Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Bedtime Existential Crisis

Don't you hate how during bedtime, you just want the kids to lie down and go. to. bed. And their whining for more water, for one more story, for more snuggles, more nursies, just feels like TOO MUCH.

 But then, when you realized they've all fallen asleep, you're suddenly all like, "OH NOES. Did I love them ENOUGH? Did that one fall asleep while I was nursing this one? Did she close her eyes knowing she's loved? Was it really that hard to just give him ANOTHER sip of water? What is the meaning of life, other than one more sweet story w/ your children? What have I done?"

And you like...try to move them around on the bed from their odd positions where they dropped asleep, and try to give them an extra kiss and snuggle. But mostly they wiggle and drool and roll away from you, completely unaware of your existential parenting crisis...

Don't forget...where you steadfastly nurse your child to sleep every night of his existence from birth onwards, wondering if it will ever end. Then one night, he falls asleep on his own, like accidentally, and you go, OMG!!!! I didn't HOLD HIM! And nurse him! And whisper I love you ten thousand times!

All the while, your heart is full, and it is empty, and it is bursting with joy and pain. Like every contraction during labor, like every nerve wracking newborn breastfeeding session, like every moment of your parenting: you would go to the end of the world for your child and yet at any moment you could fall into an exhausted heap.

When you gaze down at your peaceful, serene children, you realize nothing else in the world matters. And yet, almost without noticing, your shoulders relax for the first time today, and your mind begins to wander to other purposes.


But then you quickly come to your senses. And pee alone. And eat icecream while watching horrible reality TV. ‪

This is the bedtime existential crisis.

How you imagine bedtime with a growing family:

How bedtime really is:

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Tikkun, Jewish Intactivism, and Human Kindness

Tikkun, Jewish Intactivism, and Human Kindness

Judiasm, Intactivism and the Movement to Enlarge the Scope of Human Rights

Jews and the Jewish world have been deeply involved in the many of the latest movements for human rights. The 1960’s and 1970’s were the beginning of the women’s and racial equality movements, and the environmental movement began to make inroads into general American consciousness. The 1990’s and 2000’s marked the beginning of the LGBT equality movement in the United States. In the 2000’s, ecological issues began to be acknowledged even by government and industry. In 2013, the Occupy movement that emerged in New York City spread worldwide as people began to consider economic necessities as a component of human rights. As the moral arc of human rights has increased, Judaism began to address similar issues. The rights of women were taken into account. All non-Orthodox Jewish traditions began to welcome gay congregants and perform weddings for gay couples. In many Jewish congregations environmental issuesadvocacy for peace, and humanitarian activities are viewed as more central than specific observances such as the minutia of Kashrut food preparation.

As we become aware of new ideas and strive to live in the most ethical ways possible, we review our beliefs and adjust them regularly to improve our own lives, and those of others.

On Babies and Bodies: Jewish Ethics, Intactivism and Social Responsibility

According to the religious interpretation of Halachah, all Jewish laws are interpreted within the framework of moral and human rights. Morals and human rights are always placed above laws, ritual, and scripture. This is a constantly evolving process as the realm of human rights continues to expand. Slavery and animal sacrifice were outlawed from Judaism thousands of years ago. Women increasingly gained rights, and eventually entered into the Rabbinate. Most Jewish communities are fully accepting of gays and lesbians and most non-Orthodox Rabbis will perform gay and lesbian weddings. Issues like the environmentcreating a compassionate world, and global human rights affect the ways that Jews adjust their lives to act in more ethical ways. Today children and babies are seen as possessing more human rights and more Jews are questioning circumcision as a result, even Rabbis. Some are questioning circumcision from a historical perspective. There are even some Jews who support laws against circumcision. Some Jewish Intactivists like Moshe Rothenberg and Ron Goldman have been pushing Jews to acknowledge these issues for decades, while many younger Jews are adopting Intactivist views more easily due to the use of the internet and holistic parenting ideas. The rise of Feminist thought and gender equality are also factors in the rise of Intactivism among a younger generation of educated Jews.
Many intact Jewish males feel comfortable in religious Jewish environments and are glad that they were kept intact. Intact Jewish males can be Bar Mitzvahed, read from the Torah, have a Jewish wedding and can do any other Jewish religious service in practice today.

The Evolution of Jewish Ritual and Practice

Blogger and lawyer Rebecca Wald and novelist and writer Lisa Braver Moss, both Jewish mothers, are working on a guide to these new rituals. Titled ‘Brit Shalom, a New Jewish Way to Welcome Baby’, it will contain the text of various peaceful Jewish covenant rituals, and contain the words of parents and Rabbis who favor it. Dr. Mark Reiss has compiled a list of more than 200 Brit Shalom celebrants, mostly Rabbis and Cantors, who perform these humane welcoming rituals.A couple of the experiences of Jewish parents who’ve chosen a Brit Shalom can be read here: Natalie Bivas (performed by two Rabbis), Shawn Stark’s son’ Brit Shalom led by Rabbi David MivisairStephari (with photos), Moshe RothenbergMichael S. Kimmel(in Tikkun magazine), Diane TargovnikSara RockwellRabbi Steven BlaneSome Jews who are rejecting circumcision are basing their beliefs in fundamental Jewish moral principles.
Young Jewish Families Keeping Their Newborn Sons Intact
Over 100 years ago, one of the most important leaders of the Jewish Reform movement, Rabbi Abraham Geiger wrote "I cannot support circumcision with any conviction, just because it has always been held in high regard. It remains a barbaric, bloody act, which fills the father with anxiety and subjects the mother to morbid stress. The idea of sacrifice, which once consecrated the procedure, has certainly vanished among us, as it should. It is a brutal act that does not deserve continuation. No matter how much religious sentiment may have clung to it in the past, today it is perpetuated only by custom and fear, to which surely we do not want to erect temples."

Today Jewish parents are finding many choices other than Brit Milah, including other covenant rituals, such as 
the well-popularized Brit Shalom. With more than 200 Jewish leaders, mostly Rabbis and Cantors officiating at them, these peaceful welcoming are becoming a much more mainstream Jewish phenomenon.

Here are what some Jewish leaders are saying about the subject today.
“Question: Can a child who has not been circumcised have a Bar Mitzvah?

Answer: There is no doubt that, according to Jewish law, status is automatically conferred from mother to child, and that a child is considered Jewish solely by virtue of his or her birth. A Brit does not make a child Jewish, and the lack of Brit Milah has no impact on a child’s status. Not fulfilling the Mitzvah of Brit is no different from not keeping kosher or not observing Shabbat. There is no inherent Halachic reason why an uncircumcised person should not be called to the Torah or be allowed a Bar Mitzvah or a Jewish wedding or any other Jewish activity.”
Rabbi Chaim Weiner, 
To Include Or Exclude?, A Question of Jewish Law, February 2, 2011.

“…many committed and affiliated Jews… are choosing to welcome their male babies with a brit shalom, a covenantal ceremony without cutting…. Circumcision may be an ancient rite, but it is wrong. It is wrong in terms of Jewish values for it violates the most fundamental Jewish principles of sanctifying life. Spiritualizing the wounding of circumcision does not change the damage, nor make it ethical. As Deuteronomy 30:6 teaches, what is truly required of us in order to contact the divine has to do with the architecture of the heart, not the alteration of male genitals.

Over the ages Judaism has demonstrated a remarkable ability to mutate in practice and retain the integrity of its spiritual legacy. It's time that our gatekeepers lead the way, the people of Israel, will demand the gates be opened.
Miriam Pollack, Rite is ancient, but wrongBoulder Daily Camera, 07/27/2014.

“One of those officiants is Elyse Wechterman, a Reconstructionist rabbi based in Massachusetts. (She also leads inclusive services for families with special needs in Rhode Island.) She calls her ceremony a brit atifah, a Covenant of Wrapping. The ritual involves wrapping the baby in a tallit, as a sign of the covenant between God and humanity—the ritual can be used with boys who aren’t being circumcised, boys who are, and girls. For Wechterman, the fact that the ritual is so broadly embracing is important. “I feel like this normalizes the conversation and welcomes the child into the Jewish people in a way that is meaningful, speaks to the needs of the parents and is reflective of the wisdom and depth of the traditions,” she told me. “For many people, the tallit is a symbol of protection, a loving embrace under the ‘Wings of Shechinah.’ I’m framing what I do in the positive: What authentic Jewish wisdom and insights can we bring to the welcoming of this child?”
For Wechterman, brit atifah lacks the defensiveness that sometimes defines brit shalom and those who advocate for it. “I’m not saying brit shalom isn’t meaningful,” she said. “But it seems more defined by what it isn’t then what it is. I am not interested in doing ‘not-circumcision’—I’m interested in welcoming the next generation of Jews into the covenant in the most meaningful ways possible, which does not necessarily have to include brit milah for boys.” (The fact that different practitioners of circumcision-free rituals have issues with other practitioners of circumcision-free rituals reminds me of the joke, “two Jews, three synagogues.”)
Wechterman enumerated some of the reasons people choose not to do brit milah: “One of the biggest impetuses is the growth of the natural childbirth movement; parents are questioning a whole bunch of previously held conceptions, for good reasons. And I think the impact of feminism can’t be understated. A core predicate of contemporary feminism is the notion of bodily integrity and physical self-determination.”
And having a ceremony, rather than simply doing nothing, can help distressed family members process. “I’ve seen grandparents who were so shocked and upset that their children weren’t circumcising, and I do a ceremony that affirms a Jewish life for their grandchild and they’re moved to tears,” Wechterman said.
She continued, “I’m not opposed to circumcision. But if I were going to stake a claim on what’s essential for Jewish people to do, I’m not sure brit milah would be it. I’d rather focus on getting people to observe Shabbat and make meaningful choices about food. Jewish continuity is more about embracing Jewish practices that enhance our lives, not this one moment of a son’s life.” The resistance to opting out of brit milah, she thinks, has manifold reasons. But one of them is that the deciders have always been men who are circumcised. “Men who are circumcised can’t imagine not doing it, just as men who aren’t circumcised can’t imagine doing it,” she pointed out. “But with significant numbers of women rabbis, things are changing.” And with more parents questioning everything from vaccines to genetically modified food to the need for organized religion, things may be changing pretty rapidly.
To Cut or Not To Cut: Finding Alternatives to Circumcision, Marjorie Ingall, Tablet, July 9, 2014.

“There are really no practical religious ritual consequences - and I’m speaking about this from an Orthodox perspective too - to not being circumcised… The only exclusion in Jewish law – even from an Orthodox perspective, for an intact Jewish male is the Pascal Lamb, the Korban Pesach which hasn’t been brought in 2,000 years, and it won’t be brought again until the Temple’s rebuilt ostensibly. If it’s even brought when the Temple’s rebuilt, if the Temple’s rebuilt.

Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon, Georgetown University, Washington DC Q&A with Ryan McAllister & Rabbi Binyamin Biber, September 22, 2011.

"Because slavery, in any form, is a blatant human rights abuse, no Jew alive today keeps slaves, despite the many mitzvahs that an institution of slavery would bring him. Judaism always prioritizes human rights, so much so that thousands of opportunities for mitzvahs were abandoned with a tradition deemed to be a human rights violation...
As per rabbinic sources, present day bris milah at eight days old is done for the purpose of injuring an infant and permanently mutilating his sex organs. It is important to read that sentence again. If the reader has understood, he will find it impossible to defend this practice further. If he cannot find grounds to disagree with it, he must ask himself why he dismisses the Torah's inherent mitzvahs associated with human slavery. Such a train of thought inevitably begins: “Slavery is wrong because it forces something upon someone against his will.” This train of thought must be carefully examined and reapplied accordingly.

One may well make the assertion that while one is not required to own slaves, bris milah is seemingly mandatory. However, there is no Torah verse discouraging slavery either, and it stands to reason that the practice would bring with it numerous opportunities for mitzvahs. Despite this, no posek would permit a person to keep a slave nowadays, even if he merely wanted more mitzvahs to fulfill. The 21st century views slavery as a human abomination, and despite its prominence in the Torah, Jews have recognized this practice as harmful and unproductive for human welfare, even in its most compassionate of forms.

Circumcision of an infant is increasingly being viewed a human rights violation, and must certainly be viewed as such... However, no one in the modern world has the right to do this to another human without his permission. Circumcision of a baby is a serious malpractice and human rights violation, and must accordingly be viewed the same way all human rights violations are viewed within the Jewish faith."
Yechiel Weiss, 
Judaism, Bris Milah, and Human Rights: A Torah Perspective, Beyondthebris.com. 

"…the ritual and religious consequences of not being circumcised amount to nothing. There is absolutely nothing that an intact Jewish male today cannot do. Contrast this with - I'm talking from the Orthodox perspective - non-Sabbath observance. Jews who are not Sabbath observant are not trusted in Halachic courts of law, they cannot be witnesses at people's weddings, they cannot be trusted with issues of Kashrut, making sure that things are Kosher... Here's an issue that is very easy to solve. You don't even have to argue for the eradication of male circumcision in the Jewish tradition for everyone to be happy. All you have to do is say that this will be a decision that an individual makes at an age when they can make the decision.
Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon, NYC Q&A with Rabbi Steven Blaine & Laurie Evans.

"Yes, I have a son, and when he was born, I hired a mohel to cut him. What a dolt I was. An ignorant fundamentalist, nothing more. My wife, born and raised Catholic, had to quash the urge to seize the boy and vanish into the woods behind our house before the mohel began. I wish she had."
Scott Raab, 
A Jew Against Circumcision, Esquire, July 31, 2013.  

 "[Circumcision] be it religious or secular, has no place in a humane society, nor in a religion or culture, such as Judaism, that emphatically values the protection of the helpless, the pursuit of justice, and reverence for life.
As a strongly affiliated Jew, Hebrew speaker, and lover of Israel, I will continue to do what I can to educate other Jews about the very serious harms of circumcision. Certainly, no parent intends to inflict damage upon his or her child, but the misinformation, disinformation, mythologies, and deeply held allegiances are profound and widespread. As couples realize how unholy it truly is to hold another individual down and take a knife to their tender genitals, more and more Jews, both in the U.S and in Israel, are choosing to welcome their babies into the Jewish community with a non-violent ceremony, a brit shalom.

As secular Jews, and even, some orthodox Jews, question and reject circumcision in greater and greater numbers, a tipping point will occur. Certainly, no amount of scientific evidence documenting the suffering of the newborn, or the anatomical importance of the foreskin, will dissuade many of the orthodox from changing this practice, but, hopefully, in the not too distant future, they will be the anachronistic few; the rest of us will have moved on to a more enlightened, gentler and kinder embrace of our precious, newborn baby boys, and redefinition of the most fundamental mitzvah: above all, choose life."
Miriam Pollack, NORM News, 
Winter 2013/2014.


A New Guide to Intact Jewish Welcoming: Review of Celebrating Brit Shalom by Lisa Braver Moss and Rebecca Wald


A New Guide to Intact Jewish Welcoming
Review of Celebrating Brit Shalom by Lisa Braver Moss and Rebecca Wald
(Notim Press, 2015)

Copies available at CelebratingBritShalom.com and Amazon.com.

Guest Review:

Rebecca Wald and Lisa Braver Moss have followed a time-honored tradition in Judaism, one followed by Rabbis, scholars, and the Jewish people for centuries. They've looked at our world, the way we practice Torah, live our lives, and proposed adjustments to accommodate a more ethical approach. The guide, titled Celebrating Brit Shalom is the first published prayer book for leaders of this new Jewish ritual. So far, the book has won good reviews from Jewish celebrants in the UKprogressive Jews in California,Orthodox-raised Jewish Intactivist Jonathan Friedman and others.

A surgical, violent practice that is somewhat unquestioned in Judaism, is finally being discussed widely in the Jewish press. The subject of the book is bris ceremonies that exclude circumcision, for Jewish boys who are not going to be circumcised. These rituals emerged in the 1970's and 1980's and there are many beautiful stores about them. They are called a variety of different names, but they share in common a rejection of circumcision. Occording to one estimate, more than 1,000 of these rituals have been done in the United States since the movement began. Moshe Rothenberg, an early Jewish leader estimates that he himself has performed more than 100 of them on the East Coast, beginning in the early 1980's. Parents are creating a variety of rituals to name newborn Jewish boys, and Rabbis are starting to think and talk about these in new ways. Among the Reform, Humanist, and Reconstructionist movements and the non-denominational, which make up more than 75% of American Jews, acceptance of these rituals are increasing.

The writers of this guide, Lisa Braver Moss and Rebecca Wald are both fully engaged in talking about the subject among Jewish audiences, and in the Jewish media. Between the two of them, they've been featured in Jweeklythe Jewish Reporterthe Jewish WeekBoulder Jewish NewsTabletLilliththe Jerusalem PostTikkun, and many others. Rebecca Wald is the editor ofBeyondTheBris, a blog for Jewish Intactivists, and Lisa Braver Moss is a novelist who wrote the first work of fiction about Jewish Intactivism.

Wald and Braver Moss aren't the first Jews to question circumcision. Jewish scholar and historian Leonard Glick,MD, PhD, psychologist Ron Goldman, PhD, doctor Dr. Mark Reiss, Jewish Feminist Miriam Pollack, and movie maker Eli Ungar-Sargon are just some of those who led the way. Each made fundamental steps in convincing Jews to rethink the subject. Goldman wrote the first book to talk about the subject at length, but Braver-Moss and Wald's book is the first ritual guide for Jewish parents. A variety of important Jewish Intactivists including Ungar-SargonJonathan Friedmanand others originally come from Orthodox backgrounds. Each has made fundamental steps in convincing Jews to rethink the subject.

A Jewish Legacy of Human Rights
Jews played an active role in many of the human rights causes of our time. The civil rights movement happened and many Jews took part in the freedom rides and other acts of protest of that day. Women's rights happened, with many Jewish women actively involved and Jewish women entered the Rabbinate. Gay rights happened, and today we have Jewish gay and lesbian clergy and marriages. Judaism evolved and improved as a result, and there are a plethora of creative responses to these issues regularly coming from a wide variety of Jewish groups, individuals, and movements. Today many among a wide range of Jewish movements are talking about social consciousness and sustainability as issues of spiritual responsibility.

Judaism evolves and expands. There was a time when the Bat-Mitzvah was a radical idea. There was a time when a female Rabbi was unthinkable to some. I remember many years ago attending high holiday services at a large reform synagogue on the East Coast and seeing for the first time a female Rabbi at the pulpit wearing a kipot and tallit. In the 1990's, that was a rarity. Today it's a common sight in synagogues everywhere in America. We've created Jewish naming rituals for baby girls, and they caught on very quickly. The Bat-Mitzvah emerged in the early 1900's, and today even the daughters of Orthodox Rabbis celebrate some variation of it, showing that progressive movements like Reconstructionist Judaism influence Orthodox practice. These are signs of how far we've come as a people in 25 years. As a people, we've made enormous progress correcting racism, sexism, and homophobia, and we are in the process of addressing how issues of social justice, classism, and caring for the earth fit into Jewish practice.

Wald and Braver Moss two Jewish mothers who are leading us one step farther on these issues. They are pioneers pushing us to address another issue that must be fundamentally questioned according to Jewish ethics.Their guidebook, "Celebrating Brit Shalom" is a huge step forward. With almost 150 Rabbis actively and publically doing these welcomings, they are quickly becomming a part of the Jewish mainstream. Parents looking to find a Rabbi, Cantor or other Jewish celebrant to perform a Brit Shalom, can find more than 200 of them on Dr. Mark Reiss' list. Free of the contentious arguments on the subject, Celebrating Bris Shalom is welcoming and perfect for young Jewish families.
I especially like that the book sidesteps the contentiousness of circumcision, and directly addresses parents who choose to keep their sons intact, and want a ritual to connect them to Judiasm as well. The writers did a good job of including Jewish songs in the book, but I hoped to see more Jewish themed artwork and even images and words of Jewish families who've already opted for these peaceful newborn blessings. Images of families holding Brit Shalom events would greatly strengthen the book. Perhaps the next printing will contain some of these as well as more artwork.

The audience for this book is clearly Jewish families rather than just Intactivists. Wald and Braver Moss's guide is being well received in the Intactivist community, but it is also generating talk in the Jewish media. Eli Ungar-Sargon gave the book an enthusiastic review, focusing heavily on the ritual aspects of the book, in the influential Jewish magazine Tikkun. The book is already endorsed by a variety of Rabbis from some of the progressive Jewish movements. Not everybody in every movement of Judaism is ready for this guide, but many are, and more are becoming so. This book may lead to deep connections between young, holistic, progressive, Jewish parents, and a new generation of Jews who are wrestling with and redefining the way that Jewish practice evolves.

There are many young Jewish parents active in finding their own ritual to name a Jewish son who will remain intact. This book will be a blessing for those families and their sons.

Copies available for purchase at CelebratingBritShalom.com and Amazon.com.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

How to remove toxins and properly bond for a natural, connected waterbirth

By now, you've probably seen Healthy Home Economist's sensationalist article on how waterbirths destroy children's guts and should be avoided. It's fascinating to me, really, because she spends a lot of time focusing on the concern of chlorine/chloramine treated tap water. Which, unless you avoided bathing in this and drinking this from 3 months pre-conception to the time of birth, means you have already altered your baby's microbiome. Why talk about the issue of chlorinated drinking and bathing water, but then blame the water birth after 9+ months of chlorine exposure in food, tap water, bathing, swimming, disposable paper products, etc?

Don't get me wrong. I feel I'm actually one of the few people who has piped up about the severe concern of halogen compound exposure in our environment. I even wrote a little brochure about it, and I have made the tough assertion that several chronic illnesses such as lyme and EDS are caused or worsened by dioxins. I think awareness is lacking, and that halogen compounds are the big kahuna being ignored.

Anyways, that aside, her article prompted me to put together some basics that I've shared about waterbirth before, as a proactive way of preparing for a natural birth that is low in toxins and that promotes physiologically normal bonding.

Here are some of the things I've done to prepare for my births that address halogen compound exposure, contaminant exposure, and bonding concerns:

1. Look for a PVC-free pool. Women are creative when it comes to birth pools. Choose what suits your needs, but take a quick look to make sure it's low in toxins. Same goes for pool liners if you're going to use one. Do not use cheap materials, such as remodeling/paint liners found in hardware stores, industrial containers, or low end animal troughs.

You can also prepare the birth pool if it is new by opening it up and placing it outside in the sunlight (think indirect if you get strong sun, don't damage it!) Spray distilled white vinegar evenly on the surface to help the offgassing. Those new plastic smells should slowly dissipate. Rinse the pool thoroughly before bringing it inside to use.

If you're using a permanent pool such as your jacuzzi or hot tub, research your options for pre-cleaning. You might be able to chemically clean it, then rinse it and fill it with filtered water just for the birth.

2. Purchase a lead-free hose and connectors. Surprisingly, a lot of people don't know about this one. Make sure the hose you buy specifies lead-free. Don't use any cheaper, older or soldered/previously soldered connectors that might also contain questionable ingredients. Another one that might not occur to parents while rushing around during a birth: rinse the hose out first before putting it into the birth pool to remove any manufacturing contaminants.

3. Water treatment. Research the various options on how to treat your water and decide which one will work for you. Boiling water and letting it stand in the birth pool will remove the majority of chlorine/chloramines....into the air. So as the birth pool is being filled and then while it stands for 5-10 minutes, you can labor in another room. Briefly ventilating the birth room after the pool is filled will clear out any concerning air. You can also use portable dechlorinating tabs and filters. And/or a filter that connects to the hose.

Reverse osmosis or steam distillation will remove the most contaminants from your water. You don't have to purchase an expensive whole-house system. Smaller systems can cost $200. But, a smaller undermount or counter top machine will take much longer to fill the pool. A combination of boiling water and filling from the reverse osmosis system can be the most reasonable method.

It's important to note that this issue is one you can certainly address, but it is not a huge, scary issue. The studies discussing chlorine exposure are talking about extended exposure in chlorinated pools. Not bathing or drinking tap water. Although I also easily address this topic in our own home with a reverse osmosis filter and dechlorinating filters for the bath faucets, this is not a deal breaking topic.

Stop and think about the way you are being manipulated to feel when it comes to worrying about waterbirth. How do you think the surfaces in a hospital are cleaned? What products and what water source do you use to clean your bedsheets, your towels, and your home for a land-homebirth? If you're feeling really scared or upset by the HHE article, take a deep breath and do an actual risk assessment, along with reviewing your many options.

Preparing the pvc-free pool with boiled water.
It's also being filled with a lead-free hose and reverse osmosis system.
Placed next to the patio door, the room was quickly and conveniently ventilated.

4. Use additives with caution. If someone is concerned about bacterial growth, standing water, if the pool becomes contaminated in some way, then empty it, clean it and refill it. Do not try to create your own shock treatment with bleach, ammonia, or other chemicals. And that includes essential oils.

I have heard a few accounts now of birth pools being shocked with heavy duty essential oils. Essential oils are wonderful, but also powerful. At high levels, they can also harm healthy gut bacteria. Some of the powerful antibacterial ones are also potentially unsafe for birth and definitely unsafe for newborns.

Also be sure to ventilate the room briefly again if diffusing essential oils for the mama, to ensure that once the baby arrives, he is not exposed. Sniffing direct from the bottle might be the most contained method to use for birth.

5. Avoid interrupting bonding. Although interruption can occur with other birth methods, due to the wet environment and concerns about temperature regulation, these interruptions might be more prominent with waterbirths. And this might also explain why some mothers, such as HHE, feel that waterbirth somehow harmed their children. Ensure that your birth team is educated on how to protect the bonding process after birth in a water environment. This means things such as:

  • Warm unscented towels in the dryer and place them over both the parent and the baby, not between the parent and the baby. 
  • Avoid submerging the baby's body or attempting to wash the baby in the pool.
  • Avoid "hatting" or placing a hat on the baby's head, which might interrupt sensory bonding.
  • Remember to rub in the vernix, and do not roughly scrub the baby dry with a towel.
  • Don't encourage the mom to separate and take a shower with scented products soon after birth. 
  • Don't encourage the baby to get bathed in a separate bath soon after birth, and certainly not with scented products.
  • Avoid scented products on the birth team, and avoid using fragrances and air fresheners during/after the birth. Birth can come with strong smells, like being in the woods. If this is uncomfortable for the birthing mother, opening a window for fresh air is helpful. Don't start misting stuff everywhere! Including essential oils!
Notice the towel is over BOTH mama and baby.
Baby is not submerged.
Mama's chest is not submerged.
6. Remember to stay together. Another reason some moms might attribute waterbirth to problems with breastfeeding is the interruption that occurs soon after birth. Once the baby is born, usually the mom cradles her baby on or near her chest in the birth pool for a few minutes. But, inevitably, they need to get out of the pool. This is when her birth team might unknowingly cause problems. As the mom and baby leave the pool, they must be moved to a safe, calm area where they can remain together and continue the physiological bonding process. The baby should stay in her (or her partner's) arms. No one should remove the baby, wash the baby, dress the baby, or leave the room with the baby. Now is not the time for the mom to spend a long time showering and dressing. If the mom is hungry, food should be brought to her.

There is something about this critical stage that is easily altered without anyone noticing. This golden hour is interrupted in key ways with waterbirths. A good birth supporter must have a trained eye for this moment and take steps to keep the mom and baby together, naked, undisturbed, and prepared for breast exploration and the breast crawl. 

Interruption occurs with other kinds of births. But, the problem here is that the brief time spent in the birth pool is often logged as the bonding time. When it is not. So once the mom leaves the pool, it accidentally represents a transition or milestone, when in reality, it is not and the mom and baby must still continue bonding.

Mama moved right out of the pool and onto
a designated bonding space. No hat, no clothing, no showering.

7. Vernix. Contrary to the fear in HHE's article, vernix is not water-soluble. That would be laughable, seeing as how the baby is submerged in fluids for months. Vernix has immune properties that are very important and I've always shared about that aspect. To claim that waterbirth destroys vernix and makes the neonate susceptible to halogen compound exposure or contaminant exposure is simply not supported by the scientific evidence. This idea shows a lack of understanding when it comes to birthing in water, along with a lack of understanding about vernix.

Vernix has many overlapping functions. It directly assists the baby in countless ways during the pregnancy and during transition from the womb to earthside. (You can read all about vernix here.)

The baby swallows it during pregnancy, which helps to develop the gut microbiome.
It has innate immune properties to help protect the baby.
It is a thermal (temperature) regulating substance.
It encourages proper skin growth.

Most importantly, and the part that seems to be missing in the waterbirth fearmongering:
As a layer on the skin, it provides a hydrophobic barrier. Translation: it is water resistant.
The brief time it takes to gently bring your baby up to your chest after passing through about 18 inches of already offgassed water is not destroying guts and ruining lives. I'm not sure how to put it in a nice way, but that idea is ignorance and total bullshit.

Bottom line: if you are freaking out because you think birthing in water will somehow destroy your child's immune system and breakdown a substance that humans have used successfully for thousands of years, don't. Take a deep breath, go through your preventative checklist with your birth team, and then relax. Waterbirth has some specifics that need to be addressed, but they aren't insurmountable or inherent issues. They are concerns that can be easily rectified ahead of time.

With all the potential benefits of waterbirth such as reduced pain, increased movement, relieving pressure and weight on the mom's joints and ligaments, bonding with her partner and children during birth, etc, it would be a shame if a mom discarded this option out of unwarranted concerns about halogen compounds and a misunderstanding of vernix.

Here comes the baby right out of the water...covered in vernix.
Photo submitted by Hethir Songstad.

It appears that the highly toxic tapwater did
not impede any vernix here!
Photo submitted by Sarah Durso.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Religion of Anti-Science Fanaticism

I've said it before and will say it again. We all need to work together to call people out when they toss around the term "anti-science" or when they claim they "believe in the science." For too long, we have accepted the misapplication of this anti-science term instead of rightly questioning those throwing it around.

  1. "the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment."

Employees in the health field (licensed doctors, nurses, researchers, etc) are not "science." They are people, yes, mere humans! And they have gone through standardized education and training to perform basic duties. Duties you can perform, too. They are not the only people who can learn about the world around us. And they are not the ultimate authority on a world we are still learning more about daily.

Science is a particular method of study. Not a group of people. Not a majority rule. Not a community that all agrees on one idea. Not an ultimate truth.

This science is also continually challenged, improved, and altered as people gain more knowledge and continue to explore our world. Remember the infamous Dr. Semmelweis who attempted to convince doctors to wash their hands and instruments to save women from childbed fever?

"What Semmelweis had discovered is something that still holds true today: Hand-washing is one of the most important tools in public health. It can keep kids from getting the flu, prevent the spread of disease and keep infections at bay. You'd think everyone would be thrilled. Semmelweis had solved the problem! But they weren't thrilled. For one thing, doctors were upset because Semmelweis' hypothesis made it look like they were the ones giving childbed fever to the women."

If you believe "science" is already determined, and is merely about majority consensus, you are actually referring to religion.

If you believe a potential finding in scientific studies, or hypotheses presented by scientists are unquestionably true, you are actually talking beliefs.

If you believe in this concept of science above all else, and cannot consider criticism or permit this science to be challenged or questioned, then you are following dogma.

If you believe all people must follow this science without doubting or searching for more answers, you are demanding an act of faith.

If you believe that the amount of science you have at your hands right now is the ultimate knowledge, and that all people must be compelled through peer pressure or laws to follow this science, you are attempting to make our country a theocracy.

"Theocracy is a form of government in which clergy (doctors) have sovereignty over a territory (medicine) and official policy is either governed by officials regarded as divinely guided, (from dogmatic science) or is pursuant to the doctrine of a particular religion or religious group (pharmaceutical company and lobbying groups)."

What is real science? What does it mean to be pro-science? Who is supporting scientific exploration?

People who QUESTION current beliefs are pro-science.

People who want to EXPAND knowledge about our world are scientists.

People who FIGHT for ethical, empirical experiments are fighting for science.

People who DOUBT hypotheses and OFFER alternative ideas are encouraging scientific progress.

Those who question, those who want more investigation, those who want all aspects acknowledged, those who show caution about human rights violations or show concern for how our world might be hurt... Those people are the farthest from anti-science. So, who is actually anti-science?

Does anyone these days even remember these issues? Xrays during pregnancy? Thalidomide?
Cytotec after c-sections? Have we forgotten the numerous experiments on impoverished
cultures, on inmates, on children? Are we just ignoring serotype replacement, antibiotic
resistance, epigenetic mutations? Faith cannot save us from human error and greed.

"Nevertheless, in many U.S. hospitals today, the management of labor and delivery doesn’t look very evidence-based. Many well-intentioned obstetricians still employ technological interventions that are scientifically unsupported or that run counter to the evidence of what is safest for mother and child... These problematic motivators are not unique to obstetrics, but obstetrics seems to be particularly resistant to the evidence..."

People who want to SILENCE opposing voices are anti-science.

People who HARASS, BULLY, or THREATEN those who question are anti-science.

People who CONFUSE fanaticism with science, who confuse profit with ethics, who confuse advances with empirical development, are anti-science.

People who SUPPORT a government operating as a theocracy based on dogma are anti-science.

People try to FORCE others to follow an outdated, unproven, unethical medical program are religious fanatics.

are anti-science.

When you use the anti-science label, apply it where it belongs. And if you see someone using it inaccurately, correct them. People can and do change when presented with information.

"More recent health care provider graduates had 15% decreased odds of believing vaccines are efficacious compared to graduates from a previous 5 year period; had lower odds of believing that many commonly used childhood vaccines were safe; and 3.7% of recent graduates believed that immunizations do more harm than good. Recent health care provider graduates have a perception of the risk-benefit balance of immunization, which differs from that of their older counterparts."

Related reading...

STOP! Are you debating with a narcissist?

Custom medicine for your child.
Here and here.

Do you have blind faith?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

What everyone missed about stranger abductions: natural boundaries

I've been reading both sides since the "stranger abduction experiment" video went viral. I was sad to see more pleas for anxiety and helicopter parenting. But, I was also disappointed with much of the response from the free range community, too.

One article on the free range website attempted to claim the children were taken easily since the man talked to the parents and the children thought it was a safe situation. Well, of course! That's called grooming and it's not a defense for free range parenting, it's a very serious and commonly used technique to break down natural boundaries in children and gain control of them. I wonder if the person who wrote that free range article even knew this?

Here's a thought no one wants to discuss. It's not politically correct, and most people would rather choose to feel offended by this thought instead of delving deeper. It doesn't apply to EVERY SINGLE child out there, but in general, it holds true.

Those young children walked off with the man and his puppy because they aren't attached to primary caregivers and their natural boundaries have been broken down repeatedly from infancy onwards. They are used to random adults invading their private space and telling them what to do, including taking their hands and walking somewhere.

They have been trained from a young age that any adult who is kind to them and who pays attention to them is an adult who deserves their compliance and who is automatically supposed to care for them. They have been taught by their parents and surrounding adult community that adults require unquestioning obedience and that feelings of doubt, unhappiness, fear, or sadness are invalid, and should be ignored.

This is why, for example, when I'm engaged with my children at the playground or pool, random young children approach me and ask me to take them to the bathroom, or expect me to play with them. One smiling adult is the same as the next in their world.

The abductions on that video didn't have anything to do with the man talking to the mom first. Which a "predator" (acquaintance or stranger) could easily do anyways. This didn't have anything to do with poor parenting method. Whether teaching stranger danger or tricky people awareness, whichever method you prefer, the innate issue here is a lack of boundaries in the children. (I prefer the tricky people one, and encourage you to learn more about it, by the way.)

When you look at children who are attached to a primary caregiver, who do not go to daycare, nor preschool, and who do not experience frequent babysitting/multiple babysitters, etc, those children tend to turn away from a random adult. Children who have their sense of identity, their emotions, and their needs affirmed on a daily basis have very little tolerance for random stranger attention. As babies and toddlers, they refuse to be held by other adults, even relatives. They'll often refuse to wave hello, or lean their bodies away if the adult gets too close and crosses a naturally ingrained boundary.

And when these children are a bit older, they show more caution and hesitation to adults who approach them. They aren't quick to share their life stories, and they often question why an adult is interested in them and why the adult wants them to do things or go places.

These children have retained natural boundaries. Sadly, it often causes other adults to ridicule them or to feel offended and demand intervention from the parents. If the baby leans away from a relative at a party, others might attack the mom, or claim the baby is a wuss and needs more alone time with other adults. "You pick him up too much." "She needs to start respecting her elders." "I think it's the homeschooling!" Many people in our culture have very little tolerance when it comes to the natural boundaries and feelings of children.

But, this natural caution is exactly what might prevent the scenario in the viral video. It's also what might encourage the parent to continue staying by the child's side throughout early childhood, preventing abuse of all kinds and being the child's advocate.

Interestingly, this favored attachment tends to dissipate around age 7/8, at the end of the early childhood stage and at a time when the child is better able to verbalize issues along with making more complex critical thinking decisions.

So, while the fights rage on, with each side trying to dismiss the other as wrong...I'd like to give some food for thought. Children ages 6 and under who remain attached to responsive primary caregivers are children who develop a natural sense of self, of belonging, of basic boundaries.

Ways to sustain natural boundaries in children

1. Validate feelings. When a child expresses feelings, especially negative emotions such as fear and anger, acknowledge them. For references, check out this post and this post.

2. Respect your child's no. Although you must still be the firm and guiding parent, take care to repect your child's heartfelt no as often as possible, especially in areas such as personal expression and bodily autonomy. See more here.

3. Model healthy boundaries. If you are struggling to overcome empath difficulties, or have childhood abuse scripts, work on them to provide healthier role modeling for your children. Allow your children to see healthy relationships and to see how you set down boundaries with other people.

4. Develop healthy social skills. Instead of breaking down natural boundaries, spend time every day developing healthy social skills that emphasize personal property, bodily autonomy, emotional respect, and other healthy behaviors. Just the other day, to use an example, I watched a 3-4 year old boy happily sucking on his lollipop at the playground. Another tot about the same size ran up to him and wrestled the lollipop away, then ran off to eat it. The mom of the original boy, instead of working through the altercation, told her little boy to stop crying, and that it was ok, and she was too meek to do anything! That little boy learned a rough lesson, one that would probably continue to shape him for the rest of his life. This ties into #3: work through your boundary difficulties so that you can help your children!

5. When your child cannot protect her boundaries, step in to protect them for her. This is what parenting is all about right here. When someone is invading her personal space and she is scared speechless, say something. When someone is making your son uncomfortable and he is unsure what to do, step in and offer options. With your voice, your posture, and your parenting rules, you set the tone for others and you affirm your child.

6. And FFS! Please stop forcing children to be held by someone, touched by someone, or to even stand by someone when they are uncomfortable and even scared. Steamrolling over a child's natural boundaries for a photo or to please another person sends a clear message to the child: his needs don't matter. To then try to teach him to pay attention to his instincts and to stay away from a stranger is a fruitless endeavor.

One person is missing here, because she doesn't like
characters. Is it really worth the pain and behavior modeling
just to get a photo of your child next to a scary looking character?

Learn more about grooming here:

For those who are moving away from the anxiety/fear path of stranger danger, I highly recommend Gavin DeBecker's book. He blows up a lot of myths and encourages parents to return to their original instincts and boundaries:

View the original video behind the controversy here:

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Parents, don't forget the most important thing this Easter holiday

Parents, but maybe mostly mamas...can I talk to you for a moment? Can I risk that you'll feel defensive, or lash out, to say something that really needs to be said?

Today, on a day that is special for many people due to religious or cultural reasons, make the most of it in a real way. Yes, I said real. Don't skip over the nickel to pick up the penny.

When your children are firmly squeezed into their expensive, fancy clothes, don't give 'em a smack or yell at 'em when they unloosen a few buttons or get their clothes inevitably dirty while playing. Today, bite back the yell to, "Stay clean!" Instead, remind them that you love them and love their zeal for life.

Today, when they are eating that Easter feast and spill on their laps or wipe with their sleeve, make eye contact. Smile. Rejoice that your table is filled to the brim with delicious food. Be thankful that your child has food to spill. Be thankful your child is sitting in that chair next to you, healthy and alive.

When you put together that bunny basket, stop. Stop that nasty voice in your head that says you didn't do a good enough job and that you didn't give them enough, and that it wasn't fancy enough and that others have more and give more. Maybe you've just had a baby and things are crazy. Maybe money is really really tight this year. Maybe you're struggling with a chronic issue. Stop beating yourself up and putting yourself down. Instead, remind yourself that you did what you could, and that you did it for them, and that you did it with love.

When you sit down for a church service, avoid the pinches, arm grabs, death glares or taking them out back to spank them. Avoid imagining what other people are thinking about your parenting. Don't spend that time stewing, teeth grinding, anxiety rising. If they wiggle, hold them and sing louder. If you need to step outside, do silly jumping jacks and laugh for a minute with your children. Smile big, and hug your children in that church, and remind others that God welcomes the little children. Today, welcome your children at the church service, as they are and without judging them.

When your children meltdown from too much candy, too many chemical exposures, too many strangers touching them and talking to them, too much noise, too much stimulation, show them mercy. Show them comfort. They aren't doing it to embarrass you or inconvenience you. They are little people having a very hard time. Practice feeling comfortable with big emotions. Practice telling others that big emotions are okay. Take a time-in together to reconnect and calm down. Leave the event if necessary. Show your children that their needs and discomforts are taken seriously.

And most of all, today, set it down. Set down that dish. Those deviled eggs do not have to be perfect. Set down that phone. It can wait. Set down those fancy Easter decorations. Set down the broom and vacuum. Let people learn to love you and your lived in home, and if they can't, let them leave your life.

Today, show your children how to LIVE. Show them how to LOVE. Show them laughter. Show them presence. Show them what it means to feel blessed and to stretch your arms out wide and experience happiness. Don't mutter over the cost of candy. Don't curse at the dirty house. Don't yell at them when they interrupt your hurried crafting. Put it all down and BE with them today.

Today is only one day. It will never come around again, and you can never return it for a different journey. Make it count the real way.

Just in case this idea is helpful to other parents out there! What I've found really works for us
is to purchase soft, worn in suits from a thrift store or secondhand store for the boys in a slightly larger size.
So they aren't "restrained" by their clothes. It's also inexpensive, so I don't have to stress. I also never buy any children's clothing that requires special cleaning and handling! Ain't nobody got time for that!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Vaccine Damage - Safeguard your kids with Homeopathy!

Guest Post

Vaccine Damage - Safeguard your kids with Homeopathy!

Classical homeopathy can be used very effectively to prevent infectious diseases, as it has been for two hundred years. A few homeopathic medicines in your travel kit can keep you safe when journeying overseas. Homeopathy can also be used in everything from dental problemsMRSA, and Lyme Disease to pet care. Homeopathy can also be used to negate the damage caused by vaccination and over-vaccination. 

Some homeopathic medicines that are very effective in negating the side effects of vaccination are SilicaMalandrinum,Belladonna,  MezeriumThujaMercury, and Sulphur. Please note, these need to be used in specific ways, typically only one at a time, and people should see a trained homeopath to treat these kinds of cases.

With homeopathy, it is important to find the exact remedy that a person needs at any particular time. It might take a bit of careful reading, or a visit to a professional homeopath, but treating a child when young can prevent all kinds of problems, and can set up a child for an active life of happiness and wellbeing. The best time to start using homeopathy is as young as possible. The two main homeopathic potencies are the Cs and the LMs. The Cs are often used in acute and first aid cases. The LMs are used by well-trained homeopaths to treat chronic conditions and they provide the advantage of improving patients from serious conditions at two to three times the speed. There are some websites with homeopathic search tools for parents and patients who are looking for a homeopathic remedy to treat general conditions.

Many of these homeopathic medicines are also useful in the treatment of autismdepressionmood disorders,ADD/ADHD, and other modern conditions, but for serious cases, one should work with a trained and experienced homeopath.

Introducing Homeopathy for Vaccinosis
Homeopathic First Aid Room - Iatrogenesis (Reactions caused by drugs, operations, and invasive procedures) by David Little
A Comparison of the C and LM Potency by David Little

Advanced Homeopathy

Homeoprophylaxis: Human Records, Studies and Trials by Fran Sheffield (PDF format)