Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Week 34- Dear Charlie

I can't wait for you to get here! I think about you all the time. I want to see you and hold you and smell you. I think you'll have blue eyes but I wonder what color your hair will be? Sometimes I imagine rocking you in your room or lying down with you to watch you sleep. You'll be long and thin, I'm sure, with long slender hands and fingers. Your Dad can teach you to play guitar or maybe we'll have piano lessons. Will some part of you remember the conversations we have during my daily commute? When we talk about 90's alternative rock and 'Axl Rose Syndrome' being the reason so many of my favorite bands have not enjoyed the lingering success of one of my all time favorite bands, Pearl Jam. Do you know that whenever I hear the song Just Breathe, I think about your Dad and how much I love him and that Amongst the Waves will always be your song?
It seems you move more than Mumbles did and with more force. She is my quiet and delicate girl. I suspect you'll be a perfect contrast to her. In fact, your beginning is already vastly different than hers. I feel as though I planned for you but Mumbles was planned for me. She changed my life and you are here because my life was changed. I hope you will grow up seeing just how truely amazing your big sister is. Your Dad is just as remarkable. He's smart and he works hard. I feel certain that you will always be able to look to him and see just what a father and partner should be. I know he worries about you all the time and is as anxious to hold you as I am. I wonder if you will remember a little game called 'Hey Baby' and how excited he gets when you 'do something cool'!

Of all the things that I think are the most important for you to know before you get here and throughout your life the most important is this: You have a big, crazy family who loves you and will always love you more than is even imaginable. Like my Grandma used to tell me "I love you to the moon and back".

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Week 31- Are you gonna cry about it?

Thus far, I have not had any of the roller coaster-esque mood swings that women often seem to be afflicted with during not only pregnancy but ovulation, pre-menses or just whenever we need a good excuse to be bitchy. Imagine my surprise when I cried no less than 15 times Friday. Okay, that might be a bit of exaggeration and a couple of times it was merely a welling of the eyes. Still, it isn't like me to get sappy over a wall decal but there I was cruising the Target website, looking for stuff to decorate Charlie's room. Normally, I'm not a fan of wall decals, particularly words, but this one was the God Bless the Moon poem that my Grandma used to say to me at night. "I see the moon; the moon sees me. God bless the moon and God bless me." It's simple and cute and seeing it there over a staged crib in a random photo studio made my eyes well up. I put it on my registry immediately, forgetting completely the fact that the walls in Charlie's room are going to be light blue, (very light blue as Micha is painting them as I type) and the decal itself is white. Oh well.

We have finally started on Charlie's room after finishing up some other home improvement projects we'd started earlier in the summer. We went to an antique mall in Ottawa and found a couple of old 45's I'm going to frame and hang on the wall and Micha found a toy Swiss plane that we'll hang from the ceiling. I love this part. If I was better at art, I'd go to design school. Decorating the new house has been so much fun and it's kept me sane on the uber slow days at work.

Saturday night we went to the county fair. Mumbles hung with her friends and rode the rides while Micha and I walked around looked at the animals and the 4-H projects and ate funnel cake. I'm not exactly a 'health nut' but I eat pretty good. Lots of veggies, lean meats and not to many refined carbs. I am human though and funnel cake is one of those once a year treats that no one should leave this life, without first having tried. Two hours after eating said fried, doughy, sugary treat, I was awake with heartburn, thus ruining my funnel cake experience for the year.

I've started noticing Charlie's responses to certain things, like riding in the car, or the sound of his Dad's or Sister's voices. During our trip to Ottawa, I could feel a sort of rythmic waving motion across my belly which I've notice a few times since then (althought never while the DJ is talking or during a commercial, so maybe it's the music?). If he hears his Dad or his Sister talking to him, he wakes up and kicks around and if I laugh (which I do a lot at my house) he responds a few seconds later with a little rumble.

Monday, August 2, 2010

None of your business!

I overheard and interesting conversation while at work. Two older guys were talking about what a problem it was that one of their grandchildren was still sleeping in Mom and Dad's bed at 1 yr old. The other made the comment that it was a bad habit that children need to be "broken of." Whenever I hear someone talk about "breaking" a habit or behavior, I can't help but think back to watching the Cowboy "break" horses. It was almost invariably a brutal process. Is that really what we want to do to our kids? The conversation then turned to how when they were young boys, children shared a bedroom with their siblings. This got me to thinking, where did young children and infants sleep 'in the old days'? Wouldn't they have had to have slept with their Mother's before central air and heat, wet nurses, formulas and bottles? So how did we go from probably universally co-sleeping to the idea that co-sleeping is dangerous or at the very least a bad habit that needs to be 'broken'? And when did our bedrooms become everyone else's business?

As it turns out, co-sleeping was actually the norm, even in Western cultures, up to about 150 years ago. During the 1800's child-rearing experts started to emerge and thus business of telling women how to do what they had done for centuries before without the peanut gallery, began. These 'experts', who were for the most part men, emphasized self-reliance. Additionally, the germ theory further encouraged separate sleeping quarters for fear that a mother and child breathing the same air would make one another sick. Then, with the Industrial Revolution society began breaking out of the extended family model and even building homes with additional rooms for children to sleep. Without other family members on site to help with the household duties, the burden fell solely to the mother, requiring more of her time and energy. It was late in this century that the 'cot death' myth arose and further frightened mothers into believing that sharing the same bed or room was unsafe. (http://editor.nourishedmagazine.com.au/articles/the-cosiness-of-cosleeping)

When Mumbles was born, I had never heard the term 'co-sleeping'. She had her own bedroom with a crib where she slept when she was napping but at night she slept in bed with me. This facilitated nursing and I never worried about rolling over on her because, with only a couple hours between feedings, I never really fell into very deep sleep. When we stopped nursing and she started sleeping for longer periods of time (around 2 months old), we made the transition to her crib. With the exception of travel, she has never slept with me since. Now, obviously Mumbles is not every child. She never developed a fear of the dark, as some children do, and she mastered a couple self-soothing techniques very early on. I still smile when I remember her flipping the handle on her 'binkie' with one hand while rubbing the satin edging of her blanket in with the other. The decision to bed-share with Mumbles was not made based on extensive research or even because it's what my mother did (although I do remember the babies sleeping in bassinets in her room). It simply felt like the normal thing to do; and it is. Newborn human babies have the least developed brain and nervous system in the mammal world. In their first years of life they rely heavily on their caregiver for basic survival. Food, temperature regulation and even heart rate and breathing are influenced by whomever is providing care. (http://www.nd.edu/~jmckenn1/lab/articles/B.pdf)

For much of the rest of the world, co-sleeping is still the norm. There is a great deal of research indicating that it reduces the risk of SIDS. Obviously, every family is unique and co-sleeping is not for everyone. Often times we hear of an infant dying and the cause is reported to be co-sleeping. In fact, a more thorough look would reveal that there are other circumstances involved such as exposure to second-hand smoke, a chaotic home, or the over-laying parent consumed drugs or alcohol. There are other safety concerns too such as the type of bedding and the surface. Waterbeds and sofas, for example, may not be appropriate for co-sleeping. There's also a study that suggests that formula fed babies should not bed-share however; co-sleeping doesn't always mean sleeping in the same bed.

Micha is fearful of bed-sharing. He is a pretty big guy and he worries that he could role over and hurt the baby. If he isn't comfortable with it, then I see no reason to try and force the issue. His fears are not silly and dismissing them as such won't make him more comfortable with it. I thought about getting a side car or turning a crib into a side car but didn't have to. My Mom brought me a beautiful bassinet that will work perfectly. It's a pretty good size so the baby can sleep with us for quite some time. He'll eventually grow out of it but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. In the meantime, I'll look forward to napping with Charlie during the day. Who wouldn't want to drift off to that intoxicating newborn smell? Or nuzzle up to a cherub cheeked baby? Not to mention, isn't sleep the one thing everyone is always saying new parents will never have enough of again? So if co-sleeping works for a particular family, what does it matter to anyone else? I don't see any reason to torture children and parents alike, in order to 'break' them of this very healthy and natural pattern.

Preparing financially for Charlie's arrival.

Let's face it, money matters at least for most people it does. The economy is tough and it wasn't that long ago that Micha and I were college students surviving on shoe-string budgets. Naturally, when we found out we were expecting, our finances were a concern. Here's what we did (and are doing) to prepare.

One of the very first things I did, before we went to the doctor or told anyone, was look into Short-Term Disability Insurance. Unfortunately, neither the state I live in nor my employer provides STD Insurance however; I could purchase a policy on my own for relatively cheap. Since I was already pregnant though, the policy would only pay out in the even of complications. Since I'm healthy and this is a very low risk pregnancy, I decided against the STD Insurance. I would recommend if you are trying to conceive this year, purchase a policy now before you get pregnant.

Something we do periodically is look at our budget.  I look back at the last month or two and see exactly where our money is going and how close we are to meeting the goals we set for ourselves. When looking at our budget now, I actually look at two: our Before Baby (BB) Budget and our After Baby Budget (AB). The AB budget is broken into 2 different 'sub-budgets': one for the period of time that Micha and I are on leave and the other for when everyone is back at work. The AB budget reflects stuff like an increased grocery budget, what my take home pay will be with the additional insurance and child care. This is also how we decided whether or not I should return to work after the baby. Daycare is expensive so for some families it makes more sense for one parent to stay home.

In looking at the budget, we tried to find ways we could cut expenses now, especially for those weeks that we only have one income. We used our tax refund to pay off credit cards and other small debts. We also started paying a little extra on our car payment every month so that in October we will be a full three months of payments ahead. We also continue to try and find ways to make our home as energy efficient as possible and ended up purchasing a front loading washer and drier. It seems counter intuitive to spend money to save money however; we've nearly cut our water bill in half despite needing to water our vegetable garden on a daily basis (yes, I'm waging a full scale nag-a-thon until I get at least one damn rain barrel). For more easy energy efficiency tips: http://www.cleanairgardening.com/saveenergy.html. 

Another way we save money is at the grocery store. We try to go on a weekly basis and set a weekly budget. A couple months into the pregnancy, we increased the weekly budget to accommodate stocking up on non-perishables, cleaning supplies and toiletries. We take the weekly ads with us (our grocer price matches) and I clip coupons. We are planning to try cloth diapering at least part-time (Micha isn't completely sold on the idea and we know most daycare providers won't go for it) so we have already started stocking up on diapers and wipes.

Our budget also included a certain degree of what I like to call 'fat', the biggest chunk of which being our cable bill. I hate our cable. It's terrible. After looking more closely, it turns out that the we were paying for service that the provider essentially could not provide, at least not with any kind of consistency, even though they were consistently charging us for it month after month. We got rid of the cable portion and reduced the Internet speed (since it wasn't faster, just more expensive). We got a subscription to Netflix and we haven't missed cable even for a minute. I mean really, who wants to watch a bunch of shows about the biggest dumbasses New Jersey could produce?! 

Two words: Garage Sale. After moving into our new home, I found we had a great deal of 'stuff' that we no longer needed/wanted/used. We cleaned out our closets and participated in the city wide garage sale. The larger ticket items that didn't sell we put on Craigslist. We sorted through Mumbles' clothes and will consign the stuff that is still in good shape and donated the rest. We also picked up some great buys. Micha found an infant seat and two bases as well as a jogger stroller for $30! We found a crib and mattress for $50 on Craigslist and picked up a bouncy seat for $16 at one of my favorite consignment shops Children's Orchard. The important thing to remember when buying used baby gear is to check whether or not the item may have been recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. You'll also want to be certain that car seats have never been involved in an accident. It is also important to note that it is illegal to resell any product that has been recalled, so be sure you check before putting your old baby gear up for sale.

There were three phone calls that were super important for us to make, the first was with our respective HR departments and supervisors. In the US, maternity/paternity leave falls under the Family Medical Leave Act, which grants most employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Some companies, such as the one I work for, are exempt from this because there are fewer than 50 employees. It is important to know what your company's policies are for paid and unpaid leave and other benefits such as insurance premiums while you're on unpaid leave, changes to Health Savings Plans and the availability of short-term disability insurance. Also, life insurance is an important consideration. If your employer does not provide any or enough, buying a term policy is really inexpensive. I recommend a plan that would at least pay out enough to pay off your mortgage and any other large debts (student loans, etc.) plus provide a little extra.

Since both Micha and I have health insurance through our employers, we were able to compare premiums and coverage and decided that the baby should go on my policy once he's born. That doesn't mean we'll stick with it. Once Charlie has made his debut, I plan to get quotes elsewhere. There are a few companies, like Blue Cross that are very competitive even with employee plans.

The next call I made was to my insurance company. The last thing I want to do is walk out of the hospital with a brand new baby and a huge debt. Do a little homework about what types of questions to ask about insurance coverage during pregnancy. Watch out for the small things like labs. My provider has in network and out of network lab providers. If your OB doesn't use an in network lab, it could cost you hundreds. Also, find out what, if any, alternatives to traditional care are covered. Some insurance companies will cover Mid-wife attended births and chiropractic care while others will not.

The last call I made was to the hospital. I spoke with the billing department and asked for a rough estimate on what I'd be billed (my OB's office was very upfront and we were able to make financial arrangements early on). I wanted to try an make a few payments ahead of time but was not able however; she did give me a number and an idea about making financial arrangements after the baby is born.

I think one of the most important parts of planning for Charlie's arrival was just deciding what was really important to us. Buying a new washer and drier: important. Buying all new baby gear vs. second-hand and hand-me-downs: not. Taking a babymoon: time sensitive. Remodeling the master bath: can wait.

Re-Normalize Breastfeeding: A first step for life-long health

This post is part of the Breastfeeding Blog Carnival hosted by The Leaky B@@b. It's World Breastfeeding Week and the carnival theme is "Perspectives: Breastfeeding from Every Angle."  Visit The Leaky B@@b for more perspectives on breastfeeding.http://leakyboob.blogspot.com/

Sadly, the United States has become known for being one of the fattest nations in the world. "During the past 20 years there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States. In 2008, only one state (Colorado) had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%" (www.cdc.gov). Most of us are aware that obesity contributes to a number of other health problems ranging from added stress on bones and joints to type 2 diabetes and heart diseases. Now more than ever, good nutrition has become the focus of attention for many Americans, including First Lady Michelle Obama. Good nutrition for each of us starts in the womb. So much of our development in those nine months depends upon the good eating habits of our mothers but what happens beyond that? Formula manufacturer's would have us believe that they have come up with a solution for all of us who have to return to work, hate pumping or simply struggle with the natural act of breastfeeding but is it really the perfect solution or a slippery slope? If what they are selling is good nutrition, then why is it chocolate flavored?

There are numerous reasons to breastfeed ranging from emotional connectivity to health benefits for the mother. This is a look solely at the nutritional benefits as they relate to the infant.  Formula is food made with science therefore; it is not natural to an infant's diet. Infants, just like adults, can have difficulty digesting ingredients that are unfamiliar to the body (remember 'Trans fats'?). The proteins in formula are made from cow's milk, easily digested by calves, but human infants' stomach's take time to adjust. Breast milk is perfectly formulated for infants. There are over 150 ingredients in breast milk that cannot be produced synthetically. Of these 150 ingredients, some of the most important are the mother's antibodies. These antibodies become the infants' defense against disease while the immune system is still developing. Breast milk has been shown to protect infants against illnesses such as rotavirus infections, ear infections, and upper and lower respiratory tract infections. Breast milk also has amazing transformative properties. It actually changes over time to suit the needs of the infant as s/he grows. This is something formula cannot do. As many lactivists describe it, breast milk is 'live' while formula is...well...not. Research shows that breastfeeding saves on health care costs. Breastfed infants typically need fewer sick care visits, prescriptions, and hospitalizations than formula fed infants. Breast feeding mother's also miss less work. Their infants are sick less often so medical costs are lower and employees are more productive. The conclusion one can draw from this information: Breastfed infants are healthier, in general, than formula fed infants.

Formula isn't inferior for lack of trying. Formula makers have been attempting to improve their product since development began in the 1860's. Most recently, DHA and ARA have been added. DHA is believed to be an important component in brain and nerve development. DHA deficiencies are associated with cognitive decline, which occurs in people with diseases like Alzheimer's. Additionally, severely depressed individuals show a depleted level of DHA in the cerebral cortex. As a result of these findings, DHA is being added to many foods and a supplement is recommended for pregnant and nursing women. Adding DHA to infant formula would seem like a good idea however; once again it is synthetically derived and therefore difficult to digest. Cornucopia, a watchdog group, upon request for information from the FDA, found a number of adverse reaction reports concerning formula with the DHA additive. Severe gastrointestinal problems were reported. These problems resulted in 'failure to thrive', acute dehydration from diarrhea and other symptoms including emotion distress for both the infants and their families. Symptoms resulted in highly-invasive medical testing and procedures and hospitalizations. Upon switching to formulas without the DHA additive, the problems (in most cases) were resolved. As long as a breastfeeding mother is eating a diet containing DHA rich foods or is taking a supplement, her infant will get all the DHA his or her body needs for healthy development. To read more about Cornucopia and their findings about breastfeeding, formula and DHA go to http://www.cornucopia.org/2008/01/replacing-mother-infant-formula-report/

An additional benefit to breastfeeding is the frequency of feeding. Breastfed infants need to eat more frequently than formula fed infants. This may not seem like a benefit if you are a sleep deprived mother but, more frequent feedings through the night translate into a decreased risk of SIDS. Scientists also know that IgA, found in breast milk, has a binding affect on bacterial toxins, such as staphylococcal enterotoxin C and Clostridium perfringens enterotoxin A, which have both been implicated in SIDS. Breast milk is also rich in long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids and other nutrients, which promotes faster development of the central nervous system of the infants. This could be another explanation for why breastfeeding helps prevent SIDS. (South Med J 94(7):704-71, 2001. © 2001 Southern Medical Association) Frequent feedings also affect metabolism. Any one who has ever been on a 'diet' has been instructed to eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day. A healthy metabolic rate in infancy may translate into a healthier metabolic rate in childhood and on into adulthood.

About 2% of mothers are physiologically unable to breastfeed, yet only about 77% of infants are ever breastfed and only 50% are still breastfed at the age of 6 months. This means about 20% of new mothers never try to breastfeed and roughly another 30% give it up before their child reaches 6 months. Young mothers (particularly under the age of 20) and those in low-income households were most likely to formula feed, rather than breastfeed. (http://www.cdc.gov). Sadly, these are also the individuals who have the least access to adequate health care and information regarding nutrition and wellness. The cycle of poor education, poor nutrition, poor health continues from generation to generation and our society never gets any healthier. For the first time in history, future generations will actually have shorter life expectancies than the proceeding generations. This is why re-normalizing breastfeeding in the United States is of critical importance. Formula should not be the first choice but rather, the last resort. Not only do health care providers and government aid resources need to educate and promote breastfeeding as the the healthy, normal way to feed an infant but communities at large need support breastfeeding mothers, regardless of their socioeconomic demograph. Breastfeeding is an infants very first step towards life-long health.