Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Come see my other site

Sorry if you are confused with all the moves...I will make a more "formal announcement" (with my tiara on) when I am sure.

Please check out http://www.momstinfoilhat.com and be one of the first! (Under construction, but full of words...)

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Who loves a label?

I am bugged by an article promoting Moms Rising, an organization I love. Don't get me wrong, I love that they get any and all press that they can get.

But, they pegged us! We are now "post feminist".

Read this quote:

"A generation of mothers who are largely perceived as postfeminist in every way, from sex to economic discrimination, has begun a consciousness-raising that is almost old-fashioned were it not for the technology involved. Raised to believe that girls could accomplish anything, these women have reached parenthood, only to find they face many of the same pay, equity, and work-family balance issues that were being fought over decades before.... For the women who are fired up about workplace inequalities, there is an easy way to fight back, without even leaving the house.... 'For women, I know we want to lead more meaningful lives and make a difference, but it's easy to feel overwhelmed,' she said. 'But MomsRising makes it feel manageable. Plus, it creates a community, which is really fun.'"

Doesn't post feminism mean feminism is over, or unnecessary? Why is it that articles on feminism (or post feminism, in this case) always end up in the New York Times Style section? Doesn't that we still got a long way to go?

If you need any convincing, look at the big beautiful now-in-color picture at the top, of the mom looking determinedly and slightly angrily off in the distance...straight at an advertisement emaciated model showing lots of bony cleavage.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

And the booby prize goes to...us. Again.

In case you had any doubt before, UNICEF just rated the United States the LOWEST out of 21 wealthy industrialized countries in health and safety of its children. We were ranked above only Great Britain overall for the welfare of our children.

According to one of the authors of the report, the United States fares so poorly "because of greater economic inequality and poor levels of public support for families."

I am so sick of living in a country where we don't think twice about corporate welfare, excessive military funding, and tax cuts for the rich, and our children and families are suffering every day. Even though my husband is a public school teacher, we can't afford the cost to be on their family medical plan. So, we bought a cheaper one, which we struggle and scrape to pay for every month. And you know what? I am thinking of canceling it an just paying for catastrophic care. I can't afford the deductible when I need to go in anyway. I have at least four things I can think of that I would go see a doctor for if I had the money. Hope they don't get worse.

If you were wondering what was wrong with support of families in America, or wanted to know what people are trying to do about it, please visit Moms Rising, home of The Motherhood Manifesto.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

More about lead in lunchboxes


I first reported about lead in soft vinyl lunchboxes more than a year ago. (The linked post is a moved copy of the original from late last summer.)

Now, based on an Freedom of Information Act request by the Associated Press (yes, because we apparently need to rely on a private news agency to protect our children by suing for information), we are finding out that the Children Please Suck Contaminants Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) manipulated their results and testing methods in order to produce results that showed lead in non-hazardous levels.

Their initially testing showed much higher levels of lead, some way above safety levels. Even the FDA blanched at their original results and decided to send a warning to the manufacturers.

If you would like to check your child's lunchbox, order a lead test kit today. Or, throw it out and go with a cloth bag.

Something imporant to care about, Vol. 3


This topic qualifies as more than just paranoia. Sexual offenses against our children, no matter their age, is probably one of the greatest fears of many parents. And I feel like I failed my first test.

I have had this fantastic website, the Family Watchdog, forwarded to me a few times by family and friends. If you enter in any address, they will show you a map of sexual offenders’ homes and workplaces with icons on a map. If you click on the icon, you can see a mug shot of the offender, and find out more about their conviction.

The first time I did it, I found a few offenders a few miles away or more. I live on the edge of a highly populated area. I was actually pretty happy with how far I was from the closest offender.

The next time it was forwarded to me, I did another search. I clicked on the icon for my house, and brought up a mug shot. There is an offender who lives so close to my home, it looks like his icon is inside our little house icon. He lives .03 miles away. Two houses down.

I have stared as his picture. I glare at his red BMW every time I walk my son to the bus stop. He made the first appearance outside of his house in six months last week to play with a new puppy in the front yard. He lives with his girlfriend, has a pet, and never leaves the house. He probably works over the internet, like me.

*Shudder*

I have examined his conviction: “Use Internet to solicit/attempt solicit etc. a child for sex/lewdness etc; F.S. 847.0135(3) (PRINCIPAL).” I assume that means he used the internet to try to meet up with a child for sex. I don’t know if it was a male or a female child, which is pure selfishness on my part to want to know. I have two boys. My roommate has a girl. There are many more children, boys and girls of all ages on the block. I don’t know how old the child was. Probably older than my oldest, who is seven, and only goes on Neopets on the internet, and that is supervised. But, my kids are getting older every day.

I talked to my neighbor who lives in the house in between. I told him what I found, and asked him to tell me if he ever saw anything suspicious. I fretted about what to say to my older son. I ended up saying nothing other than the same general comments on his private parts being his own, and to tell me if anyone wanted to touch them. I dreamed up letters I could put in the mailboxes on the street, DVDs I would order to show my sons, but I did nothing.

When we were on our way home from the bus stop last week, he pointed out the house with the red BMW out front, and said, “A bad man lives there.” I tried not to show the terror in my eyes.

“How do you know?” I asked quickly.

“Oh, Luis’s mom told us to watch out, that a bad man lived there.”

Luis’s mom. Luis’s mom who I underestimate constantly, who barely speaks English, is the one who prepared my son against this sexual offender. I was frozen with fear, fear of saying the wrong thing, of having to explain rape and molestation to a seven year old. So, I didn’t tell him or any of his friends or their parents about the threat in the neighborhood. I am glad Luis’s mom stepped up.

I hope all of our children’s first and every experience with sex are voluntary and wonderful.

Here are some more websites that parents and kids may find useful:

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence – External Links Page – includes many hotlines and regional resources

http://www.ncadv.org/resources/ExternalLinks_68.html

Safer Child, Inc.- Help with an Abusive Situation - Hotlines for rape, child abuse, domestic abuse

http://www.saferchild.org/domestic.htm

Nemours Foundation – KidsHealth – Dealing with problems: Rape

http://www.kidshealth.org/teen/your_mind/problems/rape_what_to_do.html

Nemours Foundation – KidsHealth – Internet safety

http://www.kidshealth.org/teen/safety/safebasics/internet_safety.html

The power of suggestion


My boys never cease to amaze me. Even though I am convinced that they are both special little brilliant geniuses, I still underestimate them all the time.

I found a version of some older software for toddlers that S used to love playing. When I first put Z in front of it, I figured he would be hitting the keyboard randomly for a while, and it would be forever before he started pointing and clicking the mouse, and even longer before he actually understood that it corresponded to something on the screen in front of him.

Well, he was pointing, clicking and dragging within about 2 days.

The other thing I underestimated was the ability of Z to be influenced by what he was looking at on a screen. When he pointed and clicked on the number seven, seven apples popped up and he said “Caco!” (his word for apple…it actually is short for avocado…long story). He ran to the refrigerator, grabbed himself an apple, and proceeded to eat it. Ten minutes later, a similar situation happened with bananas showing up in the game. He chirped “ ‘nana!”, jumped up, and insisted on eating a banana.

Luckily, he doesn’t watch much TV, and what he does watch has few commercials. But, the power of image to be converted instantly into want and then action made my head spin. And, of course, it made me paranoid about what future effects advertising will have on his mind and on his waistline.

I found a good site from PBS called Don’t Buy It. This site is geared more towards kids S’s age (7 ½) than Z’s age (2). I will try it out on his older brother first. But, who knows, he may be ready for it. I may just be underestimating him again.

Photo credit: anissat at www.sxc.hu

Monday, February 19, 2007

Seafood IS brainfood


Yet another source verifies that women should NOT skip eating seafood while pregnant. The Lancet printed a study of data collected in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). The study was designed to see if seafood consumption during pregnancy affected children's neuorlogical development, including their scores on behavioral and intelligence testing. The results speak for themsleves:

"After adjustment, maternal seafood intake during pregnancy of less than 340 g per week was associated with increased risk of their children being in the lowest quartile for verbal intelligence quotient (IQ) (no seafood consumption, odds ratio [OR] 1·48, 95% CI 1·16–1·90; some, 1·09, 0·92–1·29; overall trend, p=0·004), compared with mothers who consumed more than 340 g per week. Low maternal seafood intake was also associated with increased risk of suboptimum outcomes for prosocial behaviour, fine motor, communication, and social development scores. For each outcome measure, the lower the intake of seafood during pregnancy, the higher the risk of suboptimum developmental outcome."

In other words, children born to moms with the lowest seafood consumption during pregnancy had the worst outcomes in all areas: behavioral, intelligence, motor skills, everything. The authors of the study come to a similar conclusion as an earlier study by the Harvard School of Public Health, saying that warnings against fish intake for pregnant women do more harm than good.

I love it when the scientific evidence agrees with my opinion and my palate, and we are encouraged to eat something healthy and delicious rather than told it's scary. I hate it when women are given conflicting information, and I am sure there are women who avoided seafood while they were pregnant thinking they were doing best by their children-to-be, and now feel frustrated and guilty about one more thing.

I am sure there will still be many articles and websites that still mistakenly warn pregnant women to stay away from seafood. (Just like articles on weight loss that say to limit nuts. *twitch twitch*) Here's to hoping some of these women do some fact checking of their own.

Keeping up with the recalls


In case you haven't heard, Peter Pan peanut butter (also packaged as Great Value peanut butter) has been recalled due to a suspected Salmonella contamination. I know no less than three people who have found the exact lot number, the one beginning "2111" in their house.

Oscar Meyer is recalling some ready made chicken breast, which may cause listeriosis. And, just in case fellow crunchy health food store shoppers are feeling a little immune right now, there is also a recall on Earth's Best organic baby food, specifically the apple peach barley variety. No sickness has been linked to it, but it may be contaminated with Clostridium botulinum, a bacterium which can cause botulism.

Beware of your groceries!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

She don't lie, she don't lie, she don't lie


An apparently patriotic company is marketing a new energy drink called “Cocaine”. Branding an energy drink full of sugar and caffeine as a dangerously addictive controlled substance…well, I don’t know if you can get me to argue too much about that. However, I am not worried about Redux Beverages simply sullying caffeine and sugar’s good reputations.

I am not the only one who does have a problem with their name choice because it makes light of cocaine use. Redux Beverages has created a MySpace site to defend themselves against the attacks of the “liberal media”, which is apparently ABC News. (I think complaining about the “liberal media” qualifies them to put an American flag behind an energy drink named after an illegal scourge.)

If you skip “Dealers”and “Wired Science” and click on their ”Rumors” link on their main site, you can read that they answer the question: “Does Cocaine contain cocaine?” with: No, we don't advocate drug use. What you do with your drink is completely up to you!” While they make a point to tell people to avoid drinks with high fructose corn syrup, apparently drug use is “up to you”.

Advocating drug use can take other forms than sneaking illegal drugs into drinks. For example, wearing a shirt with a picture of a marijuana leaf, even if the shirt isn’t made out of hemp, can easily be considered advocating drug use. Calling a song “Cocaine” like Eric Clapton, ”Hits from the Bong” like Cypress Hill, or ”Heroin” like Velvet Underground was and is easily argued to be promoting drug use. The interest groups who complained about these songs weren’t typically labeled liberal.

Apparently even being more blatant about not actively promoting drug use isn’t good enough, although it isn’t hard to beat a MySpace account created after the fact. The United States Government Accounting Office released an official report stating that the current administration’s anti-drug campaign actually encouraged more drug use in the group of children that viewed the ads than the group that did not. In their report clearly entitled ”Contractor’s National Evaluation Did Not Find That the Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign Was Effective in Reducing Youth Drug Use" the government investigators conclude that these ads “may have promoted perceptions among exposed youth that others’ drug use was normal.” The only statistically significant results they found was increased initiation of marijuana use among groups that watched the ads.

So, if anti-drug ads seemed to imply that others doing drugs is normal, what does naming and marketing an energy drink called “Cocaine” say? Redux, wave the flag, say the “L” word and defend free speech if you want, but please admit that your free speech is encouraging cocaine use. But, that's "up to you".

The green ones make you feel different


Does anyone remember hearing that the green m&m's would make you horny? I remember this from the playground, before I was even sure what horny meant. I just knew it was something that made the older kids giggle, and would be VERY embarassing if it happened to me.

Now that I'm a little older and wiser, I eat the green m&m's, if you know what I mean. (Not often I use an artificially dyed candy as an example. I am partial to the plain ones, if I am going to cheat.)

My friend passed along a fantastic late Valentine's Day link with tips on how to green up your sex life.

This page is very very informative and detailed. I didn't know there was so much to discuss! Who knew there are phthalates and PVC in sex toys? Who knew there was milk in latex condoms? Who knew there was a site like Treehugger I hadn't come across yet?

Enjoy!

Friday, February 16, 2007

How Doctors Think...and Don't Listen


Dr. Jerome Groopman has experienced first hand (no pun intended) the pain and hassle, and potential danger, of an incorrect medical diagnosis. He got four wrong diagnoses on his hurt hand out of six surgeons from whom he sought opinions. Even worse, he and his wife were sent home with their sick infant son repeatedly by their pediatrician, dismissed as neurotic first-time parents. And he was a doctor! A trip to the ER later proved his baby had a serious and possibly deadly intestinal blockage.

I am eagerly awaiting his new book How Doctor's Think, which is coming out later this year. According to advance interviews, his book discusses one of my biggest pet peeves with some medical professionals. They don't listen to their patients or value their thoughts.

A good friend of mine was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor. I went along with him and his wife when they met the surgeon for the first time, as a sort of medical translator. Although they were very relieved to work with someone so well regarded and confident, I was blown away by his aggressively arrogant and dismissive treatment of my friend during the meeting. After the operation, which went well, he NEVER visited my friend on rounds. Not once. After major brain surgery.

What's worse is when your concerns are dismissed as a parent, as happened to the author of this forthcoming book. There are many heart wrenching stories out there, but here is the one from my family. An ophthalmologist told my mother that my younger brother had "always been like that" and she just hadn't noticed when she brought him in for an evaluation when one of his eyes STOPPED MOVING. Turns out he had a brain tumor too. Who knew? Not the ophthalmologist. Good thing my mom didn't wait very long to get a second opinion.

Send me a sign

Who loves it?

I LOVE IT!!!

Mothering Magazine, one of my favorite publications, sponsored a contest to create a sign showing support of breastfeeding. Not only did I see it in my weekly Mothering email, but I also saw it covered in several of my blog subscriptions, including Belly Tales and Women's Health News.

I could have used this sign when I had to pump at work. There is nothing like hearing the site manager's keys in the lock when you are strapped into to your Pump in Style, cowering in the corner of the empty conference room, with full letdown happening and milk pouring out. Sometimes a locked door and a "Room in Use" sign is not enough.

I won't go into a rant (OK, not much of one) about how it is incredible that public breastfeeding is still a controversy. (The article in last link almost turned me off to Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! entirely. I still listen, but whenever Roxanne "Breastfeeding in public = hairy man wearing a speedo" Roberts is on, I make sarcastic comments that make me feel better about it.)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Just snort it up, why doncha?

I am taking a break from transferring blog entires from my old site (boo! hiss!) and writing a new entry. I have a few bouncing around in my head to write, but this one needs to show up now to say:

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!!

We have avoided sending out cheap crap with some TV or movie character on them to S's class for three years going with this cute little idea! Take the picture, paste it on construction paper, and we are set to go.

So, the people who only know me online get used to my rants and liberal use of the word "crap" when it comes to junk food. Twice today on a board I frequent people made jokes about me judging them for discussing eating / giving their kids crap food. OK, so I am building a reputation. I feel like Julia Child when she said (I am paraphrasing) that everyone thinks she eats quail eggs constantly, but every now and then she is in a hurry and drives through for a burger.

Case in point: My sons are fighting over S's Valentine's Day candy as I type. My 2 year old Z asked me to open up Fun Dip for him. Fun Dip! (I didn't let him have it. I may throw it away if S doesn't eat it in a few days.) I haven't eaten that since I was in college, and my hair was purple at the time, if that was any indication of my judgment.

S's new favorite candy is Pixy Stix. Someone gave this kiddie crack candy out to his second grade class. He keeps on pouring stick after stick down his throat and exclaiming "Wow! I reeeeeeally like this!" with a crazed, glazed look in his eye. I half expect to find him cutting it in lines and snorting on the dining room table after dinner tonight.

So, point is, yes, I complain, but I am a hypocrite. I value healthy food, but I know what it's like to have a sweet tooth, or to have kids who get handed crap at school once a week for one reason or another.

Don't worry, no judgment here. I don't hate the player, I hate the game.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Reopening the measles vaccine and autism link discussion


Thank you, eager posters of the Pregnancy, Alternative and complementary health forum for renewing my research into the scary world of autism and vaccines. Tempers and controversies can run hot when discussing this topic, and you don’t have to go farther than our board to find that out.

Nothing fills the paranoid and distrustful parent’s heart with more fear that a pharmaceutical company with a gleaming syringe and a new vaccine, except for maybe the prospect of having a child with autism. Or a devastating contagious disease, caused by getting a vaccine (it happens!) or by avoiding one. Or having child services pick you up for not immunizing your child, or having your child refused admissions to schools or a medical practice for not having all of his or her vaccinations.

As one of my favorite posters maxlou said, “You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.” And trust me, parents and health professionals are lining up on both sides to wag their fingers at you.

New parents should be handed a tinfoil hat with their baby, to be worn during immunization discussions. So many forces are trying to brainwash us in one direction or another, an extra layer of protective cover couldn’t hurt.

Just to throw some more research/fuel to the fire, major medical institutions are still researching the autism measles connection. There is a theory, substantiated by two small studies, that the measles vaccine mutates in some susceptible children to a gastrointestinal manifestation of the disease.

In other words, some autistic children may have a form of vaccine-induced intestinal measles. This was seemingly substantiated by a new study from Wake Forest University School of Medicine. Not a fly by night operation.

The head researcher urges people not to leap to the conclusion that this absolutely proves that the measles vaccine causes autism. No, it does not. But it does open the door yet again to a needed dialogue about vaccine safety, and true risks and benefits.

(By the way, this has NOTHING to do with thimeresol, the dangerous - but - not - conclusively - linked - to - autism mercury preservative finally being removed from vaccines).

Case not closed.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

But officer, I didn't know the rice was illegal!

I hope some of you have been keeping abreast of the latest chemical and technological threats here at my not-so-obviously named blog "Mom's Tinfoil Hat". (Our tech team promises that making the title of our blog actually visible on our blog is "on the list". *edit* It is such a joy to be using a FREE service like Blogspot that can give me better technology than all the money at Viacom!)

I have already covered conspiracies against our health and peace of mind have been hidden in the seemingly innocent form of rice.
Well here's a new one: the recent discovery of an illegal, unapproved, genetically-modified rice called LibertyLink or LL601 from the US firm Bayer on the international market. According to Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture Richard Bell, LL601 has been detected in virtually all milled long-grain rice supplies that have been tested.

No wonder the Bayer homepage has the quote “We want to more intensively exploit the opportunities for growth in the areas of innovation, new technologies and seeds” on it no less than twice.

This has prompted many international markets, including Japan (no, they don’t eat a lot of rice!) and the EU, to refuse some or all of our rice at the border.

So, what does the USDA do? Reprimand Bayer for knowingly selling an illegal and unapproved new technology disguised as food to the global markets? They claim they didn’t knowingly release it into the food chain. Well, one of the biggest complaints about GMOs is how easily the altered genes can irreversibly contaminate the regular food supply. Hmm, maybe we weren't just paranoid after all.

Are they going to recall the rice? Are they planning on fining Bayer for not taking efforts to prevent its experimental and unapproved genes from spreading to the international food supply?

If you answered, none of the above, in fact let’s just retroactively rubberstamp this all as OK, you are our tinfoil hat winner of the day.

The USDA is inviting public comment on this decision. If you would like to comment, you can go through the simple process of going to http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main, you have to know the name of the document is “APHIS-2006-0140-0001”, and you can either click on the little speech balloon and make a comment (which is not readily apparent), or mail your forms in QUADRUPLICATE to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Too bad Bayer didn’t jump through hoops like this to get their Frankenrice approved.

Scary spinach!


(Originally posted September 15, 2006)

Grrrr….I hates it when they tell us to stop eating something healthy.

OK, I’ll stop talking like Popeye.

The FDA has advised for us to stop eating bagged raw spinach because of an E. coli outbreak that has already killed one person. Too bad a lack of eating spinach or any other vegetables in significant amounts is killing Americans every day.

So, for the time being, don’t eat the killer spinach. Let’s hope the next outbreak is on pork rinds or French fries…

The next insurgents

(Originally posted Sept. 11, 2006)

Ahhh, September 11th. A fruitful paranoia day.

The horrific events of September 11th, 2001 have upset the calm of the nation for five years. My generation used to feel invincible. Now, we have seen jets plummet out of the sky and crash into buildings. Anthrax showed up in office buildings and in post offices.

Where is the next sci fi threat coming from? Nukes from North Korea? (Or Iran?)

Smallpox? A meteor?

Or.....rebellious robots?

Check out “How to Spot a Hostile Robot” and “Fight Back.” If 9/11 taught us anything, it is that we need to be prepared.

The nicotine monkey becomes a gorilla


My name is Hilary, and I am an addict. A recovered addict, anyway. I was a nicotine junkie for almost ten years.

I started smoking cigarettes when I was 16. I was around people who seemed cool, and they smoked and seemed to enjoy it. My mom and most of her friends smoked when I was a kid in the 70’s. I had been around cigarettes a lot.

I hated it when my mom smoked when I was little. I would hide her cigarettes, break them and put them back in the package. Once I even sprayed them with laundry starch.

My mom eventually quit, or hid her occasional smoking a lot better. Years passed, and I became an invincible, immortal, omniscient teenager. I started smoking while at a summer debate institute at Dartmouth.

(Anyone who makes a comment about me being a former debater in a future argument gets a virtual kick in the shin. I. have. heard. it. before.)

My occasional bum of a smoke off of a friend quickly bloomed into a pack a day habit. I couldn’t laugh without coughing up a wad of black gunk after smoking for almost ten years. I was stalling on trying to quit for the fourth time when I found out I was pregnant with S. I cut down and quit within two weeks. That was 8 years ago.

Apparently only 20% of pregnant women who smoke quit. Most people who want to quit, can’t. I know I tried several times, and it is a strong physical addiction. Well, The Washington Post reported that the Massachusetts Department of Public Health proved cigarette companies have been steadily increasing the amount of nicotine in their cigarettes. More than half of the brands have increased the levels more than 10% in the past decade, and some have raised them more than 30%.

The cigarette companies definitely scare me. They make me want to reach for a tinfoil hat and put a forcefield around my kids. My free spirited and independent boy S already reminds me too much of me. I was no match for the addictiveness of the cigarettes of ten years ago. What will he have waiting for him in ten years?

Which side are you on?

(Originally posted Labor Day 2006)

Happy Labor Day!

It’s been about 85 years since Florence Reece wrote the lyrics to “Which Side Are You On?” in response to the way her family was harassed for her husband’s involvement in a coal mining union.

Back in the 1930’s, her Mama Reece's introduction to the labor movement came when her home was ransacked by the sheriff and deputies of Harlan County, waving guns at her and her seven children as they looked for her labor organizing husband.

Today, we have a much different labor battle going on. Families are in crisis trying to make ends meet with skyrocketing health care costs, stagnant wages, high gas and energy prices, and inadequate and expensive child care options. And it seems like the whole idea behind unions…organizing and banding together…just isn’t alive and well in America any more.

I hope the labor movement makes a major comeback. I hope we get better vacation benefits, maternity and paternity leave, flex time, affordable quality day care, and countless other improvements in work conditions that would help families and the community.

On your day off, check out Moms Rising, the official site of the Motherhood Manifesto and learn more about the situation we are all in together. Truly paranoia inducing. Where’s my hat?

Something imporant to care about, Vol. 2


(Originally posted August 29, 2006)

Ernesto's coming. Once - a - hurricane - now - a - tropical - storm Ernesto.

I live in the orange circle. Eeeek! Nothing makes you freak out more than having someone draw a target with your house in the bullseye on the 24 hour state of emergency news alert.

We have the hurricane shutters up, we have stockpiles of water, food and gas. Anyone who has lived through the last decade of hurricanes around these parts is worried. You don’t have to be a paranoiac like myself.

Today is also the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall in the Gulf. I remember last year, being hunkered down in this same house as Katrina made her first pass over land here in Florida. I lamented the loss of my screens and all the trees in our back yard.

In the following weeks, I could not even remember that there were trees in my back yard. I remember hearing interviews and news reports on the radio on the way to work that made me cry so hard I had to pull over.

Happy first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans. Some of us were paying attention then, and some of us have not forgotten yet. One of the candles I will be lighting tonight when the lights go out will be for you.

Photo credits: WPLG Channel 10 Miami, stock.xchng and me

Looks like I picked the wrong day to start drinking coffee...

I had a cup of coffee today instead of my usual cuppa tea. On high octane fuel and listening to my favorite morning news show without my protective headgear, I received a double tinfoil hat bomb.

First, the FDA has approved a spray made of six virsues to be added to food such as lunch meats and hot dogs to target Listeria poisoning. Fellow hipmama and all around cool mom dynamom had already alerted me to this freaky news. Not only are these the first viral particles approved as a food additive, but they will not be listed on the label. At all.

When I took microbiology in my former path to medical school, my Ph.D. professor who used to work for NASA explained why she ate organic foods. She was discussing irradiation of food, but I think the same principle applies here. She said much of what poisons us in these infections is due to the toxins released when the pathogen dies and lyses, or bursts open. These are only single celled organisms. The way they make us sick is by reproducing and exploding as their life cycle ends. She was against these new treatments to kill the pathogens because she believed they would encourage even sloppier food handling (i.e. more bacteria reproducing) because people would rely on these "bug zapping" mechanisms, whether they are radiation beams or viral sprays. Ick.

And, bomb number two: a genetically modified organism (GMO) in rice unapproved for human consumption has slipped into the food supply from the United States. Japan, who just lifted its ban of our possibly Mad Cow infected beef has now banned our rice, and Greenpeace is urging all countries to boycott US grown rice. Sounds like we just lost a big market for our scary unapproved rice.

Double sigh. Anyone feel like a bowl of rice? How about a hot dog? What we don’t know can’t hurt us, right? I think I am just going to drink another cup of coffee…

McOzone hole, supersized


Oh, I had to break out the tinfoil hat today. But at least I had a good laugh while wearing it.

One of my future "Top Tin" lists will focus on my top paranoia inducing villains, and McDonald’s will definitely be heading that list. Well, the golden arches have joined forces with one of my other least favorite eyesores, Hummers. I made fun of the scary abundance of Hummer limousines on the highways around Miami on Erin’s blog just the other day.

McDonald’s will be giving away millions of mini Hummers in their Happy Meals. Makes sense, jumping on a captive audience who is already learning about over consumption. Click here to make you own McDonald’s sign caption and help us all keep our sense of humor.

Top Tin Vol. 2: Organic Meat and Dairy

As promised, here is the latest "Top Tin" list. Lifted and barely paraphrased from care2.com, here are the.....

Top ten reasons to buy organic meat and dairy:

1. Free of antibiotics and other drugs, added hormones, genetically-modified animals or feed

2. No animal cannibals protects against Mad Cow disease

3. More humane and ethical treatment of animals

4. Animals are usually free-range and can graze

5. Controlled production of small amounts of organic manure

6. Animals help organic farmers

7. Fewer chemicals in your food, your body and the environment

8. Support diversity

9. Save resources

10. Support small family farms

For more explanation and some great links, please visit the original list on care2.com.

Crying over scared milk (and bad beef!)


I just put off writing a new blog entry by making a yummy batch of Neiman Marcus chocolate chip cookies, with sliced almonds added for crunch and a miniscule amount of
health benefit
in an otherwise purely hedonistic cookie.

As I tested to make sure the second batch out of the oven was as good as the first, I was messaging with my younger brother, Brad, on my computer. Since he lives 45 minutes away in glamorous South Beach, (where I grew up and went to high school) I rubbed it in that I was enjoying delicious fresh cookies. He messaged back, “Got milk?”

I did, actually. A tall frosty glass of organic milk in my vintage Burger King Empire Strikes Back drinking glass. (The Hoth one, with C-3PO and R2D2 in the foreground and Han Solo on a tauntaun in the background, for those whose geeky minds need to know).

Of course, although my brother undoubtedly would have approved of the glassware, he immediately called me “Hippie!” when I told him I was drinking organic milk. He does this a lot. But, not only hippies like me choose organic dairy and meat. (And organics aren’t just for vegetarians.)

I found so much good stuff researching this topic, it is going to spawn more than one post. I will share this one great site I found: The O’Mama Report - Organic Information and Inspiration. My husband pointed out that I squealed when I stumbled across it. They have an O’Baby and O’Kids area, too. This site is definitely being added to my Top Tin websites list, which is still under construction.

I also found a complete new Top Tin list, the top ten reasons to buy organic dairy and meat, and that will be coming to you soon.

Is the ultrasound why Johnny can't read?


It may be too late for my kids, since I had the
standard ultrasounds with both of them. One for dating early in the pregnancy, and one for checking the placenta placement and to identify the sex of the baby later. Actually, I starting to question the necessity or safety of repeated ultrasounds during pregnancy and wasn’t going to get the second sonogram during my pregnancy with Z, but an apparent gallbladder attack with severe pain and vomiting sent me to the radiologist just in time to find out about his penis-to-be.

Well, more research shows, although in mice, that ultrasound exposure may interfere with the normal neurological development of the fetal brain. The correlation in the study was strong enough to make me reach for my tinfoil hat.

My last pregnancy was right before the 3-D (or 4-D) ultrasound craze. And before Tom and Katie and their copycats got the ultimante accessory: a home ultrasound machine. Some moms-to-be get many ultrasounds, and many practitioners use their machines more often than is probably "medically necessary", which is a subjective term.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

What does the P stand for in EPA?

(Originally posted August 3, 2006)

If any of you caught my comment on Erin’s question about organics, you may have been holding your breath for my full blog post on the latest collision between science and special interest money. And you may have guessed it...yes, yes, it’s true. Our health and the health of our children and unborn babies has been sold out again.

The Environmental Protection Agency was charged ten years ago by the Food Quality Protection Act to find out if these more than 200 chemicals we were using on fruit, vegetables and grains in countless combinations and sequences had any effect on the health of people, especially children and pregnant women. Deadline: August 3, 2006. I bet some of you thought they had to be tested before they were used! Ahhhh, I guess it’s not only that crazy alternative medicine stuff that is "unregulated."

The official position of the EPA, now that it is ten years later, is that their work is done here, nothing to see, please go about your business feeding your family our marvelous bounty.

Now, I know I may have a, shall we say, mild distrust of the chemical industrial complex. But, I am not a lone voice saying...huh?

There is a shocking and beautifully written letter (pdf) from the local presidents of EPA unions representing scientists and risk managers that say that approving some of these chemicals, including neurotoxins banned in several European countries, would “betray the public trust by violating the intention of the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) to protect the Nation’s infants, children, and susceptible population”. The letter implores the EPA to use “sound science” and insists there is “compelling information that these neurotoxic pesticides damage the developing nervous system of fetuses, infants and children (an effect known as “developmental neurotoxicity”).

There are some tinfoil hat inspiring studies on pesticides found in umbilical cord samples and children’s bloodstreams. Proudmama, one of my favorite new posters, mentions one of them on that thread, and she links to a good Consumer Reports articleon the subject.

Childhood fat can be fatal


I was on line with my husband Coach Stu for the fantastic White House years exhibit at the Abraham Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois this past weekend. My mom raved about the exhibit, which she had seen earlier in the year and loved. She was watching the boys, and we were refreshingly child free as we waited to get in.

Right behind us in line, two women were having a scathing conversation about a mutual friend who is a toddler mother. I like to imagine if I had Z with me, they would have toned down the mama bashing a bit.

"So, did I tell you she doesn't let him have French fries."

"She doesn't?"

"No, she makes him eat the apples with the Happy Meal or something ridiculous like that. Says the fries are fattening or something."

"Hmmmm. Tsk tsk"

"Oh, and she doesn't let him drink pop. She can have twelve pops a day, but she won't give any to him." (Ha. "Pop". We call it "soda".)

"She doesn't??!! How old is he?"

"Almost two."

"Well, WHAT does he drink?? Milk? Punch?"

"I don't know. Water I think."

"WHAT??"

I turned red with anger and shame. These women were talking about a mother as if she was abusing her child for making some of the same choices that I make daily. I have to admit Zach has had his share of French fries on our few fast food and restaurant experiences (almost exclusively while traveling). But, I would never dream of giving him soda, and even closely restrict it in my seven year old. Although I have total sympathy for parents who rely on fast food for their family, I love to cook and healthy food is a priority for me, and the French fry exposure is kept to a relative minimum in our household too.

Let's get this straight. I am not judging parents who make different decisions than me in their priorities. I am simply pointing out why I identified with this mom that these women were tearing apart.

A recent study in the Annals (no giggling) of Internal Medicine concludes that teenagers who are the most obese are almost three times as likely to die before the age of 44, which was the end of the study. An easier to read article on the study claims the heavier subjects were also more likely to smoke and to commit suicide. (Kurt Vonnegut argues that smoking cigarettes is a slow form of suicide).

Thinking of how much I have to struggle with my weight, and I was not obese as a child or adolescent, makes me paranoid about the future of my children and the children of America. Childhood overweight and obesity is an epidemic right now. I guess I will have to take some people talking smack about me and moms like me, because I am going to stand by my no soda for my toddler decision.

Something important to care about

(Originally posted August 1, 2006)

Instead of my normal trivial paranoia, something real to be thoughtful about today.

Someone I love very much is in labor. Whatever you do...vibes, good thoughts, light a candle, say a prayer, visualize opening and bringing forth the baby to arms of love....please do.

Hilary

Phooey to the avian flu

Summer is coming to an end. I love the boys in my life, don't get me wrong. But it is hard enough to work and study with a toddler crawling all over me. Coach Stu and S have been home for going on ten weeks now. I vaguely remember looking forward to having them home for the summer, thinking I would get so much done with them around to help me. HA. I am counting down the days until I send them off with a lunch and a kiss in the morning. My mother just informed me that in the event of an outbreak of pandemic avian flu, students and teachers may be advised to stay home from school, since any parent knows how schools are a veritable Petri dish for incubating germs.

Please. Please, please, please, not just because I am paranoid about pandemic disease. Please. Keep those birdies clean.

Top Tin Vol. 1: Fruits and Veggies

Welcome to the first installment of a very exciting ongoing series here atMom's Tinfoil Hat. Drum roll please.....lists! No, wait, don't click away, it's more exciting than that. I will be putting together "Top Tin" lists on various scary plots by mad scientists, the worst food additives, and other exciting stuff.

If I were more organized, I would do this every Friday, or every second Tuesday, but I don't roll like that. When the mood strikes me, when the list gets complete enough, when I have nothing else to blog about, and when the little voices tell me you need it the most, a new "Top Tin" list will appear on this blog, full of tinfoil hat inspiring villains, or websites to research whatever is worrying you at the moment.

Today's "Top Tin" is a double feature. And just to show you how much I think outside the box, each list has a dozen items. (I bet you were expecting ten. I am full of excitement, see?)

One of my "Top Tin" organizations, when that list comes up, will definitely be The Environmental Working Group. When I go to their website, I feel like the mothership is calling me home. They assembled a pesticide report card ranking the fruits and vegetables which have the highest and lowest amounts of pesticide residues. These amounts are averaged from produce washed and prepared for typical eating, and "based on an analysis of over 100,000 tests for pesticides on these foods, conducted from 1992 - 2001 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration."

I don't know about you, but my local grocery store does not contain a complete selection of organic produce, although it has definitely been getting better. There are other options for me to get organic items, but not everyone has these resources in their area, or can always afford to go organic. It helps to be able to rank the chemicals my children, the environment, and the agricultural workers are exposed to based on my produce choices.

The "Dirty Dozen" the fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide residues:

  • Apples
  • Bell peppers
  • Celery
  • Cherries
  • Grapes (imported)
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Potatoes
  • Red Raspberries
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries

  • The "Not-so-dirty Dozen" the fruits and vegetables with the cleanest scores:

  • Asparagus
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Corn (sweet)
  • Kiwi
  • Mangos
  • Onions
  • Papaya
  • Pineapples
  • Peas (sweet)
  • Slings and arrows for baby carriers


    I think I know when to put on my tinfoil hat. When I am reading ingredient lists, it is a must. When I am watching the news, ditto. Shopping for baby carriers? Not so much.

    So, I was taken by surprise when I saw this article, written by a chiropractor, saying that certain baby carriers can do spinal damage on babies. I did happen to use the sling with Z, but I very amusingly wore it the wrong way in the beginning. (No, it is not supposed to hang way down low like that, and I have never pretended to be an expert at anything.) It probably was very hammock-like for baby Z, as recommended in the article, but might not have been the best for my back! What slings did you use or do you plan to use? Did your babies seems comfy?

    Something new under the sun

    I assume many of you are like me, and are proud of yourselves as conscientious parents every time you remember to slather your family with sunscreen. Skin cancer, premature aging, sunburn....threats averted! We are making our kids healthier, right?

    Well, if it was that easy, I wouldn't be paranoid! The mad scientists have been at it again, and this time they were using nanotechnology. More than just a fun word to say, it is the science of creating new products by altering atoms and molecules. Sounds more like NASA than sunscreen? If only the mad scientists thought like we do!

    Get a load of this article about nanosunscreen altering the brain cells of the mice unfortunate enough to have this scary but common sunblock tested on them. Wait, the study was on mice brain cell culture. So, the headlines saying sunscreen causes brain damage may be premature, but just the thought of it being possible is making me reach for the tinfoil hat.

    Another angry mom

    I had a proud mama moment today. My older son S told me that while his stepdad Coach Stu and little brother Z were sleeping and I was at the birth center, he bought an ice cream from the friendly neighborhood kiddie crack dealer ice cream truck. He did not eat it, but put it in the freezer to have after dinner. (That's the proud part.) He bought a repeat of the same crap he bought last time. Rich's Ice Cream, Big Banana.

    The first time he brought one of these home, I confiscated it immediately, and told him it was for after dinner. As I walked the contraband to the freezer, I flipped over the label casually, thinking, "There is no way this thing has more fruit than sugar in it."

    I scanned the label again and again. All the regular offenders were there: sugar, corn syrup (like they need both) artificial flavors and two artificial colors (Yellow #5 and #6. I guess they don't make a Yellow #5 1/2.) But one thing was missing: the fruit. Could this actually contain none of its namesake banana?

    I checked the entire label. It didn't say "Banana flavored" or "Contains 0% real banana" or any other such disclaimers anywhere.

    I know my son S. He is desperately eager to please. He has known how to earn mega mom points since the first time he asked "Is this healfee?" and I beamed. I like to imagine that he stood in front of the friendly neighborhood kiddie crack dealer ice cream truck and thought, "Banana. Fruit. OK, mom hates the ice cream truck, but she loves fruit! Maybe she won't be AS annoyed."

    So, after a quick look over food labeling laws, I realized that there is absolutely no requirement that a food marketed to children actually has to contain to have a healthy ingredient on its label (or in its frickin name!) As long the kiddie crack kingpins junk food manufacturers didn't try to slap a health claim on the label such as "Healthy!" or "Fights cardiovascular disease!" then apparently they can call the crap anything they want.

    When someone wrote in wondering if they could follow in the same vein as Rich's Big Banana and Grape-Nuts and come up with a food product with a wildly bogus name, The Straight Dope claims the FTC "would promptly slap you with a cease-and-desist order for promulgating advertising with a "tendency to deceive." (Although you never know. The way things have been going lately, they might give you an award and appoint you commissioner.)"

    I would agree more with the commissioner part.

    I need to follow in the footsteps of these Two Angry Moms and channel my anger about junk food aimed at kids. They are making a movie about how annoyed they are at the poor selection in school cafeterias.

    Happy Thanksgiving, please pass the Osturduckencorpheail??

    (Originally posted Thanksgiving Day 2006)

    I was going to write a serious Thanksgiving Day post about increasing salmonella in poultry, and antibiotic resistance brought on by the senseless amount of antibiotics we pour into our chickens and birds. But, something scarier caught my eye.

    My brother and I have had a long standing joke about the Turducken, which is a deboned turkey, stuffed with a deboned duck, stuffed with a deboned chicken. If that’s not enough layers of meat for you, you can use sausage as a stuffing in between the layers instead of bread crumbs.

    If that still isn’t tiered enough, Wikipedia has some variations. The article claims that Cajun Chef Paul Prudhomme has a recipe for an Osturduckencorpheail: ostrich, turkey, duck, chicken, Cornish hen, pheasant, quail. I can only confirm on his website that he has a recipe for turducken.

    OK, this frightens me. I have a fridge FULL of food for tomorrow. I am anticipating cooking for hours today, and for the entire day tomorrow. I love it, don’t get me wrong. My mom tries to get me to buy a prepared Thanksgiving dinner every year because “You don’t really want to cook, do you?” and I turn her down every year.

    But, the turducken involves deboning 3 birds, and involves several hours of prep just for the one main dish, in triplicate. Can you imagine seven birds? How about ten?

    Here’s to wishing a happy and relatively low maintenance Thanksgiving.

    Just another hippie Saturday

    I had to poke a little fun at my crunchy self. This Saturday I used my friend's (thanks, Summer!) present to me: a push lawnmower! This is the second time I used it. It ROCKS. No noise, no dangerous whirling mechanical blades, no gas, no money to OPEC, no addition to global warming....

    I love it. As part of my paranoia, I am afraid of global warming. I thought An Inconvenient Truth was a fantastic, well made movie. I wish Gore could have been that compelling in the lead up to 2000, but that is another blog.

    My mother-in-law grew up in a house her father built on beautiful Sugar Loaf Key in the 1950's. Last year,
    Hurricane Wilma
    , only a paltry category 3 hurricane, left the entire island under several feet of salt water. After New Orleans and Katrina, the submerged island didn't really make a lot of news. Every car on the island was a loss. My mother-in-law's beautiful house was flooded. Salt water corroding and ruining every piece of furniture, every appliance, every book.

    If you can look beyond my strikingly handsome boys, take a gander at the water line on the wall behind them. Something tells me that fifty years ago, this may not have happened. At least not both in the same hurricane season. I have lived in Florida almost as long as my mother-in-law, and I cannot remember hurricanes ripping through here like they have in 2004 and 2005, our worst years yet, except for possibly Hurricane Andrew.

    I was due with baby Z during the 2004 hurricane season, and we endured three successive hurricane hits within a month of his birth. Our direct hit by Wilma's screaming eye last year was far more frightening for me, however.


    Anyway *shaking head and blinking* what were we talking about? Oh, right. My crunchy hippie self. So, this Saturday, I ate some organic blueberry granola with organic kefir, went out and used my push lawn mower, popping my head back in every now and then to check on how my home made yogurt was doing. I looked back on the afternoon and felt compelled to go buy some patchouli and stop wearing deodorant. Oh, wait, I did forget.....Don't worry. I showered after the lawn mowing. And there was no money hidden under the soap.


    I checked my email inbox later, and apparently my tinfoil hat did not prevent the spam email advertising people from reading my hippie vibes. I had these two ads in various news letters today. Enjoy, fellow hippies:


    Peace blocks


    Organic Gift Shop


    And both have reasonably priced items!


    Here is a hippie-friendly new blog called
    Emerald Market by a friend of StephaniaPButler

    Mothballls are for the birds!


    My dream is for people to message me or comment on my blog with things in their families' environment that are making them twitchy. (Hint, hint, beg, beg: Please send in research requests!!)

    I have to settle for hunting down "Top Tin" candidates right now. One poster, Anneliese, wanted to know if her friend's dire warnings about the dangers of moth balls were accurate or mere paranoia.

    Ooooh, something new to worry about! I live in South Florida, and have never lived above the Florida Georgia border. We have a lot less of a dramatic change in the seasons here, and I have never seen (or smelled) a moth ball. I need Tinfoil Hat scouts in the northern realms to keep me up to date on these things.

    Well, it looks like naphthalene is definitely a "Top Tin" chemical candidate. (My nerdy scientist heart goes all a flutter for words that have a "phth" in them. Naphthalene. Phthalate. Ooooh!!) Naphthalene is the main ingredient in moth balls, and other stinky household cleaning items like bathroom deodorizers. This doozy of a chemical is apparently highly carcinogenic and toxic, even when inhaled.

    Here is a totally nerdy government website summing up two years of research on the chemical:
    ntp.niehs.nih.gov

    An example of the conclusions in this study:

    "Increased incidences of nonneoplastic lesions of the nose associated with exposure to naphthalene included atypical hyperplasia, atrophy, chronic inflammation, and hyaline degeneration of the olfactory epithelium; hyperplasia, squamous metaplasia, hyaline degeneration, and goblet cell hyperplasia of the respiratory epithelium; and glandular hyperplasia and squamous metaplasia."

    Here is a much easier to read website from my new favorite group, Beyond Pesticides:

    www.beyondpesticides.org

    "Naphthalene can also be absorbed easily through the skin and is a known irritant. Parents of newborns are especially cautioned because studies have shown reactions including acute hemolysis, jaundice and death in infants wrapped in blankets that had been stored with moth balls over the summer."

    Uh, holy Tinfoil Hat!!!!

    I will continue storing our few sweaters and scarves in air tight large plastic bins. Please, my northern friends, let me know where your sweaters are right now, and what you are doing to keep them from being moth eaten during the summer.

    Friday, February 09, 2007

    Day seven...doing good

    Hell Week is finally over. I talked to my older son S. We only spoke once previously during Hell Week.

    He was staying at his real dad's house. His father and I normally trade off custody every other week over the summer anyway, so it was not unusual for him to be away from me for a week at a time. I generally would try to come up for a meal or talk to him on the phone a little more often, but Hell Week probably didn't have as much of an effect on him as it did on Z, who wasn't even two years old yet, and only had been separated from me for my weekly overnight shifts at the birth center.

    I called S today, and we chatted a bit. He was learning to play poker with his dad, and had been to see the new Superman movie. He is coming home tomorrow, and the whole family is going on a weeklong trip to a time share at the beach.

    He was about to hand the phone back to his dad, when he said, "Wait mom, I just have to ask you one question."

    "Yes?"

    "Did you do good at Hell Week?"

    I sighed. "Well, sweetie, it was hard, and I was really tired."

    "Yes, mom, but did you do good?"

    I paused as it sunk in. "Yes, sweetie. I think I did. I did a lot of good."

    "OK mom. Then I just wanted to say congratulations."

    Congratulations indeed. I had my true mettle tested, stared my birth demons in the face, reaffirmed that I do want to be a midwife even after such a difficult week, and helped eight moms bring babies into the world and begin their journey of motherhood with each. Oh, and I did some good.

    Days five and six...sleep is for the weak

    Pet mom wasn't the only woman at the birth center that evening. Our VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Caesarean) client was back. She was over her due date by a few days. VBAC clients are more sensitive than other moms, since they are at a higher risk for certain complications. She had already consulted with our doctor back up, had extra ultrasounds, a biophysical profile on the fetus, and a Non Stress Test (NST).

    Even with all of these diagnostic tests at our disposal, and with studies showing success rates above 90% on trial for labor for VBAC attempts, many practitioners and hospitals do not allow women to choose to try for a VBAC. And, even with all of those diagnostic checks at our disposal at the birth center, we can't deliver a VBAC mom if she doesn't go into labor if the first place.

    We had been trying to gently nudge VBAC Mom into labor using safe midwife tricks. She had been at the birth center on and off for days. We had her inserting evening primrose oil suppositories; we put her on the breast pump, and then had her pacing up and down the parking lot. Finally, she started having contractions. From early afternoon, all through the night, to the next morning we monitored her vital signs and the fetal heart tones. The midwives only did a few vaginal exams.

    Unfortunately, she had still only dilated to three centimeters after almost a day of contractions. The same thing happened during her first labor. We gave her the option of trying to wait longer, or to go to the hospital. She chose to go the hospital. It seemed unlikely she would dilate any farther.

    This is when things turned from bad to worse. Sometimes the doctor takes plenty of time to show up to the hospital when it is a non emergency caesarean. In the meantime, I stayed with the increasingly frustrated VBAC Mom and her partner. For five hours, we were left practically alone in the room. Our nurse apparently got called to assist an emergency caesarean section, but we were never told.

    I tried to find a nurse when VBAC's Mom's fetal heart tones repeatedly dropped after contractions. I politely asked for a nurse at the desk, which was occupied by a lone receptionist. Apparently the pressure of being understaffed during a stressful time is enough to make certain nurses lose their cool. The only nurse on the whole floor pulled me aside and threatened to throw me out of the hospital for "antagonizing" her for asking her to check on VBAC mom. When I asked her a few minutes later if someone could please change the rapidly dwindling IV bag, she snarled from her paperwork "Can't you see I'm busy?" and never tried to call another nurse.

    Luckily for us, our nurse who had disappeared for the emergency caesarean showed back up soon after, and showed amazing compassion and professionalism, unlike her stand in. I was shocked, considering how I usually had such wonderful experiences with the nurses at this hospital.

    VBAC Mom had a hard time waiting for the doctor to show up. It is hard enough making it through contractions when you know they are dilating you to a goal. She knew hers weren't. She was very frustrated, and had a hard time dealing with the antagonistic nurses, and then the defensive director of the floor, who came down to the room twice. The director was trying to make up for the lack of attention and shoddy treatment from the nurse, but just came off as harassed and defensive. Or, she was coming to investigate my supposedly antagonistic behavior. She was sadly disappointed if that was her goal.

    I returned twice after VBAC Mom had a successful surgically delivered beautiful baby boy. I have never seen a boy refuse to open his mouth like this kid! When VBAC Mom complained over the phone she was having latch on problems, I figured both she and the baby were just a little worn out from the prolonged labor and the surgery. But, when I showed up, this boy had his gums locked together like I have never seen. Even if he got frustrated and cried from our fussing and prodding, he wouldn't open his mouth.

    "See?" said VBAC Mom. "My daughter latched on right away, no problem."

    It was really hard to get her nipple in the little opening this boy would give us, since it seemed to flatten out when she cupped her breast to offer it to the baby. I asked the nurse on duty if they had any nipple shields. I got another defensive reaction. The nurse berated me, "Do those look like flat nipples to you?"

    VBAC Mom, who had been trying to latch on for about a day by this point, tried again right in front of the nurse. Her nipple flattened out and the baby closed his mouth. VBAC Mom had already given him formula once. No one had suggested pumping to her. I was afraid of both of them giving up on the breastfeeding soon. The nurse looked for nipple shields, but couldn't find any. I went back to the birth center, and brought back nipple shields and a hand pump.

    It took at least another half an hour of wrestling with this poor boy to get him to latch on, and then to get him to suck! Luckily, VBAC Mom was already producing lots of milk. We hand expressed some into the tip of the nipple shield, and got the baby to latch on to the shield on the tip of my finger. I tickled the roof of his mouth, and got him to suck. He got a taste of the milk, and something clicked.

    "Breastfeeding is a learned behavior," I explained to VBAC Mom. "He is just not getting why we are trying to force him to suck this thing..."

    We expressed more milk into the tip of the shield, and then got him to latch on to the shield over VBAC Mom's nipple. He latched, and he sucked contentedly.

    "Is he on? Is he sucking?" I asked excitedly.

    "I think so...ow! My uterus!" said VBAC mom.

    I smiled. Afterbirth contractions are stimulated by effective sucking, and so is the feedback to the brain to encourage more hormones to produce more milk. He continued to suck for 20 minutes.

    I told VBAC Mom to call me if she needed anything else. I made an effort to thank the nurse profusely for being supportive of breastfeeding, even though she seemed impatient and dismissive earlier. I told her I realized she didn't have the time to struggle with this kid to get him to latch on, and that I was ready to come back at a moment's notice to help. We need a good relationship with the nurses at this hospital so our transferred moms feel supported and we are welcome there.

    VBAC Mom will still keep her postpartum visits at the birth center, and we will put her Polaroid up on the wall with the rest of our moms.

    Day five - the pet

    Sometimes midwives have pet patients. We have a large, busy birth center with a team of midwives, midwife assistants and students. Although one benefit of midwifery is supposedly more one on one attention, we do advise all of the clients to get to know all of our midwives. None of the midwives try not to promise any mom that she will definitely be at her birth, because she may have been on the night before with another mom. However, sometimes a midwife forms a special connection with a client, and tries to be at her birth no matter what.

    Often it is a relative, or a close friend. My closest friend is moving down here soon, and is in her second trimester. She will be my pet patient, and I will try to be at every appointment from her initial visit to her birth and through her post partum checks.

    Sometimes it is just a client who forms a close relationship during her pregnancy. This was one of those clients. Even though midwife C wasn't scheduled to be on that night, she stayed with her pet client, who was a first time mom.

    This Pet Mom and her boyfriend didn't look like they would be friends with C outside of the clinic. Both of them had dark brown skin and long, delicate dreadlocks. The dad is a musician. He canceled a gig that evening, and his guitarist was sitting in the waiting room. They were funky and hip. C is older, a grandma several times over, with silver hair and pale wrinkled skin. She is anything but funky and hip, with her office full of Precious Moments figurines.

    Pet mom had a beautiful labor, and had a waterbirth. Her boyfriend joked with us between contractions. He said he was going to let their boy make up his own mind if he wanted to dread his hair.

    Once the baby was delivered, the mom, dad, and new baby moved to the nearby bed. C chided the dad that he had to marry the mom now. I held my breath, wondering how the couple would respond. He said "C'mon, that horse has been dead at least four minutes now." Pet Mom was just beaming, and didn't seem to notice. She was just grinning and saying "That was great!" before her placenta was even out.

    I saw the Polaroid on the wall the next day of the family on their way home. Pet mom was wearing a Wonder Woman T shirt. Wonder Woman indeed! The wall is full of superheroes.

    Day four, baby catcher!


    We had another beautiful birth, and this time, I was catching! A "four-handed" catch, with the midwife's hands right there with me, and another midwife in the room, but still a catch. It was a great labor and birth. Number five for this mom. Number two for me.

    She hung out at six centimeters for what seemed like forever, although it was only a few hours. Her waters had been partially ruptured (there are two layers of the sac) for over 12 hours, and she had to deliver within 24 hours by law or we had to transfer her. Her last labor had been the same, and the baby showed up suddenly just before the 24 hour mark.

    She was in great spirits. Whatever she needed to do to keep her contractions going, she was willing to do. Unlike most moms, the walking didn't seem to speed up her contractions, but rather slowed them down. That was fine with her and her husband, because they would much rather watch movies in the room than walk around the grounds in the heat and fight off the mosquitoes. Between midwifery school, work and my two kids, I don't get to catch a lot of movies. I got to catch up on sections of a few while I was doing her labor checks and coaching her.

    We checked her and confirmed she was six centimeters still, but then the tide seemed to shift. Tide? More like a tidal wave. Her contractions came on with amazing intensity, and seemed to lengthen and get closer together with each one. This mother who was so calm, and barely changed expression with her contractions suddenly got wild as they came on. She started screaming "I NEED TO PUSH!! I NEED TO PUSH!!" It had only been thirty minutes since her last vaginal exam.

    The midwife said checked her and said she was complete! Four centimeters in half an hour!

    "Call Shari!" she said. "And put on your gloves!" I made a quick phone call to Shari, who appeared from the other building within seconds. I moved over the table with our delivery set up, and started asking the midwife if everything was arranged correctly. She said "Hilary, come here!" in an irritated voice. I turned and looked at the mom, and saw the first part of the baby's head emerging. A few pushes later, and I was gently pulling the baby up to her chest. Minutes before the twenty four hour deadline.

    When a mom has a fast transition, it seems to me from the outside like she has a hurricane going on inside of her. Just like I don't know what that incredible "urge to push" feeling is like because I have never felt it, I have also no idea what a fast labor feels like. One of the other midwifery students had one long labor and one very quick one, also known as a precipitous labor. She said the faster one was way too intense, and preferred the longer labor. I personally think that's nuts, having two extremely long labors myself, but I really can't say since I have never experienced it. But, from the outside, I guess I can see her point. These women seem to be especially affected by their contractions, and have less time to recover, but they have the benefit of the whole experience not lasting very long.