Thursday, March 25, 2010

Notes on Babywearing Safety

I don't usually post about baby-in-the-news stuff, but I thought this was too important not to mention. I am a big advocate of babywearing; wearing Elan in a Zolowear sling and Ergo carrier worked well for both of us throughout his first year and beyond (as recently as last November I was carting my gigantic 37-pound 3-year-old around New York City on my back in the Ergo).

I have often helped friends get their babies into carriers, which can be intimidating the first few times. When Elan was a baby, I did a lot of research about types of slings and carriers and proper positioning for babies being worn. I had some of my own concerns about positioning and still do when wearing a young infant. Recently there's been a big news splash about "bag-style" baby carriers being recalled for safety concerns after several infants died. Hopefully this will not result in an overall backlash against baby wearing but instead will help parents more easily find resources to get them babywearing properly -- comfortable for parent, safe for baby.

Probably the single best piece of advice I got from a babywearing expert was to use a chest-to-chest (also called tummy-to-tummy) upright position even for a very young baby. This flies in the face of the image of a baby happily reclined in a sling like an adult in a hammock. I wore Elan in a cradle hold like that, but he would often slip down into a more lying-down position and I would worry about his chin getting compressed into his chest and making it difficult for him to breathe. Once I tried the chest to chest position, it did feel safer to me, so long as you can arrange the sling or carrier to provide enough neck support for the baby.

Much like breastfeeding, babywearing is a skill that requires patience and practice to develop. You have to find the tools and positions that work for your body, your personality, and your baby.

Here are some good resources I've found online to help choose a baby carrier and position a baby properly inside a carrier:
My ring sling is from Zolowear, which has a great website full of how-to photos and videos applicable to many kinds of slings.

Elan in the Ergo back-carry position, 8 months old.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

spring hibernation

There are women who glide through early pregnancy, hardly even remembering that they are pregnant except for occasional hankerings for a burger or a nap.

I am not one of those women.

For me, early pregnancy is more like getting hit by a train. Everyday for about 8 weeks.

Morning-sickness isn't a good term for what I experience. All-day sickness would be more accurate. In fact, first thing, lying in bed, I usually have a few moments of bodily peace, when my body has sufficiently reset from sleep to temporarily forget that its mission in life as of late is to replicate the conditions of permanent sea-sickness. The problem is that my mind still knows what is coming. I experience an overwhelming desire to just go back to sleep, not so much from tiredness as from avoidance. The hours I sleep are hours I do not feel so bad.

I am incapable of throwing up. I have thrown up exactly twice since I was twelve years old, both during my labor with Elan. In case of food poisoning, this is inconvenient. But for morning-sickness, this is a good thing, since I would be doing it at all kinds of inopportune moments like outside Elan's nursery school or on a BART train.

You'd think, having survived the first trimester twice before, that it would not come as a surprise. And yet, the sheer overwhelmingness of exhaustion and illness still take my breath away. And then there is my lack of interest, one of the most startling effects. In my regular life, I pride myself on being at least a little organized, but in the first trimester, I lose all ability to care. Bills piling up, laundry ceiling-high, toys covering every surface of the living room floor? I cannot summon the energy to care. There are moments when I worry that, caught up in my own internal-hormone drama, I will miss something crucial. I try to do the bare minimum of very-necessary tasks while I let most things fall apart around me.

I remember after my miscarriage, when the hormones had finally died down and I started to feel better physically. There was one afternoon when I did a few loads of laundry, cleaned the kitchen and started dinner. Shock! Awe! How was it possible to get so much done? I was coming out of months of sheer exhaustion, when emptying the dishwasher was a monumental task.

This probably all sounds very bitch-moan of me. You're pregnant again, I imagine people saying. What more do you want?

And that's exactly the conundrum. Of course I'm happy about being pregnant. I'm immeasurably relieved by that ultrasound which showed us the flick-flick of a beating heart. But am I... happy? No, I wouldn't say so. I would say my daily sensations and thoughts are more depressed than happy. This is something that I struggled with in both my previous first-trimesters. My first time, with Elan, the depressive feelings surprised me and I attributed them solely to being so sick. But the second time, I became pretty sure that the crazy tea of hormones brewing inside me has a depressant effect.

When I shared this with my sister, who is studying to be a midwife, she found in her reading a well-respected childbirth expert who stated that "depression is a common reaction to pregnancy in the first trimester."

When I googled "depression in pregnancy" four years ago, pregnant with Elan, all I found was references to post-partum depression. But it seems that this area has been studied more since then. It is now thought that 10-20% of women experience some level of depression during pregnancy.
"For years, experts mistakenly believed that pregnancy hormones protected against depression, leaving women more vulnerable to the illness only after the baby was born and their hormone levels plunged. They now believe that the rapid increase in hormone levels at the start of pregnancy can disrupt brain chemistry and lead to depression." (
Here are common symptoms of depression, all of which I experience in the first trimester of pregnancy: sleeping either too much or too little, lack of interest in activities you previously enjoyed, difficulty concentrating, changes in appetite, loss of energy or slowed movement.

It could almost make me laugh, except it more makes me want to cry. [Cue concerned family members calling me, to check: are you all right?]

That's the kicker. I am all right. In fact, according to the experts, I am perfectly healthy, exactly where I want to be, stewing in a rich broth of hormones. In my last pregnancy, I took comfort in this, the old wives' tale respected by the mainstream medical establishment - that morning-sickness and other symptoms indicate high hormone levels and therefore tend to coincide with good pregnancy outcomes. Of course, that wasn't the case for me last time, and this was part of what made me feel so betrayed in dealing with the fall-out from my partial molar pregnancy.

But now, I have the image of that tiny little bean with its beat-beat of a heart. I have that to hold onto, and I have my awareness that this is a temporary condition that just feels never-ending. And so I grit my teeth and try to stay in motion as much as I can - getting some exercise, fresh air, eating as healthfully as I can - until the moment comes everyday, usually about thirty seconds after putting Elan down for the night, when I collapse into my safe place, my haven: bed.

Hibernation. It's the way to get through, at least for now.

Monday, March 15, 2010

9 Weeks

That's right. We're taking the plunge again.

We had an ultrasound, and it was a profound relief to see the heart beat and know that as of now, all development is proceeding on track.

I've noticed that telling people you're pregnant starts to feel significantly more logistical and less romantic by the third time. Or maybe it's more that after my miscarriage, I've been hesitant to get my hopes up.

Mikhail's never been wedded to the wait-12-weeks-before-you-tell phenomena, and I decided I wanted to share the news earlier this time. The reality is if I'm going to write openly and honestly about a miscarriage, why not write about the pregnancy? I've also been thinking how for women like me, who have difficult first trimesters, it kind of sucks to feel that there's a societal expectation that you're supposed to keep early pregnancy a secret. When you're sick and exhausted and burrowed into hibernation, it helps to have all the support you can get from friends and family who love you and might feel like dropping off a home-cooked meatloaf.

And as you can see from the photo, my body doesn't really believe in keeping secrets.

So here we go - wowee! - and Happy Spring full of bloom...

Good Morning...

Bubs: Good morning. I’m a shark.

Mama: Good morning, shark. What did you have for breakfast?

Bubs: Um. Maybe French toast.

Mama: French toast? I thought sharks ate fish.

Bubs: Oh yeah. (looks around) I need a fork!