Monday, December 31, 2012

One Word - RENEW


  1. Resume (an activity) after an interruption.
  2. Reestablish (a relationship).
renovate - restore - revive

Okay, so ... moving on. Or back.

My Word for 2013 reflects where I am right now. There are many new things happening in 2013 - the birth of my first grandchild in April. My 50th birthday in July. However, I am very much drawn to existing things which I feel are incomplete - my scrapbooking is a good example.

Renewing my focus on things which have gone on the back-burner will help me move toward my second half-century with more completion and also allow me to review and release what I am ready to leave behind. It means decluttering my possessions. Decluttering my time. Refocusing.

So, come along for the ride! One thing I am renewing is my photo a day project, such a staisfying thing from 2010. My new camera will make this very easy. I also hope to blog my journey through the year and, of course, keep up to date on Facebook ;)

New Year, New Word - but first, update on current word.

For the past few years, I have embraced the concept of One Word to focus on for the year, rather than specific resolutions.

2012 - Heal
2011 - Change
2010 - Enjoy
2009 - Live
2008 - Create

Looking back on 2012, it is ironic that I started out well on my quest to HEAL in mind, body & spirit. I returned to yoga and water aerobics. I started to see a physio, a naturopath, a psychologist - in addition to my myotherapist and chiropractor and I formally became a patient of Dr Jenny, after a year or more of aimlessly seeing whoever was available after the sudden death of my long-term GP, Dr Rob in 2010. I began to art journal, took a variety of online art classes and challenges , picked up my crochet hooks and knitting needles and set a new yearly reading goal on Good Reads. I was spending chunks of money of consultations and herbal treatments and really feeling I was making progress.

Then, around June, I ran into a new problem. I started to feel pain and numbness in my right hand, in the little finger and half of my ring finger. It wasn't MS numbness, that runs across my fingertips. I mentioned it to the team and everyone started to mention the ulnar nerve. Yoga and water aerobics became causes of pain. Knitting and crochet and reading caused pain. Driving and cooking. I was told activities that involved gripping should be avoided. Paintbrushes, scissors, pencils and pens. Computer. Shopping. Amazing how much gripping you do in the average day!

I was referred to a hand therapist. She was fantastic! She suggested a Nerve Conduction test, to measure the function of the ulnar nerve. This test is only done locally by the OTHER neurologist, not my MS one. So of I went and had the test and the results showed moderate abnormality. Hand therapist advised anything higher than mild needs surgery. GP says surgery. Myotherapist says do whatever I can to avoid surgery! So does chiro! Start chiro treatment twice a week which helps temporarily. All my therapists start focusing on my neck/shoulder/elbow/wrist/hand. My back complains at being neglected!!!!

So - HEAL. Well, sort of. Kind of. To be continued .....

Monday, December 24, 2012

From my family to yours, Merry Christmas

Friday, December 21, 2012

Its PINK!!!!

Kaitlyn and Ashley have announced they are expecting a baby GIRL!!!

This little lady didn't make it easy - she kept her legs crossed at the 20 week scan and kept her secret. So the planned 3D scan was brought forward a few weeks and at 23.5 weeks, she shared the secret.

Girl or boy, everyone is just delighted in the anticipation of this new family member, however the creator and shopper in me is thrilled to be able to indulge in the wider range of things for girls - as well as the little pants I have been sewing, there will be little dresses! Knitted hats can be adorned with crocheted flowers and the full spectrum of colours can be explored.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Artificial Feeding – Nothing To Do With Breastfeeding

There is no choice involved with breastfeeding.
Like natural conception, pregnancy, childbirth and all the other processes of the human body, breastfeeding is the default when it comes to feeding all infant mammals, including humans.
However, none of these natural processes are guaranteed fail-safe and society has brought alternatives when something goes wrong with nature’s plan.
IVF and other fertility programs, surrogate pregnancy and intensive care for premature infants, caesarean sections… and artificial feeding… each intended to step in when nature stumbles.
Why then, is there such a divide between women who breastfeed and those who resort to artificial baby milk? Why can the apparent decision to do one be taken as criticism of those who do the other? Such conflict can also arise between natural versus medical childbirth proponents but imagine such a personal debate between those who conceive easily and those reliant on IVF? Imagine the full term mothers in the postnatal ward questioning the actions of those with premmies in NICU! Imagine infertile women complaining about the promotion of contraception and family planning!

So what led to this great divide?

The Transition from Breast to Bottle
The answer can be found if we turn back a few pages in our history books. Originally, artificial feeding was only intended as the last option for babies unable to access human milk. Those abandoned by their mother at birth, foundlings without access to wet nurses, orphans without a lactating relative to take them in. It was insidious marketing by those with a commercial interest which saw artificial feeding leap from last resort to first option and it has taken the best part of the past century to undo the damage of their actions. And the repair is far from complete.
Safer Motherhood and the Hygiene of Life - 1934
(author's personal collection)
It would be bad enough if infant formula had been marketed as just an alternative to human milk, but far worse damage was done. Powerful advertising directed at family and medical communities led many to believe manufactured infant feeds were superior to mothers own milk. Generation after generation of new mothers had all choice taken away from them as brainwashed health advisors passed on the misleading information fed to them by those whose real interest was in the making of money. Lots of money.
The most heartbreaking outcome is not the loss of breastfeeding confidence across the community, rather the failure of society to understand the risks of not feeding babies as nature intended. There are very real detrimental impacts on immediate and future health when we remove human milk from the human diet and replace it with artificially concocted substitutes. Just as there are risks with fertility treatments, premature or surgical birth, so to there are risks when artificial baby milk replaces breastmilk - whether at birth or at any time during the period nature intended humans to be fully or partly breastfed.
Right Royal Example
Any suggestion of these risks is shouted down by many in our society as unfair to mothers who have resorted to artificial feeding. For many years, these risks were cloaked in softer language and presented as benefits of breastmilk. This technique is akin to suggesting there are advantages to breathing air unpolluted by cigarette smoke! Benefits in not being exposed to toxic levels of radiation! Or perhaps reasons to consider not walking in front of a moving vehicle!! There are no benefits to breastfeeding – breast isn’t best, it is normal!
The decision to introduce artificial baby milk – either partly or fully replacing human milk in a child’s diet – should always follow full risk assessment. Artificial feeding is not about the choice to breastfeed or not to breastfeed. The decision has nothing to do with breastfeeding. When we add or replace a natural process with something else, it must be done with full awareness of the risks against benefit. Like organ replacement or renal dialysis, artificial feeding should only be considered when all else fails.

Emotional conflict

Any health awareness program is designed to alter people’s behaviour, change habits and encourage them to question their lifestyle. Give up smoking. Eat more vegetables, Do more exercise, Drink less alcohol. Avoid sun exposure. Reduce fat in the diet. Have a pap smear. Eat more fibre. Nag, nag, nag! Pick up a magazine, watch TV, visit the doctor or pass by a billboard. The message is simple: there are ways you can improve your health both now and in the future. By ignoring them you are denying your own power to act.
1930s  AMA poster
Put up a poster promoting breastfeeding though, and suddenly people complain it is only being done to make those who are artificially feeding feel guilty! Why is this? How can just another health message seem personalized and threatening? The answer might surprise you – there is certainly emotion involved but it is nothing to do with guilt. 
Guilt is how you feel having committed an offense; remorse caused by feeling responsible for some offence. It is an internally created feeling and can only occur if the culprit recognizes they have done the wrong thing. Surely this description would only apply to the smallest number of mothers who have not breastfed? 
The real emotion felt by the majority of women who resort to premature weaning is regret: feeling sad about the loss or absence of something treasured or valued. Put simply, when these women see promotion of breastfeeding, it reminds them of a time when they experienced sadness. This can lead to feelings of anger, as unresolved emotions come to the surface. What they need is support and understanding of their grief, recognition of their regret. 
Unfortunately, what they usually get instead is reassurance about the decision to wean and assurance of their baby’s health and well being despite being fed artificially. This failure to acknowledge their true feelings goes a long way to prolonging their emotional recovery. Raise the issue of breastfeeding in a group women at any life stage – those emotions will come flooding out just as fresh in the retirement village as in the new mother’s group.
If reminders of the value of breastmilk make you feel angry, then direct that anger not to those trying to increase the awareness of a whole population, rather to those who let you down. Mothers do not fail to breastfeed: our society fails to help them do so: the real blame lies with:
  • Health systems that pay lip service to the benefits of breastmilk, yet expel new mothers from hospital before they have even grasped the basics of this learned skill;
  • Communities who view breastfeeding as an intimate act to only be performed behind closed doors, promoting only the sensual role of breasts and denying their practical use;
  • A society who expects women to resume paid work after brief, unpaid maternity leave while denying them access to workplace childcare and other support for combining work and breastfeeding;
  • A medical system that has until this year charted the growth of breastfed infants against the unnatural growth patterns of those fed artificially in past generations and implied failure to mothers whose babies did not measure up;
  • Unnecessary birth practices that interfere with the natural progression from womb to breast and strict infant regimes that deny babies access to the breast often enough for adequate nutrition;
  • A society which destroys body image by portraying the pubescent female form as that of a fully mature woman and displays malnourished celebrities as role models for adolescents and women of child-bearing age.
It is time to break down barriers between mothers and join together. There is no us and them, no good versus bad mother. Every woman has the right to the support and information she needs to birth and breastfeed her baby as nature intended, without pressure from the marketing techniques of multinational drug and breastmilk substitute manufacturers influencing the professionals guiding them along the path of motherhood.
Originally published as a submission to the  2007 Parliamentary Inquiry into the Health Benefits of Breastfeeding.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Yes, Virginia. ...

Suzy Toronto
I preface this by saying I respect every family's right to do or not to do.

This is about my reflections on our family experience as one which "does" the Santa thing.

Yes, I did use the present tense and, yes, my children are all in their 20s! Notwithstanding adulthood, independent living and -in one case - marriage and impending parenthood, my brood will head off to David Jones in Melbourne in a couple of weeks for their annual photo with Santa! A mythical being who was, in their childhood, considered to be an actual person who visited their home in the dead of night bearing gifts and consuming refreshment.

Given my recurring exposure to families of young children, each year at this time I come upon discussion on the merit or wisdom of creating the legend and even the ethics of "lying" to children each year. Aside from those whose religious beliefs don't sit comfortably alongside the secular celebrations, what is really in dispute is the place of fantasy in children's lives and whether adults have the right to misinform children deliberately.

In our house, fantasy, make-believe and let's pretend have been central to childhood play. The dress-ups box was always in action, toys for role-play in good supply and everyone encouraged to enjoy stories of other worlds, mythical beings and escapes from reality.

Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny have all been part of the folklore of childhood and the mystery of their presence discussed as though they were as real as our family and friends. How did Santa get in after we moved from the house with a chimney (where he left sooty footprints to and from the Christmas Tree)? How did the tooth fairy always (well, nearly!) know to visit even when a tooth came out at bedtime? How did the Easter Bunny sneak into the house with chocolate treasures when the weather outside did not suit early morning egg hunts? (And when a French exchange student shared our Easter one year, our youngest accepted that in France, the Bells bring the eggs - because - obviously - the Bunny was busy in Australia!)

At what age did it dawn on them that magic isn't always what it seems? I truly don't know. Melissa at five or six announced someone at school told her a crazy story about parents really leaving gifts, but she said she knew this wasn't true, as she knew we couldn't afford to buy her a bike! But as the older became wiser, they did not share their wisdom - in fact, they joined forces with the adults to create the magic!

One year, when the older two were in on things and the youngest was keeping his own counsel, Santa was bringing an entire set of Lord of the Rings figurines - the first movie just released and greatly enjoyed by this fantasy-loving family. A friend in the toy industry was helping with staff discount and access to rarer figures. But - at the last, Aragorn AKA Strider was stuck in a container on a ship at the wharf and could not meet the deadline  So Santa and his Elves hid the figurines around the house to be discovered, but also a note from Gandalf, on a scroll tucked in with a silver Elven cloak (secretly sewn in the en-suite bathroom!) alerting the receiver to Aragorn being delayed. Deceit  Lying? Untruths? Or just plain, good fun? All I know is, more than ten years later, it is remembered with fondness by all - and much more happiness than the time a cricket set from Santa included an unintended Huntsman Spider in the wrappings!

I think the proof is in the (Plum) Pudding: All our adult children enjoy and treasure the Christmas traditions of their childhood and keep as many going as possible. They enjoy the history of Father Christmas in their own ways - Melissa loves the folk-tales and Kieran loves the irony of Coca Cola's role. And pregnant Kaitlyn knows Santa will be part of her child's Christmas and his/her grandparents, aunt and uncle will do all they can to create the mystery.

 "Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful."
Norman Vincent Peale