Saturday, December 22, 2012

This is feminist parenting

I wrote the following in the middle of a three-hour flight from Washington D.C. to Minneapolis on Thursday, December 20th. I would like to report that Felicity was a complete angel for Ian their entire time together.

This morning, I stepped onto a plane, waving goodbye to my husband, who had our 12-month baby strapped to his chest. This was to be the longest separation yet between myself and the baby, a whole seven hours and a half hours. I felt guiltily liberated. 

Our small family is going to Minnesota for the holidays. My husband has a conference in Atlanta immediately after Christmas, and I’m staying a week longer with my family before joining him back in New York City. We scheduled our flights separately, finding that the best price for my round-trip was to fly an hour to Washington D.C., enjoy a two and a half hour layover, and then sit on a three hour flight to Minneapolis. I booked my ticket with a lap infant, planning to have Felicity fly with me.

Ian, on the other hand, was able to purchase all direct flights. So despite lifting off thirty minutes before he would, I would arrive three and half hours later.

Two mornings ago, talking about our trip and upcoming flights as we prepared for the day, we realized how crazy it was for me to have two flights with the baby and an overall longer time waiting in airports and in the air. Ian suggested taking her. I readily agreed, knowing that I would have her on my lonesome on the journey from Minneapolis to New York City after the New Year. I recalled flying alone with her when she was a sleepy three months old and how challenging that seemed at the time. I felt happy to share the burden of parenting with my spouse.

Last night, thinking about the logistics, I started to panic. The maximum Ian and the baby have spent alone (without me easily accessible) is about four and half hours. It isn’t that he is never home or isn’t a good caretaker; he does much of the parenting when he is home, sharing in the diaper changes, feedings, baths, is in charge of bedtime, and is a really excellent and involved father. It is more the case that I am still breastfeeding. So even if I have appointments, am working, or am ill, I pop in every two to three hours, check on everyone, see if the baby needs to nurse, and generally offer an over-abundance of unnecessary ‘advice’ to my husband about baby-related things he already accomplishes with finesse.

I am in the process of weaning the baby down to one or two nursing sessions a day, and so was not so worried about an extended amount of time without breastfeeding her. Instead, I had a serious case of the maternal “what ifs”: what if her ears bother her on the flight and she screams for hours, and I’m not there to comfort her? What if she desperately decides she must nurse, adamantly giving my husband her nursing sign, refusing the soy milk, peanut butter, and fruit packets we carefully tucked into her diaper bag, and then refuses to be comforted? (This is her latest – and quite effective – tactic to get middle of the night feedings). 

As I write this, I realize our division of labor is good. This is feminist parenting. To say, I desperately would love some time to myself and would like to enjoy (as much as one can enjoy) my day in airports and in the air in solitude, with my book and my writing and my research project. To say, it makes more logistical sense for the baby to be in airports and in planes for less time, and to only have one descent, which can be so painful for little ears. To you, now that we are down to fewer nursing sessions, there is no reason why my very capable and nurturing husband can’t be the sole caretaker for the great challenge of taking a very active, newly willful, almost-toddler across the country. To say that he can handle it, no matter what the day brings. To say that even if she does get upset and cries for their entire three hour flight, it will not permanently damage her and she will be fine, and he will be fine as well. 

They were supposed to be landing about the same time my last flight was taking off. I kept my phone on as long as possible, holding it nervously in my hand, desperately wanting to know how everything went. Alas, I had to turn it off before he texted to say that they’d landed. 

Although it has been nice to be able to think about other things besides the baby, to read and not be juggling a baby on my lap, and work on editing my current research project instead of singing endless renditions of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, the desire to know what is happening is overwhelming. I am accustomed to being in control (or at least feeling that I am in control). 

I find myself counting down the minutes until I see them: ninety minutes left in the air, another thirty or so until I can hug the baby, kiss my husband, and know that being a mother doesn’t always equate to sacrificing what I need and want.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Plant Matters: The Recipes

Some of you remember that I used to post recipes on this blog. When Ian and I became vegans over the summer, I moved my recipe-posting over to Plant Matters (I understand that not everyone following this blog, which is mostly concerned with feminism, writing, and mothering, will also be interested in veganism).

I took the time in the last day to copy all of the vegan (or easily veganizable) recipes from This, That, and the Other over to Plant Matters, and all are posted in our handy-dandy Recipe Index! I have also take the time to put some nutritional information with most of the recipes.

Have a relaxing Sunday, friendly reader(s).

Saturday, December 15, 2012

How to have a (somewhat) lazy Saturday morning with a baby

  1. Stage sleeping in:
    •  Awaken before 6:00 am to strange noises/smells, and realize your baby is awake
    • Argue about who spent more time up with the baby during the night.
    • Realize the mom is almost always the "winner" here.
    •  Kiss to show no serious hard feelings, and hand baby off to partner for one hour, more tired parent sleeps in.
    • Swap places with baby and bed, second partner naps for an hour.
  2. Baby naps:
    •  Everyone snuggle in bed and get baby ready for nap.
    •  Baby feels so loved and wonderful, baby inevitably goes down for long, wonderful nap.*
    • Enjoy what you would've normally done on a Saturday morning before you had an infant that woke up at the crack of dawn, demanding your near-constant attention, but be aware that your napping child is really a ticking time bomb, so hustle through your relaxing activities. 
  3. High-five each other - you are awesome. Pretend that having a child really hasn't completely wrecked every weekend.
*Note: This doesn't always work. Baby may be on to your plan...

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Review: Flight Behavior

Flight Behavior
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have a lot of respect for Barbara Kingsolver as a writer and as an activist. I really wanted to read this book despite not knowing what it was about, and perhaps that was for the best.

I live in New York City and would consider myself a fervent liberal, and the setting (Bible Belt) and characters (for the most part, under-educated conservatives who misquote the Bible)immediately put me off. But I trusted Kingsolver and kept reading. I'm so glad.

Dellarobia is in her late twenties, stuck in an unhappy marriage with two kids, and not much to look forward to. In an attempt to escape her reality through an affair, she encounters a forest filled with monarch butterflies, which Kingsolver compares to Moses seeing the burning bush in the Old Testament. She is moved and determines to try making her marriage and life work.

This book follows Dellarobia as she starts to navigate who she really is and what she really wants in a community that doesn't like to ask a lot of questions. Dellarobia finds that, much like the misplaced butterflies who ought to have been in Mexico, not Tennessee, she is out of tune and dying in an unsuitable environment.

This was a beautifully written story in so many ways. The parallels are exceptional, and Kingsolver has such a strong voice. Did I connect with the characters and setting? No, but that isn't what makes a good book a good book, is it? Kingsolver effectively writes about global warming, consumerism, and what it is to be stuck in poverty.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Discussing Abortion

I read an article today about a woman's experience of getting pregnant unexpectedly (while using an IUD), and her decision to have an abortion to terminate her pregnancy.

Abortion is typically talked about in the terms 'pro-life' or 'pro-choice,' and we forget about the stories of women, those who decide to go through with the pregnancy, and those that don't. I've never personally heard anyone talk about an abortion that they, or even a friend, went through, and I appreciated this personal account.

Like many women, I'm pro-choice (and support Planned Parenthood), but I would have a difficult time going through with an abortion myself. At this point that's probably because I'm pretty okay with having another baby (though don't want one right now), and know that I would get a tubal immediately after the birth.

But there was a time, when I was pregnant with Felicity and was suffering from PUPPPs (pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy, fun name, right?), that Ian and I talked about it. I'm not sure if I wrote much about this experience, so I'll do it now:

When I was three months pregnant, my body broke out in an unbelievably itchy, awful rash, that supposedly occurs in about about 0.05% of pregnancies (1 in 200). It's also supposed to only be bad for about a week (not true), occur in the last few weeks of pregnancy (SO NOT TRUE), and will persist until after the birth of your child (this is true).

The itching is akin to nothing I've ever experienced before, and I'm a Minnesota girl that has had her fair share of misquito bites and was susceptible to impetigo as child. The itching of PUPPPs drives you insane. You can't do anything - you can't concentrate, can't complete your sentences, and can't sleep. I went the emergency room at one point because the itching was so awful, we didn't know what else to do. I was put on oral steroids, a dermatology student with poor stitching skills gave me a skin biopsy in my hip, which will forever have a crazy scar, and then I was put on topical steroids. I had to take benedryl to try to sleep at all. When I was able to sleep, I'd wake up repeatedly in the night, having scratched myself to bleeding on my arms, legs, belly, and hips.

We tried all sorts of things. We heard that something called Grandpa's Pine Tar Soap helped, so I started using that (it smells like a wood fire with a hint of... tar). I was taking cool oatmeal baths several times a day, taking cold showers several times in the night when the itching got bad, slathering on pure aloe vera (which smells exactly like a hardware store), and doing a lot of crying.

So we talked about terminating, because both Ian and I felt that I would not physically be able to handle the insane itching for six months (or more, if it continued into nursing, as it does in rare cases). At this point, both Ian and I were barely sleeping, and I had to basically be drugged every night (it got much worse at night), and he would have to hold me, spooning me tightly, while watching the trashiest TV possible we could find online.

Then I found something online called nettle leaf tea, something pregnant women have been drinking for centuries to help with allergies and itching during pregnancy. I was strongly urged by the University of Michigan medical staff not to drink it (not tested by the FDA, anything could happen, they apparently would prefer it if I was taking category-C drugs instead during two-thirds of the pregnancy). I didn't listen. And I'm glad.

I started drinking this grassy-tasting tea 3+ times a day. Within several days the itching had improved, and within a week that actual rash itself was almost gone. I still had flare ups when the weather was hot and humid, and admittedly spent many nights in the sixth and seventh months of pregnancy splayed naked on my bed with a giant fan blowing cold air on my giant belly, slathered in cooling aloe vera, but this amazing tea eliminated about 95% of my symptoms and made pregnancy doable for me.

I'm glad that we didn't have to talk very long about whether or not to keep our baby - she was wanted, and now that we have her, we're so glad we do. But I also don't know if I could have possibly gone through an entire 6+ months of that insane, awful itching - a couple of weeks of it felt suffocating and infuriating, unbearable. I would not have been able to do my graduate work, excel at my job (earn money), interact with Ian in a loving manner, and focus on doing what I needed to do to grow a healthy baby.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Review: Life's Work: Confessions of an Unbalanced Mom

Life's Work: Confessions of an Unbalanced Mom
Life's Work: Confessions of an Unbalanced Mom by Lisa Belkin

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I picked this up in the feminist-mothering section of the library at Columbia. I gave it a good shot of about fifty pages, but there just isn't anything great here. I feel like maybe I should read more, but I'm bored and I don't feel like I'm going to read anything that will speak to me or enhance my understanding of the challenges and moments of grace in mothering.

I'm annoyed that there doesn't seem to be any depth here. It's like I'm reading small blog posts, and the themes are loose at best. Yes, the writing is clear, but it just isn't interesting. I probably would keep reading if I didn't have all of these other amazing books on mothering at home right now (go thesis project!).

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The Baby is One

Two days ago, Felicity turned one. I loved it, I hated it.

I adore birthdays. I will even try to celebrate your half-birthday, if you let me (with a half of a cake, naturally!). I want Flick's birthdays to be special, full of tradition, and memorable, even if she isn't the one keeping the memories at first.

I made lots of trial cupcakes, and settled on two recipes for her party. I took time thoughtfully selecting gifts that her little baby self would love, bought a bouquet of flowers for her (mixed in variety and color, because I don't know her favorite flower or color(s) yet), and found a very sweet card for her. She even got a balloon, though she's not really into balloons yet, we found out. My mom and I made a birthday banner for her during Hurricane Sandy, which Ian and I hung with great care, using a ruler and everything.

We went out for breakfast on her birthday. I took a picture and avoided crying. Then Ian left for an all-day conference an hour and half out of the city, and Felicity's babysitter came and took her for five hours so I could clean the house for her party the next day.

I tried really hard not to feel guilty about this (like I try really hard not to feel guilty about so many things): Ian had had a crazy week at work and did not have time to contribute to the housework during that week, I have been prioritizing my own research and writing (yay), and the party was scheduled for the next day, and the apartment needed a little TLC. Plus I had to buy groceries and start cooking. Also, Felicity is too young to understand the concept of a birthday, and what the day is.

I was able to accomplish an amazing lot in the five hours, and Felicity loves E., her sitter. Afterwards, I took her on a long walk, and ate bits of dried fruit and animal crackers with her at the cafe in Whole Foods. She napped in her stroller, and we did an extra-long story time before bed, with lots of cuddles and kisses. She fell into a really good, deep sleep. The sleep of a baby that has been active, laughing, reading, and interacting with someone else almost the whole day, the restful sleep of a baby that has a relaxed mother, a happy mother.

I am increasingly aware of my need to be accepted and to live up to the expectations I perceive others have for me. This whole birthday experience further highlighted this. Maybe it's because birthdays were treated a certain way in our household, with a certain sort of reverence and tradition, and that is what I want to pass on. Maybe it is because I feel the "perfect mother" would have had the house clean in the first place and would be able to handle getting ready for a party while taking care of and pleasing a baby, and that this wouldn't upset her child and exhaust her beyond her limits. I'm not sure who this perfect mother is, but she sure isn't me.

So I didn't let myself feel guilty. At the end of the day, the baby was happy, and I was happy, and she had a really lovely party yesterday afternoon.

I do believe I achieved some sort of balance. A feat, ladies and gentlemen, a feat!

Now I just have to come to grips with my baby not really being a baby anymore. 

Review: Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: 75 Dairy-Free Recipes for Cupcakes that Rule

Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: 75 Dairy-Free Recipes for Cupcakes that Rule
Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: 75 Dairy-Free Recipes for Cupcakes that Rule by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Let me first admit that I have held on to my library copy of VCTOTW for far too long. In fact, the library doesn't even seem to think that I have it, despite not accruing any fines. I feel equal amounts of shame and glee, and do plan on returning it. Soon, I swear. As soon as I try every single recipe... (of my husband buys this for me for Christmas because he is ashamed of my dishonest ways, and wants the cupcakes to keep coming).

This is a goldmine for the vegan that bakes, even if that vegan has never baked before. The ingredients aren't strange and use things out of your vegan pantry (I spent $75 purchasing crazy ingredients at Whole Foods for one recipe in Babycakes that was mediocre at best), the instructions are easy to follow, and, best of all, these cook up into amazing cupcakes - and I am freaking FUSSY about my cupcakes (and other baked goods).

My two favorite recipes are for the chocolate cupcakes (Your Basic Chocolate Cupcake), with a little extra vanilla extract, and some coconut extract for good measure, with the Chocolate Buttercream Frosting (ditto with the vanilla and coconut here too), and the Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting. So. Amazing.

I made both of these recipes in mini form for my daughter's first birthday party, and they were a hit with all of my non-vegan friends (I kept hearing, "And can you believe they're vegan?!" around the room).

The only thing I've made so far that I haven't cared for was the batch of Thick Chocolate Fudgey Frostin'. I suspect this has more to do with my lack of good-quality soy milk powder that the actual recipe.

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