Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Rant: "Birth Rape"

I need to preface this post with two things that are vital to understanding where my frustration comes from.

Number one:  I am a survivor of "traditional" Rape.  As in, the violent sexual crime that left me with PTSD, a fear of the dark, a lifetime worry of dormant viral infection, and other sundry scarring, both physical and emotional.

Number two:  I am also a survivor of Birth Assault, albeit a "minor" offense.

So, here we go.

I LOATHE the term "Birth Rape".  Birth Assault is a crime.  Rape is a crime.  But they are NOT the same thing.

I also loathe the careless manner in which this horrible misnomer is tossed around.

An online acquaintance of mine, Melissa, summed my exact feelings up in a well-written and succinct manner when she said "The term itself does a disservice to women who've experienced damaging childbirth and women who've been sexually assaulted. Though I understand that both acts include violation and can cause physical and mental trauma that is somewhat similar (vaginal damage, ptsd, etc...) the fact is that they are not the same. Rape is far too loaded a word to use in any other situation, even one as serious as this."

If advocates for birthing mothers want more public support (especially from fellow women and those who still believe medical professionals can do no wrong), they need to change the language they use.

I have to say though, I don't think these women just tacked 'rape' on because they wanted to be extra offensive or dramatic. I thik many of them feel so violated physically that they closely associate it with rape. Women are held down, mutilated, have hands and instruments shoved up them without consent. This is a crime and somewhat sexual in nature. I don't feel any anger towards people for classifying it as something close to rape. I just don't think it helps the cause and I don't think it's factually accurate."

I understand the need to put a name on the crime and to speak out against it; I would never in any way minimize the suffering and trauma other women have gone through.  I've gone through it, myself.  With my first child, my membranes were stripped without my consent and knowledge, causing heavy spotting and 12 hours of panic while I desperately tried to reach a clinician or nurse on the weekend.  Additionally, my placenta was violently tractioned, causing a severe post-partum hemorrhage and excruciating pain.  These assaults are as real as a beating, a stabbing, a shooting.  There is NO denying that.

There is, however (in my mind at least,) one very very very important difference:  After most Birth Assaults, you go home with the child you've grown to love for ~40 weeks, whose presence is soothing and healing and can take you on your way to recovering from the atrocities that may have occurred.  The child who's physical touch encourages the production of the endorphins and other hormones that work physiologically to help you cope with it.

In a "traditional" Rape, there is NO take home prize, if you will.  There is nothing that softens the blow, nothing to help the process of healing.  The pain remains raw, and unmitigated by anyone and anything.

I know that I'm just one woman, but sometimes the urging of one woman is all it takes.  Let's continue to bring this sad and frighteningly prevalent epidemic of birth violence to light, but afford the survivors of it and the survivors of "traditional" rape the dignity of assigning it a name of it's own.

Friday, January 22, 2010

A public service announcement.

While the bulk of my posts will concern parenting and children directly, there will be the occasional post that is less specifically focused.  Rather, some of these posts will pertain to a larger focus group:  Everyone.

I wrote this a while back, but the information and the sentiment has not changed.  Please, read it.  Take it to heart.  Talk to your children, show it to friends, do more research, and keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

With HIV/AIDS awareness having been swept under the rug in our country, the epidemic is once again on the rise.  My child will NOT be blindfolded to the reality of this disease.

It is not a discriminatory disease.  It doesn't care if you're young or old, black, white, purple, pink, green, blue, transgendered, gay, bisexual, straight, pansexual, asexual... it's ruthless in it's determination to simply infect.

That is what makes it so unique and the search for a cure so desperate and bleak in regards to when we'll find it.

To put it very, very, very simply:  When you vaccinate against a virus, you're introducing into the body a killed or dormant form of the virus so that the body can make antibodies.  What people who don't go beyond basic biology don't usually know, though, is that it's not the RNA of the virus - essentially, not the virus itself - that we make antibodies against.  It's the protein coat that protects the RNA - the virus's winter coat.

The HIV virus is adept at changing its protein coat.  The virus is in a constant form of mutation.  Often, multiple strains of the virus can be found in the body at one time.

HIV's ability to change is FIVE TIMES GREATER than that of the varying viruses in the Influenza family.  FIVE TIMES.  Influenza was previously the record holder for antigenic shift rate.  Seriously, though.  Consider the fact that semi-annual to annual re-vaccination for influenza is recommended, and even then only up to approximately 75% effective.

Are you thinking, yet?  Has it hit you?

Scratch all of my bullshit wish list requests for this year.

What I want from every one of you - anyone I call a friend, no matter how loosely I use the term - is for you to become involved.

I don't necessarily mean involved as in volunteering in your community or donating to a global fund, though that would be great if you're feeling so inclined.  I mean involved in that you inform yourself.

I will be happy if you do nothing more than arm yourself with information and use it to protect yourself and the people you love.

Parents, research it as much as you do proper nutrition for your child,  Ladies, be as familiar with it as you are with breast cancer and cervical cancer.  Men, it means the livelihood of your penis, for god's sake!  *grins*

Don't tell me you'll never be in a situation where you could contract HIV.  Condoms break.  Partners cheat.  Sexual assaults occur.  The eradication of blood-born pathogens is not ALWAYS complete when it comes to donor blood and organs, though recent statistics for blood are something like 27 infected transfusions per 12 million.  Bus crashes where the person spurting blood all over you is infected.  Needle sticks (though, I shouldn't have to tell my medical profession friends ANYTHING about this, now should I?  You've all been informed about your right to prophylactic treatment if you find yourself in a high-risk situation, correct?  If you haven't, FIND OUT!)

Hell, I once watched a waitress mop up the blood off of a table from a patron's nosebleed, using nothing more than a damp rag.  No bleach, no sanitizer, nothing.  (She got a VERY stern lecture, escorted by me back to the ladies room to wash her hands thoroughly, bleach poured over the rag, and her manager tiraded at as well.  I'm no longer allowed in the restaurant.)

Do you see my point, though?  If the blood left behind on the table had been infected and you were the next patron to come in and you happened to land your paper-cut thumb in that bit of wet infected blood, that would be an exposure.  HOPEFULLY we're all intelligent enough to notice something like that, but still.  OR:  If you were back in the kitchen and you handled that towel with still-wet infectious blood, not realizing what was actually on the towel, you'd have just been exposed.

"Well, the virus isn't supposed to live very long outside the human body.  *whine*"  It doesn't if the bodily fluids capable of transmission are properly disinfected or dried.  There's a reason that sharps containers are labeled a biohazard, though.  Wet infectious fluid is STILL INFECTIOUS.

"Well, if I'm fucking a dead woman who was HIV positive while she was alive, I'll be fine because she's dead."

First of all, stop violating the dead. This is not Twilight, it's not the "in" thing to do. Second of all, infected tissues are still to be considered infected and thusly biohazardous post-mortem.  PPE is to be used at all times!

Learning about HIV and HIV testing are simple, free, and anonymous if you so wish.  How can you go wrong with things that are simple, free, and anonymous?

If you don't want to ask me, or anyone else, I'll start you off regarding testing:  Your local Planned Parenthood, health department, and even your town blood bank all offer free and anonymous testing.

For those of you who are curious, my passion comes from two places:  Growing up on the tails of my mother's lab coat in a pediatric infectious diseases lab, thus knowing that there were kids my age and younger who suffered under the tyranny of this disease, and later as an adult witnessing first hand the suffering it causes as it took someone I loved very much away from me far too early.

One simple wish from me this Christmas that every single one of you can fulfill.  Just... know.

So I don't end this without some "fun" information, I give you an often suppressed and very difficult to find documentary on the source of the AIDS pandemic in Africa.  Seriously, it's riveting.  Dutch researchers and Simian Immunodeficiency Virus and Government-mandated Polio Vaccines, Oh My! - pick your hosting site.  I recommend the full-screen version, as it's the closest to the original that was ever released, before some shady editing was done.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tackling Taboo: Bipolar Parents

With the decriminalization of Postpartum Depression through massive amounts of media coverage, I'd like to try and create a new initiative: decriminalizing and myth-busting Bipolar Disorder in parents.

You see, I'm a Bipolar Parent.  It's something that I tend to keep to myself, so writing this post is monumental for me.  With the pop-culture examples like the story of Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest and the fictional but true-to-life tale in Blue Sky, disclosing Bipolar Disorder to the general public is met with discrimination and even fear.  Telling most people that you're a PARENT and Bipolar, though, is met with judgement and assumed abuse.

That is absolutely not the case in many (if not most,) families with a Bipolar parent.

See, we're no different from a mother with PPD or a father with PTSD.  We go to counseling, we make decisions in conjunction with our physicians on which therapeutic pharmaceuticals to take, and we manage our lives so that outside stressors and triggers are avoided.  If anything, parents with BPD are MORE careful in how well their disease is managed.  We are, afterall, parents.  It is not our disease that defines us in most cases; it's our children and our desire to be functional members of society just like everyone else.  Our disease is simply a speed bump that must be navigated around.

Now, that's not to say it isn't difficult sometimes.  As with any long-term disease, certain treatments may cease to work to their fullest.  Physicians and therapists will occasionally move or close their practices.  Outside stressors and triggers can't always be avoided.  In those situations, it's crucial to have a support system in place such as an understanding partner, supportive family, and a friend or two that is close enough to be trusted with watching our children for an emergency doctor's appointment or a late-night phone call for a sanity check.

A common myth is that a woman who gets pregnant - either by choice or by mistake - is automatically putting her fetus at risk by taking dangerous drugs that will cause terrible deformities.  This is exactly that: a MYTH.  I will not discuss specific medications in this blog because I am not a licensed pharmacist or physician, but there are multiple psychotropic medications approved for the management of BPD that are also considered relatively safe for use during pregnancy.

Another myth: mothers with BPD cannot breastfeed due to the medication they're taking.  Wrong again!  See above for the debunking of this myth.

Myth 3:  BPD is genetic and any person who reproduces is automatically sentencing their child to a life of misery and insanity.  Incorrect!  While yes, genetics do play a role in BPD, it is not a guarantee that the offspring of parents with BPD will end up with a positive diagnosis later in life.

Myth 4:  Parents with BPD are incapable of being responsible enough to take care of children properly, or they are child abusers.  This is probably the myth that bothers me the most.  Being Bipolar does not automatically make one a bad parent!  It is my experience that those of us with BPD are *MORE* attentive to our children, even OVER attentive, and due in part to that myth exactly!  BPD is no more an indicator of how fit a person is to parent than Diabetes or Asthma or Allergies is.  Joan Crawford is NOT the norm, here, people!

There is a wonderful web resource for friends, family, and those afflicted with BPD called Bipolar Lives if anyone has more questions or would like to research the condition more.  Please - educate yourselves!  Help debunk the popular and incorrect opinions that run rampant in our society today.  Most importantly, remember that even those of us parents with BPD are people, too.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Review: Green and Comfy OS pocket and sized AIO diapers

In the ongoing search for a reliable, inexpensive diaper, I stumbled across Green and Comfy diapers on eBay.  Now, everyone is wary of purchasing mass-produced diapers on eBay, and with good cause.  However, when I saw that they were once the Wonderworks diaper company, I was at ease but not quite sold.

See, here's the thing:  when diaper companies go through massive face-lifts, their products do too.  I think this is pretty universal, actually.  Anyway, while I loved loved loved the Wonderworks diapers, I was concerned that the Green and Comfy incarnation just wouldn't be the same.

Thankfully, I was wrong.  They are, in this Mama's opinion, better.

Let's start with the price.  If ordered directly through the seller on ebay, bypassing the auctions, they are $5.  Auctions for individual diapers start at $3.99.  This is universal for the pockets and the AIO's.

One-Size (OS) pocket diapers

Fit:  The pockets are One-Size, with three rows of rise snaps.  On the smallest setting, my 11 lb. 24" son is comfortable.  They are generous in fit, though, as even at 9 lbs, he swam in them.  They feature elastic in the back, to allow for a snug and leak-free fit around the waist. Additionally, the wings feature a snap-over option for trimmer babies.

Legs:  I'll admit - the lack of leg gussets had me skeptical.  As long as the rise is set correctly and the waist snapped tightly, though, there is no problem.

Materials:  The outer PUL is a very tight weave, trim but sturdy.  The inner suede cloth is high quality with an anti-pill quality.

Performance:  These are absolute work horses.  Because Green and Comfy does not yet offer inserts to go with them, I used the bumGenius one-size microfiber inserts.  My son, a heavy wetter at 2 months old and already sleeping in six hour stretches, was able to wear these for up to five hours during the night with no leaks. 

Overall impression:  You CANNOT get a better pocket diaper for this price.  Or any price, really.  Zero leaks, zero pilling, excellent construction, and very trim on the child.  I'm in love.  The only downfall is the lack of included insert, but that can easily be remedied.

Sized AIO diapers

Fit:  I have only tried the small, as Bug is only two months old.  That said, they have a fit that is really quite middle ground.  I can see these working for very petite as well as rather chunky babies.  Like the pockets they include the back elastic to ensure a snug fit.  The wings also include the snap-over option that is found on the pockets.

Legs: Same as the pockets above.

Material: Same PUL and suedecloth, with a wide absorbent core.

Performance:  Definitely not as long-lasting as the Pocket diapers.  I was displeased to find that these leaked considerably after only a two hour nap.  They held up well for trips to the doctor's office and grocery store, as well as short car rides.

Overall impression:  Not so impressed.  These will be used for our back-up diapers only, and I will not purchase them again when Bug outgrows them.  I'm still on the fence as to whether or not I will pack them up for any later children, or whether I will pass them on to another family for free.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Tutorial: No-Sew pacifier clips for ring-style pacifiers

Ahhh, the pacifier.  Colloquially referred to as the "pluggie" in my home, it is my saving grace with Bug.  Because of his reflux, he has a constant desire to suckle.  The sucking action actually helps to calm the reflux a bit, so it's more than just psychological.

In order for me to satisfy his need and not have him attached to my boob 24/7 (which, while wonderful for bonding, is not wonderful for trying to manage a household and a four year old.) we have many, many pluggies.  I was incredibly annoyed with how easily they became misplaced, dirty, in the dog's mouth, in the cat's paws, in my pocket, bottom of the diaper bag, under his bum in the car seat, etc. and decided to look into the whole "pacifier clip" phenomenon.  Holy Cow, those durn things are expensive!  Well, the ones that aren't made out of plastic are, anyway.

In a fit of exasperation while walking around walmart at 2 AM, I decided I was going to make my own.  Now you can, too!  Materials total came to <$15 after tax for four (4) paci holders.  Compared to $6-$10 a pop otherwise, I don't think that's too shabby.

On to the fun part!

Your materials are as follows:

Suspender clips, they come two to a package for $2.42.  I used two packages.  Your needs may vary.
Please forgive that there's only a photo of the packaging - I didn't think to make this into a tutorial until I was part-way through the project.   Now, if you decide to do this with some forethought, you could probably hit up your local goodwill or thrift store and find a pair of used suspenders for a dollar or less.  The suspenders themselves don't matter, as you'll be cutting the elastic off the clips anyway.  (Note, these suspender clips did come with a two inch piece of elastic attached - just snip the clips out of the elastic and discard.)

Straight pins.  I had these already, but I believe you can get something like 100 for $1.00.  These are factored into the total cost of the project.

E-6000 epoxy glue.  This stuff is so awesome, there just aren't words that adequately describe my love for it.  Please note:  Fumes are strong and can cause headaches and dizziness. Please use in an adequately ventilated area.  As per the manufacturer's help line, E-6000 is completely non-toxic and non-flammable when dry, so it is safe for use on children's toys and garments, as well as pet products.  Cost of 2 oz. tube is $2.97.

5/8" ribbon.  There's an entire aisle of Wal-Mart dedicated to ribbon.  9' spool for $1.98.

3 mm velcro taping.  $2.97 for 2'.

Okay, now that you have your visual on the materials, on to the exciting part!

Fabricating the Pacifier Clips:

 First, cut your ribbon to your desired length.  I used eight inches, personally.  You must be careful not to make them too long, as an excess of length could pose a strangulation hazard.  Make sure your cut is clean - you're going to be ensuring there's no fraying without sewing, but you don't want any frays present when that happens.

Once you've cut your desired length of ribbon, thread it through the suspender clips about 1/4" and fold over.  Pin it horizontally, as shown.

Once pinned, flip the flap up and apply a thin line of E-6000 glue.  Being careful to avoid getting the glue on your skin, gently press the edge of the ribbon down into the glue.  I like to use the ball head of another pin to do this.  In the process, spread some of the glue that has oozed out from under the ribbon flap back on to the top of the ribbon, as shown above.

Now, repeat the pinning/folding/gluing process at the other end of the ribbon.

At this point, I recommend getting up and getting a snack, starting dinner, or taking a nap.  You want to let that glue set up for about two hours before you proceed any further.

Okay, so now that your glue is dry, you want to cut your pieces of velcro.  These will serve to anchor the pacifier securely to the clip itself.  I find it easiest to join the velcro before cutting it, but it's not necessary.

The pieces above are approximately 3/4".

 Now separate the pieces of velcro and apply a medium-thin line of glue to the back (non furry or non-scratchy) side of each piece.  You're going to want to leave a bit of space at each end to avoid oozing.

With the glued edges of your ribbon still facing up, apply your velcro.  At the end, leave just a fraction of ribbon ahead of your velcro, but make sure whichever piece you put at the end covers the glued edge.  About 3/4" away from the inside end of that piece of velcro, put your other piece.  You want it to be able to accommodate all ring pacifiers, some of which can have a ring with a 1/2" width.

Now, once I had glued down my first pieces of velcro, I realized that I really didn't like how long my pieces were, so I trimmed them.  The three to the left are the final length, with the one on the right showing how much I removed.  Once I trimmed the rest of my velcro, I repeated the process from holder #1.


Once all of the velcro pieces are glued down, you can call it a day.  The entire project at this point needs approximately 24 hours to cure and dry completely.  Remember, the E-6000 is still considered toxic until fully dry.  Please make sure your project is put someplace out of the reach of naughty paws and sticky fingers!


24 hours later, we have the finished product, still facing back-side up.  At this point, slide your ribbon through the ring on the pacifier, fold over, and secure.  Then secure the clip to your babe's clothing or seat.

Here you see Bug wearing his.  And Smelly Cat.  Smelly Cat,
 however, does not get a pacifier clip, despite his fondness for playing with the pluggies. ;P

Bug really putting my hard work to good use.  Yay, no more lost pluggies!  Happy Baby, Happy Mama, Happy World. :)

Total cost of project:  $12.25 after tax, which breaks down to $3.06 each.  Total time needed: 24 hours including drying time.  Total amount of Awesomeness:  Inestimable. :)


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Life with Bug.

It has been an extremely eventful seven and a half weeks.  As I highlighted in an earlier post, Bug's arrival was a bit earlier than expected, with a couple of minor complications.

Those aside, things were really settling down well.  Kinder Major adapted to life as a big sister with ease.  I attribute that to the up close and personal level of involvement she's had in my niece's life.  Instead of "Woe is me, I'm no longer the center of attention" type feelings, it was definitely more "Whee, when does he start playing with us?"

He's had some gastric concerns - projectile vomiting, failure to gain past his birthweight, but those were relatively minor, since he was at least maintaining at his birthweight.

Fast forward to 14 December.  He was scheduled to have an upper GI study done to try and figure out what was up, since the ultrasound for HPS came back without abnormality.  Long story short, due to some coughing, I postponed his upper GI and scheduled an appointment with his pediatrician for the next day.

Tuesday morning brought severe coughing paroxysms.  Instead of waiting for his appointment at 4 PM, I phoned the office at 8 AM when they opened.  By then, the coughing fits were causing him to become dusky.

By the end of the day, we were safely ensconced within the walls of Shands at UF.  His oxygen saturation was dropping into the 80's with each coughing fit, despite nebulization treatments and chest physiotherapy.  A chest x-ray done earlier in the day showed a small infiltrate which may have been pneumonia, may have been a small collapse.

We were discharged on 17 December without a firm diagnosis, but theories ranged from pertussis to cystic fibrosis.

At the follow up appointment on 18 December with his pediatrician, after seeing that the paroxysms were no longer leaving him dusky around the mouth but all over, she really felt that it was pertussis and treated accordingly.  Within 48 hours we saw a marked improvement overall.

Bug was nearly symptom free by Christmas!  Hooray!

Since then, we've had a few follow up visits, and gotten his upper GI study done.  (Incidentally, everything showed normal function.)

The amount of vomiting he does has decreased from every feeding to once or twice a day and he's actually gained a full two pounds, bringing him up to 11 lbs 8 oz.

As of right now, we're holding off on the sweat test for Cystic Fibrosis, keeping him at an increased caloric intake (22 kcals on Nestle Good Start formula combined with the little bit of nursing he does,) and watching to see how things unfold over the next four weeks.

Thanks for tuning in, and thank you deeply for your support.  Keep an eye out for more product reviews, a tutorial, cloth diaper ratings and rantings, and more updates on life as an Accidental Mommy!

Review: Burt's Bees Baby Bee Diaper Ointment

You know, I don't think I have anything negative to say about this stuff.  I first discovered it almost five years ago when Kinder Major was newly hatched, and fell in love with it from day one.

Let's start with the basics, shall we?

Ingredients:  Being that it is a zinc oxide formulation, it's thick and creamy.  It's paraben, petrolatum and mineral oil free.  It contains sweet almond oil, beeswax, vitamin E, calendula, chamomile, jojoba, lavender, rosemary, canola, and soy oil.  All of these wonderfully healing and soothing ingredients blend together perfectly.  (No, really.  Consult any herbal, all of these extracts compliment eachother.  They're not just tossed in willy nilly like you'll get with some products.)

Scent:  Has a very soothing, fresh scent.  Not terribly overpowering.

Feel on the skin:  Oh wow.  A lot of zinc oxide based ointments can become gritty, but this stays smooth and creamy.

Does it stain, you ask?  Not that I've encountered thus far.  It's also safe for cloth diapers.

Most importantly, does it work?  Abso-freakin-lutely.  I use this on EVERYTHING, from scratches to bruises to bugbites.  I even use it on actual diaper rash!

This product gets ten starts on a one to five scale, with five being the best.**

One word of caution:  Upon first opening the tube, some of the oils can rise to the top and separate a bit.  It's best to massage the tube well before each use.

**I am NOT being paid to endorse this product.  I reallty do just love it that much.