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The last blog post I published was inspired by a morning spent with a friend of mine who had just had her first baby.  We were discussing birth again online and this is her story, from her point of view.  I have a great many thoughts on it, but will leave it to stand on its own.  I find it inspiring and beautiful, though she herself is probably still coming to terms with how the beginning of motherhood was not what she expected.  My birth stories (published in other posts) are quite different from hers, and I have love for every type of birth story:

 

Last night, a friend of mine posted an article to Facebook entitled “Why You Should Prepare for Natural Birth (Why Just Hoping for a Natural Birth is Not Enough)”.

 

I gave it a read through, and on first glance, most would probably find this article innocuous. Sure, you should be prepared for birth. You should do your research. Sound advice, right? Surely no one could find fault with an article that is simply encouraging women to know their rights, options, and bodies before embarking on the grand adventure that is labor and delivery.

 

Right?

 

Right?…

 

And yet, this article, like so many like it, left me feeling angry. Left me feeling hurt, incredulous, and just downright pissed off. And I don’t think I’m the only one. I think I belong to a steadily growing new moms’ club that is comprised of women who, just like me, think this article and articles like it are not only misleading but also directly lending to more and more women walking away from their birth experience feeling like a failure.

 

I began researching how I wanted to give birth more than a year before we even began trying to conceive. I had been born at home, in an upstairs bedroom with a midwife attending. I was a firm believer that birth was a natural process, and I was also terrified of the entire medical spectrum. I rarely took meds, thought a hot cup of tea was a good substitute for antibiotics, never had vaccines as a child, and got the hives just thinking about hospitals. So for many reasons, I wanted to make sure I knew everything I needed to know to make sure I didn’t end up a “hospital horror story”. If you’re a mom, you know exactly what I’m talking about. We all have friends, or have read online, or know a woman, or were that woman, who gave birth at a hospital and got bullied into unnecessary interventions, didn’t feel listened to, and even experienced genuine trauma at the hands of medical professionals that treated your body like it wasn’t your own and your birth like it was a disease. I wasn’t going to be that woman.

 

We considered home birth, but the options were so limited in our state, and the home birth midwife that we had decided to use had closed down her home birth practice and was working at a local OB office that delivered at the hospital close to our home. Hesitantly, we decided that since we would have a doula, a homebirth midwife, and all the education in the world, we would brave a hospital birth. We had watched “The Business of Being Born” over a dozen times, we had read every Ina May Gaskins book ever published, we were ready. We were ready to say no to pitocin, refuse induction no matter how long little bit decided to camp out. We were ready to do skin to skin after labor in a dark and quiet room.

 

In fact, by the time I was hitting late pregnancy, I had spent two years so immersed in the natural birth culture and language that I had a downright story in my head of how my birth was going to go. I would go into labor in the middle of the night, I would labor for as long as possible at home with my doula, who would provide aromatherapy, take me for sacred walks in the woods, and bathe me in light. At the last moment, I would go to the hospital, bravely go into my warrior space as I pushed out my baby with no drugs, no IVs, and no vaginal exams. As soon as she was born and healthy, we would insist on being released, and I would bring her home and nurse her in my momma cave for 40 days while friends brought me food and offerings at the feet of my newly washed female divinity.

 

Oh yeah. I had it bad.

 

And yes, I knew that I couldn’t control my birth. I knew to be ready for surprises. But I also knew what these articles, books, websites, documentaries and women had been telling me over and over and over again.

 

Birth is natural.

 

Your body knows what to do.

 

Don’t be afraid of the pain.

 

Let go of negative messages about birth.

 

Birth is not dangerous.

 

Birth does not have to be painful.

 

Birth can be so pleasing as to even be sexual.

 

Even if something unexpected comes up, you can still birth your baby naturally.

 

And on and on and on. Those words, phrases and images assured me that no matter what happened, we would be able to have a natural birth. That the chances of a complication actually being so severe as to warrant medical intervention were so low and had just been blown out of proportion by medical staff anxious to avoid a lawsuit and to get you in and out of those beds as quickly as possible.

 

I was ready. I sat back and judged women silently that I saw on Facebook getting inductions at 41 weeks 5 days. “Oh, she must not have watched that documentary. Someone should tell her that her induction isn’t necessary.”

 

See. I deserved what happened to me.

 

And then my due date came. And went. Now, of course, I knew due dates were the unicorns of the natural birth community. They only existed in fantasyland and that really, if they said your baby was due in March, it was completely fine if she decided to land in October. So don’t worry.

 

But I did. I was exhausted. I was enormous. I felt sick, fatigued, and dizzy all the time. I couldn’t stand, sit, or dress myself without assistance. I was in so much pain, and was told it was normal, but something in me knew it wasn’t. And I had every one and their brother asking me when I was planning on pushing that baby out, and I somehow was expected to not set them on fire with my eyeballs all the while laughing as if I hadn’t heard that exact same thing 6,000 times that day just before the breakfast I couldn’t stomach.

 

And on top of that, at least once a day a girlfriend that had gone before would ask me, “Any signs of labor yet?” And the answer was always a definite, “No. Nothing. Nada.” I mean nothing. No show, no Braxton Hicks, no plug, no back pain or cramping, no new stomach upset, no nesting instinct, no nothing. And I kept going to the doctor, and I kept refusing vaginal exams, and I kept waiting for my baby and my body to do the natural thing.

 

But they didn’t. And one day, my midwife who had delivered babies at home for 40 years sat me down and told me that she had seen women present like me a million times, and she could bet me good money I wasn’t going into labor on my own, that my baby was in danger, and that I needed to be induced.

 

And I felt like the world had ended. I went home and sobbed so hysterically for two days that it felt like I was breaking from the inside out. And everywhere I turned I was being told not to listen to her. Inductions being the antichrist in the natural birth community, and all of that. Even my doula, who was outwardly supportive, said in her words and tone and the spaces in between, “Oh, you’re just letting them use fear tactics on you, you don’t need this.”

 

But I felt somewhere deep inside of me that I did. So I faced every fear I had ever known, and I went in for an induction on a Tuesday evening. And immediately, my birth plan started going out the window. Foley bulbs, vaginal exams (I hadn’t dilated even a centimeter), monitors, IVs, and…. A completely awesome, gentle, supportive, empowering hospital experience. But I was on every drug you can imagine for two days. And labor never started. Not even a little bit.

 

They told me my baby was stuck. That contractions couldn’t start because her head couldn’t make contact with my cervix and her head couldn’t make contact with my cervix because contractions couldn’t start. And that she had probably been stuck for a while. And that she was probably in distress. And that she needed to come out, and she couldn’t, and no matter how long I had waited, things wouldn’t have changed. And right there in the hospital, we did every natural method we could think of to get that baby unstuck. We turned off all the drugs, the pitocin drips, we shimmied with the rebozo, we did the Miles circuit over and over, and nothing. And when I told them I was too exhausted, hungry, and in shock to face anything further, they let me go home for 24 hours. And they told me to see a chiropractor before I came back.

 

The chiropractor told me my pelvis was tilted up and to the side. My daughter was literally stuck sunny side up with her head splayed backwards, all on my left side (which explained a lot of my pain and very visible belly unevenness). The chiropractor spent an hour with us. And somehow, that miracle woman naturally moved my baby. I had bloody show a few hours later. The next morning, a fat 42 weeks pregnant, I went in for my second induction and had begun to dilate on my own. But things still weren’t moving fast enough.

 

More drugs. Someone broke my water (the one thing I swore I wouldn’t let anyone do). I had more vaginal exams than I could count. But I knew each step was what needed to happen to help my daughter get here safely. There was meconium in my water. She was struggling. I was struggling. And every single person at the hospital that was a part of my birth was there to help us.

 

And you know what? Labor was painful. Incredibly painful. Maybe it was because of the pitocin, or how fast my labor progressed once it finally began (barely six hours from start to finish). And my preparation helped me. I labored through hours of intense, long contractions, with barely any break in between them, with no pain medication.

 

But then transition contractions began. And maybe not every woman feels like Braveheart being disemboweled and sent to the four corners of the earth during transition. But I did. It was the most terrifying and painful sensation I had ever experienced in my life. Nothing prepared me for that. Nothing. I begged, I pleaded, I screamed, I cried for help, for it to end, for them to give me something. Against every one’s advice, I got an epidural. That’s right. Every doctor and nurse in that building told me I could do it naturally. But the truth was, I couldn’t. I demanded and received the most terrifying epidural I think anyone could imagine. In the throes of agony, panic, and the most gut wrenching sensation of my life, I had to hold still while a needle went into my spine that could’ve killed me or paralyzed me at best, and a transition contraction took place right as the needle went in. My mom was shaking and crying in the corner, unable to watch. The kind and gentle anesthesiologist yelled at me to not MOVE. If I had let them check me vaginally, they could’ve told me I was in transition, told me I was almost done, but since I thought vaginal exams were the devil and was trying to avoid them, and because I was in the throes of so much physical agony that I didn’t want anyone adding to it, I was terrified that the feelings I was experiencing were going to go on for hours. And yes, I had been told that when you think you can’t do it anymore, you are almost done. But I couldn’t do it anymore. Really.

 

The sedative they had put into my IV before the epidural kicked in, calming me just enough that I could realize what was going on as I lay on that bed shaking so violently it felt like I was seizing. But the pain and intensity of the contractions didn’t let up. We were told after my birth that the epidural didn’t have time to kick in, and that I took that risk for nothing, that I pushed without pain relief. But thank goodness for the pre-epidural sedative, that at least quelled the panic. Because then there was her head. And I could still feel my legs. And then I was pushing her out and there was nothing I could do to stop it. And I pushed her out right there in the most anti-natural birth position imaginable – on my back, with my legs up by my head, for over an hour before they told me she had to come out right that second and I pushed with everything I had in me and I tore almost in half but there she was. And it was what I wanted, what felt right, and the only position I could even think of moving in to in those moments, even though I had learned through the natural birth community that the best way to give birth was hanging from a tree branch.

 

And after she was born? Well first of all, I couldn’t tell every one to get out, or shut up, or leave us alone. There was a special team on hand to make sure she didn’t aspirate on her own poop. And there was this tricky little thing called a placental delivery that had to happen. I held her for moments, barely, and then the pain of labor (yes, I labored out that placenta) was so intense that someone had to take her for me. I was shaking so violently that I that I was going to die. My blood was everywhere, like a slasher film without the bad music. The medicine they gave me to stop the bleeding saved my life. It took almost an hour for my placenta to be forcefully delivered, with the incredible midwife on duty having to push on my stomach and force it out of me at the end because I was losing so much blood we couldn’t wait any more. It hurt more than my daughter did, coming out into this world.

 

After a few hellish days (yes, days) in the post partum ward of the hospital, we went home. And instead of worrying about myself and how to help myself heal from the bruised tailbone, the tearing, the incredible pain that made standing or walking almost impossible, the incredible amount of blood I was still losing, or anything else I needed to be concerned about, I holed up in my room and cried because all I could think was:

 

I failed.

 

I failed.

 

I failed.

 

My body didn’t do what it was supposed to do. Nothing went the way it was supposed to go. I caved in the face of the pain, I exposed us both to the dangers of drugs and interventions, I didn’t have the moments right after her delivery that we were supposed to have.

 

I don’t belong in the natural birth community.

 

I didn’t do it right.

 

And you know why I, and so many mothers like me, fell into that dark hole?

 

Because of articles like this one. You see? I was getting there. Just decided to take my time.

 

Because of every single “I had a kumbaya motherfuckers bath time birth in my living room and I orgasmed and so can you” story that gets shoved down our throats as “normal” while the women who have trauma and bad experiences are either the exception, or they were unprepared, or it happened to them because they were in a hospital and not at home, or whatever other story gets told, whether consciously or unconsciously, in the natural birth community.

 

There are truths about labor, there are truths about birth, and while the natural birthing community has it’s intentions in the right place, women are still being lied to – by BOTH sides.

 

Birth CAN be dangerous. It IS dangerous. I go to a mother’s circle a few weeks out of the month, and the moms that I share my Friday mornings with are as crunchy as you can get. They all cloth diaper, they all breast feed, we sit on the floor cross legged as the babies lay naked on sheep skin rugs and we burn sage. And their stories are heartbreaking. Some of them truly almost died. Many of them are scarred in more ways than one. And all of them were prepared. All of them did their research. And all of them were taken somewhere by their birth that they were told was wrong, rare, and shouldn’t really happen if you were just doing it right.

 

Birth is painful. Maybe not for everyone. Maybe you are lucky and have a fast, pain free birth. Maybe you did hypnobirthing and it worked for you. But for most of us, it is the most pain you’ll ever know, and if your transition period is like mine, it will move beyond pain and into a place that you may be able to handle. You may not.

 

Your body doesn’t just automatically “know what to do” because you are a woman. There are a million things that can go wrong, and that go wrong everyday, and those things make medical interventions not only necessary but the best thing that could ever happen to you and your baby. Maybe those stories of women and babies dying in childbirth still permeate our brains because they need to. Because we need to take birth seriously enough that we don’t endanger ourselves and our children by refusing medical care when it could be the difference between a positive and a life-altering outcome.

 

Hospitals are not the devil. Medical staff members are not necessarily going to bully you. I was in the hospital for a full week, I had two separate inductions, and each and every person there tried to help me have as natural of a birth as I could possibly have, and respected and served me in every moment of my birth.

 

You might not be able to have the “golden hour”. You might need drugs to keep you from bleeding out and dying. You might be in so much pain that you can barely hold your child for days.

 

You might end up with drugs, no drugs, water breaking, no water breaking, vaginal delivery, c-section, pain, no pain…

 

And you did it right. You were a warrior. Nothing should have happened that didn’t happen.

 

What has to happen is that ALL kinds of births have to be normalized. We have got to stop sitting in these camps that speak these surface languages that tell you one birth looks like this and is bad, one birth looks like this and is good, and for the millions of women that don’t fit into either of those camps, that there is no place for your birth and the implication is you must’ve done something wrong.

 

We didn’t do a damn thing wrong. Except maybe, spend too much time reading the articles.

 

 

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As I walked into a restaurant the other day, the lady greeting me asked “Don’t you have a car seat to bring in?”

“No, I prefer to hold him,” I answered, and she smiled.

It’s so funny to me that these detachable car seats have become a part of the developed world’s parenting culture.

Even at our first trip out to the store when the baby was two weeks old, my husband just assumed we’d take in the car seat and put it in the cart– which I hate doing– while I made sure to have my wrap with us. If I’m going to be somewhere for an hour and a half, I want the baby with me, smelling me, feeling close to me– not enveloped in a plasticky, impersonal car seat, and– at least in my mind– more likely to need to be held when I’m at home and may want to put him down for a minute.

I don’t have a huge objection to detachable infant car seats, and our car seat does detach, though I could take it or leave it more than most people. My husband definitely wanted the detachable car seat, but we use it mostly for the advantage of bringing it in the house when it is cold outside and taking him to the car from our house to a warmed car than anything else. I don’t really cart the baby around stores or restaurants in it at all.

I think people tend to think this is convenient, especially if the baby is sleeping, but I’d rather babywear. It’s more convenient to me. The car seats are heavy and cumbersome to me. And then you have to take them out to feed them or change them anyway. I always put the baby in a wrap and keep him next to my chest while we are out. It keeps me in tune with him– I know when he needs to eat before he fully wakes up and gets upset, and I know if he needs to be changed.

Part of it is the paranoia that this baby will be how his older sister Ada was in the car seat. She had so much tummy trouble and “colicky” behavior because of her then undiscovered gluten-intolerance that car drives were hell. Literally. I’d put her in at the very, and I mean *very*, last instant and drive as quickly as was safe because she’d scream for far more car drives than she didn’t. We switched her from the detachable one to a Britax convertible car seat at 6 months old anyway. It may have help but that’s also the time we started figuring out her stomach problems, so who knows.

Either way, I think I’m becoming more entrenched in the baby wearing subculture with each baby. I wore my first in a ring sling, and would nurse her that way because it helped with my over-active milk ducts– nursing upright and while walking. I wore the second in the wrap because it would soothe her to sleep with her tummy pain and my first was only 2 at the time. It was much easier to keep track of them both at a store and to get work done at the house with one strapped to my chest.

This time I’ve been wearing the baby just about anytime I get up to do anything. Clean the kitchen, do some work for my business, vaccuum. He’s been in the wrap a better part of today so far, and is still there now, which is why I decided to go ahead and write a blog post. He’s snoozing away.

I still make a lot of milk– too much again, for the third time around, to have a baby that can effectively comfort nurse. Often, as a baby nurses off to sleep the milk flow tapers down and they drift off well. My breasts will continue to bring more and more milk until the baby is overfull and hurting and sometimes gagging. He’ll either spit it all up, or cry until he falls asleep and the food can digest, or come off to burp and I can put him in the wrap and walk around. This soothes him to sleep without getting such a full, painful tummy. Thank goodness. Usually when he does spit it all up it’s because it’s nighttime and I’m tired and therefore let him continue to nurse b/c I don’t want to get back up again!

Between working at home, trying to get housework done and having two other kids to keep track of, I think he’ll spend a good part of his first year in the wrap. I still put him in a swing or bouncer some, but I’ve just never succesfully had a baby that will sleep that way– not next to someone– though he will sit there for a bit. He’s the most easy-going baby I’ve had. I obviously missed the mommy class on how to have a child sleep without me being close, b/c it does seem that other people accomplish that. It is beyond me.

What baby doesn’t want to be snuggled up on their mother anyway? With my first I always wanted to put her down. She slept well in the car seat or co-sleeper, and mildly tolerated a bouncer or swing, and was mostly in the wrap at stores or if I really wanted to get something done. Now fast forward to the third, and I no longer care about anyone’s assertions or advice that I should put him down, and it doesn’t bother me as much either to have a baby that wants me just about 24-7. He gets to be held all the time just because it’s easier. And he’s still quite good about going to my husband at nighttime when I put our 4-year-old to bed and give her some one-on-one attention.

My oldest truly has the position of oldest. More responsible. She had to share me at age 2– and with a colicky sister, she cried to sleep with her father b/c she wanted me so much. The second one is 4 with an easy going little brother that I hold all day and is happy to go to his father at bedtime. Both the younger ones hugely benefit from the experience we learned from having the first one. It seriously makes me want to go snuggle with her and tell her she’s the most amazing 6-year-old there is.

It seems each child I have gets more of me because I get better at taking care of babies and know already which tools– like the baby wrap or sling– I plan to utilize.

Even the eldest’s attitude towards the baby benefits him, because my 4-year-old mimics her. If she didn’t have such a sweet example to follow, I’m not sure that she would be quite as positive to the new baby. But so far there have been no hard feelings at all. There is a little insecurity and both older girls have needed some time with me, alone, that I’ve tried to give them. Baby wearing does make that easier.

It honestly makes everything easier. On the one hand, sure, it’s easier to clean the kitchen without a baby tied on my chest, but if having him there makes him happier to be put down when my older girls need me, or when I need to do something for me— you know, like, *shower*, then baby wearing makes life better.

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I’m going to try to start blogging a bit more again. I started this blog around this time of the year when I was pregnant with Ada, so maybe it’s fitting if I write a bit more again at this time of year when I am pregnant with our third. He will be born sometime around 4-6 weeks before our second, in November instead of December.

I feel like motherhood has been a collection of joining new clubs, so to speak. First you are pregnant or with a young child, and you can kind of automatically have a new sentence or two to speak with other moms you see in a check out line. It took me about a year to realize that socializing with other moms was something I needed more than at random moments (I was in college and knew NO other mothers for a while).

So I joined the pregnancy club. Then the I-want-a-natural-birth club and had a doula. Then the breastfeeding club. The cloth diapering club. The babywearing club. Then with my second, I was even more bowled over to join the food allergy/intolerance club. And here I am again, realizing that I’ve joined a whole new club that I never saw coming. It just feels *different* having a third. Going from a four person family to a five person family just feels like you are graduating up to that next level of familyhood again. We had to get a bigger car– we will have a baby at the same time as a first grader. I have two kids at completely different stages of development… whereas when I had a 2 year old and a baby and a small car it didn’t seem that different going from one to two. And at restaurants the four person table would do just fine.

But now I’ll have three. I guess I’ll also join the I-have-a-boy club. Which I don’t believe, at this point, will be *nearly* as different as people want me to believe, but sure it’s still different. In respect to birth/babyhood, the decision to circumcise or not is probably the most different thing, but people already want to impose so many personality traits, assigned by gender, on the kid even though he isn’t even born yet. But our girls play with tools, love robots and have clothes that are not pink, so I’m not that convinced that it will be “a totally different world” as everyone wants me to believe.

Things have been different for me personally, the third time around, something I never knew to expect. As a third pregnancy, apparently— my body has enlightened me and all my mother friends and midwives have confirmed— you feel every single stretch and loosening and pregnancy symptom (related to getting bigger at least) quite a bit more. Oh, I feel *everything*. I have one strip of ab muscle that has hurt from 2-3 months pregnant… before I was showing at all. I get contractions all the time. I get the cervical pains all the time. The midwives say that the body simply has a harder time each pregnancy getting those ab muscles to stretch and the ligaments to loosen. I also have worse pains after birth as the uterus clamps back down to look forward to. I do remember it was quite a bit worse with Ada, each time she’d nurse I get cramps, and that is supposed to happen more so the third time.

It’s all worth it of course, but like all those other clubs, expecting a third kid introduced me to differences I’d never considered.

Some things this time around have been better. I’ve gained weight easier, been able to control the ridiculous heartburn easier through diet changes (knowledge afforded me by being in the food intolerance club and learning to understand how food affects me better— kids teach us so much!), no longer have low iron (probably from being gluten-free). I wish I could say the morning sickness was different but I was still sick for months, and months, and months. Having a boy didn’t seem to help that.

I’ve been in labor twice and it’s daunting to think of the third time around. But I tell myself it will happen, I can’t stop it, and soon it will be three years later and all this pregnancy/labor pain will be a memory and he’ll be talking and playing.

Some things I had thought I’d do the third time around I didn’t. I thought I’d have a homebirth if I ever had a third. I moved from hospital with the first to birth center with the second, and figured homebirth would be the next way I’d go. Part of me still mourns the thought that I won’t do it that way, however, we had some solid logical reasoning. The birth center I go to and trust is about a hour and a half away, in Chapel Hill, NC. The midwives are backed up by Chapel Hill’s hospital— so much better, more mother/baby friendly and respected than the hospital here in Fayetteville, NC. The thought of going back to the hospital here if there was a true emergency during a planned homebirth (as small of a chance as that is) was just decidedly *not* appealing to me or my husband.

I hope to make it in time to have a water birth this time, as with my second I made it to the birth center and had about 20 minutes before I gave birth.

My hopes for the third birth…. a water birth, another short labor– not so short I don’t make the drive up there, but not agonizingly long either!– and another good recovery, in the first four weeks postpartum. I’ve been blessed thus far. I get weekly chiropractic adjustments, which help with positioning the baby so he isn’t breech and keeping the mother’s labor short, with the other two I did yoga… this time I should be… and I stay as active and on my feet as I can. After the birth I breastfeed, which helps the mother’s uterus tone back down and I’ll do that again as well.

My hopes for the third baby…. oh, I don’t know, maybe he’ll pop out and sleep all night and not be colicky since I’m already gluten-free? Totally unlike the second? Well, at least I know the knowledge I gained with her may help us out!

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Three months since a blog post? Wow, well, that sounds about right. I spent most of March, April, and May dealing with debilitating nausea, and most of June recovering. I am expecting my third baby. With each, the “morning” sickness has been awful, and different from each pregnancy but debilitating in its own way. This time around I lost 8 pounds and just went through the motions to feed the other kids and get my oldest to and from school.

I haven’t been writing much, professionally or otherwise, but this morning I had a nice little ole’ convo with my newly-turned six-year-old that was worth sharing.

When her sister sleeps late and it’s just us two in the morning– she really loves that. Those mornings and bedtime are when she asks all the questions that childhood provides. Last night she wanted me to explain electricity. This morning she wanted me to explain Disney’s awful version of Pocohantus.

It was on TV the other day— not really a movie I would choose for her to watch. But she has watched more and more stuff as she gets older and I’ve been sick. However, now that she’s seen parts of it, no WAY am I letting Disney educate her on American Indian history. She also wanted to know why I could say that Pocohantus was a real princess while Cinderella was not, and we had a nice little discussion on movie making and where the stories come from.

The discussion on Pocohantus and her real story led us to talk about culture, and what culture meant. I tried to call the white settlers European mostly, and designate people by their cultural groups, not racial classifications, but she’s no idiot. She asked about American Indian language, and we talked about how there are many, many, many American Indian languages. She asked if I came over to North Carolina on the European’s ships. Hah. I told her that in my great-great grandparents there were Cherokee Indians as well as Scottish people from Europe.

She didn’t quite understand that at first, but when I explained to her how she is partly made from her dad, who is Persian, and partly made from me, she started to get it. I want her to have a broad, and correct, view of cultural diversity.

So then of course we had to discuss what her Persian/Southern American culture was. And we talked about her grandparents to help her see that. She didn’t take any Southern from that, but she very much identified with the Persian side…. mostly deciding that Persian culture means she likes tea and shiny gold things. Hah. I think most Iranians will think that it funny.

From correcting bad history lessons on TV to her identifying her love of shiny jewelry with her ‘culture’. And then she asked to watch cartoons.

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Part 2 – Do you participate in every religiously-connected school celebration?

I have a pretty inclusive belief system, being a member of the Baha’i Faith. I don’t mind my children being exposed to all the varying religious traditions and celebrations the world has to offer. But this last egg hunt at school, the week before Easter, did make me think about just how oriented around the Christian Faith school holidays and celebrations are.

Schools have ‘egg hunts’ not ‘Easter egg hunts’, from what I can tell. They have ‘Holiday Parties’, not ‘Christmas Parties’. Jesus Christ is never mentioned, as far as I know, or isn’t supposed to be. My fifth-grade teacher did mention Him a bit and pulled out a Bible a few times while lecturing us on being good people but she got talked to about it, I do believe.

I think schools walk a line of political correctness in not mentioning the religious aspects of the celebration.

But this makes me ask then, why celebrate Spring with an egg hunt at all?

Why did my kid come home telling me that Santa Claus only brings presents to good children, not ‘naughty’ ones? (That’s a concept that annoys me greatly, but is kind of off this main point).

Why is it okay to use these concepts to celebrate the seasons and breaks from school when they are linked closely to Christianity?

Now, it is true that many Christians do not necessarily relish the thought of religious observances they take seriously being watered down to Christmas trees and egg hunts, either. I guess my feeling is– if it is a tradition tied to religion, and that religion isn’t *actually* being taught or discussed, *why* use it?

Is it laziness on the school’s part? It’s easier to just have an egg hunt because children expect that and little plastic eggs and candy with bunnies on it are on sale at every store in town?

Why not do something to celebrate spring? Why not have a lesson about planting and bees and pollination? I’m positive that there are physical activities and games that could be fun for kids, cheap for schools, easy for teachers and educational– ones that don’t revolve around traditions that no one discusses the reasons for anymore, and when schools aren’t supposed to push religion at all.

Again, I say this not because I personally have a problem with my child learning about the religious traditions of all– but she isn’t doing that. And it’s not the school’s place. And some parents might not want them to participate in the egg hunt or “holiday” party that revolves around presents and christmas trees, and that is their right. I’m torn between seeing these things as American cultural holidays (I have an agnostic friend who still gives Christmas presents) and that it’s not a big deal, but I think when it comes to school it’s an issue worth examining. It doesn’t have to be a big deal to *me* to celebrate Christmas, as an American holiday, picking and choosing the parts I want to pass down to my children, the religious parts verse the pagan/seasonal parts vs the material American parts. But to do it in a school is different.

It’s my job to have an ongoing conversation with her about the values and beliefs that I want her to be exposed to.

I remember covering a story 3 or 4 years ago. A local doctor had put together an event for global education for elementary school kids, and several hundred kids took a field trip to the event to view and present tables on whichever area of the world their classroom had focused on. He talked to me about how he believes children have to learn about the entire world to have a shot at being successful in this world– it’s completely unavoidable in today’s world not to work with or meet people with different cultures and languages, he said.

I think this extends to religions. It doesn’t hurt our children to know at least a little bit about them. I have some other Baha’i friends, and a Jewish friend, who have done a lot more than I have in having their child’s classroom discuss and have activities based around their religions and the other children always enjoy it.

I don’t think the solution to this is to do less, I think it is to do more. But schools are not going to do more unless parents ask them to, and they’ll only do it in that child’s classroom. That’s why I think fall, spring and winter celebrations should have to do with the seasons and what activities and lessons can be derived from that. And discussion of religious traditions, inclusively, could be done all around the year.

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Part 1 – What to do about the food?

Back during Azita’s “holiday party” at Christmas time I always meant to make a post about the difficulty of every celebration involving food for a mom of a kid with food intolerances. I volunteered to bring the cupcakes, which I thankfully legally can since I have a kitchen certified by the state and sell my products at a local store. Remembering from my own parties at school, I guess I thought it would be some physical activity and one treat or two and maybe a movie, so bringing the cupcakes would pretty well ensure that Azita mostly got the same experiance as the other kids.

I was floored when I got there. The cupcakes were hardly even noticed. Pizza, candy, snacks, junky-type “juice”. It was a buffet of gluten, dairy and artificial flavors. One mom brought oranges, which remained unopened.

Oy, what would have been wrong with some cupcakes and orange slices? It was a junk-foody, decadent party even for adults. Even more frustrating was the fact that the teacher called me at 6 pm the night before to tell me she’d be bringing pizza– so that necessitated a trip to the health food store to get Daiya cheese and to make a crust, right at dinnertime and just before bedtime. Super convenient for us.

True, we could have just not sent pizza for her and let her sit there while everyone ate there hyperactivity-inducing treats, but that’s just not how I roll. I want my kid to relish the fact that she eats in a way that will nourish her body. At this point, while she is 5, I think that includes making sure she doesn’t feel left out. As she ages, I think there will be times that she just don’t have what others have and is okay with that.

Fast forward a few months, and I get a letter home from the school asking to bring eggs filled with non-chocolate candy for the egg hunt at school.

It specifically details store-bought wrapped candy. Yet another school-related activity where we are giving our kids the message that it has to revolve around food. I wasn’t going to send artificial food for anyone’s child, and so I sent eggs with organic Vitamin C drop from yummy earth, and a bag for Azita to trade the candy she gets in her eggs, and she was very cooperative and happy with that plan.

It just strikes me though, the way candy is specifically asked for. There are dozens are spring celebrations that could revolve around activities and art and play, not sugar. There are dozens of spring celebrations that could revolve around spring itself, and not a secular activity tied to a religion not every child shares, but that is for part 2.

What struck me, really, was that I went to a egg hunt for a playgroup I’m a part of. The organizer had suggested stickers and toys be in the eggs as well.

Out of 8 moms or so that brought eggs, I think only two brought candy (and I was one of them, but only because I had all the Vitamin C drops and have had way too much morning sickness for any extra store trips for stickers– though that was my original plan).

The eggs had bracelets, plastic bugs (Ada’s favorite), dinosaurs… and the kids loved it. It *didn’t* revolved around artificial junk in any way shape or form. Why can’t schools be like that?

I know change only happens if someone raises their voice and asks for it, but I’m feeling pretty unlistened to by the public school system at the moment. With the rise of food allergies, these schools need to get on the ball. Seriously.

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Yesterday I called Payman, yelling in the phone at him, while desperately trying to calm Ada (who is 3 now) and wash her face.

He told me to call poison control, and I got annoyed at him for not answering the question I had and hung up. He made record time home, probably leaving immediately after I hung up.

The question I was asking was, “Which soap did you use to get the spray paint off of your skin last week???”

I was checking the mail with Azita– something she loves to do each day– and Ada was on the patio eating apple slices because it was such a gorgeous day. That made her about 40-50 feet away, I think. Ada starts screaming, I run down the driveway and see her beautiful face covered in black speckles. Around her eyes, on her lips, across her left cheek (where it was most concentrated) and down her arm. The pattern looked perfectly as if she held the spray paint can a few inches from her face and sprayed on her cheek– will all the overspray and splatters getting all over her eye, nose and lips. All the important places.

Payman was spray painting a joystick. A little pet project of his this past few weeks was modding a joystick to have Akuma, a street fighter character, on it. I don’t play video games generally, but it was kind of a cool thing. So he needed the nasty stuff– it bonds to plastic and looks super shiny.

My first thought after worrying if she had blinded herself was that he had major difficulty getting it off of his hands b/c of the nasty type of paint it was.

That was why I called him to ask which soap worked the best, and it was the 7th generation dish soap, by the way. He had tried our Whole Foods liquid and bar soaps first.

She was a trooper for all of it, and her skin was bright red after the scrubbing with a soapy wash cloth. She closed her eyes while I scrubbed and pushed and scraped it off her soft skin. It was so close to her eyes that it was in her eyelashes. She said it didn’t hurt. She said she could see. Her eyes looked clean and she followed my finger when I asked her to look at it. I don’t know if those were telltale or not in this kind of situation, but it was what I could think of.

Next, I took green bentonite clay, known for drawing toxins out of the skin/body, as is my understanding, made a facial mask and rubbed it over the spots with the paint and then her entire body. I put her to soak in the bath and Payman watched her while I called Poison Control.

It never occurred to me, so traumatized I was at seeing it all around her eyes, that if she inhaled it (duh) was the huge, huge issue.

The Poison Control lady was incredibly kind, helpful and thorough.

She looked up the paint name and brand and said it was a really serious situation if Ada had inhaled it. She said if Ada had inhaled it directly, it was an asphyxiant, and we would know in the first minute or two that something was seriously, seriously wrong, as Ada would be unable to breathe.

It seems her natural reflexes to close her eyes and mouth and breathe out probably took over.

Lord have mercy, it never should have happened, but I can see all the reasons why we didn’t see it coming. Payman thought he had one more coat, it’s also been cold and we spend much less time outside. I saw the can and thought “Oh I need to put that away” but it never once occurred to me that she would pick it up and be able to press the button– it hurts an adults finger, right? I didn’t even think she saw it, standing on the edge of the patio. I don’t blame Payman and he doesn’t blame me, and we are going to be even more wary of not letting something like this happen.

So, after it’s off of her, after Poison Control helps us to determine it’s not an emergency and we don’t need to take her anywhere, it’s time to start treating the accident.

I think many people might think the danger is passed now, and the worst most life-threatening part of the danger *is* passed, but there are still things to be done to help her body detox from a chemical exposure.

I only know this from researching chemical sensitivity for myself and being a part of online mailing lists where this stuff gets discussed. It’s not info a doctor or nurse would give you, most likely.

First thing– Vitamin C. I got 2 grams in her last night, but it could be between 5 and 10, really. We are working on another gram right now, and if it had been me I probably would have been twice that. This morning she has had another gram. The only side effect of lots of vitamin C that I’m aware of is loose stools. And if you take high amounts for a very long time you need to taper it down to avoid scurvy symptoms. I’m not the expert, but look up websites like ImmuneWeb and join the mailing list if you need this kind of advice and support.

Second thing– healthy fat. A spoon of nut butter, grassfed meat at dinner, an avocado. Because I what I know Ada will take easily, I gave her 3 doses of omega-3 and omega-9 fish oils made for kids. I am not a doctor. Research other places as well as my personal opinion for your own health. I think I need to say that.

Third thing– another detox bath. The treatment really started when I put the clay mask over where the paint had been. She got another bath. You can add epsom salts and bentonite clay to the bath. I will probably do another all over body clay treatment sometime today. It’s difficult because she isn’t always willing and prefers showers to baths. I think I will plug the drain while she takes a shower and put some salts or clay and at least let her feet and legs soak.

Other antioxidants would probably be helpful, too. For a child this size, the fat, vitamin C and baths are my main goals right now, just because she hates taking things and its work to get all the supplements in her. Thank goodness for chewable vitamin C that can be broken up into “worms” and fed to a “baby bird” piece by piece!

The moral of the story… I take chemical exposures seriously. I don’t believe that the danger is over after the immediate worst is over. We are very lucky, though. I worked for a company for three years where I was repeatedly exposed to paints and solvents with incredibly improper handling and ventilation, and I didn’t realize at the time, but I’ve never been the same since. I was fatigued and headachey for most of those three years, and I knew it was on the days certain chemicals were around but I didn’t realize it would affect me so much after the day was over.

I get headaches when I smell people’s “clean” clothes. If only people would realize that companies pour all those nasty scents in them because they are hiding that fact that the detergent is inferior and the clothes are actually *not* clean. There is a difference between clothes smelling like flowery junk and clothes smelling clean, but we are brainwashed by corporations.

I get headaches when I smell perfume.

I get headaches after smelling cleaning supplies in public bathroom.

I get headaches after smelling soaps.

I think I feel icky after being a park that has been treated with roundup type things and in the summer when my neighbors use it. It’s awful.

I don’t want this for Ada and so I’m treating this experience as something that needs treating even after the worst is over.

What’s funny is, knowing what I do about chemicals, this still happened to Ada. We research and buy clean cleaning supplies, or use Hydrogen peroxide and vinegar. We use Biokleen and other safe detergents and etc. We try to limit pesticide residues by eating organic meat and plants. And then we leave a spray paint can out.

Knock on wood, I’d think a physical injury like a burn or cut or even break (cringe at the thought) would be better, in the long run. At least she isn’t exposed to all the other nasty scents and stuff as much a other people. Maybe she’ll be better off after something like this for it.

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