No Plastic Holiday Challenge check-in

Christmas is just four days away now and I’m wondering how are you all doing with the No Plastic Holiday Challenge?

I’ve been doing pretty good myself. I haven’t been able to avoid plastic completely (and I didn’t expect to), but this challenge has made me much more aware of just how much plastic is out there. I almost hyperventilated walking through Target’s toy department the other day! Seriously! Ugh.

I managed to score some handmade wooden toys for the kids at a local craft show that I’m very pleased with. I also made them felt pizzas and they are getting lots of books, in addition to a wooden play kitchen from Costco, and a few things I picked up at the thrift store. I’m also dyeing some play silks that I will use to wrap their presents and they will, of course, double as toys. Play silks are awesome for imaginative play.

I can’t discuss anybody else’s presents here since they all can read, but (gulp) some plastic is involved.

So how about you? What worked? What didn’t? Do you have any plastic-avoiding tips to share?

Giving birth can be good, ecstatic and even orgasmic

I know I just wrote about this topic last week, but I have more to share and wrote about it for BlogHer this week.

Last week, Lisa Belkin, parenting blogger at The NY Times, wrote about the upcoming 20/20 special on the film “Orgasmic Birth.” The topic apparently hit a nerve with many, many people as she quickly received more than 500 comments.

Many people, as to be expected, are skeptical.

Mir of Woulda Coulda Shoulda had the most humorous response I read to the idea.

As soon as I

1) Find a man with a 9-pound penis
and
2) Become drunk enough to let him put it inside me for thirty hours at a time

I’ll definitely see if those conditions can result in an orgasm.

But until then? Whatever, man.

Catherine, who blogs at Her Bad Mother, had similar feelings and said, “Me, personally …? I think that I’ll stick to getting my orgasms the old-fashioned way.”

The day after Lisa Belkin’s initial NY Times post she followed up with About that orgasmic birth… and went into a little more detail about the responses she received, the film and one of the women featured in the film.

I was not surprised at the number of comments that dismissed the possibility as a fairytale. I was very surprised at the number of women who wrote to say that they had experienced what the film explored. I was a little distressed at the hostility the first of these groups showed to the second. And I was somewhat surprised, and very pleased, to receive an e-mail from Tamra Larter, one of the subjects of the film, who had been following all the comments, and wanted to make a few of her own.

It’s really worth it to click over there to read what Ms. Larter had to say about the film and her birthing experience, but here’s a snippet.

“I hope people will see the film,” she wrote. “Then they will see that it is about much more than the title suggests. There are many choices and possibilities when it comes to birth.”

And she uses the word “orgasm” with conditions. “I never claimed to have a pain-free birth,” she wrote, “but laboring with my daughter was awesome and for the most part felt really good.” The actual “orgasmic experience” did not feel like the climax of sex, she says, but rather “sensations which were something different than sex, but similar enough I feel O.K. using the word orgasmic. It was a wonderful feeling.”

She also confessed that upon first hearing about the idea of orgasmic birth, she thought it was “gross,” “weird,” and “not possible,” but said it was before she had had any children and the only childbirth she had seen had been on TV.

After reading many comments and several blogs about this, I clicked over to the Orgasmic Birth web site, where I watched the trailer (again). The first time I watched it was many months ago and I felt a refresher was in order.

I admit that even with all of the birth videos I’ve watched in the past and my “crunchy” ways, it makes me shift uncomfortably in my seat to hear a woman making pleasurable sounds while in childbirth (or in any situation really). And yet, I see the whole “orgasmic birth” thing as being just a small piece of the film, and believe it is titled the way it is to grab our attention. (And it’s certainly worked, hasn’t it?) I still believe, as I wrote on my blog over a week ago, “that it does not appear they are not saying all women will have an orgasm or that an orgasm should even be the goal. I think the point is moreso that birth can be a good experience.”

Marsden Wagner, MD, who is interviewed in the film, makes an excellent point about childbirth saying, “It’s got to be like it is when you make love with someone. It’s got to be safe, secure and uninterrupted. And that is how you have an orgasmic birth.”

I do not want to turn this into a debate over home birth vs. hospital birth, but having had both types of births I will say I felt much more safe, secure and uninterrupted at home than I did in the hospital. Although I’m sure it’s possible, I think that for the most part, these “orgasmic births” are much more likely to occur in a birthing center or home environment than in the hospital.

I think the term “orgasmic birth” is subject to interpretation too and noticed that on the Orgasmic Birth site, in their call for birth stories they say, “Please share your ecstatic or orgasmic birth story with us.” I would never say that I had an orgasm while giving birth to my son, but the experience was amazingly intense and was one of the most empowering moments in my life. Does that mean it was an orgasmic birth? Maybe. Was it an ecstatic birth? I believe it was.

Ninotchka had an empowering birth experience as well and commented about it on my blog:

I can’t say that I had an orgasm while giving birth. But after birthing Elle right into my hand, I felt so triumphant and organically happy that I would certainly call that feeling “orgasmic.” It all happened so fast and we’d waited so long for that little sweetheart. It was a definite rush and I was absolutely elated.

I think giving birth will always conjure up different ideas and feelings for different people. No two births are exactly the same and I think that’s the way it should be. Innerbrat summed it all up nicely when she said, “The important thing here, as with everything regarding women’s health, is to give women the ownership of our own bodies, so we can make an informed, conscious decision about what’s best for us and our children; and the first and best way to be informed is to openly talk about the subject.”

ABC’s 20/20 special on Orgasmic Birth, which will also include segments on home birth (unassisted and midwife-attended) and long-term breastfeeding, is currently set to air Friday, Jan. 2, 2009.

Cross-posted on BlogHer.

Flashback to the 80s – Wordless Wednesday

I know, I know, this should be a wordless post, but I can’t help but comment on this one.

A former high school friend of mine recently posted this pic on Facebook. It’s from a Brownie Girl Scout weekend camping trip. I think I was 7 or 8 years old. Can you spot me? Here’s a hint: M-i-c-k-e-y M-o-u-s-e.
This picture was taken long before any of us cared about curling irons and hairspray, makeup, boys, or even how we dressed. ;) We were young, innocent and carefree, and I love it.

Brownie Girl Scout Camp in the 1980s

See more Wordless Wednesday posts at the original WW home and at 5 Minutes for Mom.

A homemade Christmas tree (and BSM)

After writing my holiday eco-friendly crafts post, I got this insane great idea that it’d be lots of fun to make all of the decorations for our Christmas tree this year.  I was hoping to involve the kids in the crafting, but my first two attempts – with popcorn garland and cranberry garland – were not as successful as I hoped. Turns out that popcorn is fairly hard to put a needle through and I didn’t want to risk Ava poking the heck out of herself, so she and Julian ate popcorn while I threaded it. The cranberries were a little harder than I would’ve liked too so I did those myself while the kids ate them and then spat them out because they are, of course, very tart. ;)

I also made the star on the top of our tree by cutting it out of a pie tin (super sharp edges) and gluing it to a piece of black paper.

Finally this morning, I decided on a project we could work on together (at least Ava and I could and Julian could help out later) – salt dough ornaments!

Here’s the recipe that I used.

Salt Dough Ornaments

2 cups flour
1 cup salt
1 cup water
Optional: 1 tablespoon any type of oil (to make it easier to work with – thanks to Brighid for the tip)

I didn’t have enough sea salt, so I used my kosher salt (after grinding it up in the food processor a bit). It worked just as well. I think table salt is probably what they have in mind for this recipe though. 

Mix salt and flour. Add in half the water, then gradually add the remaining water. Knead until the dough is smooth, this can take up to 10 minutes.

I divided up my dough into different segments and used food coloring on some of it. 

For flat dough ornaments roll out the dough (to about 1/4 inch thickness) on baking paper, wax paper, or directly on a cookie sheet. Use cookie cutters, cut-out templates, or just use your hands.

Add details to the ornaments with a toothpick and knife.

Don’t forget to use a straw to make a hole so you can hang the ornament. (I forgot to do this on two of mine. Oops!)

Baking: Time varies based on thickness of ornament
Temperature: 325°F.
Time: 20 minutes or until dry – They should be hard to the touch, but not brown.

After they are done baking and cooling, you can paint, add glitter, spray with a clear finish, etc. We chose not to do this and let me tell you why I’m glad we didn’t.
a) because Julian decided to start tasting several of the ornaments
b) because a few, invariably, got dropped or stepped on and broke, but because they don’t have any extra stuff on them, I can just throw them into the composter. :)

Finally, add ribbon, yard, string, twine, etc. and your ornaments are ready to hang on the tree or give as gifts.

And now, the pictures…

Ava hard at work 12/14/08 Decorating candy cane ornaments 12/14/08 Ornaments ready to go into the oven  12/14/08

Putting yarn in our ornaments  12/14/08 Finished ornaments  12/14/08  Ava showing Julian how to hang ornaments  12/14/08

A tree on a tree  12/14/08 My little candy cane 12/14/08 Julian gets the hang of it fast  12/14/08

Ava’s happy tree 12/14/08  Last-minute rearranging before bed 12/14/08 Our homemade-decorated tree  12/14/08

I don’t know if we’ll stick with just the homemade decorations on the tree – I think we may add a handful of ornaments we’ve collected over the years – but I will say that despite the extra work involved, I really enjoy the organic-feel and personality that our tree has this year. It’s been a lot of fun. :)

My choice for Best Shot Monday is the one of Ava and Julian together putting the ornament on the tree (2nd row, 3rd picture). Ava was being so sweet and helpful to her little brother. It just makes me smile. You can see more Best Shots over here.

Ask President-elect Obama to make breastfeeding a priority

This morning President-elect Barack Obama reaffirmed his strong commitment to health care reform. The United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) believes that breastfeeding is an “essential public health issue” and should be a high priority for the incoming administration. In light of this, the USBC has created a petition urging President-elect Obama to make breastfeeding a high priority. The petition is up to more than 6400 signatures and growing.

firstnursing.jpg

USBC points out that beyond the numerous health benefits to both mother and child, breastfeeding also provides “significant economic and environmental benefits for families, employers, and society.” According to the USBC (definitions in parentheses are mine):

Excess health care costs totaling more than $4 billion must be paid by the U.S. health care system each year to treat otitis media (middle ear infection), gastroenteritis (infection or irritation of the stomach and intestines), and necrotizing enterocolitis (an acute inflammatory disease occurring in the intestines of premature infants) – childhood diseases and conditions preventable or reduced by breastfeeding. When prevention of obesity, diabetes, and other chronic conditions is factored in, the potential economic benefits of breastfeeding are significantly greater.

The petition calls for President-elect Obama to:

1. Instruct the Surgeon General to issue a statement in support of breastfeeding urging all sectors (governmental and non-governmental) involved in supporting women, children, and families to improve their breastfeeding policies.

2. Enact a national paid family leave policy.

3. Endorse the World Health Organization’s International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes as well as the Global Strategy for Infant & Young Child Feeding.

4. Ask the Federal Trade Commission to monitor infant formula marketing.

5. Ask the Food and Drug Administration to include labeling on powdered infant formula warning that it is not sterile and providing instructions on how to properly reconstitute it.

6. Highlight the benefits for employers of workplace breastfeeding support programs as part of your program to promote flexible work arrangements.

7. Urge all insurers to cover lactation care and support services.

8. Approve an increase in breastfeeding support funds for the USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), especially to support the peer counseling program.

9. Instruct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to recommend that all hospitals achieve the Baby-Friendly designation.

10. Ensure that emergency management agencies are trained in breastfeeding support and have breastfeeding supply kits available for distribution in emergencies.

If you agree, I hope you will sign the petition too.

Also this morning President-elect Obama appointed former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle to Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and Director of the new White House Office on Health Reform.

In his remarks, Secretary-designate Daschle appealed to Americans to play an active role in health reform by signing up to lead a health care discussion — a series of meetings everyday people are hosting, in which they’ll gather ideas and report back to the Transition’s Health Policy Team. The team will then incorporate the results into its recommendations for the Obama-Biden administration. He said it’s up ordinary Americans to “share their ideas about what’s broken and how to fix it” by leading a health care discussion.

This looks like another great opportunity to impress upon the incoming administration the need to make breastfeeding a priority.

Angela White at Breastfeeding 123 remarks, “What if politicians learned of something they could do to lower health care costs yet improve infant and maternal health at the same time? Doesn’t that sound like something everyone could and should get behind?”

Marijke from Womb Within says:

Although we know about the benefits of breastfeeding and that it helps lower healthcare costs in so many ways, encouraging and offering much needed assistance to new mothers who encounter problems is still not a priority in the United States.

The government had produced a plan and came up with realistic targets, Healthy People 2010 Breastfeeding Targets, that were only met by a few states. (If you click on the Healthy People link, that gives you a pdf document report card.)

2010 is just one year away (wow, that snuck up on me!) and, according to the “breastfeeding report card,” there is still a lot of work to be done to meet the breastfeeding targets.

API Speaks, the blog of Attachment Parenting International, and Tanya at Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog are also encouraging people to sign the petition.

Heather at A Mama’s Blog recently wrote a post about melamine found in United States infant formula and then a follow-up post about the FDA’s “irresponsible” response to the melamine where they state that trace amounts of melamine are safe. She points out that beyond the health benefits, there is the added peace of mind that comes from breastfeeding because you don’t have to worry about harmful chemicals, like trace amounts of melamine, showing up in formula, as has been the case first (in larger amounts) in China and now in the United States.

It is my hope that President-elect Obama will take the petition seriously and, with the help of Tom Daschle, make the positive changes needed to create an environment where not only can we achieve our national breastfeeding targets, but women and their families can be successful in reaching their personal breastfeeding goals too.

Cross-posted on BlogHer

Orgasmic birth on 20/20 this Friday

Update: The show has been pushed back. The new tentative air date is Jan. 2 now.

Just a quick note to let you all (but especially the birth junkies) know that ABC’s 20/20 is doing a segment on Orgasmic Birth this Friday, Dec. 12.

Have no idea what I’m talking about? OB-GYN Dr. Christiane Northrup, midwife Ina May Gaskin, and childbirth educator Debra Pascali-Bonaro all agree that under the right circumstances, i.e. when a woman is relaxed (and in my opinion very comfortable with her body), and due to the huge hormonal changes that occur in the body during labor, a kind of birth ecstasy is possible.

To learn more about the 20/20’s Orgasmic Birth, check out Labor Orgasms called ‘Best-Kept Secret’ – Moms, Experts Say Relaxation is Key to Pleasurable Childbirth. Then be sure to tune into 20/20 on Friday. I’ve already got my DVR set to record it.

What do you think? Is a segment on ecstatic birth “a bit too much information” as one woman on Twitter called it or, in a largely-medicalized, fear-based birthing society, just the kind of information women need?

Additional resources:
Orgasmic Birth, the film
Orgasmic Childbirth: The Fun Doesn’t End at Conception! by Laura Shanley
Pioneering midwife touts ‘orgasmic birth’ on MSNBC

Edited to add: I want to point out that it does not appear they are not saying all women will have an orgasm or that an orgasm should even be the goal. I think the point is moreso that birth can be a good experience.

For women who hope to create a similarly happy ending for their labor, Pascali-Bonaro hopes they realize that it’s possible, but the goal is not necessarily an actual orgasm.

“I hope women watching and men watching don’t feel that what we’re saying is, every woman should have an orgasmic birth,” she said. “Our message is that women can journey through labor and birth in all different ways. And there are a lot more options out there, to make this a positive and pleasurable experience.”