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Archive for March, 2012

The good thing about having your second baby is that the quantity of unsolicited advice you get goes down substantially.  It doesn’t disappear completely though.  It can be hard to parse it all out and know which bits are good and which are… less so.  And of course, if you lean to the attachment end of the parenting spectrum, a lot of it is just plain angering.

In the last 2 years (and more, since the tips started flooding in before Little Man’s birth) I’ve found it really helpful to think things through with a few simple mental hacks.  I’ve also found these really helpful as a way of explaining to other people why I do or don’t do certain things.  It makes the subject tangible to people who often simply haven’t thought it through, and it adds a bit of levity to discussions that can very easily become tense.

1. What would a cavemother do?

Here’s something to keep in mind: babies don’t know it’s the 21st century, they think it’s still the stone age.  The primal instincts babies follow are certainly not always convenient in a modern world, but they serve a very important purpose and for the most part you’ll save yourself a lot of stress if you use modern tools to meet those instinctual needs, rather than to try to suppress them.  So, when given a piece of baby advice, simply ask yourself ‘what would a cavemother do’.  The answer to that question is going to paint a really clear picture for you of what your baby needs, biologically speaking.  The only thing you ‘need‘ to do, then, is find the best way for you to approximate the cavemother’s response and still get your laundry done.

2. As to big people, so to little people.

Another astonishing fact: babies are actually people!  What does that mean?  It means that aside form certain biological norms (eg every person – big or small – eats, sleeps and poops) each little person is as different from the rest as each big person is.  And little peoples’ needs are not, as a group, so vastly different from big peoples’ needs.  If you remember this, then babies don’t seem like such a mystery.  Simply ask if a generalization or rule about babies would hold true for full sized people.  If not, then it’s probably not such a great rule for the little ones either.

3. The Granny Test.

I’ve talked about this before, in relation to nighttime needs, but it’s a good overall test.  If you replace the word ‘baby’ in any baby advice with ‘sick Granny’, how would you feel about following that advice?  What would be the outcome of following the advice?  A healthier Granny?  A closer relationship between you and your Granny?  If yes, then it’s good advice.  If no, then… you get the picture.

So, let’s run a couple of examples of baby advice I’ve heard (yet again) in the short days since Lady Fair was born through the checks and see what we come up with.

“Babies get all they need (from the breast) in the first 10 minutes”

What would a cavemama have to say about that?  I think she’d probably say ‘what’s 10 minutes’?  Cavemothers likely had a pretty good sense of time, but they weren’t sporting a Timex on their wrist.  They likely would have decided the baby was done eating when it was… well, done eating, and minutes shminutes.  So our advice failed the first test.

What if we applied this rule to fully grown people?  If you sat 10 (or 1000) adults down with 10 different meals (remember, each baby is eating from a different breast), how likely is it that they would all take their last mouthful at exactly the same time?  Um, I think that number is approaching zero.  We’ll call this one a fail too.

As for the Granny Test, how likely would you be to pull Granny’s half-finished plate away after an arbitrarily determined amount of time and tell her she got all she needed?  Especially if you started timing from the arrival of the appetizers (the non-breast equivalent of the first let down, for moms who have several) instead of the entree? Fail, fail, fail.

I think we can safely say this bit of wisdom, which was given my mother by her doctor when she had me and eagerly handed down when Little Man came and now again with Lady Fair, is a dud.

“Sleeping with your baby is a bad habit.”

What would a cavemother do?  Well, not only did cavemama not have an AngelCare monitor at her disposal to make sure the baby is still breathing in the nursery cave, she also had large nocturnal carnivores to deal with.  If she had to weigh the theoretical possibility of overly attached offspring against the less theoretical possibility of tiger-mauled offspring, I’m thinking she’d go with door number one.

As to big people, so to little people.  This one is a bit harder to gauge because the parent-infant relationship doesn’t really have an adult-only equivalent, given that infants are sexually immature.  Let’s look at an adult child and his/her parent, and leave sexual propriety out of it as much as possible.  If you are contemplating bedsharing with your mom, you’re probably going to base your decision on things like does she already live in your house (probably not), do either of you have romantic partners you’d rather sleep with (probably yes), do either of you fart or snore incessantly in your sleep keeping the other up (maybe, maybe not)?  ‘Bad habit’ probably isn’t the first reason you would think of for not bedsharing with mom, so it probably shouldn’t be the sole reason you don’t bedshare with baby.

The Granny Test.  This runs along the same lines of our previous test, but with one better similarity to babies – the Granny in our test is physically incapable of meeting her own needs, whether it’s day or night.  This is pretty much the same deal as a baby.  If Granny’s needs at night included temperature regulation, apnea (i.e. SIDS) prevention, reduction of brain-damaging stress hormones and frequent nourishment, would ‘bad habit’ really be the deciding factor in how to care for her?

This one goes down the tubes too.

“At 6 months, babies should be introduced to iron-fortified rice cereal.”

Our cavemema’s idea of rice cereal would be grass seeds pounded between rocks.  And iron-fortification?  Maybe she could prop up a pile of the seeds with some pieces of flint…  Really this test shows us that not only do babies not need wallpaper paste, they don’t need pureed food at all, since it was impossible to even create such food until the release of the electric blender in the 1930’s.  Cavemama would have waited until baby could wrangle a piece of food into its mouth on its own.  She might have chewed it up a bit first, but nothing more complicated than that.

Ah, the big people.  When, in the age of low-carb diets, did you last see an adult sit down with a bowl of processed starch and iron filings and pat themselves on the back for their nutritionally superior meal?  ‘Nuff said.

As for our Granny… When, in the age of low-carb diets, did you last see a nursing home serve bowls of processed starch and iron filings and pat themselves on the back for their nutritionally superior meal?  Thought so.  As an added question – if your Granny’s nursing home was indeed feeding her this stuff, how long would you leave her there?

Obviously, these examples are pretty clear-cut.  They all fail all of the tests.  Parenting is rarely this straightforward, though, and there are a lot of times when you have to make much more difficult decisions, but if nothing else, these will lend hours of amusement to your decision-making tasks.

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After 40 weeks and 5 days (or 39 weeks and 3 days, depending on who you believe) we welcomed our new baby girl on Friday, March 9.  Herein to be dubbed Lady Fair, our little one weighed 8lbs 1oz and was immediately adored by Little Man.

I’ll get out a real birth story soon(ish), but in the mean time, here’s a sneak peak:

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We hear a lot about postpartum depression.  In my first pregnancy it was talked about frequently.  We were told about it by our doctors and in our prenatal classes.  When the baby was born, a postpartum depression assessment questionnaire for me was even a routine part of the baby’s public health visits.  But we were never told or asked about feelings of depression before the baby comes.  And at 40+ weeks with my second babe, I still haven’t heard any mention of it, in any public health campaign, by any other pregnant woman, or even by our wonderfully helpful midwives.  But I know it exists, because for 40+ weeks I’ve had it.

I worried about postpartum depression when I was pregnant with Little Man because depression is by no means foreign to me.  There’s a family history and I have had several depressive periods of my own since elementary school.  Mr Fair and I talked about it a lot, so he would know what to be watchful of, but thankfully it never materialized.  So I let my guard down.  And since I loved every minute of my pregnancy with Little Man (that is, every minute that wasn’t being overshadowed by the Debbie Downer that is the modern obstetric system), I assumed it would be the same this time around.  By all accounts, I probably should be happier this time than last time.  I have supportive prenatal care!  I have the go-ahead to birth at home – a dream I honestly thought would never come true for me.  I have possibly the most freaking adorabletoddler on the face of the planet, a female replica of whom I assume I’m gestating right now.  What is there to be depressed about?

It might not be the onions making a pregnant woman cry...

Saying that I am depressed actually makes me feel ashamed.  It took me until only a few weeks ago to even say it out loud to my husband, although I’m pretty sure it’s been there since about the day we conceived.  He told me he already knew but had been afraid of pointing it out in case it made me feel even worse.  But let’s face it, when the very idea of chopping vegetables for supper makes you feel so overwhelmed that you burst into tears, there’s no tiptoeing around it.

Like I said, I’ve been here before and it always follows the same triggers.  This time is no different. Major life changes led simultaneously to stress, isolation and feeling a loss of control.  We moved from Calgary to Toronto only a few months after Little Man was born.  It was a long-planned move, and my desire to go to midwifery school was the impetus.  But still it was a big change.  Especially since we left behind a really strong network of parenting resources and new-parent friends.  Moving also meant I had no job to go back to.  I probably would have decided to stay home longer anyway, but the fact that I had little choice made it feel different.  And after all of that, I didn’t even get into midwifery school.  My alternate career plan for this scenario was to get trained and start working as a doula until I could get accepted the following year, but when I sat down to plan a doula business, I realized that it would be a financial drain until after the new baby was old enough for me to go full time.  Limbo, the final stressor.

The thing that is so infuriating about depression, for me, is that it is so self-perpetuating.  The isolation cycle is my nemesis.  One of the first ways I react when I’m depressed is to withdraw.  You’ll note the dearth of blog posts over the last 9 or so months.  (Of course, that also has a lot to do with the fact that I can rarely organize my thoughts well enough to write a post from start to finish.  Instead I have a stack of unfinished tid-bits.)  It’s the same in real life, too.  I stop replying to emails and phone calls from friends and family.  When I would like to get back in touch, the feeling of guilt over my absenteeism and the need to explain it away becomes overwhelming, so I don’t reach out.  The longer it goes, the worse it gets.  I get more isolated because I push everyone away and the more isolated I am, the fewer resources I have to cope with my feelings, so the feelings get worse.  Vicious, vicious cycle.

So now that I’ve admitted it, what do I do about it?  For the moment, I wait.  I know that, for me, this illness tends to remit and recur rather than setting up permanent camp in my brain.  Hubby and I are keeping our eyes peeled for signs that it’s getting worse and we’ll be especially vigilant after the baby comes.  We’ve got plans to get me back to professionally fulfilling work as soon as the baby can handle the separation and hopefully that will remove the triggers that keep fueling the negative feelings.  And of course, we’re waiting out the hormone roller coaster that is building and birthing a human being.  I don’t have any answers, I just needed to put it out there.

 

*For anyone looking for actual answers and information, here’s a starting point

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