Archive | February, 2013

Send gaybies like Daphne to camp!

26 Feb

D in the sunDaphne is a little too young for summer camp. But when she turns eight, she will have a place to go where she can meet kids from other families like hers. A place where she can chase bugs, jump in the lake and giggle in a cabin at night with other “gaybies.” Because Caitlyn and I will do everything in our power to protect her from bullying and homophobia. But whether we like it or not, Daphne will spend her lifetime answering questions about the nature of her family. At Camp Ten Oaks, she will get to spend a week in a place where everyone else “gets it.” She’ll be able to let down her guard in a place where her family is not the exception to the rule.

I am proud to be a member of the Board of Directors of Camp Ten Oaks. I’m doing it for Daphne and all of the other kids from LGBT families. This is an organization I believe in and to which I am willing to devote my time, energy and passion.

Support our team in the Camp Ten Oaks Bowlathon and help kids like Daphne have the best week of their lives.

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Tips for travelling with a baby

26 Feb
d in swing

D harnessing the power of the two super heroes behind her

Caitlyn and I just got back from 10 days away in sunny California. We stayed at my cousin’s sprawling and beautiful house in Camarillo, and Baby D was surrounded by seven cousins under the age of eight. In just a week, she learned how to sit up solidly on her own, suddenly became excited about solid food and started blowing raspberries (usually with a mouthful of food). We managed to have a great time, even though I got hit with the triple whammy of a gastro bug, a head cold and an extremely heavy post-partum period (sorry for the overshare, but we keep it real over here). Daphne also started the trip with a nasty chest cold that soon settled into an intermittent dry cough. Not enough to make her seriously ill, but irritating enough to wake her up several times throughout the night.

I also learned a few lessons about what works and what doesn’t when travelling with an eight-month old baby. Let this be a lesson to you:

1. Pack heavy

I have never been good at packing light, but when it comes to travelling with a baby, I bring everything I think we could possibly need. This includes a white noise machine, a baby monitor, multiple medications, several changes of clothes and a bag full of toys. This all came in handy when we had to put the baby to sleep in unfamiliar environments and keep her entertained during a 12-hour day of travelling. Unfortunately, this meant that we had to pay extra for additional luggage, but it was worth it.

2. Bring more diapers than you think you need

If you can believe it, I somehow forgot to refill the diaper bag for our journey home. So just as we hit the Toronto airport for our connecting flight (and a long delay), we ran out. Luckily, we were able to procure over-priced, too-big emergency diaper rations at the airport. But don’t make the same mistake I did. Seriously.

3. Strollers are for luggage (or: Wear your baby!)

Once again, I was so grateful for modern baby-wearing technology on this trip. We recently stopped using our believed Beco Gemini, as 20-pound Daphne was getting a little big for it. We are now using the amazing Manduca — a buckle baby carrier that is super ergonomic and easy-to use. While we did put her in the umbrella stroller a couple of times in the airport and at the zoo, D spent most of the time in the Manduca and was happy as a clam. We popped her in there at the first sign of fuss, and she usually fell asleep within five minutes. We had strangers in airports approaching us to tell us how “good” our baby was, especially when we were into hour 15 of a hellish commute home. While it’s true that we have been blessed with a baby with a lovely temperament, much of this has to do with the fact that we work hard to meet her needs. Baby-wearing allows her to have the closeness and cuddles she craves, while giving our arms a rest. It means we can dash across a busy airport, while bottle feeding and/or bouncing her at the same time.

4. There will be vomit (or: Pack three extra shirts)

Perhaps the most glamourous moment of our travels was when I stood up to depart our flight from Ottawa to Toronto, clipped Daphne into the baby carrier, and was quickly covered head-to-toe in vomit. She puked directly into my cleavage, soaking both of us with regurgitated formula. While I had packed several changes of clothing for her, I had only tossed one extra shirt for me into my bag at the last minute. Thank goodness. I bought another one in the airport as an extra insurance policy. Do as I say, not as I did. Bring extra clothes for both of you.

5. Be flexible about sleeping arrangements

Daphne has been sleeping in her own crib in her own room for three months now and until last week had never spent any significant amount of time sleeping in our bed with us. When she was tiny, I was too scared I would crush her. And as she got older, she associated our bed with playtime, not sleep. But after a disorienting day of travel, our sick baby needed comfort. We pulled her into bed with us, and she slept peacefully between us, with her arms outstretched to maintain contact with both moms. For the rest of the trip, she spent the early morning hours snuggled up with us. It was blissful. And when we got home, she slept soundly in her crib once again. I am happy that occasional co-sleeping can work for us now. I hope this helps all of us get through her next significant teething episode.

6. At borders, prepare for the worst and hope for the best

Anticipating an argument over our family status and DOMA with a US border official, I prepared a baggie with all of our passports, D’s long form birth certificate and our marriage license. We dutifully filled out two customs forms as we crossed the border (because America doesn’t recognize our family and won’t allow us to be included on one form). But to our surprise, the female border official accepted one card from Caitlyn, and welcomed us to the US without any interrogation about Daphne’s parentage. Win!

We had a great time, despite the hellish travel delays, sickness and jet lag. Spending time in the sun with family is so worth it.

Pink is just a colour

14 Feb

in pink snowsuit

Every time I dress my baby girl in pink, I wonder if I am disappointing the Feminist Authority. Though it may seem like I am taking myself too seriously, I hang out in circles that spend a lot of time and energy deconstructing gender norms. Caitlyn and I socialize with the kind of people who asked us if we were even going to assign a gender to our baby at birth. Many of them use gender neutral or plural pronouns to describe themselves, or identify with a gender that their parents still don’t quite understand. We attended the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference for several years in a row and gushed over the amazing parents of gender independent children who give their kids the freedom to explore gender without boundaries or limitations. That being said, I am not so naive as to think that it’s possible to raise a child gender-free (Baby Storm notwithstanding). I also identify as a femme dyke — someone who willingly embraces femininity and “girl stuff,” even though my usual uniform of vintage dresses and red lipstick has been replaced with jeans and barf-absorbing hoodies as of late. So needless to say, I spent some time thinking about how we would dress our daughter.

The first issue at hand was how to deal with the mountains of hand-me-downs and gifts we received — 80 per cent of which involved some shade of the colour pink. As a thrifty mom and someone with an environmental conscience, it seemed foolhardy to reject free clothing. So I weeded out the stuff that made my stomach churn and mixed and matched the other stuff with primary colours and bold patterns. When I buy clothes for Daphne, I make an effort to select other colours than pink (green looks great on a redhead), but I am hardly dressing her in a gender-neutral manner. And I don’t think I should. Because as our dear friend (and brilliant writer ) Julia Serano points out, “girl stuff” is just as valid as masculinity or androgyny. Queer communities tend to default to masculinity as neutral territory. But this ends up erasing the identities of people who enjoy feminine gender expressions. Eliminating femininity does nothing to challenge the patriarchy — if anything, it renders many women (and feminine men) invisible. It reinforces the notion that you need to “man up” in order to be powerful and sends the subtle message that “girly girls” are somehow less strong or articulate.

And as much as I am loathe to admit it, we tend to dress our children in our own images until they develop a firm opinion about such matters. I have a dear friend who dresses her daughter in black hoodies and jaunty bandanas, just like she does. Another mama in my circle has already procured a mini Ramones onesie for her baby Milo. All of our kids may rebel by the age of two, insisting on tutus and/or trucks. At that point, there is really not much we can do about it.

So my kid is wearing pink today. It looks good on her. And I will try not to freak out when she turns 16 and chooses to shave off all of that beautiful red hair.

Puke patrol

13 Feb
What, me vomit?

What, me vomit?

When I wrote the other day about how sleep deprivation was the most difficult part of parenthood, I neglected to mention the other issue that constantly keeps me on my toes: vomit prevention. When you have a baby with reflux and a hair trigger gag reflex, a lot of energy and strategy goes into feeding the baby enough so she’s full, but not so much that she projectile vomits her entire stomach. And not to over-share, but we are talking about an Exorcist-like situation when we get it wrong.

We first started to think that our baby may have reflux (or GERD) when she was only a few weeks old. After some trial and error, it became clear that this was one of the central reasons why she continued to scream at the breast every time I tried to nurse her. Her tongue tie meant that she could only latch on if I laid her on a pillow and leaned my boob into her mouth (a disastrous position from an ergonomic perspective). This was probably the worst position for her GERD, as babies with reflux should be kept upright while feeding whenever possible. The switch to bottle feeding (with her sitting up on my lap) helped dramatically. But then she began eating with such gusto, that we had a serious Vomit Management Issue on our hands. We got good at slowing her down, using slow-flow bottles and offering her small portions more frequently. And generally speaking, she lets us know when she is full. But when she is tired, her instinct is to drink and drink until her tummy is over full. And that inevitably leading to mega vomit, which is so frustrating on so many levels.

After a major uptick in the puking after the holidays, we switched Daphne to a soy formula. It appears that some sort of dairy or lactose intolerance was exacerbating the situation. But the situation is certainly not resolved. She is still on medication (the highest dose allowed for her current weight) and we are constantly doing this careful calculation, to make sure she doesn’t eat too much or cry too hard and trigger the vomit reflex.

The addition of solid food into her diet has complicated things as well. I originally had visions of practicing baby-led weaning — offering soft chunks of solid food from the beginning and allowing the baby to feed herself. But as my friend Caro jokes, this baby has very retro sensibilities. Not only does she gag on soft solids (we’re talking over-ripe avocado here — nothing that’s not developmentally appropriate), she often rejects my lovingly-made purees in favour of bottled baby food. It’s definitely a texture problem. No matter how much I blend steamed sweet potatoes, I will never approximate the texture of commercially strained and blended pears. I spoke to our trusty lactation consultant and apparently tongue tied babies often have a problem swallowing solids. The sensitive gag reflex is quite common. This leaves me wondering if we should suck it up and take her to have her tongue operated on again. I am just loathe to traumatize her at a stage when she is already struggling with teething and separation anxiety.

So once again, we muddle through. Last night, I got the calculation dead wrong and ended up covered in puke, along with the baby, the rocking chair, the entire floor of her nursery and a couple of board books. It’s always so distressing, because it makes me feel like I somehow failed at motherhood and made it happen. “I should have known that she was eating too much … I ignored that first cough and made her eat another spoonful … I wasn’t fast enough to distinguish fussing from crying and didn’t intervene in time to prevent it.”

Rationally I understand that I am being too hard on myself. My friend Pam’s son was a puker for years and nothing she did could make him stop — until he did on his own. And as much as I am loathe to admit it, this is largely a laundry problem and not a major medical one. Daphne is thriving and putting on weight like a champ. I would just love to get through a couple of days without suffering the indignity of being covered head to toe in regurgitated formula. Wishful thinking.

The politics of sleep

9 Feb

Sincere apologies for the radio silence for the last four months. After we concluded the Battle of the Boob, we moved onto the Battle of the Nap. We started to make some progress just as we hit a major five-month sleep regression and now we are in the midst of Teething Drama. All that to say, this mama is TIRED. The cumulative impact of more than seven months of frequently interrupted sleep has left me feeling like I am constantly wandering through a thick fog. While my days are punctuated with joy and social interactions with other kick-ass feminist parents, my thoughts are generally pretty bleary and I am definitely functioning on automatic.

For several months, Daphne wouldn’t nap for longer than 30 or 45 minutes. It was maddening, as it didn’t really give me any time to get anything done, or lie down myself. I generally consoled myself with the fact that she was a good sleeper at night. Until suddenly she wasn’t. I scoured the internet for advice on infant sleep. We weaned her off of her pacifier (with several major regressions). And even though I didn’t feel emotionally ready for it yet, we moved the baby to her own crib in her own room. Overall, it was the right decision. But it is more exhausting to traipse across the hall at 3 am than it is to lean over our bed to shush little Daphne back to sleep.

Like any other aspect of parenting, there are intense emotional and political battles being fought on the internet over infant sleep. It sounds a little ridiculous if you are not immersed in parenting culture, but the rhetoric being spewed back and forth between parents over whether or not sleep training constitutes child abuse is somewhat eye-opening. Generally speaking, the most passionate arguers fall into two camps: the Attachment Parents and the Sleep Trainers. The Attachment Parents advocate a gentle attitude toward infant sleep, promoting co-sleeping, all-night nursing and no specific goals around getting babies to sleep through the night. They believe that allowing a child to cry alone in their crib constitutes a form of child abuse and may damage the baby’s attachment to their parents and other people. The Sleep Trainers on the other hand, believe that it’s a parent’s responsibility to help a child sleep through the night and that a few nights of crying are worth it in the long run, because they help a child learn to soothe herself back to sleep.

I am somewhat in the middle on this one. I identify with many of the tents of Attachment Parenting, but am not following a lot of its edicts (we are no longer nursing, and Daphne sleeps alone in her own crib). I can’t bear to let our baby cry for more than a minute or two, and I also know that because of her reflux issues, prolonged crying often leads to vomiting, which is traumatizing for everyone involved. But I have friends who have done some sleep training with their babies and have had some major success. They are all attentive, compassionate parents with babies who are clearly well bonded to them. I trust that they are making the best decisions for their families.

And let’s be honest here. Sleep deprivation sucks. Right now, I am finding it to be the most difficult part of being a parent. Our baby is a delight and now that she is so communicative, it’s easy to figure out what she needs. But she still wakes several times a night. Sometimes we are able to shush her over the two-way baby monitor (don’t knock it till you try it), sometimes she just needs a belly pat and some gentle words. But at least 2-3 times a night, she needs to eat. This is perfectly normal for a baby her age. Yes, we all know someone with a baby who can go 12 hours without sustenance or human contact, but this is the exception rather than the rule. I want to help our baby sleep better, not deny her food when she is hungry.

So we’re muddling through and each night is a new adventure. I generally go to bed a couple hours earlier than Caitlyn, so I can be “off the clock” and get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. But Daphne was a much better sleeper at three months than she is now (again, totally normal), and I am starting to suffer the long-term impact of months of sleep deprivation. This makes me disinclined to go to the gym  — and then the lack of exercise then makes me even more exhausted. It’s a vicious circle. It also doesn’t help that we are in the midst of one of the snowiest, coldest winters on record.  It requires Herculean effort to walk more than three blocks lately and the work involved in even getting out the door with a baby and all of the gear she requires sometimes does me in.

I know that the days (and nights) may be long, but the years are short. And in the dark, in my sleepy haze, it gives me great joy to know that when our baby cries out in the night, she wants her moms. That Caitlyn and I are the two humans she trusts to soothe her back to sleep and reassure her that she’s safe. So you’ll have to excuse me if I don’t notice the vomit traces on my jeans, fail to follow a simple conversation or forget to respond to your email. I’m tired. Happy beyond measure, but so very tired.