Sunday, November 29, 2009

How to have a waste-free Christmas

red stars on greeneryI got the idea for this post when it was still a few weeks before Thanksgiving and I walked into Target with Mikko and was hit by a wall of red and green. That's right — I'd accidentally wandered into

The Christmas Section

I love Christmas when it's Christmas, but it was a little horrifying in early November. I walked through it, assaulted by all the blinking lights and chipper music and bubble packaging and paper wrappings and, and, and...

It just struck me that we are always buying stuff at Christmas, even beyond the actual presents.

(Just a time-out to say that if you don't celebrate Christmas, you can ignore me. I'm not trying to ignore you, just speaking out of my own cultural and personal experience and out of the fact that Christmas is kind of self-proclaimed as the most excess-driven of all celebrations. If you celebrate something else, these musings might still apply; if you don't celebrate any particular holidays at all, go about your merry existence unburdened by such considerations as this.)

I started wondering, what if I/we made a pledge not to spend anything for a Christmas? And then I laughed heartily at myself.

But it kept circling in my mind, and a list of ideas started forming. The only thing I could think in particular that I wanted to buy this Christmas was some of those new flameless candles (because I like candles but not fire hazard + lead wicks + toddler), along with some presents and some special food items, but I decided I could forgo the fake-o candles.

I finally decided that there could be separate or shared goals if someone wanted to commit to buying less for Christmas. For instance, one family might decide to spend no money, in an effort to be frugal, whereas another might try to create no waste in an effort to be environmental. You could combine them and do both, and my idea list takes into account either or both goals. Please add any of your own ideas in the comments!

  1. Christmas decorations! Do we actually need any more? I mean, really. Take a good, hard look at your storage of red-and-green-and-sparkly-and-blinky, and see if you can just call a moratorium on any new ornaments and garlands for one year. Another option would be to make sustainable, low-impact, or multi-purpose decorations: a popcorn and cranberry garland or cookie and candy ornaments that you actually eat; make a live Advent calendar by telling a joke or reading a poem once a day; repurpose something that's meant for another season; raid your craft and fabric stash for scraps that could inspire you.


  2. Christmas tree! We bought a live evergreen for Mikko's first Christmas, and our idea is to have it grow along with him. We found out after we bought it that live trees don't much like being brought in to the warmth during the winter and then set outside again — something to do with dormancy periods and damaging them and such. So it's happily out on our balcony, where we will decorate it with some hardy ornaments. If you don't care about using the same tree every year and you have your own land, you could buy a new, live tree this year, enjoy and decorate it inside, and then transition it gradually to the outdoors before planting it in its new, earthy home. If you already have evergreens outside your home that are yours to mess about with, you could bring your decorations outside. Last year, we decorated our ficus instead of our little evergreen, since it was cozily sitting out the freak winter storm on our patio and we didn't want to disturb it.


  3. Wrapping paper! I had this idea to go simple with wrapping paper in the future, once I'd used up my collected stash. I thought, I'll use just white tissue paper, and then ribbon to hold it together, preferably fabric ribbon, in whatever color fits the occasion. That can work for baby showers, weddings, Christmas, birthdays, whatever, and the storage would be a piece of cake! But then my friend went one better by showing me how she buys cute fabric bags at thrift shops for fifty cents or so apiece to use as reusable gift bags. Cute, no? You could also use fabric scraps you already have. One of my favorite wrapping ideas is to incorporate the present, too: like, a great wedding present (that we received and have since given!) is a picnic basket filled with lovey-dovey picnic-for-two paraphernalia. For kids, you could wrap a toy in a silk playscarf. You could always forgo wrapping presents altogether, but...oh, I don't know, isn't half the fun unwrapping? For very young children, it's about 99% of the fun!


  4. Christmas presents! Speaking of which, we have used this shady technique with Mikko when he was very young: wrapping up toys he already has but has forgotten about. He didn't at all seem disappointed when he opened them! This will not work on anyone who has decent long-term memory, fyi. But there are ways to give less wasteful presents. You can make a gift, of course, though sometimes that can cost just as much and become just as much clutter. One that I'm rather proud of but might not be everyone's cup of tea (such as those I gave it to...) is an album of lullabies I recorded for Mikko. Low-cost, low-mess. Memberships to museums and tickets to events are pricey but eco-friendly. Coupons for experiences you make yourself would satisfy both the frugal and the environmental side, but make sure you follow through. Examples I've received and given, respectively, have been a free wardrobe consultation and a couples photography session on the beach. If you're talking distant relatives and you're feeling gifted out, ask if they'd mind stopping exchanging gifts — they might be feeling the same way. Or maybe do a Secret Santa deal, to limit the number you have to give, or agree to donate to charities in each other's names. I've found that some people appreciate the donation thing if it's unexpected, and some think it's obnoxious, so it's probably best to ask. Other ideas if a group of people is up to it would be a clothing, book or toy exchange party, or giving each other used gifts from the thrift store or craigslist — that would require still spending money, but not as much, and you would be preventing waste by taking something out of the trash stream.


  5. Christmas events! I liked that live Advent calendar idea I had up there — didn't you? I had no idea that was going to pop out when I started writing this. I bet there are similar ways to streamline and tone down your Christmas festivities. There are so many free concerts and puppet shows and community potlucks to attend at this time of year that you could pass on anything that requires tickets and still feel celebratory. Maybe for Santa pictures, someone you know already has a Santa suit, and someone else you know has mad camera skillz, and this could all come together in something serendipitous and less mall-intensive.


  6. Christmas food! All right, this one has me stuck a little, because I absolutely have to make my mom's famous hot cream cheese dip. There is no possible way I'm giving that one up. But, in other times, such as when we were preparing to move, and phases when we have been desperately poor, we have instituted buy-no-new-food months. That is as it sounds, with the exception of a minimum of perishables that are absolutely required in our quest to use up the food that's already in the pantry, fridge, and freezer. If you're anything like we are, you'll be surprised at what's lurking on your shelves or molded into little blocks in the back of the freezer, and equally surprised at what tasty dishes you can make from it all. Maybe December isn't the best month for such a venture, but it's a possibility, in any case!


  7. Christmas letters! We send out an annual Christmas letter through the actual postal mail, but I've been thinking that eventually it will become a Christmas email. We already have a personal photo website where our family and friends can keep up to date with us throughout the year, and I keep whittling down our mailing list to our particular friends and to those who are not internet-savvy enough to type in a URL or subscribe to an RSS feed. As those people die off (sorry, old people, but it's true!), I will probably switch to all-online. Now, don't get me wrong — I love getting me some Christmas cards and letters in the actual mail: the feel of the paper, the seasonal stamps, the thrill of something in my mailbox that's not a bill or flyer, and the pride of crowding my mantel with the results to show off just how many friends I have. But...I can see that moving toward a paperless society can and will be a good thing. You can now send or post cards, invitations, letters, videos, and photo slideshows all online, so you have a lot of options for making your e-greetings merry and meaningful. If all else fails, you could, um, use recycled paper?




If all this sounds too bah-humbuggy to you, just think about incorporating one or two ideas and let the rest percolate for another year. In perfect honesty and humility, I freely admit I will not be following all these suggestions this year, but I will be thinking about them. I've decided that counts. And, yes, the irony is not lost on me that my last post was about coupon codes for holiday shopping. I figured — hey, if you're going to buy things, might as well use a coupon! In my defense, the only one I used was the $3 Amazon mp3 download, which is cluttering up only my iTunes instead of my shelf.

In the spirit of the fact that NaNoWriMo is over in two days, and I still have 5,000 words to write, I spent almost no time at all on this post. I'm sure there are plenty of other ideas out there, and that a bajillion other bloggers have covered this topic, but you know what? I'll just lean on you all to fill in the missing pieces! Let me know what ways you're cutting down, saving money, and making do this Christmas.

Photo courtesy of Hilde Vanstraelen on stock.xchng

Friday, November 27, 2009

Hobo Mama Reviews & coupon codes for Black Friday through Cyber Monday

heart gift tags

I've started a new review site called Hobo Mama Reviews, just in case it ever so happens that I need to host a review or giveaway on a page with no ads. (I like thinking ahead; what can I say?)

In the meantime, I thought I could use it to host any reviews, giveaways, or other product-intensive things that I feel are better suited off the main Hobo Mama page and on a product-specific site.

To start things off, I'm posting some parent-oriented coupons for Black Friday through the weekend and on to Cyber Monday, almost all of which came to me through affiliate sites I signed up for and am debating whether to continue with. Might as well get some use out of the coupons while they're around!

Here are today's Black Friday coupons for Nov. 27. Check back at Hobo Mama Reviews over the next four days for coupon lists for Nov. 28-30.

If there's anything that deserves a head's-up on this main site, I'll flag it here with a short little post like this. But if you're interested in following along with any future product reviews and giveaways that might be exclusively mentioned on Hobo Mama Reviews, you might want to follow the new site or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Photo courtesy Billy Alexander on stock.xchng

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The winner of the mei tai giveaway — and how to make your own!

Drum roll, please...

Baby Josephine and BetsyThe mei tai baby carrier goes to Betsy B. Honest at Honest 2 Betsy!

Betsy is one of the funniest bloggers I know, and she has a guest post coming soon on her birth experiences — specifically, the pain part of birthing! It's beautiful and hilarious and...oh! Stay tuned!

The picture is of Betsy and her newest little one, Josephine, born only a week ago and who will get to pioneer the wrap.

Betsy has chosen the polka dots, so I'm not promising, but you might see the stripey one make a reappearance sometime.

I was so overwhelmed by all of you marvelous people and your wonderful entries. So many much-loved babies and toddlers out there!

For those of you who didn't win (that is, all of the rest of you!), I will just point out again that you can make your own no-sew fleece mei tai. Whether you can get around to it is up to you, of course!

My handy-dandy mei tai how-to packet can help! I'm repeating the pattern and no-sew instructions below. The document (it's a PDF via Google Docs) also includes a sheet on how to wear your baby in a mei tai, perfect for your own use or for handing out to friends.

For those of you who have been wondering why on earth it was taking me so long to announce the winner of the giveaway, wonder no longer! It's because I was trying to create the pattern you will see below in Photoshop (which is only on Sam's laptop, so I had to borrow it while he was sleeping!), which involved much measuring and math and then measuring again and shaking my head at myself and measuring again, and then I had to expand my handy-dandy instruction sheet to include my new pattern and how-to, and then upload it and do a test print (also only on Sam's computer, because mine deciding printing is beneath its dignity), so...well, it all takes time. But it's Thanksgiving today hereabouts, so let's all be thankful for babywearing! Yea!

The original pattern and instructions are from WearYourBaby.com, and then I made a few alterations.

The tricky part's making the first one. After that, you can use that one to trace around and make more if you'd like to give them as baby gifts. Make sure to include the first two pages of the mei tai instruction packet so your recipients know what to do with their new homemade-with-love fleece baby carrier!

What you need: 2 yards heavy fleece, in your choice of colors, patterns, or embellishments; measuring tape; chalk or marker that will show on your fleece; pins; sharp scissors (if yours are dull from cutting paper, buy new ones or get yours sharpened — dull scissors will just frustrate you and slow you down — ask me how I know this!)

Where to find fleece: Any fabric store, or in the fabric section of a mega-store. At JoAnn's, it often goes on sale, so you can wait if you're patient.

The pattern: Some of these instructions I'm copying from WearYourBaby.com, and some I'm adding or altering. You can choose which directions to follow, because it's your carrier, after all!

This is the original pattern from WearYourBaby.com, which I happened to download before the domain changed and the image links broke:

How to ABC

Here is my version:

mei tai baby carrier pattern

Click on either to see it larger. If you download my handy-dandy instruction packet, my version of the pattern and these instructions are included on the last two pages.

The differences between my pattern and the original are that mine's more to scale (it might not be perfect, but it's free, so why complain...), which makes it easier to visualize as you measure. I also made my straps wider for comfort's sake, and the apron where the baby sits a bit higher. My baby's got a long torso, and I felt like the original length was a little short on him. If you have a teeny baby, you can either (a) cut the apron shorter as in the original pattern or (b) roll up the waist a little (easy solution, and it keeps the length for when you might need it later). What's nice about the longer length is it can double as a makeshift sleeping hood/support for a small and drowsy baby's head.

If you want to use the original WearYourBaby pattern, remember it is not to scale. See how the bottom says "total width of bottom is 60 inches"? But the total length is 72 inches, which, you know, should look longer than the 60 inches. So don't let that confuse you. Also, you fold your fabric in half lengthwise, so imagine folding the mei tai pattern in half as well. If this is too confusing to you, just use my version!


Simple step by step:

     • The fleece you start with should be 2 yards long (72 inches). The width will vary depending on the bolt of fabric but should be around 60 inches wide. If it's less, don't panic. Just see if the width will fit around your waist comfortably and allow you room to tie the straps in a knot. Probably it will.

     • Fold the cloth in half lengthwise so that the length is still 2 yards but the width is now about 30 inches. Smooth it out and pin it in a few places if you're concerned it will shift.

     • In my version of the pattern, the light rectangle is your folded fabric, with the dotted red line showing where the lengthwise fold is. The dark blue is what your finished mei tai will be (folded in half). You cut off all the light parts and save for scraps or discard. (This is kind of a wasteful pattern, but that’s the trade-off of no-sew bliss!)

     • Use the measuring tape and your chalk or marker to measure and mark (ah! it makes sense!) the dimensions. (If you use permanent ink, make sure you cut inside the lines so that the marks aren't on the finished mei tai.)

     • I’ve widened the straps somewhat to make them more comfortable. You can make the shoulder straps even wider, but I would gradually increase the width in a V shape so that the wide straps don’t crowd the baby in the apron part: so, 5” wide where it intersects the apron widening out to 7” or so at the ends. If that doesn’t make sense to you, ignore me and make like picture.

     • Cut along the lines you’ve marked with sharp scissors. If you're having trouble cutting through the two layers of heavy fleece, it's because you didn't believe me on the sharp part. The lines don’t have to be perfectly straight. Don’t cut along the fold, or you’ll have two half-tais! You can trim off any selvage (ugly bits with writing along the edge).

     • Unpin & try it out with your baby, if you have one handy. Adjust as necessary.

     • Bonus: If you like simple sewing, experiment with adding a pocket from some of your scraps!

Finished dimensions: In my version, the waist straps should be about 6 inches tall and about 60 inches wide. The shoulder straps should be about 5 inches wide and about 2 yards (72 inches) tall. The apron part should be about 24 inches wide (including the two 5 inch shoulder straps) and 26 inches tall (including the waist strap). If you use the WearYourBaby version, here are the dimensions instead: waist straps 4 inches by 60 inches; shoulder straps 4 inches by 2 yards; apron 22 inches wide by 24 inches tall.


For a printable version of this pattern and construction how-to, click on Hobo Mama's handy-dandy mei tai instruction packet to download a PDF version from Google Docs. It's four pages long but can be printed back to front if you'd like a paper-conserving way to hand out the first two instructional pages to friends when you're giving away mei tais as baby gifts. I even included super-cool pictures of a fleece mei tai in use! And it's designed in Word, so you know that's got to be snazzy.

For more ideas on how to wear and how to make Asian-style baby carriers, see my post on "Babywearing the heavy baby: mei tai."

Please let me know if there are any broken links, bad math, faulty measurements, or general incompetencies in my pattern making. This was my first attempt at making a pattern, and I tend to adapt things for use with my (huge) baby, which might or might not be as useful for other (size) babies. So I'd appreciate your (gentle, oh, please) feedback.

Once again, I just want to say that I so appreciated all of your entries into the giveaway and wish I had a mei tai for each of you! I hope you'll stick around so I can get to know you better. Any friend of babywearing is a friend of mine.

Enjoy, and wear your baby!

Top photo courtesy Betsy
Mei Tai pattern © www.WearYourBaby.com
with adaptations and sweat labor
by Lauren Wayne (that's me!) from Hobo Mama
Instructions © Lauren (still me!) from Hobo Mama
based on the WearYourBaby instructions,
but feel free to adapt and pass this along
to as many babywearing enthusiasts as you’d like!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Meiji breastfeeding print

Old Japan Meiji Mother and Baby Breastfeeding

From around 1910, via Okinawa Soba on flickr (cc), who says:

"'Nursing Moms' ... will always be eternally photographed, published, and displayed in those countries where no shame or stigma is attached to this most natural of all maternal scenes."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Reasons to get behind elimination communication

This is second in a series of guest posts for Hobo Mama by other bloggers. Read to the end for a longer biographical note on today's guest blogger, Lisa from My World Edenwild. I've talked about elimination communication, or infant potty training, on Hobo Mama before in terms of our experiences with it, but Lisa is bringing a fresh perspective: the why behind practicing elimination communication.



Guest post by Lisa from My World Edenwild

I am rare in the fact that when I first heard of the term "diaper-free baby," I knew I wanted to do it. Most parents are fazed by the idea. Many won't even consider it, while some are intrigued but intimidated. But not me. I was more like, Well, of course a baby can do that — babies are amazing! But like I said, I am the exception. So if you are daunted by the idea, know that you are in good company. Also, believe me when I say that it is very doable, and you can do as much or as little of it as you like, and still reap tremendous benefits.

If you haven't heard of it yet, elimination communication (EC) is a form of communication between a baby and its caregiver about the baby's elimination needs. The basic idea is that a baby needs to pee or poo, and would rather not do it on itself (in a diaper), so the baby gives a signal to the caregiver, who then takes the baby to eliminate over an appropriate receptacle and cues the baby to go. It works, it really does.

But this post isn't on how to do EC, but why to do it. There are so, so many reasons. Most parents often start with just one or two reasons and then learn that there are many other benefits. I can't even remember my initial reason, other than knowing babies are amazing and that I should at least try it. But I found out I had many reasons for wanting to do it.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Breastfeeding support: A tale of two hospitals

Welcome to the November Carnival of Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding experiences in the hospital

This month we're bringing you posts on the topic of breastfeeding while either you or your child are in the hospital. Be sure to check out the links at the end for the other participants' excellent posts!


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breastfeeding in the hospital with the nurses

I've had two breastfeeding experiences in the hospital: one when Mikko was born, and one when he was a year old and needed minor surgery.

The first was not a good experience. I almost feel bad harping on it, because I know the nurses didn't mean any harm. But not meaning harm and not causing harm are two different things, aren't they?

I gave birth to Mikko after 42 hours of labor. He was born in the early morning, and we closed the blinds so Sam and I could finally get a little sleep. Nurses kept coming into our room, as they are wont to do, and opening the blinds. They were very insistent that we be awake during the day, for some reason (as if newborns care what time of day it is!), and that Mikko get some sunlight (he wasn't jaundiced, and he had most recently been accustomed to a dark womb for nine months!). Every shift change, and there were several unusual ones because of various situations that called a nurse to a different wing, a new nurse would come in, wake us up, and give us breastfeeding advice.

One woke me up from a dead sleep in the dark to rattle off a list of foods that breastfeeding mothers couldn't eat, including alcohol but also peppers and anything spicy. I can't remember all the foods she listed, just that almost every one was a benign food for most breastfeeding women and breastfed babies. I stared at her groggily, wondering why on earth she would believe such a thing was universal, and why she had to wake me up to tell me so. I worried about all the other mothers she had told this to who took it to heart and decided not to breastfeed if it was so restrictive.

Every nurse also took it upon herself (we saw only women nurses during our stay) to adjust my breast and Mikko on it. They did this roughly and without warning, swooping in to "correct" my latch. I wasn't having any pain, and I had not asked for help. I would have appreciated words of advice, but surprise rough handling of a delicate body part was hard to handle. They also kept readjusting my pillows and hospital bed incline, further disturbing our rest. All of their advice was contradictory, and it made me wonder if there shouldn't be a hospital policy about the "best" way to breastfeed, just to keep the contradictions lower. One would tell me I needed to lie completely on my side. The next nurse would come in and scold me for lying on my side and point out that my breast was now too low to align with my baby's mouth. Another would come in and tell me I shouldn't be lying down at all. For my part, I was feeling overwhelmed, shy, and new to this whole mothering thing, and I didn't appreciate being criticized at every shift change. In hindsight, I think a better approach would have been to have one person, preferably a certified lactation consultant, be in charge of assisting me with breastfeeding. She could come in at intervals to check whether everything was all right. Then, when I was awake and feeling conscious, she could observe my latch and offer any advice in a more sensitive manner. I'll just put that out there in case the hospital I birthed at is reading along for suggestions!

The worst nurse was the one who held us hostage in the hospital when we were beyond ready to go home and get some rest. The nurse-midwife from the delivery had signed off on my discharge. The pediatrician had signed off on Mikko's. But this one persistent nurse felt that Mikko wasn't eating well enough, and she hinted that she would refuse to sign our discharge forms and raise a stink with the hospital...unless we let her give Mikko a bottle of formula, "just to see if he could eat." It was ludicrous, and I felt that even then, but we were so exhausted and just wanted to get home to sleep in peace (with the blinds closed!). That one bottle of formula set off a week of pumping and finger feeding nightmares. To her credit, the nurse helped us arrange an electric pump rental through the hospital! She also sent us home with a bag of syringes, feeding tubes, and formula, the latter of which we stopped using after a day.

All in all, I was highly discouraged by my breastfeeding experience in my birthing hospital. It's a so-called breastfeeding-friendly hospital, in that the nurses all intended to support breastfeeding, and the goodie bag I was sent home with was really just a swaddling blanket, breastfeeding and childcare pamphlets, and some mesh undies and industrial pads. The experience showed me that just because the hospital policies are not set to undermine breastfeeding, individual nurses (and in our case, every single nurse) can sabotage a mother's intentions to breastfeed and success at breastfeeding all the same.

When Mikko was a year old, he went in for surgery to look for a missing testicle. I was worried about the surgery for many reasons, but I'll focus on the breastfeeding ones. First of all, we were told not to breastfeed him for eight hours before surgery, which according to my research with Dr. Google (but I truly do think I'm right!), is much longer than is necessary, even for an infant undergoing general anesthesia. Breastmilk digests more quickly than other foods, though not as quickly as clear liquids. A more reasonable schedule, according to the latest guidelines from the American Society of Anesthesiologists, would have allowed Mikko to breastfeed up to four hours before surgery. Both the children's hospital and Mikko's pediatrician were inflexible on their more rigid guidelines, however, so I feared the worst for how breastfeeding would pan out during the actual surgery experience.

As it turned out, everything worked much better than I'd expected. Mikko was understandably cranky about not nursing during the night, and then being cuddled close to me as we waited but still not being allowed access to his all-favorite nummies, but the hospital did allow us to stay with him until he was initially sedated, with a liquid medicine. Then a staff member carried him off gently in his arms, and I really appreciated that detail. He wasn't wheeled off on a hard gurney, but was carried away like the baby he was.

During the surgery, I badly needed to express some milk, because my breasts were engorged after not breastfeeding for the longest period I had gone since Mikko's birth. I had brought my manual pump with me, but I needed to find a room. I found the information desk and asked the receptionist there if there was a space I could use. She jumped up in excitement. They had just created a nursing and pumping room, she told me, and she led me to a small closet-size space that had a comfortable chair, a locking door, and some pump equipment within. That was fine with me, so I was able to pump in privacy without using a restroom or worrying that I would be interrupted.

The surgery was over more quickly than we'd envisioned, and soon we were being paged down to meet Mikko as he was carried out from surgery in just the same cradled fashion as he'd been brought in. He was loopy with the anesthetic and looked red-faced and sleepy in his little hospital gown. The nurses handed him to me and led Sam and me to a smallish room with a couple big chairs. They closed the doors behind them, and Sam, after a moment's hesitation, turned off the light so that Mikko could continue waking up in his own time. The nurses left us there for maybe an hour (not insisting on turning the light back on!), and Mikko just breastfed his fill and slept off the anesthesia.

I was really impressed with the way the hospital in that instance let the breastfeeding relationship play out as it's supposed to, not interfering, not commenting in a negative manner, and providing whatever support was needed. I had been a little nervous because Mikko was over a year old and therefore into the "extended breastfeeding" territory that's so uncommon in the United States, but no one at the hospital suggested through word or look that it was unusual.

So those are my tales of two hospital experiences: one that undermined breastfeeding, and one that ultimately supported it after a bit of a rocky start.

What experiences have you had with breastfeeding in hospital?

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Please read the excellent posts from our other carnival participants:

Breastfeeding 1-2-3: "Breastfeeding experiences in the hospital"
The Milk Mama: "Newborns, Nursing, and Hospital(ity)"
Momma's Angel: "My Hospital Experience in Norway"
Whozat & Shrike: "The Nipple Intervention"
The Beautiful Letdown: "Breastfeeding in the Hospital"
Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog: "Had a good or bad experience at the hospital? Tell them!"
Breastfeeding Mums: "Top Tips for Breastfeeding Success"


Photo courtesy
tomeppy on flickr
(cc)

Why I chose my spouse for my birth partner

This post is for Science & Sensibility's "Healthy Birth Blog Carnival #3: Bring a loved one, friend, or doula for continuous support." Check back the week of Nov. 30 at the link for other entries when the carnival goes live! If you blog about birth and want to enter, submit your post to Science & Sensibility by Nov. 23.

birth labor partner kiss in pool -- Christy Scherrer

When I was planning for Mikko's birth, the question came up: Who would be present during the labor?

I was planning a home birth, and I was seeing two midwives for prenatal care. One would be present during the birth, along with one or more student midwives.

I had already decided, then, not to birth entirely alone, so I needed to choose who else, if anybody, would be present. My options were my husband, other family members, a paid doula, or some combination of the above.

I seriously considered the options of family members and a doula, but in the end I chose only Sam as my birth partner. I'll present my reasons and my conclusions about my choice, in case it helps anyone else in the decision process. If you resonate or disagree with any of my reasoning, that will tell you something about what choice you might feel most comfortable with.

[NB: Sorry in advance that this is looong. You can skim for the bolded bullet points to find interesting bits to read if you're so inclined! I'm a completist; what can I say?]

     • I knew for sure that I wanted Sam with me. I know that for some women, men — or anyone — in the room with them can be a distraction. For me, Sam is my rock and the person I'm absolutely most comfortable with. I'm a very reserved, introverted person. With anyone else in the world, even if I'm enjoying the company, I just have to bolt now and again, because it gets too much. If you invite me to a party and you can't find me, I'm probably in the loo taking a breather — or I left early. Before I married, I worried that I would get that same overwhelmed, trapped feeling with my partner — and I never have. Being with Sam is like being with myself. Only better. So he was staying, I knew. That left family and doulas to consider.

     • The next easiest but most emotionally wrenching part of the decision process was choosing not to invite any other family members or friends to be present. I didn't have any who were supportive of home birth or midwife-assisted birth, and I knew I didn't want negativity and second guessing swirling around me. This was disappointing, because in the back of my mind, I had long assumed my mother would be present at my birth. I knew she could have been a strong advocate for me in the event of a hospital transfer (which is, in fact, what happened), but only if she was on board with my wishes, and I felt that she was uncomfortable with them.

     • I think if I have a second or subsequent birth that having a relative or friend present to care for the older sibling(s) could be helpful, so I'm going to keep that in mind. I would love for Mikko to be present for his sibling's birth if he wanted to be, but I'm rational enough to know that watching someone moan and shut her eyes for 42 hours could get a wee bit boring for a young child. Even the midwives took naps during that! So having someone he was familiar with on hand would be a lifesaver in terms of taking him away to refresh, but staying near enough that he could be brought back when needed. However, since this was my first birth, that wasn't necessary. My cat handled herself just fine without a sitter. (I actually did wonder how she'd do — she couldn't have cared less!)


Deciding whether or not to hire a doula was more of a process. I talked it out on message boards, listened to my midwives' advice (they said to get one), and asked Sam probing questions to determine his fitness to support me in a doula-free environment. We decided against a doula, for these various reasons:

     • First of all, we were planning a home birth with midwives. If we had been planning a hospital birth, or a birth with an OB-GYN physician, or even a birth center birth, I absolutely would have, no questions asked, hired a doula. I would need a strong advocate in a situation where intervention was a high likelihood. I would want someone to be my voice for me. Sam is great at speaking to me and supporting me personally, but neither of us is very outspoken at demanding our rights or defending our wishes. As it was, though, we were planning a low-intervention birth, and we trusted our midwives, whom we had seen throughout the pregnancy, to honor our wishes during the birthing time. Sam and I didn't feel like we would be fighting against them, so another advocate seemed unnecessary.

     • Now, if we transferred to the hospital — as we did — our insurance would no longer cover the midwives as caregivers, and we would switch to a set fee. The good thing about the fee is that it meant the midwives would come to the hospital with us to serve as doulas and advocates. This is in fact what happened, and they were great with that. They were able to speak with the staff about my laboring background and my current progress; they argued with the nurses about all the monitoring and questions (they lost some of these arguments, but it saved me the energy of trying and failing!); they were able to secure the best nurse-midwife to attend, because of their relationship with her; after the birth, they reminded me and supported me in my decisions not to have, for instance, the Hep B shot for Mikko, my non-drug-using, non-promiscuous newborn; they reassured me that the cord was cut after it stopped pulsing; and...they took pictures! Both still and video. Sam and I had long stopped thinking about documenting this incredibly long labor, but we so appreciated after the fact that we had footage of the beautiful natural birth.

     • I mentioned that I'm shy and not so great with strangers. Even having the midwives attend at my own home made me nervous that I'd clench up my sphincter muscles and not be able to birth unencumbered. As it turned out, I went so far into Labor Land that modest ol' me was often totally nude in front of the various midwives and midwifery students and didn't care a whit. But I was nervous about finding a doula I could feel as comfortable and free with as I felt with Sam (well, or nearly so — I wasn't looking for perfection!). It seemed like a daunting task, even harder than our series of midwife interviews. The midwives were with us through part of the labor, but spent much of their time in the living room while Sam and I dominated the bedroom and I took long showers in the bathroom. But I had the understanding that a doula would be there, close to me, the whole time, and I was so afraid that I would choose someone I couldn't after all stand! I don't know how reasonable this fear was, just that it seemed safer to leave well enough alone.

     • One reason I wanted to make sure I wasn't being pestered by someone throughout the labor was that I was using Hypnobabies as my birthing technique. To enter that state of focus, I needed peace and the freedom to go inside myself. I had a horrible vision of a doula who wouldn't stop talking. Indeed, one of our midwives was more talkative than the other, and Sam and I worried that if we drew her for the birth that she might be too distracting. She actually was the one on call, and it turned out to be totally fine. She was very serene and stayed out of the way. So I might not (probably would not) have had to worry about that with a doula, either. If I had hired a doula, I would have wanted one who was familiar with or at least positive toward Hypnobabies or childbirth hypnosis. If the midwives had been negative toward hypnosis — well, first of all, we wouldn't have hired them! But if I had sensed reservations, I might have hired a doula supportive of hypnosis to counter that; however our midwives were completely enthusiastic about hypnosis and said it always made for calm mamas. If we had hired a doula, we ideally would have hired one who was trained in Hypnobabies in particular and who could have helped me stay under hypnosis and use trigger words to relax me further. However, Hypnobabies doulas are harder to find, and they sometimes charge more.

     • That leads me to the monetary point. Sam and I are not and were not rich. Doulas were a hefty cost that was not covered by our self-employed health insurance. I think they should be, because positive labor support has an incredible effect on healthy birth outcomes. But even though doulas generally undercharge for their amazing care, affording to pay a doula can be out of reach of some mamas.

     • I had to ask myself what I wanted a doula to accomplish, and then I turned around and asked Sam all the same questions, to see if he would commit to be up for the task. Our midwives and I encouraged him to read The Birth Partner: A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Doulas, and All Other Labor Companions, by Penny Simkin, and I shared with him nearly all the knowledge I had gleaned about childbirth through reading countless books, magazines and websites, and even had him watch some YouTube videos with me! He also had his own birth partner Hypnobabies CD to listen to, to help relax and empower him. We practiced various hypnosis techniques together, and he learned a trigger word to put me into deep relaxation. After he had a chance to absorb some of this material, I went through The Birth Partner's checklist for birth partner preparedness. I asked him if he would be supportive and positive throughout the labor, if he could handle any fluids or yuckiness (I threw up multiple times and bled a lot after, so it's wise I checked!), if he could provide physical support despite lack of sleep (he pressed on my back through almost every contraction, bless him!), if he could NOT PANIC even if I was (this was crucial!), if he could handle seeing his wife's genitalia looking very odd and very exposed indeed, if he could manage nitpicky details like heating water for the birthing tub and setting out snacks while also attending to me, if he could advocate for me when I was unable to express my wishes, and if he could care for himself as needed while he cared for me. I didn't need him passing out from lack of food or sleep! Sam agreed thoughtfully to each point. It really was a monumental task, and he performed it with aplomb.

     • One final test in making our choice was considering what Sam wanted. Yes, ultimately I was the one giving birth out of my body, but it was Sam's experience, too, and I respected and honored his wishes. Also private and uncomfortable around near-strangers, Sam felt wary about having another guest in the house. He particularly didn't like the idea of a support person who would be closer to me than he was. He feared that his place by my side would be usurped by a strange woman. In his shoes, I would have feared the same thing, so this was the clinching argument.

All right, those were our reasons not to hire a doula or have family present at our birth, but to have Sam act as full birth partner.

Now that it's over, would I do anything differently?

We are doing this together     • I stand by my desire and joy to have Sam present at any birth, even though Michel Odent suggests it's not healthy or helpful for men to be present. Sam is my other half, and it's his baby, too.

     • I still feel guilty that I didn't invite my mother to be present at her only daughter's first birthing time. It's not that she asked and I declined; I just never spoke of it. But I always wonder if she was hurt by the omission. I console myself by considering her as first choice to be the point guard for Mikko in any future birth. I still believe any outside negativity or concern would have been unhelpful in Mikko's long, uneventful labor, and Sam did not want her present in any case, so despite my emotional regrets, I know I made the right decision.

     • For hiring a doula, I don't know. If I were to do a first birth over again, I might hire one, but start looking for her early to ensure that we found a good fit and could get to know each other as friends before the birth.

     • For a subsequent birth, I feel more prepared and knowledgable. That said, there are aspects that I don't think Sam and I did so well on that a doula might have or would have improved:
     For instance, I threw my regimented Hypnobabies techniques out the window and just basically focused on relaxing and staying calm. This worked — don't get me wrong — but it might have worked even better if I'd had a Hypnobabies doula who could keep me on track. I don't remember Sam ever using our trigger word or hand gesture or scripts as we had practiced (is this true, Sam? I was so out of it that I might just be blanking).
     In general, I felt like Sam was sort of skimming all the information I was throwing at him about birth but that he wasn't passionate about it like I was. That might be an unfair characterization, but it's how it seemed to me, whereas I could be confident that a doula would have been wholly devoted to and knowledgable about birthing.
     Sam held up through the long labor like gangbusters, snatching naps in between waves just as I did, but he might have appreciated a longer spell now and again; I'd have to ask him.
     The most significant reason I'd consider hiring a doula for a do-over or for next time is that, true to my expectations, Sam and I are crap at standing up for ourselves. We each did our best, but being tongue-tied people pleasers, we just are not very good at that sort of thing.
     I mentioned that we trusted our midwives, but still there were things that happened that were less than our ideal. For instance, I had fully expected to refuse all internal exams due to their depressing nature — but I had several at the behest of the midwives. They all said I was at 5 cm. The.whole.time. Like I said, depressing. I felt churlish and out of line at the thought of refusing, and so I didn't. A doula who knew of my preferences might have spoken up (and wrestled the midwives to the ground?).
     When the talk came of hospital transfer, the reason given was "You've been at 5 cm for 35+ hours of back labor; if this continues at the same rate, you might become exhausted, so maybe it's best to transfer now, get some Pitocin, an epidural, and some rest, so that you can be fit to push when the time comes." I didn't feel exhausted, because I had been napping in between contractions. I was dehydrated from the vomiting and running a slight fever, but the midwives had given me a couple bags of IV fluid to compensate. Sam tried to talk me out of the transfer, but at that point I was too low emotionally to fight it. We were onto our third potential date for what might be our baby's birthday, and still there was no sign of his imminent arrival. The grim prediction that, because I had been at 5 cm, I would stay at 5 cm into perpetuity just wore me down.
     As it turned out, Sam was right: I felt the urge to push in the car, and I had our baby naturally a scant few hours after arriving in the hospital. But in that moment, facing his weary and depressed wife and feeling not a little weary and depressed himself, Sam did what any good husband would do: He gave in to make me happy.
     I wonder if a doula would have fought the midwives harder on that one, too, and gone harder toward cheering me up and on. In this imaginary scenario, I'm considering doulas to equal something like a mother bear. Whether they are this way, I do not know.
     After the birth, too, faced with pushy nurses armed with formula bottles, we could have used just such a fierce advocate, but I don't know if even the doula would have been around at that point. All of which leads me to believe that Sam and I simply (and difficultly) need to become better at advocating for ourselves. I do feel more prepared for next time, and I trust Sam does, too.
     I think one problem was that our natural reticence and the calm demeanor induced by Hypnobabies made it hard for our midwives to gauge my emotional state and my physical capacity in any given moment. I was too soft-spoken and engaged in labor to try to explain myself. I don't know that having a doula would help any with this, unless she was psychic (I kid) or could intuit my feelings very well. If I did find such a doula, though, that would be invaluable for being a filter between the healthcare professionals and me. The home-birth midwives, although they were low-intervention in comparison to MDs, still had to consider persky things like malpractice suits and medical responsibility. An astonishingly adept doula could have played ambassador and interpreter between the two sides. However, I don't know if I would be able to open myself up to a doula, either, so this might be a moot point.
     One not-very-important point, but a small regret for my archivist heart and one I wish to rectify in the future, is that we took very few pictures during the labor. I know some doulas are professional photographers, and some are eager amateurs. Sam and I felt too alternately drained and focused to wish to document the labor, so having someone on hand whose job it was might have been nice after the fact. That said, there are other options we could consider, like a time-lapse video set up in one corner.

Let me just say that I mean no disrespect toward doulas based on our choice. I am actually so interested in birth that I considered going back to school to become a midwife, and when that seemed daunting, realized that becoming a doula one day might be a more manageable dream!

So, those are our reasons for choosing solely a spouse as birth partner, and the outcome. Who was with you during your birth, and why did you choose the companions you did? How did their support help, and what would you do differently next time? (Please answer in essay form, and neatness counts.)

(Just joking. But you can seriously answer the questions. I'd love to hear!)

Remember to check Science & Sensibility for the links to the other Healthy Birth Blog Carnival entries starting Nov. 30.

Photos courtesy Christy Scherrer on flickr (cc)

Friday, November 20, 2009

A call to persist in babywearing

father and child

When my son was born, babywearing was a necessity. Mikko emerged weighing an astonishing 12 pounds, and he was not amused at being ousted from his soft, liquid home. The one thing that made him feel better? Snuggling close to a warm body, feeling loving arms around him, and hearing a gently beating heart — and bouncing. Parents have instinctively known for centuries that newborns respond well to the rhythms of a mama's walk, because of course that's what the baby's been experiencing these long nine months within.

But our little guy hit 20 pounds at nine weeks, and we couldn't manage the continual walking and bouncing he demanded without something to hold him up and give our arms a break!

I was glad I had invested so heavily in a babywearing stash during pregnancy. Out came the ring slings, the stretchy and gauze wraps, the structured carriers, and each had its place in our babywearing repertoire, depending on task (long walk? chores around the house?) and mood (do I feel like green butterflies or fuzzy brown?).

What didn't change was the give-and-take at the heart of babywearing. We poured out love and security into Mikko, we offered the lovely memory of those free-floating days in the womb, we wrapped him warm and close and spoke into his ear. Mikko in turn gave us his trust, and before we knew it he could reach out his arms to us to signal that now, again, was the time to pick him up and hold him close.

Sometimes, as babies turn into toddlers, babywearing falls by the wayside or is given over to the next sibling to arrive on the scene. Once a baby can walk, it seems that we as parents are not needed as much for transportation, and we give our young a chance to stretch their legs and their freedom.

This autumn, we moved house. Since our new digs were just down the street, we frequently took advantage of the short distance by walking back and forth between the two places, to look for something we couldn't find, to transport a bulky object that didn't fit in the cargo van we rented, to free up more passenger space in our tiny car to fit that many more boxes for a trip.

I needed a way to accomplish all the tasks that come with moving, but our 2-year-old whirlwind was making getting anything done a bit of a challenge. I plucked the Ergo off the coat tree and turned to Mikko. "Want a ride on Mama's back?"

His eyes lit up, his arms shot out, and once again he was lifted up close to me. At this vantage point, as we walked along the beach toward our new home, he could see from our perspective, he could feel snuggled against a loving body, and I could hear his voice chirping sweetly in my ear and reach back to give his feet a squeeze.

I've made an effort to put babywearing back into our everyday lives, even though Mikko is a hefty 35 pounds and change, and even though he sometimes prefers to walk on his own. There's a lot more up and down than when he was a newborn, but babywearing is adaptable. If he wants to walk, he can, and if he wants a piggyback ride, I'm available.

Even once your child is too big or too heavy or too old for you to babywear, there are still ways to carry forward the spirit and intention of babywearing.

You might not have the kangaroo-care skin-to-skin bonding of those first few days, but you keep that contact alive by giving regular, nurturing touch: holding your child's hand, cuddling him close for nursing, giving a back rub as she falls asleep, and pooting that tempting soft belly.

You might not always be carrying their full weight against your body, but you can still find chances to physically interact: saving a seat on your lap, wrestling on the floor, twirling around the room, and squeezing in a great big hug.

At some point, you might not be able to pick up your child anymore. It's an observable truth that most kids eventually outgrow their parents' ability to haul them around, even in a really sturdy back carry! But we can still respond as attached parents when they lift up their arms, either literally or emotionally, and ask for our help, our connection, or our awareness.

If you keep in mind the reasons you chose babywearing in the first place, you will always find ways to hold your kids close to your heartbeat.

I'm curious: What's the heaviest or oldest child you've worn in a sling or other carrier, and do you have carrier recommendations? How do you physically connect with your children?

Special notes about this post: If it is Nov. 20 still, you can enter my mei tai baby carrier giveaway!

Even more significantly, I wrote this post to enter a contest myself: Parenting by Nature’s Blog to Inspire contest. Please comment and share this post — even if you're usually a lurker, I'd love to hear from you! We're judged partly by our engagement, so engage with me, fellow hobo mamas! And if you're a parenting blogger in Canada or the US, consider entering Blog to Inspire yourself. Wish me luck!

Inspire Natural Parenting Contest


Photo courtesy Carin Araujo on stock.xchng

Last day to enter: Win a fleece mei tai baby sling!

babywearing babyBabywearing reminder: Today, Nov. 20, is the last day to enter to win a mei tai baby carrier.

It's easy: Just comment, Tweet, follow, or link! Contest is open to anyone worldwide, and you can keep the mei tai (pronounced may tie) for your own sweet baby (or future baby!) or give it as a baby gift! Read the complete rules here.

I have been so touched by everyone who's entered the giveaway so far and shared their stories of how they will use the mei tai. There are so many sweet new babies, and sweet older babies, and sweet babies-to-be, and I'm encouraged that all of them have a parent, a grandparent, an aunt or uncle, a sibling, or a friend looking out for them and giving the gift of babywearing! Thank you all for visiting my site and entering my first giveaway.

I will be randomly selecting a winner after midnight tonight and plan to announce the winner as soon as I hear back. If I don't hear from the winner within a couple days, I'll move on to someone else.

You can increase your chances to win a baby carrier by checking out my November Giveaway Roundup, which lists several giveaways for babywearing options: ring slings, baby wraps, an Ergo, and baby pouches. Check in the main text of the post, and also in the McLinky at the bottom. Check back through the month as I add more giveaways to the list.

And, remember, you have one daily Twitter entry left: Just follow me on Twitter and Tweet about the giveaway! You can use this text or craft your own: Last day to enter! Win a fleece mei tai baby carrier @Hobo_Mama http://bit.ly/T9QeR #babywearing

mei tai asian baby carriersI also will give an entry for each blog post that mentions my giveaway.

Once again, here are the bloggers who have linked to me so far (thanks!):
     • Cindy of LIFE — Learning in a Family Environment fame — and again here with another great pitch!
     • Neptune Baby — a very funny post!
     • Abiding Quiver — thank you!
     • And a special shout-out to jorjedatoy at Welcome to My Roller Coaster for explaining StumbleUpon and listing me on LiveJournal!
     • The Raymonds gave me a mention here, and I love their tagline: "A Little Bit Crunchy, A Little Bit Outta Control"
     • velocibadgergirl at Pardon the Egg Salad has a great idea to get loved ones to enter on her behalf!
     • Amber Waves of Pain has titled her post "Great mei tai giveaway," which is probably just descriptive but sounds epic to my ears
     • James and the Giant Moose even references my post on giveaways and enters a bunch herself — go, go, go, win, win, win!
     • Welcome to My Roller Coaster made her own ring sling. Impressed? You should be.
     • All Things Granola blogged about my giveaway after I entered her giveaway of a sleepy wrap. Go enter & wear your baby some more!
     • Thank you to Etsy Giveaways, Handmade Giveaways, Everything Up Close, and Giveaways 4 Mommy for doing a special listing of my giveaway. Visit to find more great prizes!

Go and enter NOW! I still wish I had a mei tai for everybody!


Babywearing photo courtesy aslans_child on flickr (cc)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Trailer for Formula Fed America and a call to lactivism



Via Dou-la-la. This movie, Formula Fed America, looks really promising as a look into formula marketing practices and their effect on American health. I love me some documentary exposés. As @RaisingBoychick said, I could do without the opening that demonizes being fat as the worst result of formula dependence in this country, but despite that, I'm looking forward to this film. It features interviews with some of the leading lights of breastfeeding support and research, such as Dr. Jack Newman and Katherine Dettwyler, PhD.

Now that you're inspired, wanna do something about deceptive formula-marketing practices?

     • Join the Nestlé boycott, and read PhD in Parenting's question-and-answer sessions with Nestlé to educate yourself further about the company's doublespeak around supporting breastfeeding.

     • Secondly, if you're using BlogHer Ads, make sure you select the WHO-compliant new options to avoid any advertisements showing for formula or artificial nipples.

I want to put in a word before any formula-feeding mother reading this is offended or saddened, because that's not my intention: What breastfeeding activists are mad at is the companies that are promoting formula in deceptive and unethical ways, violating the World Health Organization's International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes and by using such underhanded techniques as buying breastfeeding-specific search keywords that suggest if you click on a link you'll get breastfeeding support, when in fact you get an ad recommending you switch to formula. If anyone is harassing an individual mother who has, for whatever reasons, chosen formula feeding, that's not cool. I know it stinks the other way around, when a breastfeeding mom is persecuted for breastfeeding in public, so I imagine the shaming goes both ways, and it needs to stop. The point is that formula is not as good as breastmilk; if you have to use it because there are no other options for your baby, then you should, but formula companies should not be pushing it on women indiscriminately. It should not be marketed to or by physicians, and formula marketing needs to stay the heck out of developing countries, where the toll of formula feeding is much greater than in a Westernized country that has clean water and access to health care. That's what this lactivism is about.

All right, breastfeed on, my sisters!

Wordless Wednesday: Nurse where you are

My Wife and Her Sisters -- Henry Caro Delvaille

My Wife and Her Sisters, 1904, by Henry Caro Delvaille, courtesy of Sierra Lactation

Monday, November 16, 2009

Leaving her behind

This is Hobo Mama's first in a series of guest posts by other bloggers. Read to the end for a longer biographical note on today's guest blogger, Molly Jarrell. Since I work from home, I very much appreciated a look today at a topic I don't generally feel qualified to cover: the perspective of a working mother's relationship with breastfeeding and cosleeping.

Molly and Eden in leaves -- Michelle Curnow of Evergreen Photography

Guest post by Molly Jarrell

It's 1:30 in the afternoon and I'm sitting here at my desk, at work. I've got pictures of my little girl all around me, and my Mother's Day card (with its abrasive, low-budget recording of her little laugh, which I love) all within arm's reach.

My heart aches for her.

This morning we decided to let Daddy sleep in a little longer so I took Eden into the shower with me. Pretty soon Daddy (who figured I was running late and needing to get ready for work) came in and asked Eden, "Want to come with Daddy and get dressed?" She immediately buried her head into my shoulder and her little arms grabbed me tight around my neck.

She stayed like that for the next — oh, I don't know — 20 minutes or so. Nate kept coming in to see if she had fallen asleep. I couldn't bring myself to break the spell. It was just Eden and me, together, standing under the stream of hot water, feeling each other breathe and reconnecting. She didn't even stir.

And I thought, "She misses me. It's Friday. I've already worked 5 days this week and we're going on number 6."

So I stood there with her in my arms and a towel draped around her back, wasting water and not caring a bit.

It hasn't been easy, working full time. Granted, I've got a pretty easy gig as far as working moms go. I have my own office. She spends her days with her dad, mostly, or with other family members. I have a super-flexible boss who lets me set my own schedule as long as the work gets done. And I can take my laptop home and work at night if I need to.

But it still wrenches my heart to leave her.

People often ask how it's going. How is it, being a working mom? People seem to have a lot of opinions about it. They either think I'm going to be a basket case of motherly longing, or am giddy with excitement to escape the restrictive confines of motherhood for the wonderful world of personal achievement and intellectualism.

Right.

Eden was 3 1/2 months old when I went back to work nearly a year ago. Everyone told me I needed to get her to sleep in her crib before I went back so I could get a "decent night's sleep." I think she had been sleeping in bed with us ever since we brought her home from the hospital. I never intentionally decided to co-sleep (never even really thought about it) but I don't remember ever putting her in her crib. Bringing her in to bed with us just seemed like the right thing to do.

I do remember feeling really, really conflicted about it because it seemed like everyone was telling us it was something we were supposed to "grow out of." Instead, I felt like it was something we "grew into." It just felt right. Even my husband felt the same way.

Thankfully, and for whatever reason, I just couldn't bring myself to move my daughter to her crib when I went back to work like everyone told me I should. I am, oh, so very glad I followed my heart, because if we hadn't kept up the co-sleeping I am pretty darn sure we wouldn't still be breastfeeding.

I don't think I could have gone through the transition back to work full time without breastfeeding (and stayed sane). Nursing is the single best way for me to connect with Eden when I get home after being gone such long hours. It's the single best way for Eden to feel that all is right with the world, no matter how chaotic her day has been. It's our landing place, our reset to zero, our anchor in any storm.

I can't say that breastfeeding and working full time hasn't been hard. It has. Hey, breastfeeding itself isn't always easy. But it's been my lifeline, my connection to home. It has helped me meet my baby's needs even when I wasn't there in person. And being able to co-sleep through it all has been the greatest gift of all. Many days I wake up and wish that I worked from home, or could take Eden with me to work, or that somehow life was different so that I could spend my whole days with my family. So I didn't have to leave her behind.

For now, I'll just take comfort in the fact that when I get home from work we have nursing to bring us back together again.

And I'll just tuck my worry about weaning away for another day.


MollyMolly is a relatively new mother of one from Southern Californira who is trying to take motherhood, a full-time job, and all the rest of the whirlwind of life one day at a time. She likes wine, reading, and scrapbooking; she's also a terrible gardener and can't remember birthdays to save her life. Five days a week, she heads off to her job in corporate communications while Mr. Molly, a professional musician, stays home with The Peanut. Motherhood has been making Molly more eco-concious, more patient, more tired and more aware. You can visit Molly's neck of the woods at http://mollyjarrell.blogspot.com.

Photos of Molly & Eden courtesy
Michelle Curnow of Evergreen Photography

Saturday, November 14, 2009

November giveaway roundup, now with McLinky action

[ETA 11/18: I just had the BRILLIANT idea that I'll add any new fun November giveaways I want to feature into the McLinky at the bottom rather than having to change the code for the post each time. Hooray! Everyone else is still free to add in giveaways into the McLinky as well!]

I love doing giveaway roundups for some reason. I've been squirreling away links to share with you, and procrastinated on my November post to the point that many of them have already expired. But, AN-yway...

I'll give you what I have so far, and if you're into entering contests, feel free to bookmark this page and check back occasionally throughout November. I often come back to these roundups (often = always) to add awesome new giveaways as I find 'em.

A new feature this time is a McLinky list at the bottom, for you to add any giveaways you've discovered. They can be your own or a friend's or a complete stranger's, as long as you think fellow hobo fans would love to win what's on offer.

All right, here goes. Let the winning commence.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Navel gazing

belly button girlI was working on another post, but it's taking longer than I thought. Mikko's sick with some sniffly monstrosity, so he's screaming, trying to nurse, failing to breathe while nursing, screaming again, needing to sleep but waking himself up with coughing, and just generally being a crankypants who wants to sit on my lap all day.

I've got him in the tub with Sam to steam out his sinus cavities a bit, and it was as I was undressing him (Mikko; Sam manages on his own mostly) that I noticed that Mikko's belly button is keeee-yoot.

It reminded me that that is where we were connected for all those long, floating months. That is where my body fed him and breathed for him.

I thought about my own belly button, and how I was once attached to my mom, and it just spread gooey warm feelings through me to think that my body still shows that it once had such a perfect attachment.

I like the idea that we can all look to our navels and see the connection to our mothers. Even if we're adopted, even if our mothers aren't here anymore, we still have that one mark to show that once we were as close as anyone can be, breathing together. And she poured out herself into you, and so you are here.

I know for some people that will be a sorrowful and disappointing thing to think about, because maybe some people don't want to be reminded of their mothers with what seems like a scar on their own bodies, and that's sad.

But the good news is that our babies also bear that mark of connection with us, and we have the chance to move into this relationship with the next generation, making their belly buttons always a happy thing. Always a good memory, of someone close, very close.

All right, that was me waxing sentimental for the night. Because today's been so frustrating and stagnant, and I needed this reminder that every moment of mothering counts for something, even the coddling-a-sniffly-toddler days. I'm reinforcing that invisible cord from him to me, to pour my love through it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Conversations with myself

woman watching the sea

     • This thought was inspired by a Twitter conversation with @CarryonCalmly. Sometimes I go to The Shape of a Mother and enjoy the acceptance of diversity. When I was pregnant and waiting....waiting...for the stretch marks, I was a little horrified, however. I hoped to see more women who came out the end of the nine months unscarred and perky. It rarely happens. I keep thinking my stomach looks like something that came out of a special-effects shop. At least, with sites like that and admissions like mine, you know you're not alone.
      Speaking of which, I mentioned to Sam the other day: Won't it be weird when my boobs go back to their real size once I stop nursing? And how they won't be as full across the top (I pantomimed the curve to show what I meant) and how my nips won't stick out all the time? And Sam said, Did they not used to stick out all the time? And I had to remind him that, yes, they were like little turtles in their shell unless they were coaxed out by temperature change or other incitements. He had forgotten what my non-breastfeeding boobs looked like. I should have taken more pictures.
      And when I say "go back to their real size," of course I have no idea if they'll be a new size entirely. They were a 36DD and are a 36I as I breastfeed. But, as my mother says, she's now a 36Long.
      P.S. Ruth of @CarryonCalmly suggested a frugal way around the specialty bra dilemma for large-busted mamas: If you can't find the cup size you need, buy a larger band size, which automatically scales up the cup size, and then sew the band smaller. Must experiment.


     • I love petroleum jelly. I often call it Vaseline as a shortcut, but I'm too cheap even for that kind of name-brand luxury. I buy store brand. It costs, like, 69 cents on sale, and a tub will last nearly, if not quite, forever. There's a little one kicking around my parents' house that belonged to my grandmother. Makes you wonder what little historical particles have become stuck in there, like flies in amber.
     I love the moist, goopy feel on my lips, and I use it as a quick fix on cuts that aren't a big enough deal to bandage, and I smooth it over my raw nose when I have a cold for some protection from the tissue assault, and I sometimes get ambitious and grease up my feet before putting on socks and hoping for soft, sandal-worthy tootsies. But mostly it's the lips. I apply it compulsively, all day. I get agitated over the feel of my lips if they don't slide across each other when I smack them. I used to carry along a tub with me until one time the plastic on the bottom cracked, and a hot summer day made it melt and leak out the hole and seep into my car's front-seat upholstery. Now I make do with carrying colored lip gloss in my pockets for daytime outings and save my petroleum jelly addiction for private.
      When I was in elementary school, one of my classmates was perpetually smeared in Vaseline — a huge glossy ring all around her mouth and nose, like see-through clown makeup. I never did find out why — maybe combating some sort of eczema — but figured it was at her mother's orders. Fortunately, our class was mostly nice; we had only two outcasts with whom no one would be friends, and she, even with her greased-up face, wasn't one of them. Sometimes I wonder if I look like Vaseline Girl.
      Awhile ago I found out that some people, thoughtful people who would know, don't like petroleum jelly. I don't want to flit around finding links, so if you don't know what I'm talking about, you can search for them yourself. Basically, it's petroleum-based, and it's kind of the leavings of the petroleum process. So there's a double whammy. I guess. But I really, really like it. I tried to ignore the messages, thinking maybe they'd go away.
      But, being a good eco-girl, I've been trying to find a substitute. No luck so far. Lip balms are too solid. My lips don't feel drenched. I've tried breastmilk (yes, I have!). I've tried jojoba oil and coconut oil. Someone mentioned Un-Petroleum Jelly, which I will have to scope out. Clearly, all these options, except for my dear breastmilk, cost more than my store-brand fix. I don't mind paying more in some ways, but it is quite a lot more.
      When we were moving, I found that I had stocked up at some sale or other. I did a calculation of when I last remembered buying petroleum jelly, based on the store name on its label. I determined that I have enough petroleum jelly on hand to last me until I'm 38 or 39. Unless someone can give me a very, very good reason to throw away my stash now, that's 5-6 years left of my favorite before I have to find a suitable replacement.
      Why fret over something when you can just procrastinate?
      After writing this, I was wandering through PCC in my leotard (because I do such things) and saw a tester tube of Un-Petroleum Jelly. It cost $5.99, but it felt nice on my lips. Tasted a little weird, though. I read the ingredients list and approved of them all. Hmmm...procrastinate and be cheap, or spend money and get something coconut-oily?


     • When I posted a request for guest bloggers, I had two feared outcomes: that no one would respond, or that 100 irrelevant and spammy people would respond. Instead, I have half a dozen lovely readers and writers who have volunteered, and I'm so excited.
      Sam saw my post and suggested that he could do a guest post, too. I almost kicked myself. Why didn't I think of that! After mentioning it, he's become a little cagey about what he might write about. I just hope it's not an exposé of my real-life parenting — "Hobo Mama: The mother behind the mask."
      P.S. Don't think that half a dozen + Sam is my limit. If you're still interested in guest blogging, now or in the future, please shoot me an email: mail AT hobomama.com The times I'm busier come in waves, and I can regularly use other voices to fill in the blanks.
      Plus, I'd love to guest blog at some other sites if anyone wants a reciprocal agreement. Maybe not till February, though. November's NaNoWriMo, December's Christmas sales, and January's our excise tax return. I have to do it right this year so I don't get audited again.


     • I keep wanting to read my NaNoWriMo novel to find out how it ends.


     • I volunteered to make a spreadsheet for our babysitting co-op so that we could easily keep a running calculation of our points.
      It turns out I have no idea how to do such a thing. I have an idea and then immediately discard it as impractical or unhelpful. I keep staring at the blank spreadsheet and hoping the solution will come to me in a vision.


     • I wasn't going to publish this today. I was going to wait until I had something more meaningful than a paean to petroleum jelly.
      Oh, well.


Photo courtesy magda s on stock.xchng