Google+ Followers

Friday, 21 December 2012

Hitting Kids

Research suggests that over 90% of American children between the ages of 2 and 5 are subjected to spanking and other forms of corporal punishment (Straus, 2010). For many children it begins in infancy – a child gets their hand slapped for throwing food off their high chair, or pulling the dog’s tail after being told repeatedly to stop. For some, it continues through adolescence until they leave their childhood home and venture out into the world on their own.

Children who have been victims of CP are more likely than their peers to engage in assault, domestic violence, and other serious criminal offenses. Even after controlling for the influence of socioeconomic status, parental psychological abuse, and parental warmth, CP is still a risk factor for engaging in violence as an adolescent or adult.

The relationship between corporal punishment (CP) and later delinquency and aggression is strong enough to warrant the abolition of such an antiquated form of punishment, and that doesn’t even consider the emotional and psychological effects of using CP on children. There is recent research indicating that children who have been subjected to CP are more likely to suffer from sexual problems in adulthood, including coercing others into sexual activity, and engaging in sadomasochism (although whether or not S&M is a problem is debatable). 

As more and more developmental psychologists, parenting experts, and organizations speak out against the dangers of CP, there is an equally vocal segment of the population that insists that spanking, and others forms of CP are not only fine, but necessary.

Some die-hard spanking enthusiasts will say things such as:
“I was spanked, and I turned out fine”
“Time-out might work for your kid, but it doesn’t work for mine”, or my favourite:
“The Bible tells me so” (I might have paraphrased that a little)

What I don’t understand is who gets to decide what is the magical age at which CP is no longer appropriate? Certainly, few people advocate for husbands to physically control their wives, or for employers to smack their employees for not meeting their sales quotas. I don’t get to slap my babysitter when she shows up late, or whip the mailman for ringing the doorbell and waking up the baby. It is unlawful to use physical force on another human being, UNLESS they happen to be a child. We may only use physical violence against the smallest, weakest, and most vulnerable members of our population. Something about that just doesn’t sit right with me.

There are scores of parenting books that teach non-violent methods of discipline. If time-outs don’t work for your child, why not try a “time-in”? Rather than sending your child away from you, and withdrawing love and affection, why not go to them and sit with them until they calm down, at which point you can talk about whatever just happened. Some of the kindest, most polite, and endearing children I have met came from homes where their parents used non-violent forms of discipline, and modelled appropriate problem-solving strategies for their children. The kids were raised with the knowledge that their parents expected a certain standard of behaviour from them, but without the fear of being hit, slapped, kicked, or whipped if they fell short of these expectations. I also know of many children who were subject to CP, and who grew up to be kind, thoughtful, contributing members of society. Few people would suggest that everyone who is hit as a child will grow into a violent sociopath; both styles of parenting can lead to happy, healthy, responsible adults. But why would anyone choose to use violence against a child when there are kinder, and more effective ways of discipline?

Family physicians, nurses, social workers, and the like should be educated about the dangers of spanking, particularly when the victims are small children. As part of a woman’s regular schedule of prenatal care, her physician will often ask her whether or not she plans to breastfeed. This is a great question, and can open up an important dialogue on the benefits of breastfeeding to both mother and baby. Not every expectant mother knows how important breastfeeding is for her baby. So why not also ask about other important areas of care, such as “Are you planning to hit your baby?” Now, you can dress it up and give it a new name, but spanking is hitting. Whether you use your hand, a stick, a belt, or a slipper, you are hitting your child. And chances are, that child of yours is going to grow up and do the same to their children. My daughter is but a year old, and I have already caught myself reaching to slap her hand after telling her time and time again “uh uh, not for ___”. Thankfully I have caught myself in each of those moments, and have been able to take a step back and re-think how I am going to handle the situation. I don’t want my daughter to grow up in an environment where she learns that it’s acceptable to use violence against others, whether they are bigger or smaller than she. Does this mean that I will never say “no” to her? Certainly not - there will be times when I will have to disappoint, frustrate, or even anger her by denying her things; there will undoubtedly be times when she will think that she hates me. But she will never fear me.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Oh where, oh where has my ambition gone?

Today was a bit of a strange day for me. For the past 11 months I have been trying to juggle being a full-time mom with also being a full-time student, lecturer, and trying to complete my dissertation (I say "trying" because I am not doing a very good job). I am a good mom and a good lecturer (at least according to my course evaluations), but am having a difficult time trying to squeeze in the role of good student, as well.

This morning I had a meeting with one of my committee members. Her role is to help keep me on track, and to provide support and mentorship, where needed. She is also a sounding board for any ideas I come up with regarding the direction that my dissertation should take. We haven't met in months but today I had to do some follow-up interviews with former clients, so I scheduled in a quick meeting with her beforehand. I got to her office, sat down, ... and drew a blank. I realized that I didn't have anything to tell her - there were no new developments in my research, no grand ideas to share, and no questions to have answered. As I sat there in silence, I had no idea what to say to her. I could have told her that McKenna just learned to fall asleep on her own. I could have told her that my house is a colossal mess, my dogs haven't been walked in days, and I haven't done any of my Christmas shopping, but I couldn't come up with anything to tell her about my research. So I told her the truth. I told her that I am having a hard time balancing the roles of mommy and academic. I am finding it difficult to shift mindsets from diaper changes and walks through the park to statistics, academic language, and the competitiveness and isolation of research. Two years ago, if you had told me that I would be sitting around in my pyjamas, playing peek-a-boo, and contemplating dropping out of my graduate program, I would have choked to death on my own laughter. And yet here I am. Do I still want all of those things? I think so - but more than anything I want to be a good mom. I want to be there for my daughter for the next few years. I don't want to entrust her early learning, exploring, and development to a daycare. Part of me is disgusted with myself for this sudden change of heart. This is not the direction that I pictured my life taking. I have not been able to keep up on new developments in my area of research, my motivation is at an all-time low, and I feel like I am letting a lot of people down. I am close enough to the end that it doesn't really make sense to give up now, but I am struggling with summoning the motivation and the drive to finish this thing. What have I gotten myself into???

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

"The Vaccine Book" by Dr. Sears

I have just finished reading The Vaccine Book (Sears, 2007), just in time for McKenna's scheduled 12-month vaccinations. In NL, babies get vaccinations at 2, 4, 6, 12, and 18 months, and once before they start school. So far, M has gotten vaccinated for tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough, as well as pneumococcal disease. I didn't consider any of these to be controversial - all are serious diseases, with major consequences for young babies. However, we're now coming up on some of the "less important" vaccines, as far as I'm concerned: The MMR vaccine, the flu vaccine, and the chickenpox vaccine.

As a researcher myself, I can appreciate the drudgery of going through piles and piles of reports, papers, and meta-analyses. I can appreciate the difficulty in trying to make a boring topic into something worth reading. And as a mother, I appreciate what Dr. Sears has done in this book - he explains each and every disease, components of the vaccine, risks and benefits, as well as arguments both for and against having your child vaccinated against each disease. Overall, he seems to come across as being pro-vaccine, but is able to play devil's advocate and explain why some parents might choose not to vaccinate against certain diseases, or at all.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Sick as an... owl?

Once a week McKenna and I meet up with some other moms and babies for a play date. With today being the day before Halloween, the babies all came dressed in their costumes for some cute photos and fun times. There were lions, a skunk, a couple of superheroes, and my beautiful little owl. She looked so sweet in her costume, and even indulged me by wearing her owl hat long enough for me to get some photos of her and her friends. Within about 15 minutes of being there, McKenna threw up all over her costume. It wasn't a big deal until she threw up again, and again, and then again. At that point, I decided we should probably head home before she made the other kids sick as well. On the way home she was sick twice more (we only live 10 minutes away). I took her home, intending to give her a bath and put her down for a nap but she wouldn't stop vomiting.

Fast forward an hour and we are sitting at the hospital; McKenna is puking her little guts out, and daddy and I are covered in vomit. Oh, and we're kinda stressed as well. In a 90-minute period she was sick more than twenty times, but she never let it get her down. In between spewing yellow bile onto her parents, she smiled, she laughed, and she played peek-a-boo. After a series of tests and ultrasounds, the doctor came to inform us that she could not find anything wrong with her. She didn't have a fever, her blood pressure was fine, and there was no evidence to suggest that she had ingested anything that she shouldn't have. It seemed like my little angel was going to be just fine. We were told to take her home and keep an eye on her, which we were only too happy to do.

I guess I should consider myself lucky. We've made it to 10 months with no real health scares. She is the happiest, sweetest little girl you'd ever want to meet. Today was a stressful day for the three of us, but we're hoping to still get out for Halloween tomorrow... if I can get the chunks out of her little owl torso, that is.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Flying Solo

This week I am attending a conference in Halifax, NS. Normally, I don’t go anywhere without my little sidekick, but since we have only recently gotten McKenna on somewhat of a schedule we decided it would be less disruptive to leave her behind. So for three days I get to sleep in, hang out with grown-ups, and pretend to be a serious academic. And when I’m not networking and presenting my own research, I get to sneak back to my hotel room, hook myself up to a couple of suction cups, and milk myself. See, you never really get away when you’re breastfeeding – while she may not be with me in person, she will be present in every soggy nursing pad, every throbbing boob, and every ounce of liquid gold that I pour down the drain. Ugh. 

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

"I'll take a pina colada and a pregnancy test, please"

Today, I came across a news article discussing the decision of a pub in Minnesota to sell pregnancy tests out of a vending machine in the women's washroom. My first reaction was surprise and a little bit of "hmmm, not sure if that's appropriate". However, upon reading the article and thinking about it a little bit more, I've got to say that this is probably a really great idea. The tests are selling for $3, which is a lot cheaper than you can buy them at the pharmacy. The vending machine in the washroom is also much more discreet than the local Jean Coutu.  A poster in the washroom explains the presence of the vending machine, and notes that many women drink without knowing that they are pregnant. For less than the price of a beer, women can have peace of mind that the happy hour mojito they are sipping will not result in a lifetime of regrets.

The owner of the pub claims that they don't make any money off of the sale of the tests - all monies go to a local nonprofit that works to educate the public about the dangers of drinking while pregnant. Kudos to them for recognizing a very real need and stepping up to offer the wall space for the vending machines.

In the Abnormal Psychology course that I teach, I regularly bring in an outside speaker to talk to the class about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, during the unit on Childhood Disorders. While FASD is not part of the curriculum for the course, I strongly believe that it does not get the attention that it deserves, and that every woman of child-bearing age should know of it. FASD is the only developmental disability that is 100% preventable. However, this does not mean that the mother is 100% to blame. Many times, women do not know they are pregnant until weeks, or even months into the pregnancy. Other times, the woman may have an alcohol dependency, and not have the resources and supports to get help. There are definitely also women out there who don't know that alcohol can cause irreversible damage to a developing fetus. If this initiative can spare even one child from the disability of FASD then it will have been a success.

To read the full story, click here

Monday, 27 August 2012

My Fall Wishlist

White camisole with black bow - Smart Set
Bow earrings and necklace - Smart Set
Coloured belts - Joe Fresh
Black heels - Aldo
Black lace shirt - Smart Set
Gray sleeveless tank - Jacob
White sleveless tank - Jacob
Brown leather bag - Aldo
Silver leaf bracelet - Smart Set
Purple Ergo Carrier - Ergo

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Night Weaning

At almost exactly 4 months of age, McKenna hit the dreaded 4 - month sleep regression. She refused to nap, wouldn't go down at night without a fuss and woke frequently throughout the night. Trying as it was, I took comfort in the knowledge that "this too shall pass"... except that it didn't. McKenna is now 8 months old and still fights sleep. It can take up to 2 hours to get her down at night, and then she will wake every hour (or more!) throughout the night. This makes for one very tired mommy the next day.

Being very much against cry-it-out methods, I did some research and came across Elizabeth Pantley's No Cry Sleep Solution. I read it cover-to-cover as soon as it arrived in the mail, and went to work charting her naps, sleeping patterns, and how many times she was waking during the night. It was time-consuming and frankly, pretty depressing. McKenna's sleep was actually worse than I had thought it was. However, I was determined to put an end to the bedtime battles, and now felt that I had the tools I needed to do so with confidence. There would be no crying, no hurt feelings, and no guilt on my part. The first couple of nights I focused on helping McKenna learn to fall asleep without nursing. Instead of nursing her to sleep, she was given a bottle and her father was given the task of helping her to sleep. When she woke throughout the night, I nursed her each and every time, but instead of allowing her to fall asleep at the breast, I carefully broke the latch before she fell asleep, so that she fell asleep on her own. We did this for a few weeks, while at the same time, implementing some of Pantley's suggestions regarding naps and making sure to differentiate between night and day. We also made a concerted effort to adopt a predictable bedtime routine. didn't work. While McKenna can now successfully go to sleep with a bottle, her night awakenings were not impacted in the least. While Pantley's method was indeed gentle and without tears, it was not the right method for our family. 

I have now decided to try Dr. Gordon's method for night weaning, in the hopes that, by removing her food supply (which she really doesn't need at 8 months of age), she will begin to sleep for longer stretches. While I have no issue with nursing a hungry baby, she is definitely not waking every hour due to hunger. Gordon suggests choosing a 7-hour stretch (e.g., 11pm - 6am) and helping the child learn that between these hours, nursing is off-limits. They can wake and nurse at 10:59 and 6:01, but between the hours of 11pm and 7am, they will not be fed. Obviously though, exceptions have to be made when baby is teething, sick, or under a lot of stress. I am going to give this method a try; however, I think 5 or 6 hours is more reasonable for us. While I know that she doesn't NEED to eat in the middle of the night, she is a growing baby, and she tends to be too busy throughout the day to drink much. Plus, with the way she has been sleeping the past four months, a five-hour unbroken stretch of sleep will feel like I have won the lottery! 

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, 7 August 2012


In my previous post, I mentioned that we are on vacation. On Saturday McKenna and I arrived in Ontario, after spending three weeks with my family in New Brunswick. Our flight was delayed getting in, McKenna was exhausted, and we hadn't seen daddy in nearly three weeks. While he was excited to hold his little girl in his arms again, I was concerned that she would have some issues warming up to him after being away for so long. After all, three weeks is a long time when you're only 7 months old, and she had been exhibiting some separation anxiety even before we went on vacation.

Sure enough, when we walked through the gates to meet him, she was less than happy to see him. Hopeful, he reached out his arms for her, and was met with tears. Undaunted, he tried again, this time succeeding in taking her from my arms. However, it was not without a great deal of fussing on her part. Eventually she did calm down and was willing to be held by her father, although she was still wary of him for the next several days. She also took some time to warm up to his family, just as she did with mine when we first arrived in NB. It's a developmental stage in her life that, although tiring, is completely normal and healthy. I would be worried if she wasn't more strongly attached to me than she was to anyone else, particularly those that she hasn't spent a lot of time with.

However, while being my daughter's sole source of comfort is great for my ego, it is not good for her or her relationship with her father. He adores her, and relates to her in a way that only a father can. I can tell that it hurts his heart when she turns away from him, or cries out when he gets too close. I would feel the same way if she ever reacted that way to me. So our task for the next few days is to strengthen that bond once again. While I will have to be the one providing comfort when she is really distressed, he can be there for her when she is in a good mood, and on her terms. Hopefully she will come around sooner rather than later.

Summer holidays - Part I

As a grad student I have the flexibility of taking time off pretty much whenever I want, provided I am not teaching at the time. This has come in handy in the past, when I could book a last-minute seat sale without having to ask for time off, and it`s incredibly convenient now that I have a baby and am travelling to visit both of our families more often.

The past three weeks, McKenna and I were visiting with my family in New Brunswick. We left Daddy behind in NL, with plans to meet him at his family`s place in Ontario in early August. During those three weeks we met up with friends, spent time with family and entertained a few house guests along the way. And I got a taste of what it was like to be a single parent for three weeks. I`ve never given much thought to how difficult it must be for the single mothers out there. My parents are still married, and I am in a stable and committed relationship myself. I`ve taken McKenna to visit family by myself before, and haven`t found it to be too stressful, but there was something about this trip that was different. Maybe it was because she is sleeping less during the day, and therefore I get less time to myself. It could have been that she`s more active now, and needs much closer supervision and attention. Or it could be the fact that she has been a poor sleeper the past few months, and continued to thwart my efforts to get some shut-eye while we were at home. Whatever the reason, it was an exhausting trip. I had envisioned spending afternoons on a patio, sipping daquiris and catching up with old friends. I had hoped to spend time at the beach, working on my tan. I had even planned on getting some work done towards my dissertation. But I found that I was too tired to do much of anything while I was home. The days were unusually hot and humid, which we`re not used to in Newfoundland, and even at night it stayed pretty warm. This meant that we spent a lot of time indoors, giving McKenna ample time to increase her mobility. While we were away she learned how to pull herself up, and had her first pony ride. She petted her first alpaca, and swam in her first salt water pool.

It was also the first time that she would not go to sleep by nursing.

McKenna and I have enjoyed a largely problem-free breastfeeding relationship. With the exception of recurring blocked ducts, we have never had any major problems to contend with. She loved to nurse right from the start, latched well, and only once did we experience a nursing strike. But for whatever reason, she can no longer be settled to sleep by nursing. She still wants me to be beside her while she falls asleep, but now she is falling asleep to a bottle, instead of to the warmth and comfort of my body. When she wakes through the night she will not settle for anything less than a boob, but the girls are no longer a part of her bedtime or naptime routine. And that makes me a little sad. I know as she grows things are bound to change in our relationship, but I wasn't ready for those changes to be happening so quickly. I don't want her to crawl, because that means she is just one step closer to walking. I don't want her to talk, as she will be even closer to becoming independent. In short, I want my little girl to stay a baby forever. Unfortunately, she (and nature) have other plans.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

How to lose a job in 10 ways

Recently, I posted an ad online, looking for a babysitter for McKenna. I was clear in my requirements, as well as the hours and rate of pay. I received a large volume of emails in response to the ad; most of them went something like this:

"wen do u want someone?"

"what is the pay i might be quitting my job so maybe i could work for you until i find something else"

"i don't have first aid but i been around lot of kids"

or my favourite

"call me. 736-7628"

Seriously!? Is this really the best you can do? While I did not specifically advertise for an English professor, I do expect a certain level of proficiency in the language. Moreover, I expect a certain level of professionalism when inquiring about a potential job. To make things easier, I have compiled a list of things that I expect of a job candidate - whether I am hiring someone to mow my lawn, clean up dog poop, or watch my precious child. While I don't expect that any of the applicants I rejected will ever read this maybe someone, somewhere, will read this and learn something from it.

1. It's common courtesy to start an email with a greeting. And it's so simple - "hi" is only two letters long.
2. It's really not that difficult to capitalize proper nouns. So do it. It makes you seem much more literate.
3. Don't ask questions that are already covered in the advertisement. If I specify that the rate of pay is $10 an hour, then it is $10 an hour, even for you.
4. Take the extra three seconds and spell out the entire word. It might be alright to use "lol' or "u" when texting a friend, but when emailing a potential employer it looks sloppy and lazy. If you are really that short on time, what are you doing applying for another job?
5. Along those same lines, use spell check if needed. It's okay to ask for help.
6. Don't offer to come work for me until something better comes along. We have all been there - waiting to land our dream job, and working crappy jobs in the meantime. But at least pretend that you want to work for me.
7. Ask questions. Show that you actually read the advertisement and put some thought into your reply. You could even inquire about the child that you would be caring for. Again, pretend that you want to work for me.
8. Don't just leave me your name and phone number. I will not call you, I can promise you that.
9. If you don't meet the specified criteria, move on. Chances are you will find a job that you are suited for if you keep looking. But if I have asked for First Aid and CPR, it is for a reason. I don't care that you spent every summer playing with your younger cousins from Wisconsin if you can't help my child when she's choking.
10. I can't stress this enough - be professional. There'll be plenty of time to joke around and talk in slang once we get to know each other. Hell, I might even txt u.

Friday, 1 June 2012

A "good" baby

My daughter is amazing. She is funny, loving, sweet, wise, tenacious, beautiful, and an all-around happy child. She makes me proud to be her mother each and every day.

"But is she a good baby?"

People have been asking this question since the day I brought her home from the hospital? What does it mean to have a "good" baby? Are there really any "bad" babies?

From what I gather, when people ask whether you have a "good" baby, what they are really trying to figure out is whether or not your baby is convenient, and possibly even whether h/she is predictable. Several follow-up questions are inevitably asked:

Does she fuss a lot? 
Does she need to be in arms all the time? 
Does she sleep through the night? 
Is she on a schedule for eating and sleeping? 

According to these criteria, McKenna is not a good baby. Does she fuss a lot? No, but I believe that is because we are responsive to her needs. She doesn't need to cry to get our attention; if we're paying attention to her cues then we can usually figure out what she needs before she has to resort to tears. However, like most babies she likes to be cuddled and held, and if given the choice will always choose being up in arms over a playpen. She's not on any type of a sleep schedule (not for lack of trying), and sleeps whenever she decides she's ready. Sometimes that means she has three or four half-hour naps throughout the day, and other times she may sleep for two-and-a-half hours without waking. She wakes roughly every hour through the night and wants to be nursed to get back to sleep. Similarly, she eats when she's hungry, not according to the clock. Is she convenient? To be honest, not really. Fortunately that was never an expectation of mine. Microwave dinners are convenient. Disposable cutlery are convenient. Cars are convenient. Babies aren't meant to be convenient, and I didn't choose to have a baby so that my life could be made easier. She is unpredictable in her moods, and downright demanding. So no, she's not a "good" baby. But I wouldn't trade her for the world... or even a solid night's sleep. 

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Getting Back At It

I have wanted to teach and do research for a long time. A very long time. When I found out that I was expecting, I swore up and down that it would not slow me down, that I would still finish "on time" (whatever that means). I would still graduate with my PhD, and would go on to teach at a university, and maybe even run a consulting business on the side. The possibilities were endless....

Now, 5 months post-birth, I find myself toying with the idea that maybe my priorities have shifted a little. Life just doesn't seem as simple as it used to. I can't just go to school and spend 6 hours working at my computer. I can't be present for all of the meetings and workshops I would like to attend. And to be honest, often I don't want to be. I love being home with McKenna and seeing her grow up. While I don't think I am cut out to be a stay-at-home mom in the long-term, I am enjoying this time we have together immensely. I'm starting to think that maybe my career ambitions need to be scaled back a bit to accomodate more of a family life.

Recently, McKenna has started going to a home daycare three days a week. Two of the days I am teaching, and the third day I have set aside to work on my dissertation. Tomorrow will really be my first real day back at it since I had McKenna. Sure, I have collected data since then, but I haven't sat down and written much of anything since December. I'm dreading it. I feel like I'm starting at the beginning again. I no longer feel like a curious, competent graduate student, I feel like a tired, overworked mom. But I want to do this. I am so close to being finished, and I know that I would always regret it if I gave up on this degree. Whatever it takes, I will walk across that stage someday soon. I just need to buckle down and force myself to get back at it.

Friday, 11 May 2012

A Well-Traveled Baby

On Sunday, McKenna and I arrived home, after 3 weeks away from home - first to visit her paternal grandparents in Ontario, and then to visit my family in NB. My poor, dear little girl is still so exhausted and stressed out from all the traveling. When she was less than a month old, we took her to Ontario, and then she visited NB at 2 months. Both times she coped wonderfully, and so I assumed that she would be just as easy to travel with at 4-5 months. Not so, my friends, not so...

I first noticed when we were in Ontario that she was fussier than normal, and wasn't sleeping well at night. I quickly chalked it up to the fact that she wasn't seeing as much of her father and I as usual (we were out doing lots of fun, touristy things), and was making up for it during the night, by nursing more often. Also, she had been getting some formula during the daytime when we were out (she's not a fan). Ontario was a fun, but tiring trip. I got very little sleep, and McKenna just wasn't herself. I could only hope that our trip to NB would go more smoothly. 

Unfortunately, McKenna spent the first week of our visit to NB fussing, eating very little, and waking up 8-11 (yes, I counted) times every night. I repeatedly had to cancel plans that I had made with friends, because I knew that McKenna needed me more than I needed to socialize. The poor thing was just so tired and confused. I spent much of the first week in bed with her, snuggling, nursing, and trying to get her to sleep. Every 45 minutes to an hour, she would wake up and groggily reach out for me, tongue searching, to make sure I was still there. For that first week, I felt like the worst mom in the world for dragging her around at such a young age. It was obviously harder on her than we had expected it to be, and I couldn't wait to get her home and back to a predictable routine. It also didn't help that I was getting flack from relatives for holding her all the time rather than leaving her to amuse herself, or letting her cry. But that's for another post...

It's good to be home again. While I did enjoy myself, I don't know if it was worth the stress it caused McKenna. She's still not sleeping well, and wakes up crying several times a night. We are supposed to be traveling again later on this summer, but who knows? Hopefully she'll be better able to cope at 8-9 months. 

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Breastfeeding at Work?

A fellow mom recently pointed me towards the breastfeeding inclusion policy at the university. Apparently, not only am I allowed to BF McKenna while at work, but she is actually WELCOMED by the university to attend (and nurse) during class.
"Quiet breastfeeding infants and young children are welcome in lecture theatres, public spaces, seminar rooms etc". (Policy 2.0)
 "The number of times a woman needs to breastfeed or express milk will be determined by the individual needs of the mother and the age of the baby and may vary over time" (Policy 4.1)
Holy crap! I had no idea that MUN even had a breastfeeding policy, let alone one that welcomed babies into the classroom.  Not only that, but they have also built it into the orientation for new staff and students, to ensure that people are aware of the policy (presumably so that not only will they take advantage of it themselves, but so that moms will not be harassed by other students/colleagues when breastfeeding).

4.3 Support:
  • The University supports an environment that encourages women to feel at ease breastfeeding their infants and young children throughout the campus. However, there are areas of the university where infants and young children are not permitted due to safety/health concerns or requirements.
  • Support from fellow employees is important in providing a breastfeeding environment and therefore efforts are made to inform employees about this policy to secure their cooperation for any workplace accommodations that may be needed. New employees and students are informed of University policies (including the breastfeeding policy) during orientation.
  • There may be situations or environments within the University when breastfeeding breaks or private space for breastfeeding may not be provided. Other options should be explored with the mother to ensure that her needs are met.
Wow! I am so impressed with MUN. However, I probably still will not take McKenna to class. While I have breastfed her in the comfort and privacy of my office, it is unlikely that I would attempt to do so while lecturing to 90+ students. Still, it's the thought that counts, so thank you MUN, for thinking of me and my baby. And who knows, maybe I will take her to class someday...just to say I  did.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

A Rant

I recently came across a guest post on a parenting website, entitled "5 reasons not to let your child sleep with you". Intrigued, I clicked on it, to see what insights the author had that I was unaware of. Holy garbage! The entire post was full of inaccuracies, untruths, and outright lies. Clearly, the author is against co-sleeping, which is fine, to each their own. However, one should be able to make their point without resorting to deception and scare tactics. 

Here is a summary of the author's arguments (her exact words are in orange). 

Reason #1: Co-sleeping is bad for yours (and baby's) sleep

"Having your baby sleep with you could severely interrupt your sleep pattern and needs. Most parents find themselves constantly waking up to check on the child lying next to them. Not only could it affect your sleep but your child’s sleep. Babies complete a sleep cycle every 50-60 minutes and slight movement or noise coming from you could disturb that. It is best for both you and your child’s sleep habits that you sleep separately."

Seriously? Don't babies spend 9 months surrounded by movement and sound? Do they not routinely fall asleep in cars and swings, precisely because of the movement? Surely both mom's and baby's sleep is less disrupted when neither one has to wake fully for feedings. And if baby does wake more often because of "slight movement or noise", then she gets to top up on milk before drifting back to sleep. Mommy is less engorged, and baby has a full belly. Win-win.

Reason #2: Co-sleeping hurts your relationship with your partner

"Most new parents don’t realize how much change between you and your partner once you have your first child. Everything changes. A way to keep constant with your partner is to keep the bedroom your private sanctuary. Inviting your child in to your bed will slowly push you and your partner further from each other. Pillow talk and intimacy disappear when you have a child sleeping between you." 

The bedroom is not supposed to be a "private sanctuary" The baby is supposed to sleep in the parents' bedroom for at least the first 6 months. Whether she's in the bed or in a bassinet, baby's going to witness whatever goes down between her parents. Furthermore, the baby should not be between you, as the authors suggests. Safe co-sleeping involves the baby sleeping beside mom, leaving plenty of room for snuggles and pillow talk between the adults. Problem solved. 

Reason #3: Co-sleeping leads to wimpy, dependent kids

"Parents want their children to grow up to be independent and self-sufficient; allowing your child sleep with you, makes that difficult for the child to attain. A child gets accustomed to the fact they only way to fall asleep is to be next to Mom and Dad. Your child should be able to fall asleep without any aid. These issues will carry into other parts of your child’s life, school, team sports and friends." 

Again, utter nonsense. This same argument could be used against children sleeping with a mobile, with a favourite blanket, or with music. I love how she refers to a sleep routine as an "issue", as though it were something that needed to be remedied, and that might carry into "other parts of your child's life". I really don't see how having a routine of any kind can be  automatically considered to be dysfunctional. I have yet to meet an adult who still sleeps with mommy and daddy. In fact, I have yet to meet an 8-year-old who still sleeps with their parents. Or maybe everyone I know was just fortunate enough to overcome their "issues"...  

Reason #4: There might come a time when baby isn't able to co-sleep, and they will become anxious

"Just like any daily routine your child becomes accustomed to a certain way and when that routine is interrupted they don’t respond well. Sleeping in Mom and Dad’s bed every night will make vacations, visiting grandmother’s and sleepovers miserable for your child and you. Not to mention school naps." 

This point doesn't even warrant a discussion, but here goes...What if baby stays at Grammie and Grampie's house and they don't have Count Chocula like at home? Or they use blue towels instead of yellow? Apparently any small deviation in the child's daily routine will be devastating to them. Maybe we should give our kids a little more credit. 

Reason #5: Co-sleeping is unsafe. Why would you want to hurt your child?

"the chances of something happening to your child increase when they are in bed with you. There have been reports of deaths caused by suffocation and strangulation. Scary but it is a fact. Parents can accidently roll over their child during their sleep, or the child can fall and get stuck between the headboard and mattress. Just be careful and aware of the possible harm that can happen."

Yep, bad things can and do happen. Unfortunately they also happen when baby sleeps in a crib. When the proper precautions are taken, co-sleeping is very safe.

Aargh! What a frustrating article! Is it so hard to do a little research before writing on a topic that you're obviously grossly unfamiliar with!?

You can read the full post here.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Introducing Solids

I have a confession: I'm a planner. I like to know well in advance what is happening from one day to the next. I don't like surprises. I like knowing what's for supper before breakfast is even over with. And I like to plan for my baby's future, both short and long-term.

Recently I turned my obsession with planning to learning all I could about the weaning process, and introducing solids to a baby. I really didn't know much about it before I looked into it; I had just assumed that everyone started their baby on cereal at 6+ months of age. Much to my surprise, I found that there was an entire community out there who believe that babies should be fed real food, and learn to choose for themselves what they will eat, eating a variety of foods of differing textures, rather than cereal and purees. Right away, this idea appealed to me. I like the idea of giving McKenna some choice in what she eats, and letting her choose what she wants to try. I like the idea of waiting until she feels that she is ready to put something in her mouth, rather than rushing the process by putting her food in for her before she is ready. I even like thinking about how silly and messy it will be for the first little while. Imagine giving a 6-month-old a piece of pineapple or watermelon, and expecting them to actually get the majority of it in their mouth. Of course it's going to end up all over them, you, the floor, and anything else within a three-foot radius. While she's only 3 months old now, it won't be long before she'll be paying more attention to my food, and trying to swipe things from my plate. And I guess I'll take my cue from her...

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Don't Call me Doctor

At the beginning of every term, I introduce myself to my students, tell them a bit about myself and my research, and then stress that I would prefer that they call me Melody. Not Professor, not Miss, and certainly not Dr. Sorenson. I am not a Doctor, although I hope to be within the next year or so. I am also not a professor (although again, I hope to be very soon). For right now, I am just me.

Inevitably, especially in the beginning, some students will continue to call me Dr. Sorenson, and for whatever reason, it grates on me. I always hated having to refer to my undergraduate professors by such formal titles. It just felt so stuffy and pretentious that I would avoid addressing them it if at all possible, because I found it to be so awkward. In all seriousness, if I needed to speak to them, I would go up to the front of the class, or their office, or wherever they happened to be, and wait until they noticed me. All to avoid having to say the dreaded words "Dr" or "Professor". Ridiculous, really. However, I'm sure that I'm not the only one who finds these titles a bit silly. Are they necessary in order to gain the students' respect? I would hope not. I have yet to have a problem with disrespect in my classes, and nobody calls me doctor. Okay, some do, but I certainly don't endorse it. Do these titles promote and highlight an obvious power differential? Absolutely. I have complete control over my students' grades. I control the content and structure of the lectures and exams. I am the "expert" (I use this term VERY loosely) and they are the "novices" or the "learners". But is this really necessary? Would all hell break loose if we treated our students like equals? I think not. This isn't high school. We don't need to demand respect from students by requiring them to address us with silly titles.

Baby Sign Language

I toyed with the idea of teaching McKenna sign language almost from the moment I knew I was pregnant. It just seemed like a win-win situation to me - I could teach my daughter how to communicate with me, and she would learn a valuable skill that she would be able to use well into adulthood.

Last week, I made the decision to start learning some signs myself, and to introduce her to the ones that are most important for her right now. "Milk" was an obvious choice. Although I find the gesture somewhat awkward (it literally looks like you are milking a cow), this is probably the most important word in her life right now. Plus, I would prefer she make the sign than scream out "boobies!" in public. In addition to "milk", I have added "more", "mommy", "daddy" and "finished/all done" to my repertoire. It's actually pretty fun. McKenna loves the silly gestures right now, but hopefully she will eventually come to associate them with the action they are being paired with. If not, well at least I've made my daughter smile.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Turning into my Mother

There are many things that we, as kids, used to give my Mom a hard time about. Some of them I now find myself doing with McKenna. Oh, the horror! To give you an example, Mom always had to have a vehicle in the yard. It didn't matter if she was home sick with pneumonia, she wanted that car parked and ready.

Fast forward 15 years or so, and I woke up one morning to find that Greg had taken the Escape to work. We have two vehicles, but only one has a car seat base (the Escape). I immediately texted him, saying `you took my freedom!` For some reason he was confused as to what I was referring to, so I explained that he had taken the wrong vehicle. He immediately apologized and asked if I needed to go anywhere. I replied no, I didn`t have any plans really, but I would like the truck...get this...JUST IN CASE. In case of what? A flash flood? A zombie invasion? A sudden case of head lice? case of panic. On days when I am home alone with the baby and without a vehicle, I find myself feeling trapped. More often than not, I don't have anywhere that I need to be, no errands that absolutely must be completed. Heck, even when I do have a vehicle, I usually don't go anywhere. But I like to have the option. Because sometimes I do need to get out of the house, and even though I have no agenda and no real reason to pack up the baby and go, I need to. Because sometimes it can feel very lonely to be home with a baby all day, with no adults to talk to. Because sometimes I need a reason to get out of my pyjamas. So he brought home the truck for me, and it never left the driveway all afternoon. But that`s not the point.

Baby Goes to the Office

I had yet to bring McKenna with me to the office, other than to show her off a few weeks after she was born. On days when I have to go into work, McKenna usually goes to work with Greg. But this past Friday I had no other choice but to bring her to work with me. I had meetings with students that afternoon, and could not find anyone last-minute to watch her. All of my students know that I am a new mother, so I knew it would not be any great shock to them to see her in my office. I could only hope and pray that she would choose that 2-hour period to sleep.

Alas, it was not to be. We got to the office just in time for my first meeting. After spending a couple of minutes chatting about the baby (of course), it was time to get to the real purpose for the meeting - to go over the student's midterm grade. Roughly 45 seconds into it, we hear this loud "pphhssssh" sound. I turned around to see McKenna grinning ear-to-ear, and I knew immediately that a true disaster awaited me in that tiny diaper of hers. If that liquidy, squishy sound wasn't enough, the smile gives it away every time. The student assured me that it was all good, and I should go ahead and change her there in the office. So, I dug out my trusty blanket, and a clean diaper and lifted McKenna from her carseat. Immediately I could tell that this was not going to be a simple diaper change. She had leaked through her pants, and clear up the back of her shirt. Fortunately I had another change of clothes for her, but there was no way I was going to get her onesie off without covering the rest of her in yellow goo. Thinking quickly, and thanking my lucky stars that I hadn't dressed her in a nicer outfit, I grabbed pair of scissors and cut the shirt off of her.

With a clean bum, she should have been ready to lie down and go to sleep. I spread a blanket on the floor for her, put her sookie in her mouth, and waited. And waited. And waited. Those little blue eyes just stared back at me, as if to say "you can't make me". And she was absolutely right. There were other people trying to get work done, so I had to keep her happy and quiet. So I picked her up, found some YouTube Sesame Street songs, and settles in for a long 2 hours. And so it was. A very cute, but long, 2 hours. Next time I will just re-schedule my meetings.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Things We Love

In our house, we have certain products that we just can't live without; that make our lives easier and keep baby happy. Here are some of these products (more to be added as they become necessary).

1) Natursutten Orthodontic Pacifier
Made from pure, natural rubber. BPA-free. 

Oh Natursutten, you make a hideous product. But it works. McKenna loves this soother more than any other. Heaven forbid we leave the house without it...

Something had to be done about these ugly Natursutten pacifiers...keeps baby's sookie close and draws attention away from the ugly thing in their mouth. 

3) Ovol

In our house, also known as "baby crack". 

Makes it possible to get household chores done, run errands and get outside on crappy days, while still meeting baby's need to be close to you. 

5) A good bottle of wine

For "those days".

6) Lecithin Supplements
Lecithin has been a god-send in eliminating blocked ducts. Before lecithin, I was getting a block at least once a week, lasting 3-4 days. Since starting lecithin, I have had none. 

Monday, 27 February 2012

Babies and Pets

McKenna (@ 6 weeks) and Reese 
Recently, there was a tragic story of a 2-day-old infant who was killed by the family dog in Airdrie, Alberta. As the story goes, the little boy was crying in his crib when the dog bit him in the head. I can't even imagine what the parents have gone through since that terrible day.

It seems that every year there are one or more publicized cases where a very young child is killed by the family pet. In the majority of cases the dog is described as loyal, loving, and gentle, and the parents never anticipated their pet harming anyone's child, let alone theirs. But unfortunately, no matter how sweet, gentle, and good-natured a dog may be, they should never be trusted to be alone around young children, and certainly not around an infant.

When we brought McKenna home from the hospital, part of me was concerned about how my minpin would react to her. Minpins as a breed tend to attach themselves to one person, and can often be possessive of "their" human. While we also have a big, goofy German Shepherd, his intentions towards the baby were never a concern for my partner or I. Reese, on the other hand, would require constant (and close) supervision, until we could be sure that she was not jealous enough of the new baby to take a bite out of her. Fortunately, Reese took to her right away. From the moment we brought her home, Reese wanted to smell, lick, and explore this tiny little creature that she had been smelling on Greg's clothes for the past few days while we were in the hospital. She couldn't seem to get enough of her. Was she jealous? Of course she was. Reese would try to force her way in between the baby and I during feedings, would quickly jump onto the nursing pillow as I was laying the baby down to nurse, and would otherwise try to come between the baby and I. Up until McKenna arrived, Reese had been the center of my universe, and now she was relegated to sleeping on the couch (instead of in bed with us) and having to wait to be petted, fed, and let outdoors. The world wasn't revolving around Reese anymore!

 As time has passed, Reese has come to accept the baby. While she is still a little jealous of the baby, her jealousy has largely been replaced by curiosity. She is so gentle around the baby, and many a time I have woken up and found that Reese has crawled into bed with us, and is lying curled up against the baby. More than likely, she is just stealing her body heat, but it sure looks cute.

Getting back to the point of this post, dogs, no matter how old, how smart, how loyal, or what their past history with children is, should never be trusted to be unsupervised around small children. It only takes one bite. As much as I don't want to believe that my dogs are capable of hurting my child, the fact is that they are. As a parent, it is my responsibility to protect my child from dangers, particularly those that can easily be prevented. The dogs can be kenneled while I am taking a shower or doing laundry. They can sleep on the floor or at the foot of the bed instead of next to us on the pillows. While I don't think that either one of them would ever intentionally hurt McKenna, when a child is fatally bitten, the dog's intentions really don't matter.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

McKenna's Birth Story

My initial plan was to have a homebirth with McKenna. Because I am young, and in pretty good health, I didn't see the need for a dramatic, medicalized hospital birth. I wanted to labour quietly at home with my partner, our dogs, and in familiar surroundings. However, this was not to be, so I found a family physician who was willing to follow me throughout the pregnancy, and ultimately, help me bring my baby into the world. I also hired a doula to help my partner and I prepare for the experience of childbirth. Although I still did not relish the idea of a hospital birth, I felt like I had done my best to ensure that my birth experience would be as natural as possible, given the limitations of giving birth in the hospital. My birth plan clearly stated that I did not want to be offered any pain medications, that I did not want any routine interventions, basically, that I wanted to be left alone to have my baby in peace. I imagined soaking in the tub, walking the halls, and snacking as needed to help me get through what would likely be a long labour.


My water broke with McKenna at around 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, January 15th, her due date. It was quite a surprise to me, as I knew that it is not very common for your water to break before labour has started, so it hadn't even crossed my mind that it could happen. But it did, and the contractions soon followed.

My partner had gone out with a friend, so I called him and told him he should probably finish up, and head on home. Fortunately, my mother was staying with us, so I wasn't alone when it happened. I couldn't remember the protocol for what to do if your water breaks, so I called into the Case Room to see what I should do. They advised that I head in right away. Unsatisfied, I called my doula and asked her if I really needed to go in right away, or could I stay at home as long as possible. She too advised that I go straight there as soon as I was ready. Knowing that it was probably going to be a very long night, I took my time getting showered, had something to eat, and made sure my bags were ready to go.

On the way to the hospital, I was still pretty much in shock. It hadn't really hit me yet that I was not going to be leaving there until I had had this baby. Upon arriving, triage was really full, so we ended up waiting there for a good two hours because there were no delivery rooms available at the time. At my first check, my doctor informed me that I was only a few centimeters dilated, and that she could see some hair in the membranes. "Good, my baby will have some hair", I thought. However, when she went to check the heartbeat, she couldn't find it for the longest time. Finally she located it over on my left side, near the top of my ribcage (i.e., not where it should have been). After a lengthy ultrasound it was confirmed - my baby was breech. Only two days before, at my last check-up, she had been perfectly head-down and ready to go, but somewhere between that appointment and labour starting, she must have turned.

Because my water had broken hours before, trying to turn her manually was not an option. I was told that the only way she could come out was via a c-section. Now, anyone who knows me will attest to my fear of needles, blood, operations, anything surgical or injury-related. So the idea of having to undergo surgery was not at the top of my list of fun things to do on a Thursday night. I didn't know anything about having a c-section, other than the basics. I didn't read up on it at all during the pregnancy, and walked out of the prenatal class when it came time to show the c-section video. I was completely unprepared.

I was told that I would have to wait about an hour because of the snack that I had eaten prior to coming into the hospital. After a good cry, the nurse came in to prep me for surgery, I had a chance to speak briefly with the anesthesiologist, and I was escorted down the hall to the OR. Oh, and I sent my doula home. There was no need for anyone else to lose sleep over what was happening.

Minutes after birth
The c-section itself was over pretty quickly. All in all, I would guess it took about 40 minutes. McKenna was born at 3:30 a.m., and placed on my chest for a few minutes, before being whisked away to be cleaned up. Apparently, the first thing I said after they told me I had delivered a baby girl was "when can I eat?" I was still in shock over the whole thing, and nothing felt real at that point.  It would be days before she felt like mine, before I felt like I had even given birth. I felt like a passive observer, rather than an active participant in the birth of my baby girl. While it spared me some short-term pain, in the days after, I just felt numb. I saw a cute baby, but not my baby. That instant connection that a mother is supposed to feel with her baby just wasn't there. When people asked how I was feeling about the section, my automatic reply was something akin to "well, she's here and she's healthy, so that's all that matters". But I didn't believe that. Something was definitely missing. I felt like I had been cheated. I didn't get to feel my baby come into the world, didn't get to see her as she emerged. I was numb, not only physically, but emotionally as well. While I was hurting inside, I felt like it was selfish to mourn my loss when I had this perfect little baby in my arms.

Nine weeks later, I am still coming to terms with how McKenna came into the world. While I am overjoyed that she is here, and that she is healthy and happy, I still feel as though I missed out on her birth. I feel some guilt over not being more "present" during the c-section, and not being able to really bond with her in the days after she was born. The "ideal" birth that I had envisioned turned out to be anything but. I spent a great deal of time thinking about the birth in the months leading up to it, and for me, the birth experience was so very important. I was excited for the process of giving birth, not just the end result.

My doula asked me to think of the c-section as just another form of delivery. It may not have been my ideal, she said, but in the end, I still delivered my baby. And I guess she's right. So I'm trying.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Breastfeeding Facilities

McKenna and I are visiting my family in Fredericton, NB this week. It's been so nice to be home and to get to introduce her to my friends and family. At 8 weeks old, she has already been to Ontario and now to NB - thank goodness she's a good traveller!

I try to get out as much as possible with her, as I want to expose her to as much as possible from an early age. Also, being wintertime, it can be hard to get outside for walks sometimes, so we hit up the mall on particularly gross days or days when I am feeling trapped at home. As such, I have had the opportunity to sit in many a washroom, change room, and nursing room with her. The "nursery" provided by our mall back home in St John's is absolutely terrible. The breastfeeding area is literally one straight-backed chair in a washroom-type stall. No arm rests, no comfy plush seat, nothing to help make the process more comfortable for mother and baby. Come to think of it, I don't even think they provide a sink to wash your hands after changing the baby (I could be wrong?). The first time I had to use this room, I ended up having to stop the feeding prematurely, because my arms were so sore from having to hold the baby in place with nothing to support them. It was a frustrating experience for both McKenna and I. The Sears at the mall however, provides a really nice room for mothers to nurse in privacy and...comfort! Two faux-leather chairs, multiple change tables and privacy screens. As a result, I find myself going to Sears more and more now. I definitely go out of my way to go there when I need to nurse the baby, but I have also found that I am shopping there more often now. I appreciate that Sears has made an effort to support breastfeeding moms, rather than expecting them to feed their babies in the washroom or rush through a feeding because the accomodations provided are so uncomfortable. In turn, I have made a conscious effort to shop there more now, and to let the staff know that I do appreciate the room that they have provided.

So what does this have to do with being home in Fredericton? Well, I was at the mall here earlier today and had to change McKenna so I went off in search of a family-friendly washroom. To my surprise, the mall in F'ton has also provided mothers with a very nice room for breastfeeding, changing, etc. It's nice to see that some places are going out of their way not only to accomodate nursing mothers, but to make the experience more comfortable for them when they are away from home and need to nurse.