Mary Martinez speaks about the Target breastfeeding incident

Earlier this week I wrote about the police being called on a breastfeeding mom in a Michigan Target store. Mary Martinez and her husband Jose were shopping in a Harper Woods, Mich., Target store, where Mary was nursing her 4-week-old baby girl in the electronics section. They were told by a Target security guard that breastfeeding in public is “against the law” and told they had to leave. When they disputed it, the police were called. The couple and baby eventually left, feeling embarrassed.

Mary has since kindly told me a little more of what happened this past Sunday. She addressed the concern that some raised that she was not being “discreet” and gave an update regarding her correspondence with the Target corporate office.

I was very discreet. She’s my 3rd child and I breastfed the other 2 until they were 2, I know how to be discreet. LOL If you can watch the news clip, I was nursing then and I imagine that’s as much skin as I showed in the store…none.

I spoke with [Target] corporate yesterday [Dec. 2]. I received an apology and admission of wrong doing, and that no one complained.  I want an amended press release, removing the part that reads that anything escalated and that they were concerned about the safety of their other customers. …Until then, this story is to be continued.

(You can view the video at Fox 2 News.)

Mary also added that she’d like to tell me more about what happened, but she’s been going through a “rough time” lately and is “really tired right now.” I can only imagine. She’s four weeks postpartum, has two older children and is dealing with all of this Target stuff on top of it.

She said that she hasn’t yet contacted FirstRight (a site where they collect information to determine how best to support a mother who has experienced discrimination due to breastfeeding), but she plans on it.

I sent my own letter to Target, copying and pasting what I had written on my blog as well as adding “I like Target. I want to continue to shop there, but I want to see more support for breastfeeding moms and children and I believe an apology from the company to Mary Martinez for discriminating against her and her child is in order. Please make sure employees are properly trained on the laws regarding breastfeeding. It is not a crime. Thank you for your time.”
I received this form letter response from guest.relations@target.com:

Dear Amy Gates,

Thanks for asking us about breastfeeding in our stores. As a family-oriented retailer, Target has a long-standing practice that supports breastfeeding in our stores.

We want everyone to feel comfortable shopping at Target. Guests who choose to breastfeed in public areas of the store are welcome to do so without being made to feel uncomfortable. Additionally, we support the use of fitting rooms for women who wish to breastfeed their babies, even if others are waiting to use the fitting rooms.

We strive to provide a distraction-free environment for all our guests, including nursing moms. We regret the incident in our store and will continue to provide a shopping environment that respects the needs of all guests, including nursing mothers.

At Target, we work hard to provide you with an enjoyable shopping experience. If you ever have concerns during your visit, please visit the Guest Service Desk and ask to speak to the Guest Service Team Leader. They’ll make every attempt to resolve the issue while you’re in the store.

We appreciate the opportunity to share this information with you.

Sincerely,

Matthew
Target Guest Relations
www.target.com
(800) 440-0680

[THREAD ID:1-78AVUL]

It sounds like lip service to me. When I read, “We regret the incident in our store and will continue to provide a shopping environment that respects the needs of all guests, including nursing mothers.” it sounds to me like they are sorry they are getting negative press as a result of the incident, not that they are sorry that an employee discriminated against a shopper and that the police were called. Not that they are sorry for the grief they have caused the Martinez family.

I’m not calling for a boycott of Target. I think that is extreme for this situation. However, I am not sure when I will be shopping there again. I will be watching this case to see how it all pans out. I’d like to see them resolve this well. I think they should have apologized from the get-go and not released the statement about being concerned for the safety of their guests. I’ve never seen a breastfeeding mom and baby pose a safety issue. Most moms simply want to take care of the needs of their baby and go about their business.

I want to address more concerns/issues that were raised in the comments section of my first post, but will save that for another post, another day.

Mary, please know that there are many of us who fully support you. I hope that because of the attention drawn to your situation, it will prevent another mother and child from being discriminated against in the future. As it is House Bill 5515 in Michigan – which would grant to a woman the right to breastfeed in a public place and prohibit practices that would discriminate against the woman because she was breastfeeding a child – passed out of committee on a vote of 11 to 2 after the hearing on Dec. 2. (Thanks to Angela White for this good news update!) As Angela told me, “The committee members did know about the Target incident so while it was terribly unfortunate, the timing just might have helped push forward that important legislation!”

The breastfeeding discrimination might not end overnight, but we are making headway and going in the right direction. 🙂

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Police called on Breastfeeding Mom in Michigan Target Store


Photo credit: The Mothers Milk Marketing Board

It’s been a while since I’ve heard a report of a woman being harassed about breastfeeding in public or told it’s illegal and I hoped that meant that the people of the world were wising up, that breastfeeding women and their children were being treated with respect, and that people were more aware of the rights of breastfeeding women and their children. But then this evening a Facebook friend told me about an incident at a Harper Woods, Mich. Target where Mary Martinez and her husband Jose were told nursing in public is illegal, were asked to leave the store and even had the police called on them. Mary Martinez, a mother of three, was nursing her 4-week-old baby in the electronics aisle at the time.

The couple was escorted out of the store. “Forcing me out of the store. Two security guards, the manager or team leader, two officers, they just made a spectacle and a scene. I feel like I can’t go to that specific Target anymore,” Mary Martinez said.

Fox 2 contacted Target’s corporate headquarters and were told they allow mothers to breast-feed in their stores. But, “This specific situation escalated to a point where we were concerned for the safety of our guests, so law enforcement was called. We regret the incident in our store and will continue to provide a shopping environment that respects the needs of all guests, including nursing mothers.”

I call shenanigans. I have a feeling their definition of “escalated” is that the mother and father, a Detroit police officer himself, knew their rights – that breastfeeding in public is NOT illegal – and refused to leave.

This isn’t the first time a mother has been told she couldn’t breastfeed at a Target store. Back in 2006, The Lactivist reported that a Minneapolis Target employee told a woman that she couldn’t breastfeed in a fitting room and told her to use the bathroom instead. When the woman later called Target’s national hotline she was told “corporate policy was that nursing mothers were welcome in Target stores.” As such, Target has responded with a public apology and the following statement:

“Target has a long-standing practice that supports breastfeeding in our stores. We apologize for any inconvenience the guest experienced and will take this opportunity to reaffirm this commitment with our team members,” company representative Kristi Arndt said.

“For guests in our stores, we support the use of fitting rooms for women who wish to breastfeed their babies, even if others are waiting to use the fitting rooms. In addition, guests who choose to breastfeed discreetly in more public areas of the store are welcome to do so without being made to feel uncomfortable.”

If this is corporate policy that Target “supports breastfeeding in our stores,” I think every employee needs to be informed during his/her orientation of breastfeeding mothers’ and children’s rights. C’mon Target, educate your employees and if an incident like this does happen, apologize like you did in the past. Don’t make excuses for forcing a breastfeeding mom out of your store. It’s not cool.

Take Action

If you’d like to share your thoughts about this incident with Target, you may contact them at the following address:

Target Corporation
1000 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN  55403

You may also call Guest Relations at (800) 440-0680 (7a.m. to 6p.m. CT, Monday through Friday) or email guest.relations@target.com

Edited to add: Thanks to PhDinParenting for this excellent information:

This woman, and any woman, that experiences this type of harassment should report it to FirstRight. They maintain an inventory of such harassment cases and can also help mothers to figure out the best course of action (for example, nurse-ins can be good tools but are not always the best first step).

Here is the link to FirstRight:
http://www.firstright.org/reportdiscrimination

And thank you to Angela at Breastfeeding 1-2-3 who pointed out:

This incident highlights exactly why Michigan mothers are needed to testify tomorrow, December 2, 2009, in favor of the pending Michigan breastfeeding legislation. For details, see:

http://www.blisstree.com/breastfeeding123/michigan-moms-needed-to-testify/

Related post: Download your own license to breastfeed and learn about the breastfeeding laws where you live.

UPDATE 12/3/09: A follow-up post with a statement from Mary Martinez has been posted here.

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3 Years Old, a love letter

Dear Julian,

It’s been three years since you made your surprise entrance into my world, dancing your way into our lives and into my heart.

You’re such a sweet child. I love watching you and Ava play together and hearing you tell her that you love her. You don’t always get along and you can get quite feisty when you want to (yes, you are strong-willed just like your sister and your mother), but you are a gentle soul.

You enjoy your fair share of rough housing and got your first stitches last week to prove it. Well, not quite. Actually the stitches were the result of an accidental fall into a coffee table, and while I hope they are the only stitches you ever have to get, as I watch you jump off the furniture wildly, I’m afraid they may not be the last. As a result of the coffee table fall, you are celebrating your third birthday with a black eye.

There are little things that you’ve said over the past few years that always make me smile. You’ve grown out of saying “elphalent” (elephant) and “ee-thare” (either), but you still say “their chothers” (each other) and I love that. I don’t want to forget all of the cute sayings, but I know that if I don’t write them down like this, sadly I will.

You go to preschool one day a week now, and although you have separation anxiety for a moment or two when I drop you off, you have transitioned into Miss G’s class remarkably well. I’m so proud of you.

You make me smile. You make me laugh. I love your “nose cozies” and silly faces.

You also challenge me. Both you and Ava make me want to be a better mom and a better person.

I’m happy that I’ve been able to nurse you the past three years. I don’t know when our nursing relationship will end, but I think that “na-na” has definitely helped you get through some illnesses, nourishing you both physically and emotionally, and I’m thankful for that.

I find it hard to believe that you, my baby, are three years old today. It simultaneously feels like you were just born and that you’ve been a part of our lives forever. As we say goodbye to the toddler years, I look forward to seeing the boy you become.

I’ll never grow tired your response when I tell you, “You’re my best boy,” which is “You’re my best girl.” I love being your best girl, Julian. 🙂

Happy third birthday, Jules. I love you.
— Mommy


Photo credit (for the second picture): Linda King

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Reducing holiday stress for your kids

The holidays are supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year,” yet for many people they might as well be known as “the most stressful time of the year.” We often think of stress as something that only affects adults, but it can play a significant role in the lives of children as well, especially around the holidays.

There are a lot of changes to children’s routines during the holidays, from visits from unfamiliar relatives to traveling, from an influx of sweets to over-scheduled days and late bedtimes. All of these things can take a toll on the wee ones.

Rather than accept that tears, tantrums and troubles (which are all normal child reactions to stress) are a necessary evil of the holidays, you can follow some tips to keep your kids (and yourself) feeling a bit more carefree. I can’t guarantee there won’t be any tears or tantrums, but it will be less likely to be from stress and more likely to be your typical childhood tears and tantrums.

10 Ways to Reduce Kids’ Stress has some helpful tips such as:

  • Stick with the routine as much as possible. Keep stressful holiday shopping and eating out to a minimum; start preparing for Christmas early to avoid holiday anxiety.
  • Talk to your children about traditions and spirituality. If you believe in Christ, focus on the real meaning of Christmas – and trusting God. If you have traditions, explain why they’ve stayed in your family.
  • Bring a favorite blanket or stuffed animal if you’re staying with family over the holidays. A bit of home will reduce your child’s holiday anxiety.

Another tip they add that I think is really important (and often difficult to do) is:

  • Give ’em time – Allow lots of time so you don’t have to rush from point A to point B, unnecessarily stressing everyone out. Allow time for potty breaks, diaper changes, unexpected car sickness, getting out to stretch, etc.
  • Keep ’em fed – Pack lots of healthy snacks for the kids to eat while you drive/fly.
  • Keep ’em entertained – Pack a variety of toys, games, books, coloring books, markers (Crayola Color Wonder markers and books are great for travel because the color only shows up on the special paper). You can even wrap small presents for the child to unwrap on the way. You might also consider investing in a portable DVD player so the child(ren) can watch a movie here and there.
  • Keep a good attitude and your sense of humor and your children will likely follow suit.

There are more Tips for Airplane Travel with Small Children at Mother Words.

Another tip that I really like is to learn relaxation techniques with your children. This will serve you both well during the holidays and throughout the year. The article Holiday Stress! Are children affected? states:

Colds are contagious and so is stress. Children are affected by stress of their own and pick up on family stresses. This includes holiday stress. So how do we promote calmness in our family and increase our chances of staying healthy during the holidays?

The Mental Health Association recommends counteracting stress by maintaining a positive outlook, focusing on activities that take your mind off your worries and taking time to relax.

Instead of telling your child to go “calm down” this holiday season, I invite you to give them the tools they need to manage stress and anxiety. Introduce your children to breathing, visualizations and affirmations during this holiday season.

All you need to do is read a relaxation book to your child that shows them how to manage their own energy, stress and anxiety. Play a guided imagery CD that’s creates calming images. Sit down and write affirmations with your child. Make it fun by hiding your positive, calm statements in your pockets or under your pillows. Take time to look in your children’s eyes as they speak to you. Try it for 10 minutes a day. Sit still and hold their hand as you listen to holiday music. Watch the ripple effect of calmness as it makes its way through your family.

In Midwest Moms’ post How to Avoid Thanksgiving Stress, she has some suggestions on how to make introductions between your kids and unfamiliar relatives a little less stressful for the kids.

I have found it is best to give children a chance to “make friends” with new relatives in whatever way they are most comfortable. Sometimes that means that it will take time to warm up to someone new.

When you are introducing someone to your child, do so in a way that reveals important information about the new adult — not potentially embarrassing information about your child. Saying, “Aunt Doris used to fly airplanes!” can intrigue your child and get them to ask questions.

We usually make the introductions easier on our kids in two ways. We arrive early, so they’re meeting people one-at-a-time. And we arrange to meet relatives we know well and all walk in together. It can be a lot less intimidating to meet people when you are already surrounded by friends.

In Jolene Park‘s recent guest post on Mile High Mamas called Beat the Holiday Stress, she suggests the use of Rescue Remedy both for adults and kids (and even pets). Jolene notes, “Rescue Remedy is part of the Bach Flower essences, which are extracts from flowers and used to balance emotions. They can be purchased in any health food store.” Personally, I’ve used Rescue Remedy for both myself and my children and highly recommend it.

No matter what your plans are this holiday season, try to remember to keep your own stress level down and your sense of humor up and your kids will benefit as much as you will.

Cross-posted on BlogHer.

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Birth plan? Doula? Natural birth? Not here you don’t.

A sign posted at the Aspen OB/GYN Women’s Center in Provo, Utah has many women up in arms. What’s so offensive? Read for yourself.

The sign reads as follows:

Because the Physicians at Aspen Women’s Center care about the quality of their patient’s deliveries and are very concerned about the welfare and health of your unborn child, we will not participate in a “Birth Contract”, a Doulah Assisted, or a Bradley Method delivery. For those patients who are interested in such methods, please notify the nurse so we may arrange transfer of your care.

I first learned of this sign from Naomi, the Denver Doula, who posted it on Facebook. Being a doula (which is misspelled on the sign) herself, she took a particular interest in it. When she called the Center and inquired with the receptionist as to why the sign was posted she was told, “in case there is an emergency we don’t want anyone to get in the way of the doctor doing what he has to do.”

Annie from PhD in Parenting was inspired by the sign to write How Not To Have a Natural Birth and believes the center might as well have said:

Because Physicians at Aspen Women’s Center care only about doing things their own way and making as much money as possible from unnecessary birth interventions, even if it poses greater risks to the welfare and health your baby, we will not participate in a “Birth Contract”, a doula-assisted, or a Bradley Method delivery. For all patients who have done any research into having the safest birth possible, please notify the nurse so that we can transfer you to a facility that cares less about control and money.

Annie added, “I guess we can at least credit them with warning women in advance. Many hospitals with the same attitude don’t have a sign hanging out front.”

Amber responded, “I always thought the big ‘trust birth’ poster in my midwives office was a little cheesy. Now that I’ve seen the alternative, I think it’s truly marvelous. Really.”

Miriam Zoila Pérez of Radical Doula wrote a post called Signs You Don’t Want to See at Your OB-GYN’s Office. She believes the sign could be translated to say:

We don’t care at all what you want as a parent, or a person in labor. We want a patient who will sit quiet and do what we say–no matter what. Oh and if you have a partner you want involved, tough. Your desires don’t matter.

Miriam adds, “They should change the name of the center to the ‘Unborn Children Center’ since they don’t seem to care too much about the women involved.”

A commenter named Janna responded saying, “That’s what bothered me most about this hateful little sign–not once is the “welfare and health” of the MOTHER mentioned, just the “welfare and health” of the “unborn child” and the “quality” of the “deliveries.” Who would want to give birth in a place where they’re the lowest priority on their caregiver’s list? I hope women in this area have other options and the opportunity to have safe, healthy, supportive births.”

Does no doula, Bradley Method birth or birth “contract” equal no women’s rights?

Summer who writes at Wired for Noise says signs like this one and stories like the lack of choice with regard to our reproductive health and doctors’ personal “birth plans” make her sometimes think Doctors Hate Women.

What does it say when women have to escape, have to run away in order to do something as normal as give birth? What does it say when women are treated like children, talked down to, insulted, lied to, and handed letters telling them what the god-head doctor will allow or not allow. When all you want to do is give birth and you’re doctor is more concerned with telling you to sit down and shut up, what is that if not hatred?

I have to agree with Annie that at least some doctors are upfront with what they will and won’t “allow” as part of their practice. Kudos to them for being honest. Hopefully that will allow women to look for another care provider while she’s still early in her pregnancy.

Rest assured if the OB/GYN I had at my daughter’s birth would have given me a piece of paper with her “rules” or had a sign posted like that at the Aspen Women’s Clinic, I would have found another care provider pronto. Instead, however, she paid me lip service and acted like she cared about my birth plan (though she didn’t act very well and that should have been a big clue for me) and said we could “try” Hypnobirthing, etc. However, when push came to shove (no pun intended), it was her way or the highway. I had my healthy baby girl at the end of it and for that I am truly thankful, but I also got a lot more than I bargained for (and not in a good way). Then again it was that experience lead me to pursue a home birth for my second child and become a home birth advocate.

Although I admire the Aspen Women’s Center’s honesty, I find it truly offensive that they imply that if a woman wants a doula, natural birth, or has a birth plan, she is not concerned with the welfare and health of her baby (so much more personal than “unborn child” don’t you think?) or is even putting her baby’s life at risk. Studies have shown that when doulas attend birth, labors are shorter with fewer complications, babies are healthier and they breastfeed more easily. And how exactly is choosing a Bradley birth not good for the health or welfare of the baby? “Bradley® classes teach families how to have natural births. The techniques are simple and effective. They are based on information about how the human body works during labor. Couples are taught how they can work with their bodies to reduce pain and make their labors more efficient.” What about a birth plan or “contract?” Is that harmful to the “unborn child?” The American Pregnancy Association suggests, “Creating a birth plan can help you have a more positive birth experience.”

There are other things I find offensive as well, like Janna mentioned above, the mother does not seem to be included in the equation at all. Is there any concern for her “welfare and health?”

Who’s time money welfare are they really concerned with? I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. I’ve obviously already drawn mine.

Cross-posted on BlogHer.

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10 Simple Ways to Green Your Halloween

The commercialism surrounding Halloween seems to be growing every year. Instead of putting out a jack-o-lantern on your front porch and calling it good, nowadays its not Halloween unless you have jack-o-lanterns, cobwebs, skeletons, ghosts, lights, scary music, zombies… (you get the picture). There are entire “Halloween stores” devoted to selling cheap costumes, accessories, and decorations galore – the majority of which are likely manufactured in China.

Halloween doesn’t need to be so over the top though. You can still dress up and decorate and have fun doing it without contributing to the landfills! Here are 10 simple ways to green your Halloween.

  1. Turn costume making into a creative and fun experience for your child. Hunt through the house, at neighborhood garage sales, thrift stores or consignment shops for costumes or costume-worthy items. Enjoy the process and the product! If you’re not feeling creative, host a costume exchange.
  2. Many store-bought costumes and accessories contain toxic chemicals that not only are a potential hazard to your child, but also to the environment and the people who helped to make them. Choose fabrics such as cotton, wool and silk or make costumes yourself from materials you know to be safe.
  3. Make your own non-toxic face paints (another tutorial @ Green Halloween) or your own fake blood, scars and special effects
  4. Give your child a shakable flashlight (which uses no batteries and is powered by the shaking motion) to light his way. For the adult trick-or-treating with the kids, use a crank flashlight to illuminate the way for the kids.
  5. Use a reusable trick-or-treat bag. When I was a kid, we just used a pillow case.
  6. Reverse trick-or-treat to promote fair-trade chocolate and protect the environment or collect pennies for UNICEF.
  7. If you are passing out treats, check out my Halloween Candy Alternative list for some fun ideas (and don’t forget to check out the Nestle boycott list before buying any candy).
  8. Decorate using homemade crafts such as egg carton bats, pumpkins and cats from laundry soap bottles, cereal box luminaries, jack-o-lantern candle craft, or use decorations that can be eaten (pie pumpkins, squash) or composted or used in the garden (hay bales).
  9. Visit a local pumpkin patch to pick out your pumpkin(s).
  10. Turn your pumpkin into a solar-powered jack-o-lantern and use all of the pumpkin. You can make roasted pumpkin seeds, pumpkin bread, pumpkin spice cookies or pumpkin black bean soup, and compost your pumpkin when you are done with it.

A few of the above tips came from Healthy Child, Healthy World – 25 Green Halloween Tips!

Related sites and posts:
Green Halloween Costumes
Green Halloween
Green Talk: Halloween leaves me Hollow
@LisaBorden‘s Guide to being eco-ish over ghoul-ish this Halloween
Chic Mommy: DIY Halloween Costumes

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Why I’m trying to let go of the mommy guilt & focus on myself & my marriage

Tomorrow I am dropping off my son Julian at his first day of preschool. He’s not even 3 yet – he’ll be 2 until the end of November. Sigh.

Although my heart wants to home school or unschool Ava, I’m not giving in and instead am leaving her in public school for kindergarten (in a class of 25 kids) this year. Sigh.

Why am I doing these things and going against my heart instead of following it? Because my head tells me they are the right things to do – for now.

I’ve spent the past five-plus years of my life pouring myself into my kids. They have been my world. Although intellectually I knew having balance in my life was important, I always seemed to neglect the idea. Instead of taking care myself or my marriage (things that would have required a good deal of effort), I distracted myself with my children. That’s not to say I regret putting my kids first because I don’t, but I wish that I would’ve found a way to make myself and my marriage a priority during this time too. My mental health has suffered. My marriage has suffered.

Many of you know I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder earlier this year. I’ve been going to individual therapy for months, as well as on a low dose of Zoloft. My husband Jody and I have also been going to couple’s therapy off and on for a few months. We both have a lot of work to do, and while I’ve doubted in the past whether or not we can make it, I’m feeling more confident that we can. It’s not going to be easy, but the things worth fighting for never are.

All of this to say that I’ve decided, after talking to my psychiatrist and doing some serious soul searching, that it’s time for me to stop focusing only on my children and time for me to focus on myself too. That means Ava will stay in public school this year and Julian will attend preschool (the same Waldorf home-based preschool Ava attended) one day a week. It will give me a little time to myself. I know the temptation to catch up on housework or waste the day away sitting on the computer will be great, but I hope to use some of that time every Wednesday to nurture myself (as well as volunteer in Ava’s classroom for two hours every other week – see, I can’t give up focusing on my kids that easily).

While this might not be exactly what I wanted or envisioned, it is what I believe will work best for us – for now. I will try to put my mommy guilt aside and focus instead on getting myself healthy and my marriage to a better place – both of which will benefit myself AND my children in the long run.

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How will I know?

This past month I went digging around underneath my bathroom sink searching for something I haven’t needed in a long time. A pregnancy test. Although it was not something I was planning, I had this feeling deep down that I could be pregnant and knew that technically it was a possibility. Was I hopeful that I was pregnant? Was I worried? Was I scared? Definitely a little bit of all three.

As I waited for the line(s) on the test* to appear and my future to be revealed, my mind raced with possibilities. I imagined another home birth. I imagined Ava as a proud big sister again and Julian as a big brother for the first time and my heart swelled. I imagined another baby to love and nurture. I wondered how the baby would change the dynamics of our family. I pictured many sleepless nights and years more of cloth diapers. I thought about my health – both physical and mental – and wondered how I would do with another pregnancy. I thought about what my new psychiatrist recently said to me about the importance of finding time for myself and not taking on anything new right now. I wondered if my anxiety would get worse if I was pregnant and if I would need to go off my medication or increase my dose. I thought about how we plan to put our house on the market in the spring and all that we need to do in preparation. And I thought about how my life seems pretty darn great (and full) right now with just my two amazing kiddos.

The pregnancy tests (yes, I found more than one under my bathroom sink) were all negative and, low and behold, my cycle started. The future, for now, has been revealed. I am not pregnant. I will repeat, I am NOT pregnant. See?

I’m a little bit disappointed, but I also feel peaceful about it.

All of this got me wondering, how do you know when your family is complete? I don’t really know. I have thought about the “v” word – vasectomy – and have mixed feelings about it. I know it is technically reversible, but it seems so final and we’d likely only go that route when we are totally sure we’re done. Am I ready to close that door just yet? I don’t think so. I could still see us with one more, just not right now.

For now I think we’ll be a little more careful. At this point in time I don’t think a pregnancy would be the best thing for me, for us. That’s not to say I’m ruling out having another baby in the future, but for right now, as I continue to focus on my mental health and on my marriage, I think we’ll stick with these two wonderful kiddos we already have. And we’ll cross that bridge if and when we come to it.

* I think it’s kind of funny that all of the pregnancy tests under my sink were actually expired, so who knows how accurate they were. But I got my period so there’s no question anymore anyway. 😛

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Babies come out of where?! Explaining childbirth to kids

I was due to give birth to my son when my daughter Ava was 2 1/2 years old. Since my husband and I were planning a home birth, we felt it was important to discuss with Ava how the baby would be born. Because she would be within earshot if not in the room when Julian was born, I wanted her to know what she may see as well as hear.

One of the ways I prepared Ava for what would happen was by reading “Welcome With Love,” a beautiful children’s book about natural childbirth. We also watched some childbirth videos (natural and water births) together, including “Giving Birth: Challenges and Choices” by Suzanne Arms. I made sure to explain what was going on and reassure her that although the mommy might make some loud or funny noises, even yell, she was OK. In “Welcome With Love,” the older brother speaks of his mother’s noises during labor but he’s not afraid because she had told him beforehand that although she “might make a lot of noise,” he mustn’t worry because “that’s what it’s like when babies are being born” and that she’ll feel better if she yells and screams.

I kept things fairly simple, but because she was likely going to be present, told her what I felt she needed to know to feel safe and secure during Julian’s birth. It worked well for us. Ava was never scared even though mommy made some very loud noises while giving birth to her brother.

I realized the other day that Julian is now older than Ava was at the time he was born, but because I am not pregnant (and have no plans to become so) and the subject hasn’t come up, he has no idea how babies are born. I will probably remedy that soon by reading Welcome With Love to him and another book I recently received to review called We’re Having a Homebirth!

A friend (who is expecting) recently pondered on Facebook how she will explain childbirth to her 5- and 3-year-old daughters, and I began to wonder how others handle the subject.

I came across a discussion on a BabyCenter message board where the original poster posed the question How do you explain childbirth to a child? Here are some of the responses:

  • One person admitted that she has been “skirting around this issue” even with her 9-year-old. She said she has told her most of the details, but doesn’t “want to freak her out too much or gross her out for that matter.”
  • Another said, “I tried to skirt the question by answering…that the doctor takes the baby out.”
  • Another said, “I have a child psychology book called The Magic Years. They say to be truthful, but give as few details as necessary.”
  • Yet another said, “I found it was quite easy to explain things using the correct words at a young age. And I’d rather explain it while my kids aren’t embarrassed by it and will ask questions instead of having a 10-year-old blush or roll her eyes and not wanting to ask questions about things she doesn’t understand.”
  • From another, “better he hears it from me than his peers at school.”

After I browsed the ‘net, I asked my favorite audience (Twitter) and got some more answers.

Many feel that honesty is the best policy.

@OneFallDay said: If my 7-year-old asks, I answer. I’ve always felt if they are old enough to ask they deserve an honest answer.

Jackie from Belen Echandia said, “[I] don’t have personal experience. But would like to think I’d tell the truth in a beautiful, non-frightening way.”

Penny from Walking Upside Down said, “[I] told mine they came out of a hole between my legs. 🙂 Honesty is the best policy. Did not show them said hole tho’. ;)”

Jessica from Peek a blog said, “I spoke to the doctor about what to say. We told my 3-year-old that mommies have a special place where babies come out when ready. Just enough info with more details on an as-needed basis, but totally truth.”

Cate Nelson said, “I told my then-2.5-year-old that baby was going to come out of Mama’s yoni. (our term for it) I also told him his own birth story, bit of the pain, but how it helped Mama push him out. He loved his (natural) birth story!”

Others think along with being honest, it’s important to use proper terminology with children.

@ColletteAM said, “I always tell the truth about bodily functions and use proper terms. I don’t want my kids to feel ashamed of their bodies.”

Mandie from McMama’s Musings said, “My 4-year-old can tell you about ovaries, eggs, sperm, uteri, birth canals, and c-sections. He calls egg+sperm a ‘seed.’ LOL”

@JenniferCanada said, “I got great advice from @babyREADY to prepare son [for] our home birth. We watched a lot of birthing shows. We talked about what would happen. He can tell you babies come from vaginas and you push them out. He has actions. He is 3 years old.”

Others prefer a more vague approach:

Lee from CoupleDumb said her son was 3 and “I told him that his brother would come out of me when I went to the hospital. That’s it.”

Kristie from Tilvee said she was asked how babies come out last night by her 6- and 3.5-year-old daughters. She “didn’t lie, just told them we would talk about it in 5 yrs?!”

One person thinks explaining a c-section is easier than explaining vaginal birth:

Beth from I Should Be Folding Laundry said, “I’m up for a c-section, so that makes the explanation very easy.”

Another thinks a c-section makes it more complicated:

@Loudmouthedmom said, “I haven’t been pregnant again but have always been honest with son, either vaginally or c-section. He took c-section much harder. Learned the hard way not to tell a 4-year-old a c-section involves mom being ‘cut open.'”

The reactions kids have about childbirth are often amusing:

Kailani from An Island Life said, “My 3-year-old thinks the baby will come out of my mouth. :-)”

Krista from Typical Ramblings, Atypical Nonsense said, “When I was pregnant with E, my older kids were 11 and 8 when he was born. I told them how the baby came out. My daughter asked if it hurt, I said yes but once it’s over the pain is gone. She says she is adopting kids. ;)”

Ann-Marie from This Mama Cooks said, “[I] told Nathan how babies got out when he was 7. He told me he wasn’t having kids. Truth is good birth control.”

Childbirth education props: Dolls and Children’s Books


If you are looking for some props to help you explain childbirth, you might be interested in these dolls. Thanks to Kellie, I learned about this childbirth education doll that can be custom ordered or the experience crocheter can make it herself. There’s also a Waldorf doll that gives birth and nurses. According to Droolicious, instead of just sitting there looking pretty, this doll “gives birth complete with placenta, and she nurses too. This Waldorfian handmade plush doll comes from Brazil where it is used to teach girls about natural childbirth.”


There are also lots of books that tackle the topic of explaining childbirth to kids. From books about home birth like Welcome With Love and We’re Having a Homebirth! to more mainstream childbirth books like What to Expect When Mommy’s Having a Baby, How You Were Born, and How Was I Born?: A Child’s Journey Through the Miracle of Birth, there is likely a book out there for your family. And for parents who are looking for some age-appropriate information about “the birds and the bees” check out It’s Not the Stork: A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends and a review of it over on Punnybop.

There’s more information on how to prepare siblings for the birth of a new baby over on babyReady where they suggest: make a game out of the kinds of strange noises that you may make when you are in labour, try not to make too many changes to your child’s routine close to the delivery, let your older child open the baby’s gifts, and take your older child to your doctor (or midwife) visits, and more.

Ultimately your childbirth explanation to your child has to be one that you feel comfortable with. I think it is important to answer children’s questions – about childbirth, puberty, dating, sex, etc. – as honestly as possible while making sure it is age-appropriate. Mactavish said to me on Twitter, “I can’t imagine not being old enough to know how babies are born” and I have to agree. Candace concurs, “I generally assume that if she’s too young, she won’t ‘get it’ anyway and if she ‘gets it’ then she’s old enough for truth.” Sounds like a good philosophy to me.

Cross-posted on: BlogHer

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To spank or not to spank? Study says early spankings make for aggressive toddlers

Photo credit: Stock Exchange

A new study of 2,500 white, Mexican American and black children from low-income families suggests that early spankings make for aggressive toddlers. According to the study, which is published in the journal Child Development, “Children who are spanked as 1-year-olds are more likely to behave aggressively and perform worse on cognitive tests as toddlers than children who are spared the punishment, new research shows.”

“Age 1 is a key time for establishing the quality of the parenting and the relationship between parent and the child,” said study author Lisa J. Berlin, a research scientist at the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University. “Spanking at age 1 reflects a negative dynamic, and increases children’s aggression at age 2.”

“The study also found that mothers who said their children were ‘fussy’ babies were more likely to spank them at ages 1, 2 and 3. But children who were more aggressive at 2 were not more likely to get spanked.

‘The implication or the suggestion in past arguments is that some kids who are more aggressive or difficult to control might elicit more spanking, but that’s not what we found,’ Berlin said.”

The average number of spankings for 1-year-olds in this study was 2.6 per week.

I am by no means a perfect parent (if such a thing even exists) and I’ve definitely felt the urge to spank my kids on occasion. I’ve raised my voice and not always parented the way I planned to but I cannot imagine a situation where I’d ever conceive spanking a 1-year-old – especially more than twice per week on average!

Alma from Always on the Verge

asks:

Why are we spanking one year olds? My next question is, why are we spanking one year olds almost 3 times a week? What are they doing that deserves physical punishment?

I wish they would have told us that in the article because I cannot for the life of me understand what a one year old does that requires physical punishment. This goes back to something that I preach a great deal about.

Forcing unrealistic expectations on children.

I have heard reasons as to why people spank their young children and they range from not wanting to eat, not wanting to sit in a carseat for extended periods of time, and not wanting to go to sleep when the parents want them to. All of these common reasons are things that children should not be really expected to do…. but our society has said that they are. What needs to change here? The kids or the expectations?

Alma also notes that this is certainly not the first time a study has showed the negative effects spanking has on a child. CNN posted Spanking Kids Leads to Long-Term Bad Behavior more than 10 years ago.

On the Attachment Parenting Blog API Speaks, Sarah wrote about the one and only time her now 7-year-old son was spanked (back when he was 18 months old and by the hand of her mother-in-law) in her post His Only Spank.

Carina spanked her 3.5 yr old son after he made a colossal mess of her living room (don’t believe me? check this out) and said in the comments:

I have mixed feelings about the spanking (don’t we all?). I have tried a lot of alternate disciplinary tactics. Today was the first day that we did a bare-bum and open hand spanking. The good thing is that I was not angry, it was not a release, it was done calmly. Afterwards I made him sit on my lap and talk about it. I probably wouldn’t have done it, except that he poured out most of the chocolate syrup on the carpet yesterday, after which he lost TV privileges and had a long time out. With the escalation today, I felt like we needed to step up the discipline.

Carina also told me, “It’s rare that we use it [spanking] as a discipline (hate using it when there is any other alternative). We’d tried everything else and nothing else was working. I think I come down on the side of ‘if it’s rare and appropriate.'”

LilSugar wrote Did Your View on Spanking Change Once You Became a Mom? and confesses that her’s did.

I was adamant that I would use spanking as a method of punishment in our home… before I became a mother. When it came time for me to teach my daughter right from wrong, I popped her tush a couple of times and found it completely ineffective. She actually enjoyed the quick tap and giggled her way to more mischief. Eager to try a new plan, I gave her a time out in a not so fun part of the house — the dark guest room. In 60 seconds, I discovered that the new system was more compelling than making physical contact.

A commenter MissSushi said:

I will probably spank, but only for very severe things. Sometimes you need the shock of it as a wake up call. We hardly ever got spanked as kids, but the few times it happened because of severe and usually dangerous transgressions, it really made an impact. I got slapped across the face as a teenager when i was totally going over the line and it shut me up and kept me from doing it ever again. I needed the reality check to realize how god awful I was behaving. None of my siblings and I really ever misbehaved, and anywhere we went people raved over how well behaved we were. My mother used consistency, manual labor, spanking when necessary, removal of privileges and taking away our toys/electronics. Taking our things away worked for us because she didn’t give them back. We weren’t allowed outside, and we weren’t allowed to play with anything. A few weeks of trying her patience out staring at the walls when you aren’t scrubbing the floors and doing laundry for a six-person household was miserable. I will be using a similar method.

Debs from Muddy Bare Feet said:

My opinion on the matter is very clear – children should never be hit because they are people, just like adults, and have the same human rights (or should have) not to get hit anytime they do something “wrong”. On the list [message board she is a part of] I gave the example of an adult who was doing something “wrong” (I do not believe that a child’s behaviour is ever “wrong” but that’s another discussion), or who refused to do what you wanted them to – would you hit them? Of course not, so why is it seen as okay by some people to hit a child? Hitting out of anger, i.e. not in a premeditated way, is loss of control on the part of the parent and not the child’s fault, yet they become the victim of it. Premeditated hitting, counting down, saying, “If you do that again, you’ll get a smack” is just plain cruel to me. I cannot imagine doing that to another human being.

She references some websites and books about “nonviolent parenting,” such as Children are Unbeatable. (Speaking of nonviolent parenting, I found it interesting to learn that in Sweden it is against the law to spank a child.)

Debs then goes on to say:

I hope it doesn’t sound too stupid, but I’m kind of hyper-aware that this is the only chance I’ve got to get it right. This is the only childhood R will ever have, and I keep having a little panic that I’m going to mess it up for him! I’m also very aware that, as we can’t have any more children, this is my one chance to do this parenting thing right. 🙂

Annie at PhDinParenting notes that one of the 10 things all new parents should know is “Discipline means teach.”

New parents worry that they need to ‘discipline’ their child. But often when they say discipline, they mean spanking or punishing. However, the word discipline means to teach. That is what parents need to do. They need to guide and teach their children. In the same way that we do not expect a first grader to learn calculus, it is important to understand what age appropriate behaviour is and to shape your expectations of your child and your discipline (teaching) according to what a child can reasonably be expected to understand at any given age.

Annie also has a lot of information for parents who want to find other methods of disciplining their child in her Best Anti-Spanking Resources post.

In a post from April, Summer from Wired for Noise raises awareness about SpankOut Day. “SpankOut Day USA was initiated in 1998 to give widespread attention to the need to end corporal punishment of children and to promote non-violent ways of teaching children appropriate behavior.”

Summer is against spanking as a form of punishment.

Despite the cute names people may like to use taking your hand to another human being is hitting. Hitting. Children should not be hit.

I’ve written before my thoughts that spanking does not equal discipline. Some people have the mistaken idea that a parent who does not spank simple lets their kids run wild without correcting or guiding them. This black and white, one way or the other type thought often prevents them from seeing the benefits of choosing not to hit my children, and the dangers of them choosing to hit theirs. I believe in disciplining children, not punishing.”

Commenter Susan of Lil Mom That Could admits that she used to spank, but doesn’t anymore. “Okay I hate to say this but I have proof that spanking does not work. I will admit it I spanked- hold my head in shame. Moreso because I was spanked – a learned trait – I didn’t work. Yes I got the behavior to stop for that minute but never for good. Now I have been giving my son a stern voice and a time-out. This has done more for him and me – he respects me more – we resolve our problems verbally, work out why he was being naughty.”

A few commenters on the Strollerderby post, They Say: Spanking Makes Your Kid Mean, a Bit Dumb, question how scientific this study was and if other variables could have played a role in the aggressiveness of the children.

Another commenter (Manjari) from the Strollerderby post said, “Whether or not the study is sound, I don’t think children should be spanked. I don’t want anyone to hit me, and I think kids should have the same protection from violence that I do.”

What do I think about all of this? (I know you want me to chime in.) My thoughts are that a very occasional spanking is not likely to cause a child any permanent harm (though I still can’t imagine or condone spanking a 1 year old). That doesn’t mean I believe in spanking for my children, because I do not. However, I know that even parents with the very best of intentions sometimes do things they regret. What should a parent do if that happens? I think explaining to the child why he/she (the parent) acted the way they did and apologizing to the child and telling them you love them is a good course of action.

I think that children who are spanked are more likely to grow up into adults that spank because of the argument, “I got spanked and I turned out OK.” But the cycle of spanking – hitting another human being – violence begetting violence – continues. How is that a good thing to teach?

I read a lot today about the argument (in favor of spanking) that kids today are out of control and disrespectful and I think the vast majority of that comes down to how they were raised in the early years. Were they treated with love and respect? Were boundaries firmly established? Were they given consistent and loving care? Resorting to spanking at a later age seems like what parents do when they’ve lost all control. I think, however, that if we are raising our children with empathy from the very beginning, starting with birth, we are less likely to get to the point of no return and have to resort to spanking. I could go on, but that could be another whole post entirely.

Additional resources:
Gentle Christian Mothers
Best Anti-Spanking Resources (it’s worth repeating down here)
From API Speaks, there are several post about how to Practice Positive Discipline
From the American Academy of Pediatrics: What is the best way to discipline my child?
From CNN: Spanking detrimental to children, study says

Cross-posted on BlogHer

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