• Cloth Diapering: An Introduction

    There are a million blog posts about cloth diapering (and plenty of blogs devoted entirely to them) but I will add my two cents worth so that I can refer people to my post or in case I have an insight that has not been captured before.

    When most people think of cloth diapers, they think of the old-fashioned prefolds or flats. While those are still an option, cloth diapers have come a really long way and are as easy to use as disposables – no pins or wet pails needed.  I’ll give a feel for the flavor of the new cloth diapers and help you decide how to go about purchasing, caring for and troubleshooting possible problems with the diapers.

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    My reasons for cloth diapering

    I have found that with anything you do with parenting or life choices, you can justify it one way or another.  Many people will look at you like you’re crazy when you mention you are cloth diapering.  Like anything that is worthwhile or isn’t “convenient” or part of our throwaway culture, it requires you to put in a little bit of  time/mental investment up front but then quickly becomes part of your routine.  I promise it’s a lot easier than you think has the potential to leave you feeling good about your choice.  I don’t think anyone “feels good” about disposable diapers.

    I decided that I wanted to cloth diaper even before I knew I was pregnant. My reasons for wanting to do it were pretty simple.

    • Environmental impact.   I could look up a statistic that says how many pounds of diapers are thrown away in the average year or for the average baby and how long they take to decompose (500 years!!) but anyone who has used disposable diapers for a week is aware of this impact.  Besides the amount that ends up in landfills, there is also the amount that ends up in our weekly trash.   Which brings me to my next point…
    • Rubbish generated. We work hard to only create one tiny bag of trash in our house on a weekly basis by recycling, composting and trying to minimize our consumption.  It is a source of pride for us and I don’t want it to go away just because we had a baby.
    • Built to last.  I don’t like anything that is made for a one-time use. I like things that are well constructed and can be used over and over.  Most of today’s cloth diapers come with adjustable sizing and will fit a baby from 8-35 pounds (that’s from birth through to potty training!).
    • Economics.  Especially if you plan to have more than one child, the economics of cloth diapers wins.   There are many different options and I’m sure you can crunch the numbers yourself.  In our case, we purchased 24 cloth diapers to last the duration of our baby’s time in diapers.  We bought fairly “fancy” ones so our entire stash was about $500.  Detergent and electricity could be factored in but if a child goes through about 8 diapers per day and diapers cost an average of 30 cents each, that’s already nearly $1000 in the first year, not to mention wipes.  We do cloth wipes since we are doing the cloth diapers so we save money there too.
    • Less toxins and chemicals in contact with baby. The ingredients put in to disposable diapers (dioxins, VOC’s, sodium polyacrylate, fragrance) to absorb and wick and dye and advertise Disney and Sesame Street characters makes me a little nervous.
    • Eliminates errands.  I can’t stand shopping or running to places like Target, etc. It cuts in to my creative time or time that could be better spent with my baby.  I love that we never have to run out to pick up diapers or wipes in the middle of the night or on a nice day.  Avoiding these stores also means spending less money on stupid crap you don’t need that you never would have  bought if you hadn’t gone to the store.
    • Contain “blowouts” and smell.  The few times I have had to use disposable diapers I have noticed the baby becomes a lot stinkier after having a poo in the disposables and some of the poo gets dangerously close to exiting the diaper and getting all over the clothes.  I have never had a blowout in my cloth diapers.
    • Helps prevent diaper rash.  Anecdotally I have heard that cloth diapers can help with diaper rash issues and some people use them because of sensitivities their little ones have to the plethora of chemicals used in disposable diapers.  I have not really encountered diaper rash but also haven’t used disposables for an appreciable amount of time to determine if they happen more often in disposables.
    • Expedites potty training  I’ll update my thoughts on this when my baby gets older but I have heard that the child is more aware of the correlation between going to the bathroom and an uncomfortable wetness so can ask to use the toilet earlier.
    • They’re cute!  Today’s cloth diapers come in really fun patterns and colors and leave your babe with a really fluffy little mushroom butt.  For girls, cloth diapers can be used as little bloomers and both genders look cute in just their diapers, especially when the mercury rises or they saturate any shirt they wear in drool.
    • They hold their value  Believe it or not, cloth diapers actually fetch pretty good values on sites like Craigslist so if you are done with them, you can sell them or pass them on to a friend who is interested in trying cloth diapers.

    Decisions to make if you decide to cloth diaper

    • Brand  Of course you can make up a stash of all different types but I chose to go with all one brand – bumGenius by Cotton Babies.  I don’t have nearly the experience as these blogs devoted to cloth diapers and simply went with the recommendation of a few other mommas I had trusted to have done their research.
    • Type You can generally choose between All-in-One’s (or AOI’s as they’re often called) or those that require stuffing with an insert (pocket diapers). Today’s cloth diapers generally have a cover or outershell often in a poly blend (the cloth diaper lingo usually refers to this as calls it PUL for PolyUrethane Laminate) and then have absorbent inserts that catch the poos and wees.  The AOI’s have these inserts sewn in whereas the pocket diapers need to be stuffed with an insert.  If you go with the type that require stuffing, there are different types of inserts you can use (e.g. hemp, bamboo, cotton, microfiber terry).  Moms seem to be pretty divided about which one they are loyal to and I’m still not sure which one I prefer.  I have made a list of the pros and cons below if you are more interested in pursuing that.
    • How many  The more diapers you have, the less things seem like an emergency at times.  I bought 24 diapers which equates to diaper laundry every other day – the same that is recommended by the manufacturers.  At the newborn stage, babies can soil up to 12 diapers per day.  Now, at the 4-month mark she generally goes through about 8 diapers per day but the extra diapers allow for long drying times on particularly cold or damp days.  The diapers generally need to be line dried.  I would say to err on the side of too few as you start.  You can ease in to it and see what you like.  They also put out limited edition prints and you may want to acquire some of these and will feel less guilty about it if you need to add to your stash anyway.  I also didn’t know the gender of the baby prior to the birth so wanted to get some pink ones after I found out it was a girl!  I used disposables for the first month just because my baby was under 7 pounds and because I wanted diapers that had a cutout for the umbilical cord, not to mention the first month after a baby’s arrival is a bit overwhelming.  That gave me a chance to slowly build up to the cloth diapers and get used to them.

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    Pocket Diapers vs. All-in-One’s

    The bumGenius brand calls their All-in-Ones (AOI’s) their Freetime diaper.  These diapers have the insert sewn in and the beauty of these is they give a little bit of extra free time (as the name implies) since stuffing them is not required. There are a few drawbacks to them though. The first is drying time. I find they can sometimes take quite a bit of time to dry in cold or damp air which can be kind of frustrating. On a hot sunny summer day they will dry in a few hours though.   The pocket diapers (called 4.0 by bumGenius) can have their inserts tumble dried and the covers dry quite quickly.  The other drawback to the Freetimes is that they can be a bit difficult to clean. I have not experienced this too much myself yet since my baby is still exclusively on breast milk (which is water soluble and doesn’t require pre-rinsing). The final drawback is that you don’t have the option to stuff them with an insert other than the type sewn in which is a terry microfiber for bumGenius brand.  On days it’s hot and sunny and I’m short on time, I love my Freetimes.  On days it’s cold or damp or I really want to use my hemp or bamboo inserts, I love the 4.0’s.  There isn’t a clear winner to me.

    Caring for cloth diapers

    My routine for caring for the cloth diapers is pretty simple. When the diapers first arrive, you need to wash them a couple of times. Then, when the baby is just on breast milk, the diapers don’t require any rinsing. This will make you a little nervous at first but, trust me, it’s a blessing and enjoy this poop honeymoon.  Once the baby starts on solids or formula, they need to be rinsed before being put in to the washer machine.  BumGenius makes a really nice sprayer that can attach to the back of your toilet which makes this job a lot easier.  I also love the SprayPal for particularly messy ones.

    I put the dirty diapers in to a dry pail (i.e. don’t require soaking in a bucket like the old generation did).  I have a wet/dry bag from Planet Wise so I just keep that hanging next to the changing table and this can be thrown in to the washer machine with the diapers.  It’s also nice for daycare when you want to bring some clean, dry diapers in the front zippered pouch and then the soiled ones can be put in to the wet portion and be taken home to get washed.

    I do cloth diaper laundry every other day and then hang them to dry in the sun whenever possible.  We don’t have a clothesline so I just use a drying rack.  I use bumGenius detergent but Ecos Free and Clear can be acquired commercially and I have also heard good things about Charlie’s Soap and Rockin’ Green.  Each time you wash the diapers, they should first go through a prewash in cold water.  Then they need to be washed on a regular cycle in hot water with an extra rinse.

    Things about cloth diapers that they tell you but you may ignore. Don’t ignore them!

    I did have a couple stumbling blocks along the way so I’ll share those with you now…

    • Wash with one of the detergents specified by the manufacturer. I tried washing mine with what I thought was an “even better solution” with nice natural ingredients but even some of these “good” ingredients with oils, etc. can build up on the diaper and cause stink issues.  You will need a detergent with no enzymes, softeners, brighteners, fragrances, oils, etc.
    • Do not tumble dry them. Doing so may eventually lead to wear and tear issues in the PUL and cause leaking.  You can use a low heat in a pinch and sometimes I throw them in for a few minutes if they have been drying outside to make sure any debris or bugs are removed.
    • Do not use diaper creams. There are some that can be used with cloth diapers (or can be made). If you use commercial creams, they may build up on the diapers and cause stink issues or will cause the fabric to repel water and cause leaks.  I have tried making some of my own but am still tweaking the recipe.  California Baby brand seems to work pretty well and is considered “cloth diaper safe”.
    • Use sunshine to clean the diapers.  They will tell you to line dry them in the sun which you may read to simply line dry them.  Putting the diapers in the sun actually gets out the stains and sanitizes them though.  Apparently sun will bleach all organic stains.  You can almost see it happening in front of your eyes.
    • Strip the diapers if you develop stink or buildup issues.  The manufacturer will have very specific directions for how to do this.  In my case, I really hesitated because it was using Dawn detergent and that just seemed wrong in my little granola heart but that is what works.  Again, there are whole websites devoted to this kind of thing but you will find them if you run in to the issue.

    In a nutshell, cloth diapers are easy to use.  You can buy ones that function just like a disposable and simply wash them every other day with the right soap and line dry them.  You could potentially save thousands of dollars and keep your baby in a diaper you feel really good about.

  • The Present Moment

    You wish you could complete a sleep cycle but embedded in your dreams is the certain knowledge that she will be awake at any moment.
    You hear her cry and pull her in to the bed hoping she’ll mimic your still body and closed eyes. You know your attempts are futile though.
    You bundle her up and try to race out of the dark house to prevent waking up her siblings – more futility.
    You push her along the sidewalk and over bridges and start chatting to her like the baby books say to do, telling her about what you are seeing.
    But even though you only met her a few months ago, you know her and are aware that, like you, companionable silence is preferable to her at this time of day.

    This is it. The present moment. And you are there.

    Simple wonders of the world that have always been there unnoticed become a part of your day.
    The half moon sets over the hillside while the dawn breaks in the east and bathes the craggy peaks in rose as it always does.
    But today you think about how different your life was even just one week ago when you watched the full moon set another beautiful and sleepless morning.
    You remember how you felt excited and nervous about something this week and now today, you look back courageous and confident and nervous and excited about a new thing next week.
    You think about how, like the moon, you experience everything from new and empty to full and bright within a month and yet nothing about it has ever changed, just your vantage point.

    You arrive at the beach and think about how last time you were here you were pregnant – a solstice and a lifetime ago.
    You park the baby with the sun rising behind her over the Pacific Ocean and pull out your phone to take a picture.
    Your phone unexpectedly powers off, maybe due to the cold morning. You are momentarily upset you couldn’t capture the moment and then you realize that you are thankful.

    Because the moment you are experiencing cannot be captured with a shitty phone photo.

    The photo couldn’t capture the smell of woodburning fires in the salty sea air or the smell of your creamy new baby that forever fills your nostrils.

    The photo couldn’t capture the feel of nutrient dense food consumed with family and made with love during this holiday that fills your belly and soothes your nerves.

    The photo couldn’t capture the sound of the ocean waves and the happy gulls.

    The feeling cannot be summarized with a hashtag.

    You have all these thoughts and worry you won’t be able to remember them because of your “mommy brain,” a term you’ve always disliked because it implies a loss of intelligence, something that you have always prized.

    But you have come to realize that all that forgetfullness provides is amplification of the present moment and the rest of the world falls away in to the background. And you’re more than OK with that.

    You realize that a lack of sleep has brought you the gift of experiencing something you normally would have snoozed right through.

    She has drifted back to sleep in her stroller and so you gun for the coffee shop, eager to record your thoughts.

    Once again, you know in your heart that when the wheels stop and you step in to the warmth, she will wake up.

    So you sit down with your cappucino and a pen and as soon as you scribble the first word, she awakens and begins to stir and fuss.

    And so you write and you jiggle her on your knee and you burn your tongue as you drink quickly, thankful for another day to experience life and exercise your creativity. Because create you did.

  • Cloth Baby Wipes System

    I decided early in my pregnancy that I wanted to do cloth diapering.  Chief was very supportive of my plan, even though a few others looked at me like I was crazy.  That made me nervous, but after speaking to a few mommas that were cloth diapering and reading various blogs, the most common sentiment that I heard was that it was a lot easier than most people think.  Most moms who began cloth diapering after the first child or when their child was older only wish they would have started earlier.  I have been loving it thus far.  It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to do cloth diapering and then have wipes that need disposing of though, so here I have a recipe for cloth wipes that can just be thrown in the wet bag and washed with the diapers.

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    Even if you don’t cloth diaper, these wipes could also be used to wipe up a child’s face or body.  And, let’s be honest…I admit that sometimes a quick scrub to myself with these in the morning is the closest I get to a shower before I head out of the house!  I also like using these wipes to get in to the little rolls of chub that milk likes to get stuck in.

    I watched a number of YouTube videos and read a number of blogs and then did some trial and error to come up with my favorite method and recipe for these wipes.  I made my own video here.  As with all these kitchen beautician recipes, don’t become hung up on acquiring exactly what is listed but just jump in and do a few tests with whatever you have on hand and I promise you it will quickly become second nature and you’ll find your own tweaks that you’re happy with.

    Cloth wipes

    First of all, you will need wipes.  I ended up buying some unbleached organic cotton ones from OsoCozy.  A number of other moms just used cut up old t-shirts or receiving blankets so you could do that if you want to save money or if you are handier with a sewing machine than I am.  I usually fill the wipes warmer with about 30 wipes but you could do less depending on how often you need them.

    Solution

    There are a lot of recipes out there but my favorite mixture is below:

    • Boiled then cooled water (or distilled water)
    • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil
    • 1 Tbsp. castile soap (I use Dr. Bronner’s unscented)
    • 1 Tbsp. witch hazel
    • 1 Tbsp. aloe vera gel
    • 10 drops essential oils.  My favorite is a mixture of tea tree, lavender, and vanilla essential oils.  Other good options are chamomile or tangerine.  You could also make a big batch of chamomile tea with the boiled water to incorporate it that way.

    I think the water and oil are the two most crucial ingredients because they are what really clean and soften the skin, respectively.  Coconut oil could always be substituted with almond oil, grapeseed oil, olive oil, or whatever else you have on hand.  Go ahead and try a batch with just these two things if you need time to acquire the other items listed in the recipe.  The witch hazel adds astringent properties and the aloe vera gel soothes skin.  The essential oils provide a nice scent, allow for the incorporation of aromatherapy and many have antibacterial and antifungal properties.  Baby shampoo could be substituted for the castile soap.

    Method

    You could also use distilled water but I usually just boil a full teapot of water when making my tea or coffee in the morning and then set the unused water aside.  Boiling it will ensure you have killed any bacteria that could foster mold growth, etc.

    In a large bowl or casserole dish, I put in the oil, castile soap, witch hazel and aloe vera gel and then pour the warm water over it.  I then drop in the essential oils.

    On other blogs or videos I watched, moms rolled up their little cloth wipes.  Bless them but I really don’t have the time to spare.  I just fold mine in half and it takes about 1 extra minute for every load of laundry.

    I take the stacks of folded wipes and dip them in to the solution until they are saturated but then squeeze them out so they are wet but not dripping.  You generally don’t want them too wet or baby’s bottom will stay wet after wiping and could result in yeast, etc.

    I then place mine in a special wipes warmer made for cloth wipes and I really love it.  It is by Prince Lionheart*.  I know that wipes warmers aren’t really necessary but it’s kind of a nice treat and my little one loves having her diaper changed.  I like the way it opens up fully and the wipe doesn’t need to be pulled through an opening.  It’s very easy to do one handed.  I have heard of some other ones that work well for cloth wipes including the OXO brand, but haven’t tried it so I can’t speak to it.

    For travel, I place about 5 wipes in to a Buti-pod that I really like.  Again, as a mom it’s nice to have little emergency showers in your handbag!

    If there is any extra solution left in the dish you dunked the wipes in, you can set it aside and add it to the next bath.  Another option is to put it in to one of the perineal irrigation bottles you might have leftover from your delivery.  These things are the best for a number or purposes.  I sometimes use it to soak cotton balls that I use to clean in crevices or you can squirt the solution on to a dry cloth wipe and wipe baby up that way.

    That’s it!  It sounds like a lot but, as you can see from my video, each batch takes about three minutes to make once you get the hang of it.  It’s so nice not having to buy wipes and not even needing a rubbish bin in the nursery.

    * As far as cleaning your Prince Lionheart warmer, I wipe it out every time I change out the wipes.  I remove the Everfresh replacement pillow, rinse it and wring it out.  While it is removed, I spray the inside of the warmer with a vinegar and water solution and wipe it out.  The replacement pillow needs to be replaced once every three months.

  • Celebrating a Mother’s Love

    In a few days, I will celebrate my first Mother’s Day. Because I became a mother 5 weeks ago, this one will be different for me. I expected motherhood would bring me feelings of deep love for my baby, but I didn’t expect to reflect so much on how much my mother must have loved me. I have come to realize this ferocious collective love for our children is what makes this world go round.

    Someone cared immensely for each and every one of us in these early days. Without that love and surrender, none of us would have survived, let alone thrived. So this week I celebrate not really what it means to be a mother, but what it means to have been someone’s infant. No matter the state of your relationship today or your perceived shortcomings, once upon a time your mother cried happy tears because of the miracle you represented.

    Pregnancy has its well-known aches and pains but when I was carrying my child, it didn’t feel like a sacrifice. It simply seemed like a long voyage to a promised land. Until I experienced it, though, I never appreciated the fact that my mother went through the very same things I did when she was pregnant with me.

    She decided she wanted me. She asked my dad about having another baby. She tried to get pregnant and spent days or weeks wondering “Am I?”. She analyzed herself physically, trying to determine if she felt different. It’s likely she had constant heartburn and nausea and uncomfortable sleepless nights and cramping and hip pain and peed at least two times every waking hour. She wondered if everything she was feeling was normal and worried about miscarriage. She wondered if I would be healthy. She wondered if I would be a boy or girl. She wondered if I would be like her or my dad or neither.

    She spent weeks wondering when labor would start. She went through childbirth. Her heart burst open when a wet baby emerged from her. I know she felt the same joy I felt when we found out our baby was a daughter. She probably felt relief at no longer being pregnant, only to then remember being a lactating mother isn’t any easier.

    She went home from the hospital, on a high from witnessing this miracle while on the brink of deliriousness from lack of sleep, sore and vulnerable and still expectant even though I had arrived. She put her ear to my mouth to make sure I was breathing many times.

    She learned how I signaled hunger. She learned how to make me stop crying. She fed me every 2-3 hours around the clock for the entire first few months of my life. She figured out how I liked to be carried. She left me for the first time for a few hours (like I have done today with my daughter, writing this from a coffee shop). Like me, she probably felt a mixture of guilt and elation at being by herself and she probably missed me intensely like I am missing my daughter right now.

    She watched my face in the middle of the night, singing silly made-up songs like I sing, and wondering when my eyes would close. She wondered if she was doing it right. She figured out how to juggle work and mothering. She wondered who I would become. And most of all, she wondered if I would always be safe. She hoped she had given me the tools to take care of myself one day.

    She never knew if I was going to sleep for 5 minutes or 5 hours and couldn’t plan anything. She wished that, more than anything, someone would come pick up the kids and give her a break so she could just chill and be alone with her thoughts for an hour or two. She wished we would just not bother her for a little bit, not to be lazy but just long enough to get some food on the table for us after a long day at work. I never knew any of this until a few weeks ago. I just always assumed it was easy for her. Loving us was easy but caring for us had its challenges.

    When a baby grows inside you, you feel like he or she is always connected to you. The umbilical cord gets cut but it feels like there is forever an invisible cord tugging on your heart. Because you sheltered this little soul, you somehow feel responsible for her fate. Nearly every person in this world has a mother that feels this way. You were that person to your mother.

    I think the best gift we can give our mothers is simply acknowledging how much they loved us. Thanks for loving me, Mom.

  • 5 Things NOT to Say to Non-Parents: To My Future Self

    There are a lot of things that people with children used to say to me before I officially began my parenthood journey by becoming pregnant and becoming a stepmother in the same year that really used to annoy me.   They annoyed not only because of their content, but because inherent in these comments was the assumption I would one day have kids.  I know for myself, who struggled with fertility issues in my past, or for those who do not or will not have kids for a medley of reasons, this assumption can be kind of upsetting.

    Chief and I have a baby arriving at the end of March and so I am writing this post as a reminder to my future self about what not to say to those who do not have kids. I hope that by recording these “pre-baby” feelings and emotions, I can help keep myself connected with how I relate to people without kids.  So, here they are…the 5 big things I want to remind myself not to say:

    1. It will change your life.  Really?  No shite, Sherlock.  When you cruise through life only worried about yourself (not in a self-indulgent way but in an independent way), doing adult things, it’s different than when you have a helpless infant or child dependent on you for survival that can’t be left alone.  It doesn’t take some magical switch to be turned on once motherhood kicks in that suddenly makes you realize that life is different when you have kids.  What really annoys me is when I try to tell my friends about something fun I’m doing – anything from a nice dinner with my husband to a spontaneous trip to Latin America to an afternoon nap.  And then I get the inevitable, “Just wait until you have kids.  You can kiss those times goodbye.”  Ya, I know…the trouble probably won’t be worth the reward, spontaneity is a lot more difficult, and the simple activity might not be possible with kids.  Each time I do one of these things now, I appreciate the simplicity of the situation and I think everyone without kids recognizes the same.  This is exactly why I’ve spent the last ten years enjoying these sorts of events.
    2. Oh, you think you’re tired now…just wait until you have kids! Yes, yes, yes, we’re all tired.  Yes, little kids don’t sleep in.  Yes, they wake up in the middle of the night.  Sometimes vomiting and pooing.  Sometimes at the same time.  They need you at all hours and keep you awake.  So I know I’ll be really, really tired but that is no reason for parents to marginalize how tired a childless person is today or this week. It’s not like up until this point I’ve been milking 9 hours of sweet surrender night after night.  I sleep an average of 6.5 hours per night and I know that if I only get 4 hours per night for a few months on end it will be exhausting but that’s the obvious.  Please just let me tell you I am tired today without one-upping it.
    3. You say you won’t [insert thing I loathe] now, but wait until you have kids.  I have heard this about everything from disposable diapers to fast food to a house in the suburbs.  OK, I relent…a house in the suburbs is a possibility someday.  The point being that I will go through some fundamental changes when I have kids (see number 1) but my values won’t change.  Living a healthy and sustainable lifestyle and keeping some order in my life are always going to be things that are really important to me.  I’m not instantly going to become a consumerist with a disposable and unhealthy lifestyle just because I have kids.  Me having kids does not mean I am going to suddenly adopt your values just because we both have kids.  I know I’ll have my days when I prepare macaroni and cheese from a box for dinner and I know there will be days when the house is a disaster because I need sleep (see #2) but I’ll still be me.  I do realize there will be some things I try that are important to me that I might deem a failure but I realize that is part of the process.  It doesn’t mean I shouldn’t even try or that I should follow society’s norm on the things that really bother me now.
    4. These are the kind of things you’ll do on weekends when you have kids.  I can’t stand how every time I go to any sort of kid-friendly function, whether it’s a birthday party or dinner at someone’s house with kids, or a festival when the parents look at me and say things like, “Remember how it used to be before we had kids?  Well, just you wait.  This is what weekends are like now that we have kids- it’s all about them.”  Obviously!  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that weekend-long benders and fine dining aren’t particularly conducive to toddlers.  These people say it like I should start preparing for my life to come to an end though.  Most people who make the leap to having kids are quite ready to mostly give up these things at this point in their life anyway.  It’s not like me being childless doesn’t allow me to see that some activities are no longer possible when spending time together as a family.  And please don’t follow it up with the “I bet this is good birth control for you.”  Kids do kid-things in kid-ways and just because I’m childless doesn’t mean I want to remain that way because sometimes they get needy or have meltdowns at places like Chuck-E-Cheese.
    5. You can’t understand the love you will have for them.  Yes, I can.  It’s very easy for me to imagine the kind of love I will feel for a child that I am raising.   What especially bothers me about this statement is when it’s used as the justification for why someone no longer cares about his or her pet. I’m not necessarily trying to say that a love for a child can be compared straight on to the love for a pet but please don’t justify your actions by patronizing me and saying it’s because I don’t understand love. I really can imagine how much I will love my children.  I know it bursts the heart wide open and it is one of the most profound emotions a person can feel but that doesn’t mean childless people are incapable of comprehending this emotion.
  • Where Do the Women Scientists Disappear To?

    “I have a great deal of work, what with the housekeeping, the children, the teaching and the laboratory, and I don’t know how I shall manage it all.” ~Dr. Marie Curie

    Obviously, Marie Curie did manage it all since she went on to become the first woman to win a Nobel Prize (in both Physics and Chemistry), but not all women seem to succeed at juggling it all.

    Women, more than ever, have the opportunity to do whatever they want career-wise.  We are being encouraged to follow math and science oriented careers and are often given great opportunities.  It seems a lot of women are taking society up on this challenge and majoring in subjects like natural science, economics, and mathematics more than ever.  I’d say at least 30% of the people I started my career with are women.  What I have lately felt compelled to explore is the reason women seem to eventually leave the career though.  Why is the top tier of my industry only about 5% women?  Is society missing out on some of the most important intellect it has ever developed for some reason that can be addressed?

    I haven’t really worked in another profession or industry, so I am curious if other women who are in technical or scientific fields tend to notice this same pattern.  I’d also be curious to know if women in more female-dominated careers have noticed anything like this?  Based on my outside observation, I would venture to say it’s not as commonplace there.  So allow me to explore the field I do know about.

    Working as a corporate scientist, I can’t help but notice when I look around during the scientific presentations that there are only about 10% of us present that are females.  When I take a closer look at the women that are present, it seems that half have not yet had children.  I’ll first explore this half without kids.

    Of those that end up leaving the profession before they have children, why did they go and where did they go?  Most of these women seem to leave this field to pursue professions or a lifestyle that somehow helps people and/or encounters less male-dominated ego posturing. This could be interpreted to suggest that women find other careers or ways of life more satisfying than science.  Or perhaps there is some undermining that goes on subconsciously in the minds of both males and females that creates a hostile work environment for women in this profession.  I wonder if there is some lack of satisfaction women encounter because of their job as a scientist and if they are able to find it elsewhere (as a teacher, stay-at-home mother, healthcare, etc.).  I don’t know the answer.

    Of the half of the women I work with that do have children, a significant proportion of them have husbands who are the primary caregiver. The women in my profession who take care of the “traditional” domestic obligations as well as the more tradtionally masculine role of being the “breadwinner” are a very small proportion.   I could interpret this to mean that being a mother and being a top scientist aren’t particularly compatible (unless someone has family or a father/partner and/or nanny to be the primary caregiver for their child).

    Many women do leave the profession around the time they start a family.  So if the timing of their exit is coincident with child-rearing I would venture to say, based on observations, that for a woman to be top-performing among her male peers and to be a happy and satisfied scientist, she feels she can not also be all the parent she wants to be.

    Does child-rearing cause a woman to suddenly lose the energy, interest, and commitment to invest the brain power in performing good science and working in a competitive environment because biology requires her attention is somewhere else?  Do repeated failings (usually accompanied with snarky comments) in this competition eventually wear down her spirit so that she finally decides to screw it all?

    Every stop toward starting a family might cause a woman to fall a little further back.   Perhaps I shouldn’t admit this publically, but I can’t tell you how many hours of work I’ve lost wondering if I was pregnant (15 of 30 days every month), being pregnant, miscarrying, and feeling shitty and hormonal.  And that’s months before real motherhood duties appear! Then mothers go on to go through the exhausting ordeal of labor.  They spend the next year physically and mentally wiped out from lack of sleep and adjusting to motherhood or a new member to the family, and possibly pumping or breasfeeding numerous times throughout the day. Their relationships with their spouses change, their relationships with their parents change, and their relationships with other women change. So I understand how commitment to work and important facts slip away; these same facts that the male counterparts always have at the ready to use as speaking points in meetings and in debates.

    Is there something that can be done about this?  Do women want something done about it or do they find happiness when they move on and stop caring? Is our system failing because women who invested so much time and passion in to a profession suddenly realize their needs as women/mothers cannot be accommodated?  Are our companies and professions missing out because women are leaving positions that could have been great ways to bring something different to a male-dominated environment just as they are getting started?

    I am not meaning to put down the hours men spend worrying about these same things or attending to starting a family.  I know a lot of men invest a lot of time and help with these things.  Biologically speaking, though, it is the woman that is responsible for the lion’s share of having a child.  And it is more often a woman whose self -esteem might suffer if her job doesn’t somehow involve helping people.

    I worry about what will happen for me professionally when I have a baby.  Did I make a mistake pursuing something that isn’t very accommodating for women who want to do both?  Is there something inherent in femaleness that make the vast majority of women want to pursue careers that are somehow related to caregiving or provide flexible hours?  Have I screwed myself?  Is that the only reason for the lack of women in my work environment?

    Sometimes I feel a frustration too that many of the highly successful men at work have someone devoted to taking care of their home and their children and, frankly, of them.  I have very seldom known a high performing man that didn’t have someone else taking care of him.  These guys are able to focus only on earning during the day while the woman takes care of the matters of the home.  He is throwing his energy in to performing well at work.  He has his role.  It makes me wish I had a stay-at-home wife!  How can I compete with this?

    So I’m confused.  I feel pride and excitement about my career because I’m doing what I’m good at.  But is it sustainable if I were to be blessed with pregnancy?  How do I reconcile my feminism with feelings that are, I hope not misogynistic, but steeped in what society has considered to be typical roles for males and females.  Are my chances of me being ultra successful and respected in my career limited if being a devoted mother with a working spouse is also in the cards?

    I don’t know the answers to these questions but I think about it a lot, mull it around and try and sample the people I know.  I would be very thankful for any comments or insights on this  – whether through life experiences in parallel but different fields or to learn about personal decisions (or forced situations) and how they did or didn’t work.  What was sacrificed, what was gained, and what might you have done differently knowing what you know now?

  • I Held You Every Second Of Your Life

    I loved the months that I spent anticipating motherhood.  Knowing that a beautiful and profound change in my life was on its way floored me and flushed me with joy.  When you are expecting, every second of that time (waking and sleeping) is consumed with physical and emotional reminders.  Our baby was due this week.

    On Friday morning, May 18, I would post up the following:

    “She drove to work with a tired and tenacious energy that was echoed by the shirtless meatheads wandering the freeway to detect the source of the traffic back-up. The orange sun rose hot in the sky, the particulate matter that hung around the big city reflecting the harsh, yet glorious glare of entropy. She took a deep sniff of the coppery exhaust of mankind and smiled to herself, grateful for another day to dance in the acidic rain of life.”

    It was a day just like any other day and I was feeling exhausted but full of a life force to create and to make new beginnings.  At 3:00 pm that same day, I found out I was pregnant.  That rain of life would mist a precious new head.  Entropy suited me perfectly.  I vacillated between crying happy tears and frightened, shocked tears.

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  • Make your own body powder

    Kitchen Beautician: Make your own body powderYou can make your own body powder using very inexpensive ingredients that won’t irritate your lungs like talc can.  The best bases include arrowroot, white clay, rice flour or cornstarch.  For everyday use, I like to use a mixture of half a cup or cornstarch with half a cup of arrowroot (available at Whole Foods or somewhere similar).  Simply add 10-12 drops of your favorite essential oil and cover lightly and let stand 24 hours.  If you are going to be using the powder someplace where you want to absorb oil or odor (oily face, feet, or armpits- white clay or rice flour are slightly more absorbent).  Some ideas are listed below:Gym bag: Create a singular fragrance or a combination of peppermint, eucalyptus or an uplifting citrus scent (tangerine, lime, grapefruit, bergamot or some combination).  Try storing it in the Bare Escentuals travel case or something similar http://tinyurl.com/23xfztyIt’s nice to put on your skin after you’ve showered but are still warm from your workout or to put in your shoes after you remove them, or on your feet.Bedsheets: Add some of your favorite oils to a pretty glass jar and keep it by the bed to keep your sheets fresh and cool, especially during the summer months.  Cater your scent to whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish in your bed.  If you’ve been having trouble sleeping, try a very relaxing and comforting potion of lavender, chamomile, neroli and geranium or any of these fragrances by themselves.  If you are trying to spice up your love life, add jasmine, ylang ylang, patchouli, and rose.  Note to men: women come most alive when they are relaxed so use the relaxing and comforting oils in addition to the sensualizing oils.  Note to women: Men get most in the mood when they feel they are being cared for and pampered and cinnamon and vanilla usually reminds them of being spoiled and baked cookies when they were little so try that!Mothers: If you look at your baby powder, you’ll see the ingredients is simply cornstarch and fragrance, so if you run out, or want to save some money, try making your own.  Children tend to love tangerine scent and you can find this essential oil for only a few dollars.  It’s also a nice fragrance to add to the bath at the end of the day and has the aromatherapeutic property of being “cheering.”  What mother doesn’t appreciate that?!  Of course, calming lavender and chamomile are always good bets too.

    You can make your own body powder using very inexpensive ingredients that won’t irritate your lungs like talc can. The best bases include arrowroot, white clay, rice flour or cornstarch. For everyday use, I like to use a mixture of half a cup or cornstarch with half a cup of arrowroot (available at Whole Foods or somewhere similar). Simply add 10-12 drops of your favorite essential oil and cover lightly and let stand 24 hours. If you are going to be using the powder someplace where you want to absorb oil or odor (oily face, feet, or armpits- white clay or rice flour are slightly more absorbent). Some ideas are listed below:
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