Tuesday, April 24, 2012

And on a serious note

Ah friends, bear with me while I mull over yet another serious topic on my once light hearted blog....

Every day it seems like it's NEW TOPIC Awareness Day. In fact, according to Huffington Post on Twitter, today is National Physics Day. Okay then. Also, according to Babble on Twitter, it's also National Princess Week. Hooray for Disney and for Kate Middleton.

I normally don't get involved in Awareness Anything. But I'm becoming more and more convinced that real change starts with grassroots efforts to simply bring awareness to a topic. This awareness builds until it becomes action, and when the tipping point is reached, change happens.

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week. Did you know? Don't ignore this serious topic, even if it's just by reading this blog post (and maybe others), and learning something. Here's Resolve's website link - I urge you to read more about it.

Why am I bringing this up? Infertility is near and dear to my heart; you might not know this about me. Not only that, but having CHOICE in our reproductive rights is extremely important to me. For me, as a woman, mother, sister, daughter, doula-in-training and friend, choice begins at having the option of building your family (or not) the way you want to, having complete control over our reproductive options, birthing in a way that empowers you and caring for your family in the way that you choose. Right now, there is legislation alive in our country which limits our choices across the spectrum and I am no longer okay to sit back and not voice my concerns.

Our journey to becoming parents was relatively short in comparison to what many couples go through, and we conceived Eleanor without technological or medical assistance. I am not naive enough to assume that for our next child things will go so smoothly. They might, or they might not. Through our journey to conceive, we learned that we do have some very real and medical obstacles which could stand in our way to conception. What do I mean by medical? Solutions like vacation, a glass of wine or "just relaxing" will not fix our issues. Best case scenario is that we get extremely lucky and time it exactly right. Worst case scenario and we face interuterine insemination, IVF, or living with our one, spectacular and amazing child, who I am grateful for every day of my life.

So why am I posting this now? Because it is National Infertility Awareness Week. Simply building awareness that infertility is a disease which ONE IN EIGHT individuals suffers from. One in eight! If you have 100 friends, you likely know at least 12 people who could be affected. So what can you do? Be considerate. Be kind. Be thoughtful in your questions when you ask a childless couple when they will start having children. Be aware that asking a family with one child when they plan on having another might be an extremely painful question. Be sensitive; don't offer advice unless specifically asked for it. Relaxing might not work for a couple with no sperm, blocked tubes or advanced endometriosis. Gaining weight might not be the solution to achieving a pregnancy for an underweight woman. Don't assume you know more than they do about their condition, or have an idea that they or their doctors haven't considered. Infertility is often suffered silently for fear or releasing personal information to the uneducated masses, judgement or receiving unsolicited advice. Don't ignore the issue which so many Americans quietly burden on their shoulders. Perhaps get educated, and maybe get involved, but at least, please don't ignore.

Friday, April 13, 2012

a popular debate

Recently, a frequent "discussion" which has always simmered in polite society has been brought to the surface on the national political level. I use quotation marks around the word discussion, as really - it's more often a claws out, catty, mud slinging fight. I refer to the "stay-at-home" vs "working-mom" debate, and having been a working mom for 6 months and a stay at home mom for 6 weeks now, I'm obviously qualified to give my two cents. Obviously.

The Seattle Times ran a pretty good article on it this morning; you can find that link here. Here's my synopsis:

In the context of the Presidential Election, Hillary Rosen, a democratic strategist with ties to the Obama administration critiqued Ann Romney, wife of presumptive Republican nominee Mitt. I believe Rosen said something along the lines of how Ann, a stay-at-home mom to 5 boys, has "never worked a day in her life" and as such cannot understand the plight of working women. Obviously this set off a sh*t-storm with people on all sides throwing stones, and ended with Rosen's apology. But we all know it hasn't ended, and even when tomorrow's news sweeps this under the rug, the debate goes on.

And here's where I step in with my commentary, trying to make this as minimally political as possible, and avoid trying to get all democrat vs republican on this issue (which, of course, the parties have been trying to do - but it's really not about that).

I grew up in two households - one with a stay-at-home mom, one with a working-mom. Both of these moms I love dearly and respect greatly. So let that be said. And let me be clear here: I refuse to play into the whole "put a qualifier in front of either term" which so many bloggers do, so as to avoid hurt feelings. I refuse to say "working outside the home mom" or "household project manager" or "working without pay but just as hard but staying at home while tending to the children and household mom". It's simple to me: both kinds of moms add value to their families, and both exert a great deal of energy, and neither performs easy tasks. Both have hard, long days. But notice how I didn't say, "both kinds of mom's work" or "both have hard jobs". That is because I refuse to acknowledge that staying home is the same kind of job as working, and to me, a job is something you get paid for. In currency. :)

Let me address stay-at-home moms first: In the last 6 weeks I have rarely felt as exhausted at the end of the night as I regularly feel now. Every joint in my body aches. I lug a 20 lb toddler around, throwing out my back constantly, very rarely sit now and almost never get any time whatsoever to "relax." Sleep while she sleeps?? Ha. My "job" (for the sake of argument) is to be responsible for 95% of the household chores, while my husband's job is to earn enough money to pay the bills and mortgage. Because this is how we've divided the workload, I do almost everything else - it's only fair to him - the one who gets up, heads out the house, works his ass off all day long, buses home only to open his laptop and continue working nights and weekends. So I do the dishes, laundry, cooking, shopping, cleaning, etc. And on top of that, I take care of the toddler/baby, who is QUITE a handful, doesn't understand the word "NO" and as such needs constant attention lest she kill herself while munching on a power cord. It's exhausting. If I nap while she naps, I am not holding up my end of the bargain (despite my sweet husband encouraging me to leave everything and rest, nap, take time for myself, etc).  I've only been lucky enough to get a moment to myself - three hours to be exact in the last six weeks only - because I have a support system (ie, my own mom) who is around and happy to help. At the end of the day, I am exhausted and in pain - BUT - this "job" is a job of privilege. I can choose to do this because my husband makes enough money to allow me this choice. Ann Romney said that being a stay-at-home-mom was her "career choice" which puts her, and I, in the small, very lucky and fortunate group of Americans who have this luxury. And it's not the same as working. It's doing something we love to do only because we are fortunate enough to have this choice. And I am so, so, so grateful. But, it's not the same and my days are no longer relate-able to a mom who works outside the home.

My six month stint in the "working mom's club" was the hardest time of my life. Only women who have done it understand how hard it is. As a mom - nursing mom at that (which is, in my mind, harder than a non-nursing mom, as you get to squeeze extra time out of your day to pump and to get up as many times a night as your baby wants to eat so you are extra, extra sleep deprived) - you now have to rip your heart in two as you make the selfless effort to bring in additional income to keep your family afloat. Sure, it's easier for some working moms to do this than others, but for ME it was agony. Leaving my precious baby at home while I tried to be productive and add value to my company was extremely difficult for me. She was so tiny, so young, and it went against every evolutionary instinct in my body to protect and care for my child at all times. Those instincts are mighty powerful and can't be turned off, so they must be pushed to the backburner as far as possible to accomplish this task. In working I was now allotted approximately two hours a day with my baby, which was conveniently during dinner time (so required me to be multitasking and didn't allow me to give her my undivided attention), unless we wanted to eat much later thereby staying up later, thereby getting less sleep and making tomorrow that much more difficult. The household chores were still there too - only instead of having 24 hours a day to do them, we now had about 3. This is the reality that the majority of American moms face. Oh, and in my case - pumping 3x/day, being the parent with the most flexibility to leave early, stay home with the baby if she was sick, etc - probably kept me among the ranks of the lower earners at my company. I can only imagine a higher paid job would have had much less flexibility. So - in allowing myself the flexibility I wanted - I was also solidifying the income which meant I was working for literally a couple dollars an hour after childcare and commuting expenses were removed. Talk about a no-win situation. I can't even recount the numerous times I had well-meaning people who made/have a lot more money than I tell me "Oh I just wish you could stay home" or "oh, but she's only this young once, can't you find a way?" or "I'd hate to have my baby in the hands of someone else" or worst yet "I just believe that families should always have one parent at home with the kids." Uh yeah - believe me - no one wanted to stay home more than I, but having health insurance - which we only had access to through my job - and having enough money to pay the bills was the priority.

What's my thesis in all of this blabber? That working-mom's deserve the acknowledgement that what they are doing is incredibly selfless, incredibly difficult and, quite frankly, much, much harder than staying home. These two camps of women are not separate but equal. Do stay-at-home moms have tough days? YES! Do they give of themselves? YES, of course! Is it exhausting? YES - duh (and maybe in some ways more so, as at least if you're working you can count on the relative solitude of a commute to gather your thoughts and energy). But, those of us on this side of the fence should never forget how incredibly fortunate we are to have this opportunity and the luxury of being able to make this choice.

(off my soapbox now!)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

And then I realized...

Oh shit, I have a toddler.

She's been toddling about for a couple weeks now, but today as she so "expertly" (I use this phrase lightly, as she still looks like a drunken baby sailor) walked across the room, paused to regain her footing, and continued - beelining for her father's stereo - it became pretty obvious.

Nothing is safe in our house. Nothing.

I admit, our house isn't that baby safe. I'm still naiively holding out hope that we can just teach her "no" and everything will be okay. In the meantime, we have rubber bands holding cabinet door knobs together. I'm pretty sure she'll figure out in about thirty minutes how to get them off. She's crafty like that.

Not only do I have a toddler-baby, I'm pretty sure she's smart. Like, she is, as Stephen Colbert says, an "it getter". Today I left the door to the bathroom ever so slightly ajar, and she saw it from across the room and, no kidding, cackled in joy as she crawled at the warp speed into the bathroom. Before I knew it she had a mouth full of toilet paper. Also? She has a love/hate relationship with getting her nose wiped. The green stuff that's been coming out of her nose/faucet has officially been diagnosed as a result of a sinus infection, and we've been battling for weeks when it comes to wiping her nose. Today, she played a game with me as she quickly moved between crying & shrieking in laughter. I wipe, she grabs the tissue as fast as she can (which is really, seriously fast!), stuffs it in her mouth, laughs at me, I pull it out of her mouth, grab another tissue, wipe, she cries, then grabs it and stuffs it in her mouth again. Repeat cycle until booger is gone, which can take quite a few attempts.

So there you have it. I have a crafty, silly little toddlerbaby.

And here's a million recent pictures of said baby. :)

caught her in a moment of peace at the park

meadering about the living room

all dressed up!

her newest nickname is Wrecking Ball. Action shot!

Wrecking Ball moved into the kitchen. (On a side note - guess whose kitchen is getting demolished this weekend?! OURS!)

Paused to admire herself

Oh Hey!

Ellie shows how she's going to help with the kitchen demo

checking out her Easter Basket

weight lifting. nuff said.

feeding that Easter llama. She could not take her eyes off Sparky (the llama, not her dad)

I adore her.

this cracks me up. Ellie took a nap and I rearranged her toys. She looks so confused! (from the back, that is...)

And, as an extra special treat. Here's video of my girl. (turn up the volume. and I'm laughing, not crying..)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Out on a limb

My sister and I got to hang out quite a bit more than usual recently (I miss her too. sigh) and at one point she told me (jokingly, I'm choosing to believe) that I don't really "believe in anything" - meaning, I *seem* to have no strong convictions on controversial issues because I don't really speak up too much. I'm sure she was joking, and I'm sure she was referring to facebook, because I tend to not post controversial (ish) articles or comment.
Here's my response. Ha. Hahahahaha. I think I stay quiet out of respect for everyone around me - I really don't want to go around jeopardizing relationships with my strong opinions on certain issues, especially not when the discussion medium is facebook.

That being said, I do have some very strong opinions on certain issues and I'm thinking about being more proactive sharing my thoughts. Respectful dialogue is lacking in our society and I think we can start by blaming Congress and our elected officials, who show each other very little respect in how they manage their disagreements. Also, I've decided I need to start going out on a limb more often, and removing myself from my comfort zone more frequently. I've always sought to stay right in the middle of my comfort zone in so many ways and it's time to stop being such a scaredy cat and start challenging myself.

I guess my point is that I'm challenging myself - and publicly announcing - to expect more from me. More dialogue, more shared opinions, etc.

And with that, here's a smattering of random thoughts I've been mulling around in my head lately. Some are quite a bit more trivial than others. :)

-I put Ellie right in front of the television every morning and turn on Sesame Street. No apologies either - my cup of coffee is probably more important to start my day than a good night's sleep (at least it's more reliable!). Ellie munches on cheerios (or Trader Joe O's) and watches her friends and we are both happy with this arrangement. People who say tv isn't good for babies don't realize that incoherently sleepy moms who can't get off the floor are especially not good for babies.

-This morning on SS, Elmo's singing a song "Bye Bye Binky" about (you guessed it!) weaning from the paci. I may change my mind on this eventually, but my take on comfort items (paci, special blankie, stuffed animal, whatev), is as long as it's not causing you or anyone else real harm, why place an expiration date on that relationship? Sure, having a blankie in high school may be a little odd to some, but that's not reason enough to stop, in my mind. I think a lot of times, negative reactions to controversial issues are because our our own uncomfortability with that issue, not anything inherently bad with the actual issue itself.

-Case in point: Alicia Silverstone chews her baby's food for him, and January Jones eats her placenta! The internets are ablaze with people being critical of both these topics. And Blossom dares to have an opinion? My opinion? Every mom I know has partially chewed up some food for her baby, bitten something in half, etc. No biggie. And the placenta? There's a ton of research which shows that placenta ingestion replaces hormones lost in childbirth, helps with postpartum depression, etc. Honestly, if this is the magic pill which someone takes and feels better after giving birth, more power to them. And even if it's just a placebo (haha, placebo placenta), if you think it helps, then isn't it helping?

- Speaking of feeding your baby.... as a wannabe/soon-to-be lactation consultant, breastfeeding is obviously extremely important to me. You may even call me a lactivist (sadly, I didn't coin that term...). It kind of blows my mind that breastfeeding is such a hot topic, but as all parenting issues go, it is probably one of the most important. Recently, an ad campaign was kicked off in the UK to show multi tasking breasts in an attempt to normalize breastfeeding. read This article. I actually have a huge opinion here, and that is: I hate this campaign. I am constantly reading about breastfeeding supporters talking about how "it's natural" and "it's not sexual, I'm just feeding my baby" and complaining about the sexualization of breasts when their purpose is for feeding, and yet, here's a campaign trying to sexualize the breast while feeding? Doesn't that just feed the fire of those who complain when they see breastfeeding in public, or are uncomfortable with breastfeeding for this reason? We can't have it both ways: breasts are sexual or they're for food. And actually, they're for food. There you go. That's their purpose, now let's educate on breastfeeding awareness, build support systems, encourage employer support of nursing/pumping moms and move on....

-Speaking of sexuality. Congress is revisiting the 1950's debate of access to birth control?!? Dear lord, let my daughter PLEASE grow up in a country where she can access birth control WITHOUT the consent (seriously??!) of her employer (seriously?!?!). Words cannot express my dismay that this is even an issue that is up for discussion, hence the !!! and ???. Can you imagine going to employer trying to justify your need for antibiotics? Blood pressure medication? See how pills like Viagra aren't included? (I wonder if it's because only 10% of Congress is women? Or that insurance companies are largely run by men?). How humiliating is it to think you'd have to say "well, Mr. Bossman I have horrible periods and I need this to function" or "I have cysts on my ovaries and need this to preserve my fertility for when I eventually want to get pregnant" or "I have horrible acne and this helps" or heaven forbid, "I'm sexually active and need this to prevent unwanted pregnancies"... sigh.

The end. More to come from me though, hopefully!