Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Stay-at-home-parent advice needed

A good friend of mine recently moved to another state and became a full-time SAHM. She has 2 young children and a third on the way. She's finding it challenging at times, and I offered to solicit some advice for her. Here's what she has to say:
SAHM-ing is really tough. I didn't think it would be so hard, but I haven't yet figured out a good system. I get frustrated really quickly, and can't seem to get much done. We usually do some sort of activity (park, zoo) mid-morning -- maybe 3 times a week? But besides that, I'm kind of lost. I think I have to come up with a better routine. It's sad, but I don't actually enjoy my kids right now -- I mean I love them dearly, they amaze me, but I haven't figured out a way to just plain enjoy being with them 24-7. I keep hoping as we get more settled it'll all smooth out.

Please share your wisdom and tricks of the trade!
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Nursing Acrobatics

I woke up this morning with a tennis-ball sized lump in my left breast, and a nasty red patch on the skin. Yes, it was a plugged duct and possibly mastitis. A phone call to my local LLL leader gave me some great ideas. The funniest--and most effective one--was to nurse Zari upside down so her chin would point towards the affected area. So I plunked Zari on the bed, got on my hands and knees over her, bent down, and latched her on. I think she was a bit surprised but she gave it a go for a few minutes. When she was done I pumped upside down for about 20 minutes and voila! The duct was unplugged. What relief!

I really really don't want to have mastitis so I am taking it easy today--no lap swimming especially. I need a good book to read...

Zari is feeling much better and back to her normal exuberant self. She laughed for the first time today--a full-out belly laugh! Eric was holding her, and I was putting my hair in a ponytail and saying something about nursing her. Apparently that was hilarious.
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Monday, January 29, 2007

Sad baby

Something is hurting Zari, but we can't figure out what. No fever, no congestion, no rash, no outward signs of any illness or injury. But she seems very sensitive around her ears and the back of her head, and she cries like crazy if she gets bumped there. I've been spending most of yesterday and today nursing her. So things might be a bit calm around the blog for a while...
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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Time lapse pictures

While I was editing some photos for Zari's memory book, I put together "time lapse" pictures of my growing belly. Here are ones starting at about 27 weeks pregnant (i.e., 25 weeks gestation). The very last picture was taken 3 days before Zari was born.

27.2, 30.5, & 33 weeks pregnant

34.3, 35.4, & 37.4 weeks

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

First Impressions

I first encountered the idea of unassisted childbirth (UC) about 3 years ago. I was at a state midwifery meeting, and one of the midwives mentioned she was very interested in and supportive of unassisted birth. At the time, I had just come across homebirth midwifery and was in love with the idea. I thought that giving birth without any attendant was pretty strange, not to mention dangerous and scary.

I kept reading about unassisted birth and coming across unassisted birth stories. They were consistently the most powerful, inspiring, and empowering. The kinds of births narrated in the stories resonated to my core, even more than midwife-attended homebirth stories.

Over the past 3 years I have also worked as a doula, apprenticed with one midwife, and assisted another. I saw what some UC advocates have mentioned: disturbing amounts of interference even at home births. Now, not every homebirth was like this. But I realized that we have to pick homebirth midwives as carefully as any other birth attendant. They can say all the right things--birth is natural, I'll only intervene when necessary, women's bodies are made to give birth--but we have to really find out if their actions match their rhetoric.

The realization that I wanted to birth at home unassisted, rather than with a midwife, came gradually. After we moved a year and a half ago, I learned that homebirth midwives were very difficult to find in our new state. Now, had I really wanted a midwife I could have found one. But I knew that even if I was able to locate them, I might not click with any of them, or they might not feel comfortable with my wishes for the birth. I knew that if I hired a midwife, I would request that she stay downstairs the entire time unless I specifically asked for assistance. No heart tones, no vaginal exams, no catching or monitoring the baby. Basically I didn't want to know she was there.

Once I became pregnant last winter, I just felt no desire at all to hire a midwife. The idea didn't feel right to me anymore. I said to myself, "well, we'll be working in France for a few months over the summer. I will just do things on my own until I get back. Then if I feel like having a midwife, I will look for one." I left; I came back, about 6 months pregnant. I still didn't feel drawn towards having a midwife, so inertia carried me to the end of my pregnancy. I half-heartedly talked with two other midwives in my area, in the process of helping friends who were searching for alternatives to hospital births.

I continued to wonder if I should find a midwife, but it never felt right. However, I also wanted to have other options if birth threw me a curve ball. I'd far rather "transfer" to a homebirth midwife, than to a hospital. As it turns out, I gave birth at 38 weeks, so that solved my dilemma!

I'd like to hear your stories about how you first heard about unassisted birth, what you initially thought, and whether or not that has changed. Please share!
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Monday, January 22, 2007


A post unrelated to birth...

I recently came across this blog about downsizing and simplifying, called Changing Rhythm. I liked their pledge, especially the rules about buying things (or rather, trying not to unless really necessary!). I sat down with my husband last night and talked about adopting some of these into our own life.

Here are some lifestyle & financial guidelines we wrote down. Some are shamelessly borrowed from the blog. Now, many of these things we already do to some extent, but I wanted to articulate them so we can be more consistent.
  • Buy everything (barring food, medication, and health related products such as soap, toothpaste, etc.) used if at all possible.
  • Only buy a product that replaces something we already own that has worn out.
  • Anything that does not meet the previous two criteria, will require both our approval and a mandatory 2-week waiting period (to ensure need versus want).
  • Purge our home of all unused, unwanted, or extraneous clutter.
  • Cook one meal per week using items from food storage (we have a 1 year's supply of food stored in our basement).
  • Spend under $200/month on groceries.
  • Only grocery shop from a list.
  • Invest money regularly for retirement.
  • Each of us receives $10/month of “mad money” for frivolous expenditures (snacks, clothes, etc). These do not need approval from the other person.
  • Keep a list of necessary upcoming expenditures.
  • Eat out no more than once every month.
Last spring we converted our VW diesel Golf to run on used vegetable oil, which we get free from our local Chinese restaurant. We bought the conversion kit from Greasecar. The Golf already gets around 50 mpg, and now it's carbon-neutral, since plants use more CO2 to grow than is released when their oil is burned. We love our Greasemobile!

We live in a small town of 5,000 people, so we only drive to go to church (20 miles away) or big shopping trips. My husband works at a liberal arts college that is 4 blocks from our house. Our library, post office, grocery store, hardware store, thrift store, bike path, community hospital, etc are all within easy walking distance. (Okay, I admit that I drive to the grocery store when it's cold out.) Sometimes our town is a bit too sedate, but it's a good place for daily life.
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Friday, January 19, 2007


I cut apart a few of our old t-shirts and turned them into summer onesies for Zari. We'll be working in France again this summer, so we thought we'd make Zari her own "staff" shirts, to match ours!

I bought a onesie pattern and modified it to have a bottom snap crotch opening, rather than snaps going down the front.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Padded pouch sling instructions

What you need:
  • fabric: 23” wide and approx 60” long. I prefer to use medium weight woven fabrics. You can use ones with a slight bit of stretch—just make sure the more stretchy part goes crosswise across the rectangle, rather than lengthwise. Some people also make these out of fleece, although I don’t have experience working with that fabric
  • thread
  • some cotton or polyester batting, approximately 24” long and 4” wide

1. Measure from the outside of your shoulder, to the opposite hip. The measurement should be somewhere between 20-30 inches.

2. Trim your fabric to be exactly 23” wide. Fold the length of fabric in half lengthwise, then in half crosswise. Line up the 2 folded edges on the bottom and left.

3. Add about 4” to your measurement. Mark that number (A) on the bottom folded edge.

4. Draw a gentle curve upwards from that mark 3” inwards, and 11 ½” upwards, to point B. Leave the last inch straight, to make hemming easier.

5. Cut along the curved line. When you unfold your fabric, it will make a long rectangle with gently curved ends.

6. Join the curved ends with a French seam:

Put WRONG sides together, matching the curved ends. Sew a ¼” seam. Press open, then flip to the other side. Then sew RIGHT sides together with a 3/8” seam. Press the seam to one side. Stitch the seam down near the edge—this gives the seam extra strength.

7. Hem one of the edges of fabric: press ¼”, turn again and press 3/8”, then stitch.

8. On the other unhemmed edge, press the edge under about ¾”. Fold the batting so it makes a long roll about 1” wide. I usually make my batting between 20-24” long. Center the batting strip on the French seam. Tuck under the ironed edge, then fold the edge and the batting over again and pin in place. Stitch across and up the sides of the batting to hold in place.

9. Press and stitch the rest of the padded edge.

10. For wearing instructions, go to

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If breastfeeding is natural...

"...then why is it so hard?"

A question many people ask, and frankly I don't have answers to. My own experience breastfeeding has been flawless. Can I attribute that to good luck? good karma? good boobs? good education?

I did educate myself a LOT about breastfeeding before I gave birth. I read Jack Newman's book The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers twice, and watched several video clips on his website to know how to get a proper latch, and what it should look and feel like. I also had a completely uninterrupted third stage and was able to breastfeed immediately for as long as Zari wanted to.

However, I know many women who have similarly prepared themselves, had fantastic unhindered births, and then had tremendous difficulties nursing--baby losing weight, painful latch, bleeding nipples, you name it. So to say that education and preparation will ensure a smooth nursing relationship is obviously too simplistic.

We could ask the same question about giving birth, actually: if giving birth is natural, why is it so dysfunctional today? Why do over 30% of women have cesareans? Why are so many women's labors induced or augmented?

Do you see parallels between breastfeeding and giving birth? What accounts for the high rate of "failed" or struggling breastfeeding? Let's discuss!
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The elusive smile

Just a short video of me trying to get Zari to smile. Of course right afterwards she gave me a big grin.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Pouch slings

My new favorite.

I just made one for Zari this morning. They are very snug, very sleek, and let the baby face outward. Now that Zari can hold her head up and look around, I think she will really like it. You can't see the entire sling in the picture I took, but it is exactly the same style as the ones sold by Hotslings.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Seeing spots

This picture makes me laugh...we got a Dalmatian blanket for Christmas from my husband's parents, so I threw our dog, the blanket, and Zari in her Dalmatian diapers on the bed and snapped this photo. She really isn't a monster huge baby--the angle just makes her look like she weighs about 20 pounds.

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Thoughts on "Shame"

I was quite surprised by the level of emotion that post evoked, and I wanted to share some more of my thoughts.

First, I regret that it turned a bit into a rag on my mom. I was worried that would happen and almost didn't publish that post for that very reason. My mom is really an extraordinary woman. Anyone who can double major in English and biology, commute 4 hours a day on public transportation, and be pregnant at the same time deserves applause. I should have been more careful in how I worded my post. (Mom, if you're reading this, I'm glad you're reading my blog and I am sorry if some of the discussion veered away from its original path.)

Second, let me summarize some fascinating questions the discussions raised:
  • Does nudity always have the potential to become pornography? In other words, is pornography in the eye of the beholder, or in the eye of the creator?
  • Is breastfeeding openly in public a sexual (ie, provocative, inappropriate) act? And why does our society see it as such?
  • Does covering up reinforce the taboo on breastfeeding? Do you prefer to cover up or not? Is covering up being prudish? respectful? etc...
  • What are the dangers of posting intimate pictures, such as ones of breastfeeding and birthing, on the internet? Several comments alluded to such dangers, but only in a general fashion.
I, for one, will continue to breastfeed "indiscreetly." I feel quite strongly that masking the act with a blanket reinforces the notion that it is something to hide, something inappropriate for public view. I also think that covering up draws more attention to the act, than simply nursing openly.

The first memory I have of "indiscreet" breastfeeding is when I visited Germany in 9th grade. My host mother lifted her shirt and nursed her baby. At one point that baby bit her, and she said something like "ouch, that hurt!" (in German of course). The other family members acted very matter-of-fact, even though you could see her breast. After a few seconds, I was like "okay, that's what they're for anyway, I'm cool." And that was that. I took my cue from the others around me; since they seemed completely unfazed by the sight of an exposed breast, I learned to do the same. Voila! Another public nurser was born.
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EC Update

Can I just say I love elimination communication? It's going quite well with Zari. Most days, if I am paying attention, I catch almost everything. If I am occupied with other things, we have more misses but since she wears her cloth diapers as backup, it doesn't bother me too much. I do EC based mainly on timing right now. As babies get older, they often start cueing when they have to go, first by body signals and later by signing or speaking.

So, here's how I do it:

1. Every time she wakes up from nap, I hold her over a receptacle and make the cueing sound ("pssssssss"). She usually pees and often poos as well.
2. Either before nursing, or after she eats on one side, I do the same thing.
3. At night, she is usually dry when she wakes up to nurse. I nurse her on one side, burp her, then potty her. She will go once she wakes up enough; sometimes I have to wait a few minutes because she is so sleepy.
4. If she all of a sudden starts fussing out of the blue, I will potty her.

That's it! It translates into pottying her twice per 3-hour nursing cycle during the day, and whenever I feed her at night. It takes perhaps a few extra minutes of my time, but I am changing diapers less often so it equals out.

She is starting to signal more clearly when she has to pee. Right before she pees, she gets really fussy and tense. Then as soon as she starts going, her whole body relaxes.

It's fun to see how well she responds the potty sound. My sisters joked that I could use this as a secret weapon: hand her over to someone I don't like and say "pssssssssss"!

Zari thinks this would be pretty funny, too.

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Then & Now

Pictures of Zari, side by side, at 5 days and 65 days (9 weeks 2 days) old. I measured the flag and tabs on the diapers to make sure the pictures were scaled correctly. I can't believe how much she has grown!

She has grown 4" and gained 4 or 5 pounds since she was born.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007


Holidays always wreak havoc on things like journal writing and blogging. I hosted my entire family for the past 9 days. That added up to 12 people in our house. Last Christmas we had my husband's family: 22 people (and there were still a few who couldn't come). When you have 7 kids, and those kids all marry early and start multiplying, it makes for a lot of people very quickly. Zari was the 12th grandchild on my husband's side, and his parents are just 52 and 56 years old!

We like to cook, and luckily my family is fairly adventuresome food-wise. For the final dinner before everyone left, my husband and I made:
  • Baguettes with 4 different toppings: goat cheese rolled in olives and pimentos, foie gras, caviar, and Camembert
  • Sushi (California rolls and fish egg rolls)
  • Mussels in butter & garlic sauce
  • Escargots on puff pastry with a mushroom, cream, and shallot sauce
  • Chocolate tart
Zari's smile switch activated about 3 days ago. We've seen smiles since she was born, but nothing interactive. Now she's grinning back at us all the time. Time to capture that smile on camera...

I've been expressing extra milk over the past day. A woman in our church had a neck injury and the doctor told her she couldn't breastfeed while taking her meds. She was frantic because she didn't want to put her baby on formula. Her mom called me to see if I had any extra breastmilk. I said I'd start collecting. It turns out that she won't need it; she double-checked with another doctor, and the medications are okay for breastfeeding, especially at the small levels she's taking. But I figured it won't hurt to have some extra milk stored away for other such emergency needs. I'd love to donate to adoptive moms or to moms having nursing difficulties.

Now, time for the fun stuff: more pictures!

Tub Party:
Zari and her cousins splashing around in our tub.

Thumb Sucker:

My sisters thought it would be funny to show Zari how to suck her thumb. I just hope she doesn't catch on...I have memories of trying to get my sisters to stop sucking their thumbs. We tried everything--hot pepper flavored nail polish included.

Her matching blanket and pajamas are hand-me-downs from different people.

Story Time:
Reading with her cousin and grandpa

Self Portrait:
Zari with one of her aunts (my youngest sister).

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