Friday, May 28, 2010

TV and Bon Bons

Sometimes people think that since I don't work, I stay at home watching TV, ignoring my kid. In fact, the other day my neighbor offered me some CDs of children’s songs in Spanish since Ely "doesn't have stimulation." (Awesome!)

I love being at home with her, but resent the implication that I ignore her all day. The reality of our lives is that we see someone, most of whom have children Ely can interact with, almost every day. It's good for my sanity and keeps Ely (gasp!) stimulated!

On a related note i.e. desire to brag (hey, it's a mother's right!): Yesterday, the neurologist was astounded by how social Ely is. Honestly, I am too! Neither R nor I are incredibly extroverted.

Last night, she slept horribly, had a slight fever and a runny nose. Since she doesn't have a single tooth, I'm thinking that might be our culprit. But, I’ve cried wolf a million times on teething and she’s seen a couple people with colds this week. So, we’ll see.

No matter the culprit, today we’re both exhausted and not feeling well. We're bundled up in our warmest, comfiest pajamas clothes, watching TV. I'm embarrassed to say that the viewing list has included nothing juvenile or remotely educational, but we’ve had plenty of Real Housewives of Orange County, Clean House, Bringing Home Baby, Sixteen and Pregnant. I can honestly say that today (when Ely is 10 months and 4 days old), is the first day I've "lived the dream". I’m not ignoring Ely, there’s lots of reading aloud and cuddling going on. When she gets wiggly, I put away the DVDs so she can do this again.

(yes, that's a purple shag rug! R picked it out when we bought the house, but I've come to love it!)

Now, excuse me, I'm going to go get my bon-bons- the afternoon soaps are starting! Stimulation resumes tomorrow (once that neighbor gets me that CD).

Monday, May 17, 2010

A family that sleeps together...

Blame it on the safe sleep recommendations of the 1980s, but I LOVE tummy sleeping. About the fourth month of pregnancy, tummy sleeping became rather uncomfortable. So, I settled for my back. Just as I was getting used to that, informed me that it was no longer safe to sleep on my back. I decided to heed the warning and resigned myself to side sleeping. (By the ninth month, there was an intricate system of pillows and cranes to get me into a comfortable side sleeping position.)

I was looking forward to going back to tummy sleeping after Ely was born, but alas, I was a nursing mother. I convinced myself stick it out until my supply regulated. By the time I could comfortably go back to my belly; Ely had established herself as a bad sleeper. (At 9.5 months, we’ve had approximately 4 nights of uninterrupted sleep!)

When we got back from the States in January, “we”, well I (R didn’t see the need quite yet), decided that it was time to move Ely upstairs into her own bedroom. So, I moved upstairs to the extra room for a while (and enjoyed lots of tummy sleeping!), while she adjusted.

The night of February 26th, Ely spent her first night alone upstairs. I felt tremendously successful (and nervous) after almost two months of getting her comfortable in the room that we had painstakingly prepared for her while I was pregnant. That night, she woke up at 3:20 and I trudged upstairs to nurse, bummed that she hadn’t made it through the night. Fourteen minutes later, the earth shook. (I thank God that she woke up when she did and that I was upstairs with her.)

As you can imagine, Ely moved back downstairs (since I wasn’t going upstairs!) to her Pack n Play. With the crazy nighttime temblors that continued for weeks, even that proved to be too far away from us. And so, she slept in the middle. There she remains months after the earthquake.

Each night, she is put to bed in her Pack n Play. At her first waking, she moves into the middle. On nights that she doesn’t wake up, both R and I find it hard to fall asleep not because we’re scared of temblors, rather because we LOVE sleeping with her. R especially likes it since he often leaves for work before she wakes up and comes home after she’s in bed. It’s a special time for them to snuggle and reconnect.

R has always been open to the idea of bed sharing on the premise that there are many people in this country and around the world who cannot afford a crib. (I haven’t seen any studies, but I think it’s safe to assume that those children don’t grow up to be overly dependent or psychopaths just because they snuggled their parents at night.) I, on the other hand, was worried that it would be detrimental to our marriage. It took the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced to open me up to the idea. Looking back, I wish we’d started earlier.

R was right; sharing our bed with Ely has not taken a toll on our marriage. If anything it has made us feel like more of a parenting “team”. We love to snuggle our sweet baby between us. Also, since she is such a lousy sleeper, we get much better sleep than we would otherwise. Now, when she wakes up to nurse, I can just roll over and take care of business. I don’t even have to really wake up.

The only drawback to bed sharing is… you guessed it: no tummy sleeping! The three of us share a queen sized bed and since our little munchkin sleeps like she’s being crucified, that puts both R and I on our sides. But, in the scheme of things, that’s okay with us.

You know that Faith Hill song that goes, "It's not right. It's not fair. What you're missing over there"? Last night, I was the last to fall asleep. R and Ely were snuggled together. The words to that song popped into my head. I wished R could feel how very much I loved them at that moment. Watching the two people you love most in the world snuggled together, blissfully unaware that you're watching them sleep brings indescribable warmth to one's heart.

Thank you, earthquake, for helping me get over myself and relish these precious moments, even if it means I can’t sleep on my tummy.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Another one bites the dust

Before becoming parents, everyone has a list of "I will never..."s. Here are just a couple samples (and status updates) from my list.

I will never bed share. (I'm working on a post about this.)

I will never be part of a mommy group. (Part of at least two and I love them!)

I will never nurse a baby who can walk. (Who knew my kid would start walking at 9 months!??!?!)

I will never let my kid lick gross things (At the supermarket on Tuesday, she was really quiet and well-behaved. By the time I realized what she was doing -sucking every. little. crevice of the shopping cart clean-, I figured she'd already sucked the germs off!)

I will never give my baby unhealthy snacks. (Thank you Gerber Puffs aka sugary snacks. They keep her happy while we finish our meal in peace!)

I will never sit my kid in front of TV just so I can take a break. (read on...)

Last night, our inconsiderate lovely neighbor turned our WHOLE house into a discotheque, light show and all. I’ve lived in Latin America for six years now and have come to tolerate what my mother refers to as “Friday night in Latin America” fairly well. So, believe me when I tell you that this was over. the. top. We’re not talking about a little bass or even the 3 AM karaoke we’re blessed with from time to time.

R and I could have invited 50 of our closest friends over to have a dance party in our bedroom and it would have been a rockin’ good time, but alas, we have a 9 month old. So, instead of being an excuse to stay up and act like fools (which we like to do), we were anxious to go to bed so we could deal with said 9 month old when she woke up at 7, which she was bound to do.

After three hours, two white noise machines, the bathroom fan, ear plugs, and everything else that might drown it out a little bit, plus a couple calls to the paz ciudadana (yes, I am THAT old neighbor raining on the parade), we were still grooving to every word of the reggaeton they had going on over there. After entertaining thoughts of garden hoses accidentally watering their speakers, early morning megaphones and extended lawn mowing starting at 7AM, I decided it was more mature and neighborly to get dressed and go to talk to them (REALLY nicely). I held back everything I wanted to say and literally begged them to turn it down. Finally, after pulling out the “Golden Rule” and promising them that if the situation were reversed, I would cede their request without a second thought, they agreed to turn it down.

Oh.sweet. sleep. until Ely was ready to start the day. Trudge, trudge through our morning routine. I could barely keep my eyes open. I was desperate for ANYTHING that required minimal maernal participation to keep her entertained. Enter: Baby Crack TV! Ely has seen a soccer game or two and more daytime soaps than I care to know about (at 'buela's). But, I have never been the lazy/guilty one, until this morning!

I picked up the paper that I’d been meaning to read, sat her on my lap, turned it on and she sat. Silent. Content. Enthrawled. (I have to admit, the drawing part is pretty cool!) Ialmost felt guilty for subjecting her to the mind-numbing, trance-inducing crack, but then it started.

Anyone recognize these guys?

These two harmless, hamburger-looking goobs are called Booby and Booba. That’s right. Not Bobby, Booby. The script went something like “Hola, Booby, ¿Como estás? Blah blah blah” followed by Booba’s hunt for Booby, during which he calls out “Boooooooby? Booooooby?” Maybe it was being overtired or maybe just immaturity, but I giggled to myself every single time.

Next up, a vocabulary program that used words that I remember from Spanish class, but have NEVER heard in Chile. I couldn’t help but think about what a riot it will be to hear Ely using those words with her grandparents, who will undoubtedly mistake them for English.

So, I’ll try to limit her exposure, but Baby TV’s cool drawing skits, semi-pornographic character names and random vocabulary have won my heart.

I'm beginning to think that my list of "I will never..."s should really just be treated as a list of prophecies that I am eventually destined to fulfill. Thinking of it this way will save me mental anguish as I systematically violate all of my own rules.

The new motto is: “Everything in moderation.” But don’t worry Dad! I remember the lessons of the 7th grade SnoopDogg incident: “As her parent, I have a responsibility to be the gate-keeper of her mind until she is mature enough to make her own decisions.” And “Garbage in. Garbage out.”

Thursday, May 13, 2010

"Visit your Pediatrician", starring SCP and ¿Nestlé?

For those that read Spanish:

For those that don't:

This is an announcement for a campaign called "Visit your Pediatrician" co-sponsored by the Chilean Pediatric Society and Nestlé.

Everyone should seek health care for their child. We can all agree on that. The part that has my blood boiling is that the Chilean Pediatrics Society is co-sponsoring this campaign with NESTLÉ and the insinuations in the text that Nestlé (and its formulas) are a benevolent presence in the field of pediatrics.

Let’s step back to understand the context: This is a country where the C-section rate is around 70% (purportedly the world's 2nd highest after Afghanistan). Women are contiually misled by medical professionals about their ability to nurse: They are told that they don’t have enough milk, their milk is too thin and doesn’t satisfy the babies hunger.

Side note and True Story: I met a woman this week whose doctor asked her for a sample of her milk (at Clinica Indisa for those who care) to see whether or not it was “good” (WTF did he do? Taste it??)

I am pro-breastfeeding. It’s true. But, I am even more pro-mother. Some moms just don’t want to nurse and I respect that. I believe very strongly that the vast majority of mothers are capable of making the best decision for their families. I just want to know that mothers are being given the chance to make the choice independently of Nestlé´s influence or the perks the pediatrician receives for perscribing a certain brand of formula.

I am fed up with doctors who lead women to needlessly doubt their own bodies. I’ve talked to many new moms and the story is the same, with hardly any exceptions: New moms are instructed to nurse their baby every 3 hours for 10/15/20 minutes on each side. Sometimes, that just doesn’t cut it for their baby. Baby cries for more. Mom sticks to the doctor’s instructions because they’re the expert, right? Baby doesn’t gain enough weight by the next check up and mom is told she needs to supplement. Most women report bawling and feeling like failures at this point.

Of all the women I’ve talked to who were told to supplement, not one doctor recommended cue feeding. Not a single one asked to observe a nursing session to make sure the latch was good, or that the baby was even swallowing. NOT ONE! Why? Because the vast majority of pediatricians have no idea what to look for!

Pediatricians in Chile can tell you anything you might desire to know about formula-feeding (thank you Nestlé reps and training sessions!), but they are practically clueless when it comes to nursing. There are two ways to feed a baby, just as there are two ways to give birth. Would OBGyns be allowed to specialize incesarean delivery, ignoring vaginal birthing techniques? Why then, are pediatricians allowed to remain ignorant in what is, arguably, the more "medical" way of feeding a baby?

If pediatricians believed in woman’s natural ability to nourish her child and educated themselves accordingly, Nestlé’s profits would suffer. Instead of allowing that, Nestlé holds conferences and webinars, makes office visits, and gives out perks and free samples. The underlying message seems to be “Mother´s milk is best blah, blah, blah, but you can’t trust her body to REALLY do the job. So, when she fails, try this…”

I don’t blame Nestlé. They are a food company and as such, their mission is to turn a profit. I do, however, find tremendous fault with the Chilean Pediatrics Society whose mission is “… to encourage, care for, and recover the health of children…”, as they´ve teamed up with and allowed themselves to be influenced by a multi-national with a blatant conflict of interest; thereby forgoing their own education in nature’s way of sustaining a baby.

Now, please hear me when I say this: I’m not against supplementing if it’s the mother’s choice or if it is truly medically necessary. I am, however, staunchly opposed to: doctors who fail their patients (or make their patients feel like failures) by not actively seeking the information necessary to effectively support breastfeeding mothers; advertising campaigns that paint Nestlé as a benevolent presence in the world of healthcare; and Nestlé having any ties to my pediatrician’s education, income or professional associations.

Nestlé: Please continue making food. Please step away from my pediatrician.

Chilean Society of Pediatrics: What are you thinking? How has your vision become so clouded that you, as a group, accept a multi-national FOOD company as a co-sponsor in a health campaign?

Oh, and thanks for the miniscule letters at the bottom of some of campaign’s posters reminding us that breast milk is, actually a perfectly fine (and by that I mean perfect) food for our children.

...and this is the seed of the next project, I think. Although, this one will take alot longer than 80 weeks!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Reflections for Mother's Day

When I was thirteen, my mom asked me, “Would you rather have a mom like me or a mom like X?” X was a permissive and borderline neglectful mother and my mom was trying to prove a point. But, it backfired. My immediate answer was, “X!”

Imagine the indignities I suffered with parents who cared: I wasn’t allowed to go to the mall unchaperoned; my parents insisted on talking to a parent when I was spending the night. It wasn’t the norm. So, through my thirteen year old lens, my mom cared way too much! She was SO embarrassing and overprotective, to boot!

My mother has never been one to take the easy way out or to be satisfied with mediocrity. She does her best. Motherhood was no exception. Sometimes I demanded more than she had to give. Still, she hung in there. My mom may not be perfect, but she was the perfect mom for me. She was just what I needed and love abounded.

In the same way, I’m convinced that Ely was hand-crafted to be our daughter and to transform us from a couple to a family. She stole our hearts and began teaching us about ourselves on the day she was born. She has redefined who we are individually and a couple.

Recently, R and I were talking about bed-sharing. For conversation’s sake, I asked him if he’d be okay with bed-sharing if Ely were a boy. His response: “I don’t know, but I think your bond would be different if Ely were a boy.” My response: “I think my bond would be different with any baby that weren’t Ely.”

I’ve been incredibly blessed with a mother who took her job seriously and a daughter who seems custom designed for our family. That leaves me smack in the middle with profound gratitude to my mother and great responsibility to my daughter. Such a position demands action. It demands that I pay special attention to my choices in mothering and that I work to get to know my daughter and what she needs.

So, on this, my first Mother’s Day, I’m reminded of the lesson my mother taught me by example: When it comes to life and motherhood, perfection is NOT the goal, but nothing less than your best is acceptable. What Ely needs to know is that, no matter what, she is the perfect daughter for us. I can promise her only one thing: I won’t be perfect, but I’ll try my hardest to be the mom she needs. If she’s anything like me, that will necessarily mean that at some point, she will be anxious to trade me in for a less embarrassing, less concerned model.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Collectivists (on all things baby)

Even after six years in Chile, I'm subject to the same “meeting a new Chilean” questions. Most of the askers, never having been expats, don't realize how tedious it can be start nearly all conversations with a new Chilean in the same way:

¿Cuanto tiempo en Chile? (How long have you been in Chile?)

This one is harmless, but I wince with anticipation of the tiresome interview to follow.

¿Que tal el castellano? (How's your Spanish?)

I have to resist the urge to point out that as the native Spanish speaker; the asker is clearly in a better position to judge this. So, I reply with something humble and let them draw their own conclusion.

¿Te acostumbraste? (Are you comfortable here?/ Are you used to things here?)

This one gets me. I've provided my best translation here, but I'm never exactly sure what they’re getting at. I don’t know if they want me to tell them that I am, indeed, happy here or if they want me to comment on the things that still seem foreign to me.

I usually point out that Chile is my adopted country. If I weren't happy here/comfortable/used to it, I would have gone home long ago. This usually leads to a conversation about why I like Chile, which I don't mind at all.

¿No hechas de menos a tu familia? (Don't you miss your family?)

This one’s the kicker. I mean, is the sky blue? I miss my friends and family dearly. Everyone is usually relieved to hear that I’m not a family-hating sociopath, my parents are planning to retire here (part-time) and Elisa and I Skype with them almost daily.

In a nut shell, that is the “meeting a new Chilean” conversation. The questions are predictable and mind-numbing, but I go with the flow because no matter how mundane the conversation is to me, it’s new for the person on the other end. They’re showing a genuine interest in me and I appreciate that.

Every once in a while, though, I get someone who wants to talk cultural differences. It’s invariably someone whose knowledge of the US is limited to a distant cousins' two week trip or a TV program. So, the questions, rather statements that I'm expected to agree with, go something like:

People in the US eat junk food all the time.
Families are closer here in Chile.
Americans push their kids out of the house at 16.
Chileans speak Spanish poorly.
Chileans are not to be trusted.
Chileans are collectivists.

I object to all of the above. Sometimes, I attempt to demonstrate the inaccuracy of such statements. Sometimes, I nod, smile and resist the urge to roll my eyes. I have to admit, though, when it comes to babies, the last statement is pretty accurate.

I started noticing the differences when I was pregnant. I was astounded by variety of people who felt entitled to touch my belly: male co-workers, people on the subway, a restaurant security guard, an elderly woman at a health clinic! Everywhere I went, someone went for the belly. I was always taken aback and developed some strategies to defend myself and my belly, but that is another post.

Once Ely was out of my belly, I expected the touching to subside. It did not. She is regularly caressed by retail workers, fellow shoppers, parking attendants, you name it. As a brand new mom, with a brand new baby in the middle of flu season, this was somewhat irksome. (Although I’ve since grown used to it and silently thank them for building up her immune system with every cuddle.)

So many people taking, what I saw as unjustified, liberties with the bump and the baby made me uncomfortable, even angry. It wasn't until I took Ely to the US that I realized that in Chile, people also took responsibility for my well-being (while with bump) and the baby's.

In the US with a four month old, I felt invisible. Few looked. No one touched. Few held doors. Many cut me off. The airport was an exercise in balance and strength as I struggled to collapse the stroller while holding an infant as TSA watched.

While I was pregnant in Chile, I enjoyed special parking, was always offered a seat in waiting rooms and got line-jumping privileges at supermarkets and other insufferable places.

Even now with a nine month old, someone always offers to help me navigate steps with the stroller. At restaurants, waiters look for the warmest, coziest spot for our little munchkin. Parking attendants offer to help me get the baby in the car and fold up the stroller. A restaurant owner recently offered to take Ely into another room so R and I could enjoy our meal (we declined)... and I still get to jump lines at insufferable places on a regular basis.

Since the day she was born, I’ve been told regularly that Ely is desabrigada (not dressed warmly enough). I used to take offense but, I've come to realize that voicing concern that a baby may be cold is a way of showing affection. Now, when my mother-in-law or any random lady tells me that Ely's desabrigada, I produce another item of clothing and bundle her a little bit more, thereby acknowledging the other person's love and concern for my daughter.

I’ve come to realize that babies are community property here from the time they’re in the womb. People show concern for their well-being by helping make moms more comfortable and offering advice. Friends and acquaintances swarm hospital rooms when new babies arrive. The government, and thereby the people, pay for a total of 18 weeks of maternity leave. Men and women alike coo at and take interest in babies.

So, while the desabrigada comment and its cousin "Why didn't you pierce your daughter's ears?" are as played-out as the "meeting a new Chilean" conversation, I smile and remind myself that people are just showing an interest in my daughter. When it comes to babies, Chileans ARE collectivists, and for that I am grateful. It takes a village...