Exactly, Just Exactly!

The poem below is exactly how I feel right now about my house and about my fourth (and almost certainly last) baby. I just want to snuggle and love on this baby boy as much as I possibly can before he gets big, which I know will happen too soon, and maybe won’t want to snuggle with his mama any more (I don’t even want to think about such a thing!).

The laundry and cleaning does get done eventually, but very gradually and on an as-needed basis. Snuggling the baby, homeschooling and spending time with the older children, and spending time with my husband are taking priority right now.

I can’t imagine that I would possibly ever regret spending more time with my lovely family when I look back on these years ❤

 

Song for a Fifth Child
by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.
Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
For children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

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The Taboo Topic

I’m going to start off my first post of this year by talking about a pretty hot-button issue. I feel very strongly about this issue, but it’s really none of my business what other people choose to do about it. So, please, don’t tell me what you did or what you will or won’t do with regards to this issue. I don’t want to know because it’ll probably just make me sad and I don’t want the comments to turn into a debate (assuming enough people will even read this to make it a potential debate).

The issue, you ask? The issue is circumcision – routine infant circumcision, to be specific. This is a very American issue since the rest of the developed world stopped routine circumcision quite a while ago. This is also a human rights issue mixed in with the question of parental rights.

With this issue, there are many questions to ponder:

Why did the rest of the developed world stop this practice?
Where do parental rights end and the child’s right to his or her body begin?
What about religious beliefs?
How culturally important is it for a child to have a surgery simply because the parent of the same gender had that same surgery as a child?
What is lost to circumcision?

However, my main goal with this post is to encourage parents to really research circumcision before they decide either way. Please, look at what is lost to circumcision, which could also be called “foreskin amputation.” The foreskin is not just a useless flap of skin. Please, understand what you are taking away from your son before you decide to take it away.

There are all sorts of resources about the benefits of circumcision and I think it’s of extreme importance to get the other perspective – to seek it out before making a final decision.

Educate yourself so that if your son comes to you when he’s older and asks, “Mom/Dad, why did you circumcise me?” you can give him a good answer. “Because everyone else was doing it.” is not a good answer. The odds are good that your son will be happy with whatever he has, but as more boys in the US remain intact (the rate of babies being circumcised in hospitals during 2009 was a mere 32.5%), the likelihood of him realizing that he’s missing something and questioning your motives will probably increase.

Educate yourself so that you won’t learn something new in 1, 2, 5, or 20 years that makes you regret your decision. The more research you do, the more confident you will be in your decision.

I cannot even tell you how many mothers I’ve met who wish someone had encouraged them to look deeper into the issue of circumcision before they had their first-born sons. I’ve met countless women who circumcised their oldest and then, after learning more about what the surgery actually entails, left subsequent sons intact. Many of these women state that circumcising their son(s) is their biggest parenting regret.

Please be certain, before you send your son in for irreversible surgery on the most private and personal part of his body, that you are making the best decision for him. Not the best decision for you or for your family or for your friends, but for your son who will have to live with your decision for the rest of his life.

I encourage you to check out cirp.org and read the studies located there. The site has a definite pro-intact (not circumcised) bias, but the relevant studies are all represented and you can certainly ignore the commentary from the owners of the site if you wish to be more balanced about the issue.

You may also wish to take a look at Doctors Opposing Circumcision (DOC) if you’d like to hear the case against circumcision from the medical perspective. You’re almost guaranteed to learn something new about the foreskin which is, truly, an amazing part of the body!

Speaking of the case against circumcision, Dr. Paul Fleiss wrote an article many years ago called just that! Dr. Fleiss is a pediatrician and I believe he’s also a member of DOC.

If you’d never consider cutting your daughter’s genitals, but consider male circumcision to be beneficial for your son, I suggest that you look at this handy comparison chart, compiled by Hanny Lightfoot-Klein, an author and activist who has written some of the most groundbreaking books about the topic of Female Genital Mutilation. Of course female and male circumcision are different, but probably not as different as you may think.

What about the question of religious beliefs? I’m a Christian and can only really speak to the Christian aspect of religious circumcision. There are plenty of resources out there for Jews who want to look more into this issue. I don’t know enough about the Muslim faith to speak to the topic. However, it is very clear to me that, in reading the New Testament, circumcision is not something that is necessary for Christians.

In fact, Paul is very clear in Galatians that circumcision is not worth anything to followers of Christ Jesus. In fact, he states that if a man lets himself be circumcised, Christ is of no value to that man. Search the scriptures yourself – be very certain that it is truly a religious requirement before you circumcise only for that reason. Many Christians believe that they must circumcise, and that is clearly not the case.

Finally, I would like to encourage all the circumcised fathers out there – particularly those who want their sons to “match” them – to take a trip down memory lane and remember how many times they really compared penises with their father and if their family was open about nudity, was their father’s circumcision status really the first thing they noticed? Or did they notice first that there was a size difference and all that hair too?

This decision is one of the most important decisions you will ever make as a parent. Your son will live with the consequences of this decision for the rest of his life. I entreat you to not take this decision lightly. Circumcision is a surgical procedure, it is not a “little snip” and not everyone is having it done to their sons any longer.

~B.

Transitions

As my family makes the transition to having three children from two, I’ve been thinking a lot about transitions. As I thought about transitions, it occurred to me that my main goal with the specific ways I parent my newborn babies has been to ease their transitions into this world as much as possible. I hadn’t thought about my parenting choices in that particular light before, but it’s certainly how I’ve practiced them.

The transition from womb to life outside the womb must be one of the most difficult transitions that we humans ever experience. It’s probably rather a good thing that we cannot consciously remember that time of our lives.

The book Magical Child has a wonderful chapter in it that describes how the transition must feel to a newborn baby… coming out of the nice, warm, wet, dark womb into the dry, cold, bright air. Then having the cord cut immediately and, in order to survive, having to immediately draw breath into his lungs that are unaccustomed to air at all. Being handled by several different people and being examined before being held by his mother. If the baby is unlucky enough to be a boy, he also frequently will have to undergo a painful surgical amputation that he definitely feels and equally definitely doesn’t understand before he’s more than a couple of days old.

Then, also, commonly being fed quite infrequently after being used to getting constant nourishment inside the womb. Being left alone in a bed by himself, sometimes to cry pitifully, after being next to his mother and hearing her breathing and heartbeat 24/7 before birth.

How then can this transition be eased? Certainly the baby eventually needs to learn to be independent of his mother and how to sleep by himself and not eat constantly, but just because these things need to be learned eventually doesn’t mean that the transition has to happen immediately. Nor does a gradual transition mean that the child will never learn to do those things.

Choosing a gentle, natural birth when possible can help ease the immediate womb to air transition because the baby is receiving the proper hormones that he was created (or evolved) to receive during this transition. Having dim lights can help the transition from dark to light. Not cutting the cord immediately can help ease the transition from being underwater to breathing air by not cutting off the baby’s supply of oxygenated blood prematurely and allowing him to receive his full blood supply rather than depriving him of up to 40% of it with an immediate cord clamping. Keeping the cord intact for a while also means that the mother gets to hold the baby for a little while before he is whisked away for a newborn exam thus easing his transition from birth to being weighed and measured and poked and prodded by strangers.

Choosing to leave the baby boy with his whole body instead of chopping off a perfectly healthy and normal part of his anatomy not only prevents all the risks that every surgery inherently possesses, but also allows him to grow up with the knowledge that his body is perfect the way it is and doesn’t need to be altered to fit an outdated cultural fad – to “fit in” with only half the boys in the current American generation. Just because his father had a body part amputated, doesn’t mean the son needs to have that same body part amputated. If daddy has brown eyes and son has blue, will daddy wear blue contacts so his son’s eyes will “match?”

Choosing to hold or wear the baby as much as possible and keep a new baby’s crib or cradle in your bedroom – maybe even to co-sleep for a time – helps to ease the transition from being with mom 24/7 to getting used to being with other people and eventually by himself.

Nursing on demand helps to ease the transition from getting constant nourishment to eating only periodically with greater lengths of time between feedings gradually over the first few years. Everyone knows how much toddlers need to snack still and they’ve been born for a while! Nobody I know looks at the clock before eating to determine whether or not they’re hungry – why would we look at the clock to determine whether a newborn baby is hungry? They’re used to eating all the time – of course they’re hungry extremely frequently, especially for the first few months of their lives!

Babies’ needs and wants are the same for the first few months at least – I believe that it’s really on us, as parents, to make sure that all of our babies’ needs are met. They do not only need nourishment and to be comfortable physically, but they need help through their transition. They need us to be responsive and to try and help them to navigate this extremely difficult transition as smoothly as possible. I believe that the more smoothly it goes for them, the easier it will be for us as well.

Not to even mention: They will be independent soon enough… the baby years go by so quickly!

~B.

Babies and Overindulgence

It’s very difficult for me to write about topics that I think of as obvious or simply common sense. Once I’ve researched something to death and the conclusion I’ve reached has become obvious to me, it’s easy for me to forget that others probably don’t see the issue in the same way that I do. I think that’s true for most people, actually.

Occasionally this fact is really brought home to me by a friend or acquaintance who says something that I didn’t realize people still believed, and the obvious-to-me thing that I want to write about tonight is babies. Newborn babies in particular, but really all babies at least up through 12 months of age.

I was reminded this evening of a common phrase said to and about new mothers who actually hold their babies and nurse on demand, “You’re spoiling that baby!” or “She’s going to spoil that baby!” This is usually uttered by a well-meaning older relative or friend who was warned against spoiling her own baby when she was a new mother.

After doing extensive research into the way other cultures raise their children and into the biology of how babies develop once outside the mother’s womb, I came to the obvious-to-me conclusion that babies cannot be spoiled or overindulged. I personally prefer the term overindulged because it is a more accurate representation of what people actually mean when they say a child is “spoiled.”

So, why do I believe that a baby cannot be overindulged? First of all, during at least the first year, a baby’s needs and wants are the same thing. Babies are not manipulative – they are not complex enough to manipulate their parents or to even understand what that would involve. Babies simply know that they are hungry, lonely, wet, tired, or uncomfortable and they cry until someone responds or until they give up on someone responding.

Once they get what they need, babies are generally content until they need something else so it’s mainly a question of figuring out what they need and ensuring that they get it for as long as necessary. Some babies need to be held constantly, others seem to need to nurse constantly, and there’s nothing wrong with holding or nursing a baby anytime they need it. It is not overindulgence because if they need it, they want it and vice versa.

Wants and needs become gradually more divergent as a baby gets older, but it’s very clear to me that babies were created to have their needs met during the first year and that they cannot be overindulged during that time – perhaps longer. Studies have even shown that babies who are responded to more quickly in infancy are less whiny and clingy as toddlers and preschoolers. Perhaps they’ve fulfilled their need for being close to their parents and are better able to move on. This is explained fairly well with Erickson’s first of eight stages of personality: trust versus mistrust, and has certainly been borne out in my personal experience with my two daughters so far.

My older daughter was held all the time when she was a baby until she began to crawl everywhere at 6 months and to walk full-time at 9 months! She was nursed on demand until she was a bit over a year old. She has gradually become more and more independent and is now almost 4 years old, an age where I could certainly overindulge her if I continued to treat her as a 4 month old since her wants and needs are often very different now. Still, treating her as I did when she was tiny, feeding and holding her on demand, did not cause her to be overly dependent on me as a preschooler and it certainly didn’t hinder her gross motor skills at all!

My younger daughter is basically following in her older sister’s footsteps. We no longer hold her all the time – she’s been walking for well over a year now – and many times when she asks to nurse I’ll offer her something else like a cup of water or milk and she’ll take it instead. Generally asking to nurse for her means that she’s hungry or thirsty and I really don’t have any milk right now since I’m pregnant so it’s important to for me to fulfill her actual need as well as to help her realize that she needs to eat or drink when she feels hungry or thirsty. If she wants to nurse because she’s hurt or tired then I don’t refuse or redirect her because that’s a need to nurse while cuddling and not a need to eat or hydrate.

I haven’t personally received any comments about “spoiling” my children in the past, but now that I’m living in a different part of the country, as well as living closer to my extended family, I’m expecting to hear that phrase at least some after this new baby is born. While I appreciate the concern that I know lies behind the statement, I am fully confident that I have done the right thing in the past with my babies and that I will be doing the right thing with this baby when I hold or wear him/her as much as possible, co-sleep, and breastfeed on demand.

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