August 27, 2011

Homeschooling?! Wait. What?


I am incredibly fortunate. I have readers involved in all aspects of the schooling spectrum, and I want to hear from each and every one of them on this topic.

I have never, ever considered the possibility of homeschooling my child. Why? Four very solid reasons:

1) I want my children to have lifelong exposure to many opinions other than my own;

2) I believe the classroom setting prepares children to cope in the real world. I'm not talking about socialization, I'm talking about learning responsibility and respect for authority (even if you don't like the authority figure very much);

3) Teachers spend years in college learning how to educate children. That's why school is *there*, for heaven's sake; and

4) Teachers are specialized. I guarantee that any history teacher - at any school - knows more about history than I do. Even the creepy one who picks his nose while the kids are taking a test.


My daughter is, like, crazy smart.

And we're starting to get the comments. You know the ones. "You do realize she's going to have to skip a grade, don't you?" "She's going to be bored." "You might have to put her in private school."

Dude - I've totally tried everything! We watch hours of TV, I buy her video games, give her coloring books instead of blank paper. Nothing helps. She just keeps getting smarter and smarter, and I'm all, STOP! Be stupid like everyone else, Jesus.

"I want to watch PBS Kids!"

"NO! You are going to sit there and watch Tom & Jerry and you are going to LIKE IT."

"What's this word, mommy? C says 'kuh,' A says 'aa,' T says 'tuh: 'kuh' 'aa' 'tuh' ... does it say 'CAT'?"

"No, GAWD, shut up and eat your Froot Loops. And make sure to spell 'fruit' like that."

Okay, I'm done.

But seriously. She's ridiculous. She turned three in June and she does addition and subtraction, simple phonics, she's starting to tell time (she can handle hours but she's not quite there with the minutes), the list just goes on and on.

I was a "gifted" student. The biggest lesson I've learned regarding IQ is that it is not, by any means, the most important factor in living a successful life. Let's take a moment to discuss it with Albert Einstein:

"I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world."
"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales."
"Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school."
"The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking."
"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."
That last one is my favorite. Any measure of IQ is going to be biased. But, really, that's a different post altogether.

The point is that, in the interest of keeping an open mind, I've been reading about homeschooling. Part of me is horrified. Part of me is intrigued. Part of me is wondering when Rules of Engagement will be back on.

Horrified: Anyone can homeschool. There is no certification process. There is no mandatory curriculum or testing standard. Legally you can never leave the house, watch Dr. Phil all day, and teach your children to wait patiently for the Sacred Toast Goat that will be appearing in the bathtub to take them away to Planet Xerox.

Intrigued: Should the government have a right to mandate what the nation's children are being taught? If children can't be required to learn about evolution or sex then why should they be required to learn about algebra or phonics? Where is the line?

In a more focused, less hypothetical vein - would this be a better option for my child(ren... who knows about the baby, he's probably a total moron. Seriously, he can't even crawl yet.)? At least for a while, until she is old enough to decide what she wants to do.

But then again... I was bullied in school. Might I inadvertently bias her against it?

I feel like my whole paradigm has shifted in one afternoon of Googling. I hate that. Stupid technology.

Wondering when Rules of Engagement will be back on: What the hell?! Why does TV just totally disappear in the summer? Repo Games and Tosh.0 were new for a while, now they're gone. Doesn't TV understand that some of us aren't playing at water parks and camping and flying to Orlando? ENTERTAIN ME, TV!

All hail the Sacred Toast Goat, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and TV. Oh yeah. Education. All hail education.     

August 11, 2011

Breastfeeding. Oh yeah. I'm going there.

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After I gave birth to my son in February I broke down crying and yelled at a nurse in the middle of the night. I refused to let her take my baby again after that, choosing instead to keep him in my room and lose any rest I may have gotten otherwise.

What happened?

When my daughter was born I refused a blood transfusion and I attributed the fact that I couldn't breastfeed successfully to the severe anemia I experienced. I was living in a remote area at the time with no real access to breastfeeding support, so I eventually gave up trying since my daughter was obviously starving (this was after multiple phone calls, research, and talking to the pediatrician).

This time I was prepared. I read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, bought a copy of Medications and Mothers' Milk, spoke with several friends and lactation consultants ahead of time, and even got myself a hooter hider. I looked up the La Leche League meetings in my area and wrote down their contact information.

We had to stay in the hospital for a couple of days because I'm Group B Strep positive and they wanted to monitor the baby to make sure he hadn't been exposed. I was still a patient because I hemorrhaged badly (again) after the delivery. I requested a transfusion as soon as the hemorrhaging began. The nurse was chuckling and said "Let's just hope it doesn't come to that." I know my body, though, and I wanted my feelings clear in case I became less lucid.

I had been fortunate enough to get my son started on my breast for an hour or so before they discovered the hemorrhage. The bleeding was internal and didn't manifest until I stood, so I cuddled and fed and delighted in the baby until I started feeling very ill and asked my husband to take him away.

Hemorrhage, blood transfusion... back to the baby. I breastfed that little SOB all night long while they were transfusing me. Folks, let me tell you: I CARED. I was GOING to breastfeed my son. I knew all the benefits of breast milk (to both mother and child) and I was absolutely determined to make it work this time.

Over the next couple of days, while I was recovering, I continued to breastfeed him. I noticed that every nurse coming on shift had a different opinion about what I should be doing. One nurse gave me a nipple shield, then the next nurse rolled her eyes and said "I can't believe so-and-so tried to get you to use a nipple shield" and proceeded to convince me to stop using it. Several of the nurses commented on my son's weight loss and brought me formula, then got bent out of shape when I refused it (because this can be detrimental to the breastfeeding process).

Sure, they had a "lactation consultant." She spent 10 minutes cracking jokes, making sure he was latching properly (yes, I know what a good latch is, thanks), and left. Oh yeah, she also had negative things to say about the advice I'd been given from various nurses.

So. The very last night in the hospital. I was utterly exhausted because my son (with whom I had not bonded at all) would not stop screaming. The shift nurse came in around 1:00 am and said she had weighed the baby and that I needed to start feeding him formula because he'd lost too much weight.

I snapped.

Here is what I said (through tears): "I do not want to talk to you about breastfeeding or formula feeding. I do not want to talk to you about anything except whether my son has been exposed to Group B Strep. When I get discharged I will take him to his own pediatrician and will follow her advice. Every nurse coming in here has had a different opinion about how I should be feeding my child, and nobody will just sit down and HELP me! I'm done with you guys."

Nurse (angry): "I'm going to check his bili level and if it's too low the doctor is going to insist that you give him formula."

Me: "That pediatrician is not Kellen's pediatrician. I don't care what he insists upon, I'm not doing it. I'm being discharged tomorrow and I will deal with my son's health myself." (Keep in mind I'd been given tons of fluids during labor. I suspected that his weight loss was from that but nobody would talk to me about it. The lactation consultant acknowledged it could be a possibility but the pediatrician shot her down.)

Nurse: "The doctor will not discharge him if he's not satisfied with his condition."

Me: "Will I be arrested if I just leave with the baby?"

Nurse (stunned): "I don't know."

Me: "If the bili test is non-invasive you can go ahead and do it, but you're not fucking sticking him with any more needles. He came back from his PKU bleeding like a goddamn pig."

Nurse: "It's non-invasive."

Me: "Go for it. Then please leave us alone."

Quick flashback - I nearly died when I gave birth to my daughter, and I was treated horribly by the doctors (the nurses were awesome). My newborn had a painful IV in her arm for five days. I never said ANYTHING negative to ANYONE during that process. I was a model of kindness. I just want to be clear exactly how backed into a corner I was feeling.

The next day everyone seemed angry with me. The new nurses were skittish, the lactation consultant confronted me about my claim that nobody had helped me and the pediatrician had his hackles up when he walked into the room.

What did I do? I smiled and told them all exactly what they wanted to hear. Why? Because I genuinely felt like they were holding my son hostage. I acted completely sane and baffled that the night nurse would make such claims, she must have misunderstood what I said.

They discharged me, and I took my son to his own pediatrician immediately. When the doctor walked into the room she found me sitting on the floor with a screaming infant, near tears myself, desperately trying to get into a position where he could latch.

How did she handle it? Mercy. Compassion. She held the baby, sat down, and told me a story about a friend of hers. This friend had six children. She breastfed the first five. She was a die-hard advocate of breastfeeding, and poo-pooed other mothers' reasons for not breastfeeding. Then she had her sixth child, and was unable to breastfeed him. It was a life-changing, humbling experience for her.

The pediatrician told me she wanted to do everything she could to help me breastfeed my son successfully, but if I couldn't do it she would never judge me. She gave me the number for a lactation consultant at a different hospital and called ahead to get me an appointment. I rushed right over there.

What does a real lactation consultant do when a mother is having trouble feeding her infant? I found out. She sat with me for a long time, talking about the childbirth experience, watching him latch, and weighing him before and after feedings to see how much he was getting. It wasn't enough by a long shot. The trauma to my body, transfusion aside, had been enough to severely impact my milk supply.

She then worked with me on a plan to try and breastfeed long-term. She advised a process of breastfeed, formula feed, pump, then feed the pumped milk with each and every feeding.

Having been treated like an adult and having been shown kindness instead of coldness, I was able to make informed decisions about my son's health. I talked it over with my husband and we decided to formula feed. I just didn't feel that I had the time to go through that lengthy process for an indeterminate amount of time (I was anemic for a looong time after my daughter was born). If I only had one child, yeah, but with two it didn't seem feasible.

Once the decision had been made I went ahead and moved on with my life. I refuse to second guess or wallow in regrets, it is what it is. I have two amazing children and I'm not dead. Fantastic!     -Kim

PS - I hope it's clear that I am all about breastfeeding. Do it. Preferably in public with one of these hats on your baby's head. There are so many benefits to breastfeeding your child that they discover like 20 more each day. I only wrote this post to speak for those of us who are educated about breastfeeding but, for one reason or another, are unable to make it happen. We're not all ignoramuses, formula feeding so that our boobs don't sag or because it's "icky."