Thursday, September 13, 2012

Adventures in Hair

I think it is about that time for the typical transracial adoption post on hair. Let me tell you, this boy has got a lot of hair. He was born with a full head of hair and it's been growing ever since! Here he is at just a few days old. I don't think my nephews had this much hair until they were 2 years old!

Now, his hair did thin out a bit in the first two months. And certainly in the back he lost hair where it always rubbed against something while he slept on his back. But his continued to lengthen and the curls would get tangled up. People started asking when we were going to cut his hair. Eventually, we got this situation:

At first, I was all into cutting his hair. We talked about it frequently, but just never managed to get it done. One weekend we had absolutely decided to get it trimmed. And then that happened to be the weekend he was sick so the haircut had to wait. But something changed for me that weekeend. I took the delay as a sign that maybe we needed to figure out another solution. Instead of just cutting his hair as the answer, I wanted to figure out how to define the curls and take proper care of his hair.

And so began our experimentation. Now, my BIL is Black and my nieces and nephews are mixed race. So you would expect my sister to be of some help in taking care of his hair. But her advice didn't seem to work at all. And she kept saying we should just cut it or braid it. I am open to braiding it eventually, but now when he is so young, I want to keep it loose. And part of me is afraid the braids will make people think he is a girl. So we tried different products. I thought our answers might be solved when I found the Tightly Curly website. Following this guidance, one night we tried a new combination of shampoo and conditioner. The trick? We didn't wash out the conditioner but used it as a leave-in conditioner and then combed his hair with it in. And then I tried to make "doodles" with his curls. I'll be honest. I really had no clue what they meant by these doodles. It is supposed to help define each curl, but, umm, hello. He has like 10,000 curls. No way will he let me spend that much time messing with his hair. Even if he loves splashing the bath water. So I tried something out and put him to bed, waiting to see what might be the result in the morning.

And we loved it! His hair was detangled yet compact. No out of control frizzy hair! We were convinced this was the solution!

And then we took him to daycare.

Now let me back up and explain the daycare situation in regards to his hair. There are two teachers in his daycare. One teacher (who is Asian) was always telling me how the other babies loved to touch his hair. She was impressed that it was so soft and was impressed that we kept it so soft. She loved his hair. The second teacher (who is Black) had a very different impression of his hair. Now she never said anything directly, but was one of the people who was always suggesting we get it cut or commenting on his afro in less than glowing terms. I got the impression that she was gently suggesting we figure out what to do with it.

So when we took him to daycare that first day after I thought we had solved his hair problem, I was hoping this teacher might notice. And she did. But then made a more obvious statement that we need to keep working in this area. And she recommended specific products this time.

We pressed on. I think that now we have actually settled on the best solution for his age and hair now. We might need to change it in the future if his hair changes or as he gets more patience for us working on his hair. But it works for us and, as you can see, it keeps his hair looking more controlled. And we can effectively detangle it.

Here's what we do: We use just a regular baby shampoo and rinse it out. One trick I learned is that the goal is to wash his scalp and not the hair itself. The hair gets clean by the runoff from the scalp. This gets everything clean while avoiding a completely tangled mess. Then we use a coconut milk based conditioner that is designed for adults and don't rinse it out. We get a nice big glob of it and run it through his hair. First we finger comb the major tangles out and then we use the side of a wire brush to comb it out completely. By the time it is all detangled, the conditioner is well worked into his hair. And that's it. There is no "doodle" as I could never figure out really what that meant without creating more tangles. We gently pat the towel on his head and let his hair air dry. The next morning, he has nice, relatively defined curls.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Public Adoption Moment

I feel like we hit another milestone. Nothing to do with Seven per se, but we had our first public adoption encounter.  One of the things about adopting transracially is that we are obvious as an adoptive family when we are out and about. Yesterday we had quite a full day, with our church rummage sale and picnic and then an Italian festival. E is Italian and I love Italian food and wine, so we were all hanging out and enjoying the festival and nice weather. I even went grape stomping! It was fun, although I think I came in just about last place. Oh well.

Anyway, we were sitting down and enjoying some wine and music and I was feeding Seven. E left the table briefly and this woman came and sat down in his spot. She said hello to Seven and then showed me a picture of her kids on her phone. It turns out that both of her kids are adopted, one from China and the other domestic. We chatted a bit and she said they are thinking of trying for a third and going domestic again this time. We shared what our journey was like.

So that was our first time being approached due to our status as an adoptive family. It felt odd but also kinda nice. Like we were part of some secret club. Actually, it was kind of like passing the family yesterday who had their baby in a sling as I was debuting the homemade sling I made for me and Seven. Our own little club of people with something in common. We have had lots of people ask us about adoption, but it was always people who we knew, even if not very well, like an acquaintance from church or something. I have thought that we (OK-let's be honest, Seven) got a lot of smiles from African American strangers that we would see, but didn't know if I was just paying more attention to them or not. Certainly Seven gets lots of smiles and comments about how cute he is from strangers of all races.

In other news, speaking our church rummage sale. I am just a sucker now for any consignment or rummage sale. Seven will be all set next spring and summer with his new outdoor climbing structure and slide. But here is my rant. No boys clothes at all?! I've gotten used to girl clothes vastly outnumbering the boy clothes, but they had nothing at all.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Thanks for eating advice

Thank you to everyone for your great comments about Seven's eating. It really enforces that everything is a learning experience for us too. We did try avocado as one of his first solid foods, but he pretty much thought we were trying to poison him. We will try again with all the foods he has rejected and just go slowly with this transition. It is good to know that the puree stage doesn't have to last that long. I did give him a wedge of apple yesterday and while it took him a long time to trust that it is supposed to go in his mouth, he seemed to like it once it was there. It is just funny that any non-food item he is given goes straight to his mouth, but when we give him food, he is very suspicious of it.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Adventures in Eating

One of the crunchy-mama things I was going to do (you could even say it was due to the natural parenting trend that Badminter criticizes) was Baby-Led Weaning. For those of you not familiar with BLW, basically it is about not pushing purees on babies and feeding them real food (as in, food that you would eat). The goal is to develop healthy eating habits right from the start, not teach them the idea that their are "kid" foods and "adult" foods. Also, it is supposed to make mealtime more enjoyable and not a battle. I was all on board.

One of the keys to BLW is that you actually start later. There is not really a nutritional need for food other than breastmilk/formula prior to 6-7 months. There is a historical/cultural reason that purees are usually started at 4 months, but there is not a nutritional need. (FYI, for those of you following my experiment in induced lactation, that ended shortly after going back to work full-time and we are full-time bottles now). So, when people (i.e., my mother and MIL) kept pushing us to give him rice cereal as soon as he turned 4 months, I held my ground. Truth be told, I felt a little superior to all those less-informed mamas who were stuck feeding their kid rice cereal and store-bought purees. I mean, what kind of mother does that? When Seven hit 5 months, I started offering him finger-sized foods. He was not interested in them in the least. They sat, on his tray, untouched. Of course, he was also in the stage where just about anything would go straight into his mouth. But if it was actual food, he wanted it nowhere near his mouth.

What is this foreign substance you are trying to give me?
But I wasn't disheartened and continued offering him different types of vegetables. I faithfully consulted the BLW book and it said to follow his lead, offer it to him and wait for him to show interest. And besides, you are really supposed to start until 6 months anyway, so I was just being a bit early anyhow. Nothing that should make me question our approach.

Then one day I offered him broccoli. And he liked it. He really liked it! It did take him a while for him to pick it up, clearly thinking this was just another of my foolish attempts to get him to eat. But once he allowed it near his mouth, he sucked just about every nutrient off that stalk. We rejoiced! I resolved to cook nothing but stir-fry all week so he could eat all the broccoli he wanted! (poor E wanted a little bit of diversity in our meals...)

This seems like food to me.

But during this time, Seven caught some illness. He only had a fever for one day, but the, umm, digestive problems continued. And then they still continued. So I had to call the doctor for advice. What did she say? You guessed it, give him rice cereal. So there I was, mixing up the rice cereal that I was never going to give him. And when he refused to open his mouth, I didn't blame him. I considered it more like medicine anyway. I tried to show him how I ate it and liked it, but honestly, I thought it was pretty disgusting. No wonder he didn't want it! But we pressed on, following the doctor's orders.

We tried every trick in the book to get him to open his mouth for the cereal. But there was no plane, train, nor automobile that would work. Actually, it made me kinda proud to realize how smart he was. When he did something so funny he had to laugh, he quickly put his hands in front of his face as a defensive mechanism against the spoon. He learned to  turn his head and smile to get out of the line of the food.

As his digestive problem seemed to have resolved itself, I thought it was time to go back to our BLW approach. So I brought out the broccoli and now added some whole carrots to the mix. Except some tiny thing happened during this interlude with cereal. He got a tooth. (This deserves a whole celebratory post on its own, but he has a tooth!) And now when I gave him the carrot (which he loved), he started breaking off pieces of it. Pieces that put this mama into major freak-out mode. I swear my heart is still in South America as it dropped to see him coughing up this chunk of carrot. And he bit off some pretty big pieces of broccoli now, too, not just sucking the stalk.

So I had to admit that I was not ready for full BLW. I knew I couldn't go back to that until I had some assurance that he has figured out the whole swallowing thing. I sighed and put away the whole foods. But still, all was not lost. I didn't have to resort to that tacky store-bought stuff. No jarred food for my pure baby. He liked the taste of carrot, so I'll just puree my own. No big deal. Yeah, actually it is quite a big deal. No matter now much I pureed those carrots, they never got to a consistency that would stay down in his stomach.

At this point, I was feeling pretty low in my mama-abilities. I couldn't figure out how to feed my son! BLW approach led to him choking. Even my own purees were not working. And he refused even rice cereal, which was a doctor's orders. So feeling pretty low, I purchased a few jars of baby food. I pretty much felt like I was giving up everything I believed in, but was desperate to feel like I could start the transition to real food. And you know what? He loved it. OK, maybe love is a bit extreme. But when I opened up that jar of store-bought pureed carrots, he opened his mouth and then swallowed. And it stayed down! I didn't have to trick him into opening his mouth. He didn't spit it back out as soon as I did manage to get a spoonful in. He ate it and then smiled.

So lesson learned. Don't judge decisions that other mamas are making. If it works for 90% of babies, it will probably be just fine for mine. And do what works for your family.

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