21st Century Dad
One Dad's Thoughts, Ideas, and Feelings.
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Desperate Midwives – “The Business of Being Born”

October 15th, 2008 . by 21st Century Dad

The Business of Being BornThere are 5 expectant couples within my social circle right now. It’s an appropriate time to share my thoughts on this film.

My only experience with childbirth was a natural one attended by a midwife. When Renee asked me to go see “The Business of Being Born,” I thought, “I’m already a believer, why do I need to see it?” I’m glad I did. My own personal experience made me a believer. This film strengthened my convictions.

Intrinsically, I knew that a natural childbirth was best, but I wasn’t going to push it. It’s our baby, but her body. Renee would have the final say on this one. She chose a natural childbirth with a midwife and has elected to breastfeed for as long as it’s feasible. I am thrilled at her decision.

Childbirth In the U.S.

I always thought a woman could opt for an un-medicated vaginal birth in the hospital. The OB/GYN was on-hand just in case something went wrong. The film shows you that’s not the case. This is the typical chain of events that will follow after a woman in labor is admitted:

  1. An expectant mother is sick of being pregnant. She wants to get this baby out.
  2. She asks for an epidural.
  3. She’s so zonked out, she can’t push properly
  4. Pitocin is administered via IV to induce contractions.
  5. The baby isn’t coming out. More pitocin is administered.
  6. The contractions are so strong, the baby goes into distress.
  7. An emergency C-section becomes necessary.

The United States is supposed to be the most technologically advanced nation in the world yet it has the second highest newborn mortality rate in the developed world.

It seems like everything we do in the United States is backwards. (Don’t get me started on the metric system) According to the statistics quoted in the film:

  • 70% of births outside the United States is attended by a midwife. It’s less than 8% in the U.S.
  • In 1900, 90% of births in the U.S. were home births.
  • In 1938, the number dropped to 50%.
  • By 1955, it was less than 1%. It remains that number to this day.

When I did a search for Pitocin on Wikipedia, it takes me straight to the page on ocytocin. In all fairness, pitocin is the synthetic version of ocytocin. Rats. I thought I had uncovered a little conspiracy. However:

  • Ocytocin is produced in the brain. Pitocin is administered intravenously.
  • Ocytocin has a chance to act on the brain before it’s released into the bloodstream. Pitocin does not.
  • Ocytocin enters the bloodstream in surges. Pitocin comes in a steady stream via IV.

The C-Section Factory

I remember in school, during a discussion about childbirth, a student piped up and said he was delivered via C-section. The first thought that popped into my head was, “I always knew there was something a little ‘off’ about this kid. I didn’t realize how commonplace it is.

I understand that a C-section is medically necessary in certain situations. In cases where it’s a high-risk pregnancy (diabetes, multiples, other medical conditions) it’s the only option. There was no way Kate Gosselin could deliver the sextuplets vaginally.

Too Posh to Push

We live in a performance and results oriented society. Natural childbirth offers too much of a margin for some schedules. Celebrity moms, career-track moms, and many others are electing for the “scheduled C.” An even more disturbing trend is the c-section and tummy tuck package deal.

The motivation behind an elective c-section is often fear. Much of what we know is from the media we absorb. In movies and on television, 3-month old babies are cast as newborns. A 3 month old baby is significantly larger than a newborn. A woman might see that “newborn” on TV and think, “no way am I going to push something that big out of me!!!”

The Choice is Ultimately Yours

I’m only qualified to speak to you about this from the father’s point of view. I wasn’t the one whose body would be irreversibly altered by this experience. I wasn’t the one doing the pushing. I wasn’t the one who could opt to be medicated. However, I have made decisions in the past while disregarding an entire set of data that in retrospect would have changed the decision I ultimately made. Those decisions are insignificant next to the birth of my child.

The birth of a child is the most profound experience you will ever have. All of the options available to you are worthy of your due consideration.

Buy “The Business of Being Born” on DVD.

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Smoking and Parenting Don’t Mix

May 22nd, 2008 . by 21st Century Dad

“Smoking kills. If you’re killed, you’ve lost a very important part of your life.” – Brooke Shields (1982)

My Own Battle With Smoking

smoking a cigarette

Photo: Porcelaingirl

A few bloggers I read regularly have talked about their struggle with smoking. It’s a habit I’ve struggled with for most of my life, but I think this time, I’ve quit for good. I knew that when my daughter was born, I had to quit smoking.

When I was single and perusing the dating sites, it really limited my choices. Very few non-smokers would tolerate a smoker. It is often a deal-breaker. The limited pool from which I could choose from also translated into limited success. My self-esteem took a double hit. This nasty habit left me dateless on many nights. When I quit (for whatever length of time it was), I had more dates.

Renee has been wonderful to me since day one. I was on the slippery slope of smoking relapse when I met her, and was back on the puff-wagon within a couple months after we started dating. I refrained from smoking when we were together, but there were times when I indulged. Then we started spending even more time together. It wasn’t actively discouraged, so I continued to smoke.

The Effects of Smoking

Other media channels have done a better job of describing the basics. Here are some of my observations:

  • You’re lighting something on fire and breathing in the fumes
  • One guy told me that he smoked 3 packs a day for over 40 years. That’s almost 1 million cigarettes!
  • A pack-a-day habit is a $150 hole in your budget. A fellow dad blogger tells me that he and his wife both smoke a pack a day. That’s a car payment.

“Please Don’t Smoke, Daddy.”

Please Don\'t Smoke, Daddy.I always knew I had to quit. Then Twilli was born. I REALLY had to quit. She won’t have conscious memories from this time, but neural pathways are being forged. I didn’t want to imprint the cigarette smell along with things like warm, safe, daddy, love, hugs, and snuggle time.

I grew increasingly self-conscious of my habit. I washed a lot of dishes by hand to further scrub the smell from my hands. After a cigarette, I would wash some dishes, brush my teeth, and sometimes change my shirt. A crying baby with a dirty diaper isn’t going to wait for daddy to go through that whole routine.

Slaying the Smoke Monster

A few months ago, I was taken down with a nasty flu. I could barely breathe. How could I smoke through that? I spent 4 days in bed. I didn’t want to smoke. After the 3 day hump, I didn’t want another cigarette. I also lost 10 pounds, which I’m happy to report remain lost. I’ve lost another 10 pounds since. Maybe it’s all that bike riding I’ve been doing lately.

I quit smoking, but I wasn’t ready to quit nicotine. I tried a product called Ariva. It’s a pressed tablet of tobacco that dissolves in your mouth. It’s actual tobacco rather than pharmaceutical nicotine. That’s what was missing from the gum, the lozenges, the patch, and other nicotine replacement therapies. Ariva is also the same price as a pack of cigarettes while the replacement therapies cost more. I used joesgoals.com to track my progress of weaning myself off the tablets.

The Effects of Smoking on Babies and Children

“Crack babies” and “heroin babies” get all the coverage in the media. What about the Marlboro Baby?

One of the select bits of conventional wisdom I subscribe to is for pregnant women to abstain from smoking. It really does have the deleterious effects claimed by the most fervent doomsayers.

Our friend Steve is a smoker who is trying to quit. His wife said that it was going to be even more difficult for him than most. Steve’s mother smoked during pregnancy, so Steve has been addicted to nicotine since before birth! I had not considered that as one of the negative effects of smoking during pregnancy.

“Crack babies” and “heroin babies” get all the coverage in the media. What about the Marlboro Baby?

Before this revelation, I thought that children of smokers became smokers simply due to modeling of behaviors. Smoking during pregnancy imprints this nicotine dependency upon a malleable brain. I know my mother had smoked during at least one pregnancy. Both of my sisters smoke. The last time I visited my mother, I was standing out on the porch with my mother and my sisters. We all had cigarettes in one hand and beers in the other. My sister quipped, “This is an activity the whole family can enjoy!”

Kicking the Habit

If you’re a smoker, you can quit. I will be your cheerleader, not a self-righteous finger pointer. I support you in your decision. It won’t be easy, but you can do it. I’ve tried several methods including cold turkey, weaning, smokeless tobacco, Zyban™, the gum, the patch, and the lozenges. The key for me is persistence. If I fall off the horse, I’m getting back on right away.

The one thing that helps me the most is a focus on all the positives. I think about the money I save, the health benefits, the self-esteem boost, the sense of accomplishment, and a host of other things. My focus is on what I achieved or gained rather than what I’m avoiding, running away from, or lost. BTW, this works on other areas of your life too.

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