21 February 2009

Things I've Learned - Vaccinations

I realize I may be opening a giant can of worms, and that some people may be offended for religious or other reasons, but I feel very strongly about this issue and absolutely must take a stand.

There was never any question as to whether we would have The Boy immunized on schedule. The mumps outbreak in an unvaccinated group of children near Vancouver when The Boy was just over two months old served to underscore the importance of making sure he got his shots.

We in North America are so incredibly sheltered from the horror and heartbreak of diseases that killed children regularly a hundred years ago, and still do in the poverty-stricken regions of so-called third-world countries. My generation's collective memory does not include a time when it was common to lose friends and family to polio, diphtheria, tetanus and other (now) preventable diseases. For this, I count myself lucky.

Except luck has nothing to do with it.

A couple of generations of widespread vaccinations against these diseases is entirely responsible.

Here's a quick-in-layman's-terms description of some once-common childhood diseases. I'd be glad to protect my child from any one of them. Fortunate am I indeed that I can protect him against all of them...







The one study (of only 12 children) that concluded the opposite has been widely debunked.

Unvaccinated children that do not get sick are benefiting from the diligence of the rest of us. They can thank herd immunity. Not God. Science. Not their unique specialness in a benevolent universe. Modern medicine. Not luck.

Okay, rant over. The Takeaway:
  1. Vaccinations, especially the first one, are harder on mom than they are on baby. It's hard to see your little one cry for any reason. Steel yourself. It's important.
  2. My doctor, who I love, allowed me to nurse The Boy during his first two sets of shots. He pulled off the nipple for a couple of seconds and let out a lusty cry, then went back to nursing and within 30 seconds had forgotten all about it. I highly recommend this approach.
  3. If you're really concerned about fever and or pain, some physicians recommend giving your baby infant Tylenol before the appointment. We didn't do this, and it turned out not to be necessary in our case. But we are lucky enough to have a buddha baby who takes pretty much everything in stride.

17 February 2009

Things That Are Surprising

If this is patently obvious to you, it only shows that I am not very clever, not that I have that opinion of you! But if you are anything like me, you will find the following to be a surprise:

After you've given birth and no longer have a watermelon under the skin of your abdomen, you still can't sleep on your stomach.

I've always been a tummy sleeper, and I had a really hard time sleeping on my side for the last few months of my pregnancy. I basically didn't sleep for more than an hour or two at a time from about the five month mark. I would lie awake, remembering what it was like to roll over on my tummy and get some sleep. I was sooo looking forward to returning to my favourite sleeping position as soon as the baby was born. I would fantasize about how I would place my pillow, where my arms would be. I like to hook my toes over the bottom of the bed, and I would imagine what that would feel like when I finally got to do it again. By the time I was due, it felt like freedom would soon be mine.

And then I had a c-section.

No sleeping on the tummy with the pain of the incision as it healed. But I was looking forward to the worst of it being over and finally being able to sleep as I wanted.

And then the milk came in.

No sleeping on the Boobs That Ate New York. Not possible. My breasts, which had already swollen from a B cup to a D cup during my pregnancy, ballooned up to a DD+. Even if it hadn't hurt like hell to put pressure on them (never mind the leakage that occurred when I tried), the difference in altitude from head to toe would have made sleep highly unlikely.

Sigh. As much as I love breastfeeding, and will miss it when The Boy's weaned, I am dying to sleep on my tummy.

12 February 2009

Things I Love - gDiapers

Before The Boy was born, I was pretty sure I wanted to use cloth diapers. Using cloth seemed like a good fit, philosophically. As I've mentioned before, I couldn't stand the idea of creating tons of garbage with regular disposables, and cloth diapers are substantially less expensive. We found a local diaper service that was even cheaper than buying and laundering our own. We live in an apartment with coin-op washers/dryers - on top of the initial investment in supplies, it would have cost us $21/week to do a load every day. The diaper service, which includes drop-off, pick-up, and laundering with non-toxic cleaners, is only $18/week for 70 diapers. Regular newborn sized disposables at our local shops range from $14-$16/package for just 40 diapers. So it was an easy decision: save money and be an eco-warrior!

The only thing I was not looking forward to was a smelly diaper bag full of poopy cloth diapers whenever we were away from the house for any length of time. Ick. Then a co-worker, Rodney, asked me if I'd ever heard of gDiapers. (How he knew about them I don't know, as he has no children, but he's the kind of guy that just knows cool things.) I checked out their website, learned where they could be purchased in Vancouver, and decided to give them a try. I figured worst-case scenario I could always use regular disposables...
I loved them from the very beginning, and have been using them ever since! They are guilt-free disposables. Cute cloth outer cover, a snap-in reusable waterproof liner, and absorbent inserts that are biodegradable, compostable, and flushable. And no gaggingly cloying scent - smell is a big deal for me, so this is a huge plus. They're awesome! Even if I just wantonly throw them out, they don't clog up the landfill.

Eight months ago, when The Boy was first born, they were only available at specialty baby stores and health food stores, but they've grown in popularity so much since that they're now available at many drug stores.

It should be noted that we have also used regular disposable diapers, so I am able to do a direct comparison between regular disposables and the gDiapers. My son and I were lucky enough to vacation in Provence when he was two months old. Cloth was out of the question (who wants to do that much laundry on a holiday?) and gDiapers weren't available. For the first time in his life, The Boy was in Pampers. And for the first time in his life, he had diaper rash. And I was horrified at the amount of garbage we created in just two weeks. We've also used regular disposables on a couple of other trips, and for a while we used them overnight for their absorbency; we found that once The Boy was sleeping more than a couple of hours at a time, cloth diapers just weren't able to do the job. But we've now eliminated regular disposables entirely; we use cloth at home during the day, gDiapers when out and about, and gDiapers overnight.

The Takeaway:

gDiapers = no diaper rash (every baby's bum is different, but this is true for us)
guilt-free disposables
"little g" cloth covers are so cute!

a little more expensive and not quite as convenient as regular disposables
not yet available everywhere
subject to the same blowouts/fit issues as any other diaper

09 February 2009

Things I've Learned - Labour

This post was prompted by a conversation I had today with my cousin, who's due in March. We talked about many things: prenatal classes, visitors in the hospital and at home, nursing pads, bottles, breast pumps... There is so much to think about as you enter your final weeks of pregnancy, but looming large above everything else, is labour. Capital L Labour.

When I first discovered I was pregnant, I immediately read everything I could get my hands on. I tore through What to Expect and devoured Your Over 35 Week by Week Guide to Pregnancy. I bought my husband The Expectant Father and read it in an afternoon. (Of course he never even scanned the table of contents, but that's a rant for another day.) I read and read and read, and looked at websites, and lurked on forums, and asked friends. I was informed. With a vengeance.

Except that I realized, as our due date approached, that in addition to skipping the bits about c-sections and formula feeding, I had somehow glossed over all the information in my many pregnancy books about labour.

My husband is from a medical family. Dinner conversations as he was growing up were often icky, and graphically so, as his parents (both doctors) and his sister (studying medicine) discussed their day. As a result, he can handle just about anything, and laughs at my complete inability to deal. When I'm flipping through TV channels and chance upon surgery in progress on one of the learning channels, I practically break a finger I'm in such a hurry to get the channel changed. So as I read my pregnancy books, I would make one passing glance at a diagram of the baby in the birth canal, convulse with squeamishness, and turn the page. At the prenatal class I was the person saying, "Really? Do we have to have another diagram? Do we really need to know what that looks like?"

As the last couple of weeks of my pregnancy were upon us, and it became clear that I could, technically, go into labour at any moment, I finally knuckled down and read about it.

And then I put it out of my mind.

I dealt with the idea of labour by not thinking about it too much. I figured my body would do what it needed to do whether I was freaking out about it or not, and would probably do it better if I wasn't freaking out. As my friend Christa, a nurse who's worked a lot in obstetrics, once said to me,

"Listen to your monkey. It knows what to do."

I let that be my mantra, and stashed the (to me) unsavoury details in a dimly lit, cobwebby, rarely used corner of my mental library.

Our birth plan was simple:
Help me, and support my partner in helping me, to safely deliver a healthy baby.

Which is exactly what happened.

Except it wasn't at all what I expected or thought it would be.

And here's something that's true: none of that matters.

The Takeaway:
  1. Every woman's labour is different. Your expectations, your philosophy, and your choices will inform your experience, and comparing yourself to the woman you know who had her baby easily after three hours of labour will make you a crazy person. (Unless you are that woman, in which case don't step out in front of my car. I'm just sayin'.)
  2. Don't browbeat yourself with words like "natural". As I told my friend Stephanie who was concerned about being induced and that it wouldn't be a natural process "baby's born = natural". The rest is details.
  3. Within weeks of giving birth, the details of labour and delivery will start to become fuzzy. If we remembered every detail forever, a lot less women would go through it more than once.
  4. Labour is to parenting as wedding is to marriage. Labour is over quickly. (For some, more quickly than others, yes, but I'm talking about within the context of your entire lifetime.) Parenting is the part that matters.

04 February 2009

About Me

Me, at 5 days old

This is cross-posted from facebook. I was tagged, and dutifully replied and tagged others. It occurred to me that my 3 blog readers might like to know what makes me qualified to write about motherhood, so I thought I'd post these 25 random facts about myself. As it turns out, I'm not qualified at all!! Not that that has ever stopped me before...

1. I once lived on a small island in the Indian Ocean called Ile de la Reunion.

2. I play guitar and sing badly but loudly and with great enthusiasm.

3. I'm a control freak, but have learned to settle things with my husband with a coin toss. I lost the first toss and it almost killed me to concede.

4. I am afraid of all rodents, even hamsters. It's not rational, but there it is.

5. If money were not an issue, I would move to Paris and intern with a fashion house.

6. My ideal home includes a room just for musical instruments. In the south of France.

7. I love taking photos and someday hope to take a proper class on the subject.

8. I miss the film industry.

9. I never finished university and it bothers me every day.

10. I succumbed to vanity and started a blog.

11. I make really astoundingly good lemon meringue pie from scratch.

12. I'm terrified of looking foolish and try new things only through sheer force of will.

13. I have tremendous admiration for my husband, one of the smartest, most thoughtful and most compassionate men I've ever met.

14. I was the kid in kindergarten who made the whole class cry when I told them my mom said there was no such thing as Santa Claus.

15. I'm an atheist. I believe in the law of conservation of energy. The energy that makes up me, my body, will continue after I'm dead. Some people call that reincarnation, I call it science.

16. I wish I was funnier than I am.

17. I have a pretty good poker face, except when playing cards.

18. I suck at job interviews, but if thrown into a sink or swim situation, I rock.

19. I suffer from awful motion sickness. It was even worse when I was pregnant.

20. I secretly love "Can't Get You Out of My Head" by Kylie Minogue.

21. I have a really good memory for useless information. My husband calls me "GoogleLexi". You want me on your team for Trivial Pursuit. (Does anyone actually play that anymore?)

22. I am mostly fluent in French and proficient in Spanish.

23. I am fiercely loyal, sometimes to my own detriment.

24. Every time I feel sorry for myself, I turn on the TV and some 10 year old with a terminal illness has just accomplished something tremendous. I then feel sheepish, and then inspired.

25. I walk in the Weekend to End Breast Cancer every year because I dodged the cancer bullet myself many years ago and will never forget how scared I was.

03 February 2009

Things That Are True - Crying

The Boy crying at 9 days old

If you are anything like me, in the first weeks of your baby’s life, you will find the following to be true:

Your baby’s crying will turn you instantly into a deranged lunatic.

Blame the DNA: millions of years of evolution have fine tuned the new mother to respond immediately to the sound of her baby crying. And that’s a good thing – for the survival of the species. For your ability to deal rationally with your disconcerted precarious emotional situation (thank you Tom Waits), not so much. In the first few weeks of The Boy’s life, I became completely irrational every time he cried. If his crying went on for more than 15 seconds, I went completely around the bend. My need to make it stop was buried deep down in Lizard Brain territory; intellect played no part in my decisions. The sound of it put me so on edge that I simply could not deal with anything else until I made. the. crying. STOP. I became frantic – by the time he’d been crying for 30 seconds I was seriously unhinged. Nothing else mattered.

My husband started to quietly worry about my long term sanity.

When The Boy wasn’t crying, I was able to recognize, on an intellectual level, that my behaviour didn’t make sense; that no harm would come to The Boy, and I wasn't the worst mother in the world, if he cried for a minute or two. But the very second I heard that little sound (and when they’re newborns, it is, mercifully, a little sound) Lizard Brain took over again.

So I went in search of expert help: I asked my friend Sarah, who had two kids already, if she had experienced anything similar. She told me of a time when her firstborn was just a couple of weeks old, and she was driving on the freeway, husband in the passenger seat, baby safely ensconced in his car seat in the back. All was well until he started to cry. Sarah became so frantic that only her husband’s firm hand gripping her own prevented her from undoing her seatbelt and leaping into the back seat to comfort her son. While traveling in the driver’s seat down the freeway at 100 kilometres an hour…

The Takeaway:
  1. This is normal behaviour, as outlandish as it may seem. Show your partner this part, so he or she knows not to have you committed immediately.
  2. You are not alone. Every woman I’ve asked about this, regardless of their pre-pregnancy career and competency, has behaved in the same way.
  3. This too shall pass. You eventually learn what crying sound means hunger, which means gas pain, which is the result of overstimulation or tiredness. Your confidence as a new mom grows, and you begin the long trek back to sanity - which from what I'm told, doesn't end until your child has their first child...