Three silly books for the holiday weekend

In the US, Monday is Labor Day, so many of us are off work. So here’s a book review of three very silly books in case anyone’s reading Ask Moxie this weekend, or wants to read a goofy book this weekend.

Silly book #1 is It’s a Guy Thing by Scott Seegert, and I can’t think of a book that lives up to its name so exactly. Seegert has gone through patent application records and chosen the most useless, ridiculous, jejeune, nonsensical, dangerous patent applications over the past several hundred years, and put them together with explanations, illustrations, and commentary. To be honest, I found this book kind of dumb. But it was sitting on the corner of my desk at work, and literally all the men who walked by my desk stopped, picked it up, flipped through, started laughing, and then asked the other guys in the room if they’d read one or another of the patent applications. It was a universal man-pleaser. So I’d say maybe no for your female friends and relatives, but if you’re looking for something goofy for your brother-in-law, this is probably your book.

Silly book #2 is Cube Monkeys: A Handbook for Surviving the Office Jungle by the Editors of Careerbuilder.com. I’m hoping everyone looking for serious career advice takes note of the monkeys wearing business clothes on the cover and moves on, because this book is Not At All Serious. And it’s very snarky and cynical. It’s in the same spirit as Dilbert and the movies Office Space (I’m just going to need you to go ahead and rent this movie if you haven’t seen it) and 9 to 5 (every working woman should know this movie), but broader in humor style. Kind of like the movie Brazil crossed with Tom Bergeron’s jokes on "America’s Funniest Home Videos." Or the US version of The Office, but with Bruce Vilanch in place of Jim.

Silly book #3 is a classic: The Lazlo Letters by Don Novello. Much imitated by never equaled, the book is a collection of letters Don Novello wrote to important people (under the name Lazlo Toth) asking them utterly ridiculous questions about their products. The book contains the letters and the responses he received from famous politicians of the time and business leaders (almost everyone takes him at face value and answers earnestly). Lazlo Toth is the grandfather of Ali G and Borat–even more hilarious, but more good-natured and freewheeling. This is one of the books I’d take to a desert island.

Making Life Good For Your Kids’ Teachers

You know what really annoys an internet advice columnist? Not being able to connect to the internet to post her column because her internet just didn’t seem to work. Grr.

OTOH, not posting this last night or this morning gave you guys a chance to really work over the toenail polish issue, which I’d thought was just a "let’s not think of anything to stressful on a Wednesday" topic. 45 responses! And I can’t believe I never thought of using blue or green polish.

But now for today’s post, which was supposed to go up this morning:

I want to pull out a comment from frequent commenter Maura, who used to be a classroom teacher. I’m just going to repost her advice, but the whole comment is here.

Back to School Thoughts for Parents from a Former Teacher:

1) If your family can afford to eat out once a week, please consider
doing a good deed and buying an extra set of school supplies for
children who can’t afford them at the same time that you buy your
child’s school supplies. Drop them off to your child’s teacher. There
WILL be a child in your child’s class who can’t afford the supplies.
Your child’s teacher spends hundreds of dollars of her/his own money
every year on class supplies, and anything you can donate discreetly
will be greatly appreciated.

2) Please don’t be upset or feel slighted if you spontaneously stop
by after school and your child’s teacher doesn’t seem to want to talk
for 45 minutes about everything that concerns you about the upcoming
year. The first week of school is impossibly busy for teachers – I’d
take home at least 5 or 6 hours of work every night and still not come
close to finishing. If you want to stop in and introduce yourself, that
is great! If you want to have an extended conversation, please make an
appointment so your child’s teacher can schedule his time and plan
accordingly.

3) Please, please, please thank the teachers who take the time to
meet with you for extended conferences. I usually taught a total of
between 125 and 140 students a year. I only got one 45-minute planning
period per day, and that was for all of my lesson planning, evaluation,
grading, recordkeeping, and parent communication. Just spending one
hour with every parent eats up my entire year of planning time.
Teachers who show that much dedication are volunteering their time for
your child. Please appreciate that.

3) Please do not treat an A- or a B as a crisis. A B is GOOD. A C is
AVERAGE. If your child receives an A- on a paper, that is a great
achievement. Please do not demand a conference and bring your
educational diagnostician to argue that your child deserves an A.

4) If your child has 50 books in his bookcase at home and he only
really loves 5 of them, please consider donating the other 45 to your
local school. Every classroom is enhanced by a classroom library. If
your child is not rereading a book regularly, another child would love
to read it.

5) If your child is assigned a creative, fun, and interesting
project that you think is educationally valuable, it probably took your
child’s teacher many, many hours to create it and prepare it. Teaching
is a lonely profession with few extrinsic rewards. A quick email
saying, "Hey, that was such a cool project! My son really enjoyed
it!!!!" takes 2 minutes to write and will be remembered by your son’s
teacher for years.

6) Teaching your child to be polite, honest, and compassionate is
the greatest gift you can give to a teacher. Forget the cheese balls
and #1 Teacher! mugs at Christmastime. If your child says, "Please",
"Thank you", and "Excuse me" and "I’m sorry" on a regular basis, you’ve
already given us priceless gifts

7) If your child really wants to give a gift to his or her teacher,
that is a wonderful thing. And believe me, we appreciate it. The
greatest gift your child can give is a handwritten letter — something
like, "Ms. Maura, this is my favorite class. I really loved the project
we did on X. I’m always going to remember you because of X. Thank you
for teaching me X." Once I got a phone call from a student a year after
I taught him from across the country where he had moved, just to thank
him for teaching him grammar. That was one of the best phone calls of
my life!

8) If you really want to buy a gift, please please please no cheese
balls and teacher mugs or tchochkes or ornaments. The most appreciated
gifts I ever got were books, office supplies, or gift cards to Borders
and Staples. I spent so much on books and school supplies that those
gift cards were very, very, very, very much appreciated and put to
great use.

8) Again, if you can afford to take your family out to dinner on a
regular basis, and you often purchase books from a bookstore rather
than go to the library, please consider picking up an extra book of the
same type and donating it to your child’s school.

9) A lot of really awesome, incredible, motivated, inspiring
teachers become burned out, dispirited, discouraged, and less
enthusiastic over the years because their effort and hard work is not
noticed or seems to be unappreciated, and the undone work, the
staggering weight of the unmet needs of students and the problems in a
school system become overwhelming. Worse, most parents only call school
to complain, not to praise. If your child has a great teacher, someone
he or she loves, someone who inspires a love of learning in your child,
please help to invest in that person, not just for your child’s sake,
but for the sake of all the children that person might teach in the
future. Go to school board meetings and advocate for better schools for
your child. Support the efforts of teachers to improve learning
conditions in your child’s school. If your child’s teacher takes the
time to call home and talk to you regularly, thank them. If they call
to tell you good news, thank them. Tell your child’s principal when
your child’s teacher does great work.

10) Your child’s teacher is a partner with you in caring about your
child’s learning. Treat them as a partner, not a boss or a servant.

Q&A: toddler boys and toenail polish

Adrianne writes:

"One evening I was painting my toenails and my son asked for his to be
painted too.  He said pink toes were pretty and he wanted some pretty
pink toes like mommy.  He has a doll baby, so I thought I would try
painting the doll’s toes pink first and maybe that would satisfy him.
Of course, it only made him want pink toes even more since now mommy
AND his baby had pink toes.  So, figuring there would be no harm in it,
I painted his toenails pink.  He laughed, was so excited and it made
him so happy he called grandma to tell her about it and he even took
off his shoes at church to show his friends.  I thought it was cute and
funny and adorable that he was so into his pink toes, however, my
husband just about threw a tantrum over the whole thing.

Now I know this isn’t the most life altering issue, and definitely not
anywhere near as serious as many, however, I’m just looking for some
opinions on this situation.  Was it wrong of me to think it was ok to
paint my 3 year old son’s toes pink?  Would anyone else out there paint
their son’s toes?  I try to nurture his interests, give him a wide
variety of toys and experiences and let him try and do things his way
(within reason, of course) and I just don’t see the harm in a little
nail polish on a boy’s toes."

Oh, boy. (No pun intended.) I’ve been through this one, too. Both of my
boys love to have their toenails painted, but dads in general just
don’t seem to get that.

I
think this is one of those gender divide things that we just aren’t
going to understand each other about. I can’t possibly see what could
be bad about painting a 3-year-old’s toenails. Heck, I can’t see what
would be bad about painting a 10-year-old’s toenails, or a
20-year-old’s toenails. To me, this falls into the same category as
(for kids) coloring with marker on their bodies or (for adults)
experimenting with wacky haircuts.

But I think for men over a certain age, nail polish is something that signifies "Not Man" and they just can’t deal with it.

I
think you have a few options here. You can keep on painting your son’s
toes, and just laugh off your husband’s objections. You can ask your
husband exactly what it is that scares him about the nail polish, and
get him to break it down and realize that there’s nothing really for
him to fear. You can go with a buff blush color of nail polish so your
husband will never notice it but your son can keep wearing the nail
polish. Or you can cut your son off and give him his first lesson in
"how we socialize kids to conform to a narrow range of acceptable
options no matter what they like or don’t like." I hope you don’t end up having to choose the last one, because it sucks to have to squash your kid down into society’s little box.

What did you
all do? I know there have to be tons of us whose sons like nail polish.
Mine used to make their own with marker if I didn’t hop to it and paint
their toes the instant they demanded it.

Q&A: pregnancy blues–when to see a therapist

Fran writes:

"I’m almost eight weeks into my second pregnancy (first ended in miscarriage) and have been feeling horrible both physically and emotionally. I know that anxiety and mood swings are par for the course, especially in the first trimester, but am wondering at what point you draw the line and say, "This is not just pregnancy," and seek outside help. I don’t mean this to sound scary–I’m not suicidal, by any means. But I do get very black sometimes, and (on top of feeling horrible) spend a lot of time wondering if this is okay, or if crying all afternoon and feeling hopeless warrants a discussion with the doctor."

I think if you’re wondering if you should see a therapist, you should see a therapist.

And I mean that for pretty much all of life, not just pregnancy. Because if you’re feeling like you think you might need professional help, or even just an objective paid listener, you should find one. I think it’s easy to feel like going to a therapist means admitting that there’s something really wrong, but it doesn’t mean that at all. It just means that you need someone to give you some feedback or help you formulate a plan to deal with whatever it is that’s stressing you.

It’s not even that big a commitment. You can go see a therapist just once even, and for some situations that’s all it takes. When I was very depressed during my first pregnancy, I saw a therapist who specialized in women’s issues around pregnancy and mothering. I don’t remember if I had two sessions with her or three, but that was all it took to get me to a better place so I could get through the rest of the pregnancy. (The September 11th attacks happened when I was almost four months along, and I really credit those sessions with the therapist and the things she had said to me about pregnancy with helping me deal with the event and my grief and that whole ball of wax.) And deciding to see the therapist was a big step in deciding to take myself and my own feelings seriously for a change. That was a big thing for me.

So to me it sounds like you definitely need to see a therapist. Whether or not it’s "just pregnancy," it doesn’t matter. You should go see someone who can help you through this time and all the conflicting emotions and the bad physical sensations and the fear and guilt and all of that. You should decide that your feelings are important, and you can take yourself seriously. You can ask your OB for a recommendation, or call a midwifery practice or birth center and ask for one. If you know any childbirth educators, they’ll have good recommendations, too. You definitely want someone who’s worked with pregnant women before and who understands those special issues.

Did anyone else see a therapist during pregnancy? Or did you tough it out and now wish you’d seen someone? It was only when my therapist sent me a newspaper clipping about prenatal depression that I realized it wasn’t just me, that there are tons of us who get depressed during pregnancy.

Sharing back-to-school ideas

Because school’s either started or is about to start for lots of us, I thought it would be great to share some ideas.

Amie wrote in to tip me off that Office Depot has a program that gives back 5% of the money you spend on school supplies to your school. When you go, ask the checkout person for your school’s ID number, or sign your school up if they’re not already signed up for it. (Hint: You could also give the number of a poorly-funded school in your area to help those kids out, if you wanted to pull a Robinhood.)

I’m feeling like a supergenius because I figured out that if you, your partner, and your babysitter all have Gmail accounts, you can create a special calendar for your children’s events and share the calendar with all three of you (if you’ve never used Google calendars, click on the "Calendar" link at the top of your Gmail screen). And then you can even set it to send a text message reminder to you or your babysitter before events you need to be reminded of. Dude. I love Google. And a huge thank-you to my youngest coworker for tipping me off to the text reminder feature.

I just started reading Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children, and so far the authors have some great suggestions for healthy lunches, but more interestingly, they have some intriguing ideas about how we could be changing the lunches that kids are fed in school. I’ll do a full review when I finish the book.

Does anyone else have any back-to-school tips they’d like to share, or questions they’d like to ask the chorus?

TV Show Review: Word World

WordWorld, a new animated show aiming to teach pre-literacy skills topreschoolers, is premiering on PBS September 3. I was sent a review
copy, and watched it with my kids. I’ll tell you what I thought of it,
and also how it went over with my 5-year-old and my 2-year-old.

(Disclaimer: I just found out a couple of days ago that a friend of
mine has started doing some freelance work for WordWorld, but she
wasn’t there when I watched it or when I wrote the review initially. It
hasn’t changed my opinion of the show at all.)

WordWorld was created to get preschoolers used to the idea that letters
form words. I think it definitely does a good job of that. All the
objects in the world they’ve created are built out of letters. So the
body of the sheep is made of the letters SHEEP, the bridge is formed
out of the letters BRIDGE, etc. Each episode I watched was 11 minutes
long, with a cute storyline that had some repetition, some surprise and
a lot of talking about letters and showing letters jumping apart and
back together again to form words.

The CGI is nice quality, the colors are bright, and the voices are expressive.

My 2-year-old loved it. He was entranced, and sat through the 11 minute
episodes happily. He’s asked for WordWorld several times (the episode
about the escaped letter O is his favorite of the two), and I know
he’ll want to watch it when it’s on PBS. He had a pretty good grasp of
the concept that letters make words before he saw the show, because we
read a ton, and he sees his brother writing, and we watch Wheel of
Fortune some nights. But I think this is a nice supplement for him that
reinforces the prereading skills he’s developing right now.

My 5-year-old thought it was cool, but got bored with each episode at
about minute 5 or so. It’s really geared to younger kids in terms of
storyline and character, so while he thought the
objects-built-out-of-letters concept was cool, and liked the animation,
it lost him at a certain point. Bear in mind, though, that he’s been
reading fluently for several months, so a kid who was working on
letters and sounds might be more into it even at the age of 5. He was
totally willing to let his brother watch it when the little one
requested it, though, and took the DVD remote and clicked to the
"runaway O" episode for him.

I thought the concept was great and the production was excellent, but I
didn’t want to sit there and watch it. Maybe it’s because it’s my
second child, but I just don’t have the patience with the baby shows
anymore. I’ll watch Curious George and Jakers, but I think I’d use
WordWorld as a way to keep the 2-year-old occupied while I was doing
something else. If I’m going to spend time on the couch with letters
that involve the TV instead of actual books, I’d rather spend it with
the Learning About Letters DVD (Elmo-free) or with Wheel! of! Fortune!

So my quick and dirty on WordWorld:

Definitely yes for 2-4-year olds, no for older kids or kids who are
already reading, and bring your knitting if you’re going to watch with
your toddler.

Emergency procedures?

From moral crisis to physical crisis…

Holy crap, people! The flooding!

My worst problem here from flooding (because I live on the fifth floor) is that the subways could stop working again (like they did a couple weeks ago, throwing the entire city into a panic), but for most of you, flooding is a serious physical danger that could kill you and destroy your home and all your stuff.

Best practices? (Other than having flood insurance. You all do have either homeowners’ insurance or renters’ insurance, right?) Do waterproof, flameproof boxes for important documents really work? How best to back up computer files? Where should you go and what are the emergency procedures for your kids?

We might as well open up the "What’s in your Go Bag/emergency box?" conversation again, too. I’m still holding steady at a bunch of candles, a non-electric phone, hand crank radio, and extra batteries. This is going to make me reevaluate. What do I have at home, and what at work?

This is a whole bunch of questions and no answers, it looks like.

Q&A: wood toys and constipation

"Wood toys and constipation" is the subject Anna gave her question to me, so I left it. Unfortunately, it turns out to be two separate issues, not one (I don’t know why, but the idea that wood toys might cause constipation was just too funny to me). Anyway, here are her questions:

"My daughter is 6.5 months and we think getting some teeth.  All of a sudden crabbier, droolier (didn’t think that was possible) and clingier.  When she was 3 months she went 10 days without pooping and that is happening again.  Her poop came out fine then, just a lot of it.  Now its been 8 days and I did the manual check the pediatrician recommended and she wasn’t backed up with any compacted poop as far as I could tell. She’s also starting to crawl and when she wakes up at night all she wants to do is scoot around on her belly; she’s even started to crawl up to me on her belly to feed, sort of like a self-serve gas station.

Any recommendations?  Did I forget to mention that the previous week we’d been feeding her the dreaded rice cereal that I just (10 minutes ago) finished reading about that would give her constipation?

She seems miserable…unless we’re outside on a walk and she’s pulling leaves off of trees and sticking them in her mouth…

oh, the wood toys thing- should we get rid of all the plastic seeing as they keep coming out with recalls? All of our toys are hand-me-downs, at least 2 years old."

I love it when people send me questions like this, specifically, because they answer their own question! Yes, Anna, I’m going to bet on the rice cereal being a big cause of the pooping changes. (Remember the treatment for diarrhea and upset stomach is the BRAT diet: bananas, rice, applesauce, toast. So those are known "binders," as my grandma would say.) But it also sounds like it really isn’t constipation, since when it comes out it’s fine.

Her body’s just going through a lot of changes. There’s a growth spurt at 6 months (3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months). She’s eating the (blechy) rice cereal (seriously, have you tasted it?). She’s scooting and learning to crawl. Plus all the teething stuff, which has a very direct effect on poop because it can put a ton of drool into her stomach (it usually causes shards of drool in the poop, or loose stool, and often causes a really acidic poop that you can smell and which may leave red rash around the anus to match the rash around the mouth).

So pretty much everything you mentioned is why her poop has changed, but the rice cereal isn’t helping, for sure.

Now, about the toys: I’ve gotten at least a dozen emails about this recall stuff, but I have no idea what to do about the toys. Someone asked, "Do I have to start buying only German wood toys?" It would be nice if you can afford it, but I think the realities of our world economy are starting to come back to bite us in the ass right about now.

Here’s where I’m probably going to offend people. If you’re not prepared for some self-righteous navel-gazing, turn away now. 

It’s making me think way more seriously about the choices I make when I shop. And how maybe my kids really don’t need another vehicle. Even if it’s nice and cheap and I can afford it, because it’s made in some country that has no environmental or labor regulations. I don’t want to promote a system anymore that has Americans squeezing factories so hard that workers in those countries are abused and they’re pumping clouds of pollution into the air that can be seen by satellite. And then when something goes wrong, instead of examining the practices of the American countries and the foreign factories they contract with, people just sit back and let the foreign government force the head of the factory to kill himself. (Because they took so much international heat for actually doing the execution themselves a few months ago when it was the toothpaste recall.)

Maybe I could trust in the safety of our products if I wasn’t participating in a house of cards that forces the factories to operate on such a crazy tight margin that there’s no way for the head of the factory to assure safety early in the process.

I just don’t want everything to cost 99 cents anymore at the cost of my kids’ health.

So I have no idea when the next time they’ll be getting a new toy is. I have no idea what to do with the toys they have now, whether new or hand-me-downs. I have no idea what’s going to happen for the winter gift-giving holidays. And I have no idea how I’m going to deal with everyone else who gives them gifts.

I just don’t know. If anyone’s looking for a business idea, you could start a research company that figures out which toys are safe and not destroying the economy or the lives of the people who make the toys. You could charge for access to the database, and we’d all pay it, because how else can we know?

(A reader wrote that she’d asked Melissa & Doug [the toy manufacturer that makes the famous Cutting Vegetables set] about their safety testing process and got a nice, if somewhat vague, response from them. I emailed to check it out and have not gotten a response from them after 10 days.)

Maybe the title of this post really isn’t that funny. The toy safety isn’t making me feel constipated, but it is making me feel kind of sick.

Late for work, no time to edit, please add comments even if it’s just to tell me I’m a navel-gazing middle-class twit.

Q&A: dispute about birth location

I hope this doesn’t turn into "I disagree with my partner" week around here, but here’s number two. Katie writes:

"I’m hoping you and the readers can shed a little commonsense light on my current *drama*.

I’m
20-ish weeks pregnant with my 2nd child. With my first, I had planned
to go natural all the way, but at a hospital; I ended up with an
epidural and pitocin. I had really looked forward to trying a home
birth with my second. However, my husband is completely opposed to this idea.

He
knows the statistics, he respects my desires, and it’s not like he’s
"put his foot down" or anything medieval like that. But over the course
of several conversations it’s become clear that what he wants (all
possible medical options readily available for mother and child) is
not going to change. He’s all for natural birth, it just has to be at a
hospital for him to feel safe. I have extremely ambivalent reactions
to this. On the one hand, I am all "womyn power" and wondering what the
hell right he has to tell me how to do something that a man has
actually never once done — and what if this is my last child, my last
chance to maybe have a birth go maybe sorta kinda the way I want it
to? On the other hand, this is his child too, and the lives of two
people he loves very dearly are at stake in what can be a pretty dangerous endeavor, and it’s not unreasonable for him to want to protect us by having doctors ready and waiting.

I
have a feeling we’re going to end up with a classic compromise, where
nobody involved is happy. I am truly, physically afraid of being in
the hospital again, and my biggest fear is that even if we stay home
until labor is pretty far along, once we get to the hospital my labor
will stop because I am so freaked out, and then it’s drugs and numb
legs again. But I just don’t think a home birth is possible without
a partner who is in it a hundred percent. If any of your readers have
had a similar situation between two stubborn spouses, I’d love to hear how things turned out."

It
would solve everything if there’s a true birth center in your area.
Then you could have a birth that doesn’t terrify you, and he could have
a birth that doesn’t terrify him.

Because that’s what this
really boils down to. You are terrified of being in the hospital,
afraid of what’s going to happen to your body and your autonomy and
your child. He’s terrified of not being in the hospital, afraid of what
could happen to you or your child. And no matter how many stats you can
show him (that planned homebirth is at least as safe if not safer for
mother and baby than hospital birth, especially for a second baby) he’s
not going to lose that fear. No matter how many stats you can find
about successful outcomes for second babies (and believe me, the second
baby is ridiculously easier for almost every woman I’ve encountered)
you’re not just going to be able to lose your fear of the hospital.

Now I know there are some of you out there thinking, "What does she
have to worry about? All she had was an epidural and pitocin. It’s not
like she had a c-section/huge episiotomy/horrific induction/preemie in
the NICU/etc." Some of you probably deliberately asked for the epi and
pit, and really don’t get what Katie’s worried about.

But this isn’t misery poker. If you’ve read my first post on preventing
PPD
, you’ll know that I think a Good Birth is so important for a
mother. And you’ll also remember my definition of a Good Birth: A Good
birth is one in which you’re respected as a person. So the actual
details of what happened to Katie during her first birth aren’t vital. What matters is that she didn’t feel respected throughout the
process. It sounds like she felt victimized, and she’s really scared
that she’s just going to end up being shoved into the sausage factory
again for this second birth.

Katie, I agree that it sounds like you can’t really have a home birth,
because it’s just going to be too frightening to your husband. It’s
really, really a shame that you don’t have a freestanding birth center
near you, because that would absolutely bridge the gap for you and your
husband. But since there isn’t one and you’re probably going to have to
have the baby in a hospital, your focus should be on creating a team
that will respect you during the entire process of the labor and
delivery.

The crucial components you need to look for are:

1. A hospital with good stats for birth without interventions. One of
my friends was the only person any of the nurses working that night had
ever seen give birth without an epidural. In hindsight, she says she
would have picked a different hospital. She knew she could do it, but
the nurses were so out of their element without the epidural that they
really had no idea how to support her. Birth is really not something
you want to be a pioneer in, if you can help it, so find the hospital
in your area that has the lowest rates of epidurals and pitocin use.
(Since you’re a second-timer I wouldn’t really worry about c-section
rates. Once you’ve had one vaginal birth your chance of having a
c-section is teeny unless something really goes wrong, in which case
you’d be happy the technology for the c-section existed.) By the same
token, if you know you’re going to have a c-section, you want to choose
the hospital that does a ton of them, so it’s standard procedure for
them.

2. A doctor or midwife who really gets what you want and why you want
it, and wants that for you, too. A provider who understands why you
want an unmedicated birth (and isn’t patronizing about it) is going to
respect you and your wishes, and use that to help make decisions if
things don’t go according to plan. (Flip that around to "medicated
birth" if that’s what you want.) There’s no guarantee that you’ll have
the birth you want, but having a provider who really is on your side
means you’ll come out of it feeling respected and like everyone did the
absolute best they could, including you.

3. A doula. IMO it’s absolutely worth it to pay someone to be with you
from start to finish and provide a protective layer between the
hospital bureaucracy and you. It’s just too much of a risk to go into
the hospital and take your chances with the nurses on duty if you’re
feeling that much fear, since the nurses make the whole experience
unless you have someone else there advocating and translating for you.
It works out if you have a great nurse, but if you have an inept nurse
or a distracted nurse or a nurse who thinks the kind of birth you want
is ridiculous or a nurse who’s just a mean person, you get hung out to
dry. Better to bring your own support person who’s been at bunches of
births and knows how to help you navigate the whole experience. You
will probably get lucky, and the doula will spend most of the time
helping you through contractions for a few very intense hours until
your baby pops out easily with no tears.

So, yeah, this didn’t turn into much about how to settle a marital
dispute. I lucked out myself, because my own first birth (starting at a
birth center and ending up at a hospital) was such an indictment of
hospital birth that my husband was convinced easily to do a home birth.
(It probably helped that during the interview, one of my midwives
looked him straight in the eye and said coolly, "We don’t play. If
something happens we go to the hospital instantly.") I was happy with my home
birth, but then pretty much every woman I know was happy with her
second birth, especially compared to the first one, no matter where or
how she had it.

Give me what you’ve got about this. Did any of you have a similar dispute? How did you resolve it?

Also, if anyone knows a good midwife and/or doula who works at Englewood Hospital in Englewood, NJ, will you email me to let me know? It’s for a friend. Thanks.

More on PPD and Q&A on breastfeeding in front of a 3-year-old

Jillian wrote me to add to Friday’s post on PPD after weaning:

"I wanted to add to your "trifecta" of massage, omega-3 and exercise.Add: High potency B vitamin pill, like a B100 or Stress B. Consider
adding 500-1000 mg of magnesium citrate pills per day as well.

Many
women who have been pregnant and nursing, and on birth control as well
(!), have become borderline deficient or downright deficienct in B12
and B6, among the Bs, as well as in magnesium. B vitamins are
absolutely required for the body to make serotonin. Low
serotonin=depression. Many women who suffer from PMS are B vitamin
deficient as well. You can google or pubmed this stuff, but I looked
into it extensively. I also found my PMS, cycles and moods to improve
considerably with a B100 (on top of my high potency multivitamin)
daily, plus 500 mg mag citrate.

You can safely take a B100 on
top of a multivitamin that provides tons of B, because B isn’t absorbed
that well. It’s what makes your pee green when you take vitamins,
actually."

Very good to know. Thanks, Jillian.

And now a question from Anon:

"I can’t seem to find any info on the subject of breastfeeding in front of a 3 year old. Do you think it is it healthy to my 3 year old’s psyche to let him see me breastfeed his baby brother?

We are expecting in November and I never thought this would be an issue but my husband thinks it is weird that I still bath with my toddler and now he thinks it is "unhealthy" to let him see me nursing the baby. My son is now noticing that my anatomy is different to his and is starting to be curious about it and it kinda freaks my husband out a little. I weaned my son from the breast at around 13 months so I doubt that he remembers anything about nursing. I just wondered what you thought about it."

I can appreciate that your husband might have some qualms, because our society is so geared to thinking of the breasts as sexual and not functional. But he just hasn’t thought it through logically: If it caused psychological damage to watch a baby being nursed, then every older child of a nursing mother across the world would be psychologically damaged either from having watched it or from being sent into another room every time the baby nursed (talk about a recipe for sibling rivalry!). Moreover, there are tons and tons of kids who were still nursing at the age of 3 and have no psychological problems. So your husband can turn his worries from nursing to all the other stuff that’s going to happen when the new baby comes in November.

(This is the point at which I plug the book Siblings Without Rivalry by Faber and Mazlish. If you’re having another child, if you do absolutely no other prep, read this book. If you already have more than one child, read this book. If you have siblings, reading this book might help you understand your relationship with them better and could help you improve things between you. If you’re an aunt or uncle or interested adult in the life of siblings, read this book.)

On a related topic, it’s very healthy for your son to learn, in a factual way, about the differences between boys and girls. His noticing that you and he have different parts is great, and any factual, age=-appropriate explanations you give him are going to help him. It’s also going to be healthy for him to learn all the normal things about babies–how they’re fed, that they pee and poop, that they cry and need to be soothed, etc. It’s all giving him more information about the way humans work.

It sounds like your husband may be very concerned about the inappropriate sexualization of your son. That’s a really valid concern, especially in our society (Bratz, anyone?). But withholding factual information about basic differences will actually backfire by making him more vulnerable to information coming from other sources. A kid who knows the facts and has all his questions answered honestly to his age level is going to be much better equipped to live in a world that sends some really confusing messages about our bodies.

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