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Knitted in the Womb Notes

Location: Allentown, PA

I'm a Christian wife and a mom to three daughters and two sons. I'm a member of the board of directors of EmPoWeReD Birth. In my "spare time" I'm a doula, and a certified childbirth instructor.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Using LATCH to keep your kids safe?

Then you will want to read this. LATCH stands for "Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children." It is a system of anchors installed in the vehicle seat bite (where the seat back and bottom meet) to which hooks from the bottom of a child safety seat are attached; and tether anchors installed in the vehicle behind the seating location (can be in the floor, bottom of the seat frame, shelf by the rear window, or ceiling) to which a "tether" from the top of a forward facing seat is attached. This system is supposed to make installing child safety seats simpler, since the endless variations of vehicle seat belts can often be incompatible with particular styles of child safety seats.

It seems that the use of LATCH is causing an unexpected problem...inquisitive kids are playing with the unused seatbelt that is hanging next to them, and getting caught in it. One child has been strangled to death, another came pretty close.

If you are using LATCH there is a simple action you can take to prevent this kind of incident. Remove your child's safety seat from the car. Buckle the seatbelt. If it has a "switchable retractor" turn the retractor "on" by pulling out the entire length of the belt, then let it retract. Then reinstall the child safety seat using the LATCH system. While you are in there fixing things, take a few seconds to buckle any unused lap-only belts so they aren't left flying around in a crash. Also look to remove any unnecessary loose items in your vehicle so that they don't become projectiles in a crash.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Rebel in a diaper...

Rebellion. According to scripture it is bound up in our hearts. As humans, we often chafe against authority and desire to rebel.

But just when does rebellion start? Recently my husband and I chose to leave our church home of nearly 7 years. One of the issues was a disagreement over when rebellion starts. Our church had chosen to advocate an author who defines rebellion as even an infant who continues to struggle during a diaper change after being told not to. Another example given in this book of rebellion was an 8 month old child who was examining books on a shelf, then after being reprimanded by Mom, returned to the shelf presumably to pick up where she left off.

But is this really rebellion? I don't think so. In my mind (and we all know how warped it is... ;-) in order for someone to rebel, that "someone" has to have an identified authority to rebel against. And this is where we get into a problem when we say that infants are rebelling.

Many years ago a wise woman told me that the primary root cause of child abuse is age inappropriate expectations--parents who expect behavior from their children that is not appropriate to expect at the child's age. To avoid that pitfall she reccommended that I educate myself about normal childhood development. Fortunately I had already taken a class on childhood development which I have since supplemented with further learning as I have undertaken the momentous task of mothering.

Something I learned back in that class was the concept that infants do not understand that other people want different things than they want. If the infant wants to each Cheerios and hates brocolli, they can not comprehend that another person would want brocolli. In testing, children about 10-12 months old will readily feed a parent Cheerios. But when directed to feed the parent a food that the child does not like--perhaps brocolli--they will get a confused look on their face, and feed the parent Cheerios.

Is the child rebelling against the instruction? NO! The child simply can not comprehend that the parent would want brocolli, and thus feeds Cheerios. Between about 14-18 months of age this changes. They child may be confused, but will give the parent brocolli when asked to do so. The child is starting to understand that other people want different things than the child does.

Does an infant have a will? YES! Does the infant get angry when that will is twarted? YES! But is the infant capable of rebellion? I don't think so.

So going back to the infant struggling during a diaper change. The infant wants to explore the world, crawl away. The infant has no concept--even if told by the parent--that the parent wants the child to stay still. (do we really even know that a 6-7 month old infant understands what the parent is saying???) So what is the parent to do? The diaper needs to be changed! A wise parent will be fully ready to do a speedy diaper change, and will creatively think of ways to entertain the infant during the process--kisses, zerberts, funny voice, toys, diapers turned into puppets...

Thursday, March 03, 2005

A Safe Place to Birth...

The contractions start...the anxious parents-to-be gather up a few last minute things and head off to the hospital--confident that they are going to the safest place in the world to have a baby--after all, it is an American hospital!

Sadly, this is far from the truth. Recently the CIA updated their "World Factbook" statistics on infant mortality. 226 nations are listed, with those who have the highest infant mortality listed first. Given this, most Americans would proudly expect America to rank at least over 200--but certainly over 220--the top of the top!


That's right...if this were a percentile ranking, America would rank in the 81st percentile--18% of the listed nations have a lower infant mortality rate. And this is hardly "news," as our ranking hasn't changed much in a good many years. If the presidential elections don't make you want to move to Canada, then perhaps if you are an expectant parent the infant mortality statistics should--Canada's ranks at 204 with an infant mortality rate 27% lower than that in America.

Now to be certain, we are far from the worst--with an infant mortality rate of 191 deaths per 1,000 live births, Angola tops the list with an infant mortality rate that is nearly 30 times as high as America's rate of 6.5 deaths per 1,000 live births.

But America's rate amounts to 0.65% of all live born babies, which comes to just under 27,000 deaths each year. To put this in some perspective, the CIA reports that 0.6% of Americans are living with HIV/AIDS, and 14,000 Americans die from the effects of this disease each year. Who hasn't heard of the AIDS crisis in America? But who has heard of the infant mortality crisis? Who has heard that if we were more similar to Singapore, which has an infant mortality rate of 2.29, over 17,000 more infants per year in America would celebrate their first birthday? There is a problem when countries such as Cuba, Macau, the Czech Republic, and Hong Kong have lower infant mortality rates than America!

So what are these countries doing different than what we are doing? What technologies do they have that we don't have? Many people might be surprised to learn that it is often the LACK of technology that makes birth safer! The countries that consistently have lower infant mortality rates (and maternal mortality rates as well) than America often have a much higher rate of midwifery care, and a higher rate of out of hospital birth. Many of these countries have midwife attended birth rates of up to 60% vs. a paltry 10% in America, and some have homebirth rates of up to 40%.

How does technology make birth less safe? It's not just having it that makes birth less safe. To be certain, having technology around and available for high risk cases is part of what makes birth safer in countries like England (the United Kingdom), Denmark, Switzerland, and Finland. The problem is when it is "routinely" used. In America we see many forms of technology being inappropriately used on women who do not have a medical need for it. For example, induction of labor is becoming so common that it is almost "routine." Women can frequently ask to be induced for no medical cause beyond being "tired of being pregnant," in many cases their Dr's order inductions without medical cause even when the women do not ask for them. The women are rarely counciled about the increased risk they put themselves and their baby in when undertaking an induction--in fact, many are falsely told that to wait for labor to start naturally is what bears the increased risk! One of my clients was told that to refuse an induction at just 5 days after her "due date" (40 weeks from "last menstrual period"--LMP) for nothing more than being "late" she was risking the death of her baby. She was told this again when she refused at 7 days after her "due date." Why were scare tactics like this used when the average first pregnancy, as measured by a Harvard study, is 41 weeks 1 day after LMP; and her first ultrasound--in keeping with her longer than average cycles--actually set her due date 7 days later than LMP would predict to boot?

As for me, I'll be looking to the countries of my forefathers/mothers for "bragging rights" on infant mortality:

  • Austria-maternal grandparents-4.66 deaths per 1,000 live births
  • Germany-paternal grandfather-4.16 deaths per 1,000 live births
  • Sweden-paternal grandmother-2.77 deaths per 1,000 live births

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Discipline of Children

In the interest of not "taking over" Anne's blog in her comments section...I'm going to post some comments here on my blog in regards to a discussion that has gotten going in the comments to one of her posts...

Molly said:
A great example is the Pearl's themselves. From everything one can read, it seems their 5 children turned out wonderfully.

Well...I think that I turned out "wonderfully" too. That doesn't mean that anyone should emulate my parents' methods. {snip--go to Anne's blog if you really want the details}

I wanted to follow up just a bit on the concept that the Pearl’s kids turned out so great…this is a comment that one of their daughters made in an article:

For years, I stumbled around trying to get a grip on my emotions (anger, hurt, or disappointment), but it never worked. I could suppress them for a time, but then I would let go and erupt like a volcano, letting insults fly. Also, once emotions were let loose, it was easier to turn them towards the little ones when they misbehaved.

(Editted...Color me embarrassed...when I went to get the URL where this quote could be found on the Pearl's "No Greater Joy" website I realized that it was NOT one of Pearl's daughters who wrote the article, but rather someone named "Marie." However...I still stand by my position that just because children seem to have turned out "wonderfully," that doesn't always tell the whole story.)

Here we have her revealing just a glimpse into her “real world,” and it isn’t exactly pretty. Its actually very familiar to me, as I had the same struggles until I addressed the issues from my childhood. We need to remember that just as we put our “best foot forward” when we go out in public, so does every other family. What is seen on the outside is not always reality. What people thought of my family growing up was that my parents must be doing a great job because my siblings and I were so helpful and obedient…and my brother and I did SO well in school (he went to college a year early, I skipped a year in high school…lets just say we were motivated to get out of our parents’ house…).

Molly said:

And the Pearl's condoning abuse within the family, especially incest? I'm thinking this may be yet another case where they are being taken out of context... The Pearl's tell the wife of an incestuous man to call the police, report him, testify AGAINST him, and get him locked up for a long time. If she wants to stay married to him, fine, but to keep him in jail for as long as the children are still in the home. I fail to see how that is a terrible horrible thing...?

I never said they "condoned" abuse or incest within the family, I said that "their position on abuse within the family, especially incest, also sickens me." And it does. Michael instructs that a women in a physically abusive relationship should stay in it, and comes pretty close to saying it is her fault in my opinion. I believe that he does "allow" that she can be separated from him if he is physically harming the kids, but quite frankly, I don't feel like taking the time right now to verify that.

As for incest...its hard to get a "stranger rapist" locked up for the 20-40 years that Pearl advocates even with a solid conviction against him, let alone an incestuous father. There is often little to no physical evidence as the incest often is revealed significantly after it occurred. It is EXTREMELY hard to make a conviction for incest "stick." Even if it does, the sentence is usually light. Even if the sentence is not light, Pearl does not say "if she wants to stay married to him, fine." He says that she should stay married to him--implies that she MUST to be in obediance to scripture--and that she should take him back into her bed (he specifies that) upon release from prison regardless of whether or not he has repented (though he assumes the father will repent, as he describes prisons as a great place for contemplation and repentance...). What kind of message does that send to the victims if mom takes dad right back--regardless of whether or not he repented? What kind of risk is she exposing her grandchildren to? What kind of a person do you think he is going to come out of prison being? Given how child abusers are treated in prison, do you really think he is going to be a Godly husband to the wife who turned him over to the authorities?

For the record, I know someone very well who was sexually abused by her older brother (4-5 years older than her) for several years. Her other brother was aware of the abuse, but kept a pact of silence with her that she insisted on because she did not want the abusive brother to go to jail. When she finally revealed the abuse her family got councilling. I met her at that point in her life. Because her brother was no longer in a position where he could abuse her or at that time in a position where he had any access to other young girls that he could abuse, she did not report the abuse to the police. It took several years, but the relationships in her family have been restored. Her brother, several years after the abuse was revealed, began to be convicted of his sin, and asked her forgiveness. The change in their relationship has been beautiful. She trusts her formly abusive brother, and has no fear at all that he would abuse his own daughter the way he abused her. If you were to meet her today and see her interact with this brother you would never suspect what happened between them. I know that restoration CAN happen, and when it does...that is a wonderful thing and a display of God's power.

But sadly, that is the only example of restoration I can give you. All of the other women I know who were sexually abused--and I know many--can tell you sad stories of attempts at Biblical reconcilliation that were rebuffed, leading to broken families...or others who simply never confronted their abusers and thus the relationships remain strained or broken.

Molly said:
What happened in your childhood is disgusting. But do you, for example, stop using the bathroom now because they were abusive towards you (regarding only letting you go three times a day?). I've been known to make my children wait to go to the bathroom (when we're in the middle of a trip to town and have 5 minutes to go, and they announce that they have to pee or they'll die!). *grin* Is that abuse, or is it just practical (no bathrooms in sight for 5 minutes!).
Is all discipline a bad thing, because your parents abused their parental authority? You see what I'm saying...
The analogy doesn’t work. My parents were unreasonably restricting a necessary bodily function. To make the analogy a LITTLE bit closer to “working” we would have to go with me “never restricting the child’s access to the bathroom.” And as you point out, that is unreasonable as well. There is a middle ground—sometimes the child will have to wait. But I don’t arbitrarily tell my children how many times they are “allowed” to use the bathroom each day.

I never said that “all discipline is a bad thing.” Discipline is necessary and commanded by scripture. But I don’t think that the Pearl’s brand of “the rod is magic” discipline is right.

Do I think that all discipline in the form of corporal punishment--"spanking" or "swatting" is abuse? This is something that I've been really grappling with over the last couple of months. It seems too judgemental to out and out say that any use of corporal punishment of children is abusive. So I've attempted to draw an analogy, and it has steered my thinking a lot.

Is it appropriate for a husband to “discipline” his wife? I think it is. I think that part of the role of a husband as the head of the household is to teach his wife, to help guide her in Godly maturity. My husband does not hit me to “discipline” me. He prays with/for me. He talks to me. He models the correct way to do things, perhaps even walking me through something step by step. He suggests books for me to read. If I reach toward a power tool that he is using while it is turned on he does not "swat my hand" and tell me to keep away. He might grab ahold of my hand and pull it away (or he might verbally warn me of the danger), but he does not swat me.

I would assume based on reading some of Molly's blog that she would agree with this concept of discipline between a husband and wife. Given that assumption…is ever NOT abusive for a husband to hit his wife to “discipline” her? I don’t believe it is. I think every time a husband hits his wife to “discipline” her it is an abusive event. Now that doesn’t mean I think that the over all relationship is abusive—it may not be. He may be deeply grieved to “have” to hit her, but may feel it is something he must do so that she will learn godly behavior. But I do believe that regardless of the motivation, if a husband hits his wife to “discipline” her that it would be an act of abuse.

There was a time in the not so distant past that the corporal punishment of wives by their husbands was defended in the mainstream using verses in Proverbs discussing the rod of correction for the back of fools ("domestic discipline" is still promoted by some people, but thankfully it is no longer accepted by the Christian culture at large). I think that was a gross misrepresentation of the scriptures. Similarly, I think that attempting to use the verses in Proverbs that connects the rod to parenting in an attempt to support spanking of young children is a gross misrepresentation of the meaning of these scriptures.

So yes, I do believe that corporal punishment of children, even if it occurs in the context of a loving family relationship, is abusive. It's more "politically correct" to say that "I don't believe that the scripture endorses spanking, but perhaps some parents can use it in a way that is beneficial and good..." But I think that is taking the "easy" way out of the question, straddling the fence in many ways. It is not really "easy" for me to say in a public forum that I believe all corporal punishment of children is abusive. I am saying that the majority of parents in America have engaged in behavior toward their children that I believe is abusive. I am saying that I have engaged in behavior toward my children that I believe is abusive. I struggle with this. It creates "cognitive dissonance." But it is where I am at right now.