesn't it? I love that Jamie is starting in the schools, and educating the children who don't even know what a potato is. I myself, being of a certain lactivist bent, wonder if we don't need to address the fact that this lack of real wholesome food starts with babies, how we feed them and how we feel about how we feed them.

So now I'm gonna start shouting. You may want to cover your ears, because it might hurt, but I feel that this is really vitally important.

We cannot ignore the connection between starting our children's lives on ultra processed food from a can and the growing inability to recognize healthy natural foods. A quick google search reveals over 300 referenced journal articles citing the increased risk of obesity associated with feeding artificial baby milks. One meta study published in the International Journal of Obesity finds a conclusive risk of obesity associated with not breastfeeding.

Another thing to consider is that breastmilk changes in taste, dependent on the mother's diet. So a normally fed baby experiences different flavors with each feed, while an artificially fed baby tastes the same processed mixture day after day. Consider the impact of sensitizing our children in this way from birth. It makes sense to me that if we start them off with mass produced unhealthy food from a can, children will have little or no choice to continue their life in this way. Especially if you consider how we feel about it.

"Formula is the same as breast milk" (or the next best thing)

"I was fed that way and I turned out fine." (with your glasses, obesity and asthma?)

It's terrifying to consider that our inability to feed our children NORMALLY as infant translates to an inability for them to eat normally as children. We do need to consider this, so that we can grieve, give our heads a shake and start to shout. Join me.

Lee-Ann Grenier

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hospital Birth?

Just yesterday I was talking to a mom just for a couple minutes. Somehow the conversation turned to childbirth and she said her first baby was an emergency c-section. Her second was a c-section, too. I said something like, "You know you can have a natural birth after a c-section." She got this look of disgust and said, "I know, but I didn't find out until after my second, and then they told me no way." I haven't known this mom for very long, but her story is so familiar. A mom who was told she couldn't have something that she wanted for herself and her baby and felt she had no choice otherwise.

I have avoided for the most part being a mom with that story. Sometimes I think it's luck, but then I consider the decisions I've made along the way that have led to three beautiful, perfect, and natural labor and delivery stories. The decisions seemed small at the time, but in the end, they were of great magnitude. And I'm convinced that most of it had to do with the professionals I chose to help me along the way. I'm also convinced that knowing what I didn't want and listening to my gut also played key roles in my experiences.

I chose to have my babies in the hospital. I chose this because I was confident that I could do it on my terms. The midwife I was seeing for my first baby (the third one I had seen in my first few months of pregnancy because I just wasn't comfortable with the first two) was very supportive of my choices and even advocated for me when the OB wanted to induce me because I was overdue. I called my mom crying when we were told we would need to report to the hospital the next morning for an induction, even after the NST had shown everything was normal. My husband was furious because the OB hadn't even seen me. I resolved that if they felt that strongly about inducing me, they were going to have to come find me with sirens and flashing lights. Then my midwife called me and said, no, we had a plan and she would see me on Tuesday for our appointment.

But I didn't make it on Tuesday. Contractions started early Monday morning and after 11 ½ hours of un-medicated labor, we met our beautiful, perfect little girl. She showed no signs of being nearly two weeks overdue and nursed like a champ from the very beginning. My husband commented that I was much more pleasant while I was in labor than I had been in the weeks leading up to it. And even minutes after our baby girl was born, I remember saying, "I could do that again." (I had to laugh because when I got my charts a few years later, the mother/baby nurse had written that I was confident in my ability to nurse my baby, "maybe too confident?" I nursed that baby without any trouble for 22 months, as well as every baby after that.)

After our first was born, I was honored to be asked to be a friend's birth partner. I went to all the birth classes with her and I remember sitting there thinking that there was so much this nurse was not telling these new parents. I'll never forget the look on her face when I announced that if you are the pregnant woman, you still have a say in what they do to you, whether it's induce you or simply what drugs they put in your body or the tests they want you to take. And the same went for your baby. You can ask questions, ask them to wait, or just plain say no. The nurse was horrified. And I was equally as horrified at how horrified she was. It was like she was going to lose the control she had over that class because I had just told them they had choices.

Two years later, I was pregnant again. And my midwife was fantastic enough to write in my chart that I didn't need a hep-lock during labor (the first time it was just in the way) and that after the baby was born I didn't need pitocin to shrink my uterus since I planned to nurse my newborn. When we checked in, the triage nurse was pretty set on poking me. But after I insisted, she left, came back and announced it was okay. Thank you, midwife, for writing it in my chart.

This time I was in labor for 6 ½ hours before our second beautiful and perfect baby girl was born. During labor everyone was so nice and helpful making it a beautiful experience. My husband was again amazed at how pleasant I was during labor. He was a big advocate and super support during the whole process. And everyone just went with it because it was going so well. I remember at one point feeling as if I was stalling out, and I looked up to see the midwife just sitting in the rocking chair waiting so patiently. Then my water broke and we had a baby soon after that.

By the time I was pregnant with baby number three, our insurance had changed and I needed to find a new provider. I asked around and heard the name of one OB from several people. So I set an appointment and made my list of "I needs". At the first appointment I rattled my list off and he looked at me, smiled a goofy smile and said, "You sound like my wife." I could have hugged him.

My new OB was my best advocate and wrote everything in my chart. Everything from not poking me to my request for the placenta. He approved of all my requests, including the fact that I didn't want to take the glucose test, and I am forever thankful for him.

When I did go into labor and went to the hospital, the nurse looked at me kind of sideways when I told her I didn't want the hep-lock. Then I said, "I'm not a hysterical woman in labor. You can poke me later if you need to." I could tell she was somewhat confused by my statement, but as labor progressed, she was quite verbal with her observations of how the whole experience was unfolding. No, I wasn't hysterical (she actually wrote in my chart that I was "very pleasant") and my husband was super supportive and helpful. I've come to learn that all of these things are very rare in that hospital.

In the end, I went from 7 centimeters to my water breaking in two contractions. The next contraction the baby crowned, and the next contraction she was born-less than four hours after active labor had started. And the nurse who was originally hesitant about my requests got to catch my baby. She was thrilled.

My OB missed it by twenty minutes. I had to giggle when he walked in. "You know," he said with that same goofy grin he had given me at the beginning, "ninety percent of women can give birth at home."

After my baby was born, we suddenly had a room full of people busily doing what they were supposed to do. But one of them was pushing on my tummy in a not-so-gentle manner. Someone must have noticed because my baby's nurse came up to me after that nurse had left and said very gently, "I think I'll just be your nurse, too." I don't know what went down, but I didn't see the not-so-gentle nurse again. And I was thankful for it.

I had caused quite a stir in the birth unit. I got all sorts of questions about what I was going to do with the placenta, questions about babywearing, and comments on how labor and delivery went. Our delivery nurse was so thrilled to be a part of our experience, and I think she was talking to everyone about it. (Three days later when we came in for a post-partum baby and mommy check, they were still talking about us. We also have a picture of baby #3 with the nurse.) They let me walk to the recovery room and even when we were on our way home, they let me wear our baby out the door in my wrap rather than carry her or have her in the car seat, even though they weren't supposed to. I think they liked us.

I'm not saying everyone should have their baby in the hospital. I'm not against birth centers or home birth. What I am saying is that if you know what you want (or at least you know what you don't want), if you are a little picky, a little insistent, and you find the right people, (and you are nice about it in the mean time) chances are that you can have a really great experience giving birth in a hospital if that's where you choose to be. You should not have guilt for changing providers when you are uncomfortable. Yes, there are pregnancies that need special care due to special circumstances, but even then you can insist on what you deem your best educated choice is. And good providers will help and support you along the way and not make you feel that you are a crazy person.

By Heidi Donnelly

Monday, March 8, 2010

For International Women's Day: Advocacy vs Encouragement

I am still stunned by many of the comments in response to last week's Let Your Feet Do The Shopping. While many understood the point of Lee-Ann's post, others did not. There seems to be a strong feeling among some lactivists that anything other than gentle persuasion will only harm the cause of breastfeeding. At an individual, mother to mother level, I agree.

BUT...at an activist, changing public perception & policy level, I call bullshit.

Why are we more concerned about the feelings of one store owner who behaved horribly & freaked out than about the feelings of the mothers (dozens? hundreds?)for whom the formula freebies will destroy their breastfeeding relationships? Why are we not raging that a store owner is unknowingly (I give her the benefit of the doubt with this) endangering the lives & health of infants with her freebie? Why do some defend her, instead of getting angry?

2 reasons.

First, because they are concerned about creating change at the individual level. From that perspective, clearly, the battle of the store owner has been lost. More on that concept later.

Second, because deep deep down, most do not really believe that infant formula & the marketing thereof is dangerous. Yes, yes, yes, of course: Breastmilk is best (it isn't. Not even close. It is in fact just normal.), but formula is just fine, really.

If you are harbouring that notion, deep down, let me disavow you of it.

2 things.

Babies are born expecting to be breastfed. If they aren't, they will not develop as they were supposed to. Period. That translates to a 30% increased risk of death (yes, in North America!) when babies are not breastfed. This is in addition to the myriad health problems caused that do not result in death.

Second, infant formula is a consumer product that is at risk of contamination, misproduction, etc, etc etc. Google formula recall if you don't believe me. So babies can be harmed by the not breastfeeding &/or by the formula itself.

Back to idea of change at the individual level.

We need to differentiate between offering dialogue to individual mothers about breastfeeding & large scale activism.

Large scale activism is what Fierce Mamas is engaged in. We want to effect change with public policy & perception both. We believe that only once that has taken place will individuals understand why, even if they have chosen to not breastfeed, it must be supported as policy.

Before I go farther, I want to point out that as individuals, the 3 major contributors to Fierce Mamas are all professionally supporting breastfeeding mothers. We have a total of more than 20 years between us, providing counselling , information & support to thousands in a variety of capacities. We know of what we speak, here.

Large scale activism. What does that mean? It means getting angry, it means forcing political & perceptual change until breastfeeding as a public health initiative is seen in the same light as similar public health concerns. Smoking & seat belt laws are 2 great examples of this, as delved into in The Problem With Breastfeeding by James Akre.

A current example I can think of is with the idea of extended rear facing toddlers in carseats. Study after study has clearly established that toddlers are 5 times safer rear facing in their carseats. Europeans have long known this & seats there are designed for it. Well respected bodies, such as the AAP, recently made recommendations to that effect. Law moves slower than science, though, so in most (if not all) North American jurisdictions, the law is still stuck at requiring rear facing only to 1 year of age.

Those of us early adopters have long kept our children rear facing, going out of our way to track down the few seats with high enough weight limits to allow the practice.
We post the research & recommendations on Facebook, telling everyone we know about the dangers to their children.

It stuns me to see how many responses to those posts can be negative!! "Why are we infantilising toddlers?" "I turned mine forward at a year & they are fine." "If it is so important, why isn't it law?"

The law moves slower than the science.

What moves the law??

We do. Activists, lobbyists, angry people screaming from the rooftops. Protest, in all its forms. Policy does not change unless we demand it so. Perception does not change unless it becomes socially important to agree with the new line of thinking. Both of those concepts require us to speak out.

So we will keep respectfully, kindly & thoughtfully supporting women who do & do not breastfeed. Everyone deserves that consideration & respect.

And we will keep protesting those practices which hurt women & children, especially today, on International Women's Day.

By Arie Brentnall-Compton.

"The fastest way to change society is to mobilize the women of the world."
-Charles Malik

"Well behaved women rarely make history" -Eleanor Roosevelt

"Nobody can make you feel inferior without your permission." -Eleanor Roosevelt

"Women are the real architects of society." -Harriet Beecher Stowe

A Breastfeeding Story- with hyperemesis & pregnancy thrown in!

I discovered I was pregnant in January 2004, while I was off work for refusing the flu shot. Shortly after finding out I became very nauseous and vomitted several times a day. I couldn't hold ANYTHING down. As the weeks went by I became more and more sick. I had to go to the ER and was diagnosed with hyperemesis gaviduim. I was given Diclectin. I had to keep increasing until I was taking more than 10 a day. I was sick for seven months.

Then....on my due date I was watching my favourite show, Coronation Street (at 10am), and thought I felt contractions....they felt different than the Braxton Hicks I had experienced for weeks. They increased in intensity and at about 5pm we got ready to meet the midwife at the hospital.

I did not like being poked and proded by the staff at the hospital, including a lab tech coming into the bathroom to take my blood! No privacy. I had to push for a long long time....but at 10:52pm my daughter was born! I don't remember her nursing the first time...the midwife helped her latch on.

Once home she would latch on and fall asleep. On day three my milk came in. I was SO engorged. OUCH. I had overactive letdown and a tonne of milk. My daughter would latch on until letdown and then.....come off screaming....and milk would spray everywhere. Although I had more than enough milk....she lost more than the desired amount of weight in the first week. I was discouraged..some nursing sessions would last an hour, with a lot of screaming from my baby. My midwife was patient and very dedicated to breastfeeding. She suggested block feeding. She would still pull off screaming. So I would pump for 30 seconds and then stop when I let down, letting the milk spray into a towel, then latched on my baby. Sometimes it helped sometimes it didn't. I also fed her breastmilk with a spoon, which she lapped up like a kitten. My midwife gave me a lot of support and encouragement. It took a month of spoon feeding, pumping until letdown and trying to latch to finally start breastfeeding with ease.

When my daughter was almost two, I became pregnant again. I once again had to deal with hyperemesis. I took mega doses of Diclectin again, and was followed by a researcher at Motherisk. They knew I was still nursing and encouraged it. Because of being sick non stop I let my two year nurse alot. And we cuddled alot.

She came to midwives appointments with me and got to check the baby's heartbeat etc. One visit she told the midwife that she knew that mommies scream the babies out!

Two weeks before my due date I went into labour with my second daugther. It was fast and very intense....just over two hours of really active labour. I had a rather unplanned homebirth that was absolutely fantastic! I nursed after and got up to pee and the midwives made my bed for me and I cuddled back in bed with my baby. About four hours after my second baby was born, my first daughter came in the room and said "LOOK SOMEONE BRINGED US A BABY!!!"

I was surprised that when my milk came in my older daughter gave up solid foods totally and nursed with her new sister. Her poop went back to newborn poop. I mentioned this to my midwife and she assured me that she would thrive and that she would eventually go back to solids. And she did.

Most of the time I enjoyed nursing, but....I did get frustrated and said to my older daughter once...why do you like boobie milk so much? She looked at me and said "Mommy, because it tastes like love". That was the answer that made it worth it.

My two girls tandem nursed for just over a year. Then one day my daughter nursed before bed, sat up and said "Mommy this is the very last time I am going to have boobie milk." And it was. Just like that. I let her decide how to celebrate...she picked making chocolate covered strawberries! YUMMY.

I am still nursing her little sister, and have to admit that I am not looking forward to her telling me she is done.....because that will be the end of nursing for me...which makes me a little sad.

By Jen Paisley

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Let Your Feet Do the Shopping

I am still so mad that this is hard to write, so bear with me if I get a little ranty. Our family tries really hard to match our values and our spending dollars. Usually this happens quietly; no one might know why I choose one store over another, one brand over the next. Today I had the opportunity to really put my money where my heart was, but it was harder than I had ever expected.

In the small city that I live in there is one locally owned shop that caters to pregnant moms and children. They sell maternity wear, slings, kids’ clothes and shoes. The store is locally owned and has good quality (albeit pricey) stuff. I went in today to get both of my kids some new shoes and see what was on sale.

We shopped for over an hour and found what we needed, plus a little more. I went with the store owner to the till to pay, and noticed a little handwritten sign on the shelf above the till that read “Ask about free samples”. So I did. The owner told me that it was “just cans of Similac, though my little ones couldn’t tolerate it, and a tote bag for the hospital.” With a closer look I noticed that the sign was obscuring a box labeled “seventh month pregnancy pack” with the Ross-Abbott logo on it.

I asked the owner if she knew that handing out free formula samples undermines breastfeeding. She was immediately confrontational, and heatedly told me that she couldn’t breast feed “not a drop” and that it was a choice, and I shouldn’t shove breastfeeding down everyone’s throats. Excuse me?? I blinked and gulped as she continued to ring up my purchase. I jumped right in to the argument, because this formula feeding as choice thing really gets me riled up. IT’S NOT A CHOICE, IT’S A HEALTH DECISION. A choice that should be made with the help of a qualified medical professional, when the mother has been told the full risks of using artificial baby milk.

I told her how a formula fed baby in North America is FIVE time more likely to die in the first five years of life, than its breastfed counterpart. She countered with the “not everyone can breastfeed, I couldn’t”. I told her that I was very sorry that she didn’t have access to good breastfeeding help and a milk bank. And she again accused me of shoving breastfeeding down “everyone’s throat”.

I wanted to throw my purchases on the counter, demand my money back and walk out in a sanctimonious huff. I didn’t though, as I figured that I wouldn’t be able to calmly explain to my kids why Mommy wasn’t buying their nice new stuff. So I walked out of the store, and put my kids in the car. Then I told them what had happened, and how I thought that we should return the stuff and not shop there anymore. My six year-old was surprisingly understanding. He said “I don’t understand why a clothes store needs to give away bottle milk. Don’t they know it hurts babies?” I dropped the kids off, and returned to the store to return our stuff.

I was feeling calmer when I got there. I felt a sense of conviction. I had a plan. The store was thankfully quiet, I didn’t want another scene. The shop owner looked up at me and smiled. I smiled back and said “I was thinking about what you said, and you were right. It IS a choice, and I choose not to shop in your store. I’d like my money back please.” She began to go through my items, again talking about me not shoving breastfeeding down people’s throats. I told her that this had nothing to do with breastfeeding it had to do with her store’s choice to give out free samples and my choice not to support that. “There are a number of lovely shops in the city nearby that don’t undermine womens' health, and I will happily support them from now on.”

I refused to argue with her anymore, and she refused to give me my money back. The things I had bought were on sale, so she’d only give me a store credit. The receipt was ten minutes old! I was floored. My daughter had worn her shoes out of the store (to the car) so they were non-refundable. I backed down, and left, sad and feeling very defeated.

From the start I had only wanted to have an honest conversation with this woman. Instead I was attacked and humiliated because she couldn’t separate how she fed her kids from how she ran her business. So I came home and after the kids were in bed I wrote the store a letter about the WHO code. Then I wrote this.

by Lee-Ann Grenier

Monday, March 1, 2010


My sister Andrea and I took off after work one night to visit the outlet mall and we went into the Coach store. I saw this purse, hanging all by itself as if it were under a spotlight and I thought, “That purse is so me.” I picked up the purse from its perch, peaked inside, caught a glimpse of the price tag and had an immediate change of heart. Well, I would like to think it was immediate but Andrea could tell you that I kept going back and looking again, just in case I misread the price. I didn’t.

I have never been a purse person, or a make up person, or a clothes person. I guess we all have our priorities, and I have never made fashion one of mine. Why shouldn't I have an expensive designer purse and wear make up to work and get my hair colored and my nails done? I hadn’t even given it much thought up until that damn purse made me question who I was.

A lot of the women I work with are very put together, stylish people with shoes for every outfit and a cupboard full of product, maybe that is who I should be too. I have to admit that I have always admired the women who look like they put a lot of time, money and pride into their appearance. I wish I could look like I felt that good about myself. I tend to view myself as more of the frumpy type whose muffin top pretty much rules out the possibility of looking good in anything I wear, so might as well go with the old standby jeans and knit top from Target. Of course I look like an unpopular college student with gray hair who happens to work in a professional office, but there are worse things.

Weighing out the cost of a bimonthly hair cut and color, biweekly manicures; approximately 10 new pairs of shoes, a solid seven or so new trendy outfits, a face full of make up and that god forsaken Coach purse, in black and one in brown of course…and this clearly wasn’t the answer for me.

That purse was seriously starting to antagonize me. How could one overpriced hunk of leather make me feel so inadequate? I was now examining everything about my appearance in relation to that purse and I just didn’t measure up. So I am now clear on the fact that I can not afford to make myself into something that I am not. Well, that makes things a lot easier, that seemed like it would be a lot of work anyway. So if I am not a Coach carrying fashionista, what am I?

If ever there was an event, aside from spotting a coach purse to lust after, that has made me question every bit of who I am, it is the birth of Miss Leila. I now question how I treat my body, how I keep my home, how I contribute to mankind and how I treat the very earth I live in. Now that is one tiny little thing that could made me question everything about myself that the purse didn’t even touch on, you know the non superficial stuff.

Every morning when I wake up I am filled with a mix of two general ideas, 1. I do not want to go to work today, I want to hang out with my baby and frolic and spend money. 2. Please Lord, keep my family safe today I don’t want to wake up from the greatest dream I could have ever imagined.

When I was pregnant with Leila I remember going to work everyday and loving having her there, hanging out in my belly with me all day long. Her kicking and moving was a constant reminder of this wonderful blessing I had in my life. Life was good, Leila and I were inseparable, she never gave me any little baby attitude and childcare was free. What escapes me to this day, nearly 17 months after she was born, was how I managed to never think beyond the moment of her birth and how my life was about to change. There is only one way to put it; motherhood derailed me. I don’t even think I have started to recover yet, but maybe this is something you don’t recover from. My sense of what is important has completely flip flopped. I don’t care about my job, I don’t care about my hair, not that I ever did, all I care about is doing what is best for my child. When things get hard to handle, I can always look up at the picture on my wall of Leila with her crinkly nose smile and her daddy holding her up for the camera and remind myself that I am the luckiest.

In some ways I think I have gotten easier on myself. I still hate that I am overweight, but I now have an appreciation of what my overstuffed body is capable of doing. I single handedly sustained another human being through 9 months of pregnancy and her first year of life (well, unless you could the puree she smeared all over herself from 6-12 months). I still compare myself to other women, but I now I always win, because whatever they may have, they don’t have Cory and they don’t have Leila.

In other ways I am much harder on myself. I feel now even more that I want my life to have meaning, beyond motherhood; I want my child to be proud of her mother. I want to be proud of myself.

I like to think of the Coach incident as a sort of relapse. For a minute there, I forgot who I was in the face of a super cute, overpriced bag whose cost could have supplied diapers to my daughter for about 8 months. I did get a new purse; I like to think that I have two purses. I have a small Hobo style handbag. It is black with a trendy printed lining and strap, made with my own sewing machine. It isn’t exactly Coach, but it still holds all of my things and I feel good about carrying it. The other is a bigger bag. It is a tote style with lots of pockets. One to house my wallet and cell phone, and lots more to hold diapers, wipes, sippy cups and other baby paraphernalia. I feel especially good about carrying that one. I carry it with me whenever I can manage to have my baby along. Of course things are different now that she can’t come to work with me and has learned to throw a very impressive tantrum, but I am still constantly reminded of my blessing as I watch her grow and learn everyday. One of these days I will make her a little purse to match the purse and diaper bag that I made for myself.

By Tricia Coob