Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Who's your doula?

Sometime around January I started thinking about my birth plan. It was with a mix of trepidation, fear and excitement that I began to envision what it would all be like. It didn't really occur to me not to have a baby in a hospital. I sort of thought that is just what you did.

A couple of events took place in February that altered the course of my thinking. I attended a women's retreat where I met a labor support doula. Within minutes of our introduction, we were talking about the increasing rates of cesareans and pain medication during birth, and potentially what this meant for the mother and baby in the long run. I felt a little paralyzed with all this new information and all the choices I had to make. A small part of me thought I wasn't ready for motherhood at all because I didn't have strong opinions about the child birth process.

Not long after, I heard about the Ricki Lake's The Business of Being Born documentary, which profiles a few births and endeavors to reveal what's behind the changing nature of childbirth in the U.S. today. My husband and I were able to view the film shortly thereafter. It was, in a word, eye-opening, and not just for seeing Ricki Lake delivering her baby in the bathtub! (My husband, being perhaps the only guy in the audience, took this all in stride.) That feeling of paralysis gave way to empowerment and a pretty intense desire to know more. I read everything I could get my hands on - stats on the national rate of c-sections, stats on NYC hospital c-section rates, and on, until I was resolute to have a midwife. With my husband on board, I set out to find our PLA (personal labor assistant).

I called every midwifery practice in Manhattan. By this time (early April), many of the reputable midwives in the city were committed to delivering other healthy babies. I paid $100 for one midwife to tell me that my idea of a completely natural birth in a hospital setting (this was what we decided we wanted) was idealized and unrealistic. And while she was probably right, I hated her patronizing tone. We talked about having a home birth but the prospect of situating a birthing tub in our living area and not having space to move around seemed more stressful than being in a hospital bed.

I felt like I'd already failed and I hadn't even starting having Braxton Hicks. I ultimately let go and focused on being thankful that at least I could now make decisions from an informed standpoint.

Over the next few visits with my OB/GYN who I've been to for over 7 years, I realized that he was relatively accommodating to my requests (mainly no paid meds and to let me labor as long as medically feasible). In late April, we took a tour of the hospital where we are delivering and found the nurses very au natural, tremendous advocates of breastfeeding - seemingly just what we had hoped for.

Now it's practically June and as the Babe kicks harder and as the Pod is increasingly filled with pastel colored onesies, I'm realizing that in order to have my close-to-natural-as-possible child birth I'm going to need some serious help. My husband will be there every step of the way, but I really want a doula.

I found myself back in that place of paralysis where there is far too much information and far too many choices. DONA International lists some 20 different doulas in the city alone. So I did what any web 2.0 mother-to-be would do - I googled. I started googling every doula in New York City to see what reviews I could find (plenty in fact!). I also searched on Facebook and found several doulas in the city who I could connect with online.

While I haven't found our perfect PLA yet, I do feel one step closer and more sure of my opinions about child birth in general. And that, in and of itself, makes me feel slightly more ready for motherhood. At least for today.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Carcinogenic Cribs ... and why you need to check out HealthyChild.org

Given that we are only buying two very efficient pieces of furniture for the Babe, a lot went into our decision on the crib, or at least I thought. Cost, space and ultimately quality were all top considerations. Last weekend we ordered the Sorelle Sophia from Buy Buy Baby. I did a quick gut check in the infamous Baby Bargains book and found Sorelle cribs receive a B rating; they are tops for quality but get dinged for customer service. But perhaps I wasn't fastidious enough. I only wish I had picked up an issue of BabyTalk magazine before we committed. Going through the June/July issue last night, I dogeared an ad for Healthy Child Healthy World. It's websites like these that I both love and loathe. It's chock full of great information on toxins, pesticides and other scary things you can bring into your home. My mistake was to click on a blogpost about formaldehyde in cribs. Yes, FORMALDEHYDE IN CRIBS.

Author Jennifer Taggart, writes: "Formaldehyde in cribs and changing tables shouldn’t be a surprise. It is common for composite wood products – like particle board and medium density fiberboard (MDF) – are held together with formaldehyde based resins. Unfortunately, the formaldehyde escapes from these products, polluting indoor air. And formaldehyde can be released for many years. But, you might not have thought that a crib or changing table could contribute significantly to formaldehyde emissions in the home. Unfortunately, Environment California’s testing shows that cribs and changing tables can be significant sources. And when you consider that your baby spends a lot of time in that nursery, you might want to look for alternatives. A bit of good news? The California Air Resources Board has enacted a regulation that will start to limit formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products beginning in 2009."

The full blog post, which I highly encourage you to read, lists some of the most offending products. None of the Sorelle products were listed but how can I be sure my quality wood crib isn't fashioned with composite wood. The catalog says simply it is made of pine, but somehow I need more reassurance.

Googling "Sorelle Sophia" doesn't get me very far. I first click on a link for BabyCribsPlus.com which tells me that Sorelle products are "custom crafted with European designs using solid wood and veneers." Solid wood. Sounds promising. But this is not the bullet-proof affirmation I now find myself at 6:45 on a Sunday morning looking for.

After scrolling through a few pages of useless information, I return to my best friend, the Google search box. I punch in "Sorelle Crib Materials." (Kudos to NexTag for the good search placement; all I'm seeing on the first page is a bunch of product offerings. The only thing I learned so far is that we actually got a very good deal on our crib.) I see a few product reviews claiming that Sorelle cribs feature non-toxic finishes but the marketing speak makes me dubious.

Looks like I'm going to have to call the manufacturer on Tuesday, which means I now get to spend the rest of my weekend worrying about it.

The Nook

Here is a shot of the Nook. This is the left hand side of the wall (check out the floorplan from a few days ago).

On the wall are two Leroy Neiman serigraphs from two of our favorite pasttimes (the Met Opera at Lincoln center, left) and running (Olympic Games, right). As colorful as Neiman's work is, is this a little mature for an infant? Maybe we'll swap them out for some wall art like these wall stickers that they sell at Giggle.

"Every little bit counts"

Yesterday, after a morning of yoga, I felt strong, centered and ready to take on the closet organization task ahead of us. It's hard not to feel envious of everyone I know who seems to have walk-in closets but we try to see the upside. The best thing about the Pod is our closets have pretty good built-ins, which were installed by the previous owners. They're not Elfa systems, but they suffice. We figured our linen closet (first box on the left by the door on the floorplan) could be decluttered a bit (ok, a lot) to make a shelf or two for diapers and other baby stuff. My husband, bless him, deliberated over whether an old computer hardrive (barely 3 cm wide) should be put in our storage unit. "Every little bit counts" in his words. So true.

Here is a filled to the brim before shot:

Here is the after shot. We'll store diapers (gDiapers I think) on the top shelf, and other assorted baby bounty on the fourth (you can see we've already got a Boppy and some blankets ready and waiting. Even made room for the yoga mat!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Introducing ... the Pod

I just sketched out the floorplan of our Pod so I can start to share how we are reorganizing to make room for the Babe. Here is how we live Manhattan studio style.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Similac Organic Formula

Here is a very compelling article in today's New York Times on Similac's organic formula. Similac's rising sales appear to be fueled in part by a growing consumer group who are attuned to the benefits of anything bearing the organic label. This may be one case where shoppers need to re-think their purchases. Similac's formula is formulated with sucrose (cane sugar), which is sweeter than other sugars. No direct health risks have been cited yet but according to the article, some pediatricians suggest this may link to overeating, which in turn may lead to obesity.

The article also reports that competitive products like Earth's Best use lactose instead of sucrose, despite the fact that the costs of organic lactose has risen in recent years. A closer look at Earth's Best product information cites its use of organic lactose.

As part of our approach to sustainability and overall health, we're coming down on the side of "breast is best" (but SERIOUSLY need to come up with another term for it), especially in the early stages. This new information will definitely force me to scrutinize product labels of formula if we find ourselves having to supplement.

It's Yo Shower Event

This Wednesday, I'm attending the Biggest Baby Shower Ever event hosted by Big City Moms at Tenjune. There are lots of reasons why this promises to be a super fun event. In David Letterman tradition, here is my top 10 list:

10. Mocktails - if I can't really drink, at least I can pretend
9. BCM always fills gift bags with samples galore and goodies that Sustainababe would never pony up the cash for
8. Dr. William Sears ("America's Pediatrician") is speaking
7. Dr. Sears' wife Martha is also attending - I'm possibly more interested to meet her since she was the one who birthed 7 of their 8 children!
6. Free Books! (I'm a closeted librarian)
5. Meeting other expectant moms
4. Stoneyfield is sponsoring the event - a truly authentic, eco-friendly company
3. BCM is giving away prizes from Skip*Hop, Bugaboo, Baby Legs and many other brands
2. Did I mention the free swag?
1. I'm not sure if Tenjune is still considered a hot spot, but I'm pretty sure this is the only way I'll ever get in.

For more information click on the invite below:

Friday, May 16, 2008

Eco Nurseries

The downside to living in the Pod is that we don't have room for a nursery. Heck, we don't even have a real bedroom of our own. We're going to try to recreate a nursery by carving out a section (a wall really) and make that the Babe's space. His little nook is about 30 inches deep and runs about half the length of the Pod (approx 12 ft). I've been on the hunt for a narrow crib to wedge into his spot. So far I like the Avery from Natart (top, left). It's 30" wide and 54" long - perfect! We might wait until after the Babe is born to get it and try to get through the first few months with him in a bassinet.

There are scores of options today for mamas who want to incorporate green options into their nurseries. Sage Baby is a great NYC website for organic clothing, sustainable furniture, like cribs fashioned from non-toxic materials. I especially like the Maple (bottom, right).

How Green Are You?

I just discovered a cool new tool developed by NatGeo and the research firm GlobeScan called Greendex, which allows you to calculate your level of green-ness. A bit scary, yes? We all talk about going green but how many of us are actually walking the walk? They conducted a study "measuring and monitoring consumer progress toward environmentally sustainable consumption" in 14 countries, including the U.S. Download the results here.

Being a bit of a research junkie myself I couldn't resist the survey. You can calculate how green you are here.

My biggest offenses are perhaps drinking bottled water and not growing my own food (sigh). But I got bonus points for having only one room in my primary residence (ding ding ding). More bonus points for using public transportation (many thanks to the 6 train). More points still for refusing plastic bags from the grocery store at least once a week (I am known to stuff veggies into my handbag). Tempted as I was to claim a child aged 5 and under (the Babe technically is -2 months), I didn't.

My overall score was a 59 out of 60. As much as I'd like to believe that, I think it might be a tad inflated. That said, compared to U.S. score of 44.9, I'm doing pretty well. Sadly the U.S. ranks last of all survey respondents. Major offenses like transportation, consumption and household living were cited.

In case you needed it, some extra motivation to forgo your bottled water today. Happy recycling!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Thoughts on baby showers

One day I will have to write about breastfeeding. It is the most natural, beautiful and exceedingly cheap form of sustenance available - a pretty sustainable combo! But not today.

No, today, I'm deliberating on whether or not to have a baby shower. I know it seems trivial as families in China are suffering after the massive earthquake and families here in the States are struggling to pay for groceries as the cost of gas and food rises. Trust me, I recognize my problems are petty in comparison. But I literally woke up at 4 a.m. the other night in a panic that I might be missing out on one of the more ceremonial aspects of a first-time pregnancy. (Readers, I don't think I've shared that I'm currently 32 weeks pregnant and about 8 weeks away from my due date, so I don't have bundles of time left.)

My family lives 3,000 miles away and my closest friends live in Florida, California and a host of states sandwiched in between, so there was not an obvious person to throw one for us.

Plus my newbie mama friends keep telling me that they received tons of stuff they couldn't use.

Plus I thought anyone reading this blog might think it a little counterintuitive.

But I digress. Two of my dear NYC friends offered to throw the Babe and I a little soiree. While at first I couldn't get the visions of onesies and blankets out of my head, I acquiesced. Who said a shower has to be about the stuff at all? It should just be a time to be surrounded by those that you care about most. And I'll take a dose of that any day.
The major discussion in the Pod lately has been what do we need to buy? We have not actually bought one baby item yet save for a few books. (Almost everyone I know reads "What to Expect" so I'd recommend just borrowing it. I'm currently reading Dr. Sears' Pregnancy and The Baby Book. And Anne Lamott's

Mercifully, friends and family have been offering to give us gently used hand-me-downs. It started in January when my older brother, who lives far too many miles away in southern California, showed me the baby bounty he'd been storing in the garage. Everything from a crib, swing, bouncy thing (for the uninitiated that's what they are called), stroller and bags of clothes that were once worn by my niece and nephew.

I love the idea that the Babe is going to be wearing his older cousin's clothes. Sure, it will be nice to buy a few new cute get-ups for him, but its a whole lot nicer knowing that I've got an extra couple of hundred bucks in the bank (it will probably all end up going to the Bugaboo anyway).

Monday, May 12, 2008

Babies R So Not Us

Last week the husband and I took a half day off to go and register. There was no way we would be able to face the hoards of other new parents and rowdy toddlers on a Saturday so figured we'd ease into like a nice warm bath.

I have not been so overwhelmed by a shopping experience since I bought a prom dress. We started in the stroller section because we figured this was the car buying experience we never have in the city. A nice enough guy tried to help us but everytime I asked him to show us some options he kept directing us to the Quinny. I didn't recognize the name among the sea of Maclarens that are peddled around the Upper East Side, and they clearly weren't as cool as the Bugaboos because they weren't as expensive as a real car. All we knew we wanted was something compact (could it fold up and fit in the closet?), something that would survive our marathon walks around the city (big wheels? suspension?) AND light enough to take on the subway (taxis be damned!). Oh and something safe (of course). Nothing seemed to work. I suspect that most Manhattanites have the same needs, but I've heard that many have multiple strollers for different purposes. This was never going to work in our little pod of an apartment.

After much consideration, we're considering the following options:
1. Breaking down a buying a Bugaboo Frog (we tested out a friend's and the smooth ride through Central Park terrain was impressive)
2. Just using a Baby Jogger (advice welcome on this one)
3. Not buying one at all! (another friend offered us her very gently used Snap n' Go and car seat to get us few the first couple of months. Our most sustainable option yet!)

Expect frequent updates to this section of the blog because we are completely on the fence about this.

Now originally this post was supposed to be about the whole Babies R Us experience but clearly it was too overwhelming for one text box. To be continued ...

The next best thing is right now

I have been really torn over the past few months about this blog, about motherhood, about baby names, about where to live, about whether or not to have a shower (a baby shower, that is. Fortunately, I still have time in the a.m. to have a shower. Trust me, I know this will change soon...), about lots of stuff.

First, work got crazy and I realized that I couldn't both work and be really pregnant. So I sort of ignored being pregnant for a few days, told myself I really should blog but I don't have time. I still took my prenatal vitamins and all that, but I wasn't consumed by pregnancy every waking second. Then I got so ragged from work that I realized I couldn't really learn how to be a mother in the next few months and be so consumed by work. It's a perennial question, but I have been wrestling with how to do it all. (Ugh, it sounds more cliche reading it in my own words!) Not even do it ALL but to have these two lives.

From the time I was a little girl I wanted to be a stay at home mom (we call then SAHMs in the web 2.0 world right?) and have lots of babies. Then I got a bit deeper into my career and loved it and thought maybe I'm too selfish to have kids at all. Then my husband started talking about kids and I couldn't picture him not having them, and I found that person inside. It was like discovering an old friend.

But now I'm in this place where I have one foot in both lives and finding it really precarious. I got too scared to write. As much as I've been enjoying watching my belly grow, I was a bit too eager to get to the next phase of all this so I could see how my life had worked itself out.

Then my friend said something this weekend that I've been thinking about. She said that people should just be happy with what they have, not always be wanting the next best thing. She was talking about material things, but it struck me that I am constantly fixated on the next chapter that I forget to live in the moment. (How is that for another cliche?)

I hope I can learn to embrace this scary, joyous part of being a little bit in two worlds instead of worry about figuring it all out. I'm working on it.