Category Archives: Culture

How About A Mom Friendly Hospital Initiative?

I recently gave birth in a “baby friendly” hospital. My newborn was with me through out my entire hospital stay, except for a few minutes when they gave her a bath and a few more minutes when our pediatrician took her to another room to suction mucus out of her throat. There was no mention of formula and lots of breastfeeding support. From what I have read, having babies room-in with mothers (infant and mother bonding) and encouraging breastfeeding (classified as the optimal way to feed an infant) seem to be the corner stones of the baby friendly initiative. Sounds good, right? For the most part I am sure it is, but I think we can do even better by working towards a mom friendly hospital experience too.

Everyone knows it’s nearly impossible to get any sleep in the hospital, but I don’t think it has to be that way. For new mothers, sleeping, while in the hospital, should be more of a priority. If you’ve been in labor for hours, given birth, and then spent 48 hours not sleeping because hospital staff kept interrupting, you’re going to be a hot mess by the time you get home. I calculated that I got exactly 20 minutes of sleep during my most recent hospital stay. I’m pretty sure this lack of sleep, after the tiring exercise of pushing a tiny human out of your body,  doesn’t help in the prevention of postpartum depression. Exhausted isn’t exactly a baby friendly or mom friendly way to begin parenthood.

How About A Mom Friendly Hospital Initiative?

After giving birth people were coming in and out of my room day and night. At one point during my stay the nurse was hooking me up to receive some antibiotics while the pharmacist, the phlebotomist, and the hospital ombudsmen were all waiting in my room to speak to me. Through out the day the medical records clerk stopped by twice, the lactation specialist came by three times, and someone stopped to offer a prayer.  These visits all happened in between the nurses, the medical technicians (blood draw every four hours, blood pressure, oxygen levels, and temperature check every two – for both me and baby) and the doctors visiting. Basically we got 5-8 minutes of quiet and privacy at a time. The second night, when it finally seemed like we might get a reprieve, we turned off the lights and tried to get some sleep. Just as we started to doze-off a nurse came into our dark room to ask us if we needed anything. In a polite, clench teethed sort of way, I said, “Some sleep would be nice.” She laughed. Of course she did because everyone knows there is no sleeping in the hospital.

In a mom friendly hospital there would be a coordination of medical visits so moms would have uninterrupted stretches of time to sleep or bond with baby. There would also be a checklist provided early on so mom could choose who they wanted visiting. Don’t want to be visited by the hospital pastor or lactation consultant? Don’t check them off. Prefer to have your medications explained on paper instead of a visit from the pharmacist? Don’t check off the pharmacist. You see where I am going with this.

I don’t want to get into a debate about breastfeeding versus formula feeding (but you can find my thoughts on it here), but I wonder, why do we have to go to such extremes? I’ve read some baby friendly hospitals keep formula under lock and key and that a doctor has to write a prescription for it. Formula is not a controlled substance. This doesn’t make any sense to me. We were told if we wanted to give our baby formula we’d have to bring it into the hospital ourselves. So we did just in case we needed it. I have a history of low milk production and we didn’t want to starve our second child like we did the first one. On the other hand, hospitals used to push formula on people who didn’t want it. Wouldn’t it be more baby and mom friendly to find a balance here? Mothers want to do the best they can for their child. They don’t need to feel guilty on the first day they become a parent. In a mom friendly hospital, both feeding options would be equally available and supported without judgement. I think this is baby friendly too.

Another confusing thing baby friendly hospitals are doing is getting rid of the nursery. I get it. The baby rooms with mom so there is no need for a nursery, except sometimes there is. When I had my first child I spent a little over 24 hours in the ICU after giving birth. I couldn’t stand or get up on my own so I wasn’t allowed to have my baby with me unless someone else (like my mom or husband) was in the room with me. I wonder, what happens now under similar circumstances? Where will the baby go? Does mom take care of the baby anyway even though it may not be safe for her to do so?

How about we keep the nursery just in case so mom doesn’t have one more thing to worry about after giving birth? Can we be a little more mom friendly and provide space and time for mom to heal when she needs it? Again, we are going from one extreme to another. Mom’s couldn’t room with their baby before and now they have to no matter what the circumstances are. Where is the balance and sensible decision making?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m pro baby friendly. It’s a terrific idea to push hospitals to do better. I’d just like to see some effort in making hospitals a little more mom friendly too. And a little more balanced. Hospitals don’t have to be friendly to one group and not to the other. We can be kind and supportive to both mom and baby…at the same time.



Art Gives Me An Excuse For Solitude

My friend shared a post on Facebook about people with anxiety and one of the things the author talked about was having a “people hangover” and I couldn’t stop nodding. A people hangover is when you have used up all of your energy being with other people and so you feel drained, tired, and desperate for some time alone. I think this applies to introverts just as much as people suffering from anxiety. I know it applies to me.

We spent 10 days driving to California, visiting family, and driving back. I didn’t get much solitude. The hotel rooms were small and with three people we were pretty much on top of each other. Hiding in the bathroom was not an option, although I made some attempts. Then we were non-stop visiting people (people we love dearly) and don’t even get me started on the driving. Three people in the car for three days straight (both ways) is a lot of togetherness. By the middle of the trip I was drained and by the end just plain exhausted.

I need solitude and alone time and quiet and space. That is hard for other people to understand or to not be insulted by.  When you sneak off to be by yourself people take it personally sometimes. They just don’t understand the need for solitude. Art often gives me a way to be alone in a socially acceptable manner. I can say, “I have to work now.” People understand that better than, “I really just need to be alone to replace my energy.”

I recently found myself trying to explain why I didn’t enjoy crowds. It was obvious I wasn’t doing a good job explaining myself. How do you explain something so fundamental about the person you are?  I don’t have an explanation for not liking crowds other than that is just how I am wired. I know it is hard for people who get their energy from being around other people to relate to introverts because the concept seems so foreign to them. Crowds pump them up, but crowds make us so tired. So tired. People make me so tired. Without time to recuperate in between social engagements I actually start to feel physically sick like I am coming down with a cold. I get a little grumpy too, similar to having low blood sugar. In short, I have a people hangover. The only remedy is to find some way to get a few hours (or even minutes) alone. Sometimes I do hide in the bathroom or invent a reason to take something to the car…or disappear to admire flowers in the backyard just to get some space.

I never thought about it before, but art-making is an excellent excuse to duck into a room and close the door. It’s a good cover for my introversion. Plus I love to paint so there is that too. I’m really grateful I have found ways to compensate for my introverted personality that doesn’t draw attention to it or make anyone uncomfortable, but I also wish people understood better, or, at the very least, accepted people like me just the way we are. It’s not personal. We just need to recharge our batteries without any company.


You’ll Never Be President Because You Are A Girl

The other night, as I was folding laundry, Tiny-Small ran over to me and said, “You’ll never be president, Mom.” I turned to her and was about to respond, but, before I could, she said, “…because you’re a girl.” Now I have no desire to be president and obviously never will be, but to have my four year old daughter state so confidently that girls cannot be president just made my blood boil.

I decorated her nursery in yellow and green to keep it more gender neutral. I bought her toys from both sides of the Toys R Us store. I’m a huge advocate for gender equality and human equality. I am raising a little girl during a time period where a woman very well may be president. Fingers crossed. Prayers answered. I am hopeful to see that happen in my lifetime.

Sadly, I am repeatedly shocked by how little an impact my beliefs and values seem to have on my daughter. She is completely rooted in gender stereotypes. She likes pink and ballerinas and thinks boys cannot be pretend princesses and should only have “boy” hair.

We have had long conversations about whether boys can have long hair or even wear dresses. I told her that, despite what she thinks, some boys do wear dresses, have long hair, and even wear makeup. We have also discussed at length that some girls have short hairstyles and drive trucks and even play with swords. To really blow her mind I told her that men marry other men and women marry other women. She couldn’t fathom it. We live in a place where she doesn’t see these things happening very often. So she often doesn’t believe a single word I say. She has to see it to believe it.

You'll Never Be President Because You Are A Girl

I asked her to explain why women couldn’t be presidents. She said, “Because they don’t dress like presidents.” That’s when I realized what she was getting at. The other day when a bunch of men in ties walked by she said, “Where are all of those presidents going?” She clearly believes presidents wear ties and that wearing a tie means you must be a president. She doesn’t see people in her life wearing ties too often. We are pretty laid back in the West. People often joke that to dress up is to wear “new” jeans. She mostly sees men in ties on TV during elections and Presidential debates. For her, clothes truly make the man…or woman.

I try not to worry about what our culture is teaching her about men and women. I hope the examples we set at home and the conversations we have (or she overhears) will help form her opinions, but sometimes her perceptions are truly a slap in the face. When she said girls couldn’t be president I had no woman president to show her, as an example (or proof), that it was possible. I mean, we haven’t had a female president in this country yet. In some ways what she says rings true…I find myself wondering, can a girl really be president?  She’s right about other things too because what people wear really does seem to be an important factor in how they are perceived by others. When Tiny-Small wears her pink tutu and has bows in her hair people stop to compliment her. When she shows up in sweatpants and a Batman T-shirt nobody says anything. She is paying attention. She knows, at the age of four, that embracing gender stereotypes is rewarded with social acceptance. She has witnessed another parent berate his son for wearing a dress and pretending to be a princess during pretend play. She sees the writing on the wall and there is little I can do to persuade her otherwise. At times it feels like there is little I can do to prevent her mind from being polluted by harmful social and cultural expectations.

The other day I went to a thrift store and bought a bag of doll clothes for Tiny-Small to play with. When we opened it we discovered a child-size clip on tie in the bag. Later that day as I came around the corner she had her dolls set up on the coffee table. She was wearing the clip on tie and delivering a speech to her audience. I almost cried because finally she believed she could be a president. This gives me hope that maybe at four years old her brain can only process so much information and that as she grows and has new experiences her ideas about the world will change. That her world will expand beyond what she has seen in the small town she lives in. That she won’t feel limited by stereotypes, or judge people by the clothes they wear, or think she cannot be president even if that is what she truly wants to be.