Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Sun, The Son and Other Confusing Conversations with Three Year Olds

At Mass on Sunday Patch was having a rare day with almost perfect behavior.  He was in the toddler carrier on my back, so he didn't have much opportunity for mischief, but I was still impressed.  

Usually no matter where he is during Mass he lets us know that he hasn't quite mastered being quiet for any length of time, regardless of efforts to impart that ability, and that he would really rather be outside running around.  

Not only was he mostly silent during Mass but he said "Bye Jesus!  Bye!" as we walked out the doors.  

I might have had to say "do not drink the holy water" after he insisted on being allowed to bless himself and made a quick sign before trying to drink the water off his fingers, but all in all a success compared to almost any other Sunday I can think of.  

He continued to surprise me this week at home.  

I found him clutching something tiny in his hand yesterday and when I asked him what it was and held out his hand for him to give it to me he said "Wait!  Wait!  Needs a kiss!  And then carefully kissed the minuscule miraculous medal bead that he'd found before handing it to me.  

Today as he cuddled with me on the couch he suddenly announced.  "Need go to Mass.  Need go to Church." while I nearly fell over (and when I asked him if it was okay if we waited until Sunday he said "Yes." happily).  

Then he began to squeal in delight as he saw a picture.  Now his little eyes are extremely good at spotting crucifixes and pictures of Jesus whenever he sees them, and he's been pointing them out more and more frequently, but this time when he shouted "Mommy look!  Jesus! I see Jesus!" and I looked at the television, which showed a picture of a vineyard with the sun above it. I was confused.

"I don't see him Patch."

"Mommy!  Jesus is the Son! The Son!  I see him!  The Son!"  

And that was when I realized that something had been lost in translation.  When I say "Jesus is the Son of God," Patch apparently thought Sun of God.  And there was a sun in the picture.  

So we talked a little bit about how Daddy is his Daddy and he is Daddy's son and when we say that it's a little different than we say the sun in the sky.  And he looked at me like I probably didn't know what I was talking about.  

Who knows though.  Apparently he's been listening more than I even dared hope.  

And it's a huge improvement from him yelling "Pizza!  Pizza!" when we pull into the parish parking lot (because there's a pizza parlor across the street.. which he's never been to, but that he knows is there because Maggie read him the sign when we were walking by...).  

I wonder what he'll let on that he knows next!  

Friday, February 26, 2016

20 hours of sleep and mermaids on the walls

It's 8 pm here in the Eastern Time Zone and Maggie has been asleep for about seven hours.

She kept saying "cheese" and then standing and waiting for me to take her picture this morning before taking her every-morning-mermaid-bath.
She came home sick from therapy today (they knew she was really, really sick when she put her lunch away... apparently lunch is a big deal for Maggie) and after insisting on laying down in Patch's pirate ship bed, she finally went to sleep in her own little mermaid cave.

It looks like this:

Every time I tuck her in she has me rehang the light blue mermaid sheet while singing "Under the Sea" from the Little Mermaid (the only part of the movie she likes).

I think the Under the Sea Bunk Bed Cave helped block out the light so that she could get some sleep since there are currently no curtains in that very bright bedroom (because someone likes to hang on curtain rods and bend/break them).

With any luck she'll get the 18-20 hours of sleep she seems to need when she's sick and hopefully wake up feeling better in the morning.

In other Maggie news, I got the take a quick trip to Labor and Delivery yesterday (Baby's fine.  I'm fine.  But I was sobbing.. Sobbing when the nurse at my OBs sent me in... and when I arrived.  Thankfully I do not have a kidney stone (which is what everyone was thinking, including me), and everything should be fine after a nice long course of thrice a day antibiotics, which are already making me feel like I can do something other than curl up in bed.  I was briefly afraid, because of the terrible back pain, that I was in labor.  But thankfully, no.) and when I came home Maggie had made me a picture.

On the wall.

In the dining room.

If you know Maggie's artwork you may have already noticed that there are three rather detailed mermaids in this picture, some waves, the water level of the ocean at the top and two carefully drawn M's, because she wanted everyone to know who the masterpiece belonged to.

When Patch saw me looking at it he ran over and said "It's okay Mommy!  Mermaids underwater!  In the ocean!" and then requested that I take a dozen pictures of him posing in front of the mermaids.

In other Maggie news, the last time we were leaving OT we stopped and looked at a sign on the way out that said "parking ramp."  I pointed to the word and Maggie said "pa-ing" followed by "P-A-R-K-I-N-P" (I guess lower case g's can look like p's) and then "R-A-M-P."

Now to steal a little sleep, just in case she does decide that it's morning at 1 am!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

One More Thing

Sometimes I think that we put ideals above people, almost to the point where one might wonder if we've made idols of them.  

I'm not talking about actual moral issues that affect a person's soul.  I'm talking about the choices that I spoke about in my last post, and others of a similar sort.

In the last few days I've read many comments, some compassionate and some... not so compassionate and apparently I haven't yet run out of words.

There are ideals that are rather commonly accepted, at least by many people, as the best choice.  We usually know what these choices are.  We often feel pressure both externally and internally to make these choices work.

And I think it's good to have goals and standards that we want to strive for in these situations.

I've had plenty of goals for what I thought motherhood would be like for me.  One was to breastfeed each of our kids.  Another that was hugely important to me for a time, was to have a natural birth.  One of those worked out really well for me.  The other didn't.

If I'm totally honest, one of the reasons that I felt compelled to write yesterday's post and to speak out when I hear the anti-formula nastiness, is because I've experienced that same nastiness (often times from people who are also virulent in their opposition to formula feeding) because I've delivered all of my children via c-sections.

Oddly enough I love reading articles about natural birth.  Everything having to do with pregnancy and childbirth is fascinating to me.  I am elated for my friends who have successfully had the birth experience of their dreams.

At the same time I've met those who, without knowing my medical history, or what the experience of my first birth was actually like, are willing to tell me that they know, without a doubt that my c-section was absolutely unnecessary and if I'd just opted for a homebirth it wouldn't have happened.

They don't know that I pushed without an epidural for five hours before I went in for the emergency c-section or that I'd injured my spine when I was in college and would later find out when I went to an orthopedic doctor while pregnant with James, that my pelvis was actually twisted from the back injury.

They don't know that a half dozen doctors, from my family doctor who read the report to the on call pediatrician, to the anesthesiologist, to my OB herself, explained that I was most definitely one of those women who would have died in child birth a century earlier and that Sadie would not have survived either.

People who talk about these ideals as absolutes, with no leeway regardless of situation, do damage both to the cause they're promoting and to the people that they're blindly speaking to.

Because having ideas and goals about non-moral issues are wonderful, but I think it can be really helpful to know when it's time to let those dreams go because reality has been stacked too high against a goal.

Earlier today I heard someone claim that of course breastfeeding is a moral choice, because all choices are moral choices to which I say, was it moral choice to decide to wear my favorite long sleeved shirt today instead of my favorite sweater?  I think not.  Was it a moral choice to let Sadie decide to wear her silver snow boots instead of her pink ones?  Not all choice involve moral absolutes and saying so isn't a sign of the moral relativism eating away at our culture.

We live in messy world and come equipped with human frailties.  Sometimes the ideal is, quite literally, impossible for us.  Sometimes we must accept that the best way for us, isn't the way that looks the prettiest or gains the most accolades from the cheering masses.  

If you have never experienced this sort of disappointment, you are very fortunate in this portion of life.  Try to have compassion for those who have experienced this sort of pain, and who have experienced the disapproval of others as a result of a choice they wished they hadn't had to make, instead of calling them "over sensitive" and telling them to grow a thicker skin.  

Empathy would be a step in the right direction, but if you can't manage empathy, if you can't imagine feeling that sort of disappointment and distress, at least attempt to be compassionate.  It's likely they will someday "grow a thicker skin" because our world requires it, but healing from the pain of some of these experiences takes time, especially when you're repeatedly told how very wrong you were when you made the only decision you felt that you could make.

If nothing else this messy business of motherhood has taught me that sometimes the ideals aren't ideal.  Sometimes they aren't the best for the individual.

Sometimes the best thing is the thing that saves a life (or two).  Sometimes it's the thing that stops a tiny baby from losing more weight that it can't afford to lose.

And while those choices aren't the dream that we start with, sometimes they're the reality that we end up with... and having a baby that is healthy and alive, when without these tools, that wouldn't have been possible is the greatest blessing that we could have been given.

Perhaps it would be better to remind us to give thanks to God that we live in a time when these things are possible, rather than suggesting that we should have tried harder to "do what was best."

Looking back I realize that I've found, over this last decade, that it was very seldom the things that went as planned that led me nearer to God.  So often, it has seemed, that God has taken those flaws in the messy, imperfect world that we live in, and used them for my benefit in ways that I never could have imagined.  

Breastfeeding, as I've said, has been pretty easy for me.  It isn't particularly sanctifying.  Having major abdominal surgery every couple years on the other hand is a far greater test of my endurance and sometimes even faith.  For it's often in suffering that God helps us to see how small we are and draws us to himself.

Instead of criticizing others for hardships that aren't our own and that we often can't imagine, let's lift one another up, offering help when it can be given, but also understanding that sometimes what is best for our neighbor is not the good that we wish that we could thrust upon them.  Even if we think it would be for their own good.

God works so often through our brokenness and imperfection in drawing up to Himself.  Let's help one another along instead of talking about how the choices that we made were better, without ever knowing the hardship that can come when walking down a path that isn't our own.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Parenting Decisions as Moral Choices and Other Ridiculous Ideas

During the first eighteen months of Sadie's life, she hardly slept for more than sixty minutes at a time.

As a result, those months, and especially the first few months after her birth, are something of a blur.

Yet there's one memory that has stood out through the last seven and a half years because it was so very odd.

I was standing in the aisle in Target that has feeding supplies, staring at the bottles on the shelf.  Sadie was in her baby carrier, strapped securely to my chest, and I was bouncing her up and down and pushing the pacifier that I'd finally broken down and given her back into her mouth.

That little pacifier was a turning point for me.  It marked the beginning of the end of knowing everything that there was to know about parenting choices (Annie wrote a great piece today about this very subject).

You see, before Sadie was born, I knew that I was never, ever going to give my baby a pacifier.  I'd read the all the books and new all about the evils of the binkie.

I shook my head adamantly when nurses, and even lactation consultants, suggested that she was the kind of baby that needed a pacifier and that I needed to give her one if I was ever going to sleep.

When she was four weeks old I finally broke down and began to wonder if maybe the people who had suggested giving her a pacifier weren't just agents of some binkie selling conspiracy.
After seven hours of nursing and spitting up and screaming any time she wasn't eating I broke down and admitted that a pacifier might help.  And it did.

So the pacifier was important, not only because it bought me brief moments of rest so that I didn't fall asleep while I was on my feet, or driving to the grocery store, but also because I began to realize that parenting choices aren't quite as black and white as they seemed when I was reading those books without actually ever having changed a diaper.

Back to that aisle though, on that mid summer afternoon in 2008.  I was standing, staring at the rows of bottles and had just picked one up when a voice off to my right startled me.  A woman was standing there and she had just asked me what I was doing and why I was buying those bottles.

She was, she explained, from the local La Leche league and could help me breastfeed.

"Oh no," I explained, caught of guard enough to offer her information she had no right to, "I'm nursing."  And I continued to explain that we lived in a remote area and it took an hour and a half to get to the store to do our shopping and we were going to a family reunion, that would mean an entire day in the car driving, and I wanted to have a bottle of expressed milk on hand, because we couldn't stop every five minutes or we'd never get anywhere.  I had a pump, but no bottles.

She looked at me doubtfully and told me I was buying the wrong bottles.

The oddness of that moment has come to mind now and then over the last few years, and last night I remembered it as I read Simcha's excellent response to Greg Popcak's latest post, where he agrees with a "moral developmental psychologist" who claims that breastfeeding is far more than a choice, but is in fact a moral obligation.

Here we go, I thought as I read his post.  And then I couldn't help but think that he'd finally come out and said what some who engage in "Mommy War" style debates seem to have believed all along: that parenting choices are actually moral matters with solutions that are either right or wrong (just writing that makes me sigh...).

Breastfeeding or formula feeding (or a mix of both)? Cosleeping or crib sleeping? Pacifiers?  Babywearing? Cloth diapers?

There are people who will tell you that the answers they've discerned to these questions aren't choices at all but that they are basically moral imperatives.  And often times breastfeeding stands at the very top of the list of questions that somehow assume moral authority.

Which is ridiculous because they aren't moral choices.  And acting as if a family making this decision is making it because it's the "easier thing to do" is ridiculous.  

If there's one thing that the last seven and a half years have taught me it's that the choices that we've made as parents have seldom had anything to do with doing the "easy" thing and everything to do with doing what's right for the individual child and for our family as a whole.

Because raising children is hard, even when you make the best decision.  But sometimes the best decision is a little easier, because you're doing what's best.  Not always, but sometimes.

Sometimes, for us, that's been crib sleeping.  Sometimes it's been cosleeping.  For some babies it's involved a binkie and other babies have been furious at the suggestion of a binkie.

Some of our kids have wanted to be worn constantly and others definitely wanted to be down and let us know they wanted their own space.

These simply aren't decisions that are right or wrong in the general sense.  They were conclusions that we came to, after weighing our specific situation and our children's individual personalities, and deciding what was right for that particular child.

To be honest I find myself marveling at the hard work that my friends put in who have decided that formula feeding is best for their children and families (and also for those who pump.  All of you in both groups are seriously rock stars!  And of course nursing moms too.  Because feeding babies can be hard, however you do it!).

Because the work they put into buying formula and prepping bottles is far more intensive than anything I do when I'm nursing, which is generally the time when I get to a) sit down and b) glance at social media or catch up on blog reading.

Which brings me to another little secret.  One of my favorite things about nursing is that, for me, 99% of the time (with the exception of the first month the first time) it has been easy.  And that, along with other considerations, is part of what made it the best choice for our family.

So when I see other moms putting in way more work to nourish their babies I think of how amazing and awesome they are... because it doesn't look easy at all.  It looks like they love their kids and are doing what's best to feed that kid.

Our passion for a particular choice is not the measure of whether that choice is something that is simply preference, a personal decision for an individual or a moral matter.

Instead of shaming women for making a decision that is very often incredibly difficult and incredibly personal, let's recognize the sacrifices that often go into making those very difficult decisions.

Don't be that woman in Target (either online or in real life), walking up to a brand new mom and demanding to know her reasons for being in the bottle aisle.

She had no idea why I was there or what struggles I'd gone through that had brought me to that moment.  There was a fair chance that I had been standing there because I hadn't been able to nurse and that I was making the very difficult decision to give up what had been a dream of doing things the way 100 different baby books told me that they needed to be done.

There are enough pressing moral matters in this world without inventing new ones.

There's a difference between offering support to someone who's struggling and crossing over the line into wildly inappropriate pressuring and even shaming over a matter or personal choice.

Let's not presume to know the motivation for another family's chosen method of feeding their child, and let's give this tired old debate a rest.

It's more than time and resurrecting it as a moral issue is ridiculous.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Her Day Draws Near

If you've been reading this blog for long you may recall that Sadie has been anxiously waiting for her first communion for a very, very long time now.  More than half of her life now.

For those who haven't been reading for so long I'll give you a quick recap.  

Sadie desperately began trying to receive when she was three.  She'd file forward at communion with us, and clasp her hands in front of her and kneel beside me and extend her tongue and look hopefully at the priest.  She was especially hopeful when we were traveling and weren't at a parish where the priest recognized her.  

Many times I put my hand in front of that hopeful little mouth and shook my head no to indicate that our very tall her girl had not already had her first communion.  

When she was still a preschooler I explained that when it was time for her first communion it would be a very special day and she'd get to wear a white dress and a veil.  Three year old Sadie immediately began requesting white dresses and asking to wear one of my white veils to Mass.

Sometime before she turned five she began to understand that she really was going to have to wait.  

She's seven now and the waiting is nearly through.  She surprises me every week in religion class when she correctly answers questions that I'm almost certain we've never talked about.  

Religion class is at home.  We were actually planning on having her take our parish's class to meet more children at our parish, but the class is only offered online now, and is even the same program we used for the religion portion of her school classes, so nothing has changed this year (although there is a Little Flower's program, which she loves, that's giving her the opportunity to meet kids from our parish).

And she is ready... so ready!

Her First Communion is still a few months off, but yesterday her dress and veil and tights arrived. 

 We'd ordered them from Zulily (that is an affiliate link) and while we've never had a bad experience  while ordering from them, I was still pleasantly surprised by the quality of the dress, which is amazing and beautiful and of a quality that reminds me more of wedding dresses than any child's dress I've seen before.    

Here are a few pictures, in our newly snow free front yard, that I snapped this morning. 

She is so excited! 

And as I scroll through these I can't help but ask where the last four years have gone!

Because this feels like it was only about five minutes ago!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The CDC, Women, and the Advice Everyone is Talking About

As I wrote this post I realized that, sadly enough, it should probably begin with a disclaimer.  Part of this recent CDC campaign against women drinking any amount of alcohol, involves suggesting that alcohol is the (or a) cause for hyperactivity in children.  As I'm about to argue against the recent statement, which has been making waves, I should probably begin by saying that I don't drink when I'm pregnant.  Or when I might be pregnant.  And as I'll delve into later in this post, I tend to have a pretty good idea pretty early in the process.  

If you've been around this blog for a while you may know that I tend to fall into the super-careful end of the things-people-do-while-pregnant spectrum.  Unpasteurized cheese, raw seafood and unheated lunch meat aren't on the menu these days.  After I had my miscarriage in the second trimester following food poisoning, I became hyper-vigilant about any and all things that could go wrong.  

I thought I should start with that though, since I do have two kids who are hyperactive, and since that was one of the CDC's angles.  

I'm not writing this because I love my liquor and don't want to put down the wine glass while I'm growing this baby.  I'm not a big drinker.  I probably have around 12 glasses of wine a year when I'm not pregnant, spread out around the calendar.  It's not that big a change to not drink when I'm pregnant.  

Even so though, I was bothered by this weeks CDC headlines.  

A few days ago the internet erupted in a storm of criticism over a statement the CDC made  that women of child bearing age should either be on a form of birth control or avoid alcohol altogether (see the infographic here).

This can hardly be surprising in a culture that often seems to view the female reproductive cycle as a complete mystery.  Myths about the female body and how it works are far more common than knowledge of basic bodily functions, so I guess I can't be shocked that the CDC feels the need to make blanket statements that are more than a little overenthusiastic in their scope.

Over the years I've been met with various levels of shock that I can identify on the calendar when I ovulated and how far along I am in a pregnancy, even though that information has never matched up with where I should be based on my LMP date.

This was never more apparent than it was with this pregnancy (although my OB is great about listening and believing me when I say the dates are different).  I knew that I ovulated on the 52nd day of my last cycle.  That meant that at the first appointment, as I sat in the office, I was 5 weeks pregnant, not, as the chart insisted, 10 1/2 weeks pregnant.

That's quite a difference.  Two ultrasounds, one at five weeks and one a few weeks later, confirmed that my dates were accurate down to the day.

Still at every appointment the LMP date at the top of my chart throws everyone off.

This is where I think a little information could go a long way.  If we could strip away a little bit of the mystery of the female reproductive cycle, so that the vast majority of women understood that they can't get pregnant every. single. day. of the month, we'd be taking a step in the right direction.  Understanding our bodies can help women who might not otherwise have a clue about what's going on, decide that maybe over indulging tonight, isn't the right choice

 In this article the CDC tells us that most women do not realize that they are pregnant until somewhere between four and six weeks into the pregnancy.

Babies usually implant somewhere between days 9-11 (although it can happen as early as 7 days after conception or as late as 12 days).  That would mean that, using gestational age, babies usually implant around the fourth week of pregnancy, around when a woman might realize her period was supposed to start in a 28 day cycle if you were using old rhythm method.

So if you have a drink one day or even one week after conceiving, it's unlikely baby has even implanted and tapped into your nutrients.

And that got me thinking.  With my five previous pregnancies I began to suspect something was up days before implantation was supposed to occur.  Ten days before my period was expected could I really be experiencing the symptoms that I thought I was experiencing?  Why was nursing already excruciating, which is only the case when I'm pregnant?  And the nausea?  How can that happen before implantation?

How could I be fairly sure that I was pregnant, when supposedly from everything I'd been told, it was impossible to tell.  Some people said that it was just progesterone levels rising, as they do at the end of any cycle, but that didn't explain why pregnancy after pregnancy I could tell the difference between a non-pregnant cycle and a pregnant cycle.

A study from the NIH suggests that it is possible.  EPF (early pregnancy factor) is an immunosuppresive substance that the body releases 48 hours after fertilization.  I can't find any studies on the effect of EPF on the body (sadly the main purpose of identifying it at the moment seems to be to see how it could be used to identify pregnancies for early termination...), but it brings up the possibility that when a women thinks she might be having pregnancy symptoms before they should even be possible, she really might be experiencing something beyond PMS.

Which is a round about way of saying that, like our cycles, whether or not we're pregnant isn't always the mystery that it's made out to be.  I've spent too much time talking to women who are very aware of their cycles and the possibility that they could be pregnant, or are not pregnant, to buy into the idea that we can't have an idea of what's going on with our bodies at any given time.

For it to work, we need to pay attention.  Women need basic information about how their bodies function, which is sadly lacking for many.

I think that's what bothers me the most about the CDC announcement.  It underestimates women, and men, on so many levels.

It seems to imagine women across the country, of child bearing age, as binge drinkers, unable to decide for themselves if they might have done something that could result in the birth of a child in the not so far off future.

It also imagines that only women who aren't taking contraceptives can become pregnant, which as most adults know, simply isn't the case.  Contraception fails far more often than most people would like to admit.  But talking about the real world failure rates of contraceptives isn't as popular (even if they are rather dramatic).

I'm not going to delve into the choice of drinking an occasional alcoholic beverage while pregnant.  This article by Forbes has some interesting information against drinking even a drop.  I tend to think that an occasional drink during pregnancy isn't damaging, as it's portrayed in the US healthcare system, since drinking some alcohol during pregnancy was not uncommon during most of human history, and since it is still common in much of the world.

And with virtually no actual data on the effects of a single drink, I'l leave it to other women to decide on the level of risk that they feel exists.

Still, if the CDC is ready to tell women that we need to completely step away from having a single sip of alcohol, even if we aren't pregnant, than I think they might want to take a look at this study in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

In this study it was found that a woman's drinking may not be the only thing that affects a pregnancy.  The study showed that men and women who had ten or more drinks a week, while trying to conceive, were between two and five times more likely to have a pregnancy end in miscarriage.  This was the case in the study even when only the men were the ones drinking.

And since it's long seemed as though a single drink and twenty drinks were indistinguishable to many in the hallowed halls that issue decrees on what should and shouldn't be done, then perhaps men of childbearing age should abstain as well?  No?  Too ridiculous?

Or perhaps it shows us how ridiculous this entire thing is?

If the last few weeks of Zika and overbearing CDC statements have taught us anything, it's that women bear the brunt of instruction on what we should and shouldn't be allowed to do with our bodies, generally from groups who crow about bodily autonomy when it comes to matters of life and death.

I have a feeling that this has far more to do with the pushing of contraceptives on those few remaining who don't use them, amping up the pressure to do the "responsible thing" rather than on actual scientific data, which is rather lacking in this area.

On this one I think I'll have to trust individual women's judgement over the CDC's dire warnings.  Most women these days are on a form of birth control.  Most who aren't have an idea of what might happen if they have sex.  And women of all ages generally have an idea of what it means when their period is late if they aren't on some form of contraception.

 In fact, with the numbers of failures and women who don't have regular cycles on birth control, I'd be surprised if the numbers the CDC is throwing around doesn't have something to do with the fact that a woman on the pill (or some other form of birth control) might not realize she's pregnant and might keep drinking for far longer than a woman who isn't contracepting, and who is expecting a period sometime in the near future.  Just a thought.

Advertising the "perk" of not having a period is awfully fashionable these days.  And when contraception fails (as the above study I linked shows is very likely to happen over a ten year period with actual use), not everyone is willing to have an abortion (thank heavens).

With actual use failures being what they are, maybe the CDC's next step should be to look at how many babies whose moms were drinking heavily who thought that they couldn't conceive when they did, because they were taking a pill, or popped in a ring, or had an iud.

That would shine the light in a place they don't want us looking though.  It's easier to blame those who aren't marching in lock step to their tune, of being the problem, than it is to realize that the solutions they're proposing don't make all that much sense.

Throwing pills at people (or better yet!  An IUD that a woman can't discontinue using on her own!) is easier though, than finding actual solutions, whether those solutions include eliminating standing water or taking a closer look at the science behind how much alcohol actually causes disabilities like FAS in children.

Why would we need data though?  Over reaching government scare tactics are easier.  It only takes an afternoon to come up with an infographic.  Answers supported by research are obviously harder to come by.

Besides answers like that, the kind supported by data and statistics, are tricky things.  They might not support what the population control agenda of the moment wants us to hear.  And sometimes the message is more important to the people handing out decrees, than the truth.  

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Should I Fast While Pregnant or Nursing during Lent?

I first wrote this post in 2011 and while I would change parts of it if I were writing it today (I'm definitely more aware of how difficult it is to give up meat when you have other major dietary restrictions), it's a topic that I still see come up every year around this time and I thought it would be the perfect time to repost it.  And while I don't stress it in this post because I was so focused on nursing when I wrote it, the same definitely also goes for those of us who are pregnant during this Lenten season.  When you're body is nourishing others it's not a great idea to deprive it of nutrients.
  Every year I see the question come up on the Catholic forums. Are nursing and/or pregnant mothers excused from the fast? There is always immediately a flurry of responses. For the most part they are filled with common sense. But then the encouragement starts... as in "I'm nursing and I'm fasting and I still have a ton of milk. You should do it too." These answers worry me (more on that below). Anyways here is the formal answer to whether or not we're required to fast, which will be followed by my own experience with the matter:
"Those who are excused from fast or abstinence Besides those outside the age limits, those of unsound mind, the sick, the frail, pregnant or nursing women according to need for meat or nourishment, manual laborers according to need, guests at a meal who cannot excuse themselves without giving great offense or causing enmity and other situations of moral or physical impossibility to observe the penitential discipline."

From EWTN's Fasting and Abstinence
Now many of us can give up meat. I know that, as I design my food schedule on a budget, we have plenty of days that, unintentionally, don't include meat. And since eggs and dairy products are allowed, it's pretty easy to get adequate protein in other ways (we tried Greek Yogurt recently, I believe it was Yoplait, and it had something like 13 g of protein! It's hard to beat that in anything! And for those worried about health it has 0g of fat! And it was tasty!).

Fasting, however, is an entirely different thing. And the mentality that many of us can fall into can be dangerous. We may think "well she's only nursing x number of time a day... How much can one day of fasting in a week (two during this first week) really affect my milk supply." For some, rare women, it may not be much. But for many of us, the result would be dramatic.

When Sadie was almost one I thought I'd be okay "cutting back" on Ash Wednesday. She was eating a lot of baby foods and while she still nursed quite a bit I didn't think that one day would really affect my milk supply all that much. Besides, I told myself, I would still eat two small meals and one big meal. I wouldn't be doing the whole bread and water thing. Really the main difference was that I was cutting out snacks.

I was fine all day and so was my milk supply. Then it was bedtime and I was faced with a very hungry baby. And suddenly it was gone. I had no milk. And I had a baby who lay next to be and sobbed herself to sleep.

It took over a day for my milk supply to return to normal. And in that time I had a miserable, hungry, cranky baby and a dribbling supply of milk that slowly returned as I ate.

You may be able to nurse and fast. But there's a good chance you may not. And why would anyone want to risk finding out? I think we can all agree that the babe in our arms isn't included in the fast.

Sure, some little bit of pride in the back of my head tells me I can fast every single year. After all, I'm only nursing... well let's see... six.... or seven times a day... and Maggie gets a lot of her food from baby food these days... I tell that tiny thought to be quiet. It's not what's best for my baby. And that is the important thing.

There's very likely plenty of time in the future for fasting. For now, if you're a nursing mom, accept your exemption and know that sometimes it's harder not to fast when everyone else is fasting and you'd really like to join them (aren't we an odd bunch! Really, wanting to fast?).

Besides, there are many of substitutes we can make. Give up the internet (okay, I'm not doing this, but I've heard of brave souls who do!). Or your cell phone (that would be easy for me... I'm always forgetting mine. I haven't seen it in two weeks although I suspect it's dead at the bottom of my diaper bag). Or television! There are lots of sacrifices we can make that don't affect the well-being of our children.

Just pick something that has become a distraction in your life and see how the next forty days go without it!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Maggie's Words

Maggie has been going through a phase where she's all about labeling things.  "Giraffe, elephant, panda, lion, monkey" she says, pointing to each animal on a certain pop up toy that she loves.  "Animal boat!" she tells me as she sneaks by me with it and flings it into the bathtub.

"Purple, blue, blue green, green yellow, orange, red, pink!" she sings, pointing to each color on the xylophone and pausing until I repeat each word that she's said back to her.

For a while she was trying to convince me that the letter B was actually a P.

She's known her letters for at least a year now.  Her list of sight words that she can read is impressive.  But I wasn't totally surprised by the insistence.

Now and then she'll insist on something like one letter being a different letter, or on a strawberry being called ice cream, often with a small smile playing at the corner of her lips.

Can I trick mom?  Does she know that this is actually a B?

Yesterday while all the kids were playing in the boys' room, she brought me a small block and pointed to it.

"P for Patch!" She said.

I glanced over, half expecting to see a B.  Instead it was actually the letter P.  Maybe I've finally convinced her that I know my letters.

"P is for Patch," I responded.

"P for Patch.  P for princess. P for pretty.  P for pretty.  P for pretty.  P for pouf.  P for poo.  P for pee." she looked at me slyly and giggled, as if gauging my reaction to the words she'd chosen.  "P for pretty. P for Patch.  P for su-Per." As she said the last word she reached around and picked up Patch's super hero doll, tapping it on the chest.

As I got her bed ready for her to sleep in it last night, carefully hanging a blue sheet from the top bunk so that she can pretend she's under water, she used her words to make one last request.  "Under sea?"  she said as she got ready to get in bed.  "Under sea?'

It was a request for her favorite bedtime song, the only song from the Little Mermaid she ever wants to hear and I obliged with my off key rendition before telling her goodnight.

It was a day of words and I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.