Abraham, Rachel, Soren and Liam. Our life together in Smalltown, Idaho.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Clarification

I nursed Soren for thirteen months and there were occasions when, in public places, I'd have to bring out my boobs and my nursing blanket and and let him have a nip. And no one ever said anything unkind. And during my four long weeks of breastfeeding Liam, I have also yet to encounter any overt negativity about my breastfeeding him either.

I'm paranoid, however, because of a big public controversy from my BYU days that centered around breastfeeding in public. I think it was triggered by an incident that occurred at an Orem Burger King, where an employee approached a fully covered breastfeeding mom and asked her to take her business to the bathroom, because she was making people uncomfortable. The woman was understandably outraged and the story made it into all the local papers. There was then a flurry of activity in the Letters to the Editor section of The Daily Universe, BYU's campus newspaper. There were some individuals who wrote in defense of public breastfeeding, but many others who wrote in to express their discomfort with the idea. I tried to dig through the editorial archives to provide a link for you all to peruse at your leisure, but the archives apparently don't go back that far. It's a shame, really, because there were some real gems. Men and women alike wrote in to say things like, "men are not permitted to look at or touch that exceptionally sacred part of a woman's body until we are married to her in the temple. That is why a woman should not expose that part of her even if it is just to feed her child unless absolutely necessary, unless there truly is no other option"* and "why do women want to breastfeed in public in the first place?"**

And there was another similar controversy that occurred in the Woodville 1st Ward during my formative years. Some uptight (female) member of the congregation complained to the bishop about a woman who breastfed her baby during sacrament meeting, spurring a debate about the appropriateness of such behavior. Even though my mother fought bravely and vocally on the side of the breastfeeding mom, and I knew that she was right, as an adult I've never been able to shake the image of someone frowning at me for reminding the world that I have breasts and know how to use them. And so, even though I would occasionally like to stay and listen to my church meetings, I scuttle off to the mother's lounge to sit in seclusion and shamefully provide my child with the best possible nutrition available.

- - - - -

*"Secret addiction to porn," diagnosed my friend Loriann

**The answer to that question was delightfully provided again by Loriann, who later wrote me in an e-mail: "Yes, women love breast feeding in public. They prefer it actually. Instead of the comfort and privacy of their own homes, when little junior pipes up with a hungry cry, they hop into the old minivan and drive to the busiest place in town, rip their shirts off and let him suck away at their sacred boobies. Its just something that happens to a woman's brain after she has given birth... they become mad with indecency. You silly twit! A woman still has a life to tend to, she has to go grocery shopping, and clothes shopping for her other children that she might have... especially if she's a mormon since we seem to be fond of having 10 kids. When you have 10 bloody children you are busy taking them places like soccer practice and piano recitals, and tae freaking kwon doe. So in between all that junior needs to eat EVERY TWO HOURS. Chances are Mom is gonna have to feed him IN PUBLIC at some point."

Saturday, March 28, 2009

You Know You're a Mother When...

You find yourself kneeling on the bathroom floor holding a wailing infant while your husband brushes your teeth in an attempt to demonstrate to your screaming toddler that there are worse things in life than oral hygiene.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Call to Arms

It seems that something so simple should be...well, simple. But it seems that there's no right way to feed your baby in our culture. Bottle-feeding moms are criticized for bottle feeding because "breast is best"-- but breast-feeding moms are sent to hide themselves behind blankets in little closets to nourish their infants in shame.

Honestly, people, formula is a fine way to nourish a growing infant. I see plenty of healthy, intelligent, emotionally functional children skipping around after having been bottle-fed. And seriously, people, boobs exist. I'm sorry if mine make you uncomfortable. But I have them and they exist for the very purpose of feeding my young. I'm tired of being sequestered away as though I were a menstruating woman in a primitive culture.

Breastfeeding and Bottle-feeding Moms, unite! Let us cross the La Leche League chasm that has hithertofore separated us! Let us stand side by side and boldly whip out our bottles and our boobies, and do it without shame! It is time for all of us, everywhere, to feed our babies with pride!

It's time for some book reviews.

I have actually read some books (and started several others) during the past six months. Here's the rundown:

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe
Fannie Flagg

This book contains a section of recipes in the back, so it is clearly a delight. That's a universal rule, right? Books containing actual recipes = delightful. I vaguely remember something about that from my Physical Science 100 days. BcAR=D. (Like Water for Chocolate is another example of this Delight Phenomenon.)

It's not the most fantastic book of all time, but it's a warm read and decently written. In addition to the recipes in the back, each chapter starts out with a newsletter written by the postmaster's wife in the town of Whistle Stop. The book is worth reading just for the newsletters.

My only recommendation would be to read the novel and watch the movie based on the novel. They fill in characterization and plot gaps for each other.

A Slipping Down Life
Anne Tyler

This wasn't my favorite Anne Tyler novel. Nothing really wrong with it, but nothing really right, either.

A Place Where the Sea Remembers
Sandra Benitez
Beautifully written. Poignant. Heart-breaking. And unremarkable. Sort of like it came out of the Beautifully Written and Poignant Novels factory.

The Practice of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy
Albert Ellis and Windy Dryden

My therapist at BYU, Lars Nielsen, was mentored by Albert Ellis, who founded this particular branch of Behavior Therapy. I really loved Lars' counseling style--it was practical, humorous, intelligent, and terminal--so when I saw this book in one of my co-workers offices, I decided to look at this therapeutic approach from the other side of the couch.

This was a good read, but pretty textbook-y. (I guess that's what one should expect from a textbook).

If you're interested in curing yourself of all your emotional ills using this excellent approach, I would recommend one of these self-help books.

Positive Discipline for Working Parents
Jane Nelson and Lisa Larsen

I love the Positive Discipline series. It offers a viable alternative to traditional punishment/reward methods of parenting, incorporating valuable research about child development into its theories and teaching parents how to respectfully set limits for their children and teach them how to make good decisions.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

You know you're a mother when...

You wake up every forty five minutes in the middle of the night with a wee infant, all the while trying to stop the Sesame Street song, "Do De Rubber Duck", from playing incessantly in your head.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday, March 06, 2009


Abraham has a knack for taking pictures of our newborns when they're pulling the most fabulous faces. I like these two shots because they truly illustrate how (phenotypically) similar our children are.

Soren, aged 15 days, January 2007.

Liam, aged 5 days, February 2009.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Interventionalizin' Those Babies

Most of you, dear Readers, seemed quite interested in my earlier post about Hypnobabies, so I thought I'd check in and let you know how the whole beaaautiful birthing experience went down.

The natural childbirth people talk about what they call "birth interventions"-- things like induction, continuous fetal monitoring, pain medication, and episiotomies-- as though they were one of the seven plagues of Egypt. Everyone from the Bradley people to Ricky Lake have put their index fingers in an "x" and hissed at an IV bag full of Pitocin. The idea is that medical intervention should be avoided at all costs, as interventions can often lead to complications. Generally I agree with this attitude, which is why God struck me with my transverse baby.

When I went to see both my midwife, Susan Binegar-Rider, and obstetrician, Margaret Huggins, almost a week after my due date and little Liam had still not permanently turned into a head-down position, it became clear that at least a little intervening was inevitable. The "wait-and-see" policy I had previously adopted was beginning to seem less safe-- if I waited to see if Liam turned head down until I went into labor, I would risk uterine rupture or an umbilical cord prolapse. It took me a little while to adjust my thinking, but we ultimately decided that it would be best to schedule a version and, if the version was successful, induce labor while he still had his head down-- and if it wasn't successful, go ahead with a C-Section.

So Wednesday morning started out with a "version," performed--since my own Obstetrician was away on an emergency call--by Dr. Barbara Nelson of the Rosemark Women's Center. The nurses all told me that she was the best baby turner they'd ever seen, so I felt that it was serendipity that she was the one who was available to do the procedure. She was accompanied by an adorable male ultrasound technician who looked like he was perhaps from Pakistan, smelled deliciously foreign, and referred to me as "my friend." Anyway, after a few minutes of discomfort, Liam was turned into a more appropriate birthing position. High fives were exchanged all around, a nurse stabbed me with an IV (which thing made Abraham quite faint), and I was trotted down to a birthing room in a stylish moon-and-stars hospital gown.

After Lisa, the attending nurse, got us all hooked up with the Pitocin (intervention) and strapped me to a continuous fetal monitor (intervention), and Dr. Nelson had broken my water (uncomfortable intervention), Abe got out his book of fairy tales and read to me for a while. Lisa would occasionally come in and ask, "How are you feeling?" and when I said, "Great!" She'd say, "OK. Let's crank up that Pitocin a little." She seemed a little bit like a torturer : "Still feeling comfortable, hmm? Well, let's see how you do when I turn up your contractions to a 7!" So I sat there through several hours of increasingly strong contractions, focusing on relaxing through each one, and visuallizing the sensation as a warm yellow light moving through my back and abdomen. This worked very well-- so well, in fact, that after we put on a Hypnobabies CD, Abe even fell asleep while I labored. Loriann came in to visit during her lunch break and we had a nice chat between contractions, which were then about a minute long and a minute apart.

Shortly after Loriann left, however, the contractions started feeling less like a warm glowing light and more like a sharp searing burn. I decided I didn't really feel like suffering, so we called in the anesthesiologist (intervention), who injected me with a lovely formula of liquid sunshine while humming a happy ditty to himself. At that point, I was only dilated to a five, but within an hour, I could feel Liam moving into the birth canal. Things progressed pretty quickly from there. Because Liam's heart rate was dropping, I was hooked up to an internal fetal monitor (intervention) and injected with fake amniotic fluid (intervention). And at 3:52 PM, after three minutes of pushing, Mr. William James was born. With all those interventions, I reduced my birthing time from 45 hours (with Soren) to 6 1/2 (with Liam). It was glorious. "Night and day," said Dr. Huggins, of my two births. "Night and day."

And I'm not at all sorry that I spent all the time and money that I did on Hypnobabies. Well, actually, now that I write that, I realize that maybe I am a little sorry. That was a lot of time invested. But I do feel that the techniques I learned helped me through the first several hours of my labor in comfort, so it wasn't a complete waste. And I also genuinely believe that, had I been able to move around freely (I couldn't because of my IVs and continuous monitoring), I would have made it all the way without an epidural. Also, the relaxation techniques have helped me since having the baby, allowing me to fall asleep quickly when I have the opportunity (I'm generally not very good at falling asleep). And I did have a positive birthing experience, though I imagine it's not anything the Hypnobabies people would want to post with their testimonials.

So, in conclusion: I interventionalized this birth. And it was a good birth. But maybe next time I can go back to hypnotizin' that birth process. We'll see.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Liam: Welcome Letter

Dear Liam,

You're lying on a blanket in your carseat and I'm sitting right next to you with the computer on my lap, watching you sleep and listening to the little creaks and squeaks you make as you dream. Soren and Daddy are at Grandma's house, which means that you and I have a few rare moments to be alone. You don't seem to notice or care, however. You just want to sleep.

The pajamas you wear drown your tiny little body and your face is tanned with jaundice. You hold your little arms in a praying mantis position and your long thin fingers hang down. You just woke up and stretched long enough to noisily fill your diaper, then drifted back into sleep. The nurses at the hospital were worried that your jaundice would make you too sleepy to remember to eat, but that hasn't been a problem at all. The moment your eyes open you're ready for food, a desire you aren't afraid to express loudly.

When Soren was a newborn I read a book called Chocolat, picked up and savored during the long hours I spent nursing and rocking him. The mother in the book referred to her child as "My Little Stranger." I remember thinking it was an apt description then for my little Soren, and I find myself using it now, for you, as I look into your dark almond-shaped eyes and sense that inside your tiny little body is a whole human being, unique, beautiful, already whole, just waiting to unfold. Thus far, you have been a very serene baby, content to sleep and eat and occasionally open your eyes and calmly look around. (Around here that makes you both strange and a stranger.)
Your Daddy fell in love with you the moment he laid eyes on you. You should see the way he lights up when you're in his arms, the gentle cheery voice he uses when you open your eyes. He has a hard time putting you down and can't look at you without making a remark like, "What a handsome little boy!" Soren is a little more dubious. He gives you hugs and kisses and watches with great concern whenever you cry, but he's also wondering where he fits in to this newly shaped family, and has begun fighting naps and bedtimes, afraid, perhaps that when he awakes you will have replaced him completely. But here we are, now, joyfully irrevocable, the four of us: Daddy, Mommy, Soren, and Liam. Your family.

Welcome Home, Little Stranger.




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