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Breastfeeding Mom in Maryland Could Face Jail Time for Postponing Jury Duty

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When I was about 36 weeks pregnant with our first baby, I had to go to court for jury duty. I waddled my way into the courthouse and settled uneasily into the wooden bench. Fortunately, the lawyers took one look at me and let me go. Wise decision, I believe. Had they picked me, I would have had to raise my hand every hour to go to the bathroom.
Before that day, I had considered postponing my jury duty until after the baby was born. But I soon realized that didn’t make sense since I was planning to work from home and breastfeed. Without a full-time sitter, jury duty would have been near impossible. I had served on a week-long trial once before, so I knew what I was in for.
Given the challenges of breastfeeding and serving jury duty, there are twelve states that actually exempt breastfeeding mothers from jury duty (California, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon and Virginia). Click here to learn about the laws in your state.
So it’s a bit of a surprise to see what’s happened to a Maryland mom. A judge sentenced her to a night in jail or a $150 fine, after she asked to postpone her jury duty. Here’s the story from one of the local TV stations:
Elizabeth Jett’s baby boy Henry was less than 12 weeks old when she was called for jury duty. “I think it’s a case of priorities. Taking care of your children should be your first priority. Jury duty can always come later,” Jett said.
Jett asked to postpone and serve during the Summer, when Henry would be older and her mother, a full-time teacher, could take care of him and his five-year-old brother.
The Carroll County judge said Jett was in contempt of court, which Jett thought was unbelievable. “I was just shocked. I couldn’t even put it into words,” she said.
Legislation that would allow nursing mothers with children under the age of two to be excused from jury duty was introduced for the second time. When the plan was proposed in 2004, many lawmakers shot it down.
Brian Frosh, Chair for the Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, said the law would cause more people to try to postpone their duties, “If you start saying, we’re gonna excuse people for breastfeeding, you’ve gotta say ok to kidney dialysis, chemotherapy and all the other maladies that afflict the human condition.”
Frosh said the law already gives judges broad discretion to excuse residents from jury duty, “So what we want is for judges to use their discretion liberally.”
As for Elizabeth Jett, she has since asked for a waiver, because she can’t afford the fine. The judge in the case, Barry Hughes, did not want to comment. The jury commissioner hung up on Andrea McCarren, as soon as she identified herself as a reporter.

Click on this link to watch the video from the TV station. You can read more about this story from the Baltimore Examiner.

Happy Belated Mother’s Day

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I gave myself a small gift yesterday. No work. No writing. No blogging. No computer. It was lovely.
I decided to boycott my keyboard after a four hour car ride with the kids, and seeing Tanya’s post at The Motherwear Breastfeeding blog. Tanya tagged me to answer the following questions about how I’d like to take better care of myself. Here are her questions and my answers:
Set aside some time during which you can relax and reflect. Sit in a comfortable spot. Try not to think too much about your answers. Once you’ve answered, you’ll have a better idea of what you need to thrive. Ask yourself:
What do you miss most from your pre-baby life? Staying out late with my husband, without concerns about a 5:30 a.m. baby alarm clock.
What activity would renew, recharge, and reenergize your body? Taking modern dance classes on a regular basis. I have no more excuses now that I’ve weaned The Bear and it’s the spring time; I won’t freeze on the 10 minute walk to the dance studio.
What activity would renew, recharge, and reenergize your mind? Time alone.
What activity would renew, recharge, and reenergize your spirit? Sleep.
What gift can I give to myself today? Going to bed at 10:00 pm instead of 11:30.
When you look back at this time in your life, what will you regret not doing for yourself? Hiring an additional babysitter.
What is one thing – however small – that you can do to make self-care integral to my week? Exercising at least three times a week. Right now I don’t exercise at all, that is unless you count pushing a double stroller.
Now, I’m tagging Babytalkers, The Black Breastfeeding Blog and Cairo Mama to answer these questions.

Breast Feeding Product Reviews

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Angela at Breastfeeding 123 gets my vote today for hardest working, most diligent blogger. My eyes practically jumped out of my head when I saw her latest post.
Angela has compiled a fantastic collection of breastfeeding product reviews. Basically, she found reviews from all the breastfeeding bloggers out there, and provides links to the sites. If you click here, you’ll find reviews of breastfeeding products, books and clothing. If you can think of it, she’s got it. Here’s a list of the reviews:
Breastfeeding bras
Breast pumps
Breastfeeding accessories
Breastfeeding art and calendars
Breastfeeding bloggers’ stores
Breastfeeding and parenting books
Children’s breastfeeding books
Children’s breastfeeding toys
Sewing your own breastfeeding products
Nursing bracelets
Nursing covers
Nursing necklaces
Nursing pads
Nursing pillows
Nursing shirts
Breastfeeding videos
Kids’ products
Bravo Angela. What an invaluable resource you’ve created!

Breastfeeding Bloggers’ Carnival– Baby Love

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In honor of Valentines Day, the breastfeeding bloggers and I have devoted February’s Carnival to the theme “Baby Love.”
Here’s what we have to say:
Angela of Breastfeeding 123 has tips for welcoming a new baby into the family.
Sinead of Breastfeeding Mums writes about falling in love with her husband as a teenager, and then with each of her three babies.
Jennifer of The Lactivist talks about the crazy things baby love make you do.
Tanya of The Motherwear Blog talks about how breastfeeding helped her deal with the psychological trauma of a difficult birth.
As for me, I have a review of the new book “Babyproofing Your Marriage.” Click here to read my review.
We also have some guest bloggers:
Karen at Cairo Mama writes about falling in love with her newborn.
Melissa at Booby Juice writes about the happiest day (make that days) of her life.
Colleen at My Baby and More writes about maternal longings.
Now, go forth and eat some chocolate. Happy Valentine’s Day everyone.

Babyproofing Your Marriage– Book Review

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The “Five-Minute Fix” was all anyone could talk about. I was at a restaurant eating dinner with a coed group. We had just left the book party for “Babyproofing Your Marriage,” and everyone wanted to talk about the authors’ key to fixing your marriage in five minutes. (Full disclosure: one of the diners is married to one of the authors).
So what is the Five-Minute Fix for any marriage? In their opinion– weekly fellatio. (The word they use actually starts with the letter “B.”)
Yes, that’s right, in addition to a lot of other useful advice, the three authors recommend this particular sex act. As they figure it, it “costs” you some exertion, a mere five minutes, and some feelings of compromising yourself. The “benefits”– your husband will think you’re a sex goddess and he’ll change the next diaper without being asked.
I’m writing about this book now, as part of my monthly blog with my breastfeeding blogger friends. Our theme for February is “Baby Love.” And I think the authors of “Babyproofing” are onto something with the general premise of their book. Parents with a little bit of perspective will tell you that one of the best ways to love your children is to create a sense of harmony at home. In most cases, that comes down to making sure your marriage is strong.
The authors write::
“Parenthood and family take everything we have to give and then some. But we all know, we reap what we sow. What we invest in our kids and our spouses come back to us in ways we can’t even imagine.” (p. 230)
“Babyproofing” takes a realistic look at how kids impact a marriage. Couples that were just recently wooing each other over late night dinners suddenly find themselves fighting over the minutiae of everyday life.
On any given weekend in thousands of homes across America, wives stand in front of their husbands listing all of the selfless acts they have performed in the last week: “I paid all the bills, bought a birthday present for your mother, read Goodnight Moon 5 times, took 4 six-year-olds to Chuck-E-Cheese … and that was just Tuesday…”
The husbands return fire: “Excuse me, but did I not make the kids breakfast every morning last week, including the morning it made me late for my presentation, when I really should have gone in early? And I picked up the dry-cleaning without being asked, and I did bath duty three times last week. What more do you want?”
A volley of personal accomplishments and sacrifices ensues. Not exactly what we thought life would be like when we eyed each other across a room all those years ago, is it? We both end up angry and defensive, each convinced that we have it tougher. Some people are habitual scorekeepers, some people just do it occasionally. But we all do it.
( Click here to read more of this excerpt).
Fortunately, the authors do have some practical solutions. My favorite is the “Training Weekend.” Mom takes off for the weekend leaving Dad behind, unassisted to deal with everything. It’s supposed to make him more appreciative and more confident. Sounds clever to me. So honey, as soon as I wean The Bear I’m going to give this one a try. Not because you need the kick in the pants, but because I NEED A BREAK. We’ll make it a training-Training Weekend. I’ll get the sitter to come help you.
Sometimes “Babyproofing” is painful to read. Sometimes it’s reassuring. Sometimes you will literally laugh aloud. My husband and I had a good chuckle over this one:
“Can you imagine a day that doesn’t begin with someone screaming and hurling a sippy cup across the kitchen in a wave of toddler fury?” (page. 266).
I only have a couple of issues with the book. First, I didn’t see much mention of breastfeeding (unless I’m so tired I missed it). I would have liked to see how the authors fit breastfeeding into their analysis. Second, the book is a little long. If we’re all so tired and stressed out, then who has time to read a nearly 300 page long book?
Nevertheless, even if you don’t have time to read the whole thing, you can still get something out of reading selected chapters. If you want to read about battling grandparents, check out Chapter 5, “In-Laws and Outlaws.” If you want to hear how having more kids (yes, more) can actually restore some balance to the marriage, read Chapter 6, “Ramping Up and Giving In: More Kids More Chaos.”
Finally, if you just want to focus on “The ‘Sex Life’ of New Parents: Coitus Non-Existus,” turn to Chapter Four. But ladies, rest assured, the responsibility for fixing things is not just on your shoulders with the Five Minute Fix. In the authors’ opinion, your spouse needs to keep romance alive and do more “domestic crap.” “The bottom line is: pitch in if you want her to put out.” (page 153)
You know what, I think the guys have their work cut out for them. That stuff– romance and housework– take a lot more than five minutes!

An Update on My Book “Mama Knows Breast”

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As you may have gathered from this site, I’m working on a book called “Mama Knows Breast: A Beginner’s Guide to Breastfeeding.” It’s a tongue in cheek, irreverent look at the life and styles of breastfeeding moms.
I got the idea to write the book when I realized– after 6 months of feeding The Bortski– that I knew more about his car seat and stroller than I did about my own boobs. I looked for a fun book about breastfeeding, and all I could find were some pretty serious, albeit useful, tomes. That was my “light bulb” moment.
So here’s a little update on the progress of the book in case (like me!) you’re wondering what’s going on. The book should be published by September. That’s the latest from my editor at Quirk Books. In fact, she’s coming to the city on Monday and we’re going to start whipping this thing into shape. I handed in a draft months ago and now it’s time to start revising.
I’m nervously waiting for her comments. You could say I’m a book virgin– never written one of these things before. So I have no idea what I’m in for.
As for some other first time authors, I went to a book party this week for the launch of Babyproofing Your Marriage. (My husband knows the husband of one of the three authors). Anyway, these ladies reached the holy grail of all writers this week– they were on the Today Show. I’m reading the book right now and I’ll bring you a review as part of the next Breastfeeding Blog Carnival on February 12. So far, it’s a good read– especially the chapter on sex.
And if you’re looking for another fun book, check out Haiku Mama which is published by Quirk Books. The author is the blogger Kari from Haiku of The Day.
So that’s the latest from book land, cross your fingers for me and my meeting with my editor.

My Resolution– Get Organized

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Home, Sweet, Home. Sometimes, it’s messy. Somtimes it’s clean.
If, for instance, you showed up unannounced at 4:00 p.m., here’s what you would find in our apartment. A pile of laundry, cleaned, but unfolded. A hurricane of toys in The Bortski’s bedroom. A tangle of strollers, coats and shoes in the hallway. A “fort” constructed out of blankets, draped over the sofa and coffee table. A semi-circle of pillows around The Bear and his toys, just in case he topples over while playing. A fine layer of crumbs in the kitchen.
On the other hand, if you stopped by about four hours later, you would find the toys stuffed into bins. The living room returned to a semblance of sophistication. The dishwasher and washing machine humming in harmony. Shoes in the shoe rack. Newspapers and magazines neatly stacked. Strollers all in a row.
It’s an ongoing battle, this fight against the natural chaos of daily life. It’s kind of like trying to prevent the incoming tide from destroying a sandcastle. I know it’s futile. And yet, I persist.
I find disorganization distracting. Clutter makes me cranky. Before I sit down to write, I have to spend at least 15 minutes loading and unloading the dishwasher, washing the high chair tray and clearing the path to my desk.
Each day I face-off against rogue sneakers, two overflowing Diaper Dekors, and a migrating Aeron chair.
So I find myself at odds with the “anti- anticlutter” movement described recently in The New York Times article, Saying Yes To Mess.
An anti-anticlutter movement is afoot, one that says yes to mess and urges you to embrace your disorder. Studies are piling up that show that messy desks are the vivid signatures of people with creative, limber minds (who reap higher salaries than those with neat “office landscapes”) and that messy closet owners are probably better parents and nicer and cooler than their tidier counterparts. It’s a movement that confirms what you have known, deep down, all along: really neat people are not avatars of the good life; they are humorless and inflexible prigs, and have way too much time on their hands.
For the record, I’m not one of those “really neat people,” and that’s why my New Year’s resolution is to get organized and de-clutter. And it appears I’m not alone. Getting organized is a pretty common New Year’s resolution. In fact, according to The New York Times article, The National Association of Professional Organizers says January is Get Organized Month.
Here’s my plan. Not only will I continue to beat back the daily mess in our apartment, I’m actually going to take care of the other messes, the ones you can’t see. The ones I never let anyone see because I can hide them behind a door, under a bed or in a drawer.
Here are my top ten missions:
1. Organize my sock drawer. Throw out pre-pregnancy bras that don’t fit.
2. Clean my purse. Throw out old lipsticks, ancient receipts, empty Purell bottle and crumpled nursing pads.
3. Donate unused kids’ toys and clothes to Baby Buggy.
4. Organize the stack of research papers for my book, “Mama Knows Breast” (Quirk Books 2007). Prevent future pile-up of papers by following the OHIO principle– “only handle it once.”
5. Put stack of photographs in an album.
6. Edit together two years worth of family videos. Step one, buy new computer. Step two, learn video editing software.
7. Organize kitchen junk drawer. In other words, move the matches and batteries so The Bortski can’t reach them.
8. Collect stray change and take it to the Coinstar at the supermarket. Donate said change. Bring The Bortski so he can see how the machine works.
9. Figure out a way to curb the sprawl of keys, cell phones, iPod and Blackberry.
10. Do SOMETHING, in fact, DO ANYTHING, about the coat closet.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that my husband pitches in. He’s great with trash, recycling, folding laundry and putting things on the top shelf of a closet. I also have a cleaning lady who does the real dirty work once a week.
So why am I setting my sights higher than keeping after the daily mess? Perhaps because I pine for the perfection you find in magazines like Real Simple. I yearn for a Zen like calm even when I open closet doors. I don’t want to have to literally shut out the mess.
But is this really possible? In all honesty, I’m terrible at keeping resolutions. I always seem to be able to stick to my plan for a month or two. But then, things start to slide. Stuff happens to get in the way. There’s a deadline for work. Someone gets sick. I “mess up” and we’re back to square one.
So perhaps, the so called “anti-anticlutter” people don’t have this so wrong after all. What’s so bad about a little mess? I’m busy! Maybe I’ll get my sock drawer organized once, but I’d rather “play trains” than match mismatched socks. Maybe I’ll clean my purse tonight, but I’ll always be too rushed to do anything more than shove a receipt in my bag and push the stroller out of the store before the screaming escalates. Maybe I’ll file my papers this month, but I’d rather sit on the sofa with my husband than take care of this each night.
In fact, if I let some of the daily mess slide, I’d be free work on some other resolutions. I could go to bed at 10:30. Exercise at least three times a week. Start my next book. Have a weekly “date night” with my husband and read more books to The Bortski and Bear.
You know, maybe I should have a new mantra for 2007. “Mess, Sweet, Mess.”

Babble– A New Website for Moms and Dads

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“Gee” is the The Bear’s latest babbling sound. My husband thought that perhaps he was “Gee,” that The Bear had spoken his first word and picked his Dad as the object of his affection. I hated to tell him that “Gee” was used to comment on diaper changes, a jar of carrot mush and a cell phone that was out of reach. Bottom line, it’s the babble of an 8 month old and we’re mighty proud.
If you’re looking for babble of another sort, check out a new parenting website that launched late last night. Babble is brought to you by the folks who are behind Nerve, an off-beat sex magazine. Here’s how they’re selling themselves.
Babble will be every bit as disruptive to the status quo as Nerve was when it started. It will be a revolution in parenting magazines: a publication that talks to parents not just as caregivers, but as fun, smart, intellectually curious people. It will apply Nerve’s tradition of irreverent honesty to the experience of parenting without the infantilizing, hyper-judgmental tone or acquisitive baby-as-accessory bent of so much of today’s parenting fare.
The subject of parenting needs a bold new voice because people lie about it so often. The topic is plagued by politically correct clichés and generic sentimentality. This is just what we said about sex nine years ago. Today there are more taboos and more social pressures around parenting than there are around sex. We will cover the most controversial topics in parenting via personal essays, our exhaustive info center, and witty, original columns like “Bad Parent” and “Notes from a Non-Breeder.”

I’ve been checking out the site for the past hour or so and it’s pretty endless. I could spend a few more hours here reading all the columns, essays and blogs. But we’re on day 4 of sleep training here with The Bear, and I fear another long night. I could also spend a while watching the videos they’ve got on the site, but I’m trying to keep the volume low on the computer for fear of stirring the sleeping beast– The Bortski (age 2). I could also jump into the discussion forums, but my log-in isn’t working and I can’t find the paper where I scribbled my user name and password.
In a quick overview, I did find some interesting breast feeding items. For starters, they’re hyping a piece titled “The Breast Feeding Conspiracy: Believe it or Not, Formula Isn’t Poison.” Given the headline, I expected something pretty sarcastic. Instead, I found a fairly level-headed piece. The author writes:
Let’s agree that breastfeeding is ideal. Let’s agree that public policies and workplaces should support it better. But let’s also acknowledge that bottle-feeding moms need encouragement too. Cruelty helps no one — not babies, not moms.
In the breast feeding arena, there is also a beautiful essay, Succor, about nursing a baby boy.
He spits up milk. Runs down his cheek. And onto my blouses that now smell rotten. My tits have worry lines. I’ve got nipples for days. And then the breast pump from hell.
Under the heading of Extreme Parenting (slight bias there), you’ll also find “Milking It,” an essay written by a woman who nursed her daughter until she was almost four years old.
When I told my sister I didn’t know how long I planned to nurse, she said that a child who could ask for the breast was likely too old for it. I threw my head back and laughed. Indeed. Who nurses a kid capable of reciting his phone number or knock-knock jokes? That’s creepy. But then there I was, years after giving birth, hoisting my shirt and lowering my bra cup for the budding comedian in my lap.
Finally, under the Health & Development heading, you’ll find information on a range of topics, including breast feeding. Within each topic, the editors have created a spectrum that shows how different groups come down on a given topic. For instance, my blogging friend The Lactivist is at one end of the spectrum on the topic of Breast Milk: Sharing vs. Banking.
Overall, I like what I see. But the site does feel a bit like the popular kids’ table in the school cafeteria. Only this time, the gossip isn’t about the latest hook-up or break-up. Instead, everyone seems to be trying to one-up each other with their parenting coolness quotient. As for this household…the real cool kids are both still in diapers and they’ve got a posse of pals just waiting to exchange true baby babble.