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Archive for April, 2012

Wow I love babywearing.  I love it so much, I’ve become an ‘evangelist’ of sorts, always recommending it to my fecund friends.  I’ve even convinced a couple of them to give it a shot.  In line with my enthusiasm, I’m always diligent about touting its benefits. For instance, the freedom of movement it gives me to have my little ones nap in the sling.  I never have to cut short a trip to the mall with girlfriends because of nap time, because the sling allows us to take naptime with us.  How wonderful!

But it has occurred to me of late, that I may not be engaging in a fully transparent discussion of the negatives of babywearing.  I pride myself on being fair and balanced, so this oversight is a big deal.  This post is my attempt to rectify the situation.

  • Muscle Soreness.  Carseat-toting parents often report shoulder and arm pain that sounds the opposite of fun.  Babywearers, on the other hand, may find gluteal pain to be an issue.  This is the result of performing the grande plies necessary to carry out household tasks like opening bottom drawers and picking toys up off the floor.  Those with extensive ballet training have an 86%[1] lower risk of acquiring a sore ass.
  • Choking.  Wearing a baby for several hours a day can conflict with parental meal times.  Babywearers are often obligated to consume their dinner while bouncing a baby in the sling and this can, not surprisingly, create a choking hazard for the parent.  At the very least it makes it more likely that your scrambled eggs will get snorted up into your sinuses when they were meant to head down your esophagus.
  • Poor Infant Hygiene.  The above-mentioned choking is only one side of the eating-while-wearing coin.  The other side is that bits of your food will occasionally fall onto your baby’s head, necessitating more frequent baths.  Particularly problematic is mayo as, not only is it sticky, but if not noticed promptly, it can also lead strangers to believe you let your kid hang out with bird crap on her head.
  • Increased Housing Costs.  Attempting to bounce your almost-but-not-quite asleep baby while peeing can cause your toilet to loosen from the floor, upping bathroom reno costs by 8,000%.
  • Maternal Arrest by the Fashion Police.  While many things are made easier with babywearing, putting shoes on is not one of those things.  Consequently, you may find yourself in (frequent) violation of Section 334.6 of the Fashion Code of Conduct[2], which clearly states that hot pink Crocs are NOT an acceptable shoe choice for public outings.

This is by no means an inclusive list, but I hope it does serve to illustrate some of the considerations that must be taken into account before engaging in any babywearing activities, and to begin a frank and open discussion about the darker side of this otherwise valuable practice.

—–

[1] Please note, this and any other statistics presented within this article are complete bullshit.

[2] For more information, please see [1].

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“I’m going to teach you to be a feminist.”

Those words were part of the newborn peptalk I gave to my precious Lady Fair in the hospital only hours after her birth.  They were her first encounter with patriarchy, at the hands (or rather the lips) of her own mother.

If you’re wondering how that possibly constitutes patriarchy, I’ll tell you: because I’ve never said the same thing to her brother.  The second those words came out of my lips I realized that fact.  I realized that for two years, while we’ve been modeling our values for our son, I’ve never consciously thought about making him a feminist.  And then, almost the very moment my daughter was born, I put the onus on her to fight for the rights she should be entitled to as a human being.  Because even while I think I’m fighting it, our society is so steeped in patriarchy that we all imbibe it and we all participate in it.

My son, aside from being male, is also white, able-bodied and middle-class.  In other words, heaped with privilege from the day of his birth.  That privilege is granted to him by the structural kyriarchy in which our society operates.  To partake of that privilege is to perpetuate it.  Thus, by not teaching my son to question his own privilege as fully as I teach my daughter to demand her equality, I indoctrinate them both into the selfsame system.

If we want to end patriarchy, then we need male feminists just as much as we need female feminists.  We need those who currently possess the structurally-imbued privilege to utilize it on behalf of those who don’t, and by so doing, to reject it.  The Famous Five, after all, had to ask the male members of the Supreme Court to grant them the personhood they sought.  That fact in no way demeans their work, it just reminds us that equality has to be an equally shared goal.

So, Little Man, consider yourself forewarned: “I’m going to teach you to be a feminist.”

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When Lady Fair was barely even skin side, I started getting asked if she was “sleeping through yet”.

My immediate reaction was, “Yet?  She’s 13 days old!  For F***’s sake, can we not let the poor baby get through a cotton-pickin’ fortnight before we start shackling her with ridiculous expectations of adult behaviour?”

But I realize, this is one of those questions people just ask about babies because they don’t know what else to ask.  I also know I’ve asked the same question myself, as well as many of the following:

“Is she a good sleeper?”

“Is she a good eater?”

“How much does he weigh?”

“Is he a good baby?”

These are the standard new-baby icebreakers.  I think it’s because a new baby’s personality is more or less a mystery, so these little factoids are the best we can come up with to get to know him or her.  But at the same time, I think there’s also the lingering belief that a baby has no individual personality and thus it’s ‘performance’ as a baby can be quantified by things like how much it eats, how long in a stretch it sleeps and whether it burps readily.

But wouldn’t it be wonderful if we AP types could come up with some better new baby questions?  Questions that reflect what is actually important for parent-infant relationships; questions that don’t make new parents feel like their coping skills are being graded; happy questions.

So here it goes, let’s start a trend of happy attachment-friendly new baby questions:

“Are you loving the snuggles?”

“Do you get lots of smiles?”

“What’s her favourite way to be held?”

“Does he have a favourite time of day?”

What else can we ask??

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The Conservative government’s attempt to criminalize abortion me scared enough that a couple of weeks ago I actually wrote to both my own MP (Judy Sgro) who happens to be vice-chair of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, as well as to the Prime Minister’s office.  So far I’ve heard nothing back from Ms Sgro, but I did get a brief, ambiguous and frankly unsatisfying response from the PM’s Office.  Let’s have a look, shall we?

My Letter:

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

As Prime Minister you have stated publicly on more than one occasion that
your government has no plan to reopen the abortion debate.  Yet, a member
of your own government, MP Stephen Woodworth, has done just that by tabling
Motion 312 ‘Canada’s 400 year old definition of human being.’  This motion
is a blatant attempt to not only criminalize abortion, but also to infringe
on the rights of all childbearing citizens of this country.

The motion wrongly asserts that the definition of a human being found in
section 223 of the Criminal Code of Canada is founded in a lack of
understanding that a foetus is biologically human prior to birth and that,
having now improved our understanding of human gestation, the definition
can be changed.  However, the very wording of the section in question
displays that this definition is borne not of a lack of understanding of
biology, but of a complete understanding of the ramifications of extending
legal protection to an unborn child under the Act.

To extend legal personhood to a foetus is to automatically infringe on the
personhood of the woman in whose body the foetus resides.  Whether pro- or
anti-choice, no one relishes the thought of terminating a pregnancy, but
changing the Act in the manner suggested would expose women to prosecution
for all of their personal medical decisions in pregnancy as well as many of
their non-medical choices, and this does every Canadian a disservice.  The
best way to reduce the number of abortions that are sought is not to
infringe on the mother’s rights, but rather to strengthen her rights.  It
is not to extend rights to the unborn child, but to provide the best care
and opportunities to those who are born.  We need to protect the right of
women to choose when and if they become pregnant by ensuring unmitigated
access to contraception and providing protection from sexual violence.  We
need to remove barriers to childbirth and parenthood by providing coverage
of maternity services to all residents; by creating a minimum maternity
leave benefit that ensures that low income women can afford to utilize the
benefits offered by their government; and by increasing childcare subsidies
for low income families who must work out of the home.

I urge you to keep your promise to Canadians and end the abortion debate
that your government has now opened.  I also ask you to encourage Mr.
Woodworth to prove that he genuinely does care about all human beings by
working to provide these and other protections and services to the women
and children who are already citizens of this country.

Thank you very much,

Sincerely,

Krista Fairles

———-

And now, the response I got:

On behalf of the Prime Minister, thank you for your recent correspondence regarding Member of Parliament Stephen Woodworth’s statement proposing that Parliament lead an examination into human rights protection for children before birth in the later stages of gestation.

This is an emotional issue for both sides.  However, the Prime Minister has been very clear that our Government has no plan to reopen this debate.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to write.

———-

So, why do I say this is perplexing?  Well, for one, there’s that bit about him having no intention to reopen the debate even though the whole reason I’m writing is because he HAS reopened it.  So either he’s confused about what his members are doing or I am…  Or, if I let go of my cynicism for a minute I might be able to believe this to mean that he won’t allow the motion to pass vote.  But frankly, I’m not holding my breath.

But the bigger issue is this bit: “human rights protection for children before birth in the later stages of gestation.”  Who-what now?  See, the motion says nothing about what stage of gestation should be examined, it just says before birth.  And the way the law works is that you have to spell things out very specifically.  Before birth means, legally, everything before birth.  The law isn’t able to judge that he meant the last week or month before birth only.  So again, either he’s confused about what his party is doing, or he’s a party to what his party is doing and will be spinning the bill in this highly untruthful way when it is debated.

Let’s hope it’s not the latter.

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As I’m relearning now that Lady Fair is here, duration of night time sleep is held by our culture as some sort of penultimate measure of not only baby’s ‘goodness’ but of the parents’ ability to enjoy their daily activities as adults, even in the midst of the most intense parenting period.  I like my sleep, I really do.  I’ll appreciate it when my kids are old enough to walk themselves over to me for a goodnight kiss, walk themselves up to bed and stay there until they walk themselves downstairs for breakfast in the morning.

But you know what?  There are so many other things I’ll appreciate every bit as much as a full night’s sleep, that NO ONE ever asks me about.  Here’s a short list of what are currently pipedreams for this mama:

  • Finishing my entire cup of coffee without having to reheat it once, let alone 5 times
  • Having a phone conversation without having to shush anyone, or leap up off the couch to prevent my toddler from breaking a limb
  • Using the bathroom without having to simultaneously bounce a baby… or leap off the toilet to prevent my toddler from breaking a limb
  • Writing a blog post without having to swat little fingers away from the oh-so-exciting computer power button
  • Watching a movie without falling asleep
  • Clipping all of my toenails in one sitting

There were many others, but I forgot what they were when I went to reheat my coffee…

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For the past many weeks I’ve been watching in horror as anti-woman rhetoric has become the focal point of the Republican Party primaries in the United States.  I have read in shock as state after state proposes and debates laws that so infringe on a woman’s right to bodily integrity as to meet the legal definition of government-mandated, doctor-performed rape.

I’ve watched and I’ve felt smug.  I’ve joked to friends that while American politics has devolved into a nationwide campaign of misogyny, we have nothing to complain about except that our governing party may have hired someone with a ridiculous alias to make telephone calls asking voters to go to the wrong polling station.  And asked politely, no less!  But it turns out, we’re not immune to the insanity after all.

At the beginning of February, Stephen Woodworth, honourable member for Kitchener Centre, tabled a motion to convene a committee tasked with redefining fetuses as ‘human beings’ under the Criminal Code.

Never mind that this motion, entitled “Canada’s 400 Year Old Definition of Human Being”  is a blatant attempt to criminalize abortion.  Never mind that his bias is unequivocally revealed within the motion itself when he refers to the “fundamental human rights of a child before the moment of complete birth” as though the definition had already been changed.  Never mind that this wording would be prejudicial to the consideration of the motion.  And never mind that this is an issue that our Prime Minister promised us would never be opened by his government.

Let’s instead talk about Mr. Woodworth’s assertion that the current law exists because, at the time of its creation, we did not understand that an unborn child was human.

I think the first question we need to answer is "What is this woman?"

For starters, the criminal code of Canada is not, in actual fact, 400 years old.  It’s 120-odd years old.  But even if it were as old as this motion’s title suggests, would we really think that it was drafted out of a belief that a “child magically transforms into a human being when their little toe pops out of the birth canal” as Mr. Woodworth says?  Even without ultrasounds and fetal monitors, I’m fairly certain we would all be aware that we don’t begin our lives as tadpoles or bunnies, and that our humanity is not solely the result of Professor McGonagall bringing her transfiguration skills into the birthing room.  Is section 223 of the criminal code, then, a result of the ignorance or stupidity of our early lawmakers?  No, it is a result of their complete understanding of the legal travesty that would result if the remainder of the criminal code applied to unborn children.

Let’s take the very next section of the code, for example.  Section 224 states that “Where a person, by an act or omission, does any thing that results in the death of a human being, he causes the death of that human being…”.  (Emphasis is mine).  Defining a foetus as a human being for the purpose of this law would make just about every foetal loss an indictable offence.

Amniocentesis, for example, results in a miscarriage once out of every 200 procedures performed.  Those would all become murders.

Babies who die in the course of a vaginal childbirth would all have been murdered too.  Caesarean sections can be performed, after all, at the first sign of distress on a fetal monitor.  How many such charges do you think would have to be laid before every woman is offered a C-section the minute she walks into the hospital?  And women would no longer be able to decline these ‘offers’ without risking prosecution themselves.

Stillbirths are more likely to occur after the expected due date, so any woman who refuses an automatic induction or C-section and subsequently loses her child is similarly exposed to homicide charges.  Even deaths as a result of genetic abnormalities could be argued as being the result of ‘omitting’ to undergo genetic testing with your partner prior to conception.

And what about the “lesser” charges?  Section 215 relates to the duty of parents and guardians to their children.  Any child born with spina bifida is evidence that his/her mother failed her duty to consume enough folic acid and thus caused “the health of that person to be endangered permanently”.  That mother could face up to five years in prison if her child were considered a person at the time that she neglected her vitamins.

No, the Criminal Code’s definition of human being was not created in ignorance.  It was created because our lawmakers understood that even if they could send every mother to jail that had an abortion, it would not justify having to send even a single mother to jail who is grieving the unexpected loss of her child.  A law like that protects no one, including foetuses.

I think it’s pretty clear that, 400 years later, it’s actually Mr. Woodworth with the deficient understanding if he fails to see the abhorrent consequences should his proposed committee make the changes he seeks.

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