Thursday, May 30, 2013

On Cuddlers and Tamers and why I LOVE this woman!

This woman - Pinky McKay - is not only a wise woman I greatly respect but also someone I proudly call my friend.

Having successfully raised our children doing all the wrong things, we are now disgracefully helping raise our grandchildren just the same way!

Pinky is a well-known and highly respected writer, speaker and practioner who supports mothers who seek to use gentle parenting non-techniques. She is known for her approach and is recognised for being at the other end of the spectrum from those who promote strict, scheduled parenting practices.

But even the most gentle soul can reach boiling point and Pinky reached hers - resulting in this blog post:

Well - not everyone was happy to see that and the comments are running fast and furious. Yet, everyday, my blog feed seems to feature yet another rant against the various practices gathered together under the term Attachment Parenting - full-term breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby-wearing and more. I tend not to get involved in "comment wars" because I get tired of being asked to justify or validate my own values or beliefs on the matter and even when you provide evidence to support your view, you are attacked for criticising the actions of women who had aimed for the same goals but not achieved them. (This always confuses me - if you value something, how do your values change just because you weren't able to do it yourself: I still support natural childbirth, even though my own three children were born by caesareans!)

Many of the comments posted in response to Pinky's post are from people who prefer a more disciplined approach  - to me, their comments simply confirm the whole point of Pinky's post: is this really the place for you? If you want information or guidance on controlled crying, for example, why seek it from someone who openly does not support those techniques?

Pinky explained more about her motivation to write that post in a second one here.

While I am heartedly sick of "mummy wars", mostly created and fed by commercial media hype, I respect each parent's right to make their own, informed decisions. I might not support your choices and I am rather concerned about the child's rights in all this, but you don't need my consent or approval. Or Pinky's.

Bad mother redeems herself

Says it all

Monday, May 20, 2013

But what are you going to DO?

Since my announcement last week, that I had resigned from my paid work, the second question (After "but WHY?") has been "But what are you going to DO?"

I am sure my daughter Kaitlyn would happily extend her 40 days indefinitely, in which I have been doing her washing and housework while she focuses on her newborn and we have been together every day, out & about and at home. That is one thing I could do.

I could certainly rev up my scrapbooking studio and get immersed in both Project Life and traditional layouts and finally conquer the last of the printed photos. I could Put together my stash of patterns and fabric and kit out Charlie's wardrobe for many months to come. Accessorised by knitted hats and jackets, blankets and socks. That would be living the dream!

I could belatedly set a reading challenge for 2013 and plough through Mt To Be Read, trawl the second hand shelves for treasures, download from audible to listen while I scrap/sew/knit/crochet. Top up my ebook library to entertain when I sit and wait or take bed days. That is also living  the dream.

I could teach my 22yo son to drive and we could enjoy mother/son road trips with deep discussions on life, the Universe and Everything. I could spend more time with my 29yo daughter who works weekends and has days free during the week, minimising special days together. That would be great.

I could walk the dog at the beach at the time of day that best suits me, getting the exercise and tranquillity I need. My girls could walk with us too. We love the beach all year round.

I could focus on improving my health, with more time to buy fresh frequently and prepare meals earlier in the day when I have more  energy. I can visit the pool regularly  with Kaitlyn and Charlie once she is old enough. I can practice yoga at home, with a daily session to treat my body.

Most of all, I can look for opportunities to further support breastfeeding mothers in my dual communities.Find ways to provide drop-ins in various locations, for different groups of women, without constraints. am seeing opportunities everywhere and am excited to look for new ways to do what I love best.

I will write, now I have a borrowed lap-top, it is time to write for women with MS, for grandmothers, for migrants.

I'm not worried about not having anything to do - I am worried I will still not have enough time to do all I wish!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Babies need Books: Charlie's Bookshelf

To say I have a passion for books is an under-statement.

To say I have a passion for children's books is well-beyond under-statement.

I cannot recall life without children's books in it - my own childhood, the years until I had my own children and the years until my first grandchild arrived - the books remained. Books are to me as air and water and the thought of a home without books is unthinkable.

So a new life simply means another person to share the magic of words and illustration. Now that Charlie is one month old, she is already enchanted by the books we hold before her and the rhythm of the words we speak.

Her shelves contain books passed down and books given as gifts and books we feel are essentials.

Here she is enjoying some storytimes this week:

She has also been introduced to Hairy McLarey, PEEPO! and The Wheels on the Bus, with great concentration. And the book world is her oyster :)

As long as she can get her mum, aunt and uncle to share ;)

She has already visited the two most important stores in our lives: our local bookstore Robinsons and the Mecca that is the ABA Shop. The to buy list is nearly as long as the to read pile of what we already own ;)

That's why I bought her this, just in case we need reminding.

Hold Me Close - skin2skin

I am passionate about skin to skin for newborn babies. It is the natural state human infants are born expecting. It stimulates baby led attachment at the breast. It stabilises body temperature, heart rate and breathing  in premature and mature babies and it encourages bonding and helps heal the trauma of medical intervention separating mother and baby.

It also feels great!

When my daughter was pregnant, we knew skin to skin (s2s) would be part of her postnatal plan. What we didn't know was just how crucial it would be when her labour, birth and breastfeeding establishment were far more challenging than expected!!

We had prepared with a couple of products that turned out to be wonderful resources.

The Breastfeeding Blanket by Bebitza is designed to provide cover for modest women when breastfeeding, however I have found it to be very useful as a wrap during s2s and baby-led attachment sessions. Kaitlyn found it kept her and baby Charlie covered and warm during their hospital stay, when they spent most of their time practicing skin to skin to help stimulate feeding and milk production.

 The light-weight wrap, made of beautiful, soft fabric, kept both mother and baby warm yet did not impede them being in complete skin contact.

Skin To Skin Kangaroo T-Shirt Once at home, s2s continued to be important, as Charlie needed lots of stimulation to breastfeed and overcome her jaundice, all of which was delaying Kaitlyn's milk production becoming established. Even once those hurdles were overcome, being worn close to her mother is Charlie's second favourite place to be after the breast! To allow easy switching between feeding and wearing, without needing to stop and put on a sling, wrap or carrier, especially when out and about. the Skin to Skin Kangaroo tshirt has been a real winner.

Charlie was four weeks old in these photos and had been quickly tucked into just the front pocket of the shirt while mum finalised some shopping, however she was then placed correctly into the cross-over straps, which would be skin 2 skin if she was only dressed in a nappy. The end result is just like their favourite Hug-a-bub wrap, but much eaiser for quick switches between breast and carrier for babies like Charlie who cluster-feed between short naps. This is great when Mum wants to eat dinner, walk around - or keep visitors hands off the new baby and is perfect when out shopping!

We were really happy to be able to source this Canadian-made product here in Australia, through Ninky Bear. In fact, Kaitlyn loves it so much, she is thinking of getting a one or two more, which should take her and Charlie through the next couple of months until she is 7kgs.

You don't need anything special to practice skin to skin, but these two products have certainly made it a bit more practical!

Selfie ;)

The cat and the shadow

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Part Two: what shall i do with my second fifty years?

It is almost exactly 7 years since I started to work in the brand new ABA Victorian Branch Office. That office had previously been the onsite print shop at the ABA Head Office in East Malvern and was lovingly cleared, painted and prepared by our Branch President Karen and her team of volunteers about a year before and had basically been acting as a storage space until such time as funds became available to employ staff.

I was that staff.

A couple of years on and some big changes happened. You can read previous entries here if you are not familiar with the story.

Since September 2008, the Breastfeeding Centre in Dandenong, has been my second home. I have watched it grow as a seedling, seen it bloom and blossom, casting deep roots in the local community.

Yesterday, with deep regret, I resigned from my job in this wonderful place. Change is always disconcerting, but change driven by others, which goes against your own hopes and dreams, is change unbearable.

My vision of our Breastfeeding Centre, which came to reality in this past four years, was a dual-purpose space balancing administrative support for our volunteers and breastfeeding support for the community. Our three day work week included one day dedicated to drop-in day, open to all - no appointments, no limits, no restrictions, no waiting lists, no fees.The other two days were focused on admin work. Yes, we also did admin on drop-in day and saw unannounced drop-ins on admin days. The staff expanded by one, with two of us sharing drop-in day. Then last year, two more staff were added.

My dream was that we would boost our finances through local breast pump hire, through Mothers Direct sales onsite. One day, hopefully, we would be open five days a week and able to support women each day and manage our admin workload.

Yesterday, with great sadness, I tended my resignation.

My vision is not that of our current management. They see the role as primarily administrative and question offering a full day drop-in, breast pump hire, onsite sales. It has been mooted that drop in be reduced, limited or even cease altogether. A review is under-way and it is a very real likelihoods that the face to face support will be affected

I have agonised over this, through all my health issues this year, through my grand-maternity leave, through discussions with co-workers, even through counselling. The stress of my dilemma was affecting my physical and mental health, the approach of my return to work in two weeks had me losing sleep again.

In the end, the ethical thing for me to do was to disassociate myself from decisions I did not support. To stand by my principles. To put up or shut up. To walk away. To re-focus on that which is important to me: improving breastfeeding rates in the City of Greater Dandenong by providing face to face support, a range of educational aids and resources and to network with service providers in the area who work with pregnant and breastfeeding women. I can continue to do all these things, without being employed and working at the Centre. As a volunteer Breastfeeding Counsellor, I can give my time to the community in other ways to reach out to these people who are least likely to access ABA's traditional model of support.

The world is my oyster, apparently - my children are grown, I have a yummy new granddaughter to enjoy and I am on the brink of turning fifty. What to do with the second fifty years? Shall I dedicate myself to volunteer breastfeeding support in the area? Will I study to become an IBCLE and offer discount lactation consultancy to women who cannot afford the normal private practice fees or even work pro-bono? Maybe I will share my skills and knowledge with nurses and midwives? Or move into other areas of interest, like baby massage or baby wearing? Perhaps the breastfeeding books floating around in my imagination - Breastfeeding & MS; Grandmothers Guide To Breastfeeding; simple breastfeeding picture books for migrant women ... - may come to fruition.Or do I turn to my art and crafts and explore my creative side instead? Or just retire and be Granny, who knits hats in funky colours and reads endlessly to any small child who sits still long enough?

In 2000, I found myself in similar circumstances of pausing my work life for a second time, due to my MS. I had no idea of my future then and look what happened! So, I can't wait to see how this will pan out.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

(Why) I'm not dead yet

Given I am on the cusp of menopause, my life-purpose, from a biological perspective, is done and dusted and lifetime should be ending with my fertility. But it isn't. Because I am human.

Have you ever wondered why?

There is a concept I wholeheartedly accept, known as the Grandmother Hypothesis. Unlike most other mammals - with the exception of other highly-evolved species including whales - human females live beyond the end of their fertility. Once her own contribution to reproduction ceases, the human female moves to supporting the work of the next generation in raising their young. Given the fragile dependency of human infants compared to  others, the mother needs to concentrate her efforts on the care and feeding of the newborn, almost to the exclusion of her older children. This is where the grandmothers will step in, caring for the siblings and ensuring their survival despite the dependance on the mother of the newborn.

There is still much to be looked into to prove this is the science behind our longevity but it makes a lot of sense to me. All things being equal, I can expect at least another quarter century of life. Given my genetics, I am hopeful of another two! Apart from my long list of books to read, projects to complete and experiences I want to have, there must be some point biologically to me consuming Earth's resources for twice the time I contribute to human procreation.

I only need to look to my family tree to see that grandmothers have had a very real purpose and longevity.

My maternal great grandmother Mary Chapple with two of her daughters, the one holding the cat is my grandmother, Louisa.

Mary with two of her grandchildren, my Aunty Phyllis and Uncle Alan

Louisa with my mother and five of Aunty Phyllis's six children

My grandmother Louisa, with my mother and I!
My paternal grandparents, with five of my Aunty Dorothy's 12 children!

My parents, paternal grandparents and my sister and I
My husband's maternal grandmother with my son
My husband's paternal grandmother with us and our eldest daughter
My daughters with their paternal grandparents
My husband's parents with their nine grandchildren

My parents with my eldest daughter
My daughter with her daughter and her paternal grandmother

Myself with the newest member of our family, my granddaughter Charlie
Whatever the purpose of female elders and grandmothers, I am happy to become one and look forward to the second half of my life.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Twenty-eight days

Four weeks.

Twenty-eight days.

Just short of one month.

Since baby Charlie arrived this time four weeks ago, time has passed at ten times the usual rate. It must have.

As we start to see her newborn-ness rub away around the edges, I want to yell STOP! Slow it down, enjoy the preciousness. I know that eleven times this past four weeks will also pass in the blink of an eye and I will be recording her first birthday, her first steps. I have learned the secret only revealed to grandparents: babies grow up far too fast, quicker than you could ever believe. You cannot slow the time, no matter how much you try.

As Kaitlyn's doula, I am with her every day, committed to being so for the traditional 40 days. I wash, I clean, I assist, I support, I accompany, I reassure, I laugh, I enjoy. I count weeks, days, hours as they tick away. I capture the moments, before they slip through our fingers. I grasp the memories that might slip away in the postnatal fog.

There is nothing more important than snuggling into a newborn, feeling that silky skin, looking into those seeking eyes, smelling that newborn scent, hearing those precious breaths. I am so glad that my daughter knows this wisdom and doesn't wish it away. There is a lifetime for other things - these days can never come again. You must drink your fill while you can.

You don't have anything more important to do. This is the most important thing you will ever do.