Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the bad information edition

Hey look, it's Tuesday and I'm actually writing this on time.

Don't get used to it.

I haven't actually been watching much of the news for the last few days because the kids are on spring break this week. We're headed to the botanical gardens and art museum today once they can all pry themselves from their beds.

Anyhow, it's time to get angry.

The Gap Kids Ad
If you haven't seen it yet, go look. I'll wait.

Within seconds of seeing it, I saw the problem. One little girl, used as an emotionless prop, while the others around her demonstrate their abilities and joy. It isn't just an issue of race, but that's certainly a part of the criticism of the shot.

Queue the people saying that it's a cute picture and everyone is just overreacting, political correctness is going to ruin our world......5, 4, 3, 2....

Here's the thing, though. It isn't.

Advertising is something we all have to live with being thrown at us from all angles in this society. We know that advertising is already damaging in a multitude of ways to impressionable young girls especially, ones who are already being taught that the only acceptable forms for them to take as humans are thin, usually blonde, pretty, cis and straight.

Grown women and men rage about the messages being sent to them fairly often. This one is aimed at a much younger audience. And really, what does it say to you when you look at it?

Strip away all your defenses, all the canned arguments you use to convince yourself that things are fine and innocuous, all the assumptions you make about the people who take ads like this one personally, and just stare at the image for a little while.

Now imagine you're a little girl doing it.

We can do better.

Crowdsourcing everything
Awesomely Luvvie wrote a fantastic piece on crowdsourcing yesterday, one that hits just about every point of contention I have with this trend. You can read it here if you are interested.

Her name speaks the truth - she really is awesome.

In addition to all the things she mentions, I wanted to talk about two aspects. The first, the fact that people in this country shouldn't be forced to crowdfund anything related to medical care in the first place. The good old U.S. of A., where we claim to be the greatest nation in the land, but even people WITH insurance are hosting these crowdfunding things to try and pay for hospital stays, not to mention the impossible position of anyone without insurance.

It really shouldn't be like this. No one should be forced to choose between death and debt.

The other issue that I have, beyond the questionable nature of so many of these fundraising endeavors, is that people shouldn't have to out themselves for the medical conditions they are dealing with and ask other people for money to pay for things that should be covered. Health privacy is tossed right out the door when someone needs help, and that's pretty messed up.

Only those well insured with enough cash to fill in the gaps are entitled to privacy anymore.

The pathetic state of postpartum care
In my 13 years as a doula, this is something I've not seen improve in any way, shape or form. In many ways, it's actually gotten worse. The internet and its know-it-all shame-everyone ways make everything worse.

Our system really and truly only cares about the pregnancy as a fictional separate entity, then about the newborn after delivery.

The mother, merely a vessel.

Sounds harsh, right?

Well, it is.

While they are pregnant, women are given care almost to the extremes - so long as we're only talking about the "best thing for the baby" and the physical things we can objectively evaluate, as if there is such a thing as "only one best thing for the baby" and only the physical things we can objectively evaluate matter.

Neither is true.

This fallacy that doctor always knows best and that maternal instincts are silly things we should brush aside is deeply rooted in a movement that has placed almost all the trust about pregnancy in the hands of (largely) men with no basis in evidence. Hospital births, the lithomy position, the idea that anything beyond 40 weeks is dangerously overdue, the idea that inductions are acceptable at the will of whoever when there is no medical indication, the idea that women can't trust their bodies at all and that they need someone to tell them what is proper....it's damaging. And now, it's the "norm". Study the history of maternity care just a little in this country and you'll understand what I mean.

In the current political climate especially, the constant focus is on the baby. The mother's well being a distant second, usually just a mere afterthought. Once the baby is here, the baby is quite literally all that matters. How much is baby eating, wetting, pooping, sleeping, gaining? Is baby hitting milestones? Does baby have all the immunizations? Does baby have everything they could possibly need?

Mom? One postpartum appointment at 6 weeks out to make sure that her physical being has mostly healed.


By then, she's been required to care for this infant around the clock for 6 weeks, told by all the well meaning people in the world about everything she is doing wrong. She's doubted her abilities, she's lost a decent amount of blood, she hasn't slept much. She may have gone to hell and back in her head a few times by 6 weeks. Post partum anxiety and depression, if present, showed up a long time before that 6 week check up. By now, they've moved in and decided to stay.

All anyone on the outside cares about is when she'll get her body back.

No one cares about her mental health, her emotional well being, the fact that having a newborn is one of the most isolating experiences in life, and that we leave new mothers to figure all this out alone. The village doesn't exist for most women, and the medical community certainly isn't a guaranteed part of it.

So, to all the new mothers in my life: I'm calling and texting and emailing you periodically for a reason. It's not to be nosy. It's not to intrude. I'm checking on you just in case no one else is.

We absolutely have to do better.

I feel like I'm saying that a lot lately.


Speaking of postpartum care, let's talk about bad information
It amazes me sometimes how much information is disseminated to new parents with little or no basis in facts. Our society is a bizarre one to say the least when it comes to the expectations we place on babies.

Yeah, you read that right. On babies.

Not necessarily on the parents.

On the babies.

We say that "good" babies are the ones who sleep, who don't cry...ignoring the fact that all babies cry and it's absolutely normal for a baby to have day and night confused for weeks after birth. Babies sleep as much as 20 hours a day, just not in the chunks we want them to - that doesn't mean they don't sleep, they just sleep in the way babies sleep.

We believe that it's super important to push babies to be on schedules, to hit milestones exactly as dictated. We're told that cosleeping is dangerous when the truth is that a breastfeeding mother who is otherwise healthy and unmedicated can (and some would argue should) cosleep to foster the nursing relationship, which is actually protective against SIDS in those circumstances, not another risk factor.

Babies are supposed to wake at night to feed. Nighttime milk has a significantly higher fat content, entirely different in makeup than daytime milk.

I could make a laundry list of things new parents are told, rules they are given, guidelines they're supposed to adhere to, almost none of them with any basis in evidence.

New parents of the world - none of the experts are experts on your baby. None of the experts live in your house. None of the experts are raising this particular child. None of the experts know the skills and the deficiencies you bring to the table, none of them know the individual needs of this exact baby. None of them know about your history or mental health.

Follow your instincts first.

The smile and nod at whatever people tell you. Just smile and nod.

(I actually did that just yesterday as I was being lectured about cosleeping and extended nursing....you'd think I'd come with a warning sign by now...)

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