Monday, August 20, 2012

"It's Like Butta"

Are you familiar with the phrase "butter birth"?  I read this occasionally on posts about "easy" or fast births.  I always wonder what the birthing woman thinks of her birth being described like butter.

When I think "butter birth" it makes me think the baby just slid out effortlessly.  I guess that's a compliment if the mom made it look that easy, but I bet, if you ask her, she did not feel like the baby slid out effortlessly!

Is birth ever easy?  Maybe.  I believe that what makes birth "easy" is preparation.  When moms (and dads) are well-prepared, she is able to relax and let her body do its work.  I honestly feel like the journey during pregnancy between husband and wife towards the goal of an unmedicated birth helps to have an easier labor - even when it's really hard.  Let me be clear here:  I don't believe that labor is easy.  I think women work to get their babies here.  A lot of the perception of an easy birth comes from the people in the room (who are not in her head!) and how the birth is recalled months down the road.

As the founder of Birth Boot Camp, I've had some interesting conversations lately about childbirth education.  I've seen some moms hire a doula and a midwife and call it good, thinking they don't need childbirth education.

NEWS FLASH:  Your doula and midwife will NOT be giving birth for you!

Choosing your care provider carefully can be the difference between a vaginal birth and a cesarean, but labor and birth are often much harder than anyone anticipates.  Rarely is it like butta!

I've written about fast labors before.  Many women who have a fast "butter birth" wish they had had more time to enjoy their labor.

Ultimately, I guess I just hold the opinion that "butter birth" is not a nice phrase.  It minimizes the work that the mom did to get her baby here.  I know the people who use the phrase don't mean it that way, but I've listened to -- and read enough Facebook posts from upset women -- to know that women don't really care to have their birth described in this manner.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

August Birthday Boys - Start School or Hold Them Back?

My firstborn is my only son and he was born in August.   I remember being at a doctor's appointment with him when he was about six months old and the nurse mentioned holding her son back a year since he was born in August.  I couldn't believe she was telling me this.  I couldn't even imagine my sweet baby talking or walking -- let alone starting school!

Fast forward a year and I had the smartest kid on the planet!  He knew all his letter - lowercase and capitals - at 18 months old.  He also knew all of his animal sounds at the same age.  Full disclosure: I didn't teach him any of that, but he loved Wheel of Fortune and Sesame Street.  At 16, if Sesame Street is on, he's glued to the television.

So, when the time came for him to enroll in kindergarten, I didn't think twice about it.  He was super smart and he did great.   He was pretty shy, especially with adults, but overall, we felt good about the decision to start him in school.  His grades were good and he understood the material.

Let's fast forward some more.  14 years old.  An age I couldn't imagine when he was 5, starting kindergarten.  He was 13 when he started high school band camp at the end of July, his freshman year.  He was barely 14 when school started.

Freshman year is a big adjustment for any kid, but for a younger boy, it's a lot of responsibility juggling the schedule and meeting deadlines.  It was a lot of pressure, but he did fairly well and his grades were pretty good.

Now lets talk about the girls.  Many of these freshmen girls do not look like freshmen.  Some are quite aggressive with the boys and the younger boys tend to think it's pretty awesome that an older girl likes him (I might be speaking from experience).  If he is the youngest in his grade, it's a good bet that she's older than he is and probably much more mature.  It will definitely get in the way of focusing on important things and cloud his judgement.

Next, if he is the youngest, all of his friends will drive before he does.  He will be in a car driving around with his friends at an earlier age instead of being the first to learn.

His friends will all be working the summer they are 16, while he is waiting around to be old enough to get a job.  They'll have money to go to the movies or to Sonic because they work.  Your son, on the other hand, will either be mooching off his friends and driving them crazy, or he'll be begging you for money so he can keep up with his friends.  Again, I might be speaking from experience.

He'll only have one summer at home (hopefully) of managing a job, money, time management, homework, etc. before leaving for college.  Learning to juggle those things on your own, away from home, is likely stressful for parents and son.  Many boys find themselves in debt.

While it might be trivial, many boys don't grow tall until high school.  Being the shortest and the youngest in the grade is a tough place to be for most boys.  You just don't know how tall he'll be at that age when he's starting kindergarten.  To be trying to keep up with kids that are up to a year older, plus looking younger, well, it might be tough on the self-esteem.

My husband is a September birthday and was the oldest in his grade.  He did great.  He was always a leader, not a follower.  I think age was part of the equation. 

Many parents, especially moms, are ready for their kids to go to school.  I was one of them!  I had several little ones at home and I was ready to push one out the door for a few hours for half-day kindergarten.  Don't judge me!  If I had had a crystal ball to see the future, I would never have sent him!  I would have held him back a year.  My husband was opposed to that, and even as I've express my regret over the years, he would always assure me that it's fine that he went "early".  Since starting high school, and especially since being 15, he has changed his tune.

If you are in this position, I hope this post helps you get a glimpse into what you are looking at 10 years down the road.  It's all about informed consent, right?  Let me put it this way, I never hear parents say, "I really wish we hadn't held him back," but I often hear the opposite, as is our case.  Hold on to your babies as long as you can.  The payoff may not be immediate, but 10 or 15 years down the road.

My "baby" at almost 15.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Natural Birth, Breastfeeding, or Intactivism -- Could You Pick A Platform?

I saw the question "If you could just choose one issue, what would be your #1 platform?  Natural birth, breastfeeding, or intactivism?" posed on a birth facebook page this week and was shocked by how many people said "intactivism" would be their platform if they could only choose one thing to be most passionate about. 

If you read my blog EVER, you know that I feel so strongly about natural birth (I'd have to link to nearly every post here!) and not circumcising.  I've written on these topics on Banned From Baby Showers for 4 years now and taught it for nearly a decade.  I'm a certified Natural Childbirth Educator for crying out loud!  I even wrote my own curriculum called Birth Boot Camp, which many of you are getting certified to teach!

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, allow me to tell you why BREASTFEEDING would be my platform if I had to pick just one topic to preach on.

As you know, I had an epidural with my first baby because I was scared to death of labor and childbirth.  Didn't feel a darn thing when I birthed my baby.  I had heard enough people say they they "couldn't" breastfeed, so I was hopeful that it would "work" for me.  It did, mostly, thanks to some great advice I received before my baby was born.  He never had a drop of formula and we blissfully breastfed and bonded for 15 months.  That baby will be 16 this week. 

Breastfeeding was the coolest experience I had ever had, witnessing my baby grow healthy and chunky on my milk.  I thought it was pretty cool that I could leave the house without anything but a diaper and I had everything I needed to feed him with me at all times.  My husband was in college at the time, so the fact that breastfeeding was free was extremely beneficial. 

I'll admit, my main motivation for breastfeeding my first baby was that it was free.  We really couldn't afford formula, so I was thrilled that it "worked" for me.

Each time I breastfed a new baby, the duration got longer.  19 months, 24 months, and number 4 breastfed for 28 months. That time of my life is over now, but I reflect with contentedness and happiness.  I wish this for all new mothers, that they are able to breastfeed and receive the help and support they need to successfully breastfeed. 

My favorite quote is "Breastfeeding is a mother's gift to herself, her child, and the Earth."

I feel like I always have to have a disclaimer when I make statements like "Breastfeeding is possibly the most important thing you will ever do."  Again, I'm very aware that there are legitimate reasons why a woman or baby may not be able to breastfeed.  One of our requirements to be a Birth Boot Camp Instructor is that the applicant has breastfed at least one baby for at least one year.  While the Board feels that this is incredibly important, we do have a few trainees who have appealed to the Board asking to waive this requirement due to their situation.  I'm saddened that some women try their hardest and it just isn't meant to be.  These are not the women I am speaking to. 

With that being said, I believe that the majority of women and babies ARE able to breastfeed and SHOULD breastfeed.  It has been documented time and again that breastfeeding benefits both mothers and babies.  The benefits are not just immediate, but last a lifetime for both the child and the mother.

So why not natural birth as my number one platform?  I believe that natural birth is healthiest for mom and baby and a good choice all the way around.  I'm sure you are painfully aware that less than 10% of women choose natural birth.  At least 1/3 of women are having cesareans in the US today.  I, myself, had an epidural with my first baby.  Regardless of how your baby comes out, YOU SHOULD DO EVERYTHING IN YOUR POWER TO BREASTFEED YOUR BABY!  It will help with bonding, postpartum depression or baby blues, your baby will be healthier, and you will release prolactin -- the "mothering hormone"-- which makes you more calm and nurturing.  Did I mention that you'll have more money in your bank account?

Why not intactivism as my number one platform?  Anyone who has sat in my class knows how I feel about this topic.  But at the end of the day, it is a decision that parents make.  I hope I was able to shed light on the function and purpose of the foreskin.  Most people that sit through my class do not circumcise, and that makes me happy.  But if they come back to a reunion and disclose that they did circumcise, I could care less as long as they are breastfeeding!

We didn't circumcise our son 16 years ago, but I don't feel that that helped us bond or was good for either of our emotional or physical health, in the same way that breastfeeding has been.  It was a good choice, I believe, and certainly one that I don't regret.  He's good with it too.  Everyone's happy.  But breastfeeding has potentially protected him from several diseases, given him a solid "gut" (the kid NEVER throws up), and a million other health benefits.  I also got health benefits from breastfeeding, including reduced risk of developing breast or ovarian cancers.

I'm also going to choose breastfeeding as my number one platform because I have 3 daughters.  By choosing circumcision as my number one, I'm not giving the girls anything.  All of my children have benefited from breastfeeding, but not natural birth, and circumcision only pertained to one child.

As an educator, I hope to inform expectant parents of all their choices.  But at the end of the day, regardless of how they give birth or whether their son gets to keep his foreskin, I hope all mothers and babies breastfeed and feel supported in this most sacred time of their life.