The Dirty Business of Capitalism (AKA you can now support this blog)

Hello all! This isn’t a real post (but we did have one of those yesterday! and I’ve got another one for you next week!) it’s more of a begging-for-money post. Actually I’m not exactly begging for money (I’m not NPR…) but I did want you to know that it’s now pretty easy for you to support the work I do here, via the magic of paypal!

If you look up at the top of the blog, you’ll see a support tab, which will take you to a page where you can, if you choose, donate any sum of money. I’m not here to make anyone feel guilty, I definitely understand that sometimes we can’t afford to pay for things, even things that we love. But this is work that I do for no pay whatsoever, so if you are able and interested, that support tab will be there for you. Or, if you prefer to donate right now without clicking through to another page, you’ll find the donate button below as well.


Donate Button with Credit Cards

 

Thanks for reading and sorry to bother you! I just know that some people read the site exclusively through their wordpress reader, and don’t follow it on social media, and I wanted to make sure that everyone knew that donations are now an option. Donations are now an option! Ok, thanks for your time, here’s a kitty.

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An Evolution In Plastic

Thursday, my various social media feeds were lit up with grown adults excited about barbie dolls. What were they excited about? They were excited about diversity! Barbie is becoming more diverse!

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this is Blanche’s excited face

Well, sort of.

I can hear everyone calling me a naysayer and a Negative-Nancy even as I type this up. I’ve just got a bad attitude. I just expect everyone to be perfect. No progress is ever good enough for me. Sure, these new barbies are not without their flaws, but surely I can appreciate how much better this is? Barbie now has (stops to check the numbers) “4 body types, 7 skin tones, 22 eye colors, and 24 hair styles.” So why am I being a grump about this?

***

As I see more and more glowing write-ups all over the internet, I have to wonder, how many of them have actually taken the time to look at what the actual Barbie website has to say about the new dolls. Sure, up at the top it proudly announces “The Evolution of Barbie” but right below that, in smaller print, it says what we really need to know. “The New 2016 Fashionistas Line” is what the subheading says, and to me, it says a lot.

And then, if you will, scroll down even farther with me.

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image from barbie.com

Notice anything?

That’s right. Those exciting new body shapes and skin tones that make Barbie more realistic? They’re only available in the one line. Sure sure, mattel says, you can be a “curvy girl!” But a curvy girl who is president? or even a curvy girl who is a game developer? Outrageous! Not going to happen!

In fact, I combed the website, and there is no indication anywhere that Mattel has any plans whatsoever to use these new body shapes in any other lines ever. This is a single isolated product line, which was created to appease millennial parents (like me!) because Barbie is so strongly associated with negative and unrealistic body image that they’re losing money over it (again). Parents are debating whether or not this is a scam to sell more Barbie clothes (because hey, now you’ll have multiple sizes!) but I don’t see any evidence whatsoever that they plan to make additional clothing in the new sizes at all.

What would have actually made a difference, what might have actually inspired some actual change and inclusivity, would be if Mattel had chosen to release several new characters, a la Skipper. Like Skipper and Ken, a new character could appear in multiple product lines, have her own outfits, and she too could have the opportunity to be a doctor, or an architect, or whatever.

Instead, what we have is a completely isolated product line. Far from telling girls that they can be anything, it reinforces the idea that only a select few of us have those kinds of options. Everyone else — the curvy, petite, and um, tall? among us — have to settle. We can’t be game developers, but we can, apparently, be “fashionistas.” Just, you know, fashionistas with a grand total of 1-3 outfits. Oh, er, um, ok…

***

I want to take a closer look at the curvy dolls, though. As a fat woman, this is my area of interest. And let’s face it, just like in real life, it is the curvy dolls that have the least options. If you are a child, playing make believe with your dolls, you do what works. Sure, you don’t really have enough clothes for your petite and tall dolls, but you might be able to make do. The petite doll can probably wear some of the classic doll’s outfits, they’ll just be loose. The tall doll can probably get into most of the tops, and even some skirts and dresses, just not the pants. But the curvy doll? The curvy doll is screwed. And when you loose the 1-3 outfits that came with your curvy doll, and can’t get any more, she’s going to end up naked at the bottom of the toy box.

The other thing is, those curvy dolls? Well let’s look at something.

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Ok, yes, she’s definitely a little wider than the classic doll, particularly in the hips. Her calves may also be a bit wider. But she still sports an impressive thigh gap, has a cinched waist, and is suitably hourglass. Of course, the argument is going to be made that Barbie is naturally going to show the most attractive version of each of these different body types… but it is depressing and disheartening that the most attractive version of the doll whose sole virtue is being larger just happens to be the thinnest possible doll that could still be considered curvy. She still has twiggy arms.

Fat children are going to play with this doll. And you know what they’re not going to get from that experience?

“Oh wow, this girl is fat just like me but see she can still be beautiful and do impressive and interesting things!”

No. Instead they’ll get…

“Even the fat Barbie is skinnier than me, so I must be really really fat. Also I lost all of her shirts again. Shit.”

***

A few words on race. I’ve focused, in this post, primarily on the various body shapes. This isn’t an accident. As a white woman, I don’t feel qualified to discuss the implications of greater diversity for children of color. My hunch is that, having dolls with, for example, hair that is not smooth and straight, is a Good Thing. Though again, it would be a far better thing if it was applied outside of this one line. If anyone knows of any POC talking about this, please let me know in the comments and I will link to their analysis here.

***

A final thought. The quote that’s going around, in every article about this from the Time cover story to the smallest blog, the question that supposedly led to these “changes” is “If you could design Barbie today, how would you make her a reflection of the times?”

It’s not a bad question to pose to the people who literally do design Barbies today, in fact it’s probably the first question they should be asked every day upon arriving at work. But I find the answer troubling. More body types and more ethnicities is not a reflection of the times, there have always been women of different skin tones and sizes. Mattel is trying to lump a teeny tiny bit of size acceptance and racial variety in with cute “modern” outfits. And it implies that they have zero cultural culpability for the role they have played in normalizing thinness, whiteness, and blondness. When they try to make this about changing times, they imply that it was fine in 1959, or 1971, or even 1999, to idealize this one type of woman, and literally pretend that the others did not exist.

And when we say that these new dolls reflect the diverse world girls today live in (I can’t find the exact quote right now but I’ve read at least two articles claiming something like that) we’re still centering the experiences of thin, white, able-bodied girls. And that’s the whole fucking problem.

 

Vaccines, Science, And Empathy

Look, I’ve been putting this one off for ages and ages. It’s not that I’m afraid to risk being controversial (I’m a working class queer non-monogamous mom who writes for the internet, that ship has sailed) it’s more that, well, I have a lot to say. I keep starting to write it down, and then I get distracted by something like my baby trying to stage dive off our bed, and then I remember something else I really should have said in the FIRST paragraph rather than the THIRD paragraph.

 

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(Image: Margot, a small black kitten, after being vaccinated, wearing a fancy bandage.)

 

As a weirdo who writes on the internet, I feel like it’s important for me to say something on the issue of vaccines. But I also want to say something relevant, and maybe even interesting, rather than just proudly proclaiming which “side” I’m on. I don’t know if I’m going to accomplish that. I don’t know if this post will ever be exactly what I want it to be. I’m going to post it anyways, because I’m sick of waiting for it to come together perfectly.

***

You may recall that I had decided to have children long before I met the person who is now my wife. In fact, I was eager to become a mom sooner rather than later, so talking about kids and parenting actually became part of our courtship. I don’t remember how or why the issue of vaccination came up, but I do remember that we were in the kitchen.

I said that vaccination was a non-negotiable topic for me, and that any child who came out of my body was damn well going to have all their shots. She was surprised. After all, I was (and am) pretty alternative. She knew I hoped to give birth to any children I might have at home. She knew I appreciated herbal medicine. Hell, I was the one who convinced her to try acupuncture. It seemed like I was all set to become an extremely crunchy mama, and everyone knows that crunchy mamas don’t vaccinate their kids.

But I felt like my stance wasn’t that surprising, and I told her so. You see, deep down, I’m a nerd.

***

I don’t have any illusions, I don’t think, that my little blog post will sway anyone’s opinion on the matter. I don’t think I can singlehandedly convince anyone who is anti-vaccine or vaccine-hesitant that vaccines are safe and effective. But I do think it’s important to speak up. And it’s important for people to see ,that despite the anti-vaccine claim that anyone who “does the research” will come to the conclusion that vaccines are dangerous and not worth the risk, there are plenty of us who did our research and choose to vaccinate our children.

As part of my commitment to my child, I know that the best way to protect him from some of the most dangerous childhood diseases is vaccination, and so he is vaccinated. As part of my commitment to community, I know that herd immunity is an important part of stopping dangerous diseases from gaining a foothold and also protecting those unable to be vaccinated, and so my child is vaccinated. As a huge history nerd, I find the stories of what life was like prior to the availability of vaccines absolutely abhorrent, and so my child is vaccinated. As a skeptic, I have carefully read the actual data available to us and concluded that in most cases it is safer to vaccinate than to not, and so my child is vaccinated.

***

All that said, I find the memes poking fun at anti-vaccine rhetoric more than a little upsetting. I’m going to admit something here. I sympathize with anti-vaccine parents.

I have a really hard time trusting doctors. It’s not because I’m not a trusting person, it’s because I’ve had a handful of really really bad experiences, and I know both from personal experience and from looking at history that doctors are far from perfect, and don’t always have their patients best interests at heart the way they should. I’ve had doctors tell me that a chronic illness was all in my head (and then prescribe an expensive pill for it anyways and seem surprised when I wanted to know what the pill was and what I should expect it to do!) and I’ve had doctors refuse to listen to me about my own body. I’ve had worse things happen. This past summer I had to leave the ER against doctor’s orders because I was left in a cold, dirty room, soaked in my own breastmilk, not allowed eat or drink but also not hooked up to an IV, for over six hours.
If you are uncomfortable with the medical world, and you are trying to look out for your child, it is natural to ask questions. It makes sense to me that parents would have questions about vaccination.
Unfortunately, many pediatricians are not willing to discuss the matter in a way that isn’t condescending and dismissive. Rather than treating concerned parents like mature and intelligent adult humans, they get frustrated and repeat that the shots are “safe and effective” without explaining why. Or worse, they just lean on a “well, this is what we do” attitude and offer no reassurance or explanation at all.

After that, all the vaccine hesitant parent has to do is a quick google search to find people online saying “you were right to be scared.”

If you have an anti-establishment bent (and let’s be real here, I certainly do) it’s easy to see how that could spiral out of control. This is not helped by the fact that the scientific information available is often difficult for lay people to read and interpret, and science writers contribute to the problem by turning preliminary studies into sensationalist headlines. For example, I recently read an article that referred to a study which showed that some humans can become addicted to some foods (no surprises there) and that a protein in diary products affects dopamine levels in the brain, thus contributing to the possibility of addiction. The headline? Cheese really is crack.

But we rarely talk about anti-vaccine parents as people who have been misled. Maybe part of that is because we’ve all had experiences with folks digging their heals in when we try to helpfully present reliable information, but still. When we talk about anti-vaccine parents as if they are all stupid, as if they all will just do whatever Jenny McCarthy says, as if they are all just a bunch of nut jobs who don’t actually care about their children or public health, we’re not being fair, and we’re certainly not helping. That’s not to say that parents aren’t responsible for their own parenting decisions (we all certainly are, and choosing not to vaccinate your children is potentially a dangerous decision). But if what we are really concerned about is the children, talking shit about their parents is never going to do anything positive for them.

***

A little over a year ago, I was pregnant, and there was a measles outbreak in California. It made me nervous, of course it did. I have friends who’s children are not vaccinated, and while I disagree with them pretty strongly, I try not to think about it too often. But suddenly I was worried. What if the measles came here? How would I handle this as a parent?

Another friend (who doesn’t have children) was talking with me about it at the time. She said that while she wasn’t glad about the measles outbreak (who could be glad about a measles outbreak?) she was glad to see vaccines getting more press coverage. She cocked her head to the side and said “you know, if I had had children five years ago, I wouldn’t have gotten them vaccinated. It would have seemed obvious like, ‘oh yeah, we’re weirdos, of course we don’t vaccinate.'”

I think about that while I’m trying to find my empathy.

***

I considered filling this post with a bunch of informative links, but again, I don’t think I’m going to convince anyone here. I did recently read this very thorough (and as far as I can tell, extremely accurate and well researched) critique of Dr Bob Sears’ supposedly moderate vaccine views. The case for why to vaccine has been made so well so many other places, I don’t know that I’m adding anything new to the conversation, and I don’t know that me spending all day compiling a list of resources for my relatively small number of readers is going to do anybody any good. Anyways, we probably shouldn’t be making family medical decisions based on blog posts, and that includes my blog posts!

Maybe what I’m hoping for with this though, is just a tiny bit more visibility. You can be a crunchy mom and still vaccinate. You can know doctors are not always right and still vaccinate. You can be a complete and total weirdo, and still vaccinate.

I’m doing it. I happen to think it’s the best option.

 

Night Parenting

Months ago, I started to write an essay about night parenting. It was one of those “we’re all in this together” and “in some ways we’re all just the same” type pieces. The crux of it was largely that regardless of your parenting style, if you are a parent, you have probably stared at nothingness with a crying child in the middle of the night. You have probably stolen a moment to look at the stars. You have probably felt lost and like there was no possible way you could do the Right Thing, and then hours later felt shocked and relieved that you made it through until the morning.

Somehow, we all survived the night.

“Yeah! You can whack those, with your plastic whale. It’s a new innovation. Called Whack-With-A-Whale.” My wife is saying to our infant, her eyes glazed over with a kind of sleepiness I don’t remember ever seeing in her, not even after our most intense nights of pre-parenthood partying.

I still believe in the piece. I still believe in the solidarity I now feel with other parents of very young children when I run into them at the ice-cream parlor and I say “how are you?” and they say “uh, tired” and then they laugh and stare vaguely off into the distance. I know them in those moments. Those moments are important.

But also everything has changed.

Two nights ago, we started sleep training.

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“Yeah! You could try whacking it with different plastic things. I see where you’re going with this.”

It’s something I never really thought I would do, sleep training. It’s a complicated issue, and the version we are doing is approximately the most gentle option we could find (aside from the laughable “just do whatever you usually do to get the baby to sleep, but do it a little bit less every night!” option, which, if it worked at all, no one would ever google “baby sleep” at all, I’m sure), but I had naively assumed that we would fall in a wholly different camp. What camp exactly, we were supposed to be in, is unclear to me today, because I have hardly slept and my child is hitting two plastic toys together as hard as he possibly can. It’s just possible that I’m wishy-washy. Three months ago, I was certain that I would never ever try any version of sleep training. Two nights ago, I was certain that I would never be able to write about the experience.

Not this, I thought, I could never write about this. It’s far too raw, far too emotional, it’s like trying to write a poem about your leg as someone cuts it off.

Anyways.

I wanted to write about how the loneliness of the night brings us together. I wanted to write about the miracle that the sunrise is. I wanted to write about the things that we share, regardless o the many things that divide our families.

But honestly, after two nights of sleep training, that feels like bullshit. Everything feels so specific. Each pain is an individual pain. Each joy is specific to my family. Sure, in spirit there are those similarities. Doubtless other parents have also thought they had everything perfectly planned out, and then stood next to the crib with their partner thinking “we have nothing planned out, we have never planned anything, what is a plan, nothing exists, what is life, maybe we should give up.” But that’s not something I can really think about now. All I can feel is the bizarre combination of being so proud of my son and so sad for him (and myself). All I can think about are the tiny specifics of our little family.

They way he likes to sit on as many toys at once as possible, like a baby dragon.

The way my wife knows how much it annoys me when she calls the toy keyboard a piano, and how sweetly she corrects herself.

The individual sound of our individual kettle whistling to tell us that it is time to make the coffee.

***

We have the Rad Dad book, which is a collection of essays from the Rad Dad zine, over the course of it’s existence. Despite the fact that neither of us — my wife and I — identify as a “dad,” it is definitely one of my favorite parenting books. And in it there is this essay that starts with night weaning. Let me see if I can find it.

“Yeah you can whack me with that toy if you need to. I’m not here to stop you. Well I’m here to stop you from lots of things, actually, but that’s not one of them.”

Here it is. It’s called Inside vs. Outside, and it’s by Jeremy Adam Smith. I read this essay once while we were planning to get pregnant, once while our child was a newborn, and now I supposed I am holding the book in my hand, likely about to read it for a third time. It has been inspirational to me. Here is the quote, about why the author and his partner were still choosing to co-sleep with their baby at 21 months.

Why keep him in the bedroom at all? Why Not just put him in a crib and close the door?

Because we don’t want to. We like having him in bed with us. He’ll get his own room someday. There’s no rush. In the meantime, however, we don’t want him pawing at Olli’s breasts every hour on the hour from midnight till six a.m.

I was inspired by that. I was inspired by the bravery of parents simply saying “hey, we like co-sleeping, so shut up” rather than justifying their choice with a bunch of theory about why it was best and what it was doing and which expert agreed with them. Reading that allowed me to admit that waking up next to my son for the past three months was a joy — an absolute joy — and that part of the reason I was doing it could simply be “I like this.”

However, in my excitement about that bravery and honesty, I think I missed the point. And this is maybe what I’ve been trying to get to, nursing this cold cup of milky coffee, all morning. This is the space between those universal experiences of parenting (parenting is hard, children are adorable, making decisions about their well being is agonizing) and those intensely personal specifics (my wife and I are homosexuals, I breastfeed on demand, we practice baby led weaning, and as of this week, sleep training).

I admired Jeremy Adam Smith for saying simply that he liked co-sleeping with his son. But somehow I missed the point, and used that admiration to make myself try to like co-sleeping for longer than I did. At some point, the third time I woke up to the baby laughing and pulling my hair as hard as he possibly could, I had to turn to my wife and show a little bravery myself. I had to admit that, despite the joy of cuddling with a little baby who loved me, it wasn’t working anymore, and the good part was over.

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***

“Maybe we could read a story. You wait here while Ma gets a book.”

Almost no experience is universal, and there are enough places on the internet trying to help you tap into the supposed universal experience of parenting. But maybe we can be kind to each other about our specifics (within reason), and hold each other up. Please be gentle with me this week.  I am a tender wreck, a crumbling mother trying desperately to do the best thing she can for her child, and hoping that that one word — trying — will make all the difference.

Links For January Eleventh

Hello! From time to time I am doing short link posts to share things elsewhere on the wide, expansive, internet that I think Post Nuclear readers may find of interest. This includes writing by myself, and others. Here you go!

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First, so I don’t look like a totally selfish jerk, stuff by other humans out there.

Brace Yourselves, Grammar Sticklers: Singular “They” Is The Word Of The Year

The Word of the Year is meant to encapsulate the most significant word or term of the year and it has often carried social or political significance. Last year, for instance, the linguists chose #blacklivesmatter, and in 2011, they chose “occupy,” in reference to Occupy Wall Street.

This is of particular importance to me right now, as “they” is the preferred pronoun of so many people that I love.

***

Musings of a very tired, still pregnant, scientist

The problem is that we’re stuck in a system with terrible parental leave policies. So, while I hope that I am an understanding mentor when it comes to arranging leave for people in my lab, I also am constrained in what I can do (given university policies, grant policies, etc.). But there are still things I can do. For example, I can try to arrange things so that there’s more analysis or writing (e.g., working on a review) around a woman’s due date, so that at least she can work flexible hours and not have to be in the lab at a particular time. But that still feels like a pretty inadequate solution.

Now that I’m full time parenting, rather than full time gestating, I haven’t been writing much about pregnancy. These are some really good thoughts on what pregnant and birth giving people are expected to endure for work, and how it’s a god damn problem.

***

When Forgiveness Isn’t a Virtue

Instead of focusing on healing and comfort, many survivors find themselves obsessing with forgiveness, trying to will away their trauma in order to “move on.” When they can’t do this, not only are they judged by those closest to them, they judge themselves as weak and trapped. The shame of being unable to forgive compounds the pain of the original hurt.

Honestly, it was impossible to choose a quote for this one. The whole piece is solid gold and if you’ve ever known a survivor of any kind of abuse (spoiler: you have, you do, trust me) than you should read the whole thing immediately.

***

…and for something a bit lighter…

Why More Women Are Choosing To Have Waterslide Births

Waterslide births give mothers control over their environment. Women can choose the slide to fit their specifications, depending on how fast they want to go and how many twists and turns they want to slide through while giving birth. Women who wish to maintain modesty can choose a closed tube for their slide.

An oldie but a goodie! Obvious satire (gods, I hope it’s obvious!) from Clickhole, this piece showed up in my life again this week and it is so much funnier to me now that I write for women’s sites and parenting sites. Yes, this is exactly what we sound like.

***

And now, a couple of things by me out there!

I Made 3 DIY Lactation Smoothies & Here’s What Happened

This was a really bad idea. I did it so you don’t have to.

and

No, My Child Will Not Be Going To The Zoo

I wrote about my extremely icky feelings about zoos, and how that relates to my parenting choices (yeah, not taking the kid to the damn zoo). Interestingly, this has been my first piece to get “a reaction.” People seem to mostly be reacting in one of two ways:

  1. “You obviously don’t know that zoos are better than they used to be (even though the piece clearly states that I *do* know that) and probably get all your information from PETA pamphlets from 1970.”
  2. “Cool article, but you should be vegan otherwise you are the worst.”

and

 

What David Bowie’s Career Meant To the Queer Community, Or At Least What It Meant To Me

because David Bowie died this morning, and I had feelings about it.

What I — A Totally Biased Mother — Think You Need For Your Baby

Note: Hello lovelies! If you are a regular reader here, you are probably used to my commentary on parenthood, family structures, social justice, and gender. TODAY IS A LITTLE BIT DIFFERENT. It’s more of a classic “mommy blog” style post. Why am I doing it? Well, when we were preparing to have a baby, I read approximately one thousand “what you REALLY need for baby” lists and I found people sharing their perspective to be really helpful. Now that our little human is over seven months old, I feel like I have a little bit of insight (what we used, what we didn’t use, etc.) and I’d like to share it with others!
So non-parents, you may want to sit this one out, or maybe share it with friends on the verge of parenting? I don’t know.

***

When I was in Junior High, in health class, there was a whole unit that should have been called Having A Baby Is Awful And Will Totally Kill You So Don’t Have Sex. When I pointed out that this unit actually had nothing to do with health, the teacher scolded me. Here she was, trying to convince teens not to be “loose” and the last thing she needed was my semantics!
Mind you, we could have easily talked about how horrible pregnancy can be, and it would have at least been related. But we didn’t. Instead, we each received a list of all the items we would need for a baby, and a catalogue for a department store. Our job was to find the items, tally up the total, and cry in fear because there was literally no way we could afford all that shit.

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When I showed my mother the assignment, she scoffed. She assured me that we could get most of those items elsewhere for cheaper, that I probably wouldn’t use them, that baby showers were a thing, and that if I was a teen mom I certainly wouldn’t be getting that four hundred dollar crib.

Basically, she didn’t understand that the assignment was not actually about baby furniture, it was about slut shaming.

(apparently I can’t write a blog post without social commentary!)

Ok, without further ado, here is what I, one biased mother on the internet, believe you probably need for your new baby.

 

Stuff You Really Need
This is the stuff I would suggest trying to have on hand, or mostly on hand, before there’s a baby in your house.

1. A Place For the Baby to Sleep

It could be a crib, a basinet, a cosleeper, whatever, but even if you are planning on exclusively cosleeping, there’s a huge benefit to having a dedicated plan to put the baby down when/if you need to. I suggest a crib, because the baby will grow out of all of the other options within three months (or two months if your kid is like mine) and a crib is safe even when they start rolling.

Speaking of safety, I also suggest buying the crib new. I know plenty of people who have got used cribs and been super happy with their children all survived. But you don’t want to accidentally end up with something that’s been recalled, and safety standards have changed. Beyond that, however, I don’t think what you spend or what you get makes much difference (outside of personal taste). We got our crib for something like $130 at target. We also used a moses basket in his first two months for the convenience of having him right next to our (low to the floor) bed. But we could have just put the crib mattress next to our mattress and that would have done the same thing.

2. A Carseat, even if you don’t have a car

Carseats are another safety issue, obviously. Even if you don’t have a car, it’s likely you’ll need to ride in a car with your baby at some point. If you give birth in a hospital, they won’t let you leave without one.

Do your research on this! What makes a carseat the safest possible way for your child to ride in a car is that it is installed correctly. If it’s not installed correctly, well, you almost might as well not have it. It turns out lots and lots of people are all installing their carseats wrong. Sorry. So you might not want to listen to your friends and relatives on this one, because they’re likely all doing it wrong. I know I sound like a jackass, but this is an area worth being a jackass. If you own a car, get one that’s easy to install in your car. If you don’t, get one that’s easy to install in lots of cars (it will still be harder in some). And for the love of — your child — take the time to learn how to install it correctly ahead of time. You can spend a lot or a little on your carseat, and spending more probably doesn’t make your kid any safer.

We don’t have a car, so we opted to skip the infant seat and start with a convertible carseat that supposedly was suitable for babies 5 pounds and up. Our baby was 8 pounds, and I will tell you getting him into that giant carseat was hell for the first month, and I deeply regretted our money making scheme. But after surviving that first month, it’s been great, and I’m routinely smugly happy that we didn’t get a seat we could only use for a year. I don’t know what to tell you, is what I’m saying.

3. Swaddling Blankets

You will need baby blankets. If you have a choice, get muslin swaddling blankets rather than those tiny receiving blankets. The reason is they will last longer if you are actually swaddling your baby, eventually you won’t be able to keep them in a receiving blanket at all (and that eventually could be soon, depending on your baby’s size). You will also probably be given blankets by well meaning friends and relatives, so you may be able to just coast on those. I like the swaddles though! We got a four pack of the a brand that isn’t that fancy brand everyone talks about. They’re cute, the baby still loves them, and sometimes my wife and I borrow them and pretend they are scarves.

4. A decent first aid kit

You’re going to want a thermometer, a nasal aspirator, a medicine dropper… maybe a couple other things? We got two different baby first aid kits that came in little pouches to keep everything in (handy for the diaper bag!) but honestly two is overkill. Also if you just have those items you could just put them in a small bag or container, then you’re good.

5. Some bottles, like three, and a drying rack

Even if you are determined to never give your kid an artificial nipple, something could go wrong. You could end up in the hospital like I did. It is better if no one has to run out and buy bottles in that case. Just have a couple. Not very many, a couple. I guess if you are exclusively bottle feeding, it makes sense to have more, but I don’t have any experience with that. In my experience, more bottles just means more dirty bottles in the sink. You don’t want that, that’s annoying. We ended up with hand-me-down bottles from friends and family, the bottles that came with my breast pump, the free bottles from the hospital, and the two bottles we registered for. We could have easily got by with just two bottles. Get three and you’re planning ahead.

Also get a dedicated drying rack. It doesn’t have to be one of those cute ones that’s FOR baby bottles, but it’s nice to have a separate place to put those things, especially if you are also washing breast pump pieces.

6. A breast pump if you are breastfeeding

Ok so your mileage may vary here. If you plan to formula feed, disregard.

I registered for a high quality hand pump and I love it. I also have a double electric pump, but I hate it. For whatever reason it hurts me to use, even though the hand pump doesn’t. I also don’t pump all that much, so using the hand pump isn’t a big deal. Friends who work full time out of the home assure me that they need the electric pump.

You can absolutely use your friend’s old pump, you just want to get new membranes for it, because they wear out.

7. Cloth diapers, like 25ish, a handful of covers

If you even think you might want to cloth diaper, I think it’s worth it to have some ahead of time. You could run out of disposables in the night and need something to put on the baby’s butt RIGHT NOW (this has happened to me) or you could decide disposables are too expensive for your family, in which case making the switch will be easier if you already have the stuff in the house. If you don’t end up cloth diapering, I hear the flat ones make great burp cloths. We got lucky and never really needed burp cloths, so that’s just what I’ve heard.

We like prefolds, and we got ours hand-me-down from a family that decided they were done with cloth. Do get enough to make a decent load of laundry, don’t get enough to make multiple loads. I think 25, 30 at the most, is a good number. The reason is you don’t want your diaper laundry to sit for more than 48 hours, so you don’t actually need to have diapers to last more than 2 days, unless you really really just like storing extra things you don’t use. I don’t. And if you’re anything like me, if you have more than 2 days worth of diapers, you’ll accidentally let the laundry pile up. It will get so gross. It has poop on it, for crying out loud.

Also obviously you need covers, but not as many as you need diapers, because you’ll probably only use 1-2 covers a day.

Before you buy a massive amount of fancy brand new cloth diapers, bear in mind that how much money cloth diapering saves you is variable. It was great for us when we lived in a house with a washing machine in the basement. Now that we live in an apartment with coin op machines, we save a whole nine bucks a month…

8. Disposable diapers, even if you plan to exclusively cloth diaper

The bottom line is you need to have a back up, kind of no matter what. They don’t have to be fancy, but they do have to exist. There are going to be times when you want to be able to just throw the shit away. Maybe you don’t have the energy to keep up with the laundry right now (I have been there!) or maybe you want to go out with the baby and don’t want to have to carry nasty diapers home (I’ve been there too!) or maybe  the baby wakes up in the night because their diaper is soggy (oh yeah) and you think the disposable will hold more of the moisture away from their skin (it will).

In almost everything else, I say skip the newborn size. But for diapers they’re actually kind of handy because they have a cut out for the umbilical cord stump. I’d get one pack of newborns, one pack of size ones, and see what you need down the line.

9. Washcloths/rags/cloth wipes/you get the idea

Pretty self explanatory, you want something you can wipe your kid with. I love baby washcloths because they are TINY and therefor a handful of the things seems to fit in any load of laundry no matter what.

10. Disposable wipes

Get the unscented/sensitive skin kind just to be safe. It’s better to just wipe your baby’s butt with plain water, but a package of wipes is hella convenient.

11. Baby soap

Yeah you are going to need gentle soap with which to wash that baby. We get hippie stuff because our child’s skin is so sensitive and because I hate Johnson’s. But you do you.

12. Something for diaper rash

I’m not going to get into the multiple kinds of diaper rash, the different schools of thought for dealing with them, the environment sustainability of various products and the baby-to-baby differences involved in dealing with diaper rash. Here’s the thing. It’s going to happen eventually. Treating it is going to be at least some trial and error. Get the thing you THINK you’ll like for diaper rash, that way it’s in the house and you can start by trying that one on that fateful day when you open a diaper to find a red butt and feel like a terrible parent.

13. A handful of toys

Your kid is going to need a few objects (that are safe for babies) to play with and explore. If you have any friends or family buying for your kid at all, you almost certainly do not have to worry about this, baby toys will just be a thing that happens to you. If  you want to get a couple of things, I’d suggest going for variety, but sticking to basics, as simple toys tend to inspire more creative play. It’ll be a little bit before your baby is interested in them.

14. Clothes

This is another area where, in all likelihood, you won’t actually need to buy anything at all and will end up with more than you need. If you are picking up (or registering) for items, here’s my two cents.

*skip the newborn size, get 0-3mo instead
*if you want to plan ahead and get a few things in bigger sizes, stick to basics like onesies that your kid will wear year round. My kid is literally 7months old wearing an 18mo outfit right now. Growth rates and sizes cary vary so widely for babies… I tried to plan ahead and get him some bigger things for winter, but they all fit him in September and never even got worn.

5-8 onesies
2-3 pants
2-3 footed sleepers
2 hats (more for a winter baby)
2 long sleeve hoodies or sweaters (more for a winter baby)
1 pair baby leg warmers (seriously they are great)
some bibs, I don’t know, we always just had plenty
literally as many socks as you can get your hands on

15. Some books

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Stuff You Probably Need, But Not Right Away
Depending on your situation, it might make sense to get these items ahead of time, or register for them, or it might make sense to wait until when your baby is bigger and they will actually get used.

1. A highchair

I just found out the ikea one is only twenty bucks, and it’s easier to clean than the one we’ve been wrestling with for the last month.

2. A baby gate

Eventually that kid is going to be moving around and you will want the ability to contain them as needed.

***

 

Your Mileage May Vary Stuff
Whether or not you need or use these things will probably vary widely based on your family and lifestyle.

1. Stroller/s

Initially, we thought we wouldn’t need an infant stroller, but would want an umbrella stroller later on. Then, because of my health issues, I wasn’t able to wear him for most of the summer he was born, and we decided we did need a stroller. We managed to get a good used one (for free, thanks internet!) but it was so cumbersome that it wasn’t actually much easier on my body than baby wearing. I think we used it four times, maybe five. The umbrella stroller is lighter weight, and is easier to get out the door with. It would also be easier to take on the bus (though we haven’t done that yet) and collapses faster. We still haven’t used it as much as I imagined we would.

2. Baby carrier/s

Depending on your parenting style, you may or may not want a way to strap your child to yourself. We have a moby wrap, and an ergo carrier, which feels really luxurious considering how minimalist we are in other areas, but we really do use them both. The moby wrap was great when he was a newborn, and is still my wife’s go-to because she has back issues, and it distributes the weight in a way that is more comfortable for her. I like the speed of putting the ergo on, and that it has the back carry option. Although we DID get the newborn insert for the ergo, and we never even used it because the moby was so great. Because we don’t own a car, so far, if we’re taking the baby out of the house, one of us is probably going to be wearing him.

3. Diaper bag

We were given three, count them, THREE, diaper bags as gifts. We use one of them sometimes, but half the time we just throw what he needs in the tote bag I’m already carrying. I have plenty of friends who just put the baby stuff in a backpack… but then know other folks who prefer having a dedicated baby bag.

4. Those cute hooded baby towels

Yes, we use them. Yes, the hoods are kind of nice to keep his little head warm. Yes, we like the one that looks like an alligator because we are suckers. And yeah, we’ve just used an adult towel in a pinch and it was actually totally fine.

5. Swing

We wanted one and never got one. Honestly there were a handful of days when he just wanted to be walked around the house endlessly and we thought “if only we had the swing our lives would be saved!” but that got better within a month, and now I’m glad we don’t have one taking up space. I’m putting it in this category only because I know a LOT of people who swear by them (which is part of why I intended to get one). Bouncy seats are a similar issue.

***

 

I would skip this stuff
I think you probably don’t need these things, we either had it and didn’t use it, or never got it and never missed it.

1. Playpen/pack n play

I didn’t know what a pack n play was until my sister explained that it’s just the new name for a playpen. Also sometimes called a “play yard,” we do not have one of these and that’s fine. I feel like it’s probably the kind of thing that you use if you have it, but our baby just plays on the floor and that works great for us. I guess the exception would be that some of them have like, a bed attachment thingie, so if you were using it as a regular sleeping place I could see it more.

2. Changing table

We have one. We have never once changed our son on it. It’s basically a funny shaped shelving unit in our home, now. I was told that changing the baby on the bed would hurt my back, but pro-tip: if you sit down on the bed with the baby it seems to be fine, it’s only when you stand hunched over a bed that it’s a problem.

3. Walker

Walkers do not actually help babies learn how to walk any faster, and depending on the style they can be quite dangerous. They’re also expensive, cumbersome, and take up a ton of space. Skip it. I promise your child will not feel deprived.

4. Sensory boards

These things are all over pinterest. Let me let you in on a secret. You’re baby is going to explore their senses no matter what. You can easily let your baby grab things that are different textures and learn what the world is by… just exploring the world. Whether DIY or store-bought, the sensory board is not actually going to make your baby smarter, sorry.

5. Baby shoes

Nope.

***

So uh, wow. This is actually the longest post I’ve ever written? Also now that it’s done I’m not actually sure if anyone will even read it. Oh well, happy Friday!

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Post Nuclear Year In Review

I started this blog back in November of 2014, so the vast majority of it’s life has taken place over the last year. It’s strange to look back on it, or really even to look back at 2015 at all. 2015 was the year that the most things changed for me (except maybe the first year of my life, because those changes are a BIG DEAL) and it was the year that very nearly killed me. As it comes to a close, it feels like it must have been at least three years.
But it wasn’t.
Here on the blog, I published a whopping TWENTY-FIVE posts, but everyone forgives me because I had that whole BABY thing going on as well. We mostly talked about the weird culture of parenting, and all the weird ways I feel about it.
Here are my top three most popular blog posts from 2015.
This was my third most popular blog post this year! I wrote it back in August, when my kid was only three months old. We were in and out of the hospital, and the doctor’s office, pretty much constantly (for both of us) and while I was totally exhausted, I was also noticing all of the pressure to use as many gender markers as possible.
So we pushed back against that pressure. And I wrote about it. And it seems like maybe people liked it.
The second most popular post of 2015 is from December, which somehow surprises me, but maybe it shouldn’t. Maybe readership is just going up in general? I don’t know. But I like this post. It was hard to write, which for me, seems like it’s often the mark of really good stuff happening. It’s when you really have to sit with it and work through it and try to wrap your head around it all that the magic happens.
We moved into a small apartment. I loved it. But I also needed to deal with the fact that I still felt like rejecting the nuclear family model was/is an important part of my life.
And honestly? I’m still struggling with these ideas. How do we find the balance between fierce idealism and practicality? How do we live as members of a larger community – rather than in familial isolation – when we have a needy infant who just wants to stay on his schedule? When we live in a city with extremely dysfunctional public transit? It’s easier to stay home. I hate that it’s easier to stay home. It’s easier to stay home. Please come over.
“Who is the mom? Oh we both are. Full stop.”
This is literally the most read piece ever on Post Nuclear Era. It continues to shock me. That’s one of the things about creating things though, is so often you can’t predict what is going to resonate with people.
I wrote this piece fast. I wrote it angry. I posted it with typos because I knew if I stopped to do a better edit I wouldn’t hit that “publish” button. If you had asked me to predict what would happen with it, I would have said that it would either be a throw away piece, a drop in the bucket, just something that was up on the blog that a couple of people read (hey, it happens sometimes!) or it would piss people off and I would get backlash. Why was I being so mean and judgmental? They were all just trying to be nice. And while I’m sure that some people definitely disagreed with my take, I only happened upon one of those people. ONE.
What I did see, though, was more and more friends sharing it. And then it got picked up by Ravishly. And I have literally no idea how many people read it over there.
But it’s a really good feeling, y’all, when your angry rants mean something to someone else. It’s real good.
And here’s my personal favorite.
You Have To Guess – Pronouns For Babies
I adore this one. I loved writing it. I loved the little moment that inspired it.
A few more minutes passed, and then the older boy said “but how can you tell that it’s a boy?”
It was a loaded question for me. Some of my closest friends are transgender, as is my child’s generous sperm donor. I am constantly aware that any identity we put on him may be discarded by him at any time in favor of something else. His other mother and I, we are just his parents, we don’t own him. He may not be a boy. He could be a girl, or even something else. That is ok with me because I love him for who he is, I love him just for showing up to this amazing world, not for any particulars about him that I pretend to know.
I looked at the child standing in front of me “well, you have to guess.”
Seriously. So great. And we keep on guessing. And it keeps not mattering. And we keep dressing him in all the colors. And we keep trying to be humble and ready to change directions whenever, if ever, he needs us to.
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Looking ahead to 2016, where are we going? Well obviously we are going to keep talking shit about the nuclear family structure, keep trying to be as intersectional as possible, keeping learning and trying to be humble. And when I say “we” I mean “I am going to try to do these things, but also I hope you’ll join me.”
Apart from that, I have a few post nuclear resolutions.
In 2016 I will:
1. Do my damnedest to get a post up every single week, on Friday. Seriously. I am bad at this and I want to do better. Barring that, I pledge to at least three posts a month. Hold me to this!
2. Make a donate button. I don’t expect to make a bunch of money off you all, but lets be real. This is work. This is also an anticapitalist space, and I want to keep it that way. I will not be selling anything here. But. If you are able, and you want to, you should be able to contribute to my glamorous lifestyle as an internet writer. I will make it so!
3. Not shy away from tough subjects! Y’all, watch out. The vaccine post, it’s gonna happen one of these days. I even have notes!
4. Add at least one cat picture to every blog post. Because I care. Really I do.
That’s it for looking back and looking ahead, then. Happy New Year, and Happy My Wife’s Birthday, to you all! I’ll see you next time.