Category Archives: parenting

Best Decisions – Midwives

When I found out I was pregnant, I originally booked an appointment with my family practitioner, but quickly changed my mind and instead decided to go with the midwife group at the local hospital. I liked the idea of working with people who specialized in pregnancy and birth, and didn’t consider it just another small facet of the overall knowledge base they are expected to maintain. They also hold the philosophy that birth is a natural event and not a medical emergency, a different approach from your average doctor.

The Certified Nurse Midwife group at our local hospital is made up of several women that see appointments and handle deliveries. (There are many kinds of midwives. CNMs attain graduate degrees, are licensed as RNs, and receive advanced study in obstetrics and gynaecology.) Patients see each of the midwives, so you are comfortable with whoever is on call at the time of your delivery. The midwives spent a lot of time with us at our appointments, well more than the average OB. Our first appointment (for both spouse and I) lasted an hour! They provided an 800 number we could call with questions or concerns, day or night. They took a natural, holistic approach to the pregnancy and provided information on things like nutrition, exercise, and medicines.

When it comes to the actual birth, they have a little leeway with hospital regulations, and are likely the best option for those wanting a birth with minimal interventions. When I was in labor, the let us do what we wanted to do, but also supported us with suggestions on positions and tips to make pushing more effective. They helped me have a natural birth, drug free birth with no interventions and no tearing!

I should note that while we chose to go the midwife/hospital route, others may desire a homebirth. This really wasn’t a consideration for me as a first time mom going in with little knowledge of my options. However, if I were to do it all again, I’d consider it. There’s something to be said for giving birth in the comfort of your own home, secure in your surroundings.

In summary, I felt I was in really good hands with the midwives and would highly suggest them to anyone. In other countries midwives attend nearly all births, and I’m always surprised when people around here aren’t even aware of the option.

Best Decisions – An Introduction

Now that our son is getting a bit older, I’ve been thinking a lot about the parenting decisions we’ve made to date. Many of the issues that we agonized over pre-baby, or in the early days after his arrival, are now old hat or no longer relevant.  Still others have laid the foundation for the fantastic experiences that we have with our son every day.

In the coming weeks, I’m going to post about some of the major decisions we’ve made, how and why we came to those decisions. By documenting my thought process I’m hoping to help inform others and also capture what I’m thinking at this stage in my life. It may seem a bit premature to be judging our experiences after a mere two years of parenthood, but I want to get this stuff down while it is still fresh in my mind. I’ve already largely forgotten much of my pregnancy and some of the early days!

It may also be a bit pretentious of me to think others will care what I think. However I believe that people take many factors into consideration when forming their opinions, including the convictions of those they know or that are their peers. Hopefully my observations will add to the collective knowledge built as they research, as well as give any family members reading a peek into the rationale behind my parenting actions.

Finally, I realize these may not always be the same choices others make (often times they seem not to be the norm), but I am confident that we have made the best decisions possible for our family. I am neither looking to argue nor dictate others do what we do.

Why dolphins?

From the Canadian news this week, we get a story about some men risking life and limb to free dolphins that had been trapped in ice.  On the surface, this is a heartwarming story and the men should be commended for their bravery. It also made for an interesting juxtaposition to the seal hunting that is just getting ready to commence in Newfoundland.

But there is something about it that puzzles me. These men were fishermen by trade. They regularly kill and harvest animals for a living. They have no qualms about hauling in fish with nets and hooks day after day. So what is it that made them want to help the dolphins?

Several news reports mentioned that the dolphins were crying, that the sound is one thing that drove villagers to action. So is it this human-like emotion that saved the dolphins? I hear others talk about how dogs and cats are different from animals slaughtered for food because they show personality and affection, so maybe it’s a similar sentiment?

Is it their perceived intelligence? If so, then why doesn’t this caring extend to other animals that are similarly smart and show signs of human behaviour, like pigs? It’s one thing that I find so disingenuous, this caring for animals on one hand, while killing them with the other.

I’m not going to knock people that help animals. Anything done to spare the suffering of a living being is a good thing. I just struggle to understand this perspective and realize that one day soon our son may be asking questions on this topic that I’m unprepared to answer.

Vegan potluck!

We’ve RSVP’ed to attend a vegan Thanksgiving potluck, to be held the evening before the holiday. I’m quite excited about it, and know the gourmet in our family is already agonizing about what to bring that will best show off his amazing cooking skills. Since going vegan, we’ve never been to an event outside our house where we’ll be able to eat anything served.

Despite the fact that neither of us are big social butterflies, we’re putting ourselves out there for this in part to integrate ourselves into the local veg scene. The organizer has promised they drew other families with kids last year, so I think we will fit in OK.

I’m sure at his young age our babe doesn’t notice or care that what he’s eating is not exactly what everyone else is having, but as he grows I am predicting this will change. From reading messages on veg parenting lists, it seems many kids get to a point where they don’t want to be the oddball out. I am thinking that it will help if he can see as he grows that there are others that eat the way we do.

Not that we need to have the approval of others, but there’s something about being around like minded individuals to enliven the spirit and reinforce commitment to decisions. Even when your choices are different from 95% of the population, you at least know the remaining 5% are with you. (Or at least pretending to be, wonder if the FBI will be there? 😛 )

Hopefully the evening goes well. If so, we look forward to attending additional events like this in future. As the babe grows, perhaps he’ll come to develop friendships with some of the other kids. And if not, at least the event shows there are others out there that follow the compassionate eating model that we do. Plus, it may give us some fabulous suggestions to freshen up our menus.

Free Cookie? No thanks.

“Thanks to the recent purchase(s) you made in Baby, you are eligible to receive a 2-year subscription to Cookie, a $15.00 value, included with your purchase. … What’s the catch? None. We’re happy to provide our customers with the benefits of partnering with a top magazine publisher. There is no charge for this offer, and there is no automatic renewal.”

When I got this email offer from Amazon, I decided to look a little further to see if it would be worth pursuing. I turned to Google to find the Cookie magazine web site, and one of the first things I saw was a large piece interviewing Amanda Peet on the topic of vaccinations. If that wasn’t enough to turn me away on the spot* browsing through the articles on the site left me certain that Cookie was not a magazine for me.

Topics such as how to create a themed birthday soiree for your two year old, celebrity parent profiles, and gift ideas that include $250 ride on toys and $300 rockers are not my cup of tea. The few articles they have that I’d consider reading, such as the one on which produce to buy organic, were short with content largely borrowed. My guess is that they are included primarily to capitalize on the “green” hype.

Why is it that the only magazines given away aren’t worth reading? If new and expectant parents could receive free copies of Mothering or Kiwi Magazine instead of Parenting and Cookie, I think we’d see an upswing in the number making holistic choices.


*Amanda Peet is an industry shill, brought to the forefront of the vaccine debate to counter the popularity surrounding Jenny McCarthy. She is close with Paul Offit, advises vaccinating on the full schedule on time with no exceptions, and considers any other option a public safety risk.

Word choice

When I was a counselor in training for a summer camp, the leader instructed us to be careful with our choice of words when talking to the kids. She said that if you overused words when asking them to do something, they’d lose their urgency and not be effective when you really needed them to be.

For instance, we were counseled not to tell the kids they need to hurry up, but rather to ask them if they would please. In example, they need to step away from that cliff immediately. They do not really need to pick up their clothes, but wouldn’t it sure be nice/helpful/easier if they did? Use need only when action is truly important, and it will be that much more effective when employed. Same thing goes for have to. Have takes away the choice and implies necessity.

Similarly, I learned the difference between using could/can and would. For instance in most scenarios, I try not to ask, can you help me with this task? Can enquires into the ability of the person to do said task. Would asks if they would be willing. Subtle difference. Most people probably do not consciously notice when one is used over the other. I still try to follow this advice in my conversations both at work or home, especially when dealing with my husband and son. Once I got used to speaking in this fashion, it came naturally.

I subscribe to a parenting list that sends out an inspirational message each day called The Daily Groove. A recent message spoke on a similar subject, using the words always and never to describe your child’s behavior.

“The power of these words is in their ability to finalize — to make something seem “written in stone” — and to establish a strong expectation. For example: He always throws a tantrum when we leave.”

Does he truly do it every single time? Most likely, no. It continues:

“Remember, you tend to get what you expect, so when you hear yourself say such things, rephrase them using softer words that leave open the possibility of improvement: Sometimes he throws a tantrum when we leave. (Maybe this time he’ll be fine.) “

There are similar entries archived under the category Word Watch, for don’t, should/shouldn’t, my and because. Don’t tends to get ignored. Should implies obligation. My emphasizes scarcity and connotes possessiveness, sometimes unintended, and because is a justification that gives power to an external condition. All make a strong case for paying attention to choice of words, especially when dealing with kids.

As I try to be more mindful in all my daily actions, word choice is just another thing thrown in the mix. However, I pay attention to this because I choose to, not because I need to or have to, but because I want to.

Safest place to birth? Your choice.

The American Medical Association has introduced a resolution decrying home births and is now out to “develop model legislation in support of the concept that the safest setting for labor, delivery, and the immediate post-partum period is in the hospital, or a birthing center within a hospital complex…”.

The natural living community is rightly up at arms in pointing out potential legislation to this effect is contrary to scientific evidence and would be an egregious violation of women’s civil rights. A petition to keep home birth legal was created and has subsequently garnered over 10,000 signatures.

I did not have, nor did I want, a homebirth, but still find this outrageous. Studies have shown that homebirths are as safe as hospital births. Birth is not an illness, it is a natural and normal process, and in most cases doesn’t have to be a medical event. In other countries, including many with better birth outcomes than our own, midwives attend births at home on a regular basis. In addition, some people give birth unattended. There is little scientific evidence to suggest the hospital is the ideal location for birth, and in fact there is evidence to suggest otherwise!

More than likely this comes down to the AMA attempting to protect their interests rather than consider the best outcome for the patients. Why is the medical community so opposed to anything that doesn’t fit their model?

Just as they do not have control over where and how we reproduce, our government should not have control over birthing options. The decision of where to birth is a choice best left to the parents-to-be, ideally made with the full support of their doctor or midwife.

Sunscreen and Vitamin D

With summer weather finally here our babe has been playing outdoors a lot more. His fair skin and strawberry blonde hair, combined with his recent reluctance to wear a hat, have left me wondering how to best protect him from sunburn. In past, my first thought would have been to slather him up with sunscreen (as I’ve done myself for years), however I was recently surprised to learn that this may not be the best course of action. While sunscreen helps prevent sunburn, evidence suggests it may also harm to the body. In addition, there may be reason for me to allow him to get some sun!

The Environmental Working Group provides a resource called the Skin Deep cosmetics database where you can look up the ingredients and toxicity of your skin care products, makeup, bug spray, etc. The results are helpful and overwhelming at the same time. A look at the sunscreens category begins to clue you in to the potential dangers. The average sunscreen, even the baby specific formulations, may contain parabens, aluminum, avobenzone, artificial colors and fragrance, silica, formaldehyde and many other known carcinogens!

A search for a safer sunscreen does produce results, but even these may still contain ingredients such as “micronized titanium dioxide”. So what’s the problem there? Micronization is the process of reducing the size of solid particles, often down to nanometer size. This helps make the sunscreen more transparent and effective (more easily absorbed by the skin), but at the same time these nano-particles are unpredictable and can enter the bloodstream, even get lodged in the brain! The FDA is still in the process of conducting basic safety studies on nano-scale ingredients, and currently does not require manufactures to label their products or otherwise alert consumers to their use.

In conjunction with my research into sunscreen, I’ve learned that there may be a good reason to let the babe take in a fair bit of unprotected sun each day — sunshine is the best source for essential Vitamin D. Vitamin D confers many health benefits, and sunscreen blocks your body from taking it in at sufficient levels.

I’ve read that some dermatologists consider, “sun exposure without sunblock as analogous to promiscuous sex without condoms”, however recent medical studies have shown the Vitamin D from sunshine helps prevent some cancers that are generally seen as more dangerous than skin cancer. It appears to have a role in fighting infection and in preventing immune-system diseases as multiple sclerosis. Most recently, evidence suggests it prevents heart attacks!! It helps build strong bones and teeth, and may also play a part in battling neurological disorders and chronic diseases.

An article in this week’s Washington Post suggested up to 40% of infants and and toddlers are at risk for Vitamin D deficiency, and especially those that are breastfed (formula contains a supplement). The same goes for lactating moms, those that work indoors, and people who don’t regularly get a lot of Vitamin D in their diet. That makes me think that our entire family could use the supplementation!

So, do the “bad” ingredients in sunscreen make it more of a risk than the sunburn it’s designed to prevent? Does the potential for cancer avoidance outweigh the increased chance for skin cancer? Would we be better off to up our levels via sun exposure or via pills/potions?

I’m not ready to let the boy bake in the sun yet, so at this point I’m leaning towards the following strategy:

  • Keep out of the strong, middle-of-the-day sun.
  • Cover up or stay in the shade if possible.
  • Keep trying to get him to wear the hat and sunglasses.
  • Pursue a “safe” sunscreen and use it only when we have to be out in sun for prolonged period of time. (I’m leaning towards this one.)
  • Don’t worry about letting him have some sun exposure, just try to keep it reasonable.

A common sense and not overreactive approach, I think. I’m also going to get him a multivitamin that includes Vitamin D (the vegan D2 from plant sources), among other beneficial things, something I’ve been meaning to do for awhile now.

Breastfeeding during times of disaster

Two stories to come out of the China quake disaster- one happy, one tragic, but both showing the power of breastfeeding during times of natural disaster. It’s not something I thought about when choosing how to feed our babe, but it goes to show there’s yet another benefit to having an always available source of food for your child that requires no preparation or supplies.

My eyes well up at the thought of the final moment between mother and babe, and my utmost admiration goes to the cop. She is truly a hero in my book and I like to think I’d do the same if ever needed.

For the moms

I wrote the most fantastic post, one of the most emotive things I’ve written in a long time, and then it was spirited away as my laptop mysteriously shut off. This post seems downright clinical in comparison, but I felt it was an important enough topic to try again.


I had never really thought much about how milk production worked until I was pregnant and nearing time to breastfeed. Now that I’ve been at it for over a year, I understand a bit more about how it all happens. Still, until recently I hadn’t considered the similarities between human production and that of dairy cows.

A campaign from Viva! called Mothers Want Their Babies Back!, timed to coincide with Mother’s Day in the UK, captured my attention. In addition to the research I’d already done on dairy consumption, this prompted me to take another look at the milk industry from a lactating mom’s point of view.

In order to produce milk, a cow must go through a full pregnancy and birth her child just as a human mother would. To capture the milk for human consumption, the calf is taken away from the mother within hours of delivery. By that point the mother’s bond with her baby is already strong, and just as any mother would be she is devastated when it is taken away. (Little does she know that more cruelty is right around the corner for the babe as the male calves are either killed straightaway or raised as veal, a short but torturous existence, and the females kept for future milk production.)

Since mother and babe have been separated, production must be maintained via pumping several times a day. This doesn’t take place in a cushy corporate mother’s room, but instead in a shed crowded alongside other “working moms” that may never see the light of day. To make sure she has a strong supply, the cow will likely be given a galactagogue. Instead of the oatmeal or fenugreek you or I might use, she’s given something like BGH instead.

To increase profitability, the mother cow is pushed to oversupply, often to the point her udders sag so low they drag on the ground. Plugged ducts and mastitis occur as in humans, but on a more frequent basis due to the filthy conditions — a very painful ordeal often treated with antibiotics but meaning a death sentence for some cows.

Since the milk producing period is only meant to last as long as the baby needs it to grow, each year the cow will be artificially impregnated. This viscious cycle repeats until her supply dips to the point where she’s no longer profitable. Long before her life would naturally end, sometimes pregnant, she’s slaughtered. (As seen in recent news, even this doesn’t always mean quick relief from a miserable existence.)

The cruelty in the dairy enterprise is astounding and I can no longer play a part. I have decided to permanently adopt the near vegan diet I’ve assumed since we found out pur babe was sensitive to cow’s milk. Not only will it be good for my health and the environment, I’d like to do it for the moms.