Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Return of Wetnurses

"Would you pay someone to nurse your baby?" was the title of a segment on the Today Show this morning. As open minded as I am about breastfeeding, I'm not sure my open mind extends to the return of wet nurses. As a breastfeeding mother, I am completely supportive of all mothers and fathers who want their children to experience the benefits of breastfeeding, even when they aren't able to provide their children with breast milk themselves. As I have more than enough milk for S, I even contemplated donating to a local mother's milk bank, the one mentioned in this article in fact; I could not, however, imagine nursing another woman's baby, and I certainly would not want another woman to nurse my child. That said, I'm not sure how I feel about this. I want to be able to say that if a woman wants to nurse other children, why shouldn't she do it and get paid well for it? Unfortunately, I know too much about the history of wet nurses in this country to be comfortable with seeing a return of this practice. I think there is a slippery slope between women like the one described in the article who do this willingly to a mother who is struggling to make ends meet and decides to become a wet nurse out of desperation. I think women can be taken advantage of too easily, and what happens to the wet nurse's child?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Baby Showers

Warning: this is a random thought.

I'm tired of baby showers! In the past 9 months, I've attended and help plan at least 8 baby showers (two of which were my own), and I'm simply tired of them. I don't mean to sound like a grouch, as I am actually happy to attend the shower and give my friends a gift for their new babies. I do wish, however, we could reinvent the baby shower, as they are all the same--even the ones I plan. I do not excuse myself from the boredom. I fully realize I am just as guilty--I cannot throw a creative baby shower to save my life. The ones I help plan end up like all the other ones--we eat cutsie finger foods, we play an annoying game or two, and then we open gifts, uttering the requiste oohs and aahs over them. The showers vary somewhat, mostly over the hosts' willingness or unwillingness to play the annoying games. One of my best friends is expecting her first child in October, and I am determined to make that baby shower different. How, you ask? I don't know--I presume a stripper and tequila shooters are out of the question.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


I've been thinking a lot about audiences lately, particularly the audience for my blog. I've been rereading past posts and thinking a lot about blogging and my audience. I began this blog ostensibly as a way to work out ideas about my dissertation, and it quickly became more of a journal about my adventures in new motherhood. Occasionally my blog has touched on political issues, and I have continued to blog about my work. But more often than not, I have written about my concerns, anxieties, and triumphs as a new mom. That said, I've been thinking a lot about audience lately.

In all honesty, I don't pay that much attention to how many people look at my blog, although I do try to read most of the comments and reply to them when I feel called to do so. If I was concerned about a large audience, I might experience a similar bloggy depression to the one Lilian at Mama(e) in Translation describes. Like Lilian, I enjoy the feedback, but I still think of this blog as mour of a journal--I don't always know if I want people to respond--or even to read--what I write. Several close friends read my blog on a fairly regular basis, and that make for other audience issues. Unlike my more traditional journals (which I've kept off and on for over 20 years, more off than on lately!), I'm very aware of audience when I blog. Sometimes that is a good thing, like when I write about a political issue that has moved or upset me; in that case I am writing to make my readers (that seems like such a weird thing to say) aware of something that is important to me and that I think may interest them. Sometimes when I want to write about something personal, having an audience, particularly an audience of people I see on a fairly regular basis, isn't a good thing.

From the beginning I've been fairly ambivalent about blogging. I like it and I don't like it; it has its positives and its negatives. But I keep doing it, and I'm not quite sure why. It is an avenue for me to "talk" about things that I don't normally get the opportunity to talk about, and I like that I've met other women who are at a similar place in their lives as I am. But sometimes it is darn annoying to have to think about who will read my blog before I write. That statement begs the question: why don't I blog completely anonymously? For the most part, I am anonymous; if you don't know me, it would be difficult for you to figure out who I am. But, as I said, several good friends know I blog and read my blog with some regularity--at my invitation, I have to admit.

So what is my point? I'm not altogether certain. I'm learning (or perhaps I'm relearning) that it is ok to be ambivalent about something that I generally enjoy doing. I'm also realizing that as much as I claim I would continue to blog if no one read my blog I am not so sure I would. Having an audience makes "journalling" more difficult, but it also makes it more rewarding.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

But insurance companies still pay for viagra. . .

So I don't understand why it is such an issue to cover the cost of birth control pills, especially for young women who are clearly not ready to be mothers. "Birth control prices soar on campuses" is another example of how women are penalized for being women. Isn't it more cost-effective for Medicaid and insurance companies to pay for birth control pills than for them to insure children or pay for uninsured children?

I think most of us knew this. . .

"Painful sex common after giving birth": didn't most of us know this already? I think a more important thing to study is why don't more women talk to their doctors (heck, or even each other!) about this. Why is it still taboo for women to discuss sex?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Unmedicated Childbirth

A good friend of mine is expecting her first child in October, and we were recently chatting about unmedicated childbirth. She asked me if I would have another unmedicated birth and if I would use the Bradley method again. I immediately answered yes; I would try for a very similar birth experience, as both C and I were very happy with S's birth. That said, my feelings about our birth experience are very complicated, and while I've happily shared the birth story with most good friends, I haven't really gone into much detail regarding my feelings of the birth. As with most of my mothering decisions, I feel very protective and almost defensive about my experience. My need to write about my protective feelings is more about me thinking through why I'm so protective of the experience rather than feeling attacked by people who disagree with my choice.

I know precisely why I am protective of my birth experience (and I say my rather than our because C and I have very different perspectives on the experience). For me the experience was completely about my family; I wanted to do what was best suited for us. While on some minute level, I did feel committed to having an unmedicated birth to prove all the people who questioned my desire and ability to do it wrong. But all of those feelings went away the minute I went into labor. I've discussed my experience with other women who've had unmedicated childbirth and women who elected to have medication. Most of these women describe the contractions as painful, and while I wholeheartedly agree contractions hurt, I'm unhappy with the word "painful." Since S was born I've been searching for a word to describe what I experienced with my contractions. Painful seems too negative, too harsh. Intense is a good word because I think intense can refer to positive and negative experiences, but painful has too many negative connotations associated with it. Perhaps I'm overly sentimental about S's birth (which is entirely possible considering the difficult days and weeks that followed not only due to having a colicky newborn but due to the death of C's dad the day after S was born), but I'm unhappy calling that experience painful. That day was anything but painful. So now I discover that I've become one of those women who wax poetic about the "pain" associated with childbirth, and I don't feel that accurately describes my experience either. It was a tense and intense day; we came dangerously close to an emergency c-section because S's heart rate was not stable. To this day, I'm not even certain how close we came as I was busy coping with contractions; C, my doula, and my doctor have all told me we were within minutes. Luckily, my doctor was able to turn S while he was inside of me (I will associate pain with that particular experience!), and he quickly stabilized. Forty-five minutes after that, my beautiful son was born. So when people ask me if I would choose another method of childbirth, I have to say no. Our method (I hesitate to say we used the Bradley method because I really believe the Bradley method encourages you to develop your own method of relaxation techniques to get you through childbirth) worked for us once, and I would happily do it again.

Writing this, I find that almost six months later, I still haven't processed that day completely. My life was profoundly changed that day in October. I also know that C and I haven't discussed it as much as either one of us would like to because S's birth is forever connected with his grandfather's death. To me death is painful; birth is not.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


My good friend Sarah, who blogs at Mommy, Ph.D., welcomed her baby girl into the world on Sunday. Baby AB, as I believe Sarah is calling her in the blogging world, is a beauty, with long, graceful fingers and a head full of dark hair. Welcome to the world, little girl!

The Decoration of Houses

Warning: I'm using today's post as a free-write to work out some ideas for my dissertation.

I'm reading Edith Wharton's The Decoration of Houses, which she co-wrote with Ogden Codman, in preparation for my trip to her home, The Mount. I'm going there in May to do some research on Wharton's architectural and design ideas. As I was reading, this quotation struck me: "The very dangers and barbarities of feudalism had fostered and preserved the idea of home as something private, shut off from intrusion."

I've been thinking about this sentence since I read it yesterday. The idea that danger and uncertainty promotes privacy of the home interests me. Wharton (and Codman, although I'm much less interested in him) presents very clear ideas of home or the desire for home in many of her works; in fact, my dissertation a chapter on Lily Bart's desire for a home of her own (hence, my interest in Wharton's own home). That struggle and uncertainty promotes privacy seems integral to her fiction, especially The House of Mirth. Lily clearly doesn't experience the same kind of danger Wharton is referring to in this passage from The Decoration of Houses, but Lily does experience a sort of societal danger. But the danger Lily experiences has the opposite affect; it degrades rather than promotes her privacy. I would argue (and I think Wharton would agree) that Lily lacks privacy because of her position in society and because she has no space of her own. Even at the end of the novel, when she is living in a rented room, Lily still does not possess any space that is truly her own. She is excluded from society, and to an extent that exclusion affords her a certain amount of privacy. She is, however, still the talk of her social set, although they have discarded her. Everyone knows where she is and what she is doing, yet none of her "friends" or "family" knows the truth about Lily. How then does her lack of space affect her sense of privacy and her sense of her self? Lily carefully constructs herself to appear one way in front of her friends, and she rarely lets that mask fall, even when she is alone. How closely are space and privacy connected then? Lily has no space, and the only privacy she has is what her social set allows her. Clearly, I'm not sure where I'm going with this yet . . .

Friday, April 06, 2007

Waiting Game

C's on campus interview was earlier this week, so now we're waiting.

New tooth, sitting up, and chunky thighs

It has been an exciting week for S--he is sitting up on his own, he got a new tooth, and his chunky, chunky thighs make it impossible for me to put pants on him. We went to a state park today to admire the wildflowers, and I wanted to dress him in his very cute blue jeans. The blue jeans went on easily, but when I sat him down on the floor to play while I finished getting ready, he toppled over. His jeans were too tight on his chunky thighs for him to bend his legs properly so he couldn't sit up. I laughed so hard I cried, and then I changed my chunky baby's clothes.