Friday, March 30, 2007


We just celebrated my daughter's first birthday, which got me thinking back to the days leading up to and including her birth. I had a particularly long though not particularly awful labor that progressed quite naturally until it didn't. Despite all our best efforts (e.g. climbing stairs, doing squats, laboring in the tub, walking the hallways, you name it!), I never dilated enough to push her out. I chose to go on Pitocin which had the effect of causing some particularly nasty--yet ultimately unhelpful--contractions. My doctor tried upping the dosage as a last attempt to bring my contractions into a productive rhythm, but it only caused my daughter's heart rate to decelerate alarmingly. The birth team managed to stabilize her heart rate but after more than 12 hours of no progress, we opted for a Caesarean birth.

Her birth was beautiful. Our labor and delivery nurse and our doula made the atmosphere light and celebratory. We were so excited to finally see our baby. As soon as I was prepped I was wheeled into surgery where our over 10-lb. baby was delivered, healthy as can be.

Something my doula said to me afterward has stuck with me this past year. She said our birth proved that Caesareans can be real births--not just procedures. It seems that sometimes folks from the world of natural/home birth think that medical/hospital birth folks are wrong-headed and vice versa. I wonder if some women get caught up in these "wrong vs. right" birth discourses. It seems that this wrong birth/right birth discussion can lead to the very first seeds of parent blaming (see my previous post for more on that topic). It seems more useful to talk about when Caesarean can be beneficial (as when mom and/or baby seem at risk) and when it is seemingly unnecessary (as a means of convenience, for example).

As for me, given the circumstances of our birth, I could not have hoped for a better result. It was definitely the right birth for us, and that's all that really matters. Happy birthday, indeed.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Loss and Its Opportunities for Gain

This weekend I was talking with a group of women when one mentioned she had been preparing for her parents' death. I asked her what she was doing to prepare. She explained that her parents are now in their 80s, living in a different state, and it occured to her that there would come a time when difficult decisions would have to be made about their care. Her brother would certainly be involved in these decisions. Problem is, she and her brother have been estranged for 5 years. Facing this difficult realization, she has set about trying to restore an amicable relationship with her brother.

I was interested in her story because I have heard many tell of their experiences in mending relationships with a family member over the birth or adoption of a child. For the child's sake, two people agree to set aside past hurts so the child can have a relationship with all her family members. I've not heard of someone setting about to reclaim a relationship so they can both be present to their beloveds in their final years. I found her willingness to forgive for her parents' sake a moving example of how impending loss can also be an opportunity for transformation.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Welcome to Blameville, Population: A Lot of Parent Critics

I was crossing 125th St. at Lenox Ave.--an incredibly busy corner, even by Manhattan standards--when a man shouted at me from across the street that my baby looked a little low in my front-pack carrier. Then there was the time that as we were getting off the subway, our daughter dropped her binky and a fellow passenger said to my husband, "You better wash that before you give it back to her."

Now, I know intellectually that these people were perfectly well-intentioned; they simply wanted to be helpful. However, I say this from a place of well-reasoned remove, and not in the heat of the moment where I wanted to say, "Thanks, I had no idea what I was doing as a parent until you came along."

I think it's exceptionally strange that a perfect stranger should come up to a parent and offer advice. Think about it: Do people approach police officers and tell them they might catch more criminals if they spent less time in doughnut shops? Do advertising agencies receive anonymous phone calls suggesting catchy slogans or jingles for their advertising campaigns? Somehow, I think not. And yet, parents are regularly advised on how better to do their jobs.

Now, I have a very strong support network as a new mom, and their support acts as a buffer between my ears and my brain when I receive unsolicited pareting advice. But I'm concerned for parents who don't have such a support buffer. What happens when this onslaught of advice takes root and grows into feelings of self-doubt and shame? How do they counter all the parent-blaming messages that are so prevalent in society? If it takes a village to raise a child, I think our villages need fewer advice-givers and a few more residents offering to carry our babies and wash their binkies. May we all live in a village like that.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Post-adoption Families are At-Risk for Depression, Too

I've written before that I believe the sudden shift in lifestyle can be the cause for postpartum parents' mood changes. Sleep deprivation, social isolation, loss of income, career changes, and strained relationships are common to new parents--whether they birth their baby or adopt. Not surprising then are the emerging stories that are now being referred to as Post-adoption Depression Syndrome (PADS). If you or someone you know is considering adoption or has newly adopted a little one, be prepared that PADS may creep into a post-adoption family's life. It is a normal part of post-adoption adjustment, and like any other health problem, it is treatable. Adoption is a wonderful option for many families, and they deserve all the support and care that any family with a new child needs.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Parent Resource List Compiled by the Center on Infant Mental Health at U-W

The Center for Infant Mental Health at the University of Washington has compiled a list of parenting resources that should interest those who like information about parenting young children. My belief is that parenting is equal parts art and science. This resource list can give you insight into parenting "science". You will always be the expert on the "art" of parenting your wee one.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Those Ladies on The View, God Love 'Em!

While I generally try to avoid gossip-laden talk shows, I have to give it up to whomever it is on The View who is spearheading the special editions of The View dedicated to common mental health problems that affect so many people. You'll recall that I wrote about their show about Autism-Spectrum Disorders. Well, today's show was dedicated to equally debilitating illnesses: Depression and Bipolar Disorder. I was especially pleased that they chose to have a panelist, Dr. Hyla Cass whose practice focuses on naturopathic ways of treating mental illnesses. Rosie O'Donnell shared that she suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder (aka SAD) and demonstrated the inversion treatment that she uses at home. For those of you interested in this treatment, but have neither the money or space for special equipment, you can achieve the same effects by doing this simpler version at home (i.e. viparita karani, for all you yogis out there): Make yourself into an L-shape by putting your feet up the wall while your head and torso rests on the floor. Rest with your palms facing upward. You can stay as long as you like, but to enjoy the benefits of increasing blood flow to your brain, you should stay in this position for at least five minutes. Once you try it, you may not want to get up! To get out of the position safely, bend your knees and roll over to your side. Rest for at least 10 seconds (more if you get head rushes easily) before pushing yourself up with your arms to a seated position. Take several more breaths before standing--and go slowly to avoid dizziness.

Depression affects 1 in 5 people (and perhaps more due to under-reporting). No one should suffer needlessly. There are therapies (naturopathic, talk, and drug) which taken either alone or in combination can speed relief.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Could Britney Spears be affected by a Postpartum Mood Disorder?

Much in the gossip-cum-news lately is Britney Spears's recent visit to rehab after some odd public behavior--a good deal of which involved some unusual shaving practices. Speculation has been bandied about that her behavior might be attributed to postpartum depression. While I will not diagnose Ms. Spears from afar, I think there are details from this story that suggest why she might be at greater risk for a PPMD. Here are the risk factors that put her (as well as lots of other women) at risk for a PPMD:
*Weaning suddenly (I assume she wasn't pumping or nursing while in rehab)
*Lack of support/single parenting
*Personal crisis (such as divorce)
*Using alcohol or other depressants (she reportedly attended an A.A. meeting)
*Having babies born close together (or experiencing some other hormone-fluctuating event, e.g. sudden weaning)

Add to this mix the very public questioning of her and Kevin Federline's adequacy as parents, it's easy to see how a PPMD might gain purchase in her life.

The good news in all of this is that as a public figure, Spears has modeled one of the best things that a postpartum parent can do: Take care of herself. In this regard, postpartum parents would be wise to follow her example.