Friday, 22 February 2013

When To Drop The "Dead Baby" Bomb

I've been blogging since a few months after my son died and was born. Along the way I have connected with other bloggers who share my story. There is a special bond between us, we are sisters in grief. Many of us have gone on to have our rainbow babies. Some have stopped blogging, but a few of us have continued. It's been nice to be able to see how other BLM's are dealing with life after our rainbows are born.

I was particularly touched by something Laura Jane wrote recently. She wrote an amazing post about living in the everyday after losing a baby.  So much of what she said hit home with me. How do you live each day for the rest of your life where your first baby died? I won't try to recreate her thoughts here because she did it so well, so make sure you click the link and read it for yourself.

The part that really got me thinking was about how everything in her current life is the way it is because her firstborn son died. It's so true. Everything about my current life is the way it is because my son died. Nothing in my life now would be exactly the same if he had lived.

Yes, I have my rainbow baby now and to the outside world I'm sure I look just like every other new mother. Only I'm not. For the longest time I surrounded myself with familiar friends. Friends who know my story. Friends who don't ever need an explanation for why things are the way they are. Safe friends.

Now that Frostina is in the world I'm doing lots of new things. I've entered the world of "Mommies and Daddies." I'm in a playgroup and have even joined a Gymboree class. All the things I dreamed of doing with my son but never had the chance to do. I'm finally living the life of a parent who has a living baby,,, and I'm loving it.

The issue though is this. None of these people know my story. So within the course of the normal "getting to know you" conversation I have lots of landmines to step over. Sometimes I catch myself telling a pregnancy story and about halfway through I realize I'm talking about my first pregnancy, not my second. When people find out Frostina was born via C-section and was early and they ask why I still struggle with the answer. Sometimes I say it's because she was transverse (which she was). Sometimes I say it's because my pregnancy was high risk but I don't elaborate. And in very rare instances I tell the truth.

I just never know how much to tell. How much to disclose about my personal tragedy. After all, new friendships are fragile. If you come on too strong, or too fragile, or "too much drama," you can be written off before you have a chance to get to know someone. But if you wait too long then you can seem fake or insincere. So what to say, and when to say it is a struggle for me. 

I mean, when is the right time to drop the "dead baby" bomb?

When is it the right time to start seeing those looks of pity and relief that it's your story and not theirs written on the faces of people you hardly know?

When is it the right time to freak out and scare off people that you may want to build a friendship with?

When is it the right time to be reminded that once again, you are "that women" and not just another normal new mother?

When will there be a time when I don't feel the stigma, and taboo, and silence that surrounds stillbirth?

When will I ever get used to this new normal that I'm living?

Monday, 18 February 2013

So Now Formula Feeding Your Baby Is As Bad As Smoking?

Is feeding your baby formula as bad as smoking? Are mothers who don't breastfeed causing serious harm to their children's health? Should baby formula packaging come with a warning label similar to the ones found on cigarette packs?

Sounds crazy right? But according to a report published by the charity Save the Children, that's all true and is exactly what should happen. I'm not going to link to them but you can look them and their report up if you want to.

I read through the report, not all 75 pages of course, but I did read it. I focused mostly on the section where they talk about the makers of baby formula. Here's what I gleaned from my read-through.
  • The evil manufacturers of baby formula have to figure out a way to get women to buy their clearly inferior product. 
  • They are competing with a product (breast milk) which is not only superior in every way, but is free. So they really have their work cut out for them.
  • These evil companies are resorting to dastardly tactics in order to accomplish this goal. 
  • These dastardly tactics include
    • Advertising their products. (the horror)
    • Giving free samples to midwives and new parents. (how dare they)
    • Giving free gifts with the company logo to health care workers, i.e. pens, pads of paper, and such. (round them all up and throw them in jail now)
  • Something must be done to keep these evil companies from promoting their "poison" onto new mothers.
  • One reason something must be done is that these companies are offering something that costs money and many people don't have the money to buy this evil baby formula. 
  • After all, breast is best.
So their solution? Require all breast milk substitutes to have a warning label stating all the reasons why feeding this product to your child is a terrible idea. This warning label should be at least one third the size of the packaging. That's right folks,,,, one third the size of the package.

A huge label that shouts, "You are a terrible mother/father if you feed this to your baby!" "If you feed this to your baby you will probably ruin his/her health for life!" "So you better pop that boob back out and try again, because if you can't breastfeed then you are damaging your baby forever!"

Ok, I'm sure the label won't say those words specifically. I'm sure they will be all official and much more scary. I also know that the result of those words will make Mothers like me, who were unable to breastfeed feel even more guilty and horrible than we already felt the first time we opened a package of formula for our babies.

Plus, baby formula packaging already contains a disclaimer that says breast milk is best and that formula is a breast milk substitute. In fact, on the website for the brand I use (Aptamil) you have to click a disclaimer that says, "Breastfeeding is best for babies and provides many benefits. It is important that, in preparation for and during breastfeeding, you eat a healthy, balanced diet. Combined breast and bottle feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of your own breastmilk, and reversing the decision not to breastfeed is difficult. The social and financial implications of using an infant milk should be considered. Improper use of an infant milk or inappropriate foods or feeding methods may present a health hazard. If you use an infant milk, you should follow manufacturer’s instructions for use carefully – failure to follow the instructions may make your baby ill. Always consult your doctor, midwife or health visitor for advice about feeding your baby." before you can even view what products they sell. So why the need for a bigger warning label? 

I know that this charity mostly focuses on women and babies in the developing world and I think a lot of the work that they do is pretty great. But the things they recommend should (in their opinion) apply around the world. Which means these warning labels would be placed on all baby formula packaging in the UK and Europe, and in America as well.

Reading through their report I learned that in some places women don't know they should try to breastfeed within the first hour. In some of these countries they think they should feed their babies all kinds of strange things. There are also cultural issues that prevent women who may want to breastfeed from doing so. So I get the focus on education and the idea that breastmilk is best.

I also read in the report that the baby formula companies are targeting the developing world as new potential customers. They seem to spin this as a travesty. My opinion is that if women in the developing world have trouble breastfeeding, like I did, then isn't it wonderful that there is another option for them? That instead of these babies being fed cow's or goat's milk, or something else that is unsuitable for newborns, they can obtain a formula that will sustain their baby?

If a woman can't breastfeed and lives in a place where no suitable breastmilk substitute is available then what happens to that baby? My guess is that he or she will eventually die of malnutrition. So what's wrong with advertising an available option that could be the difference between a healthy baby and a dead one? And considering that the slogan for Save the Children is, "No Child Born to Die," you would think that they would want families to have every available option to be able to feed their children properly. Instead, they seem to be pushing the "only breastmilk will do" agenda.

I don't normally get involved with what I consider to be controversial issues here. Partly because it's not really that kind of blog and partly because I don't always want to "stir the pot" or in any way contribute to the drama that surrounds these kinds of debates. Especially when the debate is about breastfeeding vs formula feeding.

My take is that people should do what works best for their family. Not every Mother can breastfeed, and not all babies can either. Some women opt for breast feeding only, some opt for formula feeding only, and some do a combination. In some cases these are conscious decisions, and in other cases there was no option. In my opinion, these are very personal decisions and it disgusts me when people get all high and mighty and preach that their chosen way is the only way.

So the idea of putting a warning label on baby formula that is at least one third the size of the package? A label that lists all the things that are wrong with feeding your baby formula? A label that will make parents who are doing everything they can to take care of their babies feel awful? A label that would have made me feel even more guilty and inadequate about not being able to breastfeed than I already did? A label that at the moment is only put on things that are poisonous? A label like the kind you find on a carton of cigarettes?

I don't think so.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

I've Supported Return To Zero, Will You?

I've seen a few posts around the blogosphere about a movie that's being made about stillbirth. I won't link them all but I will post a link to Still Standing where the director is interviewed about the project.

Obviously the film is still under production so I haven't seen the finished product yet. But what I like is that it is written by a Baby Loss Dad. Not just someone who is exploring what it might be like to lose a child, but someone who has actually been through the hell that is stillbirth. Someone who knows what it's like to hear those horrible words, "I'm so sorry, there's no heartbeat." Someone who has to deliver a baby they know is no longer alive. Someone who has to figure out how to pick up the pieces and move on with life. A life that is never the same, even when people think you must be "all better" by now.

As you can imagine, the studios in Hollywood are not breaking down doors to fund this film. Apparently even with big stars like Minnie Driver attached to the project, a film about a dead baby is having trouble getting financial backers.

Here's where you can help. If you click on this link you can get lots more information on the film. Plus you can donate money to help make sure it can be completed and released for the public to see. I did, and hopefully you will too.

I should mention that this is NOT a sponsored post. I don't do sponsored posts and the makers of this movie have no idea I'm writing about them here. Partly because I don't know them and didn't tell them and partly because I donated in my real name and I blog here anonymously. So I'm pretty sure there will be no way for them to ever figure out that I'm the one helping to promote them.

I don't ask for much around here, but the idea that a film is being made that can help break the stigma and silence surrounding stillbirth really moves me. So help if you can, even $1 will do.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Teeth At Last?

It's been a while since I've given a Frostina update. I sometimes get so wrapped up in all my emotions and what-not that I forget I have this amazing little person living with me. So here goes...

She is 8 months old now and so much fun. Her favourite thing is the Winnie the Pooh jumperoo that I got her for Christmas. I swear, that kid would spend 24/7 in that thing if I would let her. She is also obsessed with TV clickers and any type of mobile device. Which means The Hubby and I are constantly hiding our phones and blackberries from her. A couple of days ago she found the TV remote and almost blew out the speakers when she hit the volume button until it was maxed out.

She's sitting up on her own with hardly any support which is amazing to me. She still hates tummy time so I've got to catch her in just the right mood in order to make it happen.

She knows how to roll over from front to back but hardly does it. Instead she will cry when she's sick of being on her tummy until I come to rescue her. She can almost roll from back to front, but since she hates being on her tummy I can't see her doing that anytime soon.

If she spends enough time on her tummy she will do this thing where she raises her butt in the air and tries to move forwards. But mostly she will just cry until I come over to sit her up which is her favourite way to spend her time not in the jumperoo.

She is making some hilarious noises these days. In addition to babbling and cooing, she is prone to squealing and making what I like to call "monster noises." She loves to laugh and smile. She also likes to shake her head back and forth, especially when I sing to her.

Oh, and I think we are finally getting some teeth. In fact, I think we are getting two teeth at once. It's hard to know since she won't let me peek in to see them. Every time I try and open her mouth she sticks her tongue out so I can't see anything. But I'm pretty sure they are almost here.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Crying In Toy Stores

At some point I would like to be able to report that I am no longer crying in public places. I'd like to report that I no longer have flashbacks that bring me to tears. I'd like to be able to report that I don't have random crying jags anymore. Today is not going to be that day.

Apparently I am stuck with this new found propensity for crying in public. Actually, it's not that new anymore. It's been happening since my son died almost 2 and a half years ago. Wow, typing that just made me realize that it's been almost 2 and a half years since we said good bye. That's a long time.

I stopped carrying around my sunglasses because I thought perhaps I was past this whole thing. Really I should have known better after what happened when I took Frostina to see Santa. But clearly I am still in denial that my emotions are so much closer to the surface than they used to be.

The Hubby and I just got back from a week away. It was nice to be on vacation in America without the obligation of visiting family and basically being passed around like an expat ping pong ball. We had lots of time to sight see and shop without having to worry about balancing our time between his and my family. It was a very nice week away.

On the last day we decided to kill some time before we had to go to the airport by doing some shopping. Naturally we ended up in a toy store. It's a whole new experience being in a toy store now that we have a living baby to buy things for. She's still a bit too young to tell us what she wants, but she was clearly enthralled with the store. They obviously know how to capture even a babies interest at the Disney Store because she was oohing and aahhing and squealing with laughter. It was one of the funniest things I've seen.

As we were browsing the princess section I burst into tears. I'm sure I looked like a complete idiot. I mean, seriously, who cries at the Disney Store??? Me apparently.

The Hubby was completely confused. "What's wrong?" he asked me. Nothing was wrong of course. I was just overwhelmed at the fact that we actually have a baby who we can buy princess toys for, and princess outfits, and princess crowns.... you get the idea.

For so long I thought this day would never come. The day when we went to toy stores like normal people and got toys for our child. The day when I would no longer rush past toy stores trying not to look in and see other people and their happy children.

This day I was one of those parents. A happy parent pushing around my happy, squealing baby. My happy baby who I could buy a princess toy for. Not that I looked like a happy parent with tears streaming down my face,,, but I'm working on that part.