Monday, October 6, 2008
I was 10 days overdue which I now know is quite normal but did not at the time. I was feeling very anxious for the baby to come. My mother and grandmother were in town and were likely going to miss the birth since they planned on leaving the next day. I don't remember the exact sequence of events leading up to that day so this may be a little off. I will have to crosscheck with my husband. I was trying everything to make this baby come and my midwife must have seen how much I wanted it to happen so she also tried to help naturally. I went for long walks, ate spicy food, used evening primrose oil, drank verbena oil tea, acupuncture, and finally a labour concoction that included castor oil. The day I drank the castor oil concoction I had some mild cramps but nothing notable. That evening around 11pm I felt a light gush when I sat on the toilet that I thought was my water breaking. My mom happened to be up and I told her I was having contractions and that my water had broke. I tried to go sleep but I couldn't. My husband went to sleep so he could be prepared for the next day. In retrospect these natural induction methods could have pushed my body before it was ready. Maybe if I had waited things would have turned out differently.
I contracted mildly all night and used the ball and my hammock to deal with contractions I felt 'in the zone' and this was probably the best part of labour in hindsight. We called our midwife that morning and she came and checked me and I was only 1cm and not effaced yet. This was disappointing as I thought with a whole night I would have made some progress. She left at this point. I tried to lie on the couch with a hot water bottle. I tried leaning on the couch and my husband to cope with the now really strong contractions. Nothing helped. Then I started vomiting and could not stop. I was having diarrhea at the same time. It was awful. We called the midwife again as I thought with all the vomiting maybe I would have some progress and this would be encouraging plus the contractions were really strong. She checked me and I was still 1 cm. This was very discouraging. She made me some water with some homeopathic tablets which unfortunately I just couldn't drink. She left suggesting we get some rest.
I tried to lay down with my husband and breath and doze between contractions. Every time I got a contraction lying down I felt like I had a knife stabbing me in the ribs and I would jump out of the bed. I must have tried this for 1/2 hr. This probably made me more anxious as I have a hard time relaxing and get very irritable when I try to sleep and find it impossible. Also knowing now that baby was stuck and very likely pressing against my ribs and pelvis causing this pain makes me understand why lying down was a bad position.
I suddenly felt this warm forceful gush and I pushed my husband back and rolled out of the bed. I was worried I had lost control of my bowels. My real waters had broken. Last time had only been a leak. This time they were bright green. I am a nurse and I knew immediately that this meant trouble because the baby had passed meconium inside. I got in the shower and my husband called the midwife to tell her what happened. She came and checked the baby with the doppler and the heart rate was fine. I said "this means we have to go to the hospital right?" She said "yes but it's up to you when". I decided to go right away as I thought I would go crazy waiting to go and thought maybe if I got some IV gravol and pain medication I might be able to stop vomiting and sleep.
The car ride was awful and we parked in the emergency exit. We went to an examining room and I got changed into a gown. My midwife put an IV in and while I have performed this procedure on people myself I never realized that it is truly very painful. My husband had to go move the car and get my admission papers. I had registered before but this had gotten lost. I was strapped to the monitor on the bed and we debated over whether or not I should have morphine. I decided to try it and the gravol. My mom and aunt and grandma had arrived at that point but left after the injection as I need to sleep. Soon after she injected the morphine there was a heartrate drop on the monitor. I remember saying "was that the baby?" and the midwife going to check the monitor. I think there was a nurse in there as well. She didn't really answer and they inserted an internal fetal monitor. I do not remember being asked permission for this but there was an urgency in the room and I don't think I would have argued. The internal monitor was showing that the baby was distressed as well. My midwife went to consult an obgyn who came in and checked me. I was terrified at this point so even if I had made any progress I think I would have gone in reverse before he had checked me. He said the baby's station was very high and it appeared the baby was going 'up' not 'down'. He said " I think we need to get this baby out". I agreed and within minutes was being prepped for a c-section. Within minutes I had become the patient I did not want to be.
About 3 other nurses entered the room, I was shaved, a catheter was inserted, and oxygen was applied to my face. My poor husband entered at this point. He looked petrified. I had never in our 5 years together seen him scared. I told him the baby was having trouble and I needed a c-section. We had discussed this possibility so he knew to go with the baby not to worry about me. He phoned my mom, grandma and aunt to let them know what was happening. I remember the anesthesiologist asking me some questions and explaining the spinal. My husband was ushered off to get dressed.
I was wheeled into the OR and given the spinal. This afforded me instant relief from the almost constant contractions I had been experiencing. My husband sat near my head. I remember feeling everything in a numb kind of way. My midwife was also in the OR. I remember hearing my baby cry and crying myself. The obgyn told me it was a boy and that the cord was around the neck 3 times and he was lodged on my pelvis and could not breath. The pediatrician entered late and anounced the baby would have to go to the NICU as he had aspirated meconium. My midwife later told me she disagreed and that the suctioning all came out clear. This really angers me still to this day. I feel his admission to the NICU was unnecessary and caused a cascade of interventions he did not need.
I was recovered by my midwife and this was actually scarier than the surgery for me. I kept thinking what if I never regain feeling in my legs? What if I am paralyzed? I also think I was feeling empty because I did not have my baby. My husband and a nurse came in while I was recovering and told me my son was having a low blood sugar and did I want him to have a bottle or be gavaged (fed through a tube in the nose). I refused the bottle not wanting anything to impede breastfeeding. When I could feel my feet I was wheeled to the NICU in my bed and my son was laid on my chest. I don't remember much of this and probably had some leftover drugs in my system. Then I was taken back to my room and transferred into a bed in a 4 bed room. I was alone in the room at that point. My husband went home to change, shower and get us some food and some things I wanted but had forgotten.
A nurse came from the NICU to tell me that the baby needed to be fed. I told her I didn't know if I could get up by myself. The ward nurses would not come get me up to bring me to my baby so he got more formula. When they made rounds I was in tears and asked for a pump which they brought me a couple hours later. My husband came and I was crying. I made my way to the bathroom with his help and then found a wheelchair to go see my baby. He was kept in the NICU for almost 2 days because of low blood sugars which in hindsight I am sure were due to the fact that I could not nurse on demand as I was not there every time he woke or cried and they only came to get me every 4 hrs. The breastfeeding advice was different from every nurse and very confusing. My midwife was helpful but she only stopped in twice a day.
I finally got to take my son back to my room. He wouldn't eat though since it had been about 4.5 hrs and he was now tired from not eating. I asked a friend who was on duty to bring me a syringe and a tube and I supplemented him with my finger some colostrum I had pumped. I then got him on the breast when he picked up speed. During this the lactation consultant entered. She blew a gasket when she saw me supplementing. Probably because she thought the nurses had not consulted her. However the way she handled the situation was atrocious. She was very condescending. I guess she was told I was nurse after she left the room because she came back and apologized. We were discharged at my request soon after that. I was in a lot of pain after I was not allowed any more toradol. I am allergic to codiene so I could not have T#3. So I was taking plain tylenol and ibuprofen and this was not adequate. I doubled up on the doses but I need to go home.
It was a rough night but my milk came in the next day and all was much better after that. The rest is another story.
I am planning another homebirth but this time I have found a wonderful resource: MDC. There is a great list which I am accumulating an arsenal of resources for my birth from. I have a pool and a kit for filling it with hot water. I will have rescue remedy on hand and arnica tablets. I will have labouraide for rehydration. Most of all I plan on being patient. I will let nature take its course.
Perhaps the biggest difference this time is me and my attitude. I have changed as a person. My lifestyle is healthier and I am more confident in my abilities as a woman and a mother. My family lives more naturally and I am more knowledgeable about alternative therapies. I know I did not fail the first time and I am determined that my first birth not determine the path or outcome of my subsequent ones.
Edited to Add: I did not post this right away now that my daughter is 9 weeks old I am adding this to my blog. I had another c-section for a different cord complication. I will post her birth story here later. I'm still proud of the research I did and although I will not try for another homebirth (too disappointing), I will attempt a vba2c when we have another child. I have realized the universe has it's own plans in spite of mine. My c-sections have taught me a lot and although my greatest fear came true I am healed.
Monday, May 12, 2008
I must say it has not been that difficult so far. He tells us when he has to pee and poop if he has no diaper on. The worst part I would say is knowing that he does not have to pee but going to the bathroom because he says so. It feels like I am spending my entire day in the potty.
We have had some misses but that is part of the learning right? We had an adventure yesterday when we went to the store to buy toddler underwear. I must say there is not much to choose from that is not commercialized with some cartoon character on it. So we bit the bullet and let our 2yr old have Cars underwear. They are actually very cute and he looks like such a big boy running around in undies and socks. He thoroughly loves his underwear. We have told him not to pee or poop in his underwear and he seems to grasp this concept.
So this is our routine:
Get up and if diaper is dry pee on the potty.
Change out of jammies into underpants. Mommy has coffee and toddler has milk.
Into the potty about 1/2-1hr after getting up and pee again.
Then we put a diaper on to go out and do our thing and if we pass a bathroom we stop in and try for a pee. If he has to have a BM he usually says and we make it to the potty.
We play outside in a diaper and I do not usually push the pottying at this point in the day. He is too busy to remember.
We go to the potty before and after naptime
Then outside again to the park or on some sort of outing for which we use a diaper.
Then Daddy comes home and we take off the diaper for dinner time and on goes the underwear and he usually pees a couple times and one last time before bed.
We were have dry dipes at night but this has stopped since he got sick and we had to keep water by the bed at night. We will try again when all signs of illness are gone. He still wears dipes to daycare on the days I am working. Once we have a high success rate at home even when playing then we will send him to daycare in his "unders" as he calls them. I am trying to take a relaxed approach. I will however do some reading because that is me. I like to research, research, research.
He has been sucessfully potty trained since about 2 weeks after this post. We actually did resort to bribery. He got one tic tac if he went. This helped us tremendously. Also we totally eliminated the diapers at night and naps as they were always dry. We had a few accidents mostly outside. This was fixed by teaching him to pee on a tree. I think the only way to go is to use underwear and get rid of the diapers completely. The switching back and forth is very confusing for the little guys and gals. I believe potty training also improved his sleeping because before he would wake up upset and we wouldn't know why. This stopped when we learned the potty and I think he was waking up having to pee but not knowing it. Now he wakes goes potty and goes back to sleep.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
There is so much out there to worry about these days as parents. Unfortunately the first child is the guinea pig and the subsequent ones get the benefits of what you learned with your first. With my first I used plastic bottles and food storage containers. With this next child we are switching to all glass because of the BPA. I didn't start cloth diapering my son until 4 months; This child will likely not have a disposable touch it's bottom ever in its lifetime. I used all sorts of name brand soaps and lotions with pthalates and toxins in them on my first son; this child will only have natural or organic soaps and lotions. I used to use a name brand laundry detergent which I recently learned contains arsenic so I will be switching our laundry detergent to 7th generation. I vaccinated my first child ignorantly until he was 4 months until I learned what was in vaccines; this baby will only have selective and delayed vaccines. I still used toxic cleaning products with my son and only switched to vinegar, baking soda and grapefruit seed extract in recent months. I am still learning about off gassing and materials in the home.
There are still many changes to make in every room of our home. I am sure it will take years to completely green my home and lifestyle. I still drive a gas car and non eco friendly furniture. I still use name brand shampoo and mascara with mercury in it. I still eat imported and nonorganic foods.
The biggest deterent to green living is cost. Some changes are cheaper but organic food, clothing and linens still cost a fortune. I am wondering if it is possible for a middle income family to truly live green. Do the little changes we are making really make a difference in the environment and the health of my family?
What our family currently does:
Uses non toxic cleaning products
Shops at a local farmers market for local organic veggies and fruit
Buys organic milk
Buys wooden toys instead of plastic
Buys used if possible
Buys high quality to hopefully prevent replacement of furniture.
Drives one car
Uses cloth diapers and wipes
Gets bills online with no paper version
Uses cloth shopping bags
Wraps in reusable materials
Changes in the works:
Growing our own food
Repainting with milk paint or no VOC paint
Switching laundry detergent
Eating more organic and local foods
Turning our heat down 1 degree
Installing a clothes line
Switching to glass storage containers
Reducing takeout meals to once a month or less
Finding an organic shampoo and vegetable based soap
I will update and add to this as we make these changes.
Thursday, January 3, 2008
No More Junk Toys: Rethinking Children's Gifts
By Judith L. Rubin
One night, not long after Christmas, my pacifist friends Jay Levy and Su Zuniga quietly crept down to the basement with a hammer while their three-year-old daughter, Samantha, slept. There, they methodically banged on the belly of her new mechanical dog until it stopped yapping.
Another friend's daughter received a Victorian makeup table for her fourth birthday. "It's plastic, it's ugly, and it's huge. It's totally inappropriate for a four year old. Not to mention that my daughter is a tomboy." When asked about the fate of the gift, she replied firmly, "It is going to 'disappear' very soon."
Some parents are creative in their disposal of "junk toys," as my husband calls them. "The worst toy our daughter ever received," notes one mom, "was a hard-plastic, realistic, talking doll. She purported to be your child's 'best friend' by using a set of pre-recorded diskettes that get inserted into her back. We were saddened to think there might be some lonely children out there for whom this doll might actually be enriching. The doll stands in the center of our peace garden as our scarecrow."
But approaching friends and family about their gift choices can be awkward. As one friend put it, "I don't want them to think I disapprove of their taste." So the gifts wind up at the Salvation Army or the dump.
Making gifts "disappear" is a last resort for parents who receive junk toys-i.e., toys out of line with their values or taste. Like junk food, junk toys can be fun but are devoid of nutrition. Buying them requires little forethought. They are excessively commercial, and are often linked to cross-marketing schemes. They excite children at first, but that initial flicker doesn't endure. Also like junk food, junk toys have hidden environmental and social costs for which the consumers pay.
The issues involved in junk toys are deeper than the layer of clutter on the playroom floor. These issues are as deep as the ocean, where thousands of yellow Lego toy life rafts drifted ashore after three million toy pieces inadvertently spilled from a tanker in 1998.1 But more important than the occasional freak toy-pollution disaster are the routine environmental insults associated with most toy production.
When we buy a Barbie doll, the relatively low price belies the full cost of her petroleum-intensive plastic manufacturing process, her plastic and paper packaging, and transporting her and her billions of accessories from Southeast Asia to the US . These hidden costs, what economists call "externalities," are paid (or more commonly unpaid) not by individual consumers or corporate producers but by collective society at large. We don't-and probably can't-pay enough for the product and its packaging, shipping, and manufacture to justify the damage caused by these processes.
The vast majority of plastic commercial toys are made by children themselves, working in overseas sweatshops. Girls as young as 13 years, some working the night shift, stitch Barbie's dresses.2 In Thailand in 1993, hundreds of workers, including child laborers, died in a fire while stuffing Cabbage Patch dolls for Hasbro, Inc.3 The Asia Monitor Resource Center and the Coalition for the Charter on the Safe Production of Toys reported that Vietnamese workers making McDonald's Happy Meals toys for as little as six cents an hour had been poisoned by acetone, a chemical solvent used to manufacture plastic Disney characters such as the 101 Dalmatians line.4 All of this so that I can pull up to the drive-through window and toss my child a Happy Meal figurine? No, thanks.
Then there are the social costs of marketing. Marketers broadcast programming designed to hypnotize toddlers into "cradle-to-grave brand loyalty to these toys."5 Marketing professionals cross-reference, cross-market, and cross-pollinate products and entertainment. By intentionally blurring the distinctions between entertainment, products, school curricula, and advertisements, marketers readily capitalize on young children's limited ability to differentiate between them. It's no accident that, in the children's section of Barnes and Noble, the books starring such television-based characters as Arthur, Clifford, and Blues Clues are displayed most prominently, while the classics get the cheap seats.
Despite warnings from the American Medical Association that children who watch more than 10 hours a week of television and/or video are more likely to be overweight, aggressive, and slow to learn, more products and entertainment than ever are designed to capture the imaginations of children aged one to three years, and to encourage them to watch TV.6 Experts with PhDs conduct sophisticated focus groups to ensure that each and every episode of TV shows such as Dora the Explorer hit the mark with preschoolers.7
The TV show sells the books and movie, the movie ads sell the Happy Meal action figures, and these in turn sell next year's patented Halloween costumes. Then the media hero du jour is immortalized and consumed, literally, as a fluorescent, frosted birthday cake from the local supermarket. If you were hosting, say, a Dora the Explorer party, you could choose from more than 70 party accessories, including blinking fiesta beads.
It's brilliant marketing, and it works. The only problem is that it works against parents, children, and the environment.
North Americans have come to rely on commercial institutions to furnish our stories, heroes, icons, and expectations. The old traditions and rites of passage have been eclipsed by a boy's first Nintendo, a girl's first Barbie, a computer, a first toy gun.
Last Christmas, when the US was bombing Afghanistan, JC Penny advertised Forward Command Post, a 75-piece set that includes: a bombed and blood-stained play house, one 11 1/2-inch-high figurine in military combat gear, toy weapons, an American flag, chairs, and more.8 "Take command of your soldiers from this fully outfitted battle zone," the ad boasted. Forward Command Post is recommended for ages five and up. Last December, the Toys-"R"-Us website listed it as "sold out."
Julie Convisser, a movement therapist and mother of two small boys, worries about the messages kids get from commercial culture. "I feel like they are being groomed to be materialists, to buy into an evil-vs.-good world paradigm, and to ignore the spiritual heart of life and the bounty of nature." She buffers the influence of commercial culture as much as possible by limiting her boys' TV viewing and being picky about videos, avoiding media-promotion toys, and sending her older son to a school at which the other children's parents share her values.
Others argue that children should be exposed to commercial culture to avoid becoming victims of it. In fact, direct experience can be a fast way for kids to learn the ropes of misleading ad campaigns. Karin Purdy, mother of three, says, "I let my kids watch TV, and I let them buy some of the products they see. They are usually quite disappointed when they get them and they aren't as great as they thought. They get smarter as they get older."
Michelle Sobel, a film editor, a creator of educational software, and the mother of two girls, thinks about this issue constantly. "We live in a consumer culture and kids are going to be confronted with it all the time, despite your best attempts to control it." When her three year old, Willa, sees a seductive ad for a toy and says, "I want that!" Michelle asks, "What do you like about it?" She transforms the indulgence/denial struggle into an interesting conversation about what is appealing to her daughter. Engaged in discussion, during which mom may even begin to talk about something else, it's easier for the daughter to walk away from the toy.
Whatever their individual approaches, many parents work hard all year long to protect children from pervasive and cloying commercialism. But despite our best efforts, holidays and birthdays can become gift-crazed free-for-alls. Why allow our friends and relatives to fall into the trap of giving meaningless gifts when a simple, genuine gesture can mean so much more to the children? "Disappearing" junk toys only compounds the environmental and cultural costs; it's up to us to stop the charade and transform the culture of gift-giving.
It's perfectly natural that adults love to give children things and that children love to receive them. Even in Waldorf schools-which discourage plastics, TV, and commercial images on clothing-there exists a strong understanding that, according to writer Gisela T. O'Neil, "in the beginning of life, roughly till we reach adulthood, we are at the receiving end of life: parents, teachers, and society bestow their care upon us. Later follows the time when we ourselves are called upon to contribute to other people and to society. Think of the boundless expectations with which a young child anticipates his birthday or other gift-bestowing events, how he feels at the center of the world! Actually, most of the early part of life is a continuous receiving."9
Changing the Culture of Gifts
Alicia Daniel, field naturalist, teacher, and mother of two daughters, offers a radical checklist:
1) Will this toy eventually turn into dirt-i.e., could I compost it? Stones, snowmen, driftwood, and daisies-they will be gone, and we will be gone, and life goes on.
2) Do I know who made this toy? This question leads us to search for the hidden folk artist in each of us.
3) Is this toy beautiful? Have human hands bestowed an awkward grace, a uniqueness lacking in toys cranked out effortlessly by machine?
4) Will this toy capture a child's imagination?"10
To this list we might add: Does this gift foster my child's natural inclinations? Will it enable him to more fully engage in life? Does it help her reach her goals?
My husband and I have been proactive, perhaps downright annoying, in our efforts to work closely with the gift-givers in our children's lives. We have banned plastics and gifts made in China , and have asked that donations to nonprofit organizations be made in their names. The results have been amazing. Relatives made a hand-painted chair, built an art easel, and offered such practical and well-timed gifts as a backpack for sleepovers. They have knitted miles of handmade sweaters and blankets. Parents who hesitate to speak up for fear of offending rob their friends and family of a chance to participate more deeply in their child's life.
Head them off at the pass. If you don't offer clear choices well before a holiday or birthday, relatives and friends will buy "obligatory" gifts. Dovetail their best intentions with something your child actually wants or needs. One friend wrote in tiny italics at the bottom of her baby's birth announcement: "Please, no pastel, no plastic." We all got the message. Another suggested that we each bring a cup and saucer to a birthday party to help make her child a new tea set. Every year, my husband and I ask that guests bring a skit or song to my daughter's birthday party in lieu of a gift. It's not difficult to get them to juggle instead of buying her a Barbie, but it doesn't happen by osmosis.
Pay people for their skills, not their stuff. Last October, my daughter decided she wanted to play the violin. Her grandparents agreed to sponsor eight lessons, one for each night of Chanukah. This arrangement satisfied everyone: my parents, who from 3,000 miles away longed to instill in their granddaughter a love of classical music; my daughter, who took lessons on a time-limited, trial basis; and a talented young violin teacher, who is raising her own child and going back to school.
Give away your juiciest ideas. As your child's closest confidante, you are up to date on his or her secret interests. Being close to children gives parents a unique opportunity to clue relatives in about what gifts will have relevance to their children's lives.
The best gift I ever gave my nephew was a cardboard refrigerator box. After opening a dozen molded-plastic toys at his birthday party, he and his friends went absolutely wild over the giant carton. His mom knew how much he'd enjoyed one at a friend's house, and had passed on the clue to me. It took a bit of moxie to show up at his party with a cardboard box, but the other parents-total strangers to me at the time-congratulated me with hearty slaps on the back.
Be Prepared if it Backfires. When a friend's son was two, her parents asked what they could get him for Christmas. She explained that he liked making music, and that a drum would be nice: "My mom went to Toys-"R"-Us and bought him a battery-packed, plastic, multicolored drum machine with various buttons, high-volume percussion tracks, and multicolored blinking lights. My heart sank when he tore open the paper and I saw what it was. I was actually angry-a little at my Mom for being so clueless, and a lot at our culture, which has turned something as wonderful as a drum into this repellent mechanical thing. Fortunately, my son didn't even understand what it was. We made it 'disappear' that day and went to a fair-trade import store and bought him a handmade tom-tom drum made of wood and hide with a lovely wood drumstick. He still has it, and loves it and uses it three years later."
And if you still can't bring yourself to tell friends and relatives what your child really wants, you can always put it in writing.
1. Curtis Morgan, "Legos and Other Floating Flotsam," Miami Herald, 17 May 1998 .
2. Sarah Cox, "The Secret life of Toys,"
5. Gary Ruskin, "Why They Whine," Mothering no. 97 (November-December 1999): 40-50)
6. Karen Springer, "Why We Tuned Out," Newsweek, 11 November 2002 .
7. Daniel McGinn, "Guilt Free TV," Newsweek, 11 November 2002 .
8. JC Penney, 2002 Christmas catalog: 486.
9. Gisela T. O'Neil, "Gratitude, Love, Responsibility" in Waldorf Schools, Volume 1: Kindergarten and Early Grades, Ruth Pusch, ed. (Spring Valley, NY: Mercury Press, 1996), 24-32.
10. Alicia Daniel, "Checklist for Toys Focuses on Deeper Values," Burlington Free Press, 16 December 2001 .
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Center for a New American Dream
6930 Carroll Avenue, Suite 900
Takoma Park, MD 20912
Brochure, "Tips for Parenting in a Commercial Culture
For more information about toys, see the following articles in past issues of Mothering: "Homemade Toys: Why Nothing Can Beat a Paper Pinwheel," no. 95; "Top Toys," no. 91; and "Toys That Encourage Imaginative Play," no. 90.
Judith L. Rubin lives in Portland , Oregon with her husband, Peter Bahls, and their daughters, Cecilia (6), who still enjoys violin lessons, and Hannah (1 1/2), who plays with all her sister's best toys.