{ Under The Bluegums }

A personal blog with craft tutorials, reviews of books, films, and music, parenting advice, and opinions on society and politics.

August 24, 2013

We're Cursed With Sleep Deprivation

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Sleep has become a really important part of my life, and I didn't really appreciate my ability to sleep until now, mostly because I am exhausted from the last four months. I simply seem to have lost my ability to fall asleep, and cannot seem to recover from sleep deprivation. They say that you do eventually recover from it, but it takes a long time.

After I read this article about how our ancestors (I mean, our great-great-great-great-great grandparents) slept, it occurred to me that a massive contributor to sleep deprivation is man-made: artificial light.

Once, we had two sleeps: we would have a sleep of a few hours, followed by a period of wakefulness, and then another sleep in the early hours of the morning. Our ancestors even sometimes made plans to visit neighbours or go to church in the middle of the night. This was because the range of sleep was about 12 hours long. Obviously this range is shorter in midsummer, when the night isn't as long, but the amount of sleep one had depended wholly on how many dark hours there were.

Of course, modern man is sleep deprived, no matter how much sleep we actually have. This is because artificial light has messed up our natural circadian rhythm, which is dependent on night time actually being dark. Artificial light has not only confused our bodies into believing the daytime hours are longer, both in summer and winter, but they also allow us to distract ourselves from relaxing and sleeping - we have much more to do at night when we should be sleeping, like watch television, surf the Internet, or write blogs.

As a parent, you are desperate for your child to finally get into that circadian rhythm - it's your saving grace, as it allows you to finally sleep through the night as well. A messed-up circadian rhythm is also why it's so tough on people changing time zones, because they have no way of recovering unless they sleep, and it's too difficult to sleep during the daytime.

I don't believe that returning to the way-of-two-sleeps is possible, though. And it won't solve our tiredness problems, simply because I believe we've evolved to the point of no return. What on earth would we do in the middle of the night, you might ask? We'd get too bored without our modern entertainments. We can't even read without electronics! (Unless you're a real-book-with-pages lover, like me)

Unless we're willing to forego all luxuries connected with electricity, we are all forever cursed with sleep deprivation. There's just too much to do!

(Image credit: Albert Anker [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

August 14, 2013

What Can We Do About Junk?

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I am amazed by how much waste our household consumes in just a week. And we're only two people! Well, technically, two and a third.

Living in a flat hasn't made it much easier to recycle - there's just no space to keep a bunch of different bins lurking around to fill with trash, so before I put out the black bag, I sort through the bin for paper and plastic, and we have a worm farm, but really, it just does not keep up with the amount of stuff we throw out.

Most of it is plastic - everything comes in a plastic package! And I've noticed recently that a lot of the plastic packaging has no sign of whether or not it can be recycled. That potato package? Is it recyclable? Who knows?!

And there's also no indication of whether or not I'll be consuming genetically-modified organisms with my potato salad today.

As people living in a capitalist society, we depend an awful lot on the honesty and integrity of the people we buy our products and produce from. How can you have a sign on the back of your crisp packet urging people not to litter, but you don't say how you can recycle your packaging or use packaging that is recyclable? And companies that use plastic bottles for their products en masse: maybe you should employ people to pick them up from alongside the rivers and lakes that are littered with them? Why do large corporations take no responsibility for the products they're spreading around the world? Why is the onus always on the consumer to be responsible?

It's like government organisations asking us to put off our geysers and close our dripping taps when street lights are left on all day and Joburg Water leaves a burst pipe spilling onto the street for days.

But I know why this is: because the majority of society is just happy to carry on the way things are. Even me. :( What should we do?

(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons\Hyena)

August 6, 2013

6 Things Bugging Me About Pregnancy and Having a Baby

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Since having Emma, I've been thinking a lot about how the advice I received ahead of and after her birth actually helped me or not. I heard everything from old wives' tales to anecdotes and personal experiences, but did any of these benefit me or did they make the experience more difficult?

Here are a couple of things:

1. You and your baby will become public domain. This was something I was not forewarned about at all, and, come to think of it, it should have been something people should have mentioned to me, considering that I am kind of introverted and unsociable. What I mean by this comment is that, once your baby bump starts showing, people will stare at it, trying to gauge whether it really is a baby or not. When they realise it is, you will be approached by anyone at any time. Some of these people will want to touch your bump. Uninvited. Many of them will offer you advice, and still more will ask you completely inappropriate questions, such as whether or not you're suffering from constipation yet. Eventually, everyone will comment on how huge you are. But it doesn't stop there! After putting up with this attention for about 6 months, taking baby out is an invitation for all and sundry to want to take a 'peek'. Yes, the miracle of procreation is wonderful, but sometimes you'll just want people to leave you alone. You will also be bombarded by old wives' tales (as if you hadn't had enough of those during your pregnancy) about how to keep your baby's soft spot out of the sun or its brain will boil, or how tickling its feet will make it stutter, or how not to let it try to stand because it will grow up to be bow-legged.

2. You will be told that having a baby in the house is a shock to the system. No one will be able to tell you exactly how much of a shock it really is; every family is different, of course, and sometimes you will have people helping you *all* the time, but sometimes, you'll have to do it alone. No one tells you that the hardest part is the first, say, 8 weeks - that's when you really start to feel the sleep deprivation, and you don't recognise baby's cues yet, so you will get frustrated. No matter how much you've prepared, it will be a shock to the system you're not prepared for.

3. No matter how much literature you read telling you that it's okay to feel frustrated, you will still feel guilty that you are. There is nothing wrong with your reactions; you know that, but you will still feel bad about having them. Your emotions will be all over the place as well (that goes for both parents), so you'll be overcome by love one minute, and concerned about your own needs and desires the next. Again, you are told this is normal, but you will still feel bad about it. Just a warning, because I felt bad about it a lot! :)

4. For moms, sometimes the bond is not there at birth, or at least it doesn't feel like it's there at first. I'm going to be very personal here, and say that I didn't feel it when Emma was born. I felt an innate responsibility to look after her, but I didn't know the little person that I'd carried around for 9 months. I didn't feel like she loved me, and was mad with jealousy when she smiled at hubby when he came home one day - a smile I hadn't been honoured with yet. My first week home was also stressful - I was in a lot of pain and felt really debilitated in looking after her. I couldn't sit without pain, my back was killing me because muscles were overcompensating, and I was exhausted, as I had slight insomnia for the last three months of my pregnancy too. I'm not making excuses, but what I'm trying to say is that sometimes circumstances are beyond our control, our feelings are beyond our control, and the bond is also beyond our control. Don't worry - you and baby have the rest of your lives together. It will come.

5. Breastfeeding is a major point for me. In the end, it is your choice. I really don't think it's anyone's business whether I'm breastfeeding or not, so I get quite annoyed that everyone feels they need to find out whether or not I am. I know I'm announcing how I'm feeding my baby to the world now in this blog, but I think it's a very important point. I completely understand that breastfeeding is best for babies. But some mothers simply cannot breastfeed. And even if they could, and they choose formula over breastfeeding, there is nothing wrong with that. It's entirely their choice. I was made to feel incredibly guilty for not breastfeeding my baby in the hospital (the nurse even told Emma in front of me, 'It's your mommy's fault you're hungry'), and I'm one of those mothers who would not be able to have sustained my supply - Emma would have suffered. I hate that this small choice determines the quality of mother you are in our society. I'm saying here and now that if you want to bottle-feed your baby, do it. No one has the right to make you feel guilty about it, especially if your baby is happy, healthy, gaining weight, and growing well. Just make sure you educate yourself properly on bottle-feeding.

6. My final point is a little more current, as I'm going through this right now. I have to return to work this week, and have had to get a nanny to look after Emma while I'm working. This is possibly one of the most difficult things I've had to do. You will feel bad about it. You will feel guilty about leaving her. You will worry that she will feel abandoned. These are all natural, good feelings to have. You will feel this way no matter with whom you are leaving her. I am with her all day - I'm lucky enough to be working from home (but I still have to leave her with someone else) - but some mothers have no choice but to leave their children so they can make an income to continue caring for them. This is the way the world is, and all you can do is make sure that the time you do spend with them is filled with the love you have for them. This article should also make you feel better. :)

To conclude, I just want to wish all mothers and soon-to-be mothers out there good luck with their babies. Just remember that no pregnancy is alike. Also, no baby is alike, and no mother is alike, except in the love they share.

(Image credit: By File photo, Canwest News Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)