Friday, February 19, 2010

Baby Loss & Healing

The tears. So many tears. Gut wrenching. I could feel my heart being torn from me.

No. No, not my baby. Please, no. This can't be happening.

That was mid-August 2006. I was bleeding. Just at the end of my first trimester.

My heart knew for weeks something wasn't right, but my body was slow to accept the reality. Then the bleeding started. I called my midwife, and an ultrasound confirmed that my sweet baby had stopped growing, was lifeless. No heartbeat.

No heartbeat.

My little baby. Max.

A few weeks earlier I had experienced some spotting, which hadn't occurred in my two previous pregnancies. An ultrasound at six weeks gestation, a new experience, I had never seen my babies that little before, showed a thumpy little heart. A precious moment I will treasure always. It was MY moment with my baby.

Knowing my baby was no longer alive, I had choices. Let nature continue or have doctors step in surgically. It seemed nature was already taking care of things, so I went home. The following 24 hours were the worst of my life. After crying all night, the morning of August 15th I began to bleed. I was informed by my midwife the bleeding would increase, and be heavy for a time. However, I bled beyond the norm. With each contraction, yes miscarriage is a birth, my heart, my soul had to say goodbye to my baby. It was physically painful. It was torture on my innermost being. I would never wish this on anyone. To say goodbye to your baby is the most excruciating pain I could ever fathom.

I ended up in the emergency room after fainting from extreme blood loss. I was on the borderline for needing a transfusion. The doctors and assistants were kind and gentle. My midwife held my hand while I sobbed. A D&C was done, and I woke up empty. So empty.

My oldest daughter, Sarah, was three. My husband, John, kept her occupied with painting during the entire morning. I came home, and she showed me this:

She was my light. She understood the pain. She gave me hope.

The days following were a blur. I had never hurt so deep. How do I do this? What do I do? I scoured the Internet for information, grasping at everything I read. I couldn't seem to find an all inclusive resource that had the answers I needed.

So, I took my pain. I took my anger. I took my grief. And I created Baby Loss and Healing. I didn't want to hurt. I wanted to heal. And that's where I had power. I had the choice to let this kill me or to let myself grow. I felt that if I could find just one person that I could help that was living this same nightmare I could find peace in my loss.

And now, three years later, just days before Max's due date, the tears flow. Not everyday. It's not haunting like it was at first. But they flow. And when they do I let them. I feel them, and for me, it's my little Max saying hello right from where he will be forever. Inside my heart.

By Susan Horn

Susan, and her husband John, both originally from Michigan, live in Oregon with their three daughters, Sarah, Ellen and Anna. John travels around the Northwest as a CNC Machine Service Engineer. Susan runs a home based business, Sweet Pickles, focused on promoting babywearing, a passion she discovered thanks to a wonderful friend. Susan is also the founder of a new non-profit organization, Tingly Toes, which provides a lending library of baby carriers to families of children fighting cancer.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Would You Leave Your Child With a Babysitter?

This question comes up repeatedly in attachment parenting forums, and ad nauseaum for those involved with La Leche League. It always seems to spark a debate with some heatedly taking one side or the other. When the question arises it often leaves a parent reeling, and questioning her own decisions.

I have funny feelings when I consider that my choice to leave my kids, for how long, how often and who I leave them with, might just slot me in the “bad Mommy” camp. I know some women who claim to never ever leave their children. I know others who justify their choices out of necessity (I HAD to go back to work; my relationship with my spouse would suffer), or align a choice to use child care, with the age and stage of a baby. It feels odd to me that we feel the need to justify our parenting choices at all, especially in something with such a diverse range of needs and feelings as childcare.

Feeling is what I think that this discussion is all about, and the Mommy guilt (can’t forget about that). We have all heard various facts about “the dangers of daycare”, and the way a child under two who is left without its mother for more that 24 hours mourns her loss like she’s died. We’ve also heard about “stranger danger” and the evil child molester babysitter, coach, or teacher. Hearing these scary stories does make me want to cleave my children tightly to my bosom, but it also makes me wonder about how I can meet our families needs (which sometimes involve using childcare) and raising safe resilient kids.

Part of what drives my choice to leave my kids, is about encouraging resilience. As a parent who is tuned in to my kids, I know when they are ready for new situations, and appreciate that sometimes that involves a little push on my part. So I combine my need for space, with their readiness to encounter new situations via childcare. Another part of this decision making process is about relationships. My children have wonderful relationships with their other caregivers. My son’s former kindergarten teacher takes him to places that I couldn’t haul both my kids to. He also has a closeness with his godmother that couldn’t have been fostered with me around all the time. My kids love these special times with babysitters, most of the time. Sometimes they don’t want me to go, and I go anyways, knowing that they are safe and they will do just fine. That’s where the resilience comes in.

I have heard many parents voice concerns about the care their children receive in the arms of others, and I wonder, in the global scheme of things, the harm that might come from a grandmother who uses candy as rewards, or an Aunt who might give my kids a “time out”. What might my kids lose in terms of these relationships, and what harm might they face when exposed to small amounts of parenting that differs greatly from my own? I think the answer lies in the question itself. What I do is PARENTING, what others do when they have charge of my kids is CAREGIVING. They are inherently different, and I think that this is good.

The “time outs” and candy treats are small potatoes issues that often come up in the childcare choice debate. Then there are the other “BIG scary things” that parents who are wrestling with this decision often consider. I am thinking about Child Molesters here. This is real and this is scary, but it’s not something that we are powerless to do anything about as parents. Yes, we can refuse to leave our children with others, or only families, or do criminal record check of our babysitters. We can also do some simple thing that will go a long way to protecting our children in this and many other situations.

One part of this is to know the real risks associated with certain situations. For example, children are far more likely to be molested by someone who is known to them and the family. It’s not the teenager down the block you need to be scared of, it’s “Uncle Tony”. So how do we protect our kids? Start by educating your children, as soon as they are old enough to talk. Tell them the correct scientific names for their genitals, and those of the opposite sex. In her book Speaking of Sex Meg Hickling talks of convicted paedophiles and their methods for choosing potential victims. Molesters know that kids who know the correct names of their reproductive organs, have a relationship with their caregivers that is open to discussions of sexuality. It’s hard to pull the wool over the eyes of a child who know that a penis is most certainly not an elephant’s trunk.

Intuition and power are two other great tools that we can use and teach our kids to use to keep themselves safe. I am an incest survivor, and as an adult I am shocked to learn that all of my female relatives knew that I was being molested. They had the intuition, what they lacked was the personal power to do anything about it. We all have this intuition; most of us need to spend more time honouring it, and teach our kids to do the same. Then we have to cultivate the power to make choices based on what our intuition tells us. It takes big balls to make decisions that might be questioned by others based on a feeling or a hunch. This is where guilt comes in, when we feel powerless to act in situation where we know there is a better choice.

So I will choose to leave my kids from time to time, and feel that they are same and thriving because of my choices.

By Lee-Ann Grenier

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Preciousness of Life

Three times I have had to call my son to keep him in this world. The first was when he was five days old, admitted to the children's hospital with a golden staph infection after being born at the Mater Hospital in Brisbane. His tiny body lay floppy and unresponsive on the bed, and I called to my little baby, dangling my nipples over him, begging him to rouse and feed.

The second time was after he had his first and only round of vaccines when he was four months old. We came home from the doctor's, and my baby lay in distress on my chest until he cried himself to sleep. I listened to his intermittent sniffles and sobs as he slept. Then, his noisy breathing stopped, and his body turned blue. I grabbed him and shook him, calling to him not to die, and wailing until he roused thirty seconds later.

The third time, he was standing next to me in the bathroom while I had a shower, and he was one year old. He was teething and chewing on a Heinz baby rusk, one of the long finger types. I turned to look at him, because I could no longer hear him chewing and babling. His face was puffy and blue, and his throat was spasming. I knocked him on the back of the chest. When this did not work, desperately put my fingers down his throat and pulled out the chunk of rusk that was stuck there, all the while screaming for him to hold on.

Each of these three times, I was doing what I thought I needed to do to be a good mother. I'd had my baby in a hospital suite, in case anything went wrong. I'd chosen to vaccinate him, except for the Hep B vaccine, thinking that the risk to him was greater if I didn't vaccinate him. I was giving him a rusk, from a packet with a happy baby on it, to relieve his suffering.

I have done many things in his three years of life and nine months of gestation with the motivation of protecting him from known and unknown dangers. I saw medical professionals for my pregnancy and birth, I avoided all foods that might be a carrier of listeria, I bought a playpen, I put up safety gates and safety devices in and around our home, and put a leash on him when we went walking, to name a few.

If I hadn't done those things, he might have been hurt, or he might not. In each case, I wonder at the cost I and he paid. For example, in my pain to avoid foods that might carry bacteria, in my busy lifestyle I failed to eat the variety of healthy foods that are necessary for good nutrition of mother and child, probably contributing to our low zinc and magnesium levels. And it always felt wrong to enter the kitchen without him, leaving him beyond the gate or in the playpen, feeling unworthing and unwelcome, when I might have carried him on my back. I wonder how he felt wearing a leash.

There was a point when he was approaching his second birthday when I let go of my fear for him, and I trusted he and I to know what we needed to be safe. It was before I read Leidloff's Continuum Concept, which I picked up, some months later, because the idea of the book appealed to me. I had observed that, in the three out of three cases when I looked the reaper in the face and snatched my baby back, my irrational fear had caused the danger to my son's life.

Last night, I had a dream. More accurately, a nightmare. I was on an outing with a group of adults and children, some of them known and some unknown to me. My son was with me. As we went about, to the park, a restaurant, and on the street, we kept seeing images of dead and dying children. Some were on TV, or in photos, and some of them we actually watched die on their way to hospital.

The children were dying from faulty toys, bee stings, illness, and car crashes. A companion commented on how terrible a day it was. I clutched my son to my chest, and started running away. Demons representing each cause of death left the bodies of the children we had seen, and chased us. I stopped, surrounded, and, to my surprise, yelled "Go Away! You Don't Belong Here!"

They left me alone, and flew back to terrify my companions, who called out to me for help. I carried my son back to them, untormented by the spectres, who were swirling around the group. I told them what I had done to drive the demons away from me, and together we chanted, at the top of our voices, "Go Away! You Don't Belong Here!" We were left alone, safe with out children. At that point, I woke up. It was the happiest ending to any dream that I have ever had.

Before falling pregnant, I had never been afraid for what might befall a child of mine. I didn't know that feeling that grips my chest, throat, and stomach, and brings tears to the eyes, at the mere contemplation of my child feeling pain. When I became pregnant with him, and I started to feel this fear, I thought it must be something important that I had to listen to and take action on.

I learned something in my dream last night, and it is this. What I thought was fear, is in fact an acute awareness of the preciousness of life and of mortality itself. I was aware of neither of these things before carrying my son, and since I only felt them once I was pregnant and a mother, I thought that this feeling was a message to protect him from each and every risk that he might face, even if that potentially exposed him to other risks.

I myself have created my own trauma from making a decision "just in case". Despite wanting a water birth, and a birth with midwives, I birthed in hospital with an insecure obstetrician and (at best) neutral strangers. I made that decision because I was (irrationally) afraid that I would tear. When I tried to breath my baby out, I was continually interrupted by people concerned that I wasn't making any progress. I was moved to the bed, where I was coached to push and suffered a second degree tear. I now have keloidal scarring from an allergy to the acrylic stitches, and zero lovelife.

My dream has given me a great gift. What was once fear there is release. I feel joy that we are alive, and that I had the strength to tell the unreal dangers that he did not face, as he slept in the crook of my arm, that they had no power over us. I say again that fear, a mere thought in my mind, has no power over us. I am responsible for the life that I create for myself and my children, and it will be a life of courage and compassion. He may die at any time, and he will die one day. I may tear with my next baby. I am not afraid.

Katarina Konkoly

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Are you a Mompreneur?

I sure as hell am not. I am not a Mommyblogger either. I find those two newly minted "words" to be among the most offensive. They are silly, frivolous, disrespectful, derogatory. They are specious.

I am a woman, a wife, a mother, an innovator, an entrepreneur, a business owner, a writer. Not a mompreneur, not a mommyblogger.

Why do those words seem ubiquitous? I see them used, more often than not, by women who fit the definitions themselves. That concerns me much more than if the words were being tossed around by elderly radio pundits. I receive at least monthly spam to join one Mompreneur Network or another:

"Wouldn't it be great to grow your business by networking with other Mommies??" FFS.

Can you imagine this vocabulary being used in any other context? Mommylawyers? Momgineers? Medimommies? Why is that qualifier being added to the title?

The term mompreneur is usually used to refer to a woman who has created a baby-related business, oftentimes in order to "stay home" with her children. Nevermind that there are countless men & women who use flextime, job sharing, etc to spend more time with their children. Their parenting credentials do not get added to their job descriptions. "Have you met Darren, from IT? He's a Daddytech."

It is hard to perfectly describe why I hate those 2 words so much. The negative, icky feeling they give me is hard to name. My mother in law got the ickiness of the words best: "I guess that people want to feel important, so this is a cutesy title, much like designer dogs, like Labradoodles, Puggles, etc."

Any dog person will be able to tell you that you aren't likely to see a labradoodle or a puggle in a show ring anytime soon. Why? They aren't real breeds. They aren't recognised by any authority.


Is that it? Is that where these words come from? An underlying sense of being different, of not fitting in? Of not being a real businessperson, a real writer?

I get that. I have taken countless business calls while I am in my jammie pants, praying that none of my kids needs to have their bum wiped while I am on the phone. It is sometimes very hard to take yourself seriously in that situation!

When you primarily work from a home office, you miss out on the socialising, networking & sense of professionalism that a more traditional place of work can provide. Few people understand how I spend my day. I struggle to come up with a description of what I do that is less that a paragraph or two long. Would a one word descriptor such as mompreneur help resolve that?

It would, if it weren't so freakin specious.

It is an accident of history that for one or two key generations, North American women quit work & stayed home when their babies were born. When you look at statistics of the time, that concept is somewhat culturally constructed. Middle Class women quit their jobs & stayed home. The working classes did not do so to nearly the same extent.

Throughout the rest of western history, women worked, alongside their children. In factories, in fields, in wealthy people's homes, women melded their work & the care of their children together. Because of the above accident of history, most of us (read Gen X & Yers) have no model of what that looks like. Options for working parents are slowly growing, as families demand flexibility, but those are typically in relation to minimising childcare. This is not quite the same thing as creating work that permits you to perform tasks while caring for your children.

What does it look like to work with your children? Without a model to go by, we scramble & learn the hard way. We receive little recognition from those in more traditional professional environments. We need to set ourselves apart, somehow create terms for what we do. Mompreneur. We need to cope with the funny, chaotic stress that is life with small people. We write about it. Mommyblogger.

Those words, though, make us less. They qualify, they minimise, they infantilise. Can you expect others to take you seriously when you don't?
Calling yourself a mompreneur implies that you are not taking yourself seriously. It's like an entrepreneur, but not quite.

When you use a specious word to describe yourself, you imply that you, your product, your business, your industry, are specious. And I don't think you are.

Tell it like is- I am an entrepreneur, I created a business for myself. I restructured it & sold parts of it that were no longer right for me. I am a writer who blogs about parenting issues. I am a mother's advocate who speaks out for the rights of women & children.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

How Could She?

This past Monday, in a town less than an hour from me, a mother, Allyson Meager, killed her two babies, ages 2.5yrs & 10 mos.

I have no words for the sadness & tragedy of this. 2 babies have lost their lives, a father and mothers' lives are destroyed. Very little of what has happened is known right now, so I do not want this post to be speculative. It is obvious, though, that an otherwise loving, caregiving mother who kills her babies is/was mentally ill.

When things like this happen, mamas everywhere cry, hug their babies a little tighter & ask things like "How could she?". It seems impossible to comprehend. I am, by nature, a do-er. I cannot sit quietly with my difficult emotions; I need to channel them into something tangible. So tonight I am writing.

We all know a mama that could do this. It could be me. Or you. Or my best friend. Or your friend from playgroup.

Postpartum depression is rampant- statistics vary, but in North America right now, 1 in 10 to 1 in 5 women who give birth will develop PPD. Of those, a very tiny percent will develop Postpartum Psychosis. PPP is a medical emergency that places the mother & sometimes her children at great risk. Many of the devastating stories of mamas murdering their babies are stories of mamas, of families, suffering from PPP.

Depression & psychosis are complicated illnesses with numerous causes, risk factors & triggers. Much is related to genetics & personal history of depression. Some are hormonal- the cascade of hormones produced by giving birth, or by stopping breastfeeding, are known triggers. Some are social- lack of support systems, financial stress, relationship breakdown. Divorce.

Do you see yourself in that list? I see me. I see Allyson Meager too. Most of the women I know, myself included, are only steps away from being in a similar situation to hers. Your spouse loses his job. Or you decide to leave your relationship. You live far away from your family. You don't have friends you can lean on. You're broke. You are completely sleep deprived. You have a history of depression. Your birth was traumatic. You quit nursing. You are parenting full time. You snap. You snap. You snap. She snapped.

When you read this, be moved to action. Talk to your husband, your best friends, your family. Show them this checklist for PPD and PPS. Let them know that if you are exhibiting symptoms, you want them to get help.

It is difficult for friends & family to know when or how to help someone who might be mentally ill. By giving them your permission to help you, by telling them who to contact (mental health helplines, public health units, your family doctor, the ER, whatever is appropriate to your community & the situation), you will be helping them to help you if you are ever in that situation. By doing this, you might be saving your own life. Or the life of your babies.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Why I chose a photo of my child for my profile pic

The Lasting Imprint of an "Invisible" Woman:

Why I chose a photo of my child for my profile pic

According to author Katie Roiphe, when women use pictures of their children for their profile picture on Facebook, they are saying “I don’t matter anymore . . . The subliminal equation is clear: I am my children . . . Like wearing sneakers every day or forgetting to cut your hair, it is a way of being dowdy and invisible, and it mirrors a certain mommy culture in which its almost a point of pride how little remains of the healthy, worldly, engaged, and preening self . . . [becoming, instead, one of the] vanished ladies.”

In the author’s opinion, a “brilliant and accomplished woman” (and the entire feminism movement) is diminished when a woman’s children are her main concern. She states that Betty Friedan would turn over in her grave at the use of a child’s photo to reflect a woman’s identity. By doing so, she’s surrendering to her own sexuality. That such an act harkens back to when women were Mrs. Name of Her Husband, when news and politics were the domain of men only.

That’s ridiculous! I’m one of those women “Devoted to [my] children’s . . . education . . . and general formation.” Parenting IS the priority in my life right now. On occasion, I use photos of my children as my profile pic. But I’m hardly invisible!

While there aren’t quarterly reports on my work, I have baby books of milestones. I’m a starring character on pages of my kids’ writings and pictures. And while photos of me alone are non-existent these days, I don’t mind being behind the camera. In fact, I’m getting to be a pretty good photographer.

I’m sure my child-related conversations are found lacking to many people, but in this age of information overload, nothing beats speaking with other parents to share experiences and wisdom.

Yes, I still have other interests beyond parenting. I’ve always enjoyed books and movies. But these aren’t as easy to discuss. I’m usually a bit behind current trends since I’m borrowing from the library and waiting for DVD releases.

I still love to cook. But now, rather than perfecting decadent chocolate desserts, I make cooking an adventure for the whole family, from shopping at the farmer’s market, to searching for new international recipes, sneaking in the green veggies and practicing real-life application of fractions.

Many of us aren’t just pushing strollers and packing lunches. We’re taking our passion for parenting to lead support groups, teach workshops, visit our elected officials, campaign for changes and demand corporate responsibility to improve our world for ALL children. And we’re using Facebook to gather support for our cause.

Hmm . . . looks like I’m modeling some “healthy, worldly, engaged” behaviors, the very ones the author was bemoaning that women lost when upon joining the “mommy culture.”

Yes, these days, my wardrobe choices are more about comfort than high-fashion. And my hairstyle is definitely low-maintenance. But my kids don’t mind. And my 6 year old enjoys painting my nails more than anyone I’ve ever paid!

My real-life, child-free social interactions are limited. Now I squeeze in coffee dates during naptime. No more hours at the newest restaurant followed by clubbing all night. Networking

and power-lunches have been replaced by playdates and storytime at the library.

But this is a season of my life. And I’ve CHOSEN to focus on my family. I’m thankful to my parents and educators for giving me the confidence to follow my own path. I’m grateful to my husband for accepting a lower financial standing so I can devoted myself to my vocation as a mother.

I’d wager that the only outrage Betty Friedan would feel is how undervalued parenting is in this country.

By Christine Sheets