People, as a whole, like to be told that what they’re doing is okay. They especially seek approval when something in their lives is considered controversial. I don’t know how you feel about her, but this is why Dr. Laura is so hated. She routinely, and admittedly, casts moral judgment on her readers/callers and does not hesitate to tell them that a decision they’ve made or that the lifestyle they have is wrong. Not that she thinks it’s wrong — that it is, fundamentally and absolutely, wrong. This makes for some cringe-filled listening/reading, let me tell you.
We just don’t like to be told we’re wrong. We want coddling, justification and rationalization, and we’ll take it with a side of “I totally agree with you.”, please.
To wit: there’s this great exchange from a great movie called The Big Chill:
Jeff Goldblum’s character: Rationalizations are more important than sex.
Tom Berenger’s character: Aww, come on. Nothin’s more important than sex.
Jeff Goldblum’s character: Really? You ever tried to go a week without a good rationalization?
(By the way, if you haven’t seen The Big Chill, YOU’RE WRONG!)
Thusly, controversy breeds many people frantically Googling (are we capitalizing this still?) to find support for the way they’ve decided to do something. It also breeds hot debate, mudslinging and all out war among the different factions. Nowhere, and I mean NOWHERE, is this more rampant than in childrearing. For those of you that have not had children but plan to someday, I give you this warning from the trenches:
Ye must grow a thick skin if ye thinks to fight the Mommy Wars, for there be none quite so reactive nor none quite so prickly as yon Mommy who must defend her parenting decisions.
In other words, if you can’t stand the heat, stay off the message boards and comment sections.
But, hope springs eternal, and there are two other fundamental truths that one must get in order to keep his or her sanity:
1. Every, and I do mean every, child is different. Yes, there are general guidelines for behavior and development, but every child will develop at her own pace. Some will go straight from rolling over to walking and others will withhold their first word until Mommy’s head explodes from anticipation.
2. No one, and I do mean no one, knows a child better than his parents. Yes, not even his pediatrician. Therefore, any decisions made on behalf of the child by his parents (barring obvious detrimental decisions involving large amounts of Niacin, noxious green beverages and yes, I’m looking at you Katie Holmes, you complete weirdo) are exactly the right decisions for that child.
If you can arm yourself with those two principles to live by, you should be okay. Until someone asks you if you are co-sleeping or doing a delayed vaccination schedule. Then you’re on your own, because I? Have my own problems with the Cry It Out folks.
Some of you have no idea what the sam hell I’m talking about and just came here for pictures of Eve. Bear with me. And because lists are much beloved at The Evie Standard, here’s another:
THINGS TO BRING UP IF YOU WANT TO “START SOMETHIN'” WITH A PARENT
Damn hippies again!
What is it? Co-sleeping is, well, it’s when you, your spouse and your child all sleep together in the same bed. Thaaaat’s right. Aaaaall together. Freaky?
Eh, not so much. Believe it or not, A LOT of people do this. They just don’t tell you about it, ’cause you think it’s weird and they got flamed on a message board that one time. Co-sleeping usually begins the first week or so, during the Days of No Sleep Whatsoever. Usually the mom is breastfeeding, and finds it easier to nurse her wee one if said wee one sleeps in the same bed. Baby wakes up, fusses a bit for food, Mama pops the boob in, everybody goes back to sleep, everybody happy. I’ve even heard co-sleeping moms say they never remember how many times they’ve nursed during the night because they never fully woke up.
Also, I read on a blog the other day about a mom who was finishing her residency at a hospital right after her son was born. She was apart from him for up to 30 hours at a time. I can’t imagine how painful this must have been for her. She found co-sleeping an excellent way to spend a precious additional eight hours with her newborn baby. When she hesitantly revealed her co-sleeping secret to coworkers in pediatrics, she was surprised at the number of them who were doing the same thing.
Now, the word on the street is that co-sleeping WILL KILL YOUR BABY STOP IT DOING IT RIGHT NOW OR I’M CALLING THE COPS! Yup. People get THAT worked up. Apparently, somewhere, sometime, in Hypotheticaland, two parents got real liquored up, piled all the blankets and pillows they owned onto the twin bed they shared and proceeded to roll around all over it while waving lit cigarettes in their baby’s face.
Meanwhile, back here in the real world, co-sleeping is totally safe as long as some pretty common sense measures are taken. Namely, you must sleep in at least a queen-sized bed, no pillows or blankets for baby, and no smoking in bed or going to bed drunk. They even sell sleep positioners, which are like twee little beds that babies are sort of — inserted into — while sleeping in your bed. They also have co-sleeping bassinets, which basically attach onto your bed and allow you all the benefits of co-sleeping and none of the YOU’LL SMOTHER YOUR BABY! hysteria.
As you probably already know (if you’ve been paying attention!), Evie does not sleep with us. Sometimes I wish we co-slept — it seems like a really sweet thing to do. But, as of right now, we have a full-sized bed, which is barely big enough for the two of us. Seriously, I feel like we’re two giants sleeping in Goldlilocks’s bed. But on Saturday and Sunday mornings I go get Evie out of her crib and we all snooze for an hour or so together. Gill and I both sort of spoon around Evie, and she reaches out her little hands to touch both of us on either side of her. How sweet is that?
Formula vs. breast milk
Have I talked about breastfeeding on this site? I think I have. Well, here we go again! Whee!
I feel very strongly about this subject but not in the way you might think. Now and again on message boards I frequent there’ll be a post entitled, “Ready to give up” or “I can’t do this anymore”. These can go one of two ways. Either it’s from a woman who tried breastfeeding once or twice in the hospital, discovered it was hard and “Ouchie!” and wants some “there, there”. Or, it could be from a woman who has been trying to breastfeed for months and months with little success. She’s nursed through thrush, mastitis and cracked and bleeding nipples. Her baby is not gaining weight like he should and her pediatrician is freaking out, which is freaking her out. She cries every day, but gets no support from friends or family who say she is deliberately starving her baby. This is a SAD post, y’all.
I always respond to these posts. I tell the poor woman to fasten the flap on her nursing bra, hop in her car, drive to the closest Target and buy a can of dang formula. I tell her that she’s missing precious time with her baby, trying to do something that is just not working. It doesn’t matter why or if she should try this or that. Buy the formula, fix a bottle and enjoy your baby, I say! That’s the point of this whole thing, and if failing to successfully breastfeed after giving it a sincere try is keeping you from doing that — STOP!
Now, as for the woman who wants pats on the head for nothing, I don’t respond to her post. Not that I fault her for not wanting to breastfeed AT ALL. If you don’t want to do it, don’t do it! But be honest with yourself and others about that decision. You tried it, it hurt really bad (it does) and you didn’t like it. Fine! You didn’t try it because you think your boobs are fabulous and you don’t want to ruin them? Great! Just tell the truth about it. Because acting like you’ve been through what the woman whose nipples look like ground beef has been through is insulting and wrong. And really annoying.
Both of these women should beware the Breastfeeding Nazi’s, though, otherwise known as La Leche League. These women are serious about breastfeeding, and I mean that in the most close-minded, arrogant way. I’ve been to a meeting, and we were visited by two LLL consultants in the hospital, one of whom was just too precious. Hi, Mary Jo! Although LLL does do a lot of good, there are subtle and not so subtle undertones of “You’re a bad mother if you don’t breastfeed.” in some of their literature and advice, which just doesn’t sit well with me.
Now come for me, Breastfeeding Nazi’s!
Oh, if you could see the flame wars. I bet you didn’t know studies have shown that daycare kids grow up to be serial killers, did you? Cite the study? Oh, well, I can’t, but I did read it somewhere, and, and, YOU’RE A BAD MOTHER FOR PUTTING YOUR CHILD IN DAYCARE!
Sheesh. I am smack dab in the middle of this one, y’all, ’cause I am one of those bad mothers who puts her child in daycare. Watch for Evie’s face on the news in twenty years. She’ll be the one who robbed that Citgo down the street, waving a sawed-off shotgun and screaming, “If my mom had stayed home with me, I wouldn’t have to kill you ALL!”
Can I tell you how much I cried the week before I went back to work? I did laundry and cried. I took a shower and cried. I looked at Evie’s adorable and unsuspecting face and flat-out bawled. But something interesting happened the day I went back. I dropped Evie off at daycare, got back in my car, started the drive to work and…didn’t cry. In fact, I actually enjoyed myself at work. After fumbling and bumbling around with a newborn for six weeks, I was finally doing something I was good at. It was like a soothing massage for my self-esteem. And I got to take a shower and put on makeup!
After working half a day, I left the office, picked up my daughter and went home. It was the perfect day. I was thrilled, but very quietly because of the dreaded daycare guilt.
I always thought I would want to be a stay-at-home mom. It seemed so heavenly, so June Cleaver-y. But you know what? I was wrong. I like working. I like being out in the world, conversing with adults and feeling productive. It’s so easy when you’re home all day to spend it in sweat pants and unshowered. And daytime TV is so…ugh. It’s not very hard to see why so many stay-at-home moms feel isolated and depressed. You’d be surprised at the number who HATE staying at home but do it because it’s best for their kids. But is it? Is a sad, greasy-haired mom really being the best mom for her children?
Some women love being housewives. They get up, shower, get dressed and go to Gymboree, the grocery store and post office. They make play dates and organize mommy groups. Some women love to work. They thrive on the interaction with their coworkers and need the stimulation of the office to make them feel happy. I’ve realized that I’m a hybrid of these two women. Those half days I worked before I started back full time were perfect, perfect, perfect. I got the satisfaction of working and the fulfillment of spending time with my daughter. And Evie got a satisfied, fulfilled mommy. Not a bad deal, I think, and my plan is to work part time one day.
But I can hear Dr. Laura now: “Why did you have a child if you’re just going to drop her off at daycare?” I’ve sat here for a long time trying to come up with a witty answer. I don’t have one. And I still miss Evie terribly, especially on Mondays. I often wonder if I’m doing the right thing. I hope so.
Quick, somebody tell a joke!
Cry It Out (CIO)
If you haven’t read Sheri Lynch’s excellent memoir, Hello, My Name Is Mommy, you owe yourself. Especially if hello, your name is Mommy. In it she pities her mother’s generation, who were told to let their babies “cry it out” to “train” them to sleep through the night. This involves laying your baby down in his crib drowsy but still awake and walking away. The baby will fuss, then cry, then scream. But you must not go to him and comfort him in any way. Eventually, the baby will exhaust himself from screaming and pass out, and you will finish off that bottle of wine or handful of Valium because, holy cow, can you imagine?
This has got to be the purest form of torture ever inflicted on a parent or baby. And some pediatricians are now saying it can be harmful to babies. They’re theorizing that babies are not “trained” to sleep this way. They think that babies become resigned to the fact that no one is coming and they shut down, thus giving the impression that they’ve been “sleep trained”. They’re even saying that babies whose parents have done “Cry It Out” sleep training can become withdrawn and depressed. Or overly clingy. Yikes.
I think it’s important to understand how babies sleep. Babies’ sleep cycles are very quick. They go through the lighter sleep cycles, down to the deeper sleep cycles and back up much quicker than you or me. When they cycle back up from deep sleep into the lighter sleep cycles, they often wake up. You and I cycle back up several times a night, too, but we’ve been at this sleeping thing longer than a baby. Our bodies know how to keep us asleep until we cycle back down into deeper sleep. Nature has provided babies with these quicker, lighter sleep cycles for a reason — survival. Babies’ brains are constantly, constantly taking in information when they’re awake, and they need lots of REM sleep cycles to process that information. Babies spend about 80% of their nights in REM sleep. Also, they need to be able to wake up easily when they’re hungry, thirsty, too cold or too hot. Basically, quicker sleep cycles keep them alive.
This is cold comfort to a parent who has not slept in three months, I know. Sleep deprivation is frustrating and debilitating. There is a breaking point, and you’re willing to try anything to get a night’s sleep. And this book says their method will train your baby to sleep through the night in three days or less. Yay! Believe me, I understand that.
I don’t talk much about CIO in mixed parent company because Evie now only wakes up once during the night. I don’t dare offer that little tidbit to a baggy-eyed mom or dad who sleeps in a rocking chair with a baby on their chest. But maybe there are other alternatives to letting your baby scream. Co-sleeping, maybe? Shooting speedballs? I don’t know. I just don’t think CIO is the answer and maybe is a quick fix with damaging consequences. I do know that the older they get, the longer babies stay awake during the day and the longer they sleep at night, and they start training themselves to sleep through night at about six months or so. Can you live on sparse, broken sleep for six months? Mr. Big ol’ Cup of Coffee says you can. Just don’t throw that cup at my head, please. My baby will be teething soon, and I’ll be in that aisle in Borders right beside you.
But I am MUCH disagreed with by parents who have had brilliant success with CIO. And I’m sure I’m going to get a few phone calls from Evie’s grandparents about how they did CIO with Gill and me, and YOU’RE FINE, YOUNG LADY! Well, all I’ve got to say to them is — I TAKE IT BACK!
Brace yourselves; this is the Holy Grail of kiddie kontroversy. The trail through this minefield of a topic is littered with fallen parents who dared question either side of the fence. Don’t worry, I’ll protect you. Hold onto my arm as I guide you through the swirling miasma that is…The Vaccination Vortex!
Although there has never been a direct link shown in any proper study, the rates of autism have increased proportionate to the rise of vaccine administration. Is this due to the vaccines themselves, or are the signs of autism now better recognized and thus more diagnosed? There was substantial evidence that a preservative used in some vaccines, Thimerosal, was harmful, and it was removed. But some parents are still on a mission to delay the current vaccination schedule or to eliminate vaccinations all together. This has put pediatrician’s offices, the Board of Health, the Center for Disease Control and the public school system into a tizzy. You have never seen so many handpainted signs and shouting people in screenprinted t-shirts, I’m telling you.
(I often wonder if this whole vaccination debate is a convenient way for some parents to feel controversial or to just stir sh** up. I mean, how awesome and fight the man do you feel when your pediatrician’s office kicks you out! March in the streets! Hey, hey, LBJ! The whole world is watching! Yeah.)
Autism scares the crap out of me. Almost as much as SIDS. But you know what scares me more? Whooping cough. Measles. Tuberculosis, for Pete’s sake. Am I overreacting? There have been outbreaks of Pertussis (Whooping cough) in our area. Pertussis can kill an infant. Most of the Mexican immigrants coming here have not been vaccinated in their country, and reports say that they’re bringing these diseases with them. We’re vaccinating.
We consider it our obligation, nay, our responsibility, to vaccinate, not only for Evie’s health, but also as members of a community. We owe it to the other children with whom Evie will play and go to school. Also, children died in record numbers during the Polio epidemic. I wonder what the parents of any of those dead children would say now to those who refuse to vaccinate. How quickly would they have offered up their little one’s arm for a medicine that could have saved their child’s life?
My final analysis is harsh and really tough to even think about. So, I’ll just lay it out there: Rubella and Diphtheria are deadly; autism is not.
I’ll go hide now.
Wow, this is a long post, and it sort of dissolved into my defending our decisions and ignoring Principle to Live By #2. Anyway, Lord love ya if you made it this far. Here’s your reward: