The Vaccination Post: Sigh.

I’ve been trying to avoid this post. It’s not really needed, but I think every mommy blogger has to write one at some point. My last post about “How to Be Friends with Another Mom” got some nasty comments from a few people about my snarky # 6. Now I’ll admit I could have worded that sentence in a gentler, more tactful way. But I still believe in the sentiment behind it. If you don’t vaccinate your children, they could spread preventable diseases to my child, and I’d prefer to avoid that, so I’d rather not hang out.

I think besides child abuse, anything else a parent decides to do with their child–watching TV, formula-feeding, eating candy at six months–is their prerogative, and I just don’t care. However, the choice to not vaccinate your child can affect my child, so I care. Dr. Sears said in an interview with Salon: “I also warn them not to share their fears [about the MMR] with their neighbors, because if too many people avoid the MMR, we’ll likely see the diseases increase significantly.” Basically, don’t vaccinate your children, but keep it a secret because we really need other people to vaccinate their children.

This is a topic that my husband and I researched heavily while I was pregnant. I started in the possibly-don’t-vaccinate camp or Dr. Sears’ delayed-schedule camp, but here’s the thing: I couldn’t find any credible evidence to convince me that vaccinations were causing harm.

The studies connecting vaccines to autism were bogus. 

Dr. Sears’ alternate vaccine schedule is untested and doesn’t have any valid research studies to prove that it’s any better than the CDC schedule. Dr. Sears explains the harms of the aluminum in vaccines. However, the same Salon article explains “While the notion of injecting a metal like aluminum into a baby isn’t appealing to anybody, it has gone on for almost six decades. And it’s worth putting that aluminum in context. By 6 months, according to Paul Offit, breastfed babies take some 6,700 micrograms of aluminum. Formula fed babies take almost 40,000 micrograms (116,600 micrograms if they drink soy formula). In that same period of time, the cumulative dose of aluminum from vaccines on the schedule I use to immunize kids in my office is a mere 4,575 micrograms.” It sounds like vaccines are not the main culprit when it comes to aluminum entering our babies’ bodies. Not to mention, infants bodies can process aluminum just fine.

Dr. Sears has also shown himself to be unreliable on the cry-it-out front. He cites studies about stress levels in children whose parents let them cry at night, yet when I’ve dug deeper into his works cited, the studies are mostly about abused children or orphans. Allowing your child to cry for 30 minutes is a little different than not soothing a child for eight hours every day. Overall, Dr. Sears’ research methods are questionable.

Dr. Sears with Andrew Wakefield, the leader of bogus studies on vaccines "link" to autism.

Dr. Sears with Andrew Wakefield, the leader of bogus studies on vaccines “link” to autism.

Every parent worries about making the right choice about vaccinations. There’s so much fear out there on the internet for us to get caught in and lost in the chaos. At first, we were lost in the research. But we set aside anything that wasn’t totally credible. Then we made the choice to vaccinate Mae on schedule based on two reasons: there isn’t any good evidence proving we should do otherwise AND we don’t want to risk getting other kids sick based on our decision.

It was an evidence-based, community-minded decision.

We can’t know everything, but as a parent, I try to make the best decision for my child, but I also try to think about other children, and the world I want her to grow up in, one in which people look out for each other and do the right thing. They think about each other.

So, yes, if you don’t vaccinate your child, I don’t want our children to hang out often, but you probably have other friends who don’t vaccinate their children, and that’s fine. I hope you do have friends and I hope your children stay healthy.

Baby Splurges & Baby Cheapies

Hi Friends:

It’s funny what we are frugal about and what we splurge on in our house. I bet in yours too. Unless you are like my friend Stella, who can coupon her way into earning money, not spending it. Ah-mazing.

Things we don’t spend much money on:

Clothing. We have so many hand-me-downs from our two sisters that we don’t need to buy any, and when I do feel the need to shop for Mae, I buy her used clothes at The Glittery Frog here in town where I have store credit for consigning.

Fancy baby food purees. Mae quickly let it be known that she wanted to eat what we were eating. I did one big batch of  purees and then quit because eating mush PISSED off home-girl. She tries everything that’s on our plates instead. Easy and inexpensive.

Highchair and all eating utensils are hand-me-downs.

Books. We had a book baby shower, so Mae’s library is huge. She is starting to love pop-up books, so I bought her one at Michael’s today, though.

Toys: Friends and family practically throw these at you. We’re drowning in free toys.

Things we spend money on:

Formula. When I decided to stop pumping at five months, buying Mae what I found to be the best formula was really important to me. This formula happens to only be sold in Germany, so we pay a pretty penny in shipping, but Holle, the formula, smells like breast milk, tastes good, and is easysecurty blankey on Mae’s tummy.

Blankets. Mae loves her Aden and Anais muslin blankets, and she has to have at least two in her crib at all times, and we have to wash them, and she needs some at the nanny’s house. They aren’t cheap blankets, but she loves them so much, and I’m a sucker for bed comfort and luxury. I get it.

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Baby Carrier: I splurged on a Kalea Baby ring sling because it’s beautiful and comfortable, and I don’t regret it. However, we got a free Baby K’tan and Moby wrap, so that evens things out, right?

Stroller: This one kind of goes in both categories. While a Bob stroller is expensive, we did buy it used from Craigslist. However, it was still more than we should have spent. We really love it for running/walking the neighborhood, though.

Camera: This is the most expensive item on this list, but it was the best purchase, in my opinion. I have been capturing Mae’s first year with my Canon Rebel, and I love to see her beautiful face in perfect detail.

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What do you splurge on? And what do you buy cheap or not at all?

How to Be Friends with Another Mom

I’m still slowly but surely reading Roxanne Gay’s Bad Feminist, and she has a funny and insightful list in her book on “how to be friends with another woman,” so I thought I’d try the same idea, but write it for mom-friends.

Making friends becomes more difficult after college, when the built-in structures of classes and dorms and organizations are no longer there to assist you in making friends. Add to that, having a child, who takes up just a little bit of your time, and finding and meeting friends is almost impossible. [For example, I have to stop writing this post right now because Mae is waking up.] Okay, I’m back to it, eight hours later.  I barely have time to write and teach, let alone take care of my friendships, BUT I want to, because my friendships sustain me. So here are my suggestions for making and keeping mom-friends.

1. Stop thinking your friend has it all together, and stop acting like you do. She doesn’t. If she did, you wouldn’t be her friend. But really, let’s be honest with each other. Invite me over when your house is a wreck. I mean a real wreck, with dog hair like tumbleweed in the corners of your kitchen floor and the diaper pail overflowing and the fridge empty. Then we can really bond.

1 A. If you can’t stop trying to have a clean house, because you feel so much pressure from society, invite me over and I’ll help mess up your house for you. It only takes a minute. Consider it exposure therapy. You can pay me in wine.

1.B. Come to my house in your pajamas.

2. Don’t start any sentence with “Oh, just wait….” if you have more children or an older child than your friend.

 

3. screamingDon’t judge a woman based on her baby/children. If you see a child screaming in line at the grocery store, don’t stare or think to yourself “that mother should take control of this situation.” You don’t know her situation or her child. Maybe the child is autistic or newly adopted or is just having a horrible, terrible day. OR wouldn’t take a nap. Let her break in front of you in line and then buy her groceries for her, or at least a bottle of wine. I bet you’d make a friend.

4. If you and a friend have babies around the same time, don’t compare notes too much. Your babies will be completely different. Rejoice in her victories and listen to her sorrows. However, even though you have shared a similar experience simultaneously, you are also having totally different experiences, and you must respect that.

5. If you don’t believe in cry-it-out, keep your mouth shut. Seriously. There isn’t any hard evidence to prove your claim, and you’re just going to make people feel bad. Nobody enjoys listening to a child cry, but I’m sure your friend has thought through her choice. This advice goes for everything from bottle-feeding to public school. Don’t preach the pros and cons. We’re moms, we’ve already done all the research and made a decision. Let’s be friends anyways. Who cares if you pull your boob at lunch while I fumble around with getting formula into a bottle?

6. If you don’t believe in vaccinations, you might not make many friends.

7. You don’t have to like the dad to like the mom. Let’s get realistic. It’s hard enough to find a mom-friend. Don’t limit yourself by having to like their spouses too. Just deal with it. Your own relationships can confuse you, so just leave other people’s alone.

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8. Be there for emergencies and don’t ask too many questions. Moms need friends who can help at the last minute, who can take care of the baby because if you don’t get a glass of wine alone, your might explode, and they understand this is an emergency. Friends who let you wake them up at 5 AM because you have to borrow their car because your locked yourself out and need to get to work. Friends who let you raid their medicine cabinet when your dog dies and you need a sedative.

 

 

No, wine wear needed. I like it straight up.

No, wine wear needed. I like it straight up.

9. Moms need friends who don’t expect them to remember anything. If you let a mom-friend borrow something, you aren’t getting it back for a while, or ever, but that’s the deal. She might not remember your birthday, but when she does, she’ll give you a kick-ass gift, or just a bottle of wine, which is kick-ass. We all need to lower our expectations a little, or a lot. God, we should all get off Pinterest, and just give each other wine for all gifts, even baby showers and first birthdays, just wine. I’d rather have that than your baby’s footprint turned into mistletoe art, let’s be honest.

10. Mostly, moms need friends who love their children, even when they are hard to love. She needs a friend whose eyes remind her how beautiful her baby is when she’s been up all night long with that screaming baby. She needs a friend who tells her that her baby is right on track, perfect, and her friend is sincere. A friend who is in love with her child because she considers him/her family. Mom-friends are more like a tribe, a chosen family. Once you’re in, you’re in. We’re kind of like the mafia.

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What else would you add to this list?

A Much-Needed Day Off: Thanks to Veterans

For me, the time between fall break and the beginning of December is the hardest of the year. Students’ essays hit me like huge waves, and I’m constantly drowning in grading. BUT, today I’m off work, thanks to our veterans, who I think about on a daily basis because I work with them in my classroom every day. Every semester I become more aware of the depth of their sacrifice.

It’s only 10 AM, but we’ve enjoyed every minute of our time together so far. Mae learned how to open and close her mailbox toy this morning, after many months of trying. We listened to the Avett Brothers and ate breakfast bars together. She’s a pretty big fan of the Avetts.

Then we went on a run, and I listened to some 90′s rap. You get some funny looks in my neighborhood for bumping Bone Thugs while running with your baby. It’s my day off, people! I’m doing what I want. ;)

This busy time of the year is also a sweet time with Mae. I find myself swinging from total overwhelm to total gratitude, or maybe that’s just parenthood. She’s learning something new every day. She knows Arthur’s name. She can wave. She’s starting to crawl. She tries to clap. I beam with a pride I’ve never known, and at the same time, say slooooow down, Maebell. Slow down. It’s all going so fast.

Today, we slow down. I hope you all find a moment to do the same. Thanks to our veterans for allowing us to have such a lovely day. I also finally have time to take photos of my favorite subject:

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Teacher Moms: Tell A Mom Tuesday

I should be grading right now, but I can’t, I just can’t, y’all. The words all sound like gibberish and they don’t make any sense. I don’t know if it’s because I’m DONE and burned out or if these essays, really just don’t make sense. Probably a combination of both.

And it’s more complicated than my time constraints when it comes to choosing not to grade very thoroughly. I actually CARE about my students, like most teachers, so I can’t mail it in. I have to grade these essays, make some sense of them, and try to help these students.

As a mother, I know that my daughter brings me more joy than anyone or thing ever has. When I walk in the door after work and her face lights up, well, there isn’t anything better. But she has also made me more tired than anyone, ever. I assume that phrase bone-tired originated from a parent. My students are similar. A lively classroom discussion energizes me, but a million questions about information I’ve already explained, drains the energy right out of me.

My nephew, who is full of energy, would refer to his tank of gas, and how many gallons he had left for the day. He was very specific: “I have 17 gallons left.” Teaching and mothering is a constant filling up and depleting of my fuel, and I never know what the day will bring. I might think I’ve got a full tank, but I’m on empty by 9 AM.

I’m sure most jobs are like this.

But the stakes are high and personal when it comes to teaching. We know all our students by the end of the semester. We begin to know their hopes and dreams. We have students who can’t succeed because they don’t have a foundation of basic knowledge, and we try to find a way to help them, but it’s almost impossible because they can barely read. We have students who don’t know how to interact with their peers. We have students who are discovering their sexuality for the first time. We have students who can’t afford next semester or are being deployed to Africa in two weeks.

Teaching and mothering are jobs that require you to leave it all, every day. What I mean by that is there isn’t room for halfway, not really. For instance, on the way to work this morning I thought about how I wanted an easy day. I was going to keep things laid back, maybe even let them out early. But then I got into the classroom, and someone didn’t understand interlibrary loan, and someone else had an idea about comparing and contrasting The Misfit in “A Good Man is Hard to Find” with Perry Smith in In Cold Blood, and we were off and running, learning.

For me, and those who love to teach, half-assing isn’t really an option. And it’s the same way I feel about mothering. You don’t shortchange your kid. You just don’t. You do everything you can, for your students and your kids, because they are all somebody’s kid.

So I’ll be up late tonight, grading papers, like a lot of teachers. I’ll put Mae to bed, hoping she stays asleep, so I can help another person’s daughter learn how to developing an argument or just write one beautiful sentence.

Keep up the good and hard work, teacher mamas. #tellamom #tellateacher

Military Moms: Tell A Mom Tuesdays

One of the best parts of my job is working with active military and veterans. For the most part, I would describe my military students as engaged, smart, and still healing from their service.

I didn’t know until I began teaching near Fort Bragg that female soldiers are expected to deploy as soon as four months postpartum. Some of my students have left their babies at four months and not seen them again until they were a year old. I can’t fathom that.

These women breastfeed their babies for one last time, get on plane, fly across the world, and get to work. And the thing is, many of them love their work. They are badass. They are strong beyond measure. They compartmentalize to an extent that I haven’t achieved and I don’t know if I’d ever want to be in a position to have to.

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I also have the spouses of active military in my courses. These women parent for months and years by themselves. They stay at home with three kids and there isn’t any relief in sight. She cooks, cleans, puts them to bed, gets up in the middle of the night, and starts over tomorrow. She doesn’t know when he’s coming home. She worries and worries.Then she does more laundry and pays the bills.

And these students/moms rarely have a self-pitying attitude. In fact, they are some of the most resilient women I know. They don’t make excuses. They make shit happen.

Military Mamas, y’all amaze me.

History of the Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression

So I’ve started doing some research beyond interviews about postpartum depression and anxiety, and I hit the jackpot in terms of research sources: “Can’t A Mother Sing the Blues?” by Lisa Held and Alexandra Rutherford. Held and Rutherford detail every major magazine and news article about postpartum from the 1950s to early 2000s, and they correlate psychological theories and feminist movements along with the media’s portrayal. FASCINATING.

Here are some shocking, interesting, nerdy facts for you:

In 1953 a psychoanalyst-pediatrician, Donald W. Winnicott defined the “ordinary devoted mother” as someone who must demonstrate “an almost complete adaptation to the needs of the child” and “meet the needs of the child to the exclusion of any other interest,” including her mental well-being. Basically, when women became mothers, they were no longer people.

Um, my first thought when I read this section on Winnicott was DR. SEARS. Attachment above all else.

The article goes on to state pediatricians preached that “even minor separations from the mother or mother-substitute (um, dad?) could have dire lifelong consequences.” No pressure, y’all, just don’t leave your baby, EVER.

At this point in time, postpartum depression doesn’t even exist. There is only a mild mood disorder labeled the “third-day blues,” which was equated to the struggle of adjusting to getting domestic chores done once baby arrives. Basicallly, women were told a few hours of reading or relaxation would cure it. Women were blamed for this moodiness due to their inability to adjust to sacrificing themselves, completely.

The term postpartum depression was first used in 1960 in Good Housekeeping, and it was described as “causeless.”

The 1960s and 70s ushered in the use of tranquilizers for women suffering from mood disorders. If a woman didn’t bounce back within a week or so, she was given medication and expected to quickly return to normal.

This quote made my blood boil: “Immature young women may resent their lost status as the ‘baby doll.’ This type of mother, whose every whim was indulged before the real baby arrived, may never be mature enough to adjust to happy, normal parenthood.” This was from the New York Times Magazine in 1960 and written by a woman, Dr. Margaret Benz. Yes, I am just throwing a fit over not being doted on anymore. That’s exactly what postpartum depression looks like. Negative, Dr. Benz.

Then we have Rene Spitz in his book The First Year (1965) telling women that specific mood disorders link to specific physical disorders in children: anxiety in mothers equals eczema in babies. WTF?

The 1970s and 80s strengthened the women’s movement and support groups started to form. Women also started having less children due to the availability of contraception.

So postpartum depression began to be recognized as a mental illness, one out of the mother’s control. However, it was sensationalized in the media, which mainly portrayed postpartum psychosis, like the Time article in 1988 titled “Why Mothers Kill Their Babies.” Remember, only 1% of mothers suffer from postpartum psychosis. It’s rare.

And the thing is, while many of these quotes and facts shocked me, they also felt so familiar. The media still portrays postpartum depression as postpartum psychosis. Women are still put into the categories of “good” and “bad” mother all too often. Doctors, pediatricians, and lactation consultants often put breastfeeding before a mother’s mental health. There are still too many male, and female, physicians giving women bogus advice on parenting that’s not based on any science.

I’m still processing all of this information, and I just needed to share it with you. It’s made me think a lot about my mother and her mother, and the women of those generations who really had to suffer alone. There weren’t options. Postpartum support groups have only been around for thirty years, y’all. That’s a flea on the dog of time. I don’t think I would have survived without my support group. We’ve made some progress, but so much of what I read hasn’t changed very much at all.