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Certified Humane Mamas: An address to the American Council of Infants

It’s an honor to speak to the American Council of Infants. No other forum provides a better chance to discuss topics that matter to babies. *Happy cooing*

Today’s address is directed at those of you who are breastfed. You formula-fed babies probably have IQs so low that you won’t understand me anyway.*

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American babies are increasingly concerned about where their food comes from. I know many babies who will only nurse from an organic mama because of concerns about the pesticides used on crops that non-organic mamas consume. Babies are also concerned about how using these pesticides (and chemical fertilizers) is impacting our our soil and our ecosystem. *Loud wailing*

While not all babies have access to an organic mama, and the cost of an organic mama can be prohibitive, I do urge you to nurse from an organic mama whenever possible. *Gurgles of contentment.*

In fact, I’m actually here to say: An organic mama is not enough. I want to talk to you about Certified Humane mamas.

Like an organic mama, a Certified Humane (CH) mama’s care has to meet strict standards. For example, both organic and CH mamas have access to fresh air and exercise, food grown without pesticides, and are not treated with antibiotics. Even when they get mastitis.

However, a CH mama’s care must also meet requirements for kindness and responsible care. In general, CH animals must be permitted to “do what comes naturally”. What comes naturally to my CH mama is going into the basement and watching Netflix while drinking cocktails. I allow her to do this after I’m in bed every day. This isn’t the most efficient use of my mama, so why do I do it? Well, for two reasons. First, milk from CH mamas simply tastes better. I believe that in time we’ll be able to show that it’s more nutritious, though there’s no evidence  at this time. Second, mamas may just be animals, but I believe they should be treated with compassion. While it might serve me better to keep her up all night so she can cuddle me, or insist that she nurse me all day every day, or keep her in a crate so that I can always find her, these practices stress mamas. Stressed mamas get sick more often and may end up producing less milk. *Angry fussing*

Again, I know a CH mama is not possible for all babies. But I believe that making babies aware of CH handling for mamas can help change the way mamas are treated. In the end, CH treatment is better not just for mamas, but also for babies. *Fat hands clap together*

 

*I fucking hate that breastmilk raises IQs! claim, so this is 100% satirical. In case you’re not familiar with my sense of humor and think I would actually give someone shit for formula feeding. Which I myself did.

First summer

Friday was the last day of the toddler’s first school year (preschool, that is). That makes this their first official summer. Since we’re already paying someone to take care of them, we’re not bothering with camp or anything crazy like that, they’re doing Old School summer. Long days of nothing in particular. I got the plastic pool out and put the ice cream thing in the freezer.

Right now they’re both sobbing, and it’s raining, and there are a million mosquitoes, but that’s their daddy’s problem.

Bunter is also having her first summer.

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That’s probably the only strawberry we’re going to get, given the voracious chipmunks and birds, so I’m glad she got it.

Not taking it personally and not getting in the way

A while back I had my first parent-teacher conference at the Buns’ preschool. At first I had a hard time taking it seriously (because…parent teacher conference? For tiny babies?), but before I knew it I was convinced that I was ruining my child.

Bun Bun scored quite a few “needs work”, in areas that surprised me. I think of her as good at articulating her thoughts and feelings. Teacher said she is quiet and it’s hard to get her to respond to questions. The subtext, at least based on the examples given, was she’s afraid she’s done something wrong and is facing some kind of discipline. So naturally I interpreted this as a critique of my parenting. Along the lines of what are you doing at home that this child is so terrified of answering a simple question about some cupcakes?

Later I was able to take a breath and remember that my childhood of isolation and shyness and anxiety is not her childhood. Yes, she may well end up introverted for reasons of temperament, genetics, and environment, but she is her own sweet self. It’s not all about me. I am not always the problem.

But sometimes I am the problem. Like with toilet training Bunlet. Probably for a year Bunlet had been toilet trained for pee but always took a dump in his diaper during nap/nights. I was determined not to pressure him, but UGGH, SO SICK OF IT. One day about three months ago his nanny decided to leave the door to his room open so he could go into the bathroom during his nap, whereas we’d always closed it for fear he’d escape and wreak havoc. (A reasonable fear, if you knew Bunlet.) Since then, no more shitty diapers. Not one. He was ready, we were just getting in the way.

So how do you know if you are the problem? The hallmark of getting in the way is that you don’t know you’re doing it…

Then this week I had an experience that I’d classify as neither being the problem nor getting in the way, i.e., doing things right. Bun Bun is reaching reading age. I have been doing my best to not get obsessed with it, secure in the knowledge that any kid who loves books as much as Bun Bun does is going to learn to read someday. That it’s not a threat to her eventual world domination if other kids her age surpass her, or if younger kids surpass her, that there’s nothing I need to be doing (because we already naturally do the things you’re supposed to do), etc. Watching other parents I know deal with kindergarten decision-making has tested my resolve to not freak out, but I’ve held strong and only freaked out a little. (I’m denying her best possible start due to my laziness/conflicted feelings!) However, school’s about to be out so I thought we might want to incorporate some reading practice into our lives so she doesn’t get rusty. (I have no idea what they do around reading in her classroom. Nothing, as far as I can tell.) So I got some of those books where the adult reads a page and the learner reads a page, thinking we’d labor through a few pages and it would be frustrating for her. Turns out the child can read. Not fluently or without assistance, of course, but to a degree that I was totally unaware of. Stealthy little fucker has learned to read, by gum.

So I did well with not taking it personally, this time. Now I just have to make sure I don’t somehow get in the way.

 

Revenge of the spurned ovaries

Another super short luteal phase, another yeast infection. It’s only the third yeast infection of my entire life, and I tell you what, THIS SUCKS. I am trying the yogurt approach. Has anyone had success with this? Should I be going to the drug store instead of wasting time basting my nethers with with dairy products?

Anyway, at least I know why it’s all happening. My ovaries are pissed about the tubal ligation. There they are, happily preparing top notch oocytes and sending them off…And they’re going nowhere. I mean, they’re going somewhere, but then they’re just drifting off into an abyss. Imagine how you’d feel if you did brilliant work and watched someone just through it away? Wouldn’t you want to take revenge? So they’re clearly orchestrating this endless assault to my lady parts.

Time to start googling how + appease + angry ovaries, right?

 

This “to do” list makes me want cake

One of the strangest things about academia is the many things we’re asked to do well with zero training. Teach, for one. I mean, we get some “see one-do one” style training, and some graduate programs offer more support in this realm than others, but we are essentially learning on the job. Trial and error, where the medium for practice is our students’ lives. I just attended a workshop–because I am the kind of person who seeks out and takes advantage of opportunities to learn, and I am highly unusual in this regard–on good mentoring. I got a handout and listened to a bunch of people complain. I left in a bit of a huff, feeling the way students must often feel after seeking mentoring. That was a waste of time. Now I am back in the office and faced with two tasks that I have never been trained to do, and yet are a big part of my job.

  1. Review a paper.
  2. Write a letter of recommendation.

So to prevent me from spending the rest of the day looking at shoes on the internet, I am going to tackle item number 1. I am going to put on some music, make some tea, and ask for help. Fellow academics*: How do you efficiently review a paper? Any tips for making it not take more than a couple of hours, but also be FAIR? It’s easy to blow the task off and write a couple of shitty paragraphs, and the more I do these, the more tempted I am to basically give what I get: Find a nit-picky thing on page 10, criticize some theoretical point vaguely without offering any suggestions, but claim that it’s a fatal flaw, refer them to my brilliant work on the subject.

*Non-academics, if your job has any component of evaluation, there’s probably an analogue to the paper review. How do you evaluate the work of others?

The voodoo stick

When Bun Bun was born, my mama brought a rusty curtain rod that she planned to tie with some shitty yarn to the crib, and attach a variety of dangerous objects to it so the baby could enjoy them. I balked. I am not super obsessed with safety. I mean, I break rules set by the American Academy of Pediatrics now and again. I believe in educated decision making. But no rusty curtain rod. No shitty yard. NO ENTICING CHOKABLES. So I agreed to the general plan, but insisted on making it myself. I used a nice strong dowel, covered with fabric in case of breakage. I used nice strong ribbon to attach it. And I used only the items that were safe, and attached them securely. One of the items she brought involved a lot of chicken feathers, so we called it the voodoo stick.

Each subsequent baby has gotten a few different items. The tentacle has stayed from the beginning, the lovely silver rattle. The little fabric bag contains a bunch of pine needles, very fragrant and nice. Bunter got a nice tape roll with some socially progressive stickers. Chew on amnesty international! Chew on the world wildlife fund! And some mysterious object, maybe part of a hair holding device.

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The babies love the fuck out of their voodoo stick. Bunter extra loves sticking her toes in the metal thing. And I know they’d likely enjoy some plastic piece of shit, too. It’s just awfully satisfying to watch them interacting with this weird junk.

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And knowing that I managed a reasonable compromise between honoring my strange heritage and my let’s all keep the baby alive! goal.

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Bunter is now SIX! MONTHS! old. She has gone back to sleeping 11 hours at night. Bun Bun needed help learning to fall asleep at the beginning of the night and help learning how to go back to sleep in the middle of the night. Bunlet needed help learning to fall asleep at the beginning of the night. Bunter didn’t need either. And then suddenly she did. So we ignored her, and she cried a little, and now she doesn’t anymore. The spouse and I went OUT! several nights! this week! Twangy, these days with the spouse WILL come again. In as little as six months from now! On the other hand, it will never be just you and spouse again. But that’s part of the point, I suppose!)

 

A post like the things you find under the sofa cusion

Can someone make a breast pump that cries? It could even allow a mama to record her own baby’s cry for playback. It should get progressively louder and more frantic (like one of those alarm clocks). Because the sound of crying would definitely help me remember to fucking pump. As it is, I am always jumping like a startled rat and thinking SHIT! MUST PUMP AGAIN! And the My Angry PumpTM would probably help with letdown and all that, too. Please send me my million dollars immediately, Medela.

Mr. Bunny says this idea is “half baked”.

Pitty got mad and gave me a yeast infection and then another period about three days later. What do you mean, vaginal pH is not the pituitary’s job? You think it was just a coincidence? PLEASE.

The journal that made me wait a year for a review and then rejected my paper now wants me to review a paper for them. I vacillate between wanting to petulantly say NO, and thinking it’s a paper I need to read anyway so I should suck it up. After all, the authors had nothing to do with my bad experience. But in addition to my yucky feelings about the journal, one of the authors is someone I hate. I know, what grown ass tenured person bothers hating people. Except…she’s a mean girl. I feel like academia really has no room for mean girls. We’re all supposed to be kind-hearted nerds! Perhaps best I not review this, eh? Single blind reviews are stupid, and single blind reviewing a paper from someone you hate is even stupider. Saying yes and then waiting a year to send my review is tempting, but not actually something I’d consider, because I’m a kind-hearted nerd.

Yesterday Bun Bun and I were inspecting the peas we planted. The peas are up and thriving, but oddly there is no sign of the asparagus. I explained to Bun Bun that it’s weird because asparagus is always first. She said Maybe the asparagus needs to learn that it doesn’t always get to be first and that sometimes the peas get to be first. It’s so sweet and yet so bizarre to hear my moralizing little lessons coming out of someone else’s mouth.