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Posts Tagged ‘mommy guilt’

After a post went up from a Babble blogger that shamed mothers who breastfeed without a nursing cover, and piece over at Slate that indicated the simplest way for us to move forward as women in society would be for lactivists to care less and the market to over better nursing covers, I was invited to write a guest post for Annie at PhD in Parenting. I hope you will visit me over there and join our conversation about misogyny, the female body, judgments and the mommy wars.

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Doesn’t it hurt when you are terribly sick with a cold and someone suggests you think yourself into wellness? It hurts me and that is just a cold. It hurts even more when someone suggests the thoughts I had during pregnancy have made my child anxious. I live with an anxious child and he is a complete delight. I’m not sure if I took away all the more troublesome aspects of Henry that he’d be the same person. Should I wish for a different better child? Is he less valuable to our society because his brain works differently? It’s not exactly busted. He reads, writes and does math well above grade level. He is a good friend, hilariously funny and a fiercely protective older brother to Theo. Is anxiety always the opposite of happiness? There are birth professionals in my own field who suggests that the way I experienced my pregnancies led me to have either a happy or anxious children. I find that dichotomy troubling. I myself experience anxiety and happiness quite regularly. So do all three of my children, including the one with a diagnosable condition. Is it all so black and white?

I realize there is some very excellent research showing that fetal development is impacted by maternal environment. I’ve even written about it over here. I’ve read about it in Time and there is a new book, Origins,  which I will one day read and review. I think the science is there to document the impact environment has on development. In a Salon interview,  Annie Murphy Paul, author of Origins, alluded to people freaking out when new research like this comes out. I am here to say that “the freaking out” has begun. Women are looking at this book and wondering, “Did I worry too much during my pregnancy? Not enough?”  And standing in the wings waiting for them, are people ready to make money coaching them how to do it  better next time – or how to do it perfectly the first time – through “The Power of Positive Thinking.”

The book, which is called The Greatest Pregnancy Ever, is not yet released. I will read it. I will get back to you. I cannot fairly review a book that I have not read. I can tell you that I read the overview as published on the website. To me there is much that sounds good enough on the surface, but when look at the flip side, concerns abound. If my stress can shape my baby’s personality and I already have a child with an anxiety disorder, then I got what I deserved right? My guess is that authors have take scientific data that is more helpfully viewed through a sociological lens, for example, seeing the ways that race, class, income and war impact maternal-fetal health, and shot it through what I will call The Power of Positive Thinking Tube.

Picture this tube like a digestive track. Take perfectly good scientific information, or simply good self-care practices, such as having a positive outlook, or looking for ways to see the good in life’s challenges, and shoot it into The Power of Positive Thinking Tube and frankly, crap comes out the other end.

We take:

the science of fetal development + colicky baby who will not sleep

insert into-> power of positive thinking tube

add the mommy guilt feature * sleep deprivation due to colicky infant

+ dr. google

with the result

= I did this to my baby by having stress during my pregnancy.

The truth is that research shows having a moderate amount of stress during pregnancy is healthful for fetal development. Chronic stress (such as being a black woman in America, enduring poverty) and acute stress (experiencing war, trauma, natural disaster) do have impacts on premature delivery rates. The normal stresses of women who work, parent and read websites about how to have the best pregnancy ever are not the problem. The Power of Positive Thinking Tube personalizes things that are simply not personal. As Bill commented on my previous rant, post:  To paraphrase some guy: “Your tire is not flat because the universe is out of alignment and God is angry with you. Your tire is flat because there is a hole in it and the air won’t stay in.”

In sum, I’m okay with the science. I’m a little concerned about how our society is going to use it to screw with moms. More sensible thoughts on both books, after I’ve read them. I’d like to hear your thoughts on the difference between positive thinking and The Power of Positive Thinking. How do we compassionately care for ourselves and others when we have not ended up with “the best possible result?” And, who decides what is best?

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Did I ever tell you about Little Puppy? I mean really, all of it?

He was born June 04. It was an easy labor – really easy. I started of 5cm dilated in prodromal labor, the kind that is non-patterned and not hurting. I arrived at the hospital in the wee hours of the morning with persistent non progressing contracts and begged my midwife to break my waters so I wouldn’t have to be pregnant any more. 10 hours later he was born. Labor stayed relatively mild, intense contractions that peeked high and heavy but didn’t really impeded my ability to walk or find comfort in knowing it would pass in a minute. The delivery itself was more troubling. His head was transverse and a bit oblique too, I think. Looking from his perspective, wandering “what now mama? what do I do?” Tuck that chin little man and spin out! He did, a little too fast, a little too spinny, a little too urgent – having sat there for an hour. There was some damage to my perineum. It was a hellish repair. My recovery was miraculously quick all things considered. It may be that I was given a miracle because I was gonna need it.

At birth weighed 8lb 6ounces. A few ounces shy of my first baby’s weight, but no concerns. All seemed well. I felt in the first few weeks that he was not as good a nurser as my first child – then I felt guilty and tried not to compare them – In the next few months he gained weight. Some weight. I felt he should have been gaining more quickly, maintaining his position on the chart – like his brother did. Then I felt guilty and swore I would not compare them.
Not Compare = Good Parenting.
Every Kid is Different = Good Parenting.

By three months, he was either completely angelic or impossible to console. I felt his latch was not good – he was on/off very frequently – was he getting any hindmilk? Worries about Latch = Good Mother. No worries, LaLeche says he is latching on and off to build up my milk supply for his upcoming growth spurt. Allowing baby to do this so your milk supply increases = Good Breastfeeding Mom. Hurray me.

Between 3 months and 4 months we were experiencing episodic crying episodes frequently throughout the day, clustering in the evening. Colic. It had to be colic. Nothing else was wrong I was resenting the hell out of my baby = bad mommy. Colic. Okay, great, it goes away. It goes away. Resenting the hell out of my baby will go away. I slept on the sofa away from my husband and at the far end of the apartment from my 5 year old. I slept on the sofa next to a battery operated infant swing on full tilt. I had two sets of rechargeable fast charging D batteries. The moment it started to slow down the crying would begin. I’d change the batteries. make some feeble attempt at feeding, be refused. His tiny fists punching my breasts. His back arching as he let out piercing howls. I’d bring my face close to his face and pat his cheek to get him to snap out of it…literally a 4 month old baby so stressed that I had to snap him out of it. I’d stick him in my sling – cries, shrieks and all – and start moving as quickly as possible. It helped. I think in my mind, I thought, if this helps, there can’t be anything really wrong.

At 4 months he had dropped on the growth chart, significantly. But was still on it. He weighed about 12 lbs. Haunted, by an older brother who weighed 19lbs at that age, I pictured him thinking – ease up mom! I’m me. He was normal developmentally, and I described the crying:
Some babies cry more than others, even when it is not colic. He can have some baby cereal.

I went home convinced, sort of. I thought, I need to me more patient with nursing. Not rush it, not make him do it the way his brother did. Let it go, just relax. I’d sit in the rocker trying to get him on, just to take a little. I’d avoid it, then try to do it more frequently, then it’d be so miserable I’d avoid it, then I’d try to time his actual nursing. He loved the cereal. Loved it. For a while I was so crazed and sleep deprived I thought he hated me.

The night the infant swing stopped working as a soothing technique ripped me apart. I thought about his delivery. I thought, how am I going to survive this? Thank God the next day he stopped eating altogether. Would not even try, not even close. I was on the phone with a friend. I was weeping and saying this isn’t right -She said, go with it, go with it then, your the mom. Thank God. He was 4 1/2 months old – he weighed just over 10 lbs. He’d lost 2 pounds in two weeks.

Within two weeks he had been diagnosed with severe and silent GERD. It was better than our first diagnosis, which was failure to thrive.

More news tomorrow on how Little Puppy and I are not failures.

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