30 September 2011

Sports, Simplification, and other Non-baby Diversions

Red Sox End their Season, Now it's time for Bruins 
Being from the Boston area, I am fairly certain that it's in my rental agreement that if I regularly talk, breathe, or write, that at some point or another, I am required to bring sports into the picture. While I'm not a huge sports fan, I will admit that the team spirit that the city has is infectious (though fairweather fans are still incredibly annoying). It's kind of funny how everyone is pitching fits over this like there wasn't a huge dry spell of championships pre-2004.

So, the Red Sox epically blew it this month and their season is over. My husband, being the Red Sox fan in the house, mentioned that the odds of them doing so terribly were highly unlikely or, as he said "...or 1 in 1 as it turns out."

We are looking forward to being able to take our son to see the Red Sox possibly next season, as this year he was too young to really want to sit still. We'll see how his demeanor is next year and go from there.

But now, with baseball season officially over for our house, it's now time for HOCKEY. My husband is the big baseball fan. I will watch it and I enjoy it well enough (though I really enjoy seeing our son spontaneously clap for the Red Sox and insist on wearing his baseball cap around the house more than anything!), but if I'm into any sport, hockey is it. And with the Bruins as our hometeam, I'm all the more thrilled to be going into hockey season. We used to live in Los Angeles, but I was never much of a Kings fan. I prefer the Ducks. We did go to a Kings/Ducks game one year and my husband was worried we would get jumped in the parking lot of the Staples Center because I spent the game rooting for the Ducks. Loudly. And they won. And my husband was entertained because he's never seen me get so hyped up about sports.

As far as football (American), we're not big football fans around here. We usually watch the Superbowl, and anything outside of that is mostly if there's nothing better on and we want background noise. But, I spent 7 years watching live high school and football games because of marching band, so I've more than had my fill of the sport!

Simplifying my life
I've decided that I want to try to simplify a lot of things in my life that are distractions or redundant.

I started with Facebook. I went through a first round of purging of friends that I don't know very well or don't even interact with on the site and eliminated some of the groups I was in. I will undoubtedly be going back for another round of purging in the coming days when I have a chance to really look at the obscenely long list of friends on my list. I have also been removing games/applications that I don't play. I have vowed not to add any new games.

I've also started looking at things like the cleaning supplies in my house. We have several different types of cleaners that do slightly different things. Turns out that most of these tasks can also be done just as effectively, and more cheaply, by obtaining a few simple household supplies like washing soda, vinegar, and bleach. I now have two spray bottles of solution that I use; one is half & half vinegar/water to use for things like mirrors and on the shower curtain (apparently vinegar is good for eating up soap scum), and the other is half & half bleach/water. My floor cleaner will be a bucket of water with a bit of bleach or vinegar added as needed.

We're in the process of simplifying our debts as well. Currently our debts, with the exception of our student loans, are now consolidated onto one credit card currently at 0% interest. We have a plan in place that should get us paid off by this time next year.

I'm still looking for ideas of other ways to simplify, so I plan on doing some reading. This link on 30 Articles That Will Help You Simplify Your Life looks promising.

Other Time Sinks
After my son goes to bed, I've taken to spending way to much time on Pinterest, and have started playing Civilization IV again. I was on a big FrontierVille kick on Facebook, but I'm tired of all the new quests and buildings that are nothing more than "beg all your friends to send you stuff." As far as Civ IV, Genghis Khan really frustrates me. Coming and beating me up and taking my cities. I love building the cities, but I still so suck at building the necessary defenses or offenses to conquer and defend...

Maybe I should just go back to SimCity, where there are no wars....

22 September 2011

Birth Resources: Home vs. Hospital and Pain Management

Deciding what you want out of your birth experience can be overwhelming. I wish that I had kept a list of the many resources I found while researching and preparing for my son's birth, because I did come across some very helpful sites.

One of the things that helped me realize all the options I had was getting my hands on a birth plan template. From there, I researched some of the things that I hadn't given much thought to, because they weren't things that I'd really thought about or realized I had an option of.

Homebirth vs. Hospital Birth
The first decision, if you're low risk and looking for a natural birth, may be whether to have a homebirth or a hospital birth. There have been several studies in the Netherlands that have attempted to ascertain the safety of a home birth when compared to a hospital birth.
Of the three studies below, the first two found that homebirth had no more or fewer complications than hospital deliveries. The third (and most recent), finds that care under a midwife (low risk pregnancies) had greater birth complications than did high risk pregnancies under the care of an obstetrician. Brittany at Birth Unplugged does a great job discussing study 2 and study 3 on her blog:
If you are giving homebirth some serious consideration, familiarize yourself with the laws in your state that might affect what type of care provider you may be able to hire. The Midwives Alliance of North America also has a state chart breaking down Direct-Entry Midwife Legal status.

If a homebirth isn't right for you, but feel that a hospital birth may provide unnecessary interventions, you might consider a Birth Center.

Whether you opt for homebirth, hospital birth, or a birth center, there are questions you'll want to ask about the place you expect to deliver and the type of care you'll receive. ICAN (the International Cesarean Awareness Network) talks about the different birth options and provides a fantastic list of questions that you may want to consider at the bottom of the page.

Pain Management
Probably one of the biggest decisions most women think about when planning their labor and delivery is what type of pain management they want. There are a number of options for women who want to use natural pain management techniques. Even if you don't plan on using pain medications, I strongly encourage you to research the different pros and cons of each type of pain medication, to ensure that you are as fully informed as possible about the risks and benefits of each prior to going into labor. A starting point for some of the benefits and risks of the different types of medications can be found in the Labor & Birth section of AmericanPregnancy.org, though I strongly encourage comparing information from several different locations (as well as talking to your prenatal care provider about them to determine if there are additional benefits or risks in your particular case).

Pain Medications
Note that this is not necessarily a comprehensive list of the options, but an overview of some of the common options available
  • Epidural
  • Spinal Block (note that this is different from the epidural)
  • Local Anesthetic
  • Narcotics
  • General Anesthesia (may be used in the event of Cesarean)
One thing you will want to consider is what option you may want to use in the event of a Cesarean. While discussing potential complications with my midwife during my own pregnancy, I was surprised to find out that if I opted for general anesthesia over epidural or spinal, that my husband would be unable to accompany me in the surgery, due to the extra space needed for staff and equipment for monitoring and administering the general anesthetic.

Natural Pain Relief
Again, this list is an overview, and not intended to be considered comprehensive
  • Counter Pressure
  • Breathing Techniques (ex: Lamaze)
  • Positioning with Birth Aids (ex: Birthing Ball, Squat Bar)
  • Setting up a calming/relaxing environment (ex: use of music)
  • Water
In addition to the above, there are programs such as Hypnobabies that some women swear by.

09 September 2011

The Birth Experience: Avoiding Disappointment when things don't go as planned

Although I consider myself as having been very well informed of my options when I had my son, I do wish I'd had more time to look into different options. I wish that I had had more friendly connections in the area that could point me to classes or provide me with tips about how to have the birth experience I wanted.

The biggest problem that I encountered was that in going into my pregnancy and labor, I knew I wanted to be as intervention free as possible, but I didn't really know anyone who had had an intervention free birth. The fast majority of the women in my family had epidurals or other medical pain relief. The few friends that I am still in touch with that do have kids had medical interventions (either pain relief or that and a c-section). I researched my options, but had no real life experiences aside from being told by everyone that the "epidural was fantastic".

06 September 2011

The Quest to make Playdates

One of the biggest challenges that I've come across as a new mom is having time for and relating to friends. Most of my most local friends aren't parents, and my friends who are parents live enough of a distance away that coordinating schedules can be difficult.

And so I have decided to embark on a quest to try to find some local "mommy friends" with whom I can get together with on the weekends sometimes (or maybe in the evenings during the week occasionally). Friends that I can talk about "mommy things" with without worrying about boring them, while also giving my son the opportunity to be social with other babies.

02 September 2011

What a year it's been

It's been a long week.

Honestly, it's been a long year. Not to say that it hasn't been a wonderful year, and I certainly wouldn't change it for the world. But it certainly has been a long year.

My son is 13 months old today. And when I think about how much he has grown and changed in those short 13 months, I am amazed. I mean, that's what babies do, of course, but seeing him day to day, the changes are so fluid that they're practically unnoticable until I think back on where he was at 3 months ago, 6 months ago, 1 year ago...

And things certainly haven't always gone as my husband and I had expected them to go. Last August, we had prepared to take home a little boy who would be exclusively breastfed until solids were introduced, who would sleep in a bassinet in our room, and who peed on us at least several times a week.

In actuality, none of those things happened, I'm afraid to say.

Since day one, my son has greatly preferred bedsharing/co-sleeping, and refused to sleep in his bassinet. My husband had some hit or miss luck in getting him to nap in his crib during the day after I had returned to work two months post partum, but even that luck quickly faded. Today, we have his convertible crib serving as a sidecar to our queen-sized bed. Once he's asleep, he'll often roll himself into the crib space, but he still refused to nap in the playpen or any sort of fully enclosed space that would make it possible for me or my husband to feel comfortable leaving him sleeping in the room alone, since the bed is still a bit too high and he isn't consitently climbing down off it feet first. Which is fine. This makes him happy and comfortable, and honestly, the fact that we need to be in the room right now until we get him consistently climbing off the bed feet first encourages us to have enforced downtime, when I would usually be trying to clean, or be mindlessly waiting time playing Civilization on the computer, or FrontierVille on Facebook.

We also have rarely gotten peed on. In 13 months, he's got a great track record for peeing through his cloth diapers as soon as I've finished pinning them and just before I've gotten the waterproof liner on, so no one gets soaked, but I can see that he's wet, and so I sigh and start over again while he wiggles in about 20 directions, tired of lying still. He did manage to pee on my husband immedately after being born (I'll share that one later), but I think I've only been on the wrong end twice.

And, I'm sad to say, that we didn't get to exclusively breastfeed until solids were introduced. This story will probably get a post all on its own, but needless to say, it was discovered that my son had an infection, Serratia, which was most likely acquired during our post-partum stay in the hospital. His health had an impact on my milk production, since he wasn't feeding as actively as he should have been. Fortunately, my son suffered no long term effects from the infection, and only had to receive antibiotics orally for 14 days. My milk supply, on the other hand, had suffered tremendously. I had been advised not to do any pumping for the first few weeks, and since my son was underfeeding, I wound up with an undersupply. Unfortunately, this was before I'd really heard of the concept of milk-sharing, such as Human Milk for Human Babies. All I knew about getting human milk for my son aside from what I could produce was that there were milk banks, but that these could be expensive, and generally required a prescription. And so, with a heavy heart and feeling that I had failed my son, we started to supplement with formula (my feelings on this particular decision is something else that could probably take up an entirely separate entry, so I will save that for later).

I think of all the stresses I have gone through this past year, between my son's weight gain and health to the medical follow ups he's needed as a result,  from the feelings of failure that I've had, to the fact that my husband and I hardly see each other during the week because we have rotating schedules to avoid the need for daycare. When I focus on those, there are very brief moments that I want to sob and wonder why anyone would decide to put themselves through so much stress.

And there are moments like this morning, when my son starts climbing all over me 30-60 minutes before the alarm goes off (these days I wonder why I keep it set at all aside from sparing me from checking the clock), and I roll over and just see that grin. Just this absolutely amazing "I'm so impressed with myself, didn't you hear me turn the mobile on? Didn't you see me giving my stuffed dog kisses? Did you notice that I was able to vault over you, mommy???" grin.

And then everything is okay with the world and I realize that I would take all those stressors and more, just so long as I can keep seeing that face every morning when I wake up, and every evening when we go to bed.

01 September 2011

Circumcision: Law and Ethics

First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they attack you. Then you win.
(Quote often attributed to Gandhi, but believed to be a rephrasing of a quote from 1914 in an address by unionist Nicholas Klein to the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America in Baltimore.)

It's not really the source of the quote that's so important as the sentiment behind it. This quote is quite pertinent to the "Intactivist movement" (people who are standing up against circumcision to protect infant boys), as parents, doctors, and even lawmakers try to give pushback in response to attempts of getting baby boys the same rights to bodily integrity that our baby girls in the U.S. have.

There are a number of bills that have been put before Congress and State legislatures to try to make routine infant circumcision (RIC) of males (also referred to as Male Genital Mutilation) illegal, just as it is for females. Specifics on these bills, their texts, and which states have submitted such bills can be found at MGMbill.org.

Recently, San Francisco and Santa Monica made the news as cities trying to pass a local MGM bill. The San Francisco bill was stricken from the November ballot by Superior Court Judge, citing that it "violates a California law that makes regulating medical procedures a function of the state, not cities." And the Santa Monica bill was dropped, due to the bill being misrepresented as Anti-Semitic.

And now, Assemblyman Mike Gatto has put forth a bill (AB768) that was approved unanimously by the California State senate yesterday. This bill will essentially require that any anti-circumcision law make it through state legislation, and prohibits the smaller scale bills such as those that were attempted in San Francisco and Santa Monica. The bill goes into effect immediately.

Seems a bit of an extreme reaction to bills that were, according to online pollings, not favored by the majority, doesn't it? Especially when there is supposedly already existing law that states that cities can't regulate medical procedures. So why the need for an additional law that singles out circumcision to say that THAT specifically can't be regulated by city, county, municipality, etc?

Everything in the news has, if anything, just brought circumcision more to the forefront. And hopefully has gotten many thinking about the motivations behind circumcision, as well as what a double standard we hold in protecting our daughters while handing our sons over to have them permanantly altered just days after they make the harsh transition from womb to the outside world.

Female circumcision (also referred to as Female Genital Mutilation or FGM) was outlawed in 1996. The FGM law (see Sec. 645 for Criminalization of Female Genital Mutliation) notes (emphasis mine):
(a) <<NOTE: 18 USC 116 note.>>  Findings.--The Congress finds that--
            (1) the practice of female genital mutilation is carried out by members of certain cultural
 and religious groups within the United States;
The law does also go on to make exceptions in the case of medical necessity, such as an episiotomy during childbirth.

However, the recognition by Congress that FGM is carried out for cultural and religious reasons is significant, as despite this, they find that:
(5) the practice of female genital mutilation can be prohibited without abridging the exercise of any rights guaranteed
Which is to say the find that there is no compelling religious or cultural reason that female circumcision should be legally permitted. So why are we allowing this on our baby boys?

In 2015, we may be seeing some of the first lawsuits from men who were circumcised as infants after the FGM law was passed, citing the fact that, under the 14th Amendment, they should be afforded the same legal protection that our girls current received (again, emphasis below is mine):
Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
And I haven't even touched the issues surrounding the medical practices of circumcision such as informed consent, the Hippocratic Oath, and rates of complications from circumcision. And okay, so I didn't delve too deeply into the ethics of it, aside from the inequal treatment that boys and girls get, mostly because a lot of the ethics are more deeply tied to the medical practices than these laws.

But now that I have gotten to let off a bit of steam about the recent passing of a ridiculous bill and touched on why, legally, boys should be getting the same protections that girls have had since 1996, maybe I can blog about other things for a few posts before returning to circumcision.

Related Reading:
Circumcision is immoral, should be banned