Thursday, May 29, 2008

Nice humanist sentiment from Augustana's frontman

On Weekend Edition last week, I caught part of an interview with Dan Layus, singer/songwriter for the band Augustana. You may know them for their song, Boston, featured on Scrubs.

It turns out the guys in the band went to a private Christian college, and Layus studied Christian music. He has some pretty negative things to say about his sheltered and indoctrinated upbringing. But what really made my heart glow was when host Ari Shapiro asked whether Layus's music retained a "spiritual" element, even though he'd left his Christian education behind.

Now, I detest the word spiritual. I think it's a mush-brained weasel word that basically means someone has rejected organized religion, but is too scared or lazy to examine their fuzzier irrational beliefs, so they slap a positive-sounding label on their mishmash of unfounded suppositions about the supernatural.

Well, here's what Layus said in response: "I have a more positive and realistic place to put it now," Layus says, "which is my wife and my daughter and our music. And writing songs and being able to love my family like that, is more than enough for me."

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Pseudonyms for the kids

I've decided to give the children blognames. So for those wishing to keep track, Kitty is the older girl, about to start kindergarten. Eliza is the younger, only three months old. And why yes, I do like Pride and Prejudice, why do you ask?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Medical Professionals and Breastfeeding Ignorance

A couple of personal experiences recently that underline why breastfeeding rates in our country are so poor.

First, my husband's aunt came to visit us when our baby was about two months old. About an hour after I'd nursed the baby, she started fussing, and I said, "She's probably hungry." Auntie cried in astonishment, "ALREADY????!!!!" She was also generally uncooperative about handing the baby over to be fed during her whole stay. Guess what Auntie does for a living? She's a labor and delivery nurse.

Second, a PA at our family practice prescribed some medication for me last week. "Since you're nursing, I'll give you a topical treatment, rather than oral medication," she said. The week was not going well - the baby was fussing, and needed me seemingly all the time, but also wouldn't latch on for long. I started to feel my depression coming back with a sudden vengeance - I had quickly lost the ability to take pleasure in anything, and suddenly everything in life seemed overwhelming and unfixable.

Well, when I started having a separate issue with my medication, I looked at the package insert and did some internet research, only to find: a.) blood levels with the topical drug are the same as if you take it orally; b.) it transfers readily into breastmilk; c.) it makes breastmilk TASTE BAD; d.) it can cause depression. Needless to say, I stopped taking it and called the doctor's office. From now on, I'll have to advocate for myself more, and call upon the doctors and pharmacists to look out for these issues.

But imagine, if someone like me, who is very educated and is trained as a breastfeeding counselor, has difficulties along these lines, how devastating this ignorance and lack of support can be to women who are trying to breastfeed, but don't have a lot of knowledge about the subject!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Women as Creduloids

First, let me give credit to, er, someone at the Straight Dope Message Board for introducing me to the term "creduloid." Brilliant, brilliant word. As you may have gathered, it refers to a person who believes in pseudoscience, magic, psychics, alien abductions, or anything of that stripe.

In my experience, women seem more likely to be creduloids than men. As a group, I find men to tend toward practicality - while they may not all be razor-minded skeptics, they often don't bother with supernatural/paranormal garbage because it doesn't do anything appreciable for them. Women seem to be more likely to be searching for something ethereal to latch onto. Of course these are major generalizations - plenty of women are skeptics, plenty of men are devotees of woo. I'm just talking about average trends.

This phenomenon makes participation in woman-centered groups trying at times. My cloth-diapering message board strays into vaccination hysteria and off-topic stories of hauntings. My breastfeeding group discusses the latest studies and their scientific worth at one moment, then people advocate homeopathy and cranio-sacral therapy the next. Discussions of pregnancy inevitably incorporate talk of astrology and old wives' tales for determining gender.

Then of course there is the issue of religion. While churches are often patriarchal in official structure, I'd say it's often the mothers and wives in the congregations who make sure their families attend and participate in church functions. On the flip side, there is a notorious dearth of female atheists, much to the chagrin of single male unbelievers.

So what's up with this? Are my observations horribly flawed? I'm open to that possibility! Do women tend to be wired for belief more than men? Is it linked somehow to our different approaches to social interaction? I don't pretend to have the answers. All I have is a lot of frustration and embarrassment when I see so many women happily embrace all manner of claptrap.