Where did I come from?

One of the most common questions a kid can ask is “Where do babies come from?”  It’s actually a very simple question, and one that is asked quite understandably.  But it’s often a question that freaks parents out.  The answers run the gamut from the absurd (the stork)  to the heteronormative (when a mommy and a daddy love each other very much) to the religious (God) to any number of other answers.

I’m proud to have backed What Makes a Baby via kickstarter when I was pregnant with my younger daughter.

I’m even more excited to share that it is available for pre-order from Amazon and BookDepository!.

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I think this is the perfect book to start an honest discussion with your child about where they came from.

  • It uses non gender specific language (some bodies have eggs, some bodies do not)
  • It doesn’t assume that the bio parent is the person actually parenting the child (never uses the terms mommy/daddy)
  • It mentions that sometimes the new thing made by a sperm and an egg doesn’t grow (which is important to me as the mom of a baby lost via miscarriage)
  • It notes that all babies grown differently (which is a way to open a discussion about children with special needs)
  • It notes that babies can be born via the vagina or through a special cut (Older daughter was a vaginal birth, her sister was a C-section)
  • It asks “who was happy you were born?” rather than telling you that mommy and daddy or some sort of stereotype was what awaited the child.

In doing so, it legitimizes every child.  Adopted, born of IVF, being raised by a parent and a step parent, the child of a single parent, and so forth.

I think this is a great book for kids 2-8.  Obviously as they age, they’ll want to know more, but this is the only book I like that’s out there for the youngest kids.  Please support Cory and Fiona and pre-order your copy for your child or a child in your life!

Weaning

Ms 1 and I are reaching the end of our nursing relationship after 15 months.  She’s down to about once a day, and that once is largely about comfort and not nutrition.  My supply is clearly dropping.  While I may be in some discomfort after about 24 hours, I no longer have the excruciating agony of a too full breast.  I have not accidentally wet my shirt in a few months.  The end is nigh.

Screen Shot 2011-12-09 at 2.24.05 AMMs 1 when she was less than a month old.

I always pictured myself struggling to hit six months.  That if I did make it to one year, I’d be done.  That I would “want my body back.”

The thing is that, contrary to what people told me to expect, I never felt like I didn’t own my body.  I never felt that my breasts “belonged” to the baby.  The only real difference between a breastfeeding baby and a non breastfeeding baby is that I’ll be free to wear bras (I’m lazy and found skipping a bra to make the whole thing easier-remember I live in an equatorial climate, so skip the bra, wear a tank top and just pull the neckline down-as in the photo above-has worked well for me).

At a year, Ms 1 was nursing, but not terribly frequently.  I’m still at home with the girls, so it wasn’t a huge imposition to keep nursing.  So we did.

Ms 1 is my last baby.  I’m in my mid-30’s and I have had a miscarriage and two very difficult pregnancies.  Ms 1 was a month premature for both our health.  I’m at a high risk of another premature birth, possibly a dangerously premature birth.  I’d likely be on bedrest in or in a hospital for most of a pregnancy.  It’s just not worth it.  My family feels complete at the moment, but if we were to decide to add to it, we would choose another route.

Ms 1 is also the only baby I’ve nursed successfully.  We’ve had a relatively easy relationship. A few latch/position issues in the first few days.  One (maybe 2) case(s) of thrush.  But other than that, it’s been smooth sailing.  Nursing has been very pleasurable (when you nurse, you get a rush of oxytocin-the love hormone-which for me makes me very relaxed and zen).  Now that she’s a running climbing active toddler, nursing is also one of the few times that she is happy to snuggle/cuddle close with me.

Knowing she’s my last baby and knowing that I’ll never get another chance to nurse has also been a reason I’ve yet to let go.  I’m not in a rush to have this all end.  I know my baby, and I know she’ll decide to end the relationship soon enough.  When that day comes, I’ll be sad, but proud that nursing worked out for us.

On the plus side, her slowing down to once a day has meant that we have moved her (although not her crib) out of our bedroom as of a few days ago.  If the new sleeping arrangement continues to work out, we’ll move the crib in a week or so (she’s in a pack n play at the moment-moving the crib was too big a project to do before we knew if it would work).  While I’m ambivalent about weaning, I’m thrilled to pieces at the idea of a bedroom without a crib in it.

My kids ruined my plans for tonight

Today started off so promising.  I was feeling a bit boring and stuck in my clothing rut of shorts and a tank top (not the sexy ones you’re thinking of, sadly)–so I decided to wear a thong.  Then I put on my bracelet which carries the subtle engraving of the word “slut.”  That lifted my spirits, and inspired some sexting between myself and the husband.

Then…within the space of 60-90 minutes…

The not quite 4 year old threw  huge tantrum over dinner.  I had the nerve to serve chicken and rice–clearly I should be arrested for torture.

The not quite 4 year old pounded on the door while I way trying to pee.  No, no going to the toilet alone for you, Mommy.

The 1 year old tried to chew on a shampoo bottle while I had them both in the tub.  I sprayed myself with the detachable showerhead as I lunged for the bottle.  Again, not in the sexy wet-t-shirt way.  In the half drowned rat way.  Also sprayed-a big chunk of my bathroom.  FUN!

The 1 year old screamed bloody murder when I dared to remove her from the bath and put clothes on her.

The 1 year old protested at the top of her lungs when I had the temerity to put her in the crib so I could finish bathing her sister.

I took the 4 year old into her room and discovered she had colored all over her mirror.

Also–my 4 year old has decided that rather than call me Mommy, she prefers “Mother.”  Sigh.

By the time my partner came home, all I wanted to do was come into my bedroom, turn off the lights….and listen to loud rock music or watch West Wing.  Not so much with the interactions or the touching or the anything.

Maybe with an hour or two of alone time and loud music I’ll be ready to go find my bracelet again.  Or go to sleep.  Either seems likes a reasonable conclusion to my day.

Appropriate

You might think that as an erotica author, I probably am very liberal when it comes to sexual imagery in the public sphere.  You might also think that as a sex-positive parent, I have fairly liberal notions of what is appropriate for my daughters.  And you would be right…sort of.

I took the LM to her ballet school’s recital this past weekend.  She is in the youngest class and they were not invited to perform, so we went as spectators.  The LM had a lot of fun, as did I.

Until

A group of four eight/nine year old girls come out onto the stage.  The song “Party Rock Anthem” comes on.  They dance, and just before the line “C’mon and shake that”-three of the girls knelt down, while one girl remained standing.  She rubbed her hand across her shirt suggestively and then down toward her crotch.

The crowd roared in approval.

My hand flew to my mouth in horror.

I’m the last person to be a “clutch your pearls” type…BUT…for a prepubescent girl to pull a stripper move at an annual ballet recital?  Past where I draw the line as appropriate.  I’m somewhat horrified that amongst all the adults involved in choreographing said routine, approving said routine, and teaching said routine, no one stopped and said “Is this really appropriate for our annual recital?”

Had the girls been older (15/16 +), I wouldn’t have been thrilled at the dance move in that setting, but would’ve let it slide.  At that age, a young woman is old enough to be aware of her actions, and to know whom to address if she were uncomfortable with doing them.

Had the class been a hip-hop class, the music would’ve been appropriate.  I’ve seen plenty of ballet choreographed to rock, but amidst vivaldi and other classical music, it was jarring and just out of place.

Tomorrow the LM has ballet class, and I feel like I need to address my concerns with her school.  Do I want my (almost) four year old to take ballet from a school that has demonstrated such poor judgment when it comes to what is appropriate?

I’ve done a lot of thinking–  Was I the one who saw something that wasn’t meant to be there?  After all, the country I live in doesn’t have strippers?  Could this just be a dance move that I am putting into a Western context?  Does it matter?

And I just keep coming back to the notion that it does.

Part of being a sex positive parent is empowering my children at an age-appropriate level.  For the LM (who is 3 going on 4) that means clearly stated information about where babies come from, the proper names for her body parts, and permission to be familiar with her body (although we’ve had to talk about where is appropriate–bedroom, yes…grocery store, no).  I don’t particularly play edited music around her (although I did turn off the soundtrack to Book of Mormon when they got to the song that included the lyrics “fuck you in the cunt, God” and I’ve stopped playing “First of May” by Jonathan Coulter around her–she’s not old enough to understand satire, and I don’t want her repeating the lyrics to FOM at school–but I’ll take my chances with Lady Gaga)

I think that there is a key difference between empowering your kids with regards to sex, and sexualizing children.  The four year olds on Toddlers and Tiaras?  Objectified and sexualized.  Dressing your four year old to do a Pretty Woman send up is just bad judgment, not cute.  Having just recently bought the LM some new bathing suits, I can also say I was less than thrilled by the bikinis with padded tops for her age group.  Suggestive dance moves?  Hell no.

The reality is that she (like that girl who was dancing at the instruction of adults) are still little girls.  They are not yet old enough or mature enough to process the world around them independently.  They need to rely on adults to draw boundaries…and one of our jobs is to decide what is appropriate.

With that in mind, I’m not sure there is a good explanation to be had, and that we are perhaps better moving the LM to another ballet program.

Raising daughters…princesses and all

I am the mom of two young daughters.  As a cis-woman, I am painfully aware of what it means to grow up female in our culture today.  I am well acquainted with hating my body.  I have had many illusions about “happily ever after” shattered.  And so I worry.

My three year old is deep in throes of a love affair with the Disney Princesses, particularly Ariel.  For a far better summation of my issues with this movie than I can articulate here, see Nostalgia Chick’s takedown of it here.  Part of me wants to just say “no, bad…no princesses!”….but that would make me far too much of a hypocrite.

Although the Disney Princess brand didn’t exist when I was a kid, I grew up on Disney (although I was 10 or so by the time The Little Mermaid came along–I still caught many of the “Disney Renaissance” movies in the theater).  I read fairy tales.  I played at fairy tale and princess play.  I owned barbies by the box full.

My love of fairy tales and princesses eventually parlayed itself into a love of the fantasy genre.  I did not gravitate to stories with passive women–I’ve gravitated to stories and movies with strong feminist and powerful women.

I think that part of what contradicted the negative aspects of fairy tales and princess culture for me as a child was my early exposure to Wonder Woman, Xena, Buffy, and Madonna.

I sang unedited Madonna songs by heart right from the get-go.  While I had no idea what any of the lyrics about sexuality meant, I think it planted the seed of feminism early.

So when it comes to my girls…I don’t hesitate to play unedited Lady Gaga.  I feel like she’s a far better model of feminism and sexual empowerment than most female musicians (I also like Taylor Swift, although she’s not so much the “sexual empowerment” role model) AND she has a killer voice (and can play music).

We also talk, constantly.  That they don’t need a prince.  That they can grow up and marry another princess (or not get married).

I *could* eliminate princesses, I suppose.  But, in truth, I like The Little Mermaid.  I like sharing my favorite stories from childhood.  I think that it’s a big part of childhood, and that she would miss out on a lot if I did.  Also, gateway drug to awesome fantasy literature (Tamora Pierce is the ultimate goal).

But she’s still 3.  As she gets older, we can teach her to be a more active and critical media consumer.  But I figure Lady Gaga’s a good start.

My evolving relationship with my breasts

My breasts have generally been a disappointment to me.

I remember feeling like the last girl to develop in middle school.  As a plus sized woman, shirts are cut to accommodate a certain figure, and my barely C cup breasts never quite filled out a top correctly, to my eternal shopping frustration.    When the LM was born, breastfeeding just never worked out for a variety of reasons and I was angry with them, feeling as though they had failed me.

Having a successful breastfeeding relationship with the BG has made me re-evaluate my relationship with my breasts.  They are successfully doing the job they are engineered to do.  They are fuller than they have ever been (in which I have to admit I take some amount of shallow joy).

However, this is not to say that all is well and now I love my breast and it’s all rainbows and unicorns and Disney songs over at the DN household.

My breasts now straddle the line between sexual and functional and I’m often filled with ambivalence over this.  On one hand, I enjoy their sexy fullness.  On the other, I’m embarrassed when I’m walking in the mall and look down to find my shirt soaked from leaking (although not embarrassed enough to wear a bra).  They make me feel sexy, but I’m not always comfortable with having my partner or myself sexualize them. I’ve fought for my right to breastfeed publicly and then felt uncomfortable doing so.

Madison Young explored all the controversy and ambivalence over the whole breastfeeding is sexual/isn’t sexual….and was called out for it by another woman.

There’s been plenty said about this dust-up (the Jezebel article is a good place to start if you missed it), and I don’t know that I have much to say that hasn’t been said already (other than I think Young did nothing wrong, I think the concept is brilliant and I wish I’d been able to attend).

However, I’ve been thinking about this controversy a lot lately because I’ve been at war…with myself.  Ironically I had none of this ambivalence or conflict when I was a pumping mom…maybe because my breasts were one step removed from the actual feeding of my baby.  Now that they are directly involved in the relationship (in fact, the basis of the relationship), I find that I’m struggling with my own perceptions of where the line between sexy and functionality is at any given moment and when the line can and should blur.

Touched Out

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day.  The husband had to work late, and I was home with the girls.  The baby, at 4 months, is hardly a handful…but the 3 year old can be another story entirely.

I rigged a game of Candyland to ensure a speedy end once I’d announced that bedtime was imminent, after the game was over.  I had barely settled her and gone out to the living room when my husband got home.

I was surprised that instead of feeling happy that he was home….I felt a frisson of disappointment.  Part of me had been gearing up for an hour or two of alone time before ending the evening with my partner.  While I was happy to see him, and had been missing him…I felt a little cheated of “me time.”

I recognized this feeling from my last go-round with the newborn period.  The sensation of being “touched out.”  I love that the LM is affectionate and loves to climb in my lap and give me hugs and beg for “Mommy ups” (to be picked up and hugged tightly) and so forth.  I love that I’ve managed a successful breastfeeding relationship with BG.  I love that my husband is still attracted to me physically after almost 7 years together and 2 children.  But there are days when I all I want is NOT to be touched, hugged, pulled on, climbed on, breastfed from, and so forth.

Yesterday I took that “me time” by making my husband dinner.  Yes, it’s a total cliche…but I love to cook, and the kitchen is my domain.  Making food for my loved ones makes me happy (most days…) and as I prefer to cook alone, it also serves as a place where I get that touch-free time.  By the time dinner was ready, I was more than happy to hang out with him and watch the Daily Show online.

Feeling touched out is normal.  It’s hard not to read too much into it, especially if you’re a first time mom.  One of the perks of second time parenthood is that it’s easier to identify those transient feelings, and to acknowledge them, and to deal with them constructively (most of the time).

 

In other news…the book is out!  Go buy it!  Irresistible: Erotic Romance for Couples!  (And, yes I do see the irony of pimping my story about sex after kids in a post about feeling touched out…)

Supporting slutwalk and what it has to do with breastfeeding

It wasn’t until today that I realized the reason I’m so nervous about breastfeeding in public is that I’m scared of being slutshamed.

Slut shaming is when a woman is made to feel as though she’s been inappropriately sexual when she hasn’t been (among other definitions, but when discussing breastfeeding, this is the right definition to use).

If you want to see negative comments about breastfeeding in public, you only need read any article about it or a board that mentions it.  Someone will inevitably accuse the mom of wanting to flaunt her breasts, of her finding sexual enjoyment from “exhibitionism”, misunderstandings about how much breast is actually exposed, and so forth.  Asking a woman to cover up implies that she’s doing something wrong, that she needs to hide her breasts from the licentious eyes of the men around her, lest she inflame their lust…it is slut shaming.

As a mom who supports the rights of women to breastfeed publicly, and without a cover if that is their or their baby’s preference, I support slutwalk.

I attended slutwalk in Singapore with BG and the LM.  They were the only children there, and sure, both were too young to know what the day was about, but they were there.  As they grow older I’ll have to explain the knife’s edge dance all women do when it comes to sexuality…walking the line between frigid and slutty, madonna and whore…but at least when I do, I can also tell them that they’ve been fighting against that since the inception of slutwalk, and their mother even before that.

This?

Is not sexual.  Is not pornographic.  Is not dirty.  Is not shameful.

I’m not covering up, and you can’t slut shame me into doing it.

 

When your kid doesn’t care where babies come from…

The LM was fascinated by the idea that I had a baby in my uterus.  She was curious (ish) about how the baby was going to come out.

She never once asked me how the baby got in there.

I will admit to being a bit deflated over this as I had my sex positive, age-appropriate answer all ready to go.

But just as sometimes our kids will ask us a question we are not prepared to answer, sometimes they’re not going to ask a question you are prepared to answer.  The struggle is to know when to push to have a discussion and when to let it go.

The LM just turned three, so I’m okay with her lack of interest in how the baby got into my uterus.  If she were five or six, I might have made a point of asking her if she had any questions about how the baby got into my uterus or what she knew about how babies get into a mommy’s uterus.  With an older child, I might use a pregnancy as a jumping off point for a discussion about safe sex and having children when you want them.

If your child hasn’t asked you about sex, think about how old they are and question where they ARE getting their information from.  Because chances are it’s probably full of misinformation.  When I taught sex education to middle school students, I heard plenty of old myths that persist; you can’t get pregnant your first time (yes, you can), you can’t get pregnant when having your period (rare, but not impossible depending on your body’s fertility cycle, if it’s a true period as opposed to breakthrough bleeding, etc), and so forth.  Knowledge is power, and it’s important to arm your child with age appropriate knowledge.

For now, it’s enough that the LM knows that babies grow in a woman’s uterus, that they can come out through the vulva or sometimes a doctor has to cut into the Mommy’s uterus (BG was a C-section so it was a necessary discussion) to take the baby out, and that they can drink milk from a bottle or from Mommy’s breasts.  When she’s ready, we’ll bring up how her baby sister got there.

 

Failing at having sex

I’m feeling a sense of deja vu.  I’m almost certain I’ve written this post before, after the LM was born.  But what I’ve said before bears repeating…it is OKAY to “fail” at having sex.

Yesterday was my “six week” check-up, and I was thrilled to have been cleared for sex.  Between being put on bed rest after having pre-term labor, and how lousy I’d been feeling prior to that, it had literally been MONTHS since I’d had penetrative sex.  While I am a loud and enthusiastic supporter of alternative forms of intimacy between partners, it had been a while and I had a specific agenda for last night.

I may have talked a big game prior, texting my husband things things like how he should have a protein and carb rich lunch because I had high expectations for that night.  But somehow between the errands and the parenting, while I did manage to shave my legs, I ran out of steam.  I’m guessing that my (necessary, if I want chairs for our Thanksgiving party on Saturday) trip to IKEA was what tipped the balance into “far too tired” for me.  For my husband’s part, while his enthusiasm got him home on the early side, he’d had a long day, too…coupled with hurting his foot.

We made an effort, but admitted that we were just too damn tired last night.

When you are a new parent (or a parent at all), there will be times when you want to have sex, you plan to have sex….and you don’t have sex.

Do not read too much into it.  One failure (hell, 5 or 10 of them) doesn’t mean your relationship is doomed.  It has changed (whether it’s your first kid or your 5th), and there are going to be bumps along the road.

When these failures occur, make a point of still being emotionally intimate with your partner and get some good cuddles in…even if you end up cuddling with a baby between you.