Thursday, June 30, 2011

Spirit Baby

In November, 2007, I lost a baby for the first time. It's one thing to worry about it happening and quite another to have it happen. I had good, compassionate friends who knew to not say any of the hurtful platitudes that people tend to say in their helplessness (hint: no one wants to hear how it could have been prevented, that it was inevitable, that their baby was anything other than a baby or that a dead baby could ever be 'for the best' -- please don't say any of these things to a grieving parent).

One person was even kind enough to share a story that helped with her own miscarriage, which I'm going to share here, for all the moms who might find comfort in it.

Spirit Baby (excerpt from The Baby Catcher)

Colin, my twelve-year-old son, discovered me late one rainy afternoon sitting at the kitchen table, a damp Kleenex crumpled in my left hand, wiping my eyes as I tried to compose myself for his sake. It was the third week of January, two months after I’d miscarried a pregnancy, but I still found it impossible to get through a day without at least one meltdown into misery.


Colin asked, "Are you crying about the baby?" and when I nodded tearfully, he said, "Well, you just have to have another one, Mom, because it’s a Spirit Baby, and you should be its mother."

I must have looked puzzled because he said, "Don’t you know about Spirit Babies? How could I know about them if you don’t? I mean, you’re my mom!" But he could see my perplexity.

So my first child, this not-yet-teenaged boy, pulled a wooden chair to my side and draped his thin arm across my shoulders, saying, "Well, Mom, here’s how it is. See, I was one myself, so that must be how I know. Anyway, every woman has a circle of babies that goes around and around above her head, and those are all the possible babies she could have in her whole life. Every month, one of those babies is first in line. If she gets pregnant, then that’s the baby that’s born. If she doesn’t get pregnant, the baby goes back into the circle and keeps going around with all the others. If she gets pregnant but something bad happens before the baby’s born…now listen, Mom, because here’s the really cool part. It goes back into the circle, but it becomes a Spirit Baby, and all the other babies give it cuts. Each month, it’s always first in line. Isn’t that great?

"So you just have to get pregnant again, and you’ll have the same Spirit Baby. If you don’t, though, then the baby circle will just beam that little Spirit Baby over to some other woman’s circle, and it’ll be first in line for her. It keeps being first in line somewhere until it finally gets born.

"But it’d be a shame for you not to have it yourself, because I know how much you want it. So you just have to try again. Mom, remember that baby you lost before I was born?" I nodded wordlessly. "Well, that was me. Really. I’ve always known I was a Spirit Baby. I mean, I know what I’m talking about here, Mom."

(the story goes on that several months later, she did finally decide to try again and conceived her 'spirit baby', for 'the joy of it'--to quote her ' tweenage' children)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Red Cabbage Gender Test

Purple Cabbage

So, one of the more scientific old wives' tales out there for gender prediction is the red cabbage test. Intelligender is an expensive test you can waste $40 on that operates on the exact same principle--with less accurate results! The idea behind is is that red cabbage juice (made from boiling the chopped cabbage) is a pretty accurate test of pH. Kids even use it in school as an easy, cheap science experiment. First, how to do the test:

You get a head of red cabbage (size doesn't matter and I only used half a head), add water (I boiled it in a kettle, then set it on the burner) and boil it for 10 minutes. Take it off heat and go pee in a cup (I'd suggest using a clear plastic cup, but a glass works, too if you don't mind that it's had pee in it). Draw the blue-violet water out of the cabbage pot and measure it equal to the urine (I drew it with a coffee mug, let it cool, then added it to an identical clear cup and eyeballed the measurement side by side). Then add the cabbage water (which my husband called pot liquor, which amuses me, since he's from California and I'm from Missouri and never heard that term, but it's supposed to be a 'country' term) to the urine. Some places say to use a third cup, but there's no reason not to just pour the cabbage juice into the pee.

Now, you'll have a new color. A purple color indicates a girl result and a pink color (resembling cranberry juice) indicates a boy result.

So, this works to identify male urine versus female urine. The idea is that if you're carrying a boy, he will influence the pH of your pee. If you're carrying a girl, she can't influence it, since you're already a girl.

I am awaiting my ultrasound and am antsy to see my baby and find out the gender, so I finally broke down and bought a cabbage. This test is really recommended for 10-16 weeks (I assume because most people start finding out after that), but I'm 19, almost 20 weeks and couldn't wait anymore.

So, when my 4 year old daughter decided to use the toddler potty while I was using the main toilet, I snaked some of her pee off to test, so I have a control for "girl" as well as the control cabbage juice, of course.

First, I'll show a picture of this test someone else did (if you recognize your picture, please feel free to message me for credit!) with a control (left), girl's urine (middle) and boy's urine (right):

Okay, so here's my daughter's pee (right), next to the control (left):

And on its own, to get a shot of the purple color (the red square is my camera reflection):

Now, I didn't take pictures of my first test, because I was so eager to do it, it didn't occur to me, so I repeated the test later and got the same results (it made a LOT of juice!):

And close up on the color:

Now, since the test is supposed to be done with first morning urine (FMU), I took another test this morning--and the results were instantaneous this time and very clear:

Sorry about how bright they are--I just have a little point and shoot and this was the ideal distance to get their color--anything further away and they all looked almost black in the pictures and I wanted to use the raw pictures. I got a very clear 'boy' result. Will we be welcoming our first son in November?

For other old wives' tales, I've taken an online quiz that combines many of them (baby position, morning sickness, cravings, etc.) and got a 'boy' result; a heart rate predictor that used the average for gestation age instead of the overall pregnancy average: boy again. According to the Chinese gender prediction chart, this is a girl.

So, this was written on my birthday: June 17th. The rest of the blog will be written after my ultrasound, to find out if the test was accurate (as I find it frustrating to see these posts and not know if they were right or not!).

Well, my utrasound was today and according to the ultrasound--the red cabbage test is...


We're expecting a little girl in November!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Infertility depression

So, to start, I'm not just discussing long-term infertility, but also the short-term, secondary, etc. While it's definitely traumatizing to be waiting years, it's also traumatizing for many women to be waiting months. After all, those who did wait years started out waiting months, too. Here, I'm also only discussing from a woman's point of view. I know men go through quite a bit as well, but lacking the personal experience, I'll leave that up to a dad to write.

During this time, all sorts of thoughts can go through your head. Feelings of inadequacy aren't uncommon and neither is depression. It starts with the trying to conceive (TTC) cycle. First, there's excitement, as we finally decide to try. We know it might not happen right away, so we first just stop any birth control measures that might have been in use and just enjoy sex au natural.

After that doesn't work, we start timing. Some people buy ovulation predictor kits (OPKs) and some watch for signs of fertility (cervical fluid, maybe mild cramping--mittelschmerz). Others start charting their temperatures and many do all at once.

We hear the stats--two healthy, fully fertile people have about a 25% of conception in any given month. Okay, so, a few months have passed, this month should be it! We're doing everything right--we know when we're ovulating, we're going at it like bunnies on a schedule (some every day, some every other day in an attempt to give the sperm a chance to build up) and we're still not getting pregnant.

Looking for something 2
Doubts, that many of us already carried, perhaps in silence, for a long time, start to surface--"Can I even get pregnant at all?" Many women, especially those who successfully use birth control for a long time, actually worry that they may not be able to have children, though they have no real reason to feel that way. Sometimes it's a real, conscious concern or fear, sometimes it's subconscious, only waking up when the reality of actually trying to conceive arrives.

Often, what follows is depression. For me, I felt disconnected from the living world. I couldn't do the most basic of life tasks--reproduce. It made me feel broken, like I was really dead inside and something was seriously wrong with me. I watched other women with their bellies ballooning, bemoaning their human fertility and it hurt. It hurt a lot.

Every time someone talked about being 'afraid' of being pregnant, I wanted to scream at them to just give me the baby. I wanted the baby, don't be afraid, don't worry, just hand it over! Of course, instead, I tried to be supportive, while inside, I hated them a little in my pain.

Now, from here, women go many different ways. Some just keep trying naturally, hoping that some day, it will just happen. Some because they don't have money for anything else (fertility treatments are expensive!), some don't believe in interfering with nature and some just really, really want it to come from them.

Others go on to schedule workups to find out what's not working--many hope that it's their husbands and not them. Some try more natural approaches with herbs or supplements. And others make the decision to stop trying to conceive entirely and move onto looking into adoption.

From there, some go on for fertility treatments and more still move onto adoption options. And across the board of the women in treatments, using natural help and just keeping on the old fashioned way, women start getting pregnant: Finally!

Now, many recover and their spirits fly at this point. They've succeeded! However, many others continue to suffer from depression into the pregnancy. For me, I was unable to believe that I was really pregnant. I tried to find causes of positive pregnancy tests outside of pregnancy. The only one that seemed to fit my symptoms was a tumor. So, while I carefully nurtured my body in case I was wrong, I inwardly braced myself to face the big C.

This manifests in other ways for other women. However, it can lead to a distinct inability to bond in many women, for many months. You might not be able to believe you're pregnant, even when you're going through all the motions of nourishing a pregnancy. The depression that came from all those months of unsuccessfully TTC can utterly spoil what was supposed to be a joyous time in your life. Something you were waiting months or years for. Something very special.

This depression can persist throughout pregnancy and a little beyond, especially if you have a highly medicalized birth. If you experienced pregnancy or birth loss in the past, it can increase the problems quite a bit. Of course, the depression and bonding difficulties don't dampen any of the feelings of loss if the pregnancy ends unexpectedly.It could even make them worse.

Most women start bonding and recovering from the depression during milestones in pregnancy. The quickening is a big one--feeling the baby move, really move around in there, can push through that infertility depression fog. Sometimes, the first time mom hears the heartbeat makes it all real and connects her to the little life growing inside. Other mothers find comfort in a routine ultrasound showing them their active little bumper is really and truly a baby. Others still find random triggers, some not even related to pregnancy, that lead to pushing through the fog. Finally, the big show--birth--may be what it takes to really chase away those issues.

This post was really written to let other moms know: you're not alone. This is a problem that affects many, many women. It's not a sign that anything is wrong with you--it's a kind of traumatic response, even a defensive mechanism. It will eventually pass. However, my friend Dionna at Code Name: Mama has some great suggestions if you're currently pregnant and going through this, that might be helfpul.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Living Respectfully With Children

So much mainstream parenting is disrespectful to children, but our society, in its attempt not to offend people we don't even know, for reasons we don't often understand, points no light at this. It's not okay to offend the guy three houses down by walking outside topless (if you're a woman or an overweight man), but it's okay to tell a child that their idea is irrelevant, take their property (and yes, once it's given to them, regardless of where it came from, it's theirs--after all, your gifts are yours, are they not? Not 'on loan' from the gift giver?) without permission and give it away, sell it, throw it away, etc., control them through fear and pain, interrupt what they're doing or saying and utterly dismiss them as people.

I don't agree that that's okay (but you saw that coming).

Children are people. Yes, sometimes they're annoying people. Yes, they have very simple ideas and they come up with things that we learned (as children) just don't work. Because everything is new to them!

above: flashlights and giant dandelions: things that were once top dollar entertainment

We lay expectations down on our children that are impossible for the average adult to live up to. Children are often discouraged from joining adult conversations, expected to sit still while their little legs are aching for exercise, overridden in their food choices (I'm not talking about wanting ice cream for a main course, I'm talking about the tremendous disrespect of forcing them to order from the children's menu, even if there is nothing there that they want, just because it's cheaper--which it isn't always!)... and that's just a typical restaurant experience for a child. Is it any wonder that kids are often crying at the table with frustrated parents? How would you act if those were the expectations set forth for you?

Next, how about the bathroom? This isn't parental, but a way that society disrespects children. Bathrooms in most places, even 'family friendly' places rarely have toilets that are close to the ground, nor sinks, so young, potty learning/training children have their independence taken from them (and while most kids are used to this--some of us with two year olds know how important that tiny independence is to them!).

Now, this is also a disservice to most adults, though we don't know it--toilets lower to the ground are actually easier on our bodies for going number two. So it would benefit both children and adults to have a couple short potties in each bathroom. And a short sink would save mom/dad's back from having to hold the kid up! (I just stick mine on the counter and let them do it themselves, then I have to clean the counter after.)

Now, the phrase that really got me going on this very long tangent (there are so very many things that could be listed in how the world is unfair to its shortest, newest citizens): Pick your battles. Now, this is good advice on one hand, but the terminology... as though children are on one side and parents on another! Children don't want to fight battles.

They want to have control over their own lives, just like you and me. Unfortunately, they don't have the life experience or education to make the best decisions in all things, so we do occasionally have to redirect and take over. Maybe it's to keep them safe or maybe it's to keep life running smoothly for everyone in the family.

Because a family is a working unit. For it to work properly and exist happily, everyone must have their basic needs met and have equal respect for each other. Just as we can't just run over a child's autonomy or choices, they need to respect ours and a balance has to be found to keep the family in working order. That varies for every family.

Personally, I think a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself: "How would I respond if this was my sister's child? My neighbor's? A stranger's?" Then, compare it to, "How would I respond if this was my roommate? My best friend? My spouse? My mother?" Look at the differences in your answers for each situation. Then ask, "How would I want someone to respond if this were me?"

Be honest. No one in their right mind is honestly going to answer, "Gee, I would want them to hit me," or "I'd want them to take away my television/Netflix/computer/whatever." Sure, we might joke, "Slap/shoot me if I ever..." but we don't intend for it to be taken seriously. We mean: confront us with what we've done and remind us why that's a bad idea. If someone took our property, we'd be pissed off--after all, it would make no sense and we'd see it as a lack of respect and a violation. Kids are no different there.

Now, after you have your answer, add in your child's personality and what you know about them. Try to think why they are doing whatever it is that's annoyed you enough to react (hint: the answer is not actually 'just to annoy' you--if they want to annoy you, then something else has already come up and not been addressed). Why are you reacting? What is your concern with their action? If your answer involves, "What will other people think?" then you need to rethink. That is a bad reason in general.

From there, you will have a lot more compassionate, reasonable and respectful approach to the situation and be on a better road to living respectfully with your child/ren. This is important because children learn from what they see much more than they learn from what they hear. If they see you consistently demonstrating respect, then they are much more likely to return it and know how to react respectfully in the future.

And if you fail now and then? Then you're human, just like the rest of us. But it's a good place to start and a good goal to have.

One last tip: Let them stop and smell the roses if you don't have an appointment. Yes, it's five more minutes until you could be on the internet or prepping dinner or whatever. However, if our kids can 'wait a minute' for us, then we should return the courtesy now and then.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Donor Milk Dilemma

Dripping Milk 4
Okay, hard truth first: Formula is not as good as human milk. Formula is rated fourth in the hierarchy for infant nutrition (Mom's milk, mom's pumped milk, milk from another mama, then formula) and should only be used for babies with galactosemia or any other reason that they cannot consume human milk.

Human milk is the standard of human infant and toddler nutrition. Formula is inferior, plain and simple. It has its place and can be useful, but it should not be the first option when breastfeeding/pumping cannot happen. If you cannot breastfeed, it does not follow that you must use formula.

Donor milk should be the first option after mother cannot provide the milk that baby needs. However, if you say that to most women, what is their first reaction?

"Eww! No way!"

Why? Why do we distrust other women so much as to assume that their milk is inferior to formula, when it was perfect for their own children? The risk of disease from donor milk is lower than the risk of formula contamination. But many women cannot be persuaded of this. Why?

"Women are dirty. Women's bodies are dirty."

This is a prevailing attitude in our society. It is illegal to show breasts outside your home, though men can show their nipples legally. It comes from puritanical thinking and the old "Eve committed original sin" attitude. Which is just plain ridiculous. It's the same reason that women think that childbirth must be a painful ordeal, despite the absence of pain in uncomplicated births in cultures that have not been exposed to this concept.

Women are adversarial to other women. They don't trust them. So, regardless of the fact that women go through the same STD checks in pregnancy and that donors are routinely screened, women refuse to accept that another woman's milk is clean. Sometimes, they cannot accept that another woman can do something that they cannot. Their competitive nature causes them to become resentful and aggressively reject that which they feel they cannot do.

Some women are so misogynistic that the thought of anything coming from a breast is 'dirty' -- even if it's their own! This is usually an attitude held by only the most immature mothers, though.

Many women tout themselves as 'victims' because they either made a choice not to breastfeed or were unable to, for whatever reason. But the real victims here are the babies, being given an inferior food substitute because of a cultural stigma against women's bodies.

Yes, some of it is the backlash of the medical germaphobe: 'all bodily fluids are infected with an unknown number of virulent diseases just waiting to pounce.' But even with that, there is still an imbalance, as formula is actually more bacteria-laden and research shows a greater risk of infection from it.
Refill for Will
I'm not saying women shouldn't have a choice. I am saying that formula should not be the first choice to follow. I'm saying that the cultural stigma against women needs to end. The hidden misogyny in our society needs to end. Only then can there be increased access to a variety of donor milk so that all babies who can safely consume human milk have access to it.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Musing on Kitties

Because we all know that the internet is powered by adorable and funny cat pictures, it's about time I paid my dues.

No joke, this ^ was voluntary.

^ This was her 'safe place' when we would leave to go anywhere (and this picture won a contest once upon a time!).

Serephina was contemplating sending Brat to Abu Dhabi. ^

And some of our foster kittens...

So, there, internet. Caption away or just enjoy the kitties.