Monday, April 26, 2010

Ever found yourself screaming, "It's f@#^ing SLEEPY TIME!" at 3am? Well, mama, this post is for you.

There were a few times in college where I remember dramatically labeling myself "sleep deprived."  Doing so was kind of sexy.  Getting up and dragging oneself to class with tousled hair and last night's eye makeup smeared all over the left facial region said "I consider myself quite busy and important...too much so to shower before class.  Aren't I mysterious?"  Or something like that.  Young Hollywood seems to think itself chronically sleep deprived, with their ever-so-posh hospitalizations for "exhaustion."  

I have come to feel a bit territorial over the terms "sleep deprived" and "exhaustion."  Mothers are sleep deprived.  Every one else is just whiny.  (Disclaimer: My three-day sleep total = under twelve hours.  I am not rational, kind, or understanding at this moment.  Prepare to be offended.  Prepare to be horrified.  Just don't say I didn't warn you.)

Because our nation clearly has an issue tossing around the terms "sleep deprivation" and "exhaustion" like candy at a parade, let me attempt to set some new parameters to the concept.  If you cannot relate to the following incidents,  congratulations, you are NOT sleep deprived.  If you can, it's official.  You are sleep deprived.  Welcome to the club, sister.

You are definitely sleep deprived if...
  • You are writing/reading this post while eating an entire batch of buttercream frosting with a spoon.  Caffeine is too obvious and reeks of trying to hard.
  • Within the last week, you've turned to your husband at 4am and hissed, "I am going into the fucking kitchen to grab a fucking frying pan to fucking smash my fucking face in because I CANNOT fucking take any fucking more of this and I am so. fucking. tired." and he just rolled over and went back to sleep without saying a word because it's the third time you've threatened tonight and so far you seem to be making hollow threats.
  • You've zoned out for A TEENSY SECOND in the grocery store and upon zoning back in you find your fifteen month old standing up on the seat of the cart leaning into the back to pop open a beer.
  • In a desperate attempt to keep from becoming one of those mothers who yells, you've taken to loudly reciting children's books and songs when you've had it up to here: "I SAID A BOOM-CHICK-A-BOOM!  I SAID A BOOM-CHICK-A-BOOM!  I SAID A BOOM-CHICK-A-ROCKA-CHICK-A-ROCKA-CHICKA-BOOM!  Your children are terrified when you start to sing.
  • You've screamed, "it's FUCKING sleepy time!" at 3am and wondered who the crazy screaming woman is and how she got into your bed.
  • Yesterday you fell asleep laying in the middle of the living room floor with your fifteen month old twins playing loudly right next to you.  You woke up to find three sticky fingers in your nose, a thumb in your ear, and two smooshed noses pressed against your forehead.  
  • You've run out of diapers but because you are too tired to go to the store, you pray that nobody will poop.  Of course somebody poops, at which time you are faced with either fashioning a diaper out of duct tape and paper towels or opening the diaper, removing the poop, and re-applying the diaper like it never happened.  Since this is purely a hypothetical situation, we do not need to get into discussing the choice that was made.
I think you get the gist here.  Of course, do keep in mind that, as stated above, these are all purely hypothetical situations which probably definitely NEVER HAPPENED in my house.  But if they happened to you, I think you should know that you are probably definitely not alone.  Wink wink.  

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Okay, so it's not sexy.

When Rhys and Quin first came home from the hospital, I was terrified to take them in the car.  It felt crazy to take those tiny five pound babies and casually buckle them into their car every purpose in life cruising along, listening to Rusted Root, facing backward and rendering me blind to their well-being in my own necessary forward facing.  I've never had those baby mirrors that let you keep an eye out because I've read that they can become dangerous projectiles in an accident.  Over time, I got accustomed to driving on high alert - the tiniest peep, burp, or cough would raise every hair on my body as I tuned in to decide whether it was a "normal" baby noise or a SOMETHING IS WRONG baby noise.  I was counting down the days until they would reach the necessary twenty pounds and one year old so that I could turn them around to face front.  The idea of us all facing forward just seemed so right - I would look in the rear view mirror and see their smiling faces, munching on crackers or sleeping in a warm haze.

Then I heard about Extended Rear Facing.  I've got to be honest, I think it sounds like something that might happen on a crazy Saturday night after a few tequila shots too many.  But really, it's disappointingly pure, and even more disappointing to my forward looking self, it is S-A-F-E-R in a very well documented statistical sense.  

If you haven't heard of ERF - it is simply keeping your baby/toddler in a rear-facing car seat past the twenty-pound, one year guideline.  The American Academy of Pediatrics thinks it's a good idea, as does the entire country of Sweden, where children stay rear facing until as old as five and where, during the period of 1992-1997, only nine children who were properly restrained in rear facing car seats died in motor vehicle crashes.  When you consider that car accidents are the number one cause of death for US children, that's a pretty remarkable statistic.  In fact, all of the statistics are remarkable, but don't take my word for it:
My little bubble of longed-for forward facing has been burst.  Rhys and Quin are both over the age of one and are both over 20 pounds.  They ride facing back, and they will continue to do so until they outgrow the guidelines for their car seats, which will be 33 pounds.  When I tell people this who are not familiar with ERF, they automatically ask where their legs go, and I myself asked the same question when I first heard about the concept.  Right now, they're still short enough that their feet barely come to the edge of their car seats.  Their legs are a little bit bent, but I doubt they'd ride with their knees locked and their legs out like dolls if they had the option. As they get older, they'll cross their legs, bend them more, or prop them up on the back seat.  Most kids prefer to bend and flex - do a Google search for images of ERF and you'll see lots of happy toddlers safely facing back and making it work. 

I had hoped to make this post at least slightly sexy or mildly interesting.  Alas, just as Extended Rear Facing turns out not to live up to its kinky-name potential (really...I can't be the only one who sees it!?), this post probably isn't going to make it onto anyone's Facebook status.  That's okay.  Just consider ERF and pass it on.

Monday, April 19, 2010


Friends, I've gone over to the dark side.




I've given up cloth diapers.

(Short moment of silence whilst I hang my head in shame and defeat.  Please feel free to use this time to point, laugh, judge, and scoff.  Better yet, if you know me in "real" life, DO remember that it was I, who only a month ago, was enthusiastically detailing my LOVE for cloth and attempting to make you feel like a miserable failure at life for your unwillingness to save the earth and your precious baby's tiny bum from the known and even worse, unknown evils of disposable diapers.  That was me.  I'm an asshole.  Can we move on now, please?)

The tagline for my blog is "mastering the universe, one cloth diaper at a time."  Dammit.  Somehow, "mastering the universe, one chlorine-laden diaper at a time" just doesn't have the same ring.

(I'm not really sure that I'm going to use chlorine-laden diapers, but the dramatic effect of toying with the idea is one I can't pass up.  Truth is, I spent all of my precious-few research-ready brain cells figuring out the PERFECT cloth diapering system, and since that has failed me, I find myself in Target feeling like Alice in Wonderland and staring hopelessly at piles and piles of shiny plastic packages covered in adorably swaddled baby bums knowing not what to do.)

Going through infertility, I had these symbols of motherhood in my head, things I needed to experience to make this life a full one: baby wearing (check), breastfeeding (check), cloth diapering (check)...

I had not planned to give up cloth until the babies were successfully destroying Cheerios with streams of urine in the big-boy potty.  But then our diapers got skunky.

I tried stripping them.  Spent a week with the babies in disposables running back and forth to the washer every hour to set another hot water rinse.  I tried Dawn.  I tried Bac-Out.  I tried leaving them in the sun for three days.  I tried Borax, bleach, washing soda, new detergent, no detergent, a wet pail, a dry pail, and standing on my head in front of the washing machine chanting ancient diaper-cleansing chants.

And finally, they were clean.


I transitioned the babies out of disposables and back into cloth.  We went through our full supply, and I washed them using my new sure-fire method.  The next morning, I brought the babies into our room to nurse. I lay in bed with them, thinking about the day, and smelling...something.  I nudged Kyle.  "Our house was sprayed by a skunk.  Do you smell that?"  He hadn't even opened his eyes before I realized my mistake.  I looked down at my two sweet babies in their adorably massive cloth diapers.  Damn.

I've recently decided to test my limits and sanity by taking on some new projects around the house.  In an insane moment of overestimating the hours in any given day, I gave up buying cereal, cookies, hummus, bread, and yogurt to make my own healthier, cheaper, organic versions.  Add to that, I've been making the babies food from scratch all along, which isn't difficult or incredibly time consuming.  It is, however, something that is not particularly optional.  "Sorry guys.  Mommy didn't make any steel cut oats today.  Would you rather have a beer?"  I've started a garden.   Blah, blah, blah.  I'm busy, and I take on too much.  And I usually balance "too much" just fine, because I don't usually mind teetering on the steep edge of total insanity.

But I'm a smell person.  A laundry person.  I don't like skunky.

So last week, in a crazy and wild moment of letting something go, I gave up on cloth.

Because washing each load of diapers six times in scalding hot water is at best questionable in environmental-friendliness.

Because I don't have time any more.

Because I'm not a martyr, and I'm not perfect, and I'm working on being softer with myself.

Farewell, cloth.

Monday, April 12, 2010

We now interrupt your regularly scheduled program to bring you a terrifically large and hysterical panic attack.

As a responsible and duly prepared parent, I've been readying myself for toddler-hood.  

In my head it goes something like this: 

As we ease into their second year of life, the babies will have learned to talk - in complete and rational sentences.  They will sleep through the night and thus their parents will as well.  Shortly after their second birthday, they will begin to have tantrums.  Their coolly competent mother will respond to these tantrums with a loving, patient, and gracious chuckle.  She will share knowing looks with kind strangers who will sigh wistfully and say things like, "ahhhh.  The terrible twos."  As those strangers walk away, they know they will sleep better tonight, with the understanding that today's children are being raised by such masters of motherhood.  "She makes it look so easy" they will say.  Playful angelic fairies will fly around farting honey.

And now here's what happened in real life:

Toddler-hood came bursting through our front door without knocking.  Swinging and punching with closed fists.  The asshole punched me in the trachea.  My sweet babies woke up one day with the sole desire to point out my utter incompetence as a mother.  I'm not ready.  I have not formulated my tantrum response yet!  I have not mastered the gracious chuckle!  I have been forced to fly by the seat of my pants and it is threatening to tear wide open and show the entire world my granny-panties, which I have peed in twice today already.  I am master of nothing but inconsistency.  Tantrums send me into a tailspin.  My sweet and innocent babes let loose with demonic shrieks I am certain they are wholly incapable of and I will do anything and everything to just. make. it. stop.  And then I realize that I'm likely encouraging my beautiful children to grow up sounding like Veronica from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, speaking with bizarre British accents and saying, "mother, make me more crepes this instant!"  So the next tantrum I respond by ignoring it completely while a tiny voice in my head whispers "refrigerator mother....refrigerator mother...refrigerator mother."    I mentally kick Leo Kanner square in the testicles and hurry into the kitchen to make some chamomile tea before I lose control and just start drinking mouthwash.

I've looked into what it would take to develop a light drug problem to help ease this time.  Am having a hard time deciding between huffing glue and prescription pills.  I hear glue is easier to obtain.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Divided we fail babies.

It's been a busy week in breastfeeding news.  On Monday, the journal Pediatrics published a study about breastfeeding, showing that over 900 American babies die each year and 13 billion dollars are spent due to low breastfeeding rates.  Almost immediately, the internet seemed to explode with reactions.  Gina from the Feminist Breeder took the information and wrote what I believe is one of the best analyses of breastfeeding in Western society that I have ever read.  Articles popped up left and right discussing how to deal with the "guilt" that accompanies sharing information about breastfeeding.  Matador Life published a well-written and comprehensive article detailing the ongoing Facebook vs. breastfeeding saga (featuring yours truly...).  I read and I read, and then I read some more.

And now something is gnawing at me.

We have all of this information, all of these analyses, all of this movement.  But I wonder how we will really move forward, how we will really succeed at changing things, when we have a sensitive, fragile, and bitter divide threatening to let us all continue to spin our wheels without ever actually going anywhere.

Here is the issue:  Some mothers breastfeed.  Some mothers do not.  You knew that, I know.  But hear me out.

The CDC reports that 75% of mothers leave the hospital having initiated breastfeeding.  Six months later, that number drops down to 13.6% who are still exclusively breastfeeding.

Although I have a lot of thoughts about what happens to those 61.4% of women, it's not something I want to discuss right here and right now.  It's been discussed - a lot in fact (okay fine.  Quick summary: society bullies them out of continuing.) - and my concern this time lies elsewhere.

My concern is how we all learn to work together.  How we heal the wounds of the mothers who desperately wanted to succeed at breastfeeding but did not.  How we swallow our pride, set our noble principles down for a moment, and respond with empathy to the human experiences of one another.  How we admit that perhaps we all need to do better together.

Here's what's so tricky about all of it.  Although society as a collective whole is to blame for not providing mothers with the support, information, and education they need to succeed in breastfeeding, change happens in individual increments.  Essentially, we are asking mothers to look society in the eye, punch it in the gut, and overcome all of the social barriers that stand in their way - with no more tools to succeed than they originally started with.  It's a chicken and egg dilemma of epic proportions - with human lives and billions of dollars at stake.  Society will not change until individuals change, yet demanding individual change within an unsupportive society is hardly simple.  Hardly fair.

But it is where we are.

The study published in Pediatrics based its numbers on how things would be if we brought that 13.6% up to 90% of mothers still exclusively breastfeeding at six months.

76.4% of mothers is massive change.

We're not going to get there by fighting.

We're not going to get there by blaming one another.

We're not going to get there by standing on soapboxes, getting defensive, or indulging old wounds.

As with any battle, patriarchy has always benefited from the in-fighting of the oppressed.  When mothers fight mothers, it is babies who lose.

I'm not suggesting we hedge.  I'm not suggesting we tiptoe.  I'm suggesting we suck it up, get over ourselves, and work together.

There are nine hundred and eleven babies who are counting on us to succeed.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Okay Mark Zuckerberg, let's get personal.

Nine hundred and eleven, Mark Zuckerberg.

Nine hundred and eleven babies die each year in America because they weren't breast fed.

If we go back and start counting at, oh, say 2007, when tens of thousands of women asked you to stop calling breastfeeding obscene, that nine hundred and eleven translates into over twenty five hundred babies.  Dead.

Twenty five hundred dead little babies, Mark Zuckerberg.

Because the mothers of twenty five hundred little babies were not given the tools, the support, or the education they needed to choose and succeed at breastfeeding.

Because when those mothers were little girls growing up, social media outlets like Facebook were busy teaching them that breasts are for sex, and that using them to nurture a child is offensive.

Because our society has allowed the greed of corporate America to sway public opinion into believing that scientifically created formula is superior to the nutritionally perfect milk produced by a mother's body.

I've said it once and I'll say it again.  Facebook is powerful.  You have over 400 million users around the world.  You can make a difference.  You've been asked to help.  You've been asked to change.  Again, and again and again, you have been asked.

Your response is patronizing.

You've ignored us.

You've ignored the calls to change Facebook's policies.  You've ignored the media reviews.  You've ignored your social responsibility to simply do! the! right! thing!  Mark Zuckerberg, you haven't just ignored.  You've failed.

You've failed mothers.

You've failed babies.

By refusing to become a part of the solution, you have remained a part of the problem.

The problem that leads to the deaths of nine hundred and eleven babies in America each year.

It's not all your fault, Mark Zuckerberg.  But it is a little bit your fault.  I would surely imagine that among the 400 million users out there, there has been at least one mother on the fence about whether or not to breastfeed her baby.  At least one mother wondering if she will feel embarrassed to use her breasts in this way.  At least one mother wondering who will support her.  At least one mother wondering if she will get in trouble for feeding her baby in public.  At least one mother who has never known anyone who has breastfed.  At least one mother who does not know how to breastfeed.  At least one mother wondering if others will feel offended by her choice.  At least one mother who gave up.

At least one mother whose baby died.

Mark Zuckerberg, you could have helped her.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Keep on keeping on...

Facebook is waiting for us all to go away.

Supporters of breastfeeding have been fighting against Facebook's hypocritical and discriminatory policies towards breastfeeding for over three years now, and yet Facebook has pretty much been eerily silent on the whole matter.

I find that infuriating. I find it patronizing. I find it unacceptable.

There is too much at stake to move on and accept the idea that the world's largest social networking site declares breastfeeding to be obscene. We cannot slowly dissipate and forget it ever happened. We CAN make a difference. We need to make a difference, because if we don't, it will be our sons and daughters and their sons and daughters and theirs and theirs and theirs who will fight this fight after we are long gone. I don't want that for my children. I don't want that for any children.

I'm not going to go away. I hope you won't either. Facebook can hide, Facebook can ignore this issue, but Facebook cannot out-will the strength or stubbornness of thousands of passionate mothers (And fathers! And babies!) who demand to be treated with respect.

I find it easy to get swept up in the excitement of activism when the energy is high and things are moving fast. It becomes more challenging as time goes by, people move on, and we start to lose focus. It is in these moments of losing focus and moving on that Facebook wins. It is in these moments that patriarchy - a system that is failing humanity - wins.

Forget breastfeeding for a minute. Let's talk simply and plainly and honestly about humanity. People. Human beings. Mothers, fathers, babies. Children. Let's talk about a world where we're not afraid to love and nurture, and where we prioritize the well-being of individuals and communities rather than corporations and greed.

Our passion and conviction over what is RIGHT is stronger than Facebook's passion and conviction over what is wrong.

It's time to continue taking action.

A few action steps to show Facebook that this - and we - are not going away:

1. Use social media to our benefit. Retweet, Digg, and Share on Facebook. (This post, earlier posts, posts from other blogs, news articles, your own words...send the message loud and clear!)

2. Continue to share breastfeeding pictures on Facebook.

3. Write to Facebook. Tell them they're wrong. If you can't find their contact information (good luck...and please share if you do!), make your letter to Facebook public and share it openly with the world.

4. Ask Ellen (and other public figures) to join in the effort to normalize breastfeeding in our culture.

This has gone on long enough! It is 2010! Don't let Facebook get away with telling mothers that breastfeeding is obscene. Do not give up.