Posts Tagged "pregnancy"

Done Like Dinner

Posted on Aug 13, 2010 in Featured, Parenting | 4 comments

Done Like Dinner

If you spend any amount of time online in places where people talk about pregnancy and parenting, eventually you run across the conversation where someone asks “Are you done having kids?” “How did you know you were done?” or some variation of that. In the real world, people ask “When are you having the next one?” and “Are you planning to have any more?” Oddly enough, these often come from near strangers in awkward social situations. This is particularly bizarre considering that the answers tend to be complicated. This is the thing: both situations address the same issue, but the online versions seem to acknowledge that there is an emotional component (some way of feeling done) whereas the real life one acts as though it were only a matter of logistics, not of heart. Yet, either way, the answers are far from easy. The decision to have children at all, or add more children to your family involves more than just finances. Not just can we afford it, but do we have the resources (time and energy and support)? There’s the practical, the part addressed by the idea of planning for children. But what about the emotional aspects? The idea of being done is emotionally tricky. It’s not like there’s a meat thermometer device that we can use to check if we are done. It includes our ideas about sibling relationships and what’s the right number of siblings. This includes how we might feel about only children. It includes how we might feel about having either fewer or more children than the culturally acceptable two. It probably includes some of our past experience: how many siblings did we have and how did that affect us. It includes our relationship and experience with the children we already have and with our partner. There’s also this rather nebulous idea underlying the concept of done-ness that at some point you just know. The myth is that as the last baby is placed on your chest, you look round the room at your family and feel complete, perfect, done. Some even talk about feeling like someone was always missing in their family before the last baby was conceived. This is like the ultimate goal when thinking about or discussing being done. It seems everyone secretly hopes they will get that unmistakable feeling and be ready to move on. The alternative is to be stuck with puppy syndrome which means that you might get addicted to the whole cycle of life that presents you with a newborn in all it’s soft, floppy, sleepy, sweet smelling glory. Every time your youngest gets to the point of walking and talking, you find yourself staring wistfully at the pregnant lady at the grocery store and yearning to hold a fresh baby again. You worry that no matter how many children you have, you’ll always miss having a newborn. You’ll never feel satisfied. It seems to me that while women seem more prone to puppy syndrome than men, it can still affect both sexes. Not so for the slightly more complex idea of being done childbearing. For women, the childbearing years are a particularly special time: the magic of pregnancy, the triumph and/or trauma of childbirth, and the challenges and comforts of nursing. These can be deeply rewarding and enriching times in the life of a mother. For some, it might be hard to let go of this phase of life, even when they feel they have enough children. Those who had difficult or upsetting birth experiences or disappointing breastfeeding experiences may yearn to do it one more time as a means to heal and gain closure. It can be hard to separate those feelings from the feeling that you actually want another child. Besides, moving beyond the childbearing years is also a way of growing older. Even as you appreciate your new level of freedom when your youngest heads to Kindergarten, it can be hard to admit that the baby years are behind you. It puts you on the other side. It’s the first step towards middle...

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Briefly June & July

Posted on Aug 1, 2010 in Featured, Parenting | 11 comments

Briefly June & July

I had been intending to do a monthly review on, well, a MONTHLY basis. But it turned out that most of what I learned in June, I couldn’t share with you all until now. So then, what I learned in June & July: 1. Old friends really are the best friends. In the middle of June, we hosted a reunion at our house for 3 of my school friends and their partners. I stressed about being hostess for 3 couples in our small house but it ended up being such an amazing weekend. 2. Prepare for the worst; hope for the best. That’s kind of how I operate. I need to worry about the what ifs and prepare for them. I understand that about myself. Fair enough but that mentality also means you waste a lot of time worrying and stressing about things that will probably never happen. In the case of our reunion, I was again pleasantly surprised by the outcome and I kind of worried for nothing. Apparently I need a little more of the hoping for the best part and a little less of the preparing for the worst. 3. What to Expect when You’re Unexpectedly Expecting. We were still on the fence over whether or not to have any more kids. Aaron was happy with just two. I have always wanted three kids. However, Noa has only recently started sleeping through the night and I’m kind of exhausted from the challenge of 5 years of back to back pregnancy and breastfeeding and night nursing. I don’t feel I have the energy to start all of that over again just yet. I can also see that if Noa gets too much older, I won’t want to go back to baby stuff. I could see the window of opportunity for a third baby closing and I’ve been working hard on being ok with that. So then we got the rather unexpected news that I’m pregnant. I cried. It wasn’t what we were planning for right now but the decision’s been made for us and in the end, it will all feel right, I’m sure. It’s definitely getting easier as the weeks go on—getting used to it, I mean. Otherwise, it’s so far been getting progressively worse with the nausea, the food aversions, the exhaustion, but I’m told that even that will get better some time soon. In the mean time, I’ve learned that in this situation: There’s almost nothing your friends and family can say that seems to be the appropriate response when you break the news. When they are happy and excited and say, “Congratulations!” wholeheartedly and enthusiastically, I thought to myself, “don’t they get it? How do they not see that the next three years are going to be so exhausting and hard?” When they (especially parents of one or two already) say, “Whoa. Really?” and open their eyes in terror while they try to smile encouragingly, I felt hurt that they weren’t happy for us or self-conscious that they thought we were crazy or stupid. In the end, Aaron and I were able to joke about it and came up with the best possible response a friend could make: a big smile and shout “Surprise!” It’s quite possible to have very mixed feelings about the little one. In fact, if I were to think hard about it, I had mixed feelings every time I got pregnant and that was ok. Embarking on new parenthood is kind of terrifying. Every. Single. Time. There are new complicated challenges to be faced each time. There’s always a steep learning curve. Somehow with our planned pregnancies, it was easier for me to accept that. This time, I feel guilty for feeling those things. As if I am rejecting the poor little bean. While I’m not that enthusiastic about multiple ultrasounds, an early dating ultrasound definitely taught me the power of visuals to help in bonding. So far we’ve been feeling kind of punched in the face with this news and I’ve been sick and tired and generally feeling...

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The Breastfeeding Choice

Posted on Jun 28, 2010 in Breastfeeding, Featured | 4 comments

The Breastfeeding Choice

Lately, it seems that everyone is debating the choice to breastfeed. Reading various blog posts and opinion pieces, got me thinking about why I breastfed my two children. Health campaigns having been making it clear that there are major health benefits including lower rates of asthma and diabetes in children and lower rates of breast cancer in mothers. The oft-cited lifestyle benefits include convenience (always having baby’s food with me no matter where we are, never having to heat bottles, never running out, not having to bring a lot of extra gear on outtings – besides a couple of diapers), cost-savings (not having to buy bottles or formula), better sleep, ability to soothe a baby who is hurt, getting a vaccination or whose ears are bothered by the pressure on an airplane. These are all great reasons to decide to breastfeed, but for me, they were like bonuses, icing on the cake. They weren’t the reason I breastfed my children. To be honest, I didn’t consider breastfeeding a choice. I suppose I could say that I thought it was my responsibility in a way but even that doesn’t really describe my feelings. I didn’t do it out of a sense of duty. I did it because that is what is involved in my role as a mother. For me, breastfeeding was just part of the package of childbearing. Just as I didn’t really have a choice about how to conceive, just as I didn’t really have a choice about growing and carrying a baby inside my body, just as I didn’t really have a choice about when and how I would push that baby out of my body, I didn’t feel I had a choice about how I feed that baby. Sure, in this day and age, we have things like IVF for conception, surrogates for pregnancy, cesareans for birth and formula for feeding. But in my mind, those wonders of science are available to make childbearing possible in spite of insurmountable challenges. For me, they are not choices. For me, the choice I had was whether or not I wanted to have children at all. Once I made the decision to have children, I embarked on a path that included pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding because that is what is involved in having children. Along the way, I had choices regarding my prenatal care, my place of birth and the length of time I breastfed my children, but I didn’t really have a choice about the steps in human procreation. Of course, all those steps involve some pretty big downsides like cankles and heartburn, contractions and the Ring of Fire, thrush and mastitis. But all three are also the most amazing privileges. We get to feel the wonder of the baby moving and growing inside of us, we get to experience the transformative power of childbirth, and we get to nourish and bond with our babies in a very primal physical way. Nothing about parenting is easy. Some of us will experience challenges with almost every aspect, from the moment we start trying to conceive. But we do it anyway because that’s what it takes to parent. We do what our children need us to do because it’s just a part of the deal. I guess one of the major differences is that all things considered our culture is supportive of pregnancy and birth (barring for now major ideological differences regarding what childbirth should look like). But breastfeeding is another story. Our culture does not support breastfeeding. The average North American woman is not living in an environment that makes breastfeeding something that feels normal, or even possible. The average woman is not supported by extended family to breastfeed. The average woman receives conflicting and erroneous advice about breastfeeding from the hospital, her friends and her health care providers. The average woman feels that breastfeeding in public is offensive or imprudent. The average woman is sent messages every day from society, from the media that tell her that breastfeeding is either creepy or too intimate to occur outside of...

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Attitude Adjustment

Posted on Dec 7, 2009 in Birthing, Featured | 2 comments

Attitude Adjustment

Remember: if something is hard to do, then it’s not worth doing. — Homer J. Simpson I have often laughed about this quote partly because it’s true for me in some ways, and partly because I know to laugh at myself. I have never thought of myself as strong. I’ve hovered around 110 Lbs since my mid-teens. I wasn’t on the basketball team in high school. I’m not athletic. I get winded running around the block. And sometimes taking the stairs at work (though I still do it). I’ve never thought of myself as someone you’d ask to carry heavy boxes when you move. Or as someone who just keeps at it no matter how tired. That’s more like my husband. And that’s why I married him. When I was pregnant with my son, back in 2005, I took a Birthing From Within childbirth prep class and we spent one beautiful, sunny, Sunday morning in August talking about and crying about our worst fears about labour. Mine was pretty much that I just don’t have it in me to do something that physical for that long, that I would give up. I was afraid not only that I wasn’t strong enough but also that I just didn’t have the attitude to get me through. I had heard that quote about “having a baby is hard work. That’s why they call it labour” and while I appreciate it, it kind of scared me more than all the media hype about pain. But you know what? Guess what I’ve done in the last five years? I’ve made and grown another human being inside my body. Twice. I’ve pushed a baby out of my body without any pain relief medication or extraction methods. Twice. I’ve fed and kept a child alive and thriving for six months with my body alone. Twice. It turns out that my body is pretty damn strong and amazing. I did all this without training. Without special exercise or diet for the most part. I mostly ate the way I always eat. I took prenatal vitamins regularly the first time and when I remembered the second time. I did some prenatal yoga during my first pregnancy. I had awesome fans and a couple of great coaches which helped a lot of course. But I didn’t practice pregnancy or labour or birth or breastfeeding. I just did it. Because my body is made to do it. It turns out that I wasn’t just wrong about having a strong body. I was also dead wrong about my mind and my attitude. Or rather, by the time it really mattered I found out that I was wrong about my attitude. Before the contractions hit and around transition when I was telling myself to go to the hospital for an epidural, I still had some serious Homer attitude. But somehow I didn’t quit. What made the difference? When I look back, I realise that I was training and practicing and working hard getting ready to have a baby, breastfeed a baby and become a parent. I was preparing my mind for a mental marathon and I was adjusting my attitude. The yoga, the childbirth class, journaling, reading, learning: all of those were my training, my practice. It turns out that all of those are what helped me do what I needed to do. And for the rest, my body just did it’s thing because that’s what it is meant to do. Turns out that I’m more Winnie the Pooh than Homer Simpson: There is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. — Winnie the Pooh **photo: The hard work of labor, Flickr,...

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Voices: What Story is Your Birth Story Really Telling?

Posted on Apr 28, 2009 in Birth Stories, Birthing, Featured | 0 comments

Voices: What Story is Your Birth Story Really Telling?

I recently had the opportunity to share the story of my son’s birth with a university class on Child Development during Infancy (conception-3 years). The students are in their early twenties and many had never seen a birth before nor had any prior exposure to the basics of childbirth. As I wrote out my story, I became increasingly aware that I couldn’t just tell it the way I remembered it. I had to bear in mind that the students would be forming impressions about childbirth from my words. I had an opportunity to cut through the noise of birth as pain and talk about what else it can be, beyond just a physical experience. I realized that to be taken seriously I would need to acknowledge that birth IS painful but I also decided to focus on the experience itself: preparations, perceptions, emotions. I spoke about why I chose to have a homebirth in a rational way so that my words would not be brushed aside as those of someone “brave” or “radical.” I had to make very calculated decisions about what to say and what not to say and I got to thinking about the stories our birth stories really tell. Is it a story of fear, pain, control, joy, courage, triumph, peace, dignity, sorrow? Do the details we give and the words we use convey what we intend? Are we aware of our audience when we casually explain about the day we gave birth? Do we pay attention to the fact that there might be a young pre-teen girl there who is soaking it up? What do we want listeners to take away from our tales? In a culture where birth is a medical event, we owe it to future families to tell a positive empowering story if we can. Young women today are bombarded with stories on tv and in the media of childbirth as being so painful and dangerous that the only way they will get through it is by putting their trust in the authorities, giving up the power in their bodies and taking the multitude of drugs offered to manage their birth safely. We can help shape future mothers’ perceptions of birth by carefully choosing our words when we talk about ours. Regardless of the circumstances—whether it was a blissed out waterbirth or a cesarean for breech presentation—we are the ones who tell our stories. We can choose to be positive and inspiring or to instill fear and dread. It’s your...

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