Friday, October 12, 2012

Tongue Tie – Gentleness and Compassion for the Baby - Part 2

To recap - we are talking about babies who become orally aversive due to tongue-tie after care.  Why does this happen?

First:  There is no judgment here – none at all.  As a mom with a baby who was tongue-tied and struggled for months to get breastfeeding right, I understand the desperation to have it just WORK once and for all.  Some moms struggle for so long, weeks and even months in pain, pumping and trying to breastfeed.  They are so desperate, and understandably so, to fix their breastfeeding problems and get that baby breastfeeding once and for all.  Sometimes they inadvertently create this problem of oral aversion with aggressive stretching.  This absolutely does not happen on purpose of course, though sadly it is happening and the truth is it does not need to. 

I have heard some moms state that the baby cries when the diaper is changed and it’s no big deal, and this crying during aggressive stretching is just like that.  Well, no it isn’t.  A diaper change doesn’t cause the baby pain.  And I have heard others say that it HAS to be done this way in order to make sure that frenulum doesn’t reattach.  Well, no, it doesn’t – it can be done gently and still be effective.   

I have spoken with moms who had significant mom guilt when they realized that their actions (aggressive stretching) had caused their baby’s emotional trauma and oral aversion.  These moms were devastated that, in their attempt to help their child – they hurt their child.  The fact is, as I see it, and those moms too, this is avoidable.  
Stretching consists of lifting/stretching or massaging the underside of baby’s tongue in order to keep the tissues mobile and from healing closed and causing lack of tongue mobility (which is why we did the frenotomy in the first place, right?).  However, there are various thoughts on this process, how it should be done, how often and to what extent.  Some recommend using a tongue blade (wooden tongue depressor), or just your fingers.  Some recommend massaging the tongue, some recommend stretching.  Some recommend breaking the wound open at least a few times per day to prevent scarring down or reattachment.  Some recommend these procedures not be done at all while others recommend 5-8 times or more per 24 hours or prior to every feeding.

As a Lactation Consultant who specializes in tongue-tie I would not recommend anything other than using your finger to do the stretches, unless you have been specifically taught by the Dr. who did the procedure how to properly use the tongue blade.  Stretching the wound is uncomfortable for the baby at best, and can be painful at worst.  It is the rare baby who can handle the stretching/massage with a smile – at least initially.  

So let’s talk about how to do this in the most baby friendly manner.  These are my own recommendations to my clients.

Tongue massage/stretching should be an in and out fast procedure. Gently slide your finger under the tongue and massage the incision site as such: from bottom:  massage up the tongue, then back down 2 - 3 times using gentle but firm pressure - then get out of the mouth.  This is 3-4 second procedure at most. If you are doing the stretch, you can use the Kotlow method of coming under the baby's tongue from behind: Baby is laying on his back with his head close to you, you gently slide two fingers under the tongue and lift the tongue up with a gentle push back - hold for count of 3 and then get out of the baby's mouth.  I recommend 2-5 times per day for at least 2 weeks, and strongly encourage some sort of complimentary body work.  And check in with your LC or Dr. to evaluate how the healing process is going.

These stretches/massages should be kept as enjoyable as possible for baby. The last thing we want is for baby to fight, scream and cry inconsolably when we are trying to help them.  It is one thing for them to fuss and complain - it is quite another if they are screaming.  Also, I do not recommend purposefully breaking open the wound several times per day because 1) it is painful for the baby and 2) it is painful for the baby.  Breaking open a wound repeatedly slows down healing, causes emotional and physical trauma and should not be needed in order for the wound to heal properly.  If the wound breaks open on its own without extreme pressure that is different - doing it in purpose should not be needed.

If there is fighting and screaming happening with stretches and massage - then we should take a look at WHY.  If stretches are being done to the point of doing them for minutes rather than seconds – Stop.  It should be seconds.  Doing the stretches for minutes will cause baby much pain and discomfort.  If baby is screaming and crying for an extended period afterwards – as in more than a minute or two – too much is being done. This type of overdoing can actually cause oral/feeding aversion, whether it is breast or bottle.  

Anything we do in the mouth MUST be done with respect and as much gentleness as possible.  And while these stretches are important, we can do them in a manner that does NOT potentially cause other issues.

You can do these gentle stretches when baby is asleep, awake and relaxed, just before feeding, or after feeding. If you do 2 reps of the stretch and baby is getting mad - STOP. Don't push the issue at that time. There will be a later time (half hour?) where you can finish. Keep this time and activity as happy and as relaxed as you can.  Make funny faces, sing, or make funny noises!  Talk to your baby in an encouraging and supportive tone.  Whether you do these exercises twice a day or 8 times a day they can be done in a gentle and respectful manner and still be effective.  Using pain relief is a good idea as well.  Talk to your Dr. or IBCLC about pain relief measures (acetaminophen, ibuprofen, homeopathics…).  Get that bodywork to help baby’s body move and groove the way it needs to help that tongue move the way it should.  

Finally, many moms have told me that they would rather deal with some breastfeeding discomfort, pump and bottle feed, or just bottle feed formula than to cause their babies the kind of pain they see happening with others or that they themselves have inadvertently caused.  And you know what?  I agree with them – 100%.  And frankly, it is my professional opinion that, if it requires hurting the baby repeatedly, to the point of causing oral aversion, in order to make breastfeeding work, then perhaps we should reconsider that.  

Is the causing of injury, emotional and physical trauma worth breastfeeding?  I don’t happen to think so.   

And I implore you to put yourself in the baby's would you feel and what would you ask for in this situation?    

Gentleness and compassion for the baby while working with tongue-tie…it can be done. 

Tongue Tie – Gentleness and Compassion for the Baby - Part 1

Lately I am getting more and more emails, private messages and phone calls from mothers and professionals regarding tongue-tie.  The concerns are the same and actually kind of frightening and sad at the same time.  I will discuss these shortly in Part 2 but first let’s lay some groundwork so we all understand what we are talking about.

What is tongue-tie?

The ‘lingual frenum' (or lingual frenulum) is the cord that stretches from under the tongue to the floor of the mouth. 

‘Tongue tie', ‘Ankyloglossia' or ‘short frenum' are the terms used when the lingual frenum is short and restricts the mobility of the tongue.  

Tongue-ties can cause all sorts of problems or none at all.  If there are problems with breastfeeding (or feeding in general) and tongue-tie is determined to be the cause, a frenotomy is usually recommended.  A frenotomy is also known as:  Clipping, revision, or frenulectomy depending on who you are speaking with.  I have heard all of the above.  

Clipping simply means the frenulum is snipped (ether by a scissors or laser) – kind of like snipping a string in two.  It is generally painless for the baby and bleeding is typically minimal.  Only rarely and in extreme cases will a baby need general anesthesia to have a frenotomy done.  Most all frenotomies can be done with the child awake with little to no anesthetic.  Babies typically are angrier because someone has their fingers in their mouth than they are about the actual procedure – which is generally very fast.  And as soon as the procedure is done, baby can breastfeed which will help calm the baby and encourage proper tongue motion and mobility.  Follow-up with bodywork, such as Chiropractic, Bowen, an Osteopath or Cranio Sacral Therapy is strongly recommended.

There can be long term consequences of not having a tongue-tie that is causing problems clipped.  Speech issues (lisping), sleep apnea, snoring are just a few long term possible challenges.  However, if there are no feeding issues with a tongue-tie and parents are unsure about clipping, the decision to clip or not needs to be discussed with someone who is knowledgeable about tongue-ties and their potential long term effects.  Sometimes it is simply a 'wait and see' situation.  Many babies have been tongue-tied and gone on to breastfeed just fine (or with minimal discomfort to mom) and there were no long term consequences observed.  

However, just because there are times when there doesn’t seem to be an issue, we still need to monitor baby’s weight gain and moms milk supply.  It can be difficult at times to know for sure that baby is transferring milk well on his own or if he is getting milk primarily because of mom’s healthy let-down reflex.  If baby in unable to transfer milk well on his own, mom will notice a decrease in her supply at some point in time.   If that happens other steps will need to be taken to preserve the supply and baby’s intake.  At this point a frenotomy may definitely be in order.  As long as the parents are aware of the risks and know what to watch for, how they choose to handle their situation is entirely up to them.
If parents decide to proceed with a frenotomy they should be well informed, by their Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and the Dr. doing the frenotomy of the procedure itself as not all Dr.’s do frenotomies the same way.  Aftercare exercises and possibly needed pain relief for the baby will need to be discussed.

The aftercare exercises are where we start running into trouble and are the point of this article.  Many LC’s and Dr.’s recommend stretching of the tongue to prevent the wound from healing ‘down’ or the frenulum from ‘reattaching’.  Other exercises may also be discussed to work with tongue mobility.  I am focusing on the stretching because it seems to be the biggest issue. 

What I and many other IBCLC’s are hearing and seeing is increasing cases of oral aversion in babies directly caused by excessive/aggressive stretching of the frenotomy site.  Frenotomy wounds are being stretched open, to the point of bleeding, repeatedly each day causing baby pain and distress, day after day, for up to weeks on end.  Babies are being reported crying for hours after stretching exercises and even closing their little mouths up tight when they see a finger coming towards them.  Some babies even learn to recognize the ‘stretching position’ and begin to protest and cry immediately when placed in that position.   Sometimes breastfeeding does not get better, and in fact sometimes gets worse, and in some cases ends completely as the baby flat out refuses to nurse due to oral aversion.  What that means is baby is so averse to having anything in the mouth because of trauma that they refuse to nurse or eat, and/or scream anytime the breast, a bottle or finger approaches the mouth.  

So why is this happening?   See Part 2 for the rest of this story...

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Breastfeeding Support...exclusion or inclusion?

One would think (or at least hope) in 2012 that people would be accepted for who they are and respected for what they can offer and/or want to offer to help other people.  But clearly this is not the case and I find it very, very sad.  It is also not the case in the world of breastfeeding and I find that just as sad and disheartening.

In today’s world we are finding more diversity in people, cultures, belief systems and families.  People are freer now (but not in all areas) to be who they are and to express themselves in the way that feels best for them.  Gender roles and identity are becoming more blurred in many areas of the world.  We find ourselves with humans who identify with all sorts of various gender roles and identities including but not limited to: straight, gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, pan-sexual, transgendered, queer, Cis-gendered (identifying with the body one was born into), androgynous, and many more.  There is acceptance in some areas and not in others.

We find such a diversity in families that is amazing to me.  We have the male/female couples, and same sex couples as well as a cis-females partnering with a transman, or a transman in a gay relationship – and with the wide range of gender identities the combinations are nearly endless, and beautiful.  People loving each other for who they are – I think that is amazing.  My own family is part of this diversity and I love that!

Along with those couples often come children.  With children come pregnancy, birthing, breastfeeding and parenting.  For opposite sex couples babies are for the most part easy to come by unless there are significant fertility issues.  Adoption for any couple can be a challenge, time consuming and costly financially.  For same-sex couples babies are not quite easy to come by.  Donor eggs or sperm is generally required depending on the couple, however a transman in a gay relationship may be able to carry his own child with his partner. 

Once the child is born, many parents want to breastfeed their baby if at all possible.  This is not always easy for a variety of reasons.  Many women nowadays are having milk supply issues due to Insufficient Glandular Tissue (IGT) or hormonal interference.  Transmen have likely had their breasts removed (top surgery) and have very little breast tissue left. And while for many of these people they will produce milk, they may very well not produce enough to meet their child's needs.  In these cases supplementation is required.  How that supplementation is managed can range from breast and bottle, pumping and bottle feeding, breastfeeding using an at-breast supplementer and many other combinations as well.  None of these are particularly easy and come with their own set of challenges; however they are very effective (and necessary) ways to feed the baby.  What the parents choose is a very personal and important matter.

Recently there has been a lot of publicity about a certain transman, named Trevor MacDonald, who birthed and is currently breastfeeding his son. You can read his story here.  Milk Junkies  Trevor is an amazing man, a leader in breastfeeding culture in his own right and is making a huge difference in the world right now opening the eyes of people who may or may not want their eyes opened.   He applied to La Leche League (LLL) to become a La Leche Leader (LLLL) with the support of the LLL group he was regularly attending.  His application was denied because Trevor identifies as a man and LLL states they are a woman to woman support organization.  Regardless of the fact that he is a breastfeeding parent, he is not welcome to be a LLL Leader; however he is welcome to be a LLL member (which he is).  

When this all came out I was surprised at the reactions that came along with it.  While there were many people who were disappointed in LLL International’s denial of Trevor’s application, and implored LLLI to ‘come into the 21st Century’, and be inclusive of all breastfeeding parents, there were many others who felt that not only was LLLI’s denial appropriate but they felt it with such righteousness and anger that it truly shocked me.  And that some of these people were NOT from the straight community really surprised me.  

Many of the comments I have read over the past couple weeks from people who vehemently stand by LLLI’s decision to deny Trevor (or any breastfeeding male) the opportunity to support other breastfeeding parents have been far short of  respectful.  They have been downright mean, insulting, and judgmental and have made statements about not only Trevor but anyone in his position.  The assumptions and misinformation was staggering.  People have made statements about Trevor and his situation that were quite inaccurate – and generally not nice.  With all of that I am left wondering: Why are people being so rude?

I truly believe it is far past the time for us to behave in this manner.  This is the 21st Century after all.  Where is the ‘accept and be accepted’ aspect we should have for each other as humans?  It does happen in bits and pieces here and there and that is wonderful.  But isn’t it time for this acceptance to be all encompassing?  Especially when we are talking about breastfeeding our children and raising our children to love and accept others for who they are?   Aren't we supposed to treat others with respect and common courtesy?  What are we teaching our children when we react with such anger and vitriol towards people who are not exactly like us?  How can we expect the world to be a better place if we don't teach our children through our example?

Parents of all genders, identities, nationalities NEED support whether it be pregnancy, breastfeeding or parenting…we ALL need that support!  Breastfeeding support can be difficult to come by in many areas, and finding people who have been through breastfeeding challenges that parents are going through, who are also breastfeeding counselors/consultants, can be challenging.  Understanding the blessings and difficulties that breastfeeding a baby brings is an important part (in my professional opinion) of being able to relate to and help other breastfeeding parents.  We need the many people who are in different but similar situations as much as we need your average everyday mom who has a breastfeeding challenge.  Why are we not begging these people to join with us in supporting breastfeeding Parents?  Not just breastfeeding moms...but also breastfeeding dads.

So, why is it OK to be exclusionary – You can be a leader/counselor for our organization but only if you are a woman.  This is NOT OK with me, personally, and I know many others who feel the same way.  Why can we not be inclusive?  Is it really so difficult to welcome any breastfeeding parent (male or female) into the 'group', give them the education and get them out there to support ALL breastfeeding Parents?  I don't think so.

I tell you what I really hope for - is that someday ANYONE of ANY gender who breastfeeds can apply for and become a breastfeeding counselor whether with LLLI or Breastfeeding USA. It is time to stop the segregation. Women and Men have glandular tissue. They both can and do breastfeed.  And maybe someday acceptance will be universal and those who counsel and support breastfeeding parents will not be limited to being specifically women...maybe we will find a way to be inclusive rather than exclusionary of those who don’t necessarily fit society's typical model of a breastfeeding parent.  


Thursday, August 16, 2012


Today I dropped my kids off at their high school.  I drove away…crying.  I called my wife to talk me through my drive home.  Why was I crying you might ask?  It’s a transition period for us all – and none of us transitions well, especially me.

For as long as my kids have been alive I have been a die-hard homeschooler.  We have unschooled, on-site charter-schooled, at home charter schooled, then back to on-site charter school.  It’s all been relatively well controlled – safe spaces for my kids, good education, and if the education or safe space disappeared (which it had in the case of one charter school) we immediately made adjustments that worked for us.  

This year however my youngest decided he wanted to try a particular public High School – which shocked me.  But there were some issues with their peer group at the charter school they were attending (though the education and teachers were awesome) and he had some friends from his fencing club who would be attending this particular high school.  So – we took the steps necessary to make that happen.  As it happened this high school is really good.  There were opportunities offered there that convinced my middle son to also go ahead and transfer over for his final year of high school.  Suddenly our homeschooling days were over.

Now, it‘s not like my kids can’t handle this, with some grumbling of getting adjusted to a new routine.  Rather than going to school 2 days a week (like college classes) they will go 5.  That is a big adjustment for them – and me.  And it’s not like they can’t handle meeting new people – they are very good at that with all their homeschooling and lack of specific age group segregation, they are very adept at meeting and conversing with people of all ages – from infant to the elderly.  And this school has a very diverse population which I think will be a refreshing change for them.  And it’s not like they can’t handle getting up early for school, and doing their homework in the evenings. No, I think the kids will be just fine actually.  Give them a couple weeks to really adjust to the new and different routine and they will be just fine.  The one I am worried about is me.

You see, I never wanted my kids in the public school system.  It scares me.  There are gangs, and drugs, and shootings, and the education is seriously lacking in many schools in our area.  Teachers are overworked and underpaid and not allowed to actually TEACH.  They spend more time being disciplinarians than educators.  Having many friends who are teachers shows me that while there is some good, there is a lot that needs fixing.  Our school system sucks.  Luckily for us, the school my youngest decided he wanted to go to happens to be one of the best in the area.  

 But…it’s still a P.U.B.L.I.C. school.                                                                                                      
Homeschooling allowed me to give my kids the time to be kids…to not grow up too fast, to play and enjoy learning as much as possible.  It allowed me to ensure that they were maturing at their rate and not because of negative life experiences (of which they did have several – divorce is never fun) that often cause kids to grow up too fast.  And in talking with my wife (ok, crying on the phone while she talked) she reminded me that I gave them that.  And now at 15 and almost 18 they are actually quite ready to do more growing and maturing into the young men they have already become.  Apparently I did ok with these guys.  (not to ignore the contributions of their father by any means, he was a part of that process also - but this blog is about me...) It was sometimes a battle to make sure that their educational and emotional needs were being met in a manner that meshed well, but I fought hard for my kids and made decisions for them that I think turned out OK.  As they got older they were welcomed into the discussion of their education, what they wanted, how they wanted it and where they got it.  And I think they made some good decisions as well.  My kids had the time to learn how to make decisions that deeply affected their lives and understand the ramifications both positive and not so positive.  

The process to transition from homeschool to public was nearly seamless.  Every time and obstacle popped up it was immediately erased as if by magic.  There were two pretty big obstacles.  We had to find a home in the district, in our price range and that met our requirements.  That was not easy at all – until at the last possible week to find a new home, I stumbled across this house in a nice neighborhood.  Turns out they had just lowered the rent and there were 20+ applications in for it (most of them sight unseen – did I mention it’s a nice neighborhood?).  We (my 17 yr old and I) met with the property manager to look at the house (LOVED IT!) and he apparently fell in love with us.  I had laryngitis (which he thought was adorable) and he had 15 grandkids and just loved my kid.  He told the owner of the house that WE would be renting because WE were the right family for this place.  Wow.  So we have our new home within the district.  However, the day we enrolled the kids into their new high school we discovered (to our horror!) that the boundaries had just been changed and our new home was NO longer in the district and they’d have to go to a school there was no way in hell I’d let them attend.  However, the superintendent just happened to be signing intra-district transfers that day ONLY and 15 minutes later we were set.  What a stroke of luck!  It’s been truly nearly seamless – which tells me it was the right decision.

So why am I crying?  Because my boys are in a public school, they are growing up, I won’t have them home with me all day a few days a week as I am used to and I HATE change and transitions.  And while I know this is all a good thing because I have no negative feelings about this particular transition at all, it is still difficult.  This means my kids are not babies anymore.  They still need me, but not like before.  They are capable young men who can take care of their business on their own (for the most part) and they know I am here if they need me. 

But…I think all of this is much harder on me than on them.  They are supposed to be growing up…not me.  I’m already grown up.  Aren’t I?   And as my wife pointed out to me through my tears this morning, we will go through this transition and growing period as we have all the others…kicking and screaming one moment and laughing through it the next.  And we will make it through to the other side just as strong as we always have.  Yes, there will be some bumps in the road – but that is life.  And while transitions can be difficult…they are doable.  

Transitions…growing up isn’t just for kids…It's for the whole family...

My Family...

Sunday, August 5, 2012

It’s Civil Rights Issue people…

With all the LGBT uproar lately about Chick-Fil-A’s CEO Dan Cathy and his outrageous comments about the Gay community, and then Huckabee’s Chick-Fil-A appreciation day, and all those bigoted (so-called) men of God preaching from their pulpits about how horrible gay people are, how we should be locked up, deported, killed, how being gay is a choice, how our ‘lifestyle’ lends itself to pedophilia…OMG!   It is INSANE!  And Dammit – IT HURTS!  Yes I am yelling!  What the hell is wrong with people?  I was once told by a Christian woman I knew (and who knew my 3 boys well) that I should have my children taken away from me because ALL gays are pedophiles and therefore I was a pedophile.  I have been told to my face that I should be killed because I am gay.  I have been told to my face that I will go to hell because I am gay.  I have been told to my face that I am a horrible person and parent because I am gay.  And I have been physically threatened because I am gay…and people still think I ‘chose’ to be gay?

I don’t know…I don’t get it – it make me so sad…and it makes me wonder what our real purpose is on this planet.  Because from where I sit…it is hard to tell why we are here.  

12 yrs. ago this month (August) I realized, to my horror and excitement (talk about mixed up emotions!) that I wasn’t straight, I wasn’t bi-sexual (which I thought I was) – I was a Lesbian.  Oh crap!  For the first time in my life felt like I ‘fit’ in my own skin – and it felt GOOD.  I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders – I finally knew who I was.  But, about 5 minutes later I also realized I had just instantly become: A Second Class Citizen and socially unacceptable to far too many people and religions to count.  I was simultaneously thrilled to finally know who I was (and end years of depression and several suicide attempts over it) and deeply afraid and sad because I knew what I had just lost – and I knew what I was going to lose.  

Realizing that I had just become a second class citizen and socially unacceptable to the world in general was devastating to me.  I am a very (boringly) traditional woman in reality.  I believe in family, commitment, marriage, sharing your life with a special someone and raising a family.  Marriage in my mind is a lifetime commitment and it saddens me deeply when it doesn’t work out that way.  I believe in equality for all.  I believe in treating others as I would have them treat me – with respect.  But now, I CAN’T get married and I don’t get equality or respect either (except from individuals of a like mind).  I am no longer equal in the eyes of the state and federal governments, and I am no longer deserving of respect by the vast majority of Churches/religions out there.  Strangely enough I do consider myself a Christian, but more and more that term is becoming very uncomfortable and I am finding myself disliking it more intensely as time goes on because of the behavior of other ‘so-called’ Christians out there who are not acting very Christian like.  They give Christians a Bad Name.  

One thing that people yammer on and on about is the ‘Gay Lifestyle’.  Um…yeah – those of you who use that terminology and think that way are so very wrong.  First:  go to your dictionary and look up the definition of Lifestyle.  My ‘gay lifestyle’ is about as generic as it comes.  I have a family, a job, a house and a spouse.  I cook, I clean, I do laundry, and I raise my kids.  We sit on the couch and watch TV at night or play cards.  My home is modestly decorated with family heirlooms and family pictures and lots of spider plants and a beautiful orchid given to me by a friend when my dad died.  And No, we don’t have a rainbow flag waving in our front yard.  Our ‘lifestyle’ is one of modest living, struggling like everyone else to make a living, paying rent and the bills:  You know – like how I lived before I came out only this time my partner (because she cannot legally be my spouse) is a woman and not a man.  Many people who are hetero have a lifestyle that is far more extravagant than any gay person I know.  Take a look at the famously rich who are out there buying $10,000 purses to carry their pocket dogs in and $50,000 dresses.  They spend more in a day on clothing than I make in a month working my ass off.  They are flamboyantly extravagant to the point that maybe we ought to ask if THEY are gay because so many people put this flamboyant stereotype on the LGBTQ community.  You might want to actually look around:  Gay people are living boring, normal lives just like everyone else.  We do what everyone else does – we are no different from anyone else except that we are different like everyone else.  

Some people have this notion that we ‘Choose’ to be gay.  Um – that is like telling a straight person they chose to be straight – or let’s get even more direct (and politically incorrect!):  Hey black person – why did you CHOOSE to be black?  Don’t you know you will be discriminated against simply because you are black?  Hey Woman – why did you choose to be a woman?  Don’t you know you will be discriminated against simply because you are woman!  Hey person born with a birth defect – why did you CHOOSE to be born with that?  Didn’t you know you will be discriminated against simply because you have a birth defect?  All of you really need to reconsider this choice and fix it and be different.  Be white, be male, be healthy, be hetero – be like the rest of normal, appropriate society!   

Doesn’t that sound horribly offensive - and REALLY STUPID?   You cannot choose who you are, your gender, your skin color, or your sexuality.  You cannot choose where you are born, in what country, into what way of life.  You can, however, choose to be accepting of other people and not demand that they be just like you.  Just because someone is different from you, has a different belief system, different thought processes, different skin color or a different sexuality – it doesn’t make them less than anyone else.  It simply makes us all different from one another.  What is wrong with that?

Civil Rights are supposed to be afforded to ALL US Citizens equally.  All US Citizens, when they become of legal adult age, can get married.  All adults pay taxes and contribute in some manner to our country under legal obligation to do so.  Because of that we are all afforded basic civil rights under the Constitution and Declaration of Independence.  Unless you are gay.  If you are gay you still have all the same obligations and responsibilities to the country BUT you are denied many Civil Rights that others take for granted.  

Marriage is a legally binding contract and a Civil Right, according to the Federal and State governments.  Along with that contract come 1049+ State and Federal rights, benefits and responsibilities.  Those benefits, rights and responsibilities provide a myriad of protections that hetero-married couples take for granted.   Check these links out for more information on what Hetero couples get that Gay couples are denied (simply because they are gay).  See what being Gay REALLY costs you - because it is a lot.  (And people actually think we CHOOSE this??  Are they nuts?)

For all those hetero folks who think the Gay Community can ‘get those rights some other way with legal paperwork’ I challenge you to make that work – because you can’t.  And I ask you, why should anyone who was born a US Citizen have to pay thousands of dollars to ‘try’ to get some semblance of the rights others get just by marrying someone of the opposite sex?   You show me how it can happen with the simple signature on a dotted line with nothing more than a nominal fee (equal to the fee for a marriage certificate please).  I seriously doubt you can.

And by the way – all those religious people touting Traditional Marriage are working their sorry little asses off to make sure THEY get to define YOUR Civil Rights based on THEIR beliefs!  Traditional Marriage my fanny – take a look in that Bible and then talk to me about Traditional Marriage.   With 72 hr marriages (um death do us part?), repeated divorces (Rush is on his 4th wife), adultery (how many political and religious figures have been caught in affairs?) and a 50%+ divorce rate I can see how the Sanctity of Traditional Marriage is working out for the straight community.  If this is what Traditional Marriage is I don’t want any part of it.  However, I would like to have the Civil Right to Marry the woman I love and spend the rest of my life with her bonded in a legally binding contract that gives us some guarantees, rights and protections we are currently not entitled to simply because we are gay.

Let’s look at the religious issue for a moment.  I truly respect another person’s right to believe what they want – even if I don’t agree with that belief.  But I take huge offense when those people want to force me and anyone else to live according to their belief system.  Your religious beliefs have NOTHING to do with basic Civil Rights afforded by the Federal Government – and you do not have the right to force others to live according to your personal belief system.   There is this thing called separation of church and state.  If the Church doesn’t want to marry gay people, the state is not going to force them to do so.  And the church (no matter how hard it tries) cannot force the State to not allow Marriage Equality (Same-Sex Marriage) based on religious belief.  The Church WILL lose this battle – in time.  Keep your religion out of my bedroom and out of my Civil Rights.  I deserve and demand the same rights I had when I was married to a man.   It is what is Right.  It is what is Ethical. And the fact is times are changing – and those who use their religion to try and control others – can’t change that fact.

Listen – if you read this far – thank you.  The fact is these issues affect me and thousands of others every minute of every day.  There are places I won’t go in this country (and on the planet) for fear of my physical safety because I am gay.  That is wrong.  I do not have equal Civil Rights in a country I was born in because I am gay.  Heterosexual immigrants have more rights than I do.  That is wrong.  People have the legal right to discriminate against me all over the country because I am gay.  That is wrong.  People joyfully run to a crappy fast food place to support an organization who donates millions of dollars to anti-gay hate organizations in the name of Christianity but refuse to do the same at food banks and homeless shelters.  That is seriously wrong.  People will, in the name of God judge, promote, support and act in hateful, hurtful ways joyfully and without conscience against the gay community.  That is wrong.  People use bits and pieces of God’s word to suit their needs and forget the ones that are most important.  That is wrong.  People openly discriminate and speak hateful things about gay people in front of their children…God help that child if s/he is gay.  So deeply wrong on those parent’s part. 

Love They Neighbor as Thyself.  What would Jesus do?  Walk a mile (or even a few feet!) in my shoes.  What if you woke up one morning and the world suddenly changed and no longer did you have the right to marry the person you loved most, nor did you have any legal rights to your child, and you could lose your job just for being you – and you couldn’t CHANGE you in order to fit into what society felt was OK.  And what if suddenly other people were telling you that you were a horrible person, who deserved to lose your child, or worse – DIE – because you were who you were?  Walk a mile in my shoes.  It’s scary out there – it’s not fair.  It’s wrong.  And when someone tells me they don’t think I should have the same Civil Rights because they don’t agree with my ‘lifestyle’? 

It’s Offensive.  It Hurts.  And it is Wrong.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Giving is a Wonderful thing...

     I often tell my mom’s that they do as much for me as I hope I do for them.  They never really get it until I explain.  

     Imagine how it feels to know you have made a difference in someone’s world – for the better.  Imagine knowing that because of your skills, your desire to help, your desire to be the best you can be that you helped a woman overcome obstacles that would cause breastfeeding to fail.  Imagine knowing that because of those skills you were able to help a baby heal from traumatic birth, or birth injury or tight muscles or even a tongue-tie simply because you knew what to look for and who to refer out to and take care of the challenge.  And imagine how it feels to watch moms and babies pull it together and be successful at breastfeeding and bonding the way they both want and need to be – to find normal.

     Not all moms make it to breastfeeding every baby for a myriad of reasons, and that is heartbreaking.  But – imagine being able to counsel that mom and help her come to terms with that.  Imagine how it feels to help her be successful with a current baby after it didn’t happen with a prior.  What if she can’t breastfeed because of a hormonal or physical issue beyond her control?  What if she tried and failed with prior children but no one told her WHY?  Now imagine the relief she has when she finds out WHY it didn’t work and that it was NOT because SHE failed…it just is a situation that is beyond her control.  Bittersweet?  Absolutely.  To be able to give her an answer and ease her feelings of failure?  Priceless.  

     When I was a kid my family would ask every so often if I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I had no clue.  I wanted to be a housewife, like my grandma, and raise children.  I also wanted to be an entrepreneur and make a lot of money, or own my own business – be the boss!  (I was kind of bossy back then!)  But the one thing I KNEW I wanted to do was make a difference.  Sadly, I grew up being told that was a silly thing to want and I never would.  I think my family simply wanted me to not fail – or something.  But at any rate that’s what I grew up hearing.  All throughout college I still wanted to make a difference – I got my degree in Child Development and went into the child care field as a pre-school teacher.  I LOVED working with the kids, but working for others who violated laws and ethics didn’t work for me.  I managed to stay on that career path for about 5 yrs before it wore me out.  I already had one awesome little boy and then I got married and had 2 more.

     I knew I wanted to work with kids, maybe be a psychologist or something along those lines and often thought about going back to school.  But, then I had my 2nd son who taught me so much about how breastfeeding shouldn’t be.  It was through my experiences with him that I found my calling – my way to make that difference.   If you like,  you can read about it here.

     I found this career through our breastfeeding challenges.  I had decided that if I could help it, no other mom would go through the hell I did to breastfeed my son.  And a dream was recognized (I get to make a difference) and a goal was reached when I became an IBCLC in 2000.  I get to make a difference – I am allowed to make a difference – I am encouraged to make a difference!  And it feels amazing!

     When I work with moms I always try to thank them for letting me help.  They really don’t understand and I love that.  You see, when they welcome me into their home, and ask me (a complete stranger) to help them with a scary, frustrating and often painful situation, I am honored by that.  I know how hard it can be to ask for help.  And I know how difficult breastfeeding problems can be emotionally, physically and spiritually.  I do my best to support my mom’s where they are at and give them the pep talks they need, and talk them off a ledge when they need; even if that is late at night, on a weekend or a holiday.  You see – they MATTER to me.  They are the ones who allow me to make a difference in the world – in THEIR world.  They invite me in to help.  And that then makes a difference in MY world.  The gift they give me is immeasurable. 

     I have become friends with many of my mom’s, and when things got really rough for my wife and me last year, without being asked, they came to our rescue and helped support us in so many wonderful ways - and we really needed it.  It turns out that, when you do your best to help others without worrying about all the little things you can charge for, and when you help because you love it, that you get things in return.  There are no conditions on what I do for and give my mom’s.  And I was shocked and so deeply moved by the help and kindness we have been treated to this past year.  It was simply not expected.  But it was deeply appreciated.  

     And so – to you moms out there who I have been honored to help.  Thank you.   
Really - You do for me as much as I hope I do for you…and don’t ever forget that.  I don’t. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sleeping together…it’s not just for us grown-ups!

My wife took a new temp job last week that went from working day shift to working night shift.  There was an immediate problem with that for me.  You see, I don’t sleep well alone - anymore.  

Jo and I hadn’t spent one night apart in the 2 years we have been together until her first temp job when she had to work a grave shift (a month ago).  I discovered to my horror that I can’t sleep when she isn’t there.  I didn’t know this, but apparently I have to be touching her in order to go to sleep and I do so every night without thinking about it.  However, this is not always great for her.  For some reason she doesn’t like it when my foot is draped over her ankles…something about pinning them down and cutting off blood circulation...and then there is the snuggling up to her and not giving her any room to move or sprawl out.   It doesn’t bother me any so I’m not sure what all the fuss is about.  At any rate, that first night she was gone I literally did not sleep.  At.  All.  The next night wasn’t any better.  Luckily, for everyone around me, there were only two nights of that nonsense (sleep deprivation and I do NOT get along!) and things got back to normal – until last week.  A new temp job went from day shift to night shift.  And there I was the first night, laying there, tossing and turning, trying to sleep – and not succeeding.  The pillows that have her scent weren’t helping either…they just made me more stressed and unable to get any closer to sleep than a light dozing off.

Now, it isn’t like I wasn’t well trained as a baby to sleep by myself.  My mother did the Dr. Spock cry it out with me and I slept by myself for many years.  If I tried to crawl into bed with my mom after a bad dream I was quickly ushered back to my own bed so that I could remain the independent little sleeper I was supposed to be.  In fact, I was so well trained that I really didn’t like sleeping with anyone else – even as an adult.  It was annoying.  They were in my space, in my way and woke me up.  How rude!  As long as the other person stayed on their side of the bed I was, for the most part, ok.   Then I met Jo, and developed a strong, healthy attachment to her and that is a good thing – but this not being able to sleep without her next to me?  Well, that is not.   Or is it?

There is a lot of controversy about co-sleeping and babies these days.  Comments range from you SHOULD do it to you should NEVER do it.  Well, let’s think about this for a moment.  We hear the following comments all the time, right?  
  •    You must co-sleep to be an attachment parent (see previous blog post on attachment parenting).
  •  If you allow the baby to sleep in your bed they will never learn to sleep on their own.  Or worse: They will never leave the parental bed!  
  •   Baby must learn to self-soothe and be independent

There are more, but we will stick with these for now. 

First – there is a difference between co-sleeping and co-bedding.  Co-sleeping is sleeping in the same room.  Co-bedding is sleeping in the same bed.  Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s dispel some of these ‘myths’ shall we?  

Attachment parents do not all co-bed nor do they all co-sleep.  I am an attachment parent and yet:  My oldest son did a mix of co-sleeping and co-bedding.  And it was pretty funny when he started off in his crib at night (in my room) and I woke up many mornings with him in bed with me and no idea how he got there!  I tried co-bedding with my middle son but that quickly became a nightmare!  He tossed, turned, kicked and generally made me nuts for two months before I finally put him in his crib at the end of my bed and we co-slept happily for the next few years.   My youngest son never made it into a crib, partly because we never put it together but mostly because he was so snuggly and easy to sleep with!  He (safely) co-bedded with me for several years.  It was wonderful! 

Studies show that co-sleeping actually reduces the risk of SIDS – co-bedding does the same thing when done safely.  Having the baby in the room with you allows you to hear your baby when he needs you much more quickly and moms find they often wake up just slightly before baby does for feeding.  Co-bedding allows for faster and easier breastfeeding.  Kind of cool stuff there!

How about the old comment of “if you allow the baby to sleep with you he will never learn to sleep on his own”?   Again not true.  Think about it:  How many teenagers are still sleeping in the bed, (or in the room) with their parents?  Are YOU still sleeping in your parents’ bed – with them?  I didn’t think so.   

The experts say that babies need to feel safe and protected.  I agree with that and I hazard a guess that babies would too.  Babies have no clue that it is 2012 and that if they are left alone they won’t be a Scooby snack for a Sabre-tooth.  So, when they fall asleep and we put them down, their innate instincts take over, they wake and holler at us to pick them up and keep them safe!  Co-bedding and co-sleeping help the baby to feel safe and secure, thus allowing for better sleep for both parent and child.   

A pretty typical example of how kids transition to their own sleep space when ready is my own experience.  My youngest son was 3 when he transitioned into his own bed, in his own room, with his older brother – by his choice.  I would wake up in the mornings and find him in bed with me several times per week until he was about 6.   Between ages 7 and 9 I’d wake up to him snuggling in once or twice a week. From about 9 – 10 years of age I was lucky if he graced my sleeping presence once a month.  By age 11 he was over it – wasn’t happening – no way was he going to snuggle in with mom!   When he was 12 we went camping (sort of – slept in a nice camp trailer) and there was only one place for him to sleep…with me.  He had a fit!  It was actually kind of funny.  He couldn’t stand the thought of snuggling in with mom, so he positioned himself on the very edge of the bed to go to sleep. It was a queen sized bed.  Can you imagine how horrified he was to wake up in the morning all nice and snuggled in with mom, his head on my shoulder?  I thought it was great, personally.  So, trust me – your kids will NOT be sleeping with you forever.  When they are developmentally ready, they will naturally transition into their own sleeping space and do so easily.  And when that happens, you are liable to miss them…just as you miss your partner if they are not with you.  
Lastly, self-soothing and independence.  I hear about these most.   Babies learn to self-soothe when they are developmentally ready to do so and if you try to force that on them – good luck making it happen before they are ready.  It just doesn’t work.  Look at it this way:  we are not all ‘ready’ to do what someone else is at the same time or age.  Why would we be?  We all grow and develop at our own pace and not before.  And if we, as adults, are pushed to learn something faster than we are able – what do we do?  Just like babies and children will, we get mad or frustrated or say NO!   The key is to recognize that and listen to them, just as we expect others to listen to us.  We have the cognitive ability to recognize that we ourselves need more time to learn something – we also have to cognitive ability to recognize that they need it too.  However, many people will tell us that we have to push our children into independence.  Babies and children learn independence when developmentally ready and when they know their needs are met and they are safe.  And the studies show that when children’s needs are met they grow into healthy independent adults.  

I got to thinking about these issues at 2am when I was supposed to be sleeping and couldn’t because I was all alone and missing my wife and my youngest son wouldn’t come snuggle in with me. I realized that what I have been telling parents for years is really true:  

How can we expect babies to sleep well by themselves if we, as adults, can’t sleep well if our partner is not there with us?   Many parents acknowledge without any hesitation that they have a difficult time sleeping without their better half.   They hate it!  But, if this ‘training the baby to be independent and sleep alone’ is a realistic expectation of what we must do as parents, then we really need to take a look at what we are doing as adults because something isn’t jiving here.  Maybe we should seriously consider sleep-training ourselves to sleep without our partners because clearly we have become far too dependent on having them with us when we sleep (or at least I sure have!).   Perhaps separate rooms and beds and never snuggling together in bed all night should be the norm for all partnered adults.  Under no circumstances should we ‘get used’ to having our partner, our love, that person who we love so deeply and want to connect with so much, in bed with us.  It will be have sex, then get back in to your own bed a.s.a.p.  We wouldn’t want to become too dependent upon them would we?  If we did that how would we ever be independent adults? 

So – that’s it:  No more sleeping together, no more snuggling in bed, no more sleep-time connection, no more making love and falling asleep in each others arms, feeling safe and loved at night.  When you think of that, how does it make you feel inside?  Are you now excited to sleep-train each other?  Are you looking forward to putting a nice distance between you two?  How do you think this distance and inability to connect with each other at night while sleeping will affect your relationship?   Now put this back in the perspective of your baby.  That little guy who spent 9 months inside of you; the one who is hardwired to stay safe in the arms of his parents… where do you think he needs to be?  If it were his choice, what would he choose?

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