Mother’s Day 2013

What? It’s July, you say?

Behold, real life photos. In which no child is truly happy.

I hope you enjoy these. I do.

253269_10101463511389350_989533621_n

969048_10101463509473190_328634843_n

Lion matched his uncle without trying. (His uncle did not have matching ducky slippers, however.)

182202_10101463691213980_783440762_n

923300_10101463691293820_911760204_n

Notice the tongue sticking out.

972010_10101463691363680_1744210163_n

This was our attempt at a nice photo to send to grandad of his boys…

941246_10101463691498410_2059806044_n

969978_10101463691448510_1570870782_n

923299_10101463691528350_559323760_n

270978_10101463522811460_1112853204_n

Advertisements

How to Calm a Crying Baby, Part Two

calmbaby2

So, as promised in Part One, here are some of my trade secrets with video demonstrations. It’s times like this I really wish I had Google Glass. These are kind of embarassingly bad. Maybe someday I’ll be able to record these in a higher quality! With lighting! and makeup! and more than two takes! and better camera angles!

Well, hopefully you’ll get the idea.

Trade Secret #0—Start clean.

Start with a baby who’s been fed, burped, and changed in the last 15-30 minutes.

Trade Secret #1—the Head Jiggle.

There are 3 ways I jiggle baby’s heads. NEVER SHAKE A BABY! When jiggling your baby’s head, always make sure that the head and neck are supported. You want a gentle head bobble to relax the baby. This isn’t a shake that’s going to sever their spinal cord.

Here are the first two methods:

Another head-jiggle method:

Trade Secret #2—How to Rock a Baby to Sleep

I don’t rock my kids to sleep every night because I don’t want to HAVE to rock my kids to sleep at night. You follow me? But when my baby is overtired and can’t settle down, I rock him and he falls asleep. Here are my tricks to rocking a baby to calm him or lull him to sleep:

  1. Hold the baby close, chest to chest. Swaddling is optional; I recommend it. (You can watch a few different ways to swaddle hereherehere, and here.)
  2. Sway from side to side while bouncing the baby.
  3. Shush the baby (Shhhh, shhh, shhh). Added benefit? It reminds you to breathe and calms you down, too.
  4. Rock him from light to shadow (rock with your back to the light). This causes the baby’s eyes to open and close more frequently and eventually roll back as they fall asleep.

Here’s the video. Again, poor quality, but you can see Lion fussing and then begin to fall asleep.

Trade Secret #3—Baby Massage

I’m not making videos about this, because there are already good videos online about them. Baby massage is great for calming fussy babies, especially if the fussiness is due to gas or colic.

This video playlist demonstrates the more common anti-colic massage techniques.

For just calming the baby, I do one of two things:

  • Rubbing or stroking the sides of the face with the sides of my thumbs. I go from the outer corner of the eye to the ear or above and around the ear. I also Shush while doing it and bring my forehead close to the baby’s. I learned this trick from a woman who works with Alzheimer sufferers.
  • Rubbing the legs just above the knees. I’m not sure why this is soothing or where I heard about it, but it works!

I use those massages on my toddler, too, when he gets worked up about something.

A colicky baby of a friend of mine greatly improves with chiropractic adjustments. I don’t suggest you try that at home, though, unless you’re a licensed chiropractor.

Trade Secret #4—Spend time with your kids

The more time you spend with your kids, the more you’ll experiment and find out what works for each baby. Captain has been holding our boys a certain way for years, and apparently it actually has a name—the “Tiger in the Tree technique.”

I frequently have one leg up on a chair or couch (half cross-legged), lay Lion in my lap, and bounce my knee. DIY bounce chair.

When Lion is really losing it (usually around the bewitching hour of 11 o’clock), I swaddle him, do head jiggle method #3, and sing “Young and Beautiful” to him. It is the ONLY thing that will stop his crying and settle him down. With one of my friends, it was Colbie Caillat on repeat. For Champ, I think I played Jack Johnson’s In Between Dreams album.

I think that’s it! If I can think of any other secrets, I’ll add them here. Any other moms have input on secrets they’d like to share?

How to Calm a Crying Baby, Part One

So, you’ve got a crying baby on your hands. Look no further! A baby, just like you, has a hierarchy of needs. When troubleshooting a baby’s crying, start at the most basic needs and move from there. To illustrate, I created a graphic for you—one that I’d love you to share on Facebook or Pinterest, hint, hint!

hierarchy of needs-01

Physiological Needs

Is he hungry?

I usually start with this one, but that’s only because it’s easiest to rule out since my son will NOT eat if he’s not hungry. You can’t make him. Only two months old, and already stubborn. (I think he got a bigger dose of my Irishness than Champ did.)

It’s pretty easy to tell if a baby is hungry, especially breastfed babies. Breastfed babies start hunting for breasts. It’s pretty obvious, and also hilarious when they start snorting like little piggies looking for truffles. Another way you can tell if a baby is hungry is if he opens up his mouth and sticks out his tongue, like he’s tasting the air, or if he’s “going to town” on his pacifier as though he is trying to get milk out of it.

Does she want to nurse or suckle at a pacifier?

I know, I know. I used the word “suckle.” Sucking is a physiological need for babies. Some want to nurse for comfort, and others want a pacifier. Some go for fingers or their fists. And then there are those remarkably acrobatic infants who suck on their own toes.

Does he need to be burped?

Bottle-fed babies need to be burped more often than breastfed ones. I often don’t have to burp Lion at all, but if he starts to stiffen his little body and stretch out his legs and arch his back, I know he needs to be burped and/or given a tummy massage to work out the bubbles. My favorite method with Lion is holding him upright (he has good head and neck control), putting his feet on a surface, holding him around his torso just under the arms, and then pulling him down into a squat. His knees go up to his tummy, and this works the bubbles out. You can do bicycle movements with his/her legs, too, if your baby prefers lying down or doesn’t have head control yet.

Does he need to be changed?

This isn’t just about diaper changes, though that’s the big reason babies cry. Some babies also cry if they are too hot, too cold, if the fabric is itchy, or if there’s a loose thread or hair wrapped around them under their clothes. Undressing a baby can also distract him enough that he will forget why he was crying in the first place.

Is she tired?

The problem with tired babies is that by the time they start crying, they are already overtired. (Like when you start to feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated.) You have to try to catch them and get them to sleep when they start showing signs of tiredness, like rubbing their eyes, turning away from lights or sounds, or getting heavy-lidded. If you can do BabyWise, go for it!

Note: Babies need sleep more than the other things above them on the hierarchy pyramid, but if they are overtired, they will probably need to feel secure or be distracted before they can settle down and fall asleep.

Recreating the Womb

Does she need some security?

Newborns can easily overstimulate themselves or wake themselves up by their randomly flailing limbs. You know when you are just about to fall asleep, and you get that sensation of falling, and it scares the crap out of you (and anyone sharing your bed) because all of a sudden your whole body spazzes out? I’m pretty sure that newborns feel like that all. the. time. So feel sorry for them, and be sure to wrangle their wild appendages into submission if they are trying to fall asleep but can’t. Lion always wants, no—needs—to be swaddled at night at around 8pm. If your baby doesn’t like being swaddled, you can hold her closely instead, but know that as soon as you put her down, she will probably wake herself up again until she has control over her arms and legs. I suggest a monster swaddle, because just because a baby can easily get out of a tight swaddle, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t like being swaddled. It might mean that you just need to try a different approach to swaddling. You can watch a few different ways to swaddle hereherehere, and here.

You can also give your baby security by wearing her in a baby carrier. If the baby is especially fussy, try going skin to skin, and let your baby rest her head on your chest so she can hear your heartbeat.

Does he crave rhythmic movement?

When the baby is in the womb, he is constantly moving in response of his mother’s movements. Put a baby in the arms of a veteran mom, and he will almost immediately start swaying back and forth. (Lots of moms will, when they hear or see a baby crying, start unconsciously swaying back and forth if they are already standing.) Babies like to be swayed and rocked, bounced or swung. Swings and vibrating bouncy chairs can be a lifesaver if you or your arms need a rest. A ride in the car or stroller can also help lull a fussy baby.

NEVER SHAKE A BABY. That should go without saying. However, if you support the baby’s head, you can gently, GENTLY wiggle him to settle her down. Nothing that would snap his neck, obviously. You can try laying him on his back, putting your hand on his tummy, and shaking your hand to make him vibrate. His head and neck are supported by whatever he’s lying on, so it’s safe.

Does she want white noise to soothe her?

If you’ve ever heard “womb noises” or listened to an ultrasound taking place, you can hear the whoosh whooshing of the mom’s blood circulating. It’s probably unnerving for a baby to go from constant noise in the womb to relative silence after birth. On the other hand, babies can also be overstimulated by too much noise. White noise works well in either situation. Shushing the baby—holding her close and going “Shhhhh, shhhhhh” at a medium volume can help settle her down. If that doesn’t work, try other white noise, like a fan, a blowdryer, or a vacuum. You can try music, but to avoid overstimulation, stick to something calming and peaceful. Be wary of classical music, because it often is highly emotional. I stopped playing classical music for Champ at bedtime when he woke up in a panic to “Ride of the Valkyries.”

Distractions

Newborns usually don’t get bored like older babies; they tend to get overstimulated. But distractions, in moderation, can help a baby forget why he or she is crying and then be more responsive to the other methods of soothing.

Babies LOVE lights. Take the baby by something bright—a window, a lamp, a mirror—and she might be distracted enough to stop crying. This works best before the fussiness evolves into full-blown crying. The same goes for toys.

A change of scenery is a gentle way of shocking the baby into forgetting what the fuss was about. I can’t tell you how often I took baby Champ out onto our screened porch and swung in the hammock with him to settle him down. Babies love fresh air. A walk or drive has the added bonus of rhythmic movements.

Singing is also a good distraction, even if you don’t have a very good singing voice. Babies especially love it when MEN sing or speak to them while holding them close because of the vibrations of the Adam’s Apple.

To Be Continued…

I have a couple other tips that I’ve found to be really effective in calming my own (and other) babies, but I can’t find videos to illustrate them, so I’m going to have to make my own. Aaaand it’s the Fourth of July weekend, so I’m not sure when I’ll be able to make and upload the videos. So subscribe to my blog, or like my page on Facebook so you can be alerted when I finally get that posted.

UPDATE: Read Part Two here.

Warning: Attachment Parenting may lead to emotional breakdown

Warning: Attachment Parenting may lead to emotional breakdown | diary of a bewildered mother

What is attachment parenting?

Oh how I hate labels. They start out innocently enough, but then you involve people, and then those people apply that label to so many different things, it ends up becoming either an extreme caricature or becomes completely meaningless. Take “attachment parenting,” for example, or AP for short.

From the Ask Dr. Sears website:

Attachment parenting is a style of caring for your infant that brings out the best in the baby and the best in the parents.

Well, how can you disagree with that? So, either you adhere to attachment parenting, or you are a terrible parent and your baby will be incredibly screwed up. But if you take attachment parenting to the extreme, indulging your child and becoming a wishy-washy parent…you are a terrible parent and your baby will be incredibly screwed up.

Attachment parenting starts with the idea of being attentive to your child. That’s all that it should be. That’s what it’s supposed to be. But many people, out of confusion, or oversimplification, or fear, or something else, think that attachment parenting is 1) breastfeeding, 2) carrying your baby around all the time, 3) never, ever, ever letting your child cry. Ever.

Here’s what Dr. Sears’ website says, emphasis mine:

Attachment parenting is not indulgent parenting. You may hear or worry that being nurturing and responsive to your baby’s needs might spoil your baby and set you up for being manipulated by your baby. This is why we stress that attachment parenting is responding appropriately to your baby’s needs, which means knowing when to say “yes” and when to say “no.” Sometimes in their zeal to give children everything they need, it’s easy for parents to give their children everything they want.

Attachment parenting is a question of balance—not being indulgent or permissive, yet being attentive. As you and your baby grow together, you will develop the right balance between attentive, but not indulgent. In fact, being possessive, or a “smother mother” (or father) is unfair to the child, fosters an inappropriate dependency on the parent, and hinders your child from becoming normally independent. For example, you don’t need to respond to the cries of a seven-month-old baby as quickly as you would a seven-day-old baby.

Note that in order to respond to a child’s cries, that implies the baby started crying in the first place.

Crying isn’t evil, or even bad.

This can be looked at two ways. One, babies cry, and babies should cry. It’s how they communicate with their parents. To think that crying is evil is to think that writing or speaking any language is evil. Two, allowing your child to cry for a few minutes does not make you a bad person.

Like many other new mothers, when I was pregnant with Champ, I read a lot of blogs and had been convinced that no-cry parenting is the way to go. How could a loving mother let her child cry? How could a good person ignore the cries of a helpless baby? The more a baby cries, the more insecure he becomes, and the more he will end up crying in the future! It’s a vicious cycle!

In a perfect world, babies wouldn’t cry, because we’d understand immediately what they wanted. They’d be talking straight from the womb and using “please” and “may I” and “thank you very much.”

Sometimes babies just cry. Now there’s even a term for it—PURPLE Crying.

Sometimes, you can’t respond to them right away.

Sometimes, you need a break.

I always try to think historically when I parent. Did you know that pacifiers (aka “dummies”) have been around for centuries? I try to think of how moms soothed their children before they had swings and car rides and white noise machines. I constantly remind myself that babies used to be raised by “the village”—it’s really unusual for one woman to take care of a baby. Historically, women raised children with the help of family members, neighbors, or nannies (or, yes, slaves). Personally, I don’t think it’s natural for a woman to be home alone with her children, and yet here I am, a stay-at-home mom. Just last year I was a military wife thousands of miles away from any family members.

All of this is to say, sometimes, we have to make sacrifices. Sometimes, you need to put your baby down (in a safe place, like a bassinet or crib) so you can pee, or shower, or just have a minute to yourself. And chances are, some of those times, your baby will cry. During those times, just take a deep breath, finish what needs to be finished, and then go back to your baby a little more refreshed, and comfort her. The baby won’t care that she cried—what she will care about is that you comforted her after the fact.

the emotional breakdown

As a new parent, and especially as a breastfeeding mom, I was terrified to give Champ a pacifier. I feared “nipple confusion.” I thought of those three-year-olds who still have their Nuks hanging out of their mouths and shuddered. So I didn’t give him one. I was his pacifier. And that actually led to a ton of problems. One, no one else could comfort him, ever. So I couldn’t go anywhere without him, and I never got a break without condemning him to be inconsolable and whoever was taking care of him to be miserable. Two, constant nursing caused milk overproduction, which led to him getting too much milk, which led to reflux, which led to more crying, which led to burping and massaging and cuddling and throwing up and then nursing some more. Three, he wouldn’t take a pacifier or a bottle.

So here we are, a family of three, driving from North Carolina to Georgia for Thanksgiving weekend. It was supposed to be an 8-hour drive. It ended up taking us 16 hours. Champ would. not. stop. screaming. He wouldn’t take a pacifier. He wouldn’t drink out of a bottle. He would only be happy being held and being nursed.

And to me, his crying meant I had failed as a parent.

Have you ever felt like that? Well, it isn’t true. We can’t respond to our children the way we’d like to, 100% of the time. Especially if we have more than one child to care for! But we can acknowledge that they are crying, so they know we are there and not ignoring them. And we can comfort them afterward.

Your children will cry. But they need to know that no matter how bad things get, you will always love them and be there for them in the end.

Moms: there is freedom.

a note to new mothers about parenting styles

I encourage you to read what Dr. Sears has to say about attachment parenting so that you know what it’s really supposed to look like, as opposed to how it is portrayed on blogs and online forums. I especially recommend reading “What AP is Not.” I urge you not to judge other moms. You don’t know what their story is, and judging others destroys a possible relationship you could have with those other moms. If I’ve learned anything about motherhood, it’s that it’s messy and that moms need each other. I urge you not to compare yourselves with other moms. Their lives might look perfect on the outside, but you don’t know what goes on inside their home and inside their hearts. Lastly, I urge you not to disregard what other generations have to say. You may think older generations aren’t enlightened to the best parenting, but which generation is more experienced?

In short, make friends with other moms, have a humble heart, be open minded, take care of yourself, and take care of your children.

next time

Since being attentive to a newborn is a 24/7 job, I can’t make any promises when the next post will be up, but I can tell you what the subject will be. I’ll be posting all my secrets on calming a crying baby. When will it be posted? Oh, who knows. I’d like to start on it tomorrow, but I likely won’t be able to start it until Monday or Tuesday next week, so…keep checking back at the end of next week.

Also, follow me on Facebook! I post there regularly. If you follow me there and make my posts show up in your newsfeed, you’ll know exactly when I post to the blog. You’ll also get to read almost daily posts about our crazy life, you can participate in exclusive coupon giveaways (when I’ve got them), and you can get links to parenting issues and videos I find entertaining.

Of course, you can subscribe by email by signing up in the right-hand column of my blog.

Newborn Photos by LindseyMarie Photography

A huge huge thanks to LindseyMarie Photography for taking our newborn photos! If you’re in the Twin Cities, I highly recommend her work. Thank you for capturing these moments for us, Lindsey!

A few notes: My friend knitted us a lion cap and a little lion stuffed animal, which you’ll see in some of the photos. We tried to get a photo of all four of us, but we couldn’t get the 2-yr-old to sit still! The photo with Captain, Lion, and me is a sort-of recreation of Champ’s newborn photo. Once I get prints made, that one is going to hang in the living room right next to Champ’s.

IMG_9895 b

IMG_9908 cross

IMG_9930 c cross

IMG_9934 c cross

IMG_9937

IMG_9940 b

IMG_9958 b

IMG_9973 b

IMG_0030 cross

IMG_0036 b

IMG_0053 b

IMG_0025 b

IMG_0106 b

IMG_0118

IMG_0132 b

Now I have to figure out something to do with all those wonderful, make-me-melt photos of the Captain and the boys for Father’s Day. Any ideas?

A Baby Lion is Born

Nants ingonyama bagithi, Baba, sithi uhm ingonyama

(“Here comes a lion, Father, Oh yes, it’s a lion”)

In three words?

It was fast.

leading up to the birth

My idea was to live tweet the birth on Twitter. Nearly all of the tweets, however, were leading up to his birth day, because once we got to the birth center, I didn’t have time do do anything but labor this kid into the world! So block quotes below are from my Twitter account, @bewilderedmom.

Little Champ was born at 37 weeks on the dot, right as I had somehow predicted (Read his birth story here). I had the bags packed for him at around 35  weeks. With Lion, I figured I’d have some time after my water broke (if it did) to pack my bags, so I dawdled getting everything together.

I started having contractions before the 37 week mark, like I did with Champ.

April 18:

The Captain and I were married during a blizzard. Champ was born during a hurricane. Today, even though it’s April, we are experiencing a snowstorm. Baby Lion, you don’t have to keep up the tradition. At least wait until tomorrow, please. Today you’d still be considered a preemie!

On the morning of April 20th (37 weeks + 1 day), a day on which I really didn’t want my child to be born,  I had a ton of contractions in one hour, so I attempted to chug a gallon of water to see if they were real labor pangs or false labor. I do not recommend this. Just so you know, that’s a crapload of water. I got about 2/3 through before vomiting. Fun fact: throwing up pure water through the mouth and nose is really uncomfortable, yet leaves one feeling surprisingly clean afterward. Anyway, after that morning, Captain and I had our bags packed and ready.

April 21st through the 24th, I had more and more early labor signs, like bloody show and lightening (when the baby drops). I didn’t experience these signs with Champ, so I felt like a ticking bomb over those few days. I knew I could go into labor at any time. April 23rd I did a complete overhaul in our bedroom, hoping that deep cleaning would speed up the process. I spent the 24th recovering.

April 22:

Dear #babylion, there’s still snow on the ground today, but this weekend will be sunny & in the 60s! You won’t want to miss it, kid. #hint

ANOTHER winter storm tonight? Fine. #babylion, you can stay put until Wednesday.

Barometric pressure drop broke my friend’s water today in CO. Broke mine in NC in 2010. It’s starting to fall fast here in MN… #babylion

Thought Winter Storm Zeus might pack a bigger punch and break my water, but instead it seems to be just poking Minnesota in the ribs, repetitively, while laughing.

April 23:

Screen Shot 2013-05-01 at 5.29.07 PM

Captain has confirmed what my bladder had me suspecting– #babylion has dropped. Any time now, kid!

“In subsequent pregnancies, lightening does not generally occur until just before labor begins.” #YoureKillinMeSmalls #babylion

April 24th:

Ow! You know #babylion, I don’t really want you to come right now. I want a nap and ice cream and pie. Let’s wait until tomorrow, okay?

April 25th. Forecast: 53 and sunny. Anniversary of Robinson Crusoe, Ella Fitzgerald’s b-day. A good day on which to be born, son. #babylion #hint

the big day

Screen Shot 2013-05-01 at 5.32.41 PM

I had been up from 2 am to 3:30ish with carpal tunnel pains, so I wasn’t in a deep sleep at 4:30 when I rolled over in bed and found myself in a puddle. Got up as quickly as my hippopotamus body would allow, and by the time I’d waddled into the bathroom, I had left a stream of water trailing behind me, and my contractions were already on top of each other, not terribly strong, but coming every five minutes. I called my doula, Laura, and then paged the midwife on call. The midwife got back to me just before 5 am and asked if I could meet her at the birth center at 6 am. I called my grandmother to come watch Champ.

I toweled up the river in my bedroom and woke up Captain. He took a shower and I scrubbed some dishes while waiting for my grandmother to come, then I downed some oatmeal and a banana (recommended to me by my doula as a good breakfast, easy to digest in case I got nauseous).

By the time my grandmother came over, I was already bouncing through the contractions on the balls of my feet, unable to talk (or think straight) through them. Captain installed Champ’s car seat in her van, and we headed off to the birth center. I had the Captain call Laura and ask if she could pick up an egg McMuffin for him, since he hadn’t eaten. She said she’d grab one on the way. Doulas are the best!

When we turned onto the road leading to the birth center, I pointed out how foggy it was. Then we smelled the smoke. And as we got closer, and the smoke cleared, we saw the lights of fire engines. It appeared that the hospital was on fire. Thankfully the birth center was on the other side of the street. Later we found out it was a grease fire at a chicken restaurant next door to the hospital.

We got to the birth center at 6:07 am. My midwife, Mary-Signe, was wearing a red t-shirt that said “START SEEING MIDWIVESon it (a parody of this)Midwives are the coolest.

And just so you can picture where I gave birth, it was here:

Pretty, right? To the right is the shower / bathroom.

Pretty, right? To the right is the shower / bathroom.

I mentioned nausea to Mary-Signe and she handed me a barf bag. Respectful women, don’t read this: [It looked like an elephant condom.] I was determined NOT to throw up in that thing.

A moment later Laura had arrived, with Captain’s breakfast. I told her I was feeling pretty nauseated, and that I had eaten a banana and oatmeal for breakfast.

“Oh, yeah, I totally threw that up when I was in labor,” she said. “I couldn’t eat bananas or oatmeal for months. I just recommended it because it’s easy to throw up.”

Gee, thanks.

I asked if I could take a shower, knowing that would help me to feel less nauseous and also help a bit with the contractions. Laura already had to apply counter-pressure a couple times to my lower back before I could even get the request out.

Sure! Of course! Do whatever you want! It’s your labor! These were the kind of answers I got. This is why an out-of-hospital birth is so glorious. I abandoned my modesty more quickly than I figured I would—that old lady nightgown I brought never left the bag—and stripped down to get under the hot water. Several times I called Laura in to apply more counter-pressure, as I clung to the bar in the shower. I’m so thankful I had a doula at my birth. When I couldn’t communicate more than a word at a time, all I had to do was call out her name, and she’d be there, pressing on my back until I got through the contraction. Don’t get me wrong, Captain was a WONDERFUL birth coach during Champ’s labor, and his counter-pressure was the only pain relief I needed during that hospital birth, but it was nice having a female doula, one who had given birth herself and intuitively knew what I needed. It also freed the Captain up to eat his breakfast. When I came out of the shower, he was sitting on the couch reading a fat historical novel. Apparently he thought we’d be staying longer than I did.

The shower relieved my nausea, but it didn’t relieve the contractions, which were nonstop at this point. I flopped onto the bed and had contraction after contraction—I couldn’t even change position they came so fast, I just lay there like some giant pregnant leviathan.

“Did you want to do a water birth?” asked the midwife in training after checking my progress (“Five to six and, oh! Stretchy! Good!”).

After another contraction I responded, hair in my face, “Kinda, yeah! Now I do!”

She started the water and I rolled over onto my stomach, then got onto my hands and knees, rocking and wailing through the contractions. Apparently I was making quite a bit of noise, because I heard Mary-Signe’s voice, far off, saying,

“It sounds like you’re pushing. Caitlin, are you pushing?”

“Er…Can I push?” At the hospital with Champ, I had to wait and wait until the OB said I could push.

“Do you feel like pushing?”

“I feel like I need to poop.” Translation: Why yes, I do feel the sensation that I should begin pushing. I honestly don’t know why I didn’t just say yes. Labor is glamorous, people.

Laura tells me that she and the midwives looked at each other and nodded knowingly.

rafiki-it-is-time

I got into the tub. Oh, who knows what time it was at that point. Captain got in with me. First I tried hanging over the edge of the tub, but I had nothing to hold on to. So Captain put out his arms. He’s a very strong, very attractive man, and his arms are big and steady. Still, though he could hold me stable, I didn’t like holding to him off on one side, and I just wasn’t feeling that position. So I turned over to the other side, where there was a bar, grabbed on to the bar, and squatted so I could more easily bear down.

I pushed once or twice, long and hard, roaring through each one. I pushed each time until I physically couldn’t push any more, then stopped to rest for a second, and breathe.

“Can you feel the head?”

I really didn’t want to reach down there to feel around, but I did, and could touch just the top. After the third long push, I could tell he had crowned by what some refer to as “the ring of fire.” If you’ve ever torn a muscle, it’s kind of like that. It’s when all the stretching occurs. After that push, I definitely whimpered a bit. Captain says that sound was much more difficult to listen to than all the war cries I had been making before. And now that I consider that during that push is likely when I tore, I feel a little bit better about whimpering and not going full-on Amazonian War Princess.

The midwives were chattering and I could tell we were almost there. Especially when Mary-Signe repeated to me to stay low and keep the baby under water until his whole body was out. I also knew that the most painful part was over. One more push and the head was out. Stay down, stay low. I was determined to get the baby out in one last push. Then I’d be done. One more.

Somebody caught him and I sat down in the water so they could hand him to me. The water was disgusting now, but he was there, and he was out of the water on my chest, and he was breathing.

It was 7:21 am. He was still attached to the umbilical cord, and I could feel it stretching out of me, attached to him. So weird. Then they clamped the cord, Captain cut it while I looked away (didn’t want to see the squirting, thanks so much), and I just sat holding my newborn baby until I delivered the placenta. I never saw the placenta during Champ’s hospital birth, so I took a look this time. Placenta is Latin for “flat cake,” I believe, and yeah, it looks like a cross between a lung, a steak, and a pancake.

So, Lion was born. He weighed 8 lbs, 2 oz, which none of us could believe because he is so tiny, he doesn’t look like he could weigh more than 7 pounds, and Champ was only 6 lb 11 oz. Nineteen inches long, half an inch longer than his big brother.

Capt-Lion

The rest is a bit of a blur. Mary-Signe took the baby so I could get out of the tub, I got tucked into the bed and handed Lion to cuddle with. Captain took a couple pictures before I realized, I could really use some eye liner and a comb. Then Lion and I took an herbal bath, both to clean off and to soothe our bodies.

me-lion

Four hours later, and we were allowed to go home!

going home

It was a beautiful spring day—the first day of spring we’d had yet in Minnesota, land of eternal winters.

Champ was at Nonna’s house so we could take a nap after getting home (that’s why the birth center lets you go home—so you can take a long nap after birth, uninterrupted by nurses constantly checking your vitals. You take your vitals yourself when you wake up).

So Neville got to meet him first. When he saw that there was a baby in the car seat, he FREAKED OUT, and jumped into Captain’s lap and just shook for a while. Then he got really excited, and he hasn’t stopped being excited and wanting to give the baby kisses. He does not leave Lion’s side, and gives me a look whenever I leave Lion in his bassinet to go pee. Captain says he feels like Mr. Darling from Peter Pan, and that Neville is like a miniature Nurse.

nev-1

nev-2

After our nap, Champ came home and got to meet his baby brother.

c-l 1

c-l 2

c-l 3

family

 

And that’s our family of four!

Champ is very curious and eager to help with Lion. (Sometimes a bit too eager.) It’s very sweet and melts my momma heart.

champ-lion

 

It has taken me longer to write this blog post than it took me to give birth to my baby.

baby lion

I’m off to cuddle. Hasta la vista!

 

 

Making Balanced Decision about Circumcision

It’s the “hot topic”—one that mom bloggers are vehement and nasty about. And yet we are still so divided, like we are when it comes to breastfeeding versus bottle feeding, vaccinations, co-sleeping, and baby sleep training.

Here’s the thing with controversial topics: You need to do the research, you need to hear from both sides, you need to make an educated decision. And then you really need to forget about it. Give other moms the benefit of the doubt and assume they are doing what they believe is best for their kids. Judging them doesn’t make them change—it just makes you a bitter, resentful person.

That said, I’d like to come to the topic of circumcision.

I’m going to try to cover as many approaches to the topic as possible, and list the pros and cons. But here’s the thing—I’m going to let YOU make the decision for yourself.

When reading the links I have provided below, be sure to think on them critically. Are their arguments sound? Do they make comparisons that are not logical? Do they cite historical or medical sources? Are their sources up to date? Do they have ulterior motives that cause them to think the way they do? Remember that no source is completely unbiased.

Types of Circumcision

First off, you need to know that there are different types of circumcision. (Uncircumcision is considered “intact.”) One form of circumcision is snipping off the edge of the foreskin, leaving most of it intact. This form of circumcision has long been practiced by many different cultures contemporary to the ancient Israelites (Archaeological Bible, ESV, page 1080).

Israelite Jews practiced the full removal of the foreskin. Quite a few sites (all against circumcision) claim that Israelites did not practice the full removal of the foreskin until more recent years, like Circumcision: Then and Now. Unfortunately, I can’t find any sources used in these articles or any other historical evidence to back this up. What I do have is the Archaeological Bible, which states that Israelite Jews did remove the entire foreskin, and 1 Samuel 18, which suggests that David removed a significant amount of foreskin in order to present a hundred of them to King Saul. If you know of sources that are pro-circumcision that can back this up, or if you know of any non-biased historical sources, please link to them in the comments!

Anti-circumcision timelines claim that the full removal of the foreskin is as contemporary as the 19th century. They claim that the move to full circumcision was an act to discourage masturbation. You can read a timeline (which unfortunately also does not include sources) linking circumcision and masturbation here. I don’t doubt a correlation between circumcision and attempts to curb masturbation, but I do question the claim that full removal of the foreskin did not occur before the 19th century.

Jewish Circumcision

For information on traditional Jewish circumcision, read Advantages and Possible Complications of a Brit Milah (a Jewish source). For information on the controversial practice of metzitzah, read Jewish newborn infected with herpes after metzitzah b’peh (Jerusalem news source).

Modern Medical Circumcision

Read about the procedure, risks, and complications of modern circumcision here.

Considerations

Appearance

Circumcision is basically a cosmetic surgery, but it won’t guarantee boys from being teased or comparing themselves with others. Some boys are teased for being intact, some for being circumcised. Today in the US, about half of young boys are circumcised and half are intact (According to statistics from a study conducted in 2009).

Reading online forums, I’ve heard of more intact men getting teased in the locker room (about 80% of men in the US are circumcised). But now that more boys have been left intact, teasing should not really be a deciding factor. Do boys really need to look like their fathers, brothers, or friends? That’s something to think about.

Health considerations

In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics came out with a statement in favor of circumcision, saying the benefits outweigh the risks (reversing the recommendations they’d been making since the 1970s).

“Specific benefits identified included prevention of urinary tract infections, penile cancer, and transmission of some sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has endorsed this statement.”

Many articles have been written in response to the AAP’s statement, claiming for example:

  1. Pediatricians profit from circumcision and therefore the AAP cannot be considered an unbiased source (Doctors Opposing Circumcision)
  2. Urinary Tract Infections can be treated with antibiotics (“Cultural Bias in the AAP“)
  3. The studies used to inform the AAP’s statement, namely the ones regarding HIV contraction being 60% lower among uncircumcised men in Africa, do not apply to the US, where men have access to clean water (DOC)

While #1 is certainly an important consideration, the AAP had ruled against circumcision from 1971—2012. Studies and statistical results are never 100% accurate for all people. Be sure to look at the numbers, who is performing the study, who is participating in the study, and whether the conclusion is accurate based on the study’s findings.

Other things to consider:

  • “Boys who are not circumcised as newborns may later have circumcision for the treatment of phimosis, paraphimosis, or balanoposthitis. When done after the newborn period, circumcision is considerably more complicated.” (MedicineNet)
  • “Meatitis is more common in boys who have been circumcised.” (MedicineNet)
  • “Circumcision prevents the growth of bacteria under the foreskin and this, in turn, protects male infants against urinary tract infection. The high incidence of urinary tract infections in uncircumcised boys has also been found to be accompanied by an increased incidence of other significant infections such as bacteremia (bacterial infection of the bloodstream) and meningitis (infection of the covering of the brain). The protective effect of circumcision may thus extend to a number of infectious diseases.”  (MedicineNet)

STDs and Circumcision—different sources will give different results.

  • “Male circumcision reduces the risk that a man will acquire HIV from an infected female partner, and also lowers the risk of other STDs , penile cancer, and infant urinary tract infection” (Center for Disease Control, African study).
  • “For female partners, male circumcision reduces the risk of cervical cancer, genital ulceration, bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis, and HPV. Although male circumcision has risks including pain, bleeding, and infection, more serious complications are rare” (CDC, African study).
  • In a study surveying a male population of the US Navy, both US- and foreign-born, circumcision did not statistically or significantly effect the prevalence of HIV or other STDs (Naval Health Research).
  • “After correction for age, circumcision was unrelated to reporting STI, but appeared to protect against penile candidiasis [thrush]” (Widespread Australian Study).

Pain

Circumcision will hurt—anyone that tells you differently is missing serious brain cells. Here’s what the AAP has to say:

“Analgesia is safe and effective in reducing the procedural pain associated with newborn circumcision; thus, adequate analgesia should be provided whenever newborn circumcision is performed. Nonpharmacologic techniques (eg, positioning, sucrose pacifiers) alone are insufficient to prevent procedural and post procedural pain and are not recommended as the sole method of analgesia. They should be used only as analgesic adjuncts to improve infant comfort during circumcision. If used, topical creams may cause a higher incidence of skin irritation in low birth weight infants, compared with infants of normal weight; penile nerve block techniques should therefore be chosen for this group of newborns” (Pediatrics, Sept 2012).

It can take 7-10 days for recovery time.

Some mothers have reported that their sons go on a nursing strike after circumcision.

Proponents of circumcision say the baby usually starts crying before the procedure, usually stops crying soon afterward, and sometimes falls asleep after.

Opponents of circumcision claim that some babies actually go into shock from the pain, and just appear to be sleeping.

Using topical analgesic and other pain relief (like infant Tylenol or suppositories) seem to be effective pain relief, though some soreness will be felt and care must be given while changing the diaper or any dressings.

Sex life

Some men that have been circumcised later in life say their sexual pleasure has diminished from being circumcised, others say it has increased.

  • “Does circumcision improve couple’s sexual life?” is a study reporting on men’s perception on their sex life before and after adult circumcision. However, note that the sample size is so small, the findings cannot be considered statistically significant. Therefore the conclusion of the study cannot be taken as fact. 
  • “Circumcision was unrelated to most sexual difficulties, but circumcised men were less likely to report physical pain during intercourse or trouble keeping an erection.” (Large Australian Study, also cited above

Intact men have more natural lubrication, but that moist atmosphere might put them at a higher risk of contracting certain STDs and/or passing them along to their partner (see health considerations, above).

Because circumcised men do not have the foreskin, they  might require more supplemental lubrication during sex (see Anatomy of the Penis, in the further reading, below).

Women have different preferences. However, if your son marries a virgin, she won’t have anybody else to compare him to. Even if your son’s future partner does have a preference, a superficial reason should not be a factor if she truly loves him.

Further Reading:

Potty training

Circumcised boys may need to be taught to point down, since the foreskin won’t direct their urine downward.

The foreskin of intact boys may get stuck to their skin, causing them to spray on themselves.

Consent

The ethics of circumcision. This is where the debate gets ugly. The problem is, like the debate between pro-choice and pro-life, there will be people that disagree with you, and you aren’t going to convince them otherwise, because it comes down to personal ethics.

One of the major reasons many choose not to circumcise is that they feel the child needs to consent to such a surgery. They equate circumcision with mutilation. If the mutilation of female genitalia is so horrendous, shouldn’t the mutilation of male genitalia be as well? If the surgery is unnecessary, why do it? If it ain’t broke, why fix it? Isn’t the foreskin there for a purpose—otherwise why is it there in the first place?

These are all valid questions that need to be thought about.

Both intact males and circumcised men have come out saying they regretted their parents’ decision. Circumcised men may feel like they were taken advantage of and that part of them is missing. Intact men might resent their parents for not giving them the procedure as newborns, because adult circumcision has a much longer recovery time, during which the man may not be able to walk or have sex for weeks or months (neither of these complications are issues with newborns).

Religious reasons

As a Christian, I can only speak on the behalf of those beliefs. Circumcision is considered important or mandatory in Jewish and Muslim practices.

Christians are under the “New Covenant,” which means circumcision is unnecessary for them. Paul, in Galatians 5, uses no uncertain terms to condone forcing circumcision upon Gentiles. However, the Bible in no way suggests that circumcision is a sin, like this writer would have you believe, correlating the practice with Satanism. The sin is believing that you must be circumcised to be saved—it’s putting a higher emphasis on religious practices than on the grace of God. If circumcision were a sin according to the New Testament, Paul would not have allowed Timothy to be circumcised. The bottom line is that there is now freedom to choose to not be circumcised.

Conclusion

Whether you choose to circumcise or not is entirely up to you and the father of your child. Weigh the benefits and the risks and make the decision that you feel is best for your son and your family. The biggest factors are ethical and religious—so note that other parents are going to make different decisions based on their own ethical and religious backgrounds.

If you choose to circumcise

Wait eight days after birth—that’s when a baby’s Vitamin K levels increase and there’s a lower risk of bleeding.

The Mogen Clamp or Jewish Shield seem to have fewer disadvantages and complications than the Plastibell or Gomco clamp.

Ask what types of pain relief will be given to your son during the procedure. (The AAP

Take care of the circumcised penis as it heals and have it checked regularly at newborn check-ups.

If getting a traditional Jewish brit milah, determine whether the mohel will practice oral metzitzah.

Teach your child to respect other boys, whether intact or circumcised.

If you choose not to circumcise

Do not retract the foreskin forcibly. An intact penis will begin to retract between the ages of 3 and puberty (Psychology Today).

Once the foreskin retracts, teach your child how to clean the foreskin with water to avoid infection. Some soaps may irritate or dry out the foreskin (Psychology Today).

Teach your child to respect other boys, whether intact or circumcised.

—————————————-

That was easily the longest post ever to appear here on Bewildered Mother. Feel free to comment below, but realize that this isn’t a public forum, this is my blog. Offensive or judgmental posts MAY be removed at my discretion. This is a place to learn and encourage, not judge or convert. If you have a passionate response, I suggest you write your own blog post in protest, and post the link below—then people that agree with you can read your article, and people that disagree just as vehemently as you do can angrily disagree with you over there.