Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Weeping With Those Who Weep

It's difficult to know how best to love and serve someone who has lost a baby. Even I struggle with "what should I say?" So I wanted to list a few ways we can support grieving families:

• Say, "I'm so sorry. I'm very sad for your loss. I am praying for you." Those simple words go a long way in bringing comfort to a broken heart. You don't have to say words of deep, theological wisdom about the sovereignty of God and His purposes in suffering in order to love and comfort grieving parents. Simple truths, like "My heart is breaking with yours, and I know that God is loving you and holding you right now" can be just what they need to hear.

• Be supportive. Say, "I want to help. What can I do for you?" Many times the everyday tasks of life are too much for grieving parents to handle, so make a meal, babysit their other children, go grocery shopping for them.

• Be available. Say, "I'm here for you. I'll listen as long as you want to talk. I have plenty of time." When you ask how they're doing, really mean it and be willing to listen. Being able to honestly talk to someone about the death of their baby can be very healing and comforting, so don't shy away from asking. However, don't prod if they're not ready to talk yet. Just consistently let them know you're available.

• Touch and hug the grieving parents. They need the physical assurance of your love and support.

• Remember that grieving fathers need as much (although in some ways different) support as mothers.

• Ask about their child and allow them to talk about him or her. Don't think that by avoiding mentioning their baby it will ease their pain. Thoughts of their child are always on their minds, and letting them know you remember is comforting. If the baby had a name, use it. One woman said that hearing others speak her child's name was like music to her aching heart. They want to know that others are thinking of and missing their child, too.

• Understand that the length of time a baby is carried or the amount of time a child lives does not diminish the pain and sense of loss the parents experience. The preborn or newly-born baby who dies is as significant a person as any other child or adult, and the grieving parents feel that acutely. They love their baby as a special, precious human being, thought up and knit together by God and known before time.

• Allow parents to grieve. It is a long process that doesn't end as soon as the funeral is over. Losing a child is a tremendous loss, and parents need to be able to feel the pain of it and have time to work through it. Don't try to "help them get over it" or "make them feel better".
That is not to say that there is no place for words of encouragement, comfort and hope! Just let those words be mingled with the tears. We are sorrowful yet rejoicing, grieving yet with hope.

• Remember anniversaries and holidays. Mother's Day and Father's Day are never the same for bereaved parents, especially the first one after the death of a child, even if it's 11 months later. If the baby died very early, his or her predicted due date can be a very difficult time. Remember the yearly anniversary of the baby's birth and death, and even the first few monthly anniversaries, with a phone call or card. These days are full of tears - though mingled with love and joy - and to know that others are thinking of you and your child on these days does much to ease the pain.

• Finally, remember that God uses His Church as a means of bringing comfort to those who are suffering. Paul says that we are comforted by God, "so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." Your support, love and involvement during this time will be a blessing God uses in the lives of His suffering people. He will use you!

This is something we have experienced this first hand. The outpouring of love we received from the saints after we lost Matthias was a great comfort and strengthened our faith when we were "in the fire". Our mailbox contained cards full of words of love and comfort for weeks and weeks. I am so grateful for all of you!

More resources and information can be found through the links on the side bar.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Cloth is Cool

September has been a busy month here, with getting back into the swing of school, co-ops, field trips, golf lessons, choir... but I'm so glad fall is here! I love autumn and wouldn't mind if it lasted 4 months of the year!

I wanted to post a little something about cloth diapers. I have a few friends who recently started their journey into cloth diapering and a couple others who have expressed interest. Well, maybe interest is too strong of a word. Perhaps it was more like morbid curiosity. But yeah, I really do love cloth diapers. A few of my reasons are as follows:

1. COST -
Yes, I will admit that this is the #1 reason for us using cloth diapers. The savings are really, really huge. I mean huge. I've read several different sources that have figured the cost of cloth vs disposable, and while the amount varies, it is always a big chunk of money. So far I've spent a grand total of $420.90* to diaper Moses. He is now almost 15 months old and he may or may not need one more batch of toddler-size diapers before he potty trains (about 2 dozen). That will run about $40.00/doz new from an online store, or $30.00/doz new from eBay. So add $60-$80 and our grand total for diapering one child is $480-$500*. Now figure in that I'll be reusing all these diapers once our new baby is born, and the cost is now only $240-$250* per child! (Feel free to email me if you want to see an itemized list of my costs). The only downfall is the initial up-front investment is a lot with cloth. At least with disposables, the cost gets divided up over the years, whereas you'll have to drop a chunk of money all at once with cloth. However, it certainly pays in the long run!

*This doesn't include the cost of laundering and detergent, because I have no idea how to figure that. It's probably between $100 and $200 a year, give or take. Even with those costs added in, we've still only spent a fraction of what it would have cost to use disposables. The figures I've seen put the cost of using disposables for 2 years between $1,200 - $2,000. And of course not every kid potty trains at 2, so it can be much more. So the cost of cloth is pretty cool.

Here's some links showing cost comparison of cloth vs disposables:

Diaper Pin Cost Calculator
Very Baby Dollars and Sense
Do Cloth Diapers Seem Too Expensive?
Cloth Diaper Review
Save Thousands of Dollars with Cloth
Diaper Decisions
The True Cost of Diapering: More Than Money

The health benefits play a big role in our decision to use cloth. Because diapers are in contact with your baby's skin pretty much 24/7 for at least 2 years, and because they're covering such a sensitive area, it's probably a good idea to know what's in them! Here's some info from the Real Diaper Association:

Disposable diapers contain traces of Dioxin, an extremely toxic by-product of the paper-bleaching process. It is a carcinogenic chemical, listed by the EPA as the most toxic of all cancer-linked chemicals. It is banned in most countries, but not the U.S.

Disposable diapers contain Tributyl-tin (TBT) - a toxic pollutant known to cause hormonal problems in humans and animals.

Disposable diapers contain sodium polyacrylate, a type of super absorbent polymer (SAP), which becomes a gel-like substance when wet. A similar substance had been used in super-absorbancy tampons until the early 1980s when it was revealed that the material increased the risk of toxic shock syndrome.

In May 2000, the Archives of Disease in Childhood published research showing that scrotal temperature is increased in boys wearing disposable diapers, and that prolonged use of disposable diapers will blunt or completely abolish the physiological testicular cooling mechanism important for normal spermatogenesis.

(Sources for this information are listed on their website).

No studies have been done on the long-term affects of these chemicals being in constant contact with a baby's skin (and reproductive organs) for several years. That's scary!

Having a little boy, I'm especially concerned about the link between disposable diapers and increased infertility in men:

Pediatric Updates: Diapers & Infertility?
In boys, the scrotal sac is marvelously designed to maintain the testicles within a narrow temperature range, just below normal body temperature. When it is cold out, the sac constricts and draws the testicles close to the body for warmth; when hot, the sac is loose to keep them cooler.

When an undescended testicle is left untreated (especially beyond a year), its higher temperature causes an increasing risk down the road of infertility and testicular cancer.

Here’s the news -- disposable, plastic-lined diapers keep testicles hotter than core body temperature (and as much as 1.8 degrees F higher than testicles in cloth diapers)! The October 2000 issue of Archives of Disease in Childhood speculates that perhaps the significant rise in male infertility over the last 25 years is due to the widespread use of diapers that keep kids too warm. This has certainly not been proven, but time will tell. For now, the reasoning makes a lot of sense to me.
Dr. Alan Greene MD FAAP

Diaper rash is also more common in babies wearing disposables. Here's a quote from an article entitled "DIAPERS! DISPOSABLE OR COTTON?",

"Widespread diaper rash is a fairly new phenomenon that surfaced along with disposable diapers. Reasons for more rashes include allergies to chemicals, lack of air, higher temperatures because plastic retains body heat, and babies are probably changed less often because they feel dry when wet."

Here's some great articles on the health concerns involved with disposable diapers. If you read nothing else, please read some of these!

An Apple a Day
Diaper Rash: Comparing Diaper Choices
Are Disposable Diapers Dangerous?
Health Concerns of Disposable Diapers
Cloth Diapers and Your Child's Health

Disposable Diapers Linked to Asthma

I'm not what I would consider "green". I don't drive a hybrid car or use solar power in my home. However, I do take seriously God's command to be good stewards of the earth, so this is of some importance to me. "Reusing" instead of "disposing" seems to be a good idea in many cases. We don't eat off paper plates (much). We use cloth napkins instead of paper. I don't stock my diaper bag with those handy disposable bibs and changing pads. We use washable cloth toilet paper (JUST KIDDING!!) But seriously, cloth wins in this department. Here's some of my concerns:

A study prepared by The Landbank Consultancy for The Women's Environmental Network shows that single-use diapers use 3.5 times as much energy, 8 times as much non-regenerable raw materials, and 90 times as much renewable material as cloth diapers.
(The Landbank Consultancy Limited, "A Review of Proctor & Gamble's Environmental Balances for Disposable and Re-usable Nappies" July 1991)

The fact that landfills are being filled with billions of plastic diapers that don't fully (if ever) biodegrade is not a happy thought. Then add in this fact: All disposable diapers in landfills are supposed to be free from solid waste! Read the small print on your package of diapers. It instructs you to rinse the diaper and dispose of the fecal matter in the toilet before throwing the diaper away!! Sending human waste to the landfill is a violation of the World Health Organization standards. This is raw sewage, a breeding ground for viruses and bacteria, being left untreated and posing a serious risk of contaminating groundwater. Poop is needs to go to sewage treatment plants. So do you rinse out your diapers before you toss them? I know I never did!

Here's a couple of articles that look at the environmental issues:

An Apple a Day
Real Diaper Facts
ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS: What Do They Mean For You and Your Baby?

Yeah, I know, not the greatest reason, but it's true. They are so cute. I just love putting soft, poofy, fluffiness on my baby's cute little behind. I mean, look at some of these diapers!

Wouldn't you want to put your baby in one of these??

Some Final Thoughts -

The convenience factor: I will be the first to admit that cloth diapers are NOT as convenient as disposables. And in a culture where convenience is the #1 thing everyone wants and is willing to pay up the wazoo for, that's a definite downfall for cloth. However, I think it's important to look at the real of this convenience. Yes, disposable diapers are easy. But toll on your budget, the health risks and the questionable stewardship of resources make me view the inconvenience of cloth as minor in comparison. I've decided that I don't mind having to change diapers more often because it means healthier skin for my baby. I don't mind rinsing poopy diapers out in the toilet, because now my conscience would make me do that with disposables as well! Plus, with today's technology, cloth diapers are easier than ever to use. My diapers don't leak or smell yucky. I have a diapering "system" that works great and really is not a burden for me. I'd be happy to explain it (or demonstrate it) to anyone who's interested.

Check out "These Ain't Your Grandma's Cloth Diapers", "Cloth Diapering: Simple and Sweet!" and "The Top 10 Cloth Diaper Myths" if you're not convinced.

If you want more info, I've listed some great resources on the side bar. There's a lot of time and research that goes into switching from disposable to cloth, so if you're interested but feel overwhelmed, I'd love to help in any way I can!

Happy Diapering!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

No More Diapers... Ever

Some of you may think I'm a little strange for using cloth diapers with Moses. Why would anyone go through the hassle of washing diapers and *gag* rinsing poop off them when you could just toss it? Well I won't get into all me reasons for CD'ing here (I'll save that for another post.) I just wanted to point out that I'm not as far on the fringe as I could be.

Some families are using NO DIAPERS at all. And no, they don't just let the baby pee and poop all over the floor. They are so in tune with their baby's signals that they know when he needs to go and they take him to the toilet and there he goes. This is true. It's called Elimination Communication, or EC. In less industrialized countries where parent's can't afford diapers, it's common practice today. And EC is actually a modern adaptation of an ancient childcare practice that has been used for centuries. Mothers all over the world traditionally carried their babies next to their bodies throughout the day, usually naked, (even Inuits kept their babies naked under the mother's parka) and slept close to them at night. Because of this closeness day in and day out, mothers would easily observe the signs that baby had to "go" and take them to the appropriate place to do their business. It seems a bit primitive, but recently EC has been catching on in the U.S. and other developed countries.

How does Elimination Communication work, exactly? Here's some tips from DiaperFreeBaby:

Observation is the first step in EC. While observing, there are a few things to look for. One is timing patterns and rhythms. Many babies need to pee either immediately or a few minutes after waking up, several minutes after nursing, at frequent, regular periods in the morning, at less frequent, regular periods in the afternoon, either before, during or after nursing sessions at night.

Other things to look for are body language and signals. These could include squirming, "fussing," vocalizing, frowning or having a look of "inner concentration", becoming still and pausing in activity, stirring or waking from sleep, looking intently or reaching for you, reaching for the potty, or indicating towards the toilet place.

For an older baby, signals could also include crawling or walking to the toilet place.

When you think your baby needs to eliminate, hold her in a gentle and secure manner over your preferred receptacle. This could be the toilet, sink, potty, bucket, diaper, tree, or any other appropriate place. Generally, she will be more or less in a deep squat, cradled in your arms with her back to your tummy. The main thing is to keep her secure and to think about your aim ;).

Once your baby is comfortably in position, make a specific cueing sound to "invite" your baby to pee or poop. In most places where EC is practiced culturally, caregivers use a watery sound such as "psss". This sound, along with a particular position, is used to signal or stimulate the baby's elimination. When you are starting out, make your cueing sound every time you notice your baby peeing. Within a few days, your baby will associate the sound with the act of eliminating. By practicing EC consistently, your baby will learn to release her bladder at will upon hearing the cueing sound and/or being held in the potty position.

From this point on, a strong line of communication about elimination will establish itself between baby and caregiver. Continue to observe your baby's timing and signals and to listen to your intuition. When you think it is time, hold her in position and give your cueing sound. If it is near time to go, your baby will do so at your cue. If not, she will signal "no" by resisting being held in position, arching her back, or simply not peeing. Never try to force your baby to eliminate. Just go back to whatever you were doing and offer another pee opportunity later. If your diapered baby has wet or soiled herself, simply replace the diaper with a clean one as soon as you notice. This will help your baby learn to keep herself dry by signaling her needs to you beforehand.

Some parents choose to go diaperless full-time right from the start. Others will start gradually, offering pee opportunities just at certain times throughout the day or part of the day. Many parents practice EC full-time but use diapers as back-up, simply removing them to offer a pee if the diaper is dry, or changing it if it is wet. Remember that there are many ways to begin putting EC into practice. The way you choose will depend on your lifestyle, personality, and personal preference.

Here's what one proponent had to say:

Dr. Mark Wolraich, professor of pediatrics and director of the Child Study Center, said the practice essentially conditions young children to go to the bathroom at predictable times or show clear signs when they must go.

"To be truly toilet-trained, the child has to be able to have the sensation that they need to go, be able to interpret that sensation and be able to then tell the parent and take some action," said Wolraich, who is also editor of the American Academy of Pediatrics' book on toilet training.

"And that's different from reading the subtle signs that the child is making when they have to go to the bathroom."

Parents attempt the early training to forge closer ties with their infants, to reduce the environmental impact associated with diapers and to avoid skin irritation caused by a wet diaper, Parise said.
From the article "Parents begin potty training at birth"

Well, I don't think I'm ready to go diaperless yet, but I do see many benefits from doing away with diapers! (See "75 Benefits of Elimination Communication"). Especially appealing is the intimacy and attentiveness a parent would have to have with their child. So often I find myself distracted and not even tuned in to my child's really obvious signals, much less his subtle ones. Learning to pay close attention and understanding my child's needs better is certainly a valid goal. So who knows. Maybe we'll go even further off the deep end and go daiperless with our next baby!