Tag Archives: Baby

Parenting Product Review: Solly Wrap

I strongly believe that, as consumers, every economic decision we make leave a moral trace behind it.  As a parent, I strongly believe that every purchase made for our children influences them from the very beginning of their lives, long before they understand the concept of “shopping”.

It hasn’t been easy or always possible to find items for our child that combined the ethical values we stand for, the budget we have, and the needs that emerged as we walked the path of parenthood, one step at a time.

Why a Baby Wrap

One of the items that was easy for us to identify as an essential was a baby wrap.  When reading about the relationship between a mother and the baby she carries in her womb as described in the Bahá’í Writings, my husband and I came to appreciate that the relationship is even closer than science leads us to believe: it is a deep, spiritual connection.  And because, in a way, the wrap would be giving our baby and I an extension of sorts of the closest physical bond we would ever share.

There are a lot of other reasons why a wrap is a good idea:

  • It promotes bonding between parent and baby;
  • It may help reduce postpartum depression;
  • It frees up your hands but not at the cost of leaving baby behind;
  • It helps calm fussy babies by making them feel safe and warm in a womb-like environment;

Using a wrap was good for both baby and I especially in the first weeks post-partum.  My little one would only be happy and relaxed when she was on me, and I felt the most happy when she was with me.  And so, wrapping her allowed me to go on walks, able to enjoy the beautiful Canadian summer and basking in the joy of having a baby.  Both having her on me and exercising so soon after delivery in the form of walks no doubt helped keep away any form of postpartum blues I might have potentially been at risk of.

Why a Solly Baby Wrap

The Solly Baby Wrap also has the added—but not exclusive, mind you—benefit of distributing baby’s weight evenly all over the carrier’s upper body, which means no extra pressure on the carrier’s shoulder or the baby’s joints and spine.  The fabric is it made of is far thinner than—but just as strong as—that other similar wraps are made of.  It makes a huge difference when it comes to comfort; be it winter or summer—but especially summer—it makes for a far more comfortable baby wearing experience.

Supporting Small Businesses

It’s short-sighted to claim that all big businesses are bad and that all small businesses are good.  It seems that, at this point in time, getting the things that we need for our baby and staying within budget requires balancing out purchasing items from both small and big businesses.

My husband and I do, however, have a soft spot for small businesses for many reasons, including:

  • Small businesses can be held accountable a lot more easily than big businesses, and many small outfits hold themselves accountable in away big ones—the consequences of whose decisions are so far removed from the decision-makers that they are easy to ignore—just can’t.
  • Small businesses usually remain more connected to the grassroots and usually give more than they take.
  • Shopping small businesses encourages the development of a broader variety of products; the better suited an item is to our needs, the less we will buy overall in search for the best product.

Buy Made in North America

Every other argument else aside, the environment is why I prefer, when possible, to shop for items made in North America.  On the one hand, the item has a lot less distance to travel.  On the other hand, the manufacturing industry here is regulated with standards far friendlier to the environment than those of other countries.  Granted, it means that items are usually more expensive, but it’s money well spent, in my mind.

Lenzing Modal Textile

The Solly Wrap is made of Lenzing Modal, something I hadn’t heard of until I was researching what wrap to purchase.  The fabric is manufactured in Los Angeles from Austrian beechwood trees (not sure if the pulp is imported from Austria, or if the trees are planted in California).  The fabric itself is lightweight yet strong, cool to the touch even in hot weather, gets softer with each wash, and can handle being dried in a conventional dryer on low heat.  And it seems that its carbon footprint is a lot less than most fabrics other wraps are made of (here and here).

Customer Support

Although I didn’t have much luck personally getting extra information or support from the Solly Baby team, they have really thought through how it could provide parents with the help that they might need as they try to master the art of wrapping their baby.  A series of well-shot tutorial videos make it crystal clear how to do just that.  The lookbook is chockful of gorgeous pictures of mothers carrying their babies; I have to admit that the reality is quite far from all those shots—I didn’t manage to feel anywhere near as polished, rested, well-dressed, clean, and well put together as the mothers in those shots do.  Maybe the Solly Baby team could provide support in that regard, too!

Verdict

For balancing eco-friendliness, usability, a relatively good point price, and just plain prettiness: recommend.

Learning To ‘Be’ From The Cradle Up: On The Desire To Constantly Entertain My Baby

One of the elements that I have come to understand as essential to one’s personal growth—mental, spiritual, and emotional—is the ability to sit quietly and just be.  Of course nowadays, there is always something (or rather, a bunch of things!) that is clamouring for our attention, and so we are often left without a second to ourselves.

As I was watching my friends play with my daughter, it hit me that perhaps there is another reason why we are not able to just sit and be.  From the cradle, there seems to always be a need for those around a baby to constantly be in their face.  OK, that sounds bad, but you know what I mean—we are always talking to babies, singing to them, waving toys in their faces, always encouraging movement, and never just letting them be.

I was particularly struck by how there seems to be a conviction that a baby left alone is a baby that is neglected.  My daughter has had the capacity to play by herself from very early on.  And so, my husband and I have made a conscious effort to let her be when she is happily entertaining herself.  And yet, although she is fed, clean, and safe, those around us seem to be quite uncomfortable that we are leaving our baby to her own devices, convinced that good parenting means constantly entertaining her.

But it is becoming increasingly clear that we should leave our daughter to herself when she is perfectly content to do so.  Because the adults around her already have such a tough time creating a space in which they can be by themselves; isn’t it giving our daughter a leg up that, when she does find a space to just be, she knows how to fill it up with joy and wonder?

The Woman Carries the Baby, The Man Does… Nothing? More Thoughts on Supporting the Partner of a Pregnant Woman

Nothing about the birth of my child was about the other person that had so much to do with it: my husband.  I have already discussed this matter previously, but I think it’s such an important topic that I have to bring it up again.

During labor, no one took care of my husband.  And the funny thing is that, because I could see how hard it was on him that I was in so much pain, I was worried about him—which made it all worse on me.  So ironically enough, but not taking care of him, the medical and nursing staff were undermining the person they were focused on—me.

It remained the same after the birth.  As one hospital staff after the other came into the room to check up on me and the baby, my husband was barely acknowledged, let alone addressed.  And when, in response to a question, I would tell the staff member that I had to consult with my husband, I was met with looks of surprise and even confusion.

Even now, a couple of months later, I find that people address all their questions and comments to me.  And when I consult with my husband, they are surprised, some of them even exclaiming: “But she’s your child!”

To them I try to explain that yes, she is, indeed, my child, but she is also his.  While I was the one that carried her for nine months, I didn’t fall because he was the one carrying me.  While I was the one that labored to deliver her, I was able to do so because he was laboring in his own way right beside me.  While I am the one breastfeeding her, he is the one feeding me.  He is just as involved and as sleep-deprived, reads just as many posts, articles, and books about parenting, asks just as many questions about what to do, and wonders just as much as I do on how well he is doing as a parent.  His heart clenches as much as mine when something happens to her, he worries as much as I do, he suffers right there alongside me when something is wrong.

And yet he doesn’t get any of the support that I get.

I’m not sure what the underlying assumptions to this pattern of behavior are.  They could be only positive—perhaps it is a sign of the respect we give mothers for what they go through.  There is definitely a lot of that, thankfully.

But I think there is also negative underlying assumptions, one of them related to the definition of what it means to be a man.  Being loving and nurturing, caring and supportive—it is assumed that the woman, and only the woman, has these.  The bills, the heavy items, and the logistics—all of those are given to the man.

The challenge seems to be that we have yet to overcome our constraining definitions of what it means to be a woman and what it means to be a man.  There is a lot to be said about this matter, and surely a short post like this one can’t hope to touch on all aspects of this complex matter.  But when it comes to how each one of us, as individuals, can address this matter, I think it’s quite simple, really.

Don’t forget about the father.

Ask him how he is doing.  Ask him how he is feeling.  Ask him what support he needs.  Make sure that this essential piece of the puzzle remains sane and whole.  Because both the baby and the mother need him, and no family can hope to achieve its full potential if all of its members are not functioning at peak capacity.

Is it a baby boy? No? Then why is she wearing blue?

Even before we knew if our child was going to be a girl, her father and I started shopping for clothes.  On the one hand, we were looking for any excuse to get our hands on the ridiculously adorable miniature versions of what we wear that grace the stores (I mean have you seen the selection that Carter’s Oshkosh offers?)  On the other hand, we knew that a large part of our child’s wardrobe would be gender-neutral.  After all, it’s not as it there is a big difference between boys’ and girls’ proportions at that age!

But it seems that what we consider neutral is gender specific in the eyes of many after all. When our daughter wears grey, black, orange, or green, we are inevitably asked if she is a boy and, when told that she is a girl, we are met with confused looks. Out for curiosity, I asked a friend of mine to dress her baby boy, who is around the same age as my daughter, in yellows, creams, and lavender; she was asked if he was a girl and, yes, met with a lot of similarly confused looks.

Are my friends and I, who shop on both sides of the stores to fill our children’s closets, being avant-garde by throwing away some if the superficial societal expectations placed on their wardrobe? Or are we breaking a necessary social rule by which young babies, who for the most part do not look like they are of a specific gender, are dressed in pink and blue to eliminate such awkwardness? Or is it time for a maturing society to grow out if this rule by accepting that clothing does not define gender, but rather, that genetics do?

I personally think it is a balance between the two, as we are in a period of transition between the old ways and the new ones.  It used to be necessary to have certain patterns that governed our interactions, including clothing that clearly identified us and, of course, defined us.  But now that our understanding of what it means to be a man or a woman evolves, what we do naturally evolves as well.

So to those of us who are dressing our children according to the dictates of beauty and esthetics rather than limiting ourselves to only the colours assigned to our child’s gender: keep at it.  But remember to be patient and loving towards those who question our choices; of course they are confused, they never thought about things the same way.  And we must be very careful to never, ever judge those parents who stick to social conventions.  Because who knows; we might be completely wrong after all.

Parenting and Marital Happiness: Not Mutually Exclusive

I am a bit of a nerd, just in case you haven’t noticed yet.  I love reading studies and reflecting on the implications of the results found.  However, I also can be quite harsh when it comes to studies that demonstrate a combination of laxity in their data analysis and over-confidence in their interpretation.

I recently got very annoyed (to put it mildly) at the author of an article I came across on the effects of parenting on marriage.  Just writing about this article is making my blood boil!  Posted on the Fortune website, it shares the result of research into marriage satisfaction when a couple has children, and other related data.

It’s not the results that bother me—well, they do, but only in that it is something that needs to be addressed.  What bothers me is that articles like this one use data collected on a limited sample population to perform an analysis that ignores so much of the context within which the data was gathered that the conclusions can only be disheartening and disempowering.  So the results are being presented not as a hypothesis’ applicable for a certain population, but rather as a universal truth.  Similarly, the results are presented as the only outcome possible rather than one of many possible outcomes.

Of course this is wrong on many levels.

The Reality of Becoming Parents

Having children brings about, of course, a huge change in a couple’s life, but rather than analysing why it is so, the overall conversation around this topic—and the conclusion this article ends with—draws a line of causality between having children and unhappy marriages.  What we are failing to do is to look at the context within which having children brings about unhappy marriages.  When we place this relationship within a vacuum, we ignore a wealth of other causes and, therefore, a significant number of solutions that are within our reach to make sure that the decision of having children strengthens our marriages.

Failing to do so limits our view of reality and, most importantly, robs us of the ability to figure out how to achieve a different outcome.

Some of the Things That Are Being Ignored: Marital Strength Pre-Parenting

First off, it would be interesting to analyse how strong the marriage of “miserable” parents was in the first place—there is, after all, a known, steady breakdown of the sacredness and importance of marriage.  The number of couples getting married with the thought that, should things become tough, there is a way out (a.k.a. divorce) is increasing.

The influences of society that encourage a self-centered, ego-driven view of the world also sap marriages of the selflessness both parties need to evince to make a marriage strong and happy.  Furthermore, the drive for material wealth saps the couples of energy to focus on more important things; instead of having dinner together as a family, for example, parents will be doing overtime or answering work emails at the dinner table.

What would happen to the data if we were to focus only on couples who act on a belief that marriage is sacred, on couples that do not believe in divorce as an option, who strive to be selfless, and who are not focused on the increase of material wealth?

Some of the Things That Are Being Ignored: The Breakdown of the Extended Family Unit and of Community Life

Second, it would be interesting to study the relationship between how “miserable” parents have become over the years and the breakdown of the extended family unit, as well as the breakdown of community life in general.  Both of these traditional forms of support are known to provide the best protection against many negative life events and experiences, including an unhealthy marriage and weak parenting.  Are parents who have a strong and positive relationship with their extended family as unhappy in their marriage as those who do not have such a relationship?  What of parents who are members of a vibrant community versus those who do not have strong connections within theirs?

Some of the Things That Are Being Ignored: The Decline of Our Spiritual Health

Third, it would be interesting to correlate the steady decline in a strong spiritual life with the increase in how “miserable” parents have become.  Many studies have shown that an individual’s overall happiness is intimately tied with his or her level of spiritual dedication and discipline.  It isn’t too far of a stretch to wonder if “miserable” parents are less engaged in their spiritual lives than those who are happy.

Parenting and Marital Happiness: How This Article Should Have Read

The saddest thing about this article is that it provides a wealth of information on how parents can have a happy marriage—if only the data was analysed through a more optimistic lens.  It also would be so much more of an empowering read if the article focused on how the data it presents can be used to change the fact that so many couples state being less happily married after having children.  Because fact remains that there are many parents out there who do become happier once they have children.  Why not focus on helping all parents get to that point, rather than making the miserable parents the norm?

The Life of a Parent: Gaining Insight into a Different Kind of Love

The way I understand the Bahá’í Writing, we are created in the image of God, and we can understand Him better by working on the various aspects of our spiritual selves.  I also understand that we are told that one of the main purposes of marriage is to have children.

It makes sense to me that nothing revealed in the Sacred Writings of any religion would counter their main purpose: to put us in touch with our true, spiritual selves.  Therefore, parenthood isn’t just about perpetuating the human race.  It is also about our personal spiritual development.

And boy, do I feel like I am already so different from the person I was a mere couple of months ago, before becoming a parent!

I could go on and on about the various spiritual lessons I feel I have learned since having a baby.  However, I feel there is one encompassing one that rules them all (yes, much like a certain ring): that of love.

Now this might come as blasphemous, so let me begin by saying that in no way so I ever expect to be able to even come close to understanding God.  But I do believe that we can gain smidgens of glimmerings of understanding, tiny atoms of it compared to the greatness of extent of knowledge that exists.

We are told in all Sacred Writings that God loves us.  But many times, we can think that God can’t love us because we are so messed up; or that God doesn’t love us because look at all the horrible things He is letting happen to us.

When I look down at my baby, I don’t feel like I can even not love her.  I went around a wide circle of parents that I know; some of them have been parents only a little longer than my husband and I, while others have grandchildren; some of them have angels for children while others suffer the consequences of the actions of their children daily.  And every single one of them said the same thing: they cannot not love their children.

So if we, limited little humans, are capable of this kind of love, then definitely an all-Mighty and Perfect God can love us, however messed up we may be.

There are some things that I have to allow to happen to my baby that she really doesn’t like—some of which actually make her suffer.  I’m thinking for example about vaccinations.  In her view, the ones who rule her world—her father and I—are allowing a terrible thing to happen to her.  But of course, her father and I know that the vaccines are necessary for her, that in the long run, not vaccinating her could be lead to a much greater deal of pain than the 24 hours of suffering she went through.  Our love has to go beyond her immediate needs, and accept her pain and be there for her as she sobs her way through the afternoon.

God, then, doesn’t allow horrible things to happen to us; rather, there are horrible things we have to go through in the short run so that, in the long run, we don’t suffer even more.  His Love is what allows for these terrible things to continue happening, because He knows that if He swoops in—which He can—the suffering might ease in the very short term, but will be much worse in the long term.

All of this helps me as a parent and a person.  As a parent, it helps me prepare for the pain my baby/child/teenager will go through when I deny them something or put them through another difficult situation.  As a person, it helps me understand that basically, that is what God is doing when things seems to be going irreparably wrong.  And as a blogger, it makes for quite the powerful blog post.

Why I Decided To Take Precious Time Away From My Baby To Start Blogging Again

My blogging journey—an incredible, fulfilling one that has given me so much—started almost nine and a half years ago right here in Sahar’s Blog.  I never intended to stop blogging—that is, until I had a baby.

I had always intended to take a short hiatus when each of my children was born.  When my first one was born last year, I took what I thought would be a short hiatus.  But I love the life with my little one so much that I pushed it back once, then twice, and then again for a third time.  I was seriously considering pushing my return to blogging for another couple of months as my beautiful baby went from adorable newborn to hilarious and charming infant.

Perhaps then it will not come as a surprise that it is for her that I am returning to blogging.  Sahar’s Blog has already wanted to be an attempt to contribute to positive online conversations, the ones that translate into action dedicated to the mental, emotional, and spiritual improvement of each reader as well as to the betterment of their communities.  In light of the recent sharp and significant increase in hateful conversations, both online and in real life, I couldn’t abandon the platform that took me so long to build up.  It seems much more important, both for my little one and all the others of her generation, that I start blogging again, to contribute to the positive conversations that are happening on community building, personal development, sexism, racism, and spirituality.

And so, as we ring in a new year, I’m happy to be returning to a wonderful world where, alongside assiduous readers who send me so many emails (and who hopefully will start sharing at least some of their thoughts in the comments section—you know who you are!), I will be attempting to have uplifting conversations that will inspire thoughtful and consistent action.

To my little girl, who might one day read this: I am going to have a little less time with you from now on, but I am spending it paving the way for a world I hope will be much healthier for you and your friends to grow in.

And Then There Were Three: Taking a Longer Break From Blogging

Back in June, I announced the arrival of a new member of the family.  I had intended to start blogging again in mid-July, but I am enjoying motherhood so much and want to make sure not to miss out on any of these precious moments with our bundle of (mostly) joy.  So while I fully intend on getting back to this blog and already have a pile of post ideas waiting to be written, I will not be getting back to it this summer.  A tentative date of fall 2016 has been set for a full return to blogging.  Until then, a sporadic book review, featured post, music review, or post on something particularly thought-provoking might make an appearance.  Any support for the blog in the form of sharing older posts would be much appreciated.  See you soon!

What Does My Baby Actually Need? The Balance Between Necessary Consumption Versus Over-Consumption

My husband and I are at the beginning of our journey as parents.  When we found out we were pregnant, we were elated.  True nerds that we are, we started lists for just about anything we had to decide.  One of these lists focused on our baby’s spiritual needs, and the other, on the little one’s material needs.

Experienced parents know (and parents-to-be, you have been warned): there is a LOT out there when it comes to baby gear.  Some of it seems essential; some of it is totally adorable; some of it doesn’t seem necessary but makes life easier; and some of it is apparently completely useless.

As my husband and I waded through the lists of items suggested by various stores and parenting resources (on top of all the recommendations that were being made by family and friends), the question that came to mind again and again was: do we *really* need all of this?

On the one hand, it seems like we are constantly encouraged to spend a lot of money on items that will fill up our living space but might or might not come in handy.

On the other hand, neither he nor I have experience as parents so who are we to tell?

How do we balance our feeling with our lack of experience?  I mean, it’s not like my husband and I don’t want to buy things for our little one; we want the baby to have everything it needs and we want those things to be quality products in as many ways as possible—including standing up as much as possible to ethical concerns.

What we decided to do was to research everything we were being recommended, from those we deemed essential to those we really don’t understand why we would need.  For each item, we decided on which one we would buy should it become evident that we need it.  We identified an online store where we could purchase said item and have it delivered within a reasonable amount of time (which varies according to the item, of course).

We figured that we are all caught, in North America, in a web of over-consumption.  But our lack of experience strips us of the ability to differentiate if some things are actually needed or if they are being pushed on us by this consumption machine.  So starting with the strict minimum then building on it with pre-done research felt like the best middle line to tread.

The most interesting thing we have noted to date is that we feel like we need more than we did before we started our research.  We don’t know yet if this is because we have learned from all our research and the great advice we have gotten from our friends, or if it is because we have fallen under the influence of the consumption machine.  All we feel we can do now is wait until the baby arrives and figure it out step by step, weighing the situation as it evolves and learn with each item we choose to purchase or not if we are being practical or just consuming for nothing.

This parenting thing just got even more interesting.

Picture courtesy of Wonderfelle Media

The Community and The Baby Shower: Tightening Bonds of Friendship {Includes Free Printables & Pinterest Inspiration!}

When my husband and I were approached for the first time and asked if we were having a baby shower, we said no.  Although we both love babies and baby showers, it felt weird to plan our own.

When we were approached by family members and were told that a shower was being organised for us, we felt both excited about bringing our closest friends together and celebrating the new life about to come into this world and a little weird to be making a fuss about our own selves.

A Baby Shower is Not About the Parents

But then we realised that we were letting our egos speak up and make the shower about us.  Because ultimately it’s not at all about us—it’s about introducing, in a way, the baby to the community.  It’s about building the baby’s relationship with it’s aunties, uncles, and cousins.  And it’s about starting to adjust our relationships as we embark on this journey that is parenting.

When approached that way, planning for the shower took on a whole new turn.  We were lucky that the organizers were on board with this idea of a shower.  One of the things we decided to do was to make the organization as inclusive as possible, although it’s tougher to manage people than to just do things on our own.  But everyone who was approached was really happy and eager to contribute, and some went totally beyond what any of us expected.

Another thing we tried to do was to make the shower co-ed.  Unfortunately, that didn’t work out too well—mostly because so many of the men already had plans, including child-related duties.  But each of them loved the idea and although I can’t say what, there might be a daddy-centric something or other coming up at some point in the close future (my husband does actually help me with these posts and reads my blog, so I’ll leave it at that!)

The Role of Gifts

One thing we did was to insist that gifts were optional and that we would welcome second-hand items, since many of our friends have children who have just passed the initial zero to six-month stage.  It was really sweet though—everyone still brought gifts and the only second-hand item we got is a beautiful, vintage outfit with sentimental value—basically something that is not really what we had in mind when we mentioned “second-hand”.  I think this reflects a couple of things.  For one, shopping for babies is fun!  Also, there is something special about a first child, and there is something special about buying it something new.  But most importantly, I think that buying something new for a baby shower is, culturally (for now), a way to show love.

We decided to make handmade thank you cards before the baby shower with a special homemade chocolate-orange-rice puff bark we are known for.  It was something small that we really wanted to do to give to our friends as they left the shower.  I think it took a lot of people by surprise to receive something.  It was our symbol of appreciation and love, and I think that, most importantly, it helps people remember that we do, indeed, appreciate them.

Final Thoughts

So what lessons have we learned about community-building and baby showers?  Not many, to be honest!  But sometimes it’s not about learning a lot.  Sometimes it’s about planting seeds and I have a feeling that perhaps a baby shower is just about that: planting the seed of contributing to the strengthening of a community through the introduction of a new member.

Pinterest Inspiration!

Check out the sunshine dappled inspiration for our baby shower on this dedicated Pinterest board!

Free Printables!

Since I don’t know yet how to put a download link on the blog, email me if you are interested in the printables that were created for the shower, which you can spot on this Instagram picture I posted.  I have generic ones available for immediate emailing, or can make you a personalised one upon request!