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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Take Better Photos of Your Children – Use Window Light

August 4th, 2008 . by 21st Century Dad

You can take great photos today, with the camera you own right now.

twilli piePhotography literally means, “writing with light.” The quality of the light dictates the quality of your photograph more than the camera you are using. Finding great light will improve the quality of your photographs more than buying a new camera.

Finding the Light

One of the best locations for a photograph is next to a window, preferably one facing the north. Professional photographers spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars on specialized lighting equipment to duplicate this quality of light in the studio. You can have it for free.

I am a big fan of using flash creatively, but knowing how to find great light is just as important as knowing how to create it. Besides, if you know how to find good light, you can use any camera.

What Settings Do I Use?

The best part about using window light is, you can fire away in PhD Mode, or “Push Here Dummy.” Just be sure to turn off the flash. You’re trying to avoid the harsh, unflattering look of direct flash here. There may be enough ambient light for the camera to decide flash isn’t necessary. Consult your camera’s manual to find out how to turn it off.

Twilli by the window.During the day, the light outside your house is several times brighter than the light inside. Don’t put your subject between the window and the camera, unless of course, you want a silhouette. Your camera may also have a “backlight” setting that helps you out in a situation like this.

I used my point-and-shoot camera in auto mode to take the photos you see here. I did a little tweaking in Photoshop, but with a little practice, you can get great images right out of the camera. You don’t have to plant your child right in front of the window. Open up those drapes or blinds and let the light come in. You’ll end up with a large and directional source of light that gives shape and definition.

twilli by the window

A Few More Tips

Your toddler is a fast little bugger. How many times have you missed the shot due to that darn shutter lag that point-and-shoot cameras still have? It’s gotten better, but there’s still a little lag time. It feels even longer if you’ve ever had the pleasure of using a DSLR.

  • A tried-and-true method is to do a half-press of the shutter to let the camera’s auto-focus lock on. This will take a half a second or so. When your little one is in the frame, press the shutter all the way down. This should increase the number of keepers you get. Don’t worry about perfect focus. Your point-and-shoot camera has some fudge factor here.
  • You can Google “the rule of thirds,” for the long explanation. The short version goes like this: don’t put your subject dead-center in the frame. A slightly off-center composition makes for a more compelling photograph.
  • Get down on the floor! People and children look their best when the film plane (or sensor plane) is perpendicular to the floor. This works for pet pictures too. Standing up and shooting down distors perspective and makes heads loom large. Full body length portraits are actually taken with the camera at waist level.
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Has it Really Been 9 Months?

May 8th, 2008 . by 21st Century Dad

Twilli - then and nowRenee posted about Twilli reaching the 9 month mark today. We acknowledge this milestone on the 7th of each month.

Every expectant couple hears, “it goes by so fast.” Sometimes it’s followed by, “take lots of pictures.”

To commemorate the milestone, I used to set up the whole Strobist rig and dress her in a nice outfit. I haven’t done that this month… or last month. The number of photos I take of Twilli is on a downward trend. Maybe I just get a higher percentage of “keepers.”

Our video coverage has been spotty. It will have to step up soon. Twilli is quickly approaching the day she will take her first real steps. Just like we were ready with the “baby bag” during the last month of pregnancy, we must keep a video camera in a high state of readiness.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve neglected my family duty by not taking more photos. I have more digital imaging horsepower at my disposal than most of my peers. Now I realize I’d rather have a few great photos of my children than a bunch of mediocre ones.

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Taking a Quality Time Time-Out With The Baby

May 2nd, 2008 . by 21st Century Dad

Twilli and Mommy model the new podaegiWhile I have some time between daytime contract jobs, I decided to spend most of the day yesterday with Twilli. We had a blast hanging out together all day long. I even helped out Renee by taking pictures of her new podegi baby carrier (pictured here). Yes, that can be considered working on the blog, but it was still time I spent with the baby. Today, it’s back to work full force!

Twilli is incredibly fun to be around right now. As she approaches the 9 month mark, her awakening to the world around her continues at an alarming rate. She is recognizing more within her surroundings. She is using her newfound, albeit limited, mobility at every chance she gets.

I learned a lot just by indulging a little in her. It felt great to spend an extended period of time with my daughter. I have to work a little harder today, but it was worth it.

Regardless of your schedule, make the time to be with your baby. I tell people all the time, “she’ll only be a baby once.”

The quality time I spend with Twilli is a spiritual and emotional boost. How many of you remember the old computer game F15 Strike Eagle? There was a glitch in the game that allowed you to continue flying even though you’ve run out of fuel. Pressing any of the number keys 1-9 and the “A” key (for afterburner) made the engines fire a short puff of propulsion. The smile, a moment of discovery, a squeal of delight as I make a goofy face, or a funny moment is like those little puffs of propulsion that I need just when I think I’m totally out of gas.

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How to Prepare for a Baby’s Arrival on a Budget

April 10th, 2008 . by 21st Century Dad

Isn’t it amazing that such a small mammal requires so much stuff? Preparing for a baby’s arrival is a huge undertaking. You don’t have to buy brand new. Used is perfectly OK. I will even tell you how to get things for free!

Are you one of those people who likes shiny, brand new things? Get over it! You’re about to have a baby. Some outfits are worn only once or twice as babies grow so rapidly. Clothes still look fresh enough even after a couple hand-me-down cycles. Maternity clothing only gets a couple months of wear as moms expand into the next size up.

Friends and Family

Once you share the joyous news, anyone with available hand-me-downs will speak up. The easy way out would be to just donate the items, but most people would rather offer their help someone they know. Our friend Barb has a daughter a year older than Twilli. She gave us an entire suitcase full of very cute and stylish clothing.

Thrift Stores

You can’t blog about bargains without mentioning thrift stores. Just about everything you’d need except diapers, wipes, and formula is available here. If the expectant grandparents are around, bring them along. The Goodwill chain of thrift stores here offer discounts to senior citizens. On a recent trip to the thrift store, we found an outfit identical to one Twilli had as a newborn, except this one is her current size.

Freesource and Freecycle

I’ve used Freesource and The Freecycle Network to de-clutter my house. When we learned the joyous news, we knew we had to work the groups for free baby stuff.

In large metropolitan areas, there are several groups that you can join within reasonable distance. Baby items are abundant, offered almost daily. You might also score some items that aren’t posted to the boards when you pick up the item you claimed. We got most of the clothes, bedding, blankets, a bath basin, a bassinet, and some toys.

Craigslist

We got our crib for $40 and changing table for $35. The lady who sold us the changing table also threw in a bunch of other goodies she had lying around. Children grow out of things. They are fickle creatures. Many nearly-new toys and items are sold here too.

The Baby Shower and Gift Registry

I’m not saying you should mooch off your friends and family, but creating a baby registry is a great way to obtain some of the items you will need. Your friends and family are genuinely happy for you and they want the opportunity to express their joy. They don’t want to play a guessing game. Ask and ye shall receive. Sometimes, a group will pool together to get you a big-ticket item, but this is not the time to be greedy. Some retailers offer you a discount if you buy items on your registry that your friends and family did not pick out.

Twilli’s mom and I were overwhelmed at the show of support at our baby shower. We’re socially outgoing and we were able to leverage the relationship equity that we spent years building up. Traditionally, this is a women-only affair, but we elected to have a co-ed baby shower to be more inclusive of all our friends. The friends who could not make it to the big bash and our out-of-town friends also came through. We got to know our UPS driver very well.

We couldn’t have pulled it off ourselves. Our dear friend Shantelle is a party and event planner. Part of her gift to us was to provide her services. Now she has built up a successful business organizing tea parties for young girls. You better believe that in a few years, Twilli will be having a tea party.

Take What You Can Get… You’ll Need It.

The arrival of a child is an exciting time. It’s easy to get carried away and fall into the trap of consumerism. You want the very best for your child, but the very best also means that you, as parents, are financially responsible parents too.

When you announce that you are expecting your first child, everyone you meet, especially people who already have children, become very supportive. You’ll need all the help you can get. Accept it graciously. It takes a village.

 

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